Part 4 out of 13
edge of the pavement to avoid it, he made a barrier of his arms, and
forced her to stand still. Holding her thus, with his hand on her
elbow, he looked keenly at her; and, in spite of the obdurate way in
which she kept her eyes turned from him, he saw that she was going to
cry. For a moment he hesitated, afraid of the threatening scene, then,
with a decisive movement, he took her violin-case out of her hand.
Ephie made an ineffectual effort to get possession of it again, but he
held it above her reach, and saying: "Wait a minute," ran up the
steps. He came back without it, and throwing a swift glance round him,
took the young girl's arm, and walked her off at a brisk pace to the
woods. She made a few, faint protests. But he replied: "You and I have
something to say to each other, little girl."
A full hour had elapsed when Ephie appeared again. She was alone, and
walked quickly, casting shy glances from side to side. On reaching the
Conservatorium, she waited in a quiet corner of the vestibule for
nearly a quarter of an hour, before Schilsky sauntered in, and
released her violin from the keeping of the janitor, a good friend of
They had not gone far into the wood; Schilsky knew of a secluded seat,
which was screened by a kind of boscage; and here they had remained.
At first, Ephie had cried heartily, in happy relief, and he had not
been able to console her. He had come to meet her with many good
resolutions, determined not to let the little affair, so lightly
begun, lead to serious issues; but Ephie's tears, and the tale they
told, and the sobbed confessions that slipped out unawares, made it
hard for him to be wise. He put his arm round her, dried her tears
with his own handkerchief, kissed the hand he held. And when he had in
this way petted her back to composure, she suddenly looked up in his
face, and, with a pretty, confiding movement, said:
"Then you do care for me a little?"
It would have need a stronger than he to answer otherwise. "Of course
I do," was easily said, and to avoid the necessity of more, he kissed
the pink dimples at the base of her four fingers, as well as the baby
crease that marked the wrist. The poppy-strewn hat lay on the seat
beside them; the fluffy head and full white throat were bare; in the
mellow light of the trees, the lashes looked jet-black on her cheeks;
at each word, he saw her small, even teeth: and he was so unnerved by
the nearness of all this fresh young beauty that, when Ephie with her
accustomed frankness had told him everything he cared to know, he
found himself saying, in place of what he had intended, that they must
be very cautious. In the meantime, it would not do for them to be seen
together: it might injure his prospects, be harmful to his future.
"Yes, but afterwards?" she asked him promptly.
He kissed her cheek. But she repeated the question, and he was obliged
to reply: that would be a different matter. It was now her turn to be
curious, and one of the first questions she put related to the dark
girl he had been with at the theatre. Playing lightly with her
fingers, Schilsky told her that this was one of his best friends, some
one he had known for a long, long time, to whom he owed much,
and whom he could under no circumstances offend. Ephie looked grave
for a moment; and, in the desire of provoking a pretty confession, he
asked her if she had minded very much seeing him with some one else.
But she made him wince by responding with perfect candour: "With her?
Oh, no! She's quite old."
Before parting, they arranged the date of the next meeting, and, a
beginning once made, they saw each other as often as was feasible.
Ephie grew wonderfully apt at excuses for going out at odd times, and
for prolonged absences. Sound fictions were needed to satisfy Johanna,
and even Maurice Guest was made to act as dummy: he had taken her for
a walk, or they had been together to see Madeleine Wade; and by these
means, and also by occasionally shirking a lesson, she gained a good
deal of freedom. Johanna would as soon have thought of herself being
untruthful as of doubting Ephie, whom she had never known to tell a
lie; and if she did sometimes feel jealous of all the new claims made
on her little sister's attention, such a feeling was only temporary,
and she was, for the most part, content to see Ephie content.
At night, in her own room, lying wakeful with hot cheeks and big eyes,
Ephie went over in memory all that had taken place at their last
meeting, or built high, top-heavy castles for the future. She was
absurdly happy; and her mother and sister had never found her more
charming and lovable, or richer in those trifling inspirations for
brightening life, which happiness brings with it. She looked forward
with secret triumph to the day when she would be able to announce her
engagement to the celebrated young violinist, and the only shadow on
her happiness was that she could not do this immediately. It did not
once cross her mind to doubt the issue: she had always had her way,
and, in her own mind, had long since arranged just how this matter was
to fall out. She would return to America--where, of course, they would
live--and get her clothes ready, and then he would come, and they would
be married--a big wedding, with descriptions in the newspapers. They
would have a big house, and he would play at concerts--as she had once
heard Sarasate play in New York--and every one would stand on tiptoe to
see him. She sat proud and conspicuous in the front row. "His wife.
That is his wife!" people whispered, and they drew respectfully back
to let her pass, as, in a very becoming dress, she swept into the
little room behind the platform, which she alone was permitted to
One day at this time there was a violent thunderstorm. Towards midday,
the eastern sky grew black with clouds, which, for hours, had been
ominously gathering; a sudden wind rose and swept the dust house-high
through the streets; the thunder rumbled, and each roll came nearer.
When, after a prolonged period of expectation, the storm finally
burst, there was a universal sigh of relief.
The afternoon was damply refreshing. As soon as the rain ceased,
Maurice shut his piano, and walked at a brisk pace to Connewitz, his
head bared beneath the overhanging branches, which were still weighed
down by their burden of drops. At the WALDCAFE on the bank of the
river, in a thickly grown arbour which he entered to drink a glass of
beer, he found Philadelphia Jensen and the pale little American,
Fauvre, taking coffee.
The lady welcomed him with a large, outstretched hand, in the
effusively hearty manner with which she, as it were, took possession
of people; and towards six o'clock, the three walked back through the
woods together, Miss Jensen, resolute of bust as of voice, slightly
ahead of her companions, carrying her hat in her hand, Fauvre dragging
behind, hitting indolently at stones and shrubs, and singing scraps of
melodies to himself in his deep baritone.
Miss Jensen, who had once been a journalist, was an earnest worker for
woman's emancipation, and having now successfully mounted her hobby,
spoke with a thought-deadening eloquence. Maurice had never been
called on to think about the matter, and listened to her words
absent-mindedly, comparing her, as she swept along, to a ship in full
sail. She was just asserting that the ordinary German woman was little
more than means to an end, the end being the man-child, when his
attention was arrested, and, in an instant, jerked far away from Miss
Jensen's theories. As they reached the bend of a path, a sound of
voices came to them through the trees, and on turning a corner,
Maurice caught a glimpse of two people who were going in the opposite
direction, down a side-walk--a passing but vivid glimpse of a light,
flowered dress, of a grey suit of clothes, and auburn hair. Ephie! He
could have sworn to voice and dress; but to whom in all the world was
she talking, so confidentially? At the name that rose to his lips, he
almost stopped short, but the next moment he was afraid lest his
companions should also have seen who it was, and, quickening his
steps, he incited Miss Jensen to talk on. First, however, that
lady said in a surprised tone: "Say, that was Mr. Schilsky, wasn't it?
Who was the lady? Did you perceive?" So there was no possible doubt of
After parting from his companions, he did an errand in the town, and
from there went to the Cayhills' PENSION, determined to ascertain
whether it had really been Ephie he had seen, and if so, what the
meaning of it was.
Mrs. Cayhill and Johanna were in the sitting-room; Johanna looked very
surprised to see him. They had this moment risen from the
supper-table, she told him; Ephie had only just got home in time.
Before anything further could be said, Ephie herself came into the
room; her face was flushed, and she did not seem well-pleased at his
unexpected visit. She hardly greeted him, and instead, commenced
talking about the weather.
"Then you had a pleasant walk?" asked Johanna in a preoccupied
fashion, without looking up from the letter she was writing; and
before Maurice could speak, Ephie, fondling her sister's neck,
answered: "How could it be anything but sweet--after the rain?"
In the face of this frankness, it was on Maurice's tongue to say:
"Then it was you, I saw?" but again she did not give him time. Still
standing behind Johanna's chair, her eyes fixed on the young man's
face with a curious intentness, she continued: "We walked right to
Connewitz and back without a rest."
"I don't think you should take her so far," said Mrs. Cayhill, looking
up from her book with her kindly smile. "She has never been used to
walking and is easily tired--aren't you, my pet?"
"Yes, and then she can't get up the next morning," said Johanna,
mildly dogmatic, considering the following sentence of her letter.
Gradually it broke upon Maurice that Ephie had been making use of his
name. His consternation at the discovery was such that he changed
colour. The others, however, were both too engrossed to notice it.
Ephie grew scarlet, but continued to rattle on, covering his silence.
"Well, perhaps to-day it was a little too far," she admitted. "But
mummy, I won't have you say I'm not strong. Why, Herr Becker is always
telling me how full my tone is getting. Yes indeed. And look at my
She turned back the loose sleeve of her blouse, baring almost
the whole of her rounded arm; then, folding it sharply to her, she
invited one after another to test its firmness.
"Quite a prize-fighter, I declare!" laughed Mrs. Cayhill, at the same
time drawing her little daughter to her, to kiss her. But Johanna
frowned, and told Ephie to put down her sleeve at once; there was
something in the childish action that offended the elder sister, she
did not know why. But Maurice had first to lay two of his fingers on
the soft skin, and then to help her to button the cuff.
When, soon after this, he took his leave, Ephie went out of the room
with him. In the dark passage, she caught at his hand.
"Morry, you mustn't tell tales on me," she whispered; and added
pettishly: "Why ever did you just come to-night?"
He tried to see her face. "What is it all about, Ephie?" he asked.
"Then it WAS you, I saw, in the NONNE--by the weir?"
"Me? In the NONNE!" She was genuinely surprised. "You saw me?"
He nodded. By the light that came from the stairs as she opened the
hall-door, she noticed that he looked troubled, and an impulse rose in
her to throw her arms round his neck and say: "Yes, yes, it was me.
Oh, Morry, I am so happy!" But she remembered the reasons for secrecy
that had been imposed on her, and, at the same time, felt somewhat
defiantly inclined towards Maurice. After all, what business was it of
his? Why should he take her to task for what she chose to do? And so
she merely laughed, with assumed merriment, her own charming,
"In the wood?--you old goose! Listen, Morry, I told them I had been
with you, because--why, because one of the girls in my class asked me
to go to the CAFE FRANCAIS with her, and we stayed too long, and ate
too much ice-cream, and Joan doesn't like it, and I knew she would be
cross--that's all! Don't look so glum, you silly! It's nothing," and
she laughed again.
As long as this laugh rang in his ears--to the bottom of the street,
that is--he believed her. Then, the evidence of his senses reasserted
itself, and he knew that what she had told him was false. He had heard
her voice in the wood too distinctly to allow of any mistake, and she
was still wearing the same dress. Besides, she had lied so artlessly
to the others, without a tremor of her candid eyes--why should she not
lie to him, too? She was less likely to be considerate of him than of
Johanna. But his distress at her skill in deceit was so great
that he said: "Ephie, little Ephie!" aloud to himself, just as he
might have done had he heard that she was stricken down by a mortal
On the top of this, however, came less selfish feelings. What was
almost a sense of guilt took possession of him; he felt as if, in some
way, he were to blame for what had happened; as if nature had intended
him to stand in the place of a brother to this pretty, thoughtless
child. And yet what could he have done? He did not now see Ephie as
often as formerly, and hardly ever alone; on looking back, he began to
suspect that she had purposely avoided him. The exercises in harmony,
which had previously brought them together, had been discontinued.
First, she had said that her teacher was satisfied with what she
herself could do; then, that he had advised her to give up harmony
altogether: she would never make anything of it. In the light of what
had come to pass, Maurice saw that he had let himself be duped by her;
she had lied then as now.
He puzzled his brains to imagine how she had learned to know Schilsky
in the first instance, and when the affair had begun: what he had
overheard that afternoon implied an advanced stage of intimacy; and he
revolved measures by means of which a stop might be put to it. The
only course he could think of was to lay the matter before Johanna;
and yet what would the use of that be? Ephie would deny everything,
make his story ludicrous, himself impossible, and never forgive him
into the bargain. In the end, he might do more good by watching over
her silently, at a distance. If it had only not been Schilsky who was
concerned! Some of the ugly stories he had heard related of the young
man rose up and took vivid shape before his eyes. If any harm came to
Ephie, he alone would be to blame for it; not Johanna, only he knew
the frivolous temptations the young girl was exposed to. Why, in
Heaven's name, had he not taken both her hands, as they stood in the
passage, and insisted on her confessing to him? No, credulous as
usual, he had once more allowed himself to be hoodwinked and put off.
Thus he fretted, without arriving at any clearer conclusion than this:
that he had unwittingly been made accessory to an unpleasant secret.
But where his mind baulked, and refused to work, was when he tried to
understand what all this might mean to the third person involved. Did
Louise know or suspect anything? Had she, perhaps, for weeks past been
suffering under the knowledge?
He stood irresolute, at the crossing where the MOZARTSTRASSE joined
the PROMENADE. A lamp-lighter was beginning his rounds; he came up
with his long pole to the lamp at the corner, and, with a mild
explosion, the little flame sprang into life. Maurice turned on his
heel and went to see Madeleine.
The latter was making her supper of tea, bread, and cold sausage, and
when she heard that he had not eaten, she set a cup and plate before
him, and was glad that she happened to be late. Propped open on the
table was a Danish Grammar, which she conned as she ate; for, in the
coming holidays, she was engaged to go to Norway, as guide and
travelling-companion to a party of Englishwomen.
"I had a letter from London to-day," she said, "with definite
arrangements. So I at once bought this book. I intend to try and
master at least the rudiments of the language--barbarous though it
is--for I want to get some good from the journey. And if one has one's
wits about one, much can be learnt from cab-drivers and railway-porters."
She traced on a map with her forefinger the route they proposed to
follow, and laughed at the idea of the responsibility lying heavy on
her. But when they had finished their supper, and she had talked
informingly for a time of Norway, its people and customs, she looked
at the young man, who sat irresponsive and preoccupied, and considered
"Is anything the matter to-night? Or are you only tired?"
He was tired. But though she herself had suggested it, she was not
satisfied with his answer.
"Something has bothered you. Has your work gone badly?"
No, it was nothing of that sort. But Madeleine persisted: could she be
of any help to him?
"The merest trifle--not worth talking about."
The twilight had grown thick around them; the furniture of the room
lost its form, and stood about in shapeless masses. Through the open
window was heard the whistle of a distant train; a large fly that had
been disturbed buzzed distractingly, undecided where to re-settle for
the night. It was sultry again, after the rain.
"Look here, Maurice," Madeleine said, when she had observed him for
some time in silence. "I don't want to be officious, but
there's something I should like to say to you. It's this. You are far
too soft-hearted. If you want to get on in life, you must think more
about yourself than you do. The battle is to the strong, you know, and
the strong, within limits, are certainly the selfish. Let other people
look after themselves; try not to mind how foolish they are--you can't
improve them. It's harder, I daresay, than it is to be a person of
unlimited sympathies; it's harder to pass the maimed and crippled by,
than to stop and weep over them, and feel their sufferings through
yourself. But YOU have really something in you to occupy yourself
with. You're not one of those people--I won't mention names!--whose own
emptiness forces them to take an intense interest in the doings of
others, and who, the moment they are alone with their thoughts, are
bored to desperation. just as there are people who have no talent for
making a home home-like, and are only happy when they are out of it."
Here she laughed at her own seriousness.
"But you are smiling inwardly, and thinking: the real old school-marm!"
"You don't practise what you preach, Madeleine. Besides, you're
mistaken. At heart, I'm a veritable egoist."
She contradicted him. "I know you better than you know yourself."
He did not reply, and a silence fell, in which the commonplace words
she had last said, went on sounding and resounding, until they had no
more likeness to themselves. Madeleine rose, and pushed back her
chair, with a grating noise.
"I must light the lamp. Sitting in the dark makes for foolishness.
Come, wake up, and tell me what plans you have for the holidays."
"If I had a sister, I should like her to be like you," said Maurice,
watching her busy with the lamp. "Clear-headed, and helpful to a fellow."
"I suppose men always will continue to consider that the greatest
compliment they can pay," said Madeleine, and turned up the light so
high that they both blinked.--And then she scolded the young man
soundly for his intention of remaining in Leipzig during the holidays.
But when he rose to go, she said, with an impulsiveness that was
foreign to her: "I wish you had a friend."
It was his turn to smile. "Have you had enough of me?"
Madeleine, who was sitting with crossed arms, remained grave.
"I mean a man. Some one older than yourself, and who has had
experience. The best-meaning woman in the world doesn't count."
Only a very few days later, an occasion offered when, with profit to
himself, he might have acted upon Madeleine's introductory advice. He
had been for a quick, solitary walk, and was returning, in the evening
between nine and ten o'clock, along one of the paths of the wood, when
suddenly, and close at hand, he heard the sound of voices. He stopped
instantaneously, for by the jump his heart gave, he knew that Louise
was one of the speakers. What she said was inaudible to him; but it
was enough to be able to listen, unseen, to her voice. Hearing it like
this, as something existing for itself, he was amazed at its depth and
clearness; he felt that her personal presence had, until now, hindered
him from appreciating a beautiful but immaterial thing at its true
worth. At first, like a cadence that repeats itself, its tones rose
and fell, but with more subtle inflections than the ordinary voice
has: there was a note in it that might have belonged to a child's
voice; another, more primitive, that betrayed feeling with as little
reserve as the cry of an animal. Then it sank, and went on in a
monotone, like a Hebrew prayer, as if reiterating things worn
threadbare by repetition, and already said too often. Gradually, it
died away in the surrounding silence. There was no response but a
gentle rustling of the leaves overhead. It began anew, and, in the
interval, seemed to have gained in intensity; now there was a
bitterness in it which, when it swelled, made it give out a tone like
the roughly touched strings of an instrument; it seemed to be
accusing, to be telling of unmerited suffering. And, this time, it
elicited a reply, but a casual, indifferent one, which might have
related to the weather, or to the time of night. Louise gave a shrill
laugh, and then, as plainly as if the words were being carved in stone
before his eyes, Maurice heard her say: "You have never given me a
As before, no answer was returned, and almost immediately his ear
caught a muffled sound of footsteps. At the same moment, a night-wind
shook the tree-tops; there was a general fluttering and swaying around
him; and he came back to himself to find that he was standing rigid,
holding on to a slender tree that grew close by the path. His first
conscious thought was that this wind meant rain . . . there would be
another storm in the night . . . and the summer holidays--time of
partings--were at the door. She would go away . . . and he would perhaps
never see her again.
Since the evening they had walked home from the theatre together, he
had had no further chance of speaking to her. If they met in the
street, she gave him, as Madeleine had foretold of her, a nod and a
smile; and from this coolness, he had drawn the foolish inference that
she wished to avoid him. Abnormally sensitive, he shrank out of her
way. But now, the mad sympathy that had permeated him on the night she
had made him her confidant grew up in him again; it swelled out into
something monstrous--a gigantic pity that rebounded on himself. For he
knew now why she suffered; and he was cast down both for her and for
himself. It seemed unnatural that he was debarred from giving her just
a fraction of the happiness she craved--he, who, had there been the
least need for it, would have lain himself down for her to tread on.
And in some of the subsequent nights when he could not sleep, he
composed fantastic letters to her, in which he told her this and more,
only to colour guiltily, with the return of daylight, at the
impertinent folly of his thoughts.
But he could not forget the words he had heard her say; they haunted
him like an importunate refrain. Even his busiest hours were set to
them--"You have never given me a moment's happiness"--and they were
alike a torture and a joy.
The second half of July scattered the little circle in all directions.
Maurice spent a couple of days at the different railway-stations,
seeing his friends off. One after another they passed into that
anticipatory mood, which makes an egoist of the prospective traveller:
his thoughts start, as it were, in advance; he has none left for the
people who are remaining behind, and receives their care and attention
as his due.
Dove was packed and strapped, ready to set out an hour after he had
had his last lesson; and while he printed labels for his luggage, and
took a circumstantial leave of his landlady and her family, with whom
he was a prime favourite by reason of his decent and orderly habits,
Maurice fetched for him from the lending library, the pieces of music
set by Schwarz as a holiday task. Dove was on tenterhooks to be off.
Of late, things had gone superlatively well with him: he had performed
with applause in an ABENDUNTERHALTUNG, and been highly commended by
Schwarz; while, as for Ephie, she had been so sweet and winning, so
modestly encouraging of his suit, that he had every reason to hope for
success in this quarter also. Too dutiful a son, however, to take,
unauthorised, such an important step as that of proposing marriage, he
was now travelling home to sound two elderly people, resident in a
side street in Peterborough, on the advisability of an American
The Cayhills had been among the first to leave, and would be absent
till the middle of September. One afternoon, Maurice started them from
the THURINGER BAHNHOF, on their journey to Switzerland. Having seen
Mrs. Cayhill comfortably settled with her bags, books and cushions, in
the corner of a first-class carriage, and given Johanna assistance with
the tickets, he stood till the train went, talking to Ephie; and he
long retained a picture of her, standing with one foot on the step, in
a becoming travelling-dress, a hat with a veil flying from it, and a
small hand-bag slung across her shoulder, laughing and dimpling, and
well aware of the admiring glances that were cast at her. It was a
relief to Maurice that she was going away for a time; his feeling of
responsibility with regard to her had not flagged, and he had
made a point of seeing her more often, and of knowing more of her
movements than before. As, however, he had not observed anything
further to disturb him, his suspicions were on the verge of
subsiding--as suspicions have a way of doing when we wish them to--and
in the last day or two, he had begun to feel much less sure, and to
wonder if, after all, he had not been mistaken.
"I shall miss you, Morry. I almost wish I were not going," said Ephie,
and this was not untrue, in spite of the pretty new dresses her trunks
contained. "Say, I don't believe I shall enjoy myself one bit. You
will write, Morry, won't you, and tell me what goes on? All the news
you hear and who you see and everything."----
"Be sure you write," said Madeleine, too, when he saw her off early in
the morning to Berlin, where she was to meet her English charges.
"Christiania, POSTE RESTANTE, till the first, and then Bergen. 'FROKEN
WADE,' don't forget."
The train started; her handkerchief fluttered from the window until
the carriage was out of sight.
Maurice was alone; every one he knew disappeared, even Furst, who had
obtained a holiday engagement in a villa near Dresden. An odd
stillness reigned in the BRAUSTRASSE and its neighbourhood; from
houses which had hitherto been clangrous with musical noises, not a
sound issued. Familiar rooms and lodgings were either closely
shuttered, or, in process of scouring, hung out their curtains to
flutter on the sill.
The days passed, unmarked, eventless, like the uniform pages of a dull
book. When the solitude grew unbearable, Maurice went to visit Frau
Furst, and had his supper with the family. He was a welcome guest, for
he not only paid for all the beer that was drunk, but also brought
such a generous portion of sausage for his own supper, that it
supplied one or other of the little girls as well. Afterwards, they
sat round the kitchen-table, listening, the children with the
old-fashioned solemnity that characterised them, to Frau Furst's
reminiscences. Otherwise, he hardly exchanged a word with anyone, but
sat at his piano the livelong day. Of late, Schwarz had been somewhat
cool and off-hand in manner with him; the master had also not
displayed the same detailed interest in his plans for the summer, as
in those of the rest of the class. This was one reason why he had not
gone away like every one else; the other, that he had been unwilling
to write home for an increase of allowance. Sometimes, when the day
was hot, he envied his friends refreshing themselves by wood,
mountain or sea; but, in the main, he worked briskly at Czerny's
FINGERFERTIGKEIT, and with such perseverance that ultimately his
fingers stumbled from fatigue.
With the beginning of August, the heat grew oppressive; all day long,
the sun beat, fierce and unremittent, on this city of the plains, and
the baked pavements were warm to the feet. Business slackened, and the
midday rest in shops and offices was extended beyond its usual limit.
Conservatorium and Gewandhaus, at first given over to relays of
charwomen, their brooms and buckets, soon lay dead and deserted, too;
and if, in the evening, Maurice passed the former building, he would
see the janitor sitting at leisure in the middle of the pavement,
smoking his long black cigar. The old trees in the PROMENADE, and the
young striplings that followed the river in the LAMPESTRASSE, drooped
their brown leaves thick with dust; the familiar smell of roasting
coffee, which haunted most house- and stair-ways, was intensified; and
out of drains and rivers rose nauseous and penetrating odours, from
which there was no escape. Every three or four days, when the
atmosphere of the town had reached a pitch of unsavouriness which it
seemed impossible to surpass, sudden storms swept up, tropical in
their violence: blasts of thunder cracked like splitting beams;
lightning darted along the narrow streets; rain fell in white,
sizzling sheets. But the morning after, it was as hot as ever.
Maurice grew so accustomed to meet no one he knew, that one afternoon
towards the middle of August, he was pulled up by a jerk of surprise
in front of the PLEISSENBURG, on stumbling across Heinrich Krafft. He
had stopped and impulsively greeted the young man, before he recalled
his previous antipathy to him.
Krafft was sauntering along with his hands in his pockets, and, on
being accosted, he looked vaguely and somewhat moodily at Maurice. The
next moment, however, he laid a hand on the lappel of Maurice's coat,
and, without preamble, burst into a witty and obscene anecdote, which
had evidently been in his mind when they met. This story, and the fact
that, by the North Sea, he had stood before breakers twenty feet high,
were the only particulars Maurice bore away from their interview. His
previous impatience with such eccentricity returned, but none the
less, he looked grudgingly after the other's vanishing form.
A day or two later, towards evening, he saw Krafft again. As
he was going through an outlying street, he came upon a group of
children, who were amusing themselves by teasing a cat; the animal had
been hit in the eye by a stone, and cowered, terrified and blinded,
against the wall of a house. The children formed a half circle round
it, and two of the biggest boys held a young and lively dog by the
collar, inciting it and restraining it, and revelling in the cat's
convulsive starts at each capering bark.
While Maurice was considering how to expostulate with them, Krafft
came swiftly up behind, jerked two of the children apart, and, with a
deft and perfectly noiseless movement, caught up the cat and hid its
head under his coat. Then, cuffing the biggest boy, he kicked the dog,
and ordered the rest to disperse. The children did so lingeringly; and
once out of his reach, stood and mocked him.
He begged Maurice to accompany him to his lodgings, and there Maurice
held the animal, a large, half-starved street-cat, while Krafft, on
his knees before it, examined the wound. As he did this, he crooned in
a wordless language, and the cat was quiet, in spite of the pain he
caused it. But directly he took his hands off it, it jumped from the
table, and fled under the furthest corner of the sofa.
Krafft next fetched milk and a saucer, from a cupboard in the wall,
and went down on his knees again: while Maurice sat and watched and
wondered at his tireless endeavours to induce the animal to advance.
He explained his proceedings in a whisper.
"If I put the saucer down and leave it," he said, "it won't help at
all. A cat's confidence must be won straight away."
He was still in this position, making persuasive little noises, when
the door opened, and Avery Hill, his companion of a previous occasion,
entered. At the sight of Krafft crouching on the floor, she paused
with her hand on the door, and looked from him to Maurice.
"Heinz?" she said interrogatively. Then she saw the saucer of milk,
and understood. "Heinz!" she said again; and this time the word was a
"Ssh!--be quiet," said Krafft peevishly, without looking up.
The girl took no notice of Maurice's attempt to greet her. Letting
fall on the grand piano, some volumes of music she was carrying, she
continued sternly: "Another cat!--oh, it is abominable of you! This is
the third he has picked up this year," she said explanatorily,
yet not more to Maurice than to herself. "And the last was so dirty
and destructive that Frau Schulz threatened to turn him out, if he did
not get rid of it. He knows as well as I do that he cannot keep a cat
Her placidly tragic face had grown hard; and altogether, the anger she
displayed seemed out of proportion to the trival offence.
Krafft remained undisturbed. "It's not the least use scolding. Go and
make it right with the old crow.--Come, puss, come."
The girl checked the words that rose to her lips, gave a slight shrug,
and went out of the room. They heard her, in the passage, disputing
with the landlady, who was justly indignant.
"If it weren't for you, Fraulein, I wouldn't keep him another day,"
Meanwhile the cat, which, in the girl's presence, had shrunk still
further into its hiding-place, began to make advances. It crept a step
forward, retreated again, stretched out its nose to sniff at the milk,
and, all of a sudden, emerged and drank greedily.
Krafft touched its head, and the animal paused in its hungry gulping
to rub its back against the caressing hand. When the last drop of milk
was finished, it withdrew to its corner, but less suspiciously.
Krafft rose to his feet and stretched himself, and when Avery
returned, he smiled at her.
"Now then, is it all right?"
She did not reply, but went to the piano, to search for something
among the scattered music. Krafft clasped his hands behind his head,
and leaning against the table, watched her with an ironical curl of
"O LENE! LENE! O MAGDALENE!" he sang under his breath; and, for the
second time, Maurice received the impression that a by-play was being
carried on between these two.
"Look at this," said Krafft after a pause. "Here, ladies and
gentlemen, is one of those rare persons who have a jot of talent in
them, and off she goes--I don't mean at this moment, but tomorrow, the
day after, every day--to waste it in teaching children finger-exercises.
If you ask her why she does it, she will tell you it is necessary to live.
Necessary to live!--who has ever proved that it is?"
For an instant, it seemed as if the girl were going to flash
out a bitter retort that might have betrayed her. Then she showed the
same self-control as before, and went, without a word, into the next
room. She was absent for a few minutes, and when she reappeared,
carried what was unmistakably a bundle of soiled linen, going away
with this on one arm, the volumes of music she had picked out on the
other. She did not wish the young men good-night, but, in passing
Maurice, she said in an unfriendly tone: "Do you know what time it
is?" and to Krafft: "It is late, Heiriz, you are not to play."
The door had barely closed behind her, when Krafft broke into the
loud, repellent laugh that had so jarred on Maurice at their former
meeting. He had risen at once, and now said he must go. But Krafft
would not hear of it; he pressed him into his seat again, with an
effusive warmth of manner.
"Don't mind her. Stay, like a good fellow. Of course, I am going to
play to you."
He flicked the keys of the piano with his handkerchief, adjusted the
distance of his seat, threw back his head, and half closing his eyes,
began to play. Except for the unsteady flickerings cast on the wall by
a street-lamp, the room was soon in darkness.
Maurice resumed his seat reluctantly. He had been dragged upstairs
against his will; and throughout the foregoing scene, had sat an
uncomfortable spectator. He had as little desire for the girl to
return and find him there, as for Krafft to play to him. But no excuse
for leaving offered itself, and each moment made it harder to interrupt
the player, who had promptly forgotten the fact of his presence.
After he had listened for a time, however, Maurice ceased to think of
escaping. Madeleine had once alluded to Krafft's skill as an
interpreter of Chopin, but, all the same, he had not expected anything
like what he now heard, and at first he could not make anything of it.
He had hitherto only known Chopin's music as played in the sentimental
fashion of the English drawing-room. Here, now, came some one who made
it clear that, no matter how pessimistic it appeared on the surface,
this music was, at its core an essentially masculine music; it kicked
desperately against the pricks of existence; what failed it was only
the last philosophic calm. He could not, of course, know that various
small things had combined to throw the player into one of his most
prodigal moods: the rescue and taming of the cat, the passage-at-arms
with Avery, her stimulating forbiddal, and, last and best, the one
silent listener in the dark--this stranger, picked up at random
in the streets, who had never yet heard him play, and to whom he might
reveal himself with an indecency that friendship precluded.
When at length, Frau Schulz entered, in her bed-jacket, to say that it
was long past ten o'clock, Krafft wakened as if out of a trance, and
hid his eyes from the light. Frau Schulz, a robust person, disregarded
his protests, and herself locked the piano and took the key.
"She makes me promise to," she whispered to Maurice, pointing over her
shoulder at an imaginary person. "If I didn't, he'd go on all night.
He's no more fit to look after himself than a baby--and he gets it
again with his boots in the morning.--Yes, yes, call me names if it
pleases you. Names don't kill. And if I am a hag, you're a rascal,
that's what you are! The way you treat that poor, good creature makes
one's blood boil."
Krafft waved her away, and opening the window, leaned out on the sill:
a wave of warm air filled the room. Maurice rose with renewed
decision, and sought his hat. But Krafft also took his down from a
peg. "Yes, let us go out."
It was a breathless August night, laden with intensified scents and
smells, and the moonlight lay thick and white on the ground: a night
to provoke to extravagant follies. In the utter stillness of the
woods, the young men passed from places of inky blackness into bluish
white patches, dropped through the trees like monstrous silver
thalers. The town lay behind them in a glorifying haze; the river
stretched silver-scaled in the moonlight, like a gigantic fish-back.
Krafft walked in front of his companion, in preoccupied silence. His
slender hands, dangling loosely, still twitched from their recent
exertions, and from time to time, he turned the palms outward, with an
impatient gesture. Maurice wished himself alone. He was not at ease
under this new companionship that had thrust itself upon him; indeed,
a strong mental antagonism was still uppermost in him, towards the
moody creature at whose heels he followed; and if, at this moment, he
had been asked to give voice to his feelings, the term "crazy idiot"
would have been the first to rise to his lips.
Suddenly, without turning, or slackening his pace, Krafft commenced to
speak: at first in a low voice, as if he were thinking aloud. But one
word gave another, his thoughts came rapidly, he began to gesticulate,
and finally, wrought on by the beauty of the night, by this choice
moment for speech, still excited by his own playing, and in an
infinite need of expression, he swept the silence before him with the
force of a flood set free. If he thought Maurice were about to
interrupt him, he made an imploring gesture, and left what he was
saying unfinished, to spring over to the next theme ready in his
brain. Names jostled one another on his tongue: he passed from
Beethoven and Chopin to Berlioz and Wagner, to Liszt and Richard
Strauss--and his words were to Maurice like the unrolling of a great
scroll. In the same breath, he was with Nietzsche, and Apollonic and
Dionysian; and from here he went on to Richard Dehmel, to ANATOL, and
the gentle "Loris" of the early verses; to Max Klinger, and the
propriety of coloured sculpture; to PAPA HAMLET and the future of the
LIED. Maurice, listening intently, had fleeting glimpses into a land
of which he knew nothing. He kept as still as a mouse, in order not to
betray his ignorance; for Krafft was not didactic, and talked as if
the subjects he touched on were as familiar to Maurice as to himself.
On the other hand, Maurice believed it was a matter of indifference to
him whether he was understood or not; he spoke for the pure joy of
talking, out of the motley profusion of his knowledge.
Meanwhile, he had grown personal. And while he was still speaking with
fervour of Vienna--which was his home--of gay, melancholy Wien, he flung
round and put a question to his companion.
"Do you ever think of death?"
Maurice had been the listener for so long that he started.
"Death?" he echoed, and was as much embarrassed as though asked
whether he believed in God. "I don't know. No, I don't think I do. Why
should one think of death when one is alive and well?"
Krafft laughed at this, with a pitying irony. "Happy you!" he said.
"Happy you!" His voice sank, and he continued almost fearfully: "I
have the vision of it before me, always wherever I go. Listen; I will
tell you; it is like this." He laid his hand on Maurice's arm, and
drew him nearer. "I know--no matter how strong and sound I may be at
this moment; no matter how I laugh, or weep, or play the fool; no
matter how little thought I give it, or whether I think about it all
day long--I know the hour will come, at last, when I shall gasp, choke,
grow black in the face, in the vain struggle for another single
mouthful of that air which has always been mine at will. And no one
will be able to help me; there is no escape from that hour; no
power on earth can keep it from me. And it is all a matter of chance
when it happens--a great lottery: one draws to-day, one to-morrow; but
my turn will surely come, and each day that passes brings me
twenty-four hours nearer the end." He drew still closer to Maurice.
"Tell me, have you never stood before a doorway--the doorway of some
strange house that you have perhaps never consciously gone past
before--and waited, with the atrocious curiosity that death and its
hideous paraphernalia waken in one, for a coffin to be carried out?--the
coffin of an utter stranger, who is of interest to you now, for
the first and the last time. And have you not thought to yourself,
with a shudder, that some day, in this selfsame way, under the same
indifferent sky, among a group of loiterers as idly curious as these,
you yourself will be carried out, feet foremost, like a bale of goods,
like useless lumber, all will and dignity gone from you, never to
enter there again?--there, where all the little human things you have
loved, and used, and lived amongst, are lying just as you left
them--the book you laid down, the coat you wore--now all of a greater
worth than you. You are mere dead flesh, and behind the horrid lid lie
stark and cold, with rigid fingers and half-closed eyes, and the chief
desire of every one, even of those you have loved most, is to be rid
of you, to be out of reach of sight and smell of you. And so, after
being carted, and jolted, and unloaded, you will be thrown into a
hole, and your body, ice-cold, and as yielding as meat to the
touch--oh, that awful icy softness!--your flesh will begin to rot, to be
such that not your nearest friend would touch you. God, it is unbearable!"
He wiped his forehead, and Maurice was silent, not knowing what to
say; he felt that such rational arguments as he might be able to
offer, would have little value in the face of this intensely personal
view, which was stammered forth with the bitterness of an accusation.
But as they crossed the suspensionbridge, Krafft stopped, and stood
looking at the water, which glistened in the moonlight like a living
"No, it is impossible for me to put death out of my mind," he went on.
"And yet, a spring into this silver fire down here would end all that,
and satisfy one's curiosity as well. Why is one not readier to make
the spring?--and what would one's sensations be? The mad rush through
the air--the crash--the sinking in the awful blackness . . ."
"Those of fear and cold. You would wish yourself out again,"
answered Maurice; and as Krafft nodded, without seeming to resent his
tone, he ventured to put forward a few points for the other side of
the question. He suggested that always to be brooding over death
unfitted you for life. Every one had to die when his time came; it was
foolish to look upon your own death as an exception to the rule.
Besides, when sensation had left you--the soul, the spirit, whatever
you liked to call it--what did it matter what afterwards became of your
body? It was, then, in reality, nothing but lumber, fresh nourishment
for the soil; and it was morbid to care so much how it was treated,
just because it had once been your tenement, when it was now as
worthless as the crab's empty shell.
He stuttered this out piece-wise, in his halting German; then paused,
not sure how his companion would take the didactic tone he had fallen
into. But Krafft had turned, and was gazing at him, considering him
attentively for the first time. When Maurice ceased to speak, he
nodded a hasty assent: "Yes, yes, it is quite true. Go on." And as the
former, having nothing more to say, was mute, he added: "You are like
some one I once knew. He was a great musician. I saw him die; he died
by inches; it lasted for months; he could neither die nor live."
"Why do you brood over these things, if you find them so awful? Are
you not afraid your nerves will go through with you, and make you do
something foolish?" asked Maurice, and was himself astonished at his
"Of course I am. My life is a perpetual struggle against suicide,"
In the distance, a church-clock struck a quarter to twelve, and it was
on Maurice's tongue to suggest that they should move homewards, when,
with one of his unexpected transitions, Krafft turned to him and said
in a low voice: "What do you say? Shall you and I be friends?"
Maurice hesitated, in some embarrassment. "Why yes, I should be very
"And you will let me say 'DU' to you?"
"Certainly. If you are sure you won't regret it in the morning."
Krafft stretched out his hand. As Maurice held in his the fine, slim
fingers, which seemed mere skin and muscle, a hitherto unknown feeling
of kindliness came over him for the young man at his side. At this
moment, he had the lively sensation that he was the stronger and wiser
of the two, and that it was even a little beneath him to take
the other too seriously.
"You think so poorly of me then? You think no good thing can come out
of me?" asked Krafft, and there was an appealing note in his voice,
which, but a short time back, had been so overbearing.
Had Maurice known him better, he would have promptly retorted: "Don't
be a fool." As it was, he laughed. "Who am I to sit in judgment? The
only thing I do know is, that if I had your talent--no, a quarter of
it--I should pull myself together and astonish the world."
"It sounds so easy; but I have too many doubts of myself," said
Krafft, and laid his hand on Maurice's shoulder. "And I have never had
anyone to keep me up to the mark--till now. I have always needed some
one like you. You are strong and sympathetic; and one has the feeling
that you understand."
Maurice was far from certain that he did. However, he answered in a
frank way, doing his best to keep down the sentimental tone that had
invaded the conversation. At heart he was little moved by this new
friendship, which hail begun with the word itself; he told himself
that it was only a whim of Krafft's, which would be forgotten in the
morning. But, as they stood thus on the bridge, shoulder to shoulder,
he did not understand how he could ever have taken anything this frail
creature did, amiss. At the moment, there was a clinging helplessness
about Krafft, which instinctively roused his manlier feelings. He said
to himself that he had done wrong in lightly condemning his companion;
and, impelled by this sudden burst of protectiveness, he seized the
moment, and spoke earnestly to Krafft of earnest things, of duty, not
only to one's fellows, but to oneself and one's abilities, of the
inspiring gain of unremitted endeavour.
Afterwards, they sauntered home--first to Maurice's lodging, then to
Krafft's, and once again to Maurice's. At this stage, Krafft was
frankness itself; Maurice learnt to his surprise that the slim, boyish
lad at his side was over twenty-seven years of age; that, for several
semesters, Krafft had studied medicine in Vienna, then had thrown up
this "disgusting occupation," to become a clerk in a wealthy uncle's
counting-house. From this, he had drifted into journalism, and
finally, at the instigation of Hans von Bullow, to music; he had been
for two and a half years with Bullow, on travel, and in Hamburg, and
was at present in Leipzig solely to have his "fingers put in order."
His plans for the future were many, and widely divergent. At
one time, a musical career tempted him irresistibly; every one but
Schwarz--this finger-machine, this generator of living
metronomes--believed that he could make a name for himself as a player
of Chopin. At other times, and more often, he contemplated retiring
from the world and entering a monastery. He spoke with a morbid
horror--yet as if the idea of it fascinated him--of the publicity of the
concert-platform, and painted in glowing colours a monastery he knew
of, standing on a wooded hill, not far from Vienna. He had once spent
several weeks there, recovering from an illness, and the gardens, the
trimly bedded flowers, the glancing sunlight in the utter silence of
the corridors, were things he could not forget. He had lain day for
day on a garden-bench, reading Novalis, and it still seemed to him
that the wishless happiness of those days was the greatest he had
Beside this, Maurice's account of himself sounded tame and unimportant;
he felt, too, that the circumstances of English life were too far removed
from his companion's sphere, for the latter to be able to understand them.
On waking next morning, Maurice recalled the incidents of the evening
with a smile; felt a touch of warmth at the remembrance of the moment
when he had held Krafft's hand in his; then classed the whole episode
as strained, and dismissed it from his mind. He had just shut the
piano, after a busy forenoon, when Krafft burst in, his cheeks pink
with haste and excitement. He had discovered a room to let, in the
house he lived in, and nothing would satisfy him but that Maurice
should come instantly to see it. Laughing at his eagerness, Maurice
put forward his reasons for preferring to remain where he was. But
Krafft would take no denial, and not wishing to hurt his feelings,
Maurice gave way, and agreed at least to look at the room.
It was larger and more cheerful than his own, and had also, a
convenient alcove for the bedstead; and after inspecting it, Maurice
felt willing to expend the extra marks it cost. They withdrew to
Krafft's room to come to a decision. There, however, they found Avery
Hill, who, as soon as she heard what they contemplated, put a veto on
it. Growing pale, as she always did where others would have flushed,
she said: "It is an absurd idea--sheer nonsense! I won't have it,
understand that! Pray, excuse me," she continued to Maurice, speaking
in a more friendly tone than she had yet used to him, "but you
must not listen to him. It is just one of his whims--nothing more. In
less than a week, you would wish yourself away again. You have no idea
how changeable he is--how impossible to live with."
Maurice hastened to reassure her. Krafft did not speak; he stood at
the window, with his back to them, his forehead pressed against the
So Maurice continued to live in the BRAUSTRASSE, under the despotic
rule of Frau Krause, who took every advantage of his good-nature. But
after this, not a day passed without his seeing Krafft; the latter
sought him out on trivial pretexts. Maurice hardly recognised him: he
was gentle, amiable, and amenable to reason; he subordinated himself
entirely to Maurice, and laid an ever-increasing weight on his
opinion. Maurice became able to wind him round his finger; and the
hint of a reproof from him served to throw Krafft into a state of
nervous depression. Without difficulty, Maurice found himself to
rights in his role of mentor, and began to flatter himself that he
would ultimately make of Krafft a decent member of society. As it was,
he soon induced his friend to study in a more methodical way; they
practised for the same number of hours in the forenoon, and met in the
afternoon; and Krafft only sometimes broke through this arrangement,
by appearing in the BRAUSTRASSE early in the morning, and, despite
remonstrance, throwing himself on the sofa, and remaining there, while
Maurice practised. The latter ended by growing accustomed to this whim
as to several other things that had jarred on him--such as Krafft's
love for a dirty jest--and overlooked or forgave them. At first
embarrassed by the mushroom growth of a friendship he had not invited,
he soon grew genuinely attached to Krafft, and missed him when he was
absent from him.
Avery Hill could hardly be termed third in the alliance; Maurice's
advent had thrust her into the background, where she kept watch over
their doings with her cold, disdainful eye. Maurice was not clear how
she regarded his intrusion. Sometimes, particularly when she saw the
improvement in Heinrich's way of life, she seemed to tolerate his
presence gladly; at others again, her jealous aversion to him was too
open to be overlooked. The jealousy was natural; he was an interloper,
and Heinz neglected her shamefully for him; but there was something
else behind it, another feeling, which Maurice could not make out. He
by no means understood the relationship that existed between
his friend and this girl of the stone-grey eyes and stern, red lips.
The two lived almost door by door, went in and out of each other's
rooms at all hours, and yet, he had never heard them exchange an
affectionate word, or seen a mark of endearment pass between them.
Avery's attachment--if such it could be called--was noticeable only in
the many small ways in which she cared for Krafft's comfort; her
manner with him was invariably severe and distant, with the exception
of those occasions when a seeming trifle raised in her a burst of the
dull, passionate anger, beneath which Krafft shrank. Maurice believed
that his friend would be happier away from her; in spite of her fresh
colouring, he, Maurice, found her wanting in attraction, nothing that
a woman ought to be. But her name was rarely mentioned between them;
Krafft was, as a rule, reticent concerning her, and when he did speak
of her, it was in a tone of such contempt that Maurice was glad to
shirk the subject.
"It's all she wants," Krafft had replied, when his companion ventured
to take her part. "She wouldn't thank you to be treated differently.
Believe me, women are all alike; they are made to be trodden on.
Ill-usage brings out their good points--just as kneading makes dough
light. Let them alone, or pamper them, and they spread like a weed,
and choke you"--and he quoted a saying about going to women and not
forgetting the whip, at which Maurice stood aghast.
"But why, if you despise a person like that--why have her always about
you?" he cried, at the end of a flaming plea for woman's dignity and
Krafft shrugged his shoulders. "I suppose the truth is we are
dependent on them--yes, dependent, from the moment we are laid in the
cradle. It's a woman who puts on our first clothes and a woman who
puts on our last. But why talk about these things?"--he slipped his
arm through Maurice's. "Tell me about yourself; and when you are tired
of talking, I will play."
It usually ended in his playing. They ranged through the highways and
byways of music.
One afternoon--it was a warm, wet, grey day towards the end of
August--Maurice found Krafft in a strangely apathetic mood. The
weather, this moist warmth, had got on his nerves, he said; he had
been unable to settle to anything; was weighed down by a lassitude
heavier than iron. When Maurice entered, he was stretched on the sofa,
with closed eyes; on his chest slept Wotan, the one-eyed cat,
now growing sleek and fat. While Maurice was trying to rally him,
Krafft sprang up. With a precipitance that was the extreme opposite of
his previous sloth, he lowered both window-blinds, and, lighting two
candles, set them on the piano, where they dispersed the immediate
darkness, but no more.
"I am going to play TRISTAN to you."
Maurice had learnt by this time that it was useless to try to thwart
Krafft. He laughed and nodded, and having nothing in particular to do,
lay down in the latter's place on the sofa.
Krafft shook his hair back, and began the prelude to the opera in a
rapt, ecstatic way, finding in the music an outlet for all his
nervousness. At first, he played from memory; when this gave out, he
set the piano-score up before him, then forgot it again, and went on
playing by heart. Sometimes he sang the different parts, in a light,
sweet tenor; sometimes recited them, with dramatic fervour. Only he
never ceased to play, never gave his hearer a moment in which to
Frau Schulz's entry with the lamp, and her grumblings at the
"UNVERSCHAMTE SPEKTAKEL" passed unheeded. A strength that was more
than human seemed to take possession of the frail youth at the piano.
Evening crept on afternoon, night on evening, and still he continued,
drunk with the most emotional music conceived by a human brain.
Even when hands and fingers could do no more, the frenzy that was in
him would not let him rest: he paced the room, and talked--talked for
hours, his eyes ablaze. A church-clock struck ten, then half-past,
then eleven, and not for a moment was he still; his speech seemed,
indeed, to gather impetus as it advanced like a mountain torrent.
Then, all of a sudden, in the middle of a vehement defence of
anti-Semitism, to which he had been led by the misdeeds of those
"arch-charlatans," Mendelssohn and Meyerbeer, he stopped short, like a
run-down clock, and, falling into a chair before the table, buried his
face in his arms. There was silence, the more intense for all that had
preceded it. Wotan wakened from sleep, and was heard to stretch his
limbs, with a yawn and a sigh. The spell was broken; Maurice, his head
in a whirl, rose stiff and cramped from his uncomfortable position on
"You rascal, you make one lose all sense of time. And I am starving. I
must snatch something at Canitz's as I go by."
Krafft started, and raised a haggard face with twitching lips.
"You are not going to leave me?--like this?"
Maurice was both hungry and tired--worn out, in fact.
"We will go somewhere in the town," said Krafft. "And then for a walk.
The rain has stopped--look!"
He drew up one of the blinds, and they saw that the stars were shining.
"Yes, but what about to-morrow?--and to-morrow's work?"
"To-morrow may never come. And to-night is."
"Those are only words. Do you know the time?"
Krafft turned quickly from the window. "And if I make it a test of the
friendship you have professed for me, that you stay here with me
to-night?--You can sleep on the sofa."
"Why on earth get personal?" said Maurice; he could not find his hat,
which had fallen in a dark corner. "Heinz, dear boy, be reasonable.
Come, give me the house-key--like a good fellow."
"It's the first--the only thing, I have asked of you."
"Nonsense. You have asked dozens."
Krafft took a few steps towards him, and threw the key on the floor at
his feet. Wotan, who was at the door, mewing to be let out, sprang
back, in affright.
"Go, go, go!" Krafft cried. "I never want to see you again."
Earlier than usual the next morning, Maurice returned to set things
right, and to laugh with Heinz at their extravagance the night before.
But Krafft was not to be seen. From Frau Schulz, who flounced past him
in the passage, first with hot water, then with black coffee, Maurice
learned that Krafft had been brought home early that morning, in a
disgraceful state of intoxication. Frau Schulz still boiled at the
"SO 'N SCHWEIN, SO 'N SCHWEIN!" she cried. "But this time he goes. I
have said it before and, fool that I am, have always let them persuade
me. But this is the end. Not a day after the fifteenth will I have him
in the house."
Maurice slipped away.
Two days passed before he saw his friend again. He found him pale and
dejected, with reddish, heavy eyes and a sneering smile. He was wholly
changed; his words were tainted with the perverse irony, which, at the
beginning of their acquaintance, had made his manner so repellent. But
now, Maurice was not, at once, frightened away by it; he could not
believe Heinrich's pique was serious, and gave himself trouble
to win his friend back. He chid, laughed, rallied, was earnest and
apologetic, and all this without being conscious of having done wrong.
"I think you had better leave him alone," said Avery, after watching
his fruitless efforts. "He doesn't want you."
It was true; now Krafft had no thought for anyone but Avery. It was
Avery here, and Avery there. He called her by a pet name, was anxious
for her comfort, and hung affectionately on her arm.--The worst of it
was, that he did not seem in the least ashamed of his fickleness.
Maurice made one further attempt to move him, then, hurt and angry,
intruded no more. At first, he was chiefly angry. But, gradually, the
hurt deepened, and became a sense of injury, which made him avoid the
street Krafft lived in, and shun him when they met. He missed him,
after the close companionship of the past weeks, and felt as if he had
been suddenly deprived of a part of himself. And he would no doubt
have missed him more keenly still, if, just at this juncture, his
attention had not been engrossed by another and more important matter.
The commencement of the new term had just assembled the incoming
students to sign their names in the venerable rollbook, when the
report spread that Schilsky was willing to play his symphonic poem,
ZARATHUSTRA, to those of his friends who cared to hear it. Curiosity
swelled the number, and Furst lent his house for the occasion.
"You'll come, of course," said the latter to Maurice, as they left
Schwarz's room after their lesson; and Madeleine said the same thing
while driving home from the railway-station, where Maurice had met
her. She was no more a friend of Schilsky's than he was, but she
certainly intended to be present, to hear what kind of stuff he had
On the evening of the performance, Maurice and she walked together to
the BRANDVORWERKSTRASSE. Madeleine had still much to say. She had
returned from her holiday in the best of health and spirits, liberally
rewarded for her trouble, and possessed of four new friends, who, no
doubt, would all be of use to her when she settled in England again.
This was to be her last winter in Leipzig, and she was drawing up
detailed plans of work. From now on, she intended to take private
lessons from Schwarz, in addition to those she received in the class.
"Even though they do cost ten marks each, it makes him ever so much
better disposed towards you."
She also told him that she had found a letter from Louise waiting for
her, in which the latter announced her return for the following week.
Louise wrote from England, and all her cry was to be back in Leipzig.
"Of course--now he is here," commented Madeleine. "You know, I suppose,
that he has been travelling with Zeppelin? He has the luck of I don't
The Cayhills would be absent till the middle of the month; Maurice had
received from Ephie one widely written note, loud in praise of a
family of "perfectly sweet Americans," whom they had learnt to know in
Interlaken, but also expressing eagerness to be at home again in "dear
old Leipzig." Dove had arrived a couple of days ago--and here
"He is absolutely shiny with resolution," she declared. "Mind, Maurice,
if he takes you into confidence--as he probably will--you are not on any
account to dissuade him from proposing. A snub will do him worlds of
They were not the first to climb the ill-lighted stair that wound up
to the Fursts' dwelling. The entry-door on the fourth storey stood
open, and a hum of voices came from the sitting-room. The circular
hat-stand in the passage was crowded with motley headgear.
As they passed the kitchen, the door of which was ajar, Frau Furst
peeped through the slit, and seeing Maurice, called him in. The
coffee-pot was still on the stove; he must sit down and drink a cup of
"There is plenty of time. Schilsky has not come yet, and I have only
this moment sent Adolfchen for the beer."
Maurice asked her if she were not coming in to hear the music. She
laughed good-naturedly at the idea.
"Bless your heart, what should I do in there, among all you young
people? No, no, I can hear just as well where I am. When my good
husband had his evenings, it was always from the kitchen that I
Pausing, with a saucepan in one hand, a cloth in the other, she said:
"You will hear something good to-night, Herr Guest. Oh, he has talent,
great talent, has young Schilsky! This is not the usual work of a
pupil. It has form, and it has ideas, and it is new and daring. I know
one of the motives from hearing Franz play it," and she hummed a theme
as she replaced on the shelf, the scrupulously cleaned pot. "For such
a young man, it is wonderful; but he will do better still, depend upon
it, he will."
Here she threw a hasty glance round the tiny kitchen, at three of the
children sitting as still as mice in the corner, laid a finger on her
lips, and, bursting with mystery, leaned over the table and asked
Maurice if he could keep a secret.
"He is going away," she whispered.
Maurice stared at her. "Going away? Who is? What do you mean?" he
asked, and was so struck by her peculiar manner that he set his cup
"Why Schilsky, of course." She thought his astonishment was disbelief,
and nodded confirmingly. "Yes, yes, he is going away. And soon, too."
"How do you know?" cried Maurice. Sitting back in his chair,
he stemmed his hands against the edge of the table, and looked
challengingly at Frau Furst.
"Ssh--not so loud," said the latter. "It's a secret, a dead secret--
though I'm sure I don't know why. Franz----"
At this very moment, Franz himself came into the kitchen. He looked
distrustfully at his whispering mother.
"Now then, mother, haven't you got that beer yet?" he demanded. His
genial bonhomie disappeared, as if by magic, when he entered his home
circle, and he was particularly gruff with this adoring woman.
"GLEICH, FRANZCHEN, GLEICH," she answered soothingly, and whisked
about her work again, with the air of one caught napping.
Maurice followed Furst's invitation to join the rest of the party.
The folding-doors between the "best room" and the adjoining bedroom
had been opened wide, and the guests were distributed over the two
rooms. The former was brilliantly lighted by three lamps and two
candles, and all the sitting-accommodation the house contained was
ranged in a semicircle round the grand piano. Here, not a place was
vacant; those who had come late were in the bedroom, making shift with
whatever offered. Two girls and a young man, having pushed back the
feather-bed, sat on the edge of the low wooden bedstead, with their
arms interlaced to give them a better balance. Maurice found Madeleine
on a rickety little sofa that stood at the foot of the bed. Dove sat
on a chest of drawers next the sofa, his long legs dangling in the
air. Beside Madeleine, with his head on her shoulder, was Krafft.
"Oh, there you are," cried Madeleine. "Well, I did my best to keep the
place for you; but it was of no use, as you see. Just sit down,
however. Between us, we'll squeeze him properly."
Maurice was glad that the room, which was lighted only by one small
lamp, was in semi-darkness; for, at the sound of his own voice, it
suddenly became clear to him that the piece of gossip Frau Furst had
volunteered, had been of the nature of a blow. Schilsky's departure
threatened, in a way he postponed for the present thinking out, to
disturb his life; and, in an abrupt need of sympathy, he laid his hand
on Krafft's knee.
"Is it you, old man? What have you been doing with yourself?"
Krafft gave him one of those looks which, in the early days of
their acquaintance, had proved so disconcerting--a look of struggling
"Oh, nothing in particular," he replied, without hostility, but also
without warmth. His mind was not with his words, and Maurice withdrew
Madeleine leaned forward, dislodging Krafft's head from its
"How long have you two been 'DU' to each other?" she asked, and at
Maurice's curt reply, she pushed Krafft from her. "Sit up and behave
yourself. One would think you had an evil spirit in you to-night."
Krafft was nervously excited: bright red spots burnt on his cheeks,
his hands twitched, and he jerked forward in his seat and threw
himself back again, incessantly.
"No, you are worse than a mosquito," cried Madeleine, losing patience.
"Anyone would think you were going to play yourself. And he will be as
cool as an iceberg. The sofa won't stand it, Heinz. If you can't stop
fidgeting, get up."
He had gone, before she finished speaking; for a slight stir in the
next room made them suppose for a moment that Schilsky was arriving.
Afterwards, Krafft was to be seen straying about, with his hands in
his pockets; and, on observing his rose-pink cheeks and tumbled curly
hair, Madeleine could not refrain from remarking: "He ought to have
been a girl."
The air was already hot, by reason of the lamps, and the many breaths,
and the firmly shut double-windows. The clamour for beer had become
universal by the time Adolfchen arrived with his arms full of bottles.
As there were not enough glasses to go round, every two or three
persons shared one between them--a proceeding that was carried out with
much noisy mirth. Above all other voices was to be heard that of Miss
Jensen, who, in a speckled yellow dress, with a large feather fan in
her hand, sat in the middle of the front row of seats. It was she who
directed how the beer should be apportioned; she advised a few
late-comers where they would still find room, and engaged Furst to
place the lights on the piano to better advantage. Next her, a Mrs.
Lautenschlager, a plump little American lady, with straight yellow
hair which hung down on her shoulders, was relating to her neighbour
on the other side, in a tone that could be clearly heard in both
rooms, how she had "discovered" her voice.
"I come to Schwarz, last fall," she said shaking back her
hair, and making effective use of her babyish mouth; "and he thinks no
end of me. But the other week I was sick, and as I lay in bed, I sung
some--just for fun. And my landlady--she's a regular singer herself--who
was fixing up the room, she claps her hands together and says: 'My
goodness me! Why YOU have a voice!' That's what put it in my head, and
I went to Sperling to hear what he'd got to say. He was just tickled
to death, I guess he was, and he's going to make something dandy of
it, so I stop long enough. I don't know what my husband'll say though.
When I wrote him I was sick, he says: 'Come home and be sick at
home'--that's what he says."
Miss Jensen could not let pass the opportunity of breaking a lance for
her own master, the Swede, and of cutting up Sperling's method, which
she denounced as antiquated. She made quite a little speech, in the
course of which she now and then interrupted herself to remind
Furst--who, was as soft as a pudding before her--of something he had
forgotten to do, such as snuffing the candles or closing the door.
"Just let me hear your scale, will you?" she said patronisingly to
Mrs. Lautenschlager. The latter, nothing loath, stuck out her chin,
opened her mouth, and, for a short time, all other noises were drowned
in a fine, full volume of voice.
On their sofa, Madeleine and Maurlee sat in silence, pretending to
listen to Dove, who was narrating his journey. Madeleine was out of
humour; she tapped the floor, and had a crease in her forehead. As for
Maurice, he was in such poor spirits that she could not but observe
"Why are you so quiet? Is anything the matter?"
He shook his head, without speaking. His vague sense of impending
misfortune had crystallised into a definite thought; he knew now what
it signified. If Schilsky went away from Leipzig, Louise would
probably go, too, and that would be the end of everything.
"I represented to him," he heard Dove saying, "that I had seen the
luggage with my own eyes at Flushing. What do you think he answered?
He looked me up and down, and said: 'ICH WERDE TELEGRAPHIEREN UND
ERKUNDIGUNGEN EINZIEHEN.' Now, do you think if you said to an English
station-master: 'Sir, I saw the luggage with my own eyes,' he would
not believe you? No, in my opinion, the whole German railway-system
needs revision. Would you believe it, we did not make fifty kilometers
in the hour, and yet our engine broke down before Magdeburg?"
So this would be the end; the end of foolish dreams and weak
hopes, which he had never put into words even to himself, which had
never properly existed, and yet had been there, nevertheless, a mass
of gloriously vague perhapses. The end was at hand--an end before there
had been any beginning.
". . . the annoyance of the perpetual interruptions," went on the
voice on the other side. "A lady who was travelling in the same
compartment--a very pleasant person, who was coming over to be a
teacher in a school in Dresden--I have promised to show her our lions
when she visits Leipzig: well, as I was saying, she was quite alarmed
the first time he entered in that way, and it took me some time, I
assure you, to make her believe that this was the German method of
The break occasioned by the arrival of the beer had been of short
duration, and the audience was growing impatient; at the back of the
room, some one began to stamp his feet; others took it up. Furst
perspired with anxiety, and made repeated journeys to the stair-head,
to see if Schilsky were not coming. The latter was almost an hour late
by now, and jests, bald and witty, were made at his expense. Some one
offered to take a bet that he had fallen asleep and forgotten the
appointment, and at this, one of the girls on the bed, a handsome
creature with bold, prominent eyes, related an anecdote to her
neighbours, concerning Schilsky's powers of sleep. All three exploded
with laughter. In a growing desire to be asked to play, Boehmer had
for some time hung about the piano, and was now just about to drop, as
if by accident, upon the stool, when the cry of: "No Bach!" was
raised--Bach was Boehmer's specialty--and re-echoed, and he retired red
and discomfited to his Place in a corner of the room, where his
companion, a statuesque little English widow, made biting observations
on the company's behaviour. The general rowdyism was at its height,
when some one had the happy idea that Krafft should sing them his
newest song. At this, there was a unanimous shriek of approval, and
several hands dragged Krafft to the piano. But himself the wildest of
them all, he needed no forcing. Flinging himself down on the seat, he
preluded wildly in imitation of Rubinstein. His hearers sat with their
mouths open, a fixed smile on their faces, laughter ready in their
throats, and only Madeleine was coolly contemptuous.
"Tom-fool!" she said in a low voice.
Krafft was confidently expected to burst into one of those
songs for which he was renowned. Few of his friends were able to sing
them, and no one but himself could both sing and play them
simultaneously: they were a monstrous, standing joke. Instead of this,
however, he turned, winked at his audience, and began a slow,
melancholy ditty, with a recurring refrain. He was not allowed to
finish the first verse; a howl of disapproval went up; his hearers
hooted, jeered and stamped.
"Damn your 'WENIG SONNE!'"--this was the refrain.
"Put your head in a bag!"
"Pity he drinks!"
"Give us one of the rousers--the rou . . . sers!"
Krafft himself laughed unbridledly. "DAS ICH SPRICHT!"--he announced.
"In C sharp major."
There was a hush of anticipation, in which Dove, stopping his BRETZEL
half-way to his mouth, was heard to say in his tone of measured
surprise: "C sharp major! Why, that is----"
The rest was drowned in the wild chromatic passages that Krafft sent
up and down the piano with his right hand, while his left followed
with full-bodied chords, each of which exceeded the octave. Before,
however, there was time to laugh, this riot ceased, and became a
mournful cadence, to the slowly passing harmonies of which, Krafft
I am weary of everything that is, under the sun.
I sicken at the long lines of rain, which are black against the sky;
They drip, for a restless heart, with the drip of despair:
For me, winds must rage, trees bend, and clouds sail stormily.
The whirlwind of the prelude commenced anew; the chords became still
vaster; the player swayed from side to side, like a stripling-tree in
a storm. Madeleine said, "Tch!" in disgust, but the rest of the
company, who had only waited for this, burst into peals of laughter;
some bent double in their seats, some leant back with their chins in
the air. Even Dove smiled. Just, however, as those whose sense of
humour was most highly developed, mopped their faces with gestures of
exhaustion, and assured their neighbours that they "could not, really
could not laugh any more," Furst entered and flapped his hands.
"Here he comes!"
A sudden silence fell, broken only by a few hysterical giggles from
the ladies, and by a frivolous American, who cried: "Now for
ALSO SCHRIE ZENOPHOBIA!" Krafft stopped playing, but remained sitting
at the piano, wiping down the keys with his handkerchief.
Schilsky came in, somewhat embarrassed by the lull which had succeeded
the hubbub heard in the passage, but wholly unconcerned at the
lateness of the hour: except in matters of practical advancement, time
did not exist for him. As soon as he appeared, the two ladies in the
front row began to clap their hands; the rest of the company followed
their example, then, in spite of Furst's efforts to prevent it, rose
and crowded round him. Miss Jensen and her friend made themselves
particularly conspicuous. Mrs Lauterischlager had an infatuation for
the young man, of which she made no secret; she laid her hand
caressingly on his coat-sleeve, and put her face as near his as
"Disgusting, the way those women go on with him!" said Madeleine. "And
what is worse, he likes it."
Schilsky listened to the babble of compliments with that mixture of
boyish deference and unequivocal superiority, which made him so
attractive to women. He was too good-natured to interrupt them and
free himself, and would have stood as long as they liked, if Furst had
not come to the rescue and led him to the piano. Schilsky laid his
hand affectionately on Krafft's shoulder, and Krafft sprang up in
exaggerated surprise. The audience took its seats again; the thick
manuscript-score was set up on the music-rack, and the three young men
at the piano had a brief disagreement with one another about turning
the leaves: Krafft was bent on doing it, and Schilsky objected, for
Krafft had a way of forgetting what he was at in the middle of a page.
Krafft flushed, cast an angry look at his friend, and withdrew, in
high dudgeon, to a corner.
Standing beside the piano, so turned to those about him that the two
on the sofa in the next room only saw him sideways, and ill at that,
Schilsky gave a short description of his work. He was nervous, which
aggravated his lisp, and he spoke so rapidly and in such a low voice
that no one but those immediately in front of him, could understand
what he said. But it did not matter in the least; all present had come
only to hear the music; they knew and cared nothing about Zarathustra
and his spiritual development; and one and all waited impatiently for
Schilsky to stop speaking. The listeners in the bedroom----merely
caught disjointed words--WERDEGANG, NOTSCHREI, TARANTELN--but not one
was curious enough even to lean forward in his seat. Madeleine
made sarcastic inward comments on the behaviour of the party.
"It's perfectly clear to you, I suppose," she could not refrain from
observing as, at the finish, Dove sagely wagged his head in agreement.
It transpired that there was an ode to be sung before the last section
of the composition, and a debate ensued who, should sing it. The two
ladies in the front had quite a little quarrel--without knowing
anything about the song--as to which of their voices would best suit
it. Schilsky was silent for a moment, tapping his fingers, then said
suddenly: "Come on, Heinz," and looked at Krafft. But the latter, who
was standing morose, with folded arms, did not move. He had a dozen
reasons why he should not sing; he had a cold, was hoarse, was out of
practice, could not read the music from sight.
"Good Heavens, what a fool Heinz is making of himself tonight!" said
But Schilsky thumped his fist on the lid, and said, if Krafft did not
sing it, no one should; and that was the end of the matter. Krafft was
pulled to the piano.
Schilsky took his seat, and, losing his nervousness as soon as he
touched the keys, preluded firmly and easily, with his large, white
hands. Now, every one leaned forward to see him better; especially the
ladies threw themselves into positions from which they could watch
hair and hands, and the slender, swaying figure.
"Isn't he divine?" said the bold-eyed girl on the bed, in a loud
whisper, and hung upon her companion's neck in an ecstatic attitude.
After the diversity of noises which had hitherto interfered with his
thinking connectedly, Maurice welcomed the continuous sound of the
music, which went on without a break. He sat in a listening attitude,
shading his eyes with his hand. Through his fingers, he
surreptitiously watched the player. He had never before had an
opportunity of observing Schilsky so closely, and, with a kind of
blatant generosity, he now pointed out to himself each physical detail
that he found prepossessing in the other, every feature that was
likely to attract--in the next breath, only to struggle with his honest
opinion that the composer was a slippery, loose-jointed, caddish
fellow, who could never be proved to be worthy of Louise. But he was
too down-hearted at what he had learnt in the course of the evening,
to rise to any active feeling of dislike.
Intermittently he heard, in spite of himself, something of
Schilsky's music; but he was not in a frame of mind to understand or
to retain any impression of it. He was more effectively jerked out of
his preoccupation by single spoken words, which, from time to time,
struck his ear: this was Furst, who, in the absence of a programme,
announced from his seat beside Schilsky, the headings of the different
sections of the work: WERDEGANG; SEILTANZER--here Maurice saw Dove
conducting with head and hand--NOTSCHREI; SCHWERMUT; TARANTELN--and here
again, but vaguely, as if at a distance, he heard suppressed laughter.
But he was thoroughly roused when Krafft, picking up a sheet of music
and coming round to the front of the piano, began to sing DAS TRUNKENE
LIED. By way of introduction, the low F in the bass of F minor sounded
persistently, at syncopated intervals; Schilsky inclined his head, and
Krafft sang, in his sweet, flute-like voice:
Oh, Mensch! Gieb Acht!
Was spricht die tiefe Mitternacht?
"Ich schlief, ich schlief,
Aus tiefem Schlaf bin ich erwacht:
Die Welt ist tief,
Und tiefer als der Tag gedacht."
--the last phrase of which was repeated by the accompaniment, a
Tief ist ihr Weh,
Lust--tiefer noch als Herzeleid:
As far as this, the voice had been supported by simple, full-sounding
harmonies. Now, from out the depths, still of F minor, rose a
hesitating theme, which seemed to grope its way: in imagination, one
heard it given out by the bass strings; then the violas reiterated it,
and dyed it purple; voice and violins sang it together; the high
little flutes carried it up and beyond, out of reach, to a half close.
Weh spricht: vergeh!
Suddenly and unexpectedly, there entered a light yet mournful phrase
in F major, which was almost a dance-rhythm, and seemed to be a small,
frail pleading for something not rightly understood.
Doch alle Lust will Ewigkeit,
Will tiefe, tiefe Ewigkeit.
The innocent little theme passed away, and the words were sung again
to a stern and fateful close in D flat major.
The concluding section of the work returned to these motives,
developed them, gathered them together, grouped them and interchanged
them, in complicated thermatic counterpoint. Schilsky was barely able
to cope with the difficulties of the score; he exerted himself
desperately, laboured with his head and his whole body, and surmounted
sheerly unplayable parts with the genial slitheriness that is the
privilege of composers.
When, at last, he crashed to a close and wiped his face in exhaustion,
there was a deafening uproar of applause. Loud cries were uttered and
exclamations of enthusiasm; people rose from their seats and crowded
round the piano to congratulate the player. Mrs. Lautenschlager could
not desist from kissing his hand. A tall, thin Russian girl in
spectacles, who had assiduously taken notes throughout, asked in a
loud voice, and her peculiar, hoppy German, for information about the
orchestration. What use had he made of the cymbals? She trusted a
purely Wagnerian one. Schilsky hastened to reopen the score, and sat
himself to answer the question earnestly and at length.
"Come, Maurice, let us go," said Madeleine, rising and shaking the
creases from her skirt. "There will be congratulations enough. He
won't miss ours."
Maurice had had an idea of lingering till everybody else had gone, on
the chance of picking up fresh facts. But he was never good at
excuses. So they slipped out into the passage, followed by Dove; but
while the latter was looking for his hat, Madeleine pulled Maurice
down the stairs.
"Quick, let us go!" she whispered; and, as they heard him coming after
them, she drew her companion down still further, to the cellar flight,
where they remained hidden until Dove had passed them, and his steps
had died away in the street.
"We should have had nothing but his impressions and opinions all the
way home," she said, as they emerged. "He was bottled up from having
to keep quiet so long--I saw it in his face. And I couldn't stand it
to-night. I'm in a bad temper, as you may have observed--or perhaps you
No, he had not noticed it.
"Well, you would have, if you hadn't been so taken up with yourself.
What on earth is the matter with you?"
He feigned. surprise: and they walked in silence down one street and
into the next. Then she spoke again. "Do you know--but you're sure not
to know that either--you gave me a nasty turn to-night?"
"I?" His surprise was genuine this time.
"Yes, you--when I heard you say 'DU' to Heinz."
He looked at her in astonishment; but she was not in a hurry to
continue. They walked another street-length, and all she said was:
"How refreshing the air is after those stuffy rooms!"
As they turned a corner however, she made a fresh start.
"I think it's rather hard on me," she said, and laughed as she spoke.
"Here am I again, having to lecture you! The fact is, I suppose, one's
METIER clings to one, in spite of oneself. But there must be something
about you, too, Maurice Guest, that makes one want to do it--want to
look after you, so to speak--as if you couldn't be trusted to take care
of yourself. Well, it disturbed me to-night, to see how intimate you
and Heinz have got."
"Is that all? Why on earth should that trouble you? And anyhow," he
added, "the whole affair came about without any wish of mine."
"How?" she demanded; and when he had told her: "And since then?"
He went into detail, coolly, without the resentment he had previously
felt towards Krafft.
"And that's all?"
"Isn't it enough--for a fellow to go on in that way?"
"And you feel aggrieved?"
"No, not now. At first I was rather sore, though, for Heinz is an
interesting fellow, and we were very thick for a time."
"Yes, of course--until Schilsky comes back. As soon as he appears on
the scene, Master Heinz gives you the cold shoulder. Or perhaps you
didn't know that Heinz is the attendant spirit of that heaven-born
Maurice did not reply, and when she spoke again, it was with renewed
seriousness. "Believe me, Maurice, he is no friend for you. It's not
only that you ought to be above letting yourself be treated in this
way, but Heinz's friendship won't do you any good. He belongs to a bad
set here--and Schilsky, too. If you were long with Heinz, you
would be bound to get drawn into it, and then it would be good-bye to
anything you might have done--to work and success. No, take my
advice--it's sincerely meant--and steer clear of Heinz."
Maurice smiled to himself at her womanly idea of Krafft leading him to
perdition. "But you're fond of him yourself, Madeleine," he said. "You
can't help liking him either."
"I daresay I can't. But that is quite a different matter--quite;" and
as if more than enough had now been said, she abruptly left the
Before going home that night, Maurice made the old round by way of the
BRUDERSTRASSE, and stood and looked up at the closed windows behind
which Louise lived. The house was dark, and as still as was the
deserted street. Only the Venetian blinds seemed to be faintly alive;
the outer windows, removed for the summer, had not yet been replaced,
and a mild wind flapped the blinds, just as it swayed the tops of the
trees in the opposite garden. There was a breath of autumn in the air.
He told himself aloud, in the nightly silence, that she was going
away--as if by repeating the words, he might ultimately grow used to
their meaning. The best that could be hoped for was that she would not
go immediately, but would remain in Leipzig for a few weeks longer.
Then a new fear beset him. What if she never came back again?--if she
had left the place quietly, of set purpose?--if these windows were
closed for good and all? A dryness invaded his throat at the
possibility, and on the top of this evening of almost apathetic
resignation to the inevitable, the knowledge surged up in him that all
he asked was to be allowed to see her just once more. Afterwards, let
come what might. Once again, he must stand face to face with her--must
stamp a picture of her on his brain, to carry with him for ever.
For ever!--And through his feverish sleep ran, like a thread, the
words he had heard Krafft sing, of an eternity that was deep and
dreamless, a joy without beginning or end.
Madeleine had waved her umbrella at him. He crossed the road to where
she was standing in rain-cloak and galoshes. She wished to tell him
that the date of her playing in the ABENDUNTERHALTUNG had been
definitely fixed. About to go, she said:
"Louise is back--did you know?"
Of course he knew, though he did not tell her so--knew almost
the exact hour at which the blinds had been drawn up, the windows
opened, and a flower-pot, in a gaudy pink paper, put out on the sill.
Not many days after this, he came upon Louise herself. She was
standing talking, at a street-corner, to the shabby little Englishman,
Eggis, with whom she had walked the FOYER of the theatre. Maurice was
about to bow and pass by, but she smiled and held out her hand.
"You are back, too, then? To-day I am meeting all my friends."
She had fur about her neck, although the weather was not really cold,
and her face rose out of this setting like a flower from its cup.
This meeting, and the few cordial words she had spoken, helped him
over the days that followed. Sometimes, while he waited for the blow
to fall, his daily life grew very unimportant; things that had
hitherto interested him, now went past like shadows; he himself was a
mere automaton. But sometimes, too, and especially after he had seen
Louise, and touched her living hand, he wondered whether he were not
perhaps tormenting himself unnecessarily. Nothing more had come to
light; no one had hinted by a word at Schilsky's departure; it might
yet prove to be all a mistake.
Then, however, he received a postcard from Madeleine, saying that she
had something interesting to tell him. He went too early, and spent a
quarter of an hour pacing her room. When she entered, she threw him a
look, and, before she had finished taking off her wraps, said:
"Maurice, I have a piece of news for you. Schilsky is going away."
He nodded; his throat was dry.
"Why, you don't mean to say you knew?" she cried, and paused half-way
out of her jacket.
Maurice went to the window, and stood with his back to her. In one of
the houses opposite, at a window on the same level, a girl was
practising the violin; his eyes followed the mechanical movements of
He cleared his throat. "Do you--Is it likely--I mean, do you
Madeleine understood him. "Yes, I do. Louise won't stay here a day
longer than he does; I'm sure of that."
But otherwise she knew no more than Maurice; and she did not
offer to detain him, when, a few minutes later, he alleged a pressing
appointment. Madeleine was annoyed, and showed it; she had come in
with the intention of being kind to him, of encouraging him, and
discussing the matter sympathetically, and it now turned out that not
only had he known it all the time, but had also kept it a secret from
her. She did not like underhand ways, especially in people whom she
believed she knew inside out.
Now that the pledge of secrecy had been removed from him, Maurice felt
that he wanted facts; and, without thinking more about it than if he
had been there the day before, he climbed the stairs that led to
He found him at supper; Avery was present, too, and on the table sat
Wotan, who was being regaled with strips of skin off the sausage.
Krafft greeted Maurice with a touch of his former effusiveness; for he
was in a talkative mood, and needed an audience. At his order, Avery
put an extra plate on the table, and Maurice had to share their meal.
It was not hard for him to lead Krafft round to the desired subject.
It seemed that one of the masters in the Conservatorium had expressed
a very unequivocal opinion of Schilsky's talents as a composer, and
Krafft was now sarcastic, now merry, at this critic's expense. Maurice
laid down his knife, and, in the first break, asked abruptly: "When
does he go?"
"Go?--who?" said Krafft indifferently, tickling Wotan's nose with a
piece of skin which he held out of reach.
"Who?--why, Schilsky, of course."
It sounded as if another than he had said the words: they were so
short and harsh. The plate Avery was holding fell to the floor. Krafft
sat back in his chair, and stared at Maurice, with a face that was all
"You knew he was going away?--or didn't you?" asked Maurice in a rough
voice. "Every one knows. The whole place knows."
Krafft laughed. "The whole place knows: every one knows," he repeated.
"Every one, yes--every one but me. Every one but me, who had most right
to know. Yes, I alone had the right; for no one has loved him as I
He rose from the table, knocking over his chair. "Or else it is not true?"
"Yes, it is true. Then you didn't know?" said Maurice, bewildered by
the outburst he had evoked.
"No, we didn't know." It was Avery who spoke. She was on her knees,
picking up the pieces of the plate with slow, methodical fingers.
Krafft stood hesitating. Then he went to the piano, opened it,
adjusted the seat, and made all preparations for playing. But with his
fingers ready on the keys, he changed his mind and, instead, laid his
arms on the folded rack and his head on his arms. He did not stir
again, and a long silence followed. The only sound that was to be
heard came from Wotan, who, sitting on his haunches on a corner of the
table, washed the white fur of his belly with an audible swish.
Whistling to him to stop, Furst ran the length of a street-block after
Maurice, as the latter left the Conservatorium.
"I say, Guest," he said breathlessly, on catching up with him. "Look
here, I just wanted to tell you, you must be sure and join us
to-night. We are going to give Schilsky a jolly send-off."
They stood at the corner of the WACHTERSTRASSE; it was a blowy day.
Maurice replied evasively, with his eyes on the unbound volume of
Beethoven that Furst was carrying; its tattered edges moved in the
"When does he go?" he asked, without any show of concern.
Furst looked warily round him, and dropped his voice. "Well, look
here, Guest, I don't mind telling you," he said; he was perspiring
from his run, and dried his neck and face. "I don't mind telling you;
you won't pass it on; for he has his reasons--family or domestic
reasons, if one may say so, tra-la-la!"--he winked, and nudged Maurice
with his elbow--"for not wanting it to get about. It's deuced hard on
him that it should have leaked out at all. I don't know how it
happened; for I was mum, 'pon my honour, I was."
"Yes. And when does he go?" repeated his hearer with the same want of
"To-morrow morning early, by the first train."
Now to be rid of him! But it was never easy to get away from Furst,
and since Maurice had declared his intention of continuing to take
lessons from him, as good as impossible. Furst was overpowering in his
friendliness, and on this particular occasion, there was no escape for
Maurice before he had promised to make one of the party that was to
meet that night, at a restaurant in the town. Then he bluffly alleged
an errand in the PLAGWITZERSTRASSE, and went off in an opposite
direction to that which his companion had to take.
As soon as Furst was out of sight, he turned into the path that led to
the woods. Overhead, the sky was a monotonous grey expanse, and a
soft, moist wind drove in gusts, before which, on the open
meadow-land, he bent his head. It was a wind that seemed heavy with
unfallen rain; a melancholy wind, as the day itself was melancholy, in
its faded colours, and cloying mildness. With his music under his arm,
Maurice walked to the shelter of the trees. Now that he had learnt the
worst, a kind of numbness came over him; he had felt so intensely in
the course of the past week that, now the crisis was there, he seemed
destitute of feeling.
His feet bore him mechanically to his favourite seat, and here he
remained, with his head in his hands, his eyes fixed on the trodden
gravel of the path. He had to learn, once and for all, that, by
tomorrow, everything would be over; for, notwithstanding the
wretchedness of the past days, he was as far off as ever from
understanding. But he was loath to begin; he sat in a kind of torpor,
conscious only of the objects his eyes rested on: some children had
built a make-believe house of pebbles, with a path leading up to the
doorway, and at this he gazed, estimating the crude architectural
ideas that had occurred to the childish builders. He felt the wind in
his hair, and listened to the soothing noise it made, high above his
head. But gradually overcoming this physical dullness, his mind began
to work again. With a sudden vividness, he saw himself as he had
walked these very woods, seven months before; he remembered the
brilliant colouring of the April day, and the abundance of energy that
had possessed him. Then, on looking into the future, all his thoughts
had been of strenuous endeavour and success. Now, success was a word
like any other, and left him cold.
For a long time, in place of passing on to his real preoccupation, he
considered this, brooding over the change that had come about in him.
Was it, he asked himself, because he had so little whole-hearted
endurance, that when once a thing was within his grasp, that grasp
slackened? Was it that he was able to make the effort required for a
leap, then, the leap over, could not right himself again? He believed
that the slackening interest, the inability to fix his attention,
which he had had to fight against of late, must have some such deeper
significance; for his whole nature--the inherited common sense of
generations--rebelled against tracing it back to the day on which he
had seen a certain face for the first time. It was too absurd to be
credible that because a slender, dark-eyed girl had suddenly come
within his range of vision, his life should thus lose form and
purpose--incredible and unnatural as well--and, in his present
mood, he would have laughed at the suggestion that this was love. To
his mind, love was something frank and beautiful, made for daylight
and the sun; whereas his condition was a source of mortification to
him. To love, without any possible hope of return; to love, knowing
that the person you loved regarded you with less than indifference,
and, what was worse, that this person was passionately attached to
another man--no, there was something indelicate about it, at which his
blood revolted. It was the kind of thing that it suited poets to make
tragedies of, but it did not--should not--happen in sober, daily life.
And if, as it seemed in this case, it was beyond mortal's power to
prevent it, then the only fitting thing to do was promptly to make an
end. And because, over the approach of this end, he suffered, he now
called himself hard names. What had he expected? Had he really
believed that matters could always dally on, in this pleasant,
torturous way? Would he always have been content to be third party,
and miserable outsider? No; the best that could happen to him was now
happening; let the coming day once be past, let a very few weeks have
run their course, and the parting would have lost its sting; he would
be able to look back, regretfully no doubt, but as on something done
with, irrecoverable. Then he would apply himself to his work with all
his heart; and it would be possible to think of her, and remember her,
calmly. If once an end were put to these daily chances of seeing her,
which perpetually fanned his unrest, all would go well.
And yet . . . did he close his eyes and let her face rise up before
him--her sweet, white face, with the unfathomable eyes, and pale,
sensuous mouth--he was shaken by an emotion that knocked his
resolutions as flat as a breath knocks a house of cards. It was not
love, nor anything to do with love, this he could have sworn to: it
was merely the strange physical effect her presence, or the
remembrance of her presence, had had upon him, from the first day on:
a tightening of all centres, a heightening of all faculties, an
intense hope, and as intense a despair. And in this moment, he
confessed to himself that he would have been over-happy to live on
just as he had been doing, if only sometimes he might see her. He