Part 5 out of 13
needed her, as he had never felt the need of anyone before; his nature
clamoured for her, imperiously, as it clamoured for light and air. He
had no concern with anyone but her--her only--and he could not let her
go. It was not love; it was a bodily weakness, a pitiable
infirmity: he even felt it degrading that another person should be
able to exercise such an influence over him, that there should be a
part of himself over which he had no control. Not to see her, not to
be able to gather fresh strength from each chance meeting, meant that
the grip life had of him would relax--he grew sick even at the thought
of how, in some unknown place, in the midst of strangers, she would go
on living, and giving her hand and her smile to other people, while he
would never see her again. And he said her name aloud to himself, as
if he were in bodily pain, or as if the sound of it might somehow
bring him aid: he inwardly implored whatever fate was above him to
give him the one small chance he asked--the chance of fair play.
The morning passed, without his knowing it. When, considerably after
his usual dinner-hour, he was back in his room, he looked at familiar
objects with unseeing eyes. He was not conscious of hunger, but going
into the kitchen begged for a cup of the coffee that could be smelt
brewing on Frau Krause's stove. When he had drunk this, a veil seemed
to lift from his brain; he opened and read a letter from home, and was
pricked by compunction at the thought that, except for a few scales
run hastily that morning, he had done no work. But while he still
stood, with his arm on the lid of the piano, an exclamation rose to
his lips; and taking up his hat, he went down the stairs again, and
out into the street. What was he thinking of? If he wished to see
Louise once more, his place was under her windows, or in those streets
she would be likely to pass through.
He walked up and down before the house in the BRUDERSTRASSE, sometimes
including a side street, in order to avoid making himself conspicuous;
putting on a hurried air, if anyone looked curiously at him; lingering
for a quarter of an hour on end, in the shadow of a neighbouring
doorway. Gradually, yet too quickly, the grey afternoon wore to a
close. He had paced to and fro for an hour now, but not a trace of her
had he seen; nor did even a light burn in her room when darkness fell.
A fear lest she should have already gone away, beset him again, and
got the upper hand of him; and wild schemes flitted through his mind.
He would mount the stairs, and ring the door-bell, on some pretext or
other, to learn whether she was still there; and his foot was on the
lowest stair, when his courage failed him, and he turned back. But the
idea had taken root; he could not bear much longer the uncertainty he
was in; and so, towards seven o'clock, when he had hung about
for three hours, and there was still no sign of life in her room, he
went boldly up the broad, winding stair and rang the bell. When the
door was opened, he would find something to say.
The bell, which he had pulled hard, pealed through the house, jangled
on, and, in a series of after-tinkles, died away. There was no
immediate answering sound; the silence persisted, and having waited
for some time, he rang again. Then, in the distance, he heard a door
creak; soft, cautious footsteps crept along the passage; a light
moved; the glass window in the upper half of the door was opened, and
a little old woman peered out, holding a candle above her head. On
seeing the pale face close before her, she drew back, and made as if
to shut the window; for, as a result of poring over newspapers, she
lived in continual expectation of robbery and murder.
"She is not at home," she said with tremulous bravado, in answer to
the young man's question, and again was about to close the window. But
Maurice thrust in his hand, and she could not shut without crushing it.
"Then she is still here? Has she gone out? When will she be back?" he
"How should I know? And look here, young man, if you don't take away
your hand and leave the house at once, I shall call from the window
for a policeman."
He went slowly down the stairs and across the street, and took up anew
his position in the dark doorway--a proceeding which did not reassure
Fraulein Grunhut, who, regarding his inquiries as a feint, was
watching his movements from between the slats of a window-blind. But
Maurice had not stood again for more than a quarter of an hour, when a
feeling of nausea seized him, and this reminded him that he had
practically eaten nothing since the morning. If he meant to hold out,
he must snatch a bite of food somewhere; afterwards, he would return
and wait, if he had to wait all night.
In front of the PANORAMA on the ROSSPLATZ, he ran into the arms of
Furst, and the latter, when he heard where Maurice was going, had
nothing better to do than to accompany him, and drink a SCHNITT.
Furst, who was in capital spirits at the prospect of the evening,
laughed heartily, told witty anecdotes, and slapped his fat thigh, the
type of rubicund good-humour; and as he was not of an observant turn
of mind, he did not notice his companion's abstraction. Hardly
troubling to dissemble, Maurice paid scant attention to Furst's talk;
he ate avidly, and as soon as he had finished, pushed back his
chair and called to the waiter for his bill.
"I must go," he said, and rose. "I have something important to do this
evening, and can't join you."
Furst, cut short in the middle of a sentence, let his double chin fall
on his collar, and gazed open-mouthed at his companion.
"But I say, Guest, look here!. . ." Maurice heard him expostulate as
the outer door slammed behind him.
He made haste to retrace his steps. The wind had dropped; a fine rain
was beginning to fall; it promised to be a wet night, of empty streets
and glistening pavements. There was no visible change in the windows
of the BRUDERSTRASSE; they were as blankly dark as before. Turning up
his coat-collar, Maurice resumed his patrollings, but more languidly;
he was drowsy from having eaten, and the air was chill. A weakness
overcame him at the thought of the night-watch he had set himself; it
seemed impossible to endure the crawling past of still more hours. He
was tired to exhaustion, and a sudden, strong desire arose in him,
somehow, anyhow, to be taken out of himself, to have his thoughts
diverted into other channels. And this feeling grew upon him with such
force, the idea of remaining where he was, for another hour, became so
intolerable, that he forgot everything else, and turned and ran back
towards the PANORAMA, only afraid lest Furst should have gone without him.
The latter was, in fact, just coming out of the door. He stared in
astonishment at Maurice.
"I've changed my mind," said Maurice, without apology. "Shall we go?
Where's the place?"
Furst mumbled something inaudible; he was grumpy at the other's
behaviour. Scanning him furtively, and noting his odd, excited manner,
he concluded that Maurice had been drinking.
They walked without speaking; Furst hummed to himself. In the
thick-sown, business thoroughfare, the BRUHL, they entered a dingy
cafe and while Furst chattered with the landlord and BUFFETDAME, with
both of whom he was on very friendly terms, Maurice went into the
side-room, where the KNEIPE was to be held, and sat down before a
long, narrow table, spread with a soiled red and blue-checked
tablecloth. He felt cold and sick again, and when the wan PICCOLO set
a beer-mat before him, he sent the lad to the devil for a cognac. The
waiter came with the liqueur-bottle; Maurice drank the contents
of one and then another of the tiny glasses. A genial warmth
ran through him and his nausea ceased. He leaned his head on his
hands, closed his eyes, and, soothed by the heat of the room, had a
few moments' pleasant lapse of consciousness.
He was roused by the entrance of a noisy party of three. These were
strangers to him, and when they had mentioned their names and learned
his, they sat down at the other end of the table and talked among
themselves. They were followed by a couple of men known to Maurice by
sight. One, an Italian, a stout, animated man, with prominent
jet-black eyes and huge white teeth, was a fellow-pupil of Schilsky's,
and a violinist of repute, notwithstanding the size and fleshiness of
his hands, which were out of all proportion to the delicate build of
his instrument. The other was a slender youth of fantastic appearance.
He wore a long, old-fashioned overcoat, which reached to his heels,
and was moulded to a shapely waist; on his fingers were numerous
rings; his bushy hair was scented and thickly curled, his face painted
and pencilled like a woman's. He did not sit down, but, returning to
the public room, leaned over the counter and talked to the BUFFETDAME,
in a tone which had nothing in common with Furst's hearty familiarity.
Next came a couple of Americans, loud, self-assertive, careless of
dress and convention; close behind them still another group, and at
its heels, Dove. The latter entered the room with an apologetic air,
and on sitting down at the head of the table, next Maurice, mentioned
at once that, at heart, he was not partial to this kind of thing, and
was only there because he believed the present to be an exceptional
occasion: who knew but what, in after years, he might not be proud to
claim having, made one of the party on this particular evening?--the
plain truth being that Schilsky was little popular with his own sex,
and, in consequence of the difficulty of beating up a round dozen of
men, Furst had been forced to be very pressing in his invitations, to
have recourse to bribes and promises, or, as in the case of Dove, to
stimulating the imagination. The majority of the guests present were
not particular who paid for their drink, provided they got it.
At Krafft's entry, a stifled laugh went round. To judge from his
appearance, he had not been in bed the previous night: sleep seemed to
hang on his red and sunken eyelids; his hands and face were
dirty, and when he took off his coat, which he had worn turned up at
the neck, it was seen that he had either lost or forgotten his collar.
Shirt and waistcoat were insufficiently buttoned. His walk was steady,
but his eyes had a glassy stare, and did not seem to see what they
rested on. A strong odour of brandy went out from him; but he had not
been many minutes in the room before a stronger and more penetrating
smell made itself felt. The rest of the company began to sniff and
ejaculate, and Furst, having tracked it to the corner where the
overcoats hung, drew out of one of Krafft's pockets a greasy newspaper
parcel, evidently some days old, containing bones, scraps of decaying
meat, and rancid fish. The PICCOLO, summoned by a general shout, was
bade to dispose of the garbage instantly, and to hang the coat in a
draughty place to air. Various epithets were hurled at Krafft, who,
however, sat picking his teeth with unconcern, as if what went on
around him had nothing to do with him.
They were now all collected but Schilsky, and much beer had been
drunk. Furst was in his usual state of agitation lest his friend
should forget to keep the appointment; and the spirits of those--there
were several such present--who suffered almost physical pain from
seeing another than themselves the centre of interest, went up by
leaps and bounds. But at this juncture, Schilsky's voice was heard in
the next room. It was raised and angry; it snarled at a waiter.
Significant glances flew round the table: for the young man's
outbursts of temper were well known to all. He entered, making no
response to the greetings that were offered him, displaying his anger
with genial indifference to what others thought of him. To the PICCOLO
he tossed coat and hat, and swore at the boy for not catching them.
Then he let his loose-limbed body down on the vacant chair, and drank
off the glass of PILSENER that was set before him.
There was a pause of embarrassment. The next moment, however, several
men spoke at once: Furst continued a story he was telling, some one
else capped it, and the mirth these anecdotes provoked was more than
ordinarily uproarious. Schilsky sat silent, letting his sullen mouth
hang, and tapping the table with his fingers. Meanwhile, he emptied
one glass of beer after another. The PICCOLO could hardly cope with
the demands that were made on him, and staggered about, top-heavy, with
his load of glasses.
But it was impossible to let the evening pass as flatly as
this; besides, as the general hilarity increased, it made those
present less sensitive to the mood of the guest of honour. Furst was a
born speaker, and his heart was full. So, presently, he rose to his
feet, struck his glass, and, in spite of Schilsky's deepening scowl,
held a flowery speech about his departing friend. The only answer
Schilsky gave was a muttered request to cease making an idiot of himself.
This was going rather too far; but no one protested, except Ford, the
pianist, who said in English: "Speesch? Call that a speesch?"
Furst, inclined in the first moment of rebuff to be touchy, allowed his
natural goodness of heart to prevail. He leaned forward, and said, not
without pathos: "Old man, we are all your friends here. Something's
the matter. Tell us what it is."
Before Schilsky could reply, Krafft awakened from his apparent stupor to
say with extreme distinctness: "I'll tell you. There's been the devil
"Now, chuck it, Krafft!" cried one or two, not without alarm at the
turn things might take.
But Schilsky, whose anger had begun to subside under the influence of
the two litres he had drunk, said slowly and thickly: "Let him be.
What he says is the truth--gospel truth."
"Oh, say, that's to' bad!" cried one of the Americans--a lean man, with
the mouth and chin of a Methodist.
All kept silence now, in the hope that Schilsky would continue. As he
did not, but sat brooding, Furst, in his role of peacemaker, clapped
him on the back. "Well, forget it for to-night, old man! What does it
matter? To-morrow you'll be miles away."
This struck a reminiscence in Ford, who forthwith tried to sing:
I'm off by the morning train,
Across the raging main----
"That's easily said!" Schilsky threw a dark look round the table. "By
those who haven't been through it. I have. And I'd rather have lost a
Krafft laughed--that is to say, a cackle of laughter issued from his
mouth, while his glazed eyes stared idiotically. "He shall tell us
about it. Waiter, a round of SCHNAPS!"
"Shut up, Krafft!" said Furst uneasily.
"Damn you, Heinz!" cried Schilsky, striking the table. He
swallowed his brandy at a gulp, and held out the glass to be refilled.
His anger fell still more; he began to commiserate himself. "By Hell,
I wish a plague would sweep every woman off the earth!"
"The deuce, why don't you keep clear of them?"
Schilsky laughed, without raising his heavy eyes. "If they'd only give
one the chance. Damn them all!--old and young----I say. If it weren't
for them, a man could lead a quiet life."
"It'll all come out in the wash," consoled the American.
Maurice heard everything that passed, distinctly; but the words seemed
to be bandied at an immeasurable distance from him. He remained quite
undisturbed, and would have felt like a god looking on at the doings
of an infinitesimal world, had it not been for a wheel which revolved
in his head, and hindered him from thinking connectedly. So far,
drinking had brought him no pleasure; and he had sense enough to find
the proximity of Ford disagreeable; for the latter spilt half the
liquor he tried to swallow over himself, and half over his neighbour.
A fresh imprecation of Schilsky's called forth more laughter. On its
subsidence, Krafft awoke to his surroundings again. "What has the old
woman given you?" he asked, with his strange precision of speech and
his drunken eyes.
Schilsky struck the table with his fist. "Look at him!--shamming
drunk, the bitch!" he cried.
"Never mind him; he don't count. How much did she give you?"
"Oh, gee, go on!"
But Schilsky, turned sullen again, refused to answer.
"Out with it then, Krafft!--you know, you scoundrel, you!"
Krafft put his hand to the side of his mouth. "She gave him three
On all sides the exclamations flew.
"Golly for her!"
"DREI TAUSEND MARK!--ALLE EHRE!"
Again Krafft leaned forward with a maudlin laugh.
"JAWOHL--but on what condition?"
"Heinz, you ferret out things like a pig's snout," said Furst with an
exaggerated, tipsy disgust.
"What, the old louse made conditions, did she?"
"Is she jealous?"
There was another roar at this. Schilsky looked as black as
Again Furst strove to intercede. "Jealous?--in seven devils' name, why
jealous? The old scarecrow! She hasn't an ounce of flesh to her bones."
Schilsky laughed. "Much you know about it, you fool! Flesh or no
flesh, she's as troublesome as the plumpest. I wouldn't go through the
last month again for all you could offer me. Month?--no, nor the last
six months either! It's been a hell of a life. Three of 'em, whole
damned three, at my heels, and each ready to tear the others' eyes
"Three? Bah!--what's three?" sneered the painted youth.
Schilsky turned on him. "What's three? Go and try it, if you want to
know, you pap-sodden suckling! Three, I said, and they've ended by
making the place too hot to hold me. But I'm done now. No more for
me!--if my name's what it is."
Having once broken through his reserve, he talked on, with heated
fluency; and the longer he spoke, the more he was carried away by his
grievances. For, all he had asked for, he assured his hearers, had
been peace and quiet--the peace necessary to important work. "Jesus and
Mary! Are a fellow's chief obligations not his obligations to
himself?" At the same time, it was not his intention to put any of the
blame on Lulu's shoulders: she couldn't help herself. "Lulu is Lulu.
I'm damned fond of Lulu, boys, and I've always done my best by her--is
there anyone here who wants to say I haven't?"
There was none; a chorus of sympathetic ayes went up from the party
that was drinking at his expense.
Mollified, he proceeded, asserting vehemently that he would have gone
miles out of his. way to avoid causing Lulu pain. "I'm a soft-hearted
fool--I admit it!--where a woman is concerned." But he had yielded to
her often enough--too often--as it was; the time had come for him to
make a stand. Let those present remember what he had sacrificed only
that summer for Lulu's sake. Would anyone else have done as much for
his girl? He made bold to doubt it. For a man like Zeppelin to come to
him, and to declare, with tears in his eyes, that he could teach him
no more--could he afford to treat a matter like that with indifference?
Had he really been free to make a choice?
Again he looked round the table with emphasis, and those who
had their muscles sufficiently under control, hastened to lay their
faces in seemly folds.
Then, however, Schilsky's mood changed; he struck the table so that
the glasses danced. "And shall I tell you what my reward has been for
not going? Do you want to know how Lulu has treated me for staying on
here? 'You are a quarter of an hour late: where have you been? You've
only written two bars since I saw you this morning: what have you been
doing? A letter has come in a strange writing: who is it from? You've
put on another tie: who have you been to see?' HIMMELSAKRAMENT!" He
drained his glass. "I've had the life of a dog, I tell you--of a dog!
There's not been a moment in the day when she hasn't spied on me, and
followed me, and made me ridiculous. Over every trifle she has got up
a fresh scene. She's even gone so far as to come to my room and search
my pockets, when she knew I wasn't at home."
"Yes, yes," sneered Krafft. "Exactly! And so, gentlemen he was now for
slinking off without a word to her."
"Oh, PFUI!" spat the American.
"Call him a liar!" said a voice.
"Liar?" repeated Schilsky dramatically. "Why liar? I don't deny it. I
would have done it gladly if I could--isn't that just what I've been
saying? Lulu would have got over it all the quicker alone. And then,
why shouldn't I confess it? You're all my friends here." He dropped
his voice. "I'm afraid of Lulu, boys. I was afraid she'd get round me,
and then my chance was gone. She might have shot me, but she wouldn't
have let me go. You never know how a woman of that type'll break
"But she didn't!" said Krafft. "You live."
Schilsky understood him.
"Some brute," he cried savagely, "some dirty brute had nothing better
to do than to tell her."
"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed the painted boy.
Furst blew his nose. "It wasn't me. I was mum. 'Pon my honour, I was."
"My God!" said Schilsky, and fell to remembering it. "What a time I've
been through with her this afternoon!" He threatened to be overcome by
the recollection, and supported his head on his hands. "A woman has no
gratitude," he murmured, and drew his handkerchief from his pocket.
"It is a weak, childish sex--with no inkling of higher things."
Here, however, he suddenly drew himself up. "Life is very hard!" he
cried, in a loud voice. "The perpetual struggle between duty and
inclination for a man of genius . . . !"
He grew franker, and gave gratuitous details of the scene that had
taken place in his room that afternoon. Most of those present were in
ecstasies at this divulging of his private life, which went forward to
the accompaniment of snores from Ford, and the voice of Dove, who,
with portentous gravity, sang over and over again, the first strophe
of THE LAST ROSE OF SUMMER.
"A fury!" said Schilsky. "A . . . a what do you call it ?--a . . . Meg
. . . a Meg--" He gave it up and went on: "By God, but Lulu knows how!
Keep clear of her nails, boys--I'd advise you!" At this point, he
pulled back his collar, and exhibited a long, dark scratch on the side
of his neck. "A little remembrance she gave me to take away with me!"
While he displayed it, he seemed to be rather proud of it; but
immediately afterwards, his mood veered round again to one of bitter
resentment. To illustrate the injustice she had been guilty of, and
his own long-suffering, he related, at length, the story of his
flirtation with Ephie, and the infinite pains he had been at to keep
Louise in ignorance of what was happening. He grew very tender with
himself as he told it. For, according to him, the whole affair had
come about without any assistance of his. "What the deuce was I to do?
Chucked herself full at my head, did the little one. No invitation
necessary--a ripe plum, boys! Touch the plum--and off it tumbles! As
pretty a little thing, too, as ever was made! Had everything arranged
by the second meeting. Papa to set us up; house in New York; money IN
HULLE UND FULLE!"
At the mention of New York, the lean American looked grave. "Look
here, you, don't think you're the whole shoot because you've got a
wave in your hair!" he murmured in English.
But Schilsky did not hear him; his voice droned on, giving the full
particulars of this particular case. He grew momentarily opener.
"One no sooner out of the door than the other was in," he asserted,
and laughed long to himself.
For some time past, Maurice had been possessed by the idea that what
was happening concerned him very nearly, and that he ought to
interfere and put his foot down. His hands had grown cold, and
he sat vainly trying to speak: nothing, however, came, but little
drunken gulps and hiccups. But the first mention of Ephie's name
seemed to put new strength into him; he made a violent effort, and
rose to his feet, holding on to the table with both hands. He could
not, however, manage to attract attention; no one took any notice of
him; and besides this, he had himself no notion what it was that he
really wanted to say.
"And drowns his sorrows in the convivial glass!" he suddenly shouted
in English, at the top of his voice, which he had found. He had a
vague belief that he was quoting a well-known line of poetry, and,
though he did not in the least understand how it applied to the
situation, he continued to repeat it, with varying shades of fervour,
till some one called out: "Oh, stop your blasted rot!"
He laughed hoarsely at this, could not check himself, and was so
exhausted when he had finished that it took him some time to remember
why he was on his feet. Schilsky was still relating: his face was
darkly red, his voice husky, and he flapped his arms with meaningless
gestures. A passionate rebellion, a kind of primitive hatred, gripped
Maurice, and when Schilsky paused for breath, he could contain himself
no longer. He felt the burning need of contradicting the speaker, even
though he could not catch the drift of what was said.
"It's a lie!" he cried fiercely, with such emphasis that every face
was turned to him. "A damned lie!"
"A lie? What the devil do you mean?" responded not one but many
voices--the whole table seemed to be asking him, with the exception of
Dove, who sang on in an ever decreasing tempo.
"Get out!--Let him alone; he's drunk. He doesn't know what he's
saying--He's got rats in his head!" he heard voices asserting.
Forthwith he began a lengthy defence of himself, broken only by gaps
in which his brain refused to work. Conscious that no one was
listening to him, he bawled more and more loudly.
"Oh, quit it, you double-barrelled ass!" said the American.
Schilsky, persuaded by those next him to let the incident pass
unnoticed, contented himself with a: "VERFLUCHTE SCHWEINEREI!" spat,
after Furst's gurgled account of Maurice's previous insobriety, across
the floor behind him, to express his contempt, and proceeded as
dominatingly as before with the narration of his love-affairs.
The blood rushed to Maurice's head at the sound of this voice
which he could neither curb nor understand. Rage mastered him--a
vehement desire to be quits. He kicked back his chair, and rocked to
"It's a lie--a dirty lie!" he cried. "You make her unhappy--God, how
unhappy you make her! You illtreat her. You've never given her a day's
happiness. S . . . said so . . . herself. I heard her . . . I
swear . . . I----"
His voice turned to a whine; his words came thick and incoherent.
Schilsky sprang to his feet and aimed the contents of a half-emptied
glass at Maurice's face. "Take that, you blasted spy!--you Englishman!"
he spluttered. "I'll teach you to mix your dirty self in my affairs!"
Every one jumped up; there was noise and confusion; simultaneously two
waiters entered the room, as if they had not been unprepared for
something of this kind. Furst and another man restrained Schilsky by
the arms, reasoning with him with more force than coherence. Maurice,
the beer dripping from chin, collar and shirt-front, struggled
furiously with some one who held him back.
"Let me get at him--let me get at him!" he cried. "I'll teach him to
treat a woman as he does. The sneak--the cur--the filthy cad! He's not fit
to touch her hand--her beautiful hand--her beau . . . ti . . . ful----"
Here, overpowered by his feelings, as much as by superior strength, he
sank on a chair and wept.
"I'll break his bones!" raved Schilsky. "What the hell does he mean by
it?--the INFAME SCHUFT, the AAS, the dirty ENGLANDER! Thinks he'll
sneak after her himself, does he?--What in Jesus' name is it to him how
I treat her? I'll take a stick to her if I like--it's none of his
blasted business! Look here, do you see that?" He freed one hand,
fumbled in his pocket, and, almost inarticulate with rage and liquor,
brandished a key across the table. "Do you see that? That's a key,
isn't it, you drunken hog? Well, with that key, I can let myself into
Lulu's room at any hour I want to; I can go there now, this very
minute, if I like--do you think she'll turn me out, you infernal spy?
Turn me out?--she'd go down on her knees here before you all to get me
back to her!"
Unwilling to be involved in the brawl, the more sober of the party had
begun to seek out their hats and to slink away. A little group round
Schilsky blarneyed and expostulated. Why should the whole
sport of the evening be spoilt in this fashion? What did it matter
what the damned cranky Englishman said? Let him be left to his
swilling. They would clear out, and wind up the night at the BAUER;
and at four, when that shut, they would go on to the BAYRISCHE
BAHNHOF, where they could not only get coffee, but could also see
Schilsky off by a train soon after five. These persuasions prevailed,
and, still swearing, and threatening, and promising, by all that was
holy, to bring Lulu there, by the hair of her head if necessary, to
show whether or no he had the power over her he boasted of, Schilsky
finally allowed himself to be dragged off, and those who were left
lurched out in his wake.
With their exit an abrupt silence fell, and Maurice sank into a heavy
sleep, in which he saw flowery meadows and heard a gently trickling
brook. . . .
"Now then, up with you!--get along!" some one was shouting in his ear,
and, bit by bit, a pasty-faced waiter entered his field of view. "It's
past time, anyhow," and yawning loudly, the waiter turned out all the
gas-jets but one. "Don't yer hear? Up with you! You'll have to look
after the other--now, damn me, if there isn't another of you as well!"
and, from under the table, he drew out a recumbent body.
Maurice then saw that he was still in the company of Dove, who sat
staring into space--like a dead man. Krafft, propped on a chair, hung
his head far back, and the collarless shirt exposed the whole of his
The waiter hustled them about. Maurice was comparatively steady on his
legs; and it was found that Dove could walk. But over Krafft, the man
scratched his head and called a comrade. At the mention of a droschke,
however, Maurice all but wept anew with ire and emotion: this was his
dearest friend, the friend of his bosom; he was ready at any time to
stake his life for him, and now he was not to be allowed even to see
A difficulty arose about Maurice's hat: he was convinced that the one
the waiter jammed so rudely on his head did not belong to him; and it
seemed as if nothing in the world had ever mattered so much to him as
now getting back his own hat. But he had not sufficient fluency to
explain all he meant; before he had finished, the man lost patience;
and suddenly, without any transition, the three of them were in the
street. The raw night air gave them a shock; they gasped and choked a
little. Then the wall of a house rose appositely and met them.
They leaned against it, and Maurice threw the hat from him and
trampled on it, chuckling at the idea that he was revenging himself on
It was a journey of difficulties; not only was he unclear what
locality they were in, but innumerable lifeless things confronted them
and formed obstacles to their progress; they had to charge an
advertisement-column two or three times before they could get round
it. Maurice grew excessively angry, especially with Dove. For while
Heinz let himself be lugged this way and that, Dove, grown loud and
wilful, had ideas of his own, and, in addition to this, sang the whole
time with drunken gravity:
Sez the ragman, to the bagman,
I'll do yees no harm.
"Stop it, you oaf!" cried Maurice, goaded to desperation. "You
beastly, blathering, drunken idiot!"
Then, for a street-length, he himself lapsed into semi-consciousness,
and when he wakened, Dove was gone. He chuckled anew at the thought
that somehow or other they had managed to outwit him.
His intention had been to make for home, but the door before which
they ultimately found themselves was Krafft's. Maurice propped his
companion against the wall, and searched his own pockets for a key.
When he had found one, he could not find the door, and when this was
secured, the key would not fit. The perspiration stood out on his
forehead; he tried again and again, thought the keyhole was dodging
him, and asserted the fact so violently that a window in the first
storey was opened and a head thrust out.
"What in the name of Heaven are you doing down there?" it cried. "You
drunken SCHWEIN, can't you see the door's open?"
In the sitting-room, both fell heavily over a chair; after that, with
infinite labour, he got Heinz on the sofa. He did not attempt to make
a light; enough came in from a street-lamp for him to see what he was
Lying on his face, Krafft groaned a little, and Maurice suddenly
grasped that he was taken ill. Heinz was ill, Heinz, his best friend,
and he was doing nothing to help him! Shedding tears, he poured out a
glass of water. He believed he was putting the carafe safely back on
the table, but it dropped with a crash to the floor. He was
afraid Frau Schulz would come in, and said in a loud voice: "It's that
fellow there, he's dead drunk, beastly drunk!" Krafft would not drink
the water, and in the attempt to force him, it was spilled over him.
He stirred uneasily, put up his arms and dragged Maurice down, so that
the latter fell on his knees beside the sofa. He made a few
ineffectual efforts to free himself; but one arm held him like a vice;
and in this uncomfortable position, he went to sleep.
O viva morte, e dilettoso male!
The following morning, towards twelve o'clock, a note from Madeleine
was handed to Maurice. In it, she begged him to account to Schwarz for
her absence from the rehearsal of a trio, which was to have taken
place at two.
GO AND EXPLAIN THAT IT IS QUITE IMPOSSIBLE FOR ME TO COME, she wrote.
LOUISE IS VERY ILL; THE DOCTOR IS AFRAID OF BRAIN FEVER. I AM RUSHING,
OFF THIS MOMENT TO SEE ABOUT A NURSE--AND SHALL STAY TILL ONE COMES.
He read the words mechanically, without taking in their meaning. From
the paper, his eyes roved round the room; he saw the tumbled, unopened
bed, from which he had just risen, the traces of his boots on the
coverings. He could not remember how he had come there; his last
recollection was of being turned out of Krafft's room, in what seemed
to be still the middle of the night. Since getting home, he must have
slept a dead sleep.
"Ill? Brain fever?" he repeated to himself, and his mind strove to
pierce the significance of the words. What had happened? Why should
she be ill? A racking uneasiness seized him and would not let him
rest. His inclination was to lay his aching head on the pillow again;
but this was out of the question; and so, though he seldom braved Frau
Krause, he now boldly went to her with a request to warm up his
When he had drunk it, and bathed his head, he felt considerably
better. But he still could not call to mind what had occurred. The
previous evening was blurred in its details; he only had a sense of
oppression when he thought of it, as of something that had threatened,
and still did. He was glad to have a definite task before him, and
went out at once, in order to catch Schwarz before he left the
Conservatorium; but it was too late; the master's door was locked. It
was a bright, cold day with strong sunlight; Maurice's eyes ached, and
he shrank from the wind at every corner. Instead of going home, he
went to Madeleine's room and sat down to wait for her. She had
evidently been away since early morning; the piano was dusty and
unopened; the blind at the head of it had not been drawn up. It was a
pleasant dusk; he put his arms on the table, his head on his arms,
and, in spite of his anxiety, fell into a sound sleep.
He was wakened by Madeleine's entrance. It was three o'clock. She came
bustling in, took off her hat, laid it on the piano, and at once drew
up the blind. She was not surprised. to find him there, but exclaimed
at his appearance.
"Good gracious, Maurice, how dreadful you look! Are you ill?"
He hastened to reassure her, and she was a little put out at her
"Well, no wonder, I'm sure, after the doings there were last night. A
pretty way to behave! And that you should have mixed yourself up in it
as you did!--I wouldn't have believed it of you. How I know? My dear
boy, it's the talk of the place."
Her words called up to him a more lucid remembrance of the past
evening than he had yet been capable of. In his eagerness to recollect
everything, he changed colour and looked away. Madeleine put his
confusion down to another cause.
"Never mind, it's over now, and we won't say any more about it. Sit
still, and I'll make you some tea. That will do your head good--for you
have a splitting headache, haven't you? I shall be glad of some
myself, too, after all the running about I've had this morning. I'm
quite worn out."
When she heard that he had had no dinner, she sent for bread and
sausage, and was so busy and unsettled that only when she sat down,
with her cup before her, did he get a chance to say: "What is it,
Madeleine? Is she very ill?"
Madeleine shrugged her shoulders. "Yes, she is ill enough. It's not
easy to say what the matter is, though. The doctor is to see her again
this evening. And I found a nurse."
"Then she is not going away?" He did not mean to say the words aloud;
they escaped him against his will.
His companion raised her eyebrows, filling her forehead with wrinkles.
"Going away?" she echoed. "I should say not. My dear Maurice, what is
more, it turns out she hadn't an idea he was going either. What do you
say to that?" She flushed with sincere indignation. "Not an idea--until
yesterday. My lord had the intention of sneaking off without a word,
and of leaving her to find it out for herself. Oh, it's an
abominable affair altogether!--and has been from beginning to end.
There's much about Louise, as you know, that I don't approve of, and I
think she has behaved weakly--not to call it by a harder name--all
through. But now, she has my entire sympathy. The poor girl is in a
"Is she . . . dangerously ill?"
"Well, I don't think she'll die of it, exactly--though it might be
better for her if she did. NA!. . . let me fill up your cup. And eat
something more. Oh, he is . . . no words are bad enough for him;
though honestly speaking, I think we might have been prepared for
something of this kind, all along. It seems he made his arrangements
for going on the quiet. Frau Schaefele advanced him the money; for of
course he has nothing of his own. But what condition do you think the
old wretch made? That he should break with Louise. Furst has told me
all about it. I went to him at once this morning. She was always
jealous of Louise--though to him she only talked of the holiness of art
and the artist's calling, and the danger of letting domestic ties
entangle you, and rubbish of that kind. I believe she was at the
bottom of it that he didn't marry Louise long ago. Well, however that
may be, he now let himself be persuaded easily enough. He was hearing
on all sides that he had been here too long; and candidly, I think he
was beginning to feel Louise a drag on him. I know of late they were
not getting on well together. But to be such a coward and a weakling!
To slink off in this fashion! Of course, when it came to the last, he
was simply afraid of her, and of the scene she would make him. Bravery
has as little room in his soul as honesty or manliness. He would
always prefer a back-door exit. Such things excite a man, don't you
know?--and ruffle the necessary artistic composure." She laughed
scornfully. "However, I'm glad to say, he didn't escape scot-free
after all. Everything went well till yesterday afternoon, when Louise,
who was as unsuspecting as a child, heard of it from some one--they say
it was Krafft. Without thinking twice--you know her . . . or rather you
don't--she went straight to Schilsky and confronted him. I can't tell
you what took place between them, but I can imagine something of it,
for when Louise lets herself go, she knows no bounds, and this was a
matter of life and death to her."
Madeleine rose, blew out the flame of the spirit-lamp, and refilled
"Fraulein Grunhut, her landlady, heard her go out yesterday
afternoon, but didn't hear her come in, so it must have been late in
the evening. Louise hates to be pried on, and the old woman is lazy,
so she didn't go to her room till about half-past eight this morning,
when she took in the hot water. Then she found Louise stretched on the
floor, just as she had come in last night, her hat lying beside her.
She was conscious, and her eyes were open, but she was stiff and cold,
and wouldn't speak or move. Grunhut couldn't do anything with her, and
was mortally afraid. She sent for me; and between us we got her to
bed, and I went for a doctor. That was at nine, and I have been on my
feet ever since."
"It's awfully good of you."
"No, she won't die," continued Madeleine meditatively, stirring her
tea. "She's too robust a nature for that. But I shouldn't wonder if it
affected her mind. As I say, she knows no bounds, and has never learnt
self-restraint. It has always been all or nothing with her. And this I
must say: however foolish and wrong the whole thing was, she was
devoted to Schilsky, and sacrificed everything--work, money and
friends--to her infatuation. She lived only for him, and this is a
moral judgment on her. Excess of any kind brings its own punishment
She rose and smoothed her hair before the mirror.
"And now I really must get to work, and make up for the lost morning.
I haven't touched a note to-day. As for you, Maurice, if you take my
advice, you'll go home and go to bed. A good sleep is what you're
needing. Come to-morrow, if you like, for further news. I shall go
back after supper, and hear what the doctor says. Good-bye."
"Good-bye, Madeleine. You're a brick."
Having returned to his room, he lay face downwards on the sofa. He was
sick at heart. Viewed in the light of the story he had heard from
Madeleine, life seemed too unjust to be endured. It propounded riddles
no one could answer; the vast output of energy that composed it, was
misdirected; on every side was cruelty and suffering. Only the
heartless and selfish--those who deserved to suffer--went free.
He pressed the back of his hand to his tired eyes; and, despite her
good deeds, he felt a sudden antipathy to Madeleine, who, on a day
like this, could take up her ordinary occupation.
In the morning, on awakening from a heavy sleep, he was seized by a
fear lest Louise should have died in the night. Through
brooding on it, the fear became a certainty, and he went early to
Madeleine, making a detour through the BRUDERSTRASSE, where his
suspicions were confirmed by the lowered blinds. He had almost two
hours to wait; it was eleven o'clock before Madeleine returned. Her
face was so grave that his heart seemed to stop beating. But there was
no change in the sick girl's condition; the doctor was perplexed, and
spoke of a consultation. Madeleine was returning at two o'clock to
relieve the nurse.
"You are foolishly letting it upset you altogether," she reproved
Maurice. "And it won't mend matters in the least. Go home and settle
down to work, like a sensible fellow."
He tried to follow Madeleine's advice. But it was of no use; when he
had struggled on for half an hour, he sprang up, realising how
monstrous it was that he should be sitting there, drilling his
fingers, getting the right notes of a turn, the specific shade of a
crescendo, when, not very far away, Louise perhaps lay dying. Again he
felt keenly the contrariness of life; and all the labour which those
around him were expending on the cult of hand and voice and car,
seemed of a ludicrous vanity compared with the grim little tragedy
that touched him so nearly; and in this mood he remained, throughout
the days of suspense that now ensued.
He went regularly every afternoon to Madeleine, and, if she were not
at home, waited till she returned, an hour, two hours, as the case
might be. This was the vital moment of the day--when he read her
tidings from her face.
At first they were always the same: there was no change. Fever did not
set in, but, day and night, Louise lay with wide, strained eyes; she
refused nourishment, and the strongest sleeping-draught had no effect.
Then, early one morning, for some trifling cause which, afterwards, no
one could recall, she broke into a convulsive fit of weeping, went on
till she was exhausted, and subsequently fell asleep.
On the day Maurice learnt that she was out of danger, he walked deep
into the woods. The news had lifted such a load from his mind that he
felt almost happy. But before he reached home again, his brain had
begun to work at matters which, during the period of anxiety, it had
left untouched. At first, in desperation, he had been selfless enough
to hope that Schilsky would return, on learning what had happened.
Now, however, that he had not done so, and Louise had passed safely
through the ordeal, Maurice was ready to tremble lest anything
should occur to soil the robe of saintly suffering, in which he draped
He began to take up the steady routine of his life again. Furst
received him with open arms, and no allusion was made to the night in
the BRUHL. With the cessation of his anxiety, a feeling of benevolence
towards other people awakened in him, and when, one afternoon, Schwarz
asked the assembled class if no one knew what had become of Krafft,
whether he was ill, or anything of the kind, it was Maurice who
volunteered to find out. He remembered now that he had not seen Krafft
at the Conservatorium for a week or more.
Frau Schulz looked astonished to see him, and, holding the door in her
hand, made no mien to let him enter. Herr Krafft was away, she said
gruffly, had been gone for about a week, she did not know where or
why. He had left suddenly one morning, without her knowledge, and the
following day a postcard had come from him, stating that all his
things were to lie untouched till his return.
"He was so queer lately that I'd he just as pleased if he stayed away
altogether," she said. "That's all I can tell you. Maybe you'd get
something more out of her. She knows more than she says, anyhow," and
she pointed with her thumb at the door of the adjoining PENSION.
Maurice rang there, and a dirty maid-servant showed him Avery's room.
At his knock, she opened the door herself, and first looked surprised,
then alarmed at seeing him.
"What's the matter? Has anything happened?" she stammered, like one on
the look-out for bad news.
"Then what do you want?" she asked in her short, unpleasant way, when
he had reassured her.
"I came up to see Heinz. And they tell me he is not here; and Frau
Schulz sent me to you. Schwarz was asking for him. Is it true that he
has gone away?"
"Yes, it's true."
"Where to? Will he be away long?"
"How should I know?" she cried rudely. "Am I his keeper? Find out for
yourself, if you must know," and the door slammed to in his face.
He mentioned the incident to Madeleine that evening. She looked
strangely at him, he thought, and abruptly changed the subject. A day
or two later, on the strength of a rumour that reached his ears, he
tackled Furst, and the latter, who, up to this time, had been of a
praiseworthy reticence, let fall a hint which made Maurice
look blank with amazement. Nevertheless, he could not now avoid seeing
certain incidents in his friendship with Krafft, under a different
About a fortnight had elapsed since the beginning of Louise's illness;
she was still obliged to keep her bed. More than once, of late,
Madeleine had returned from her daily visit, decidedly out of temper.
"Louise rubs me up the wrong way," she complained to Maurice. "And she
isn't in the least grateful for all I've done for her. I really think
she prefers having the nurse about her to me."
"Sick people often have such fancies," he consoled her.
"Louise shows hers a little too plainly. Besides, we have never got on
well for long together."
But one afternoon, on coming in, she unpinned her hat and threw it on
the piano, with a decisive haste that was characteristic of her in
"That's the end; I don't go back again. I'm not paid for my services,
and am under no obligation to listen to such things as Louise said to
me to-day. Enough is enough. She is well on the mend, and must get on
now as best she can. I wash my hands of the whole affair."
"But you're surely not going to take what a sick person says
seriously?" Maurice exclaimed in dismay. "How can she possibly get on
with only those strangers about her?"
"She's not so ill now. She'll be all right," answered Madeleine; she
had opened a letter that was on the table, and did not look up as she
spoke. "There's a limit to everything--even to my patience with her
And on returning the following day, he found, sure enough, that, true
to her word, Madeleine had not gone back. She maintained an obstinate
silence about what had happened, and requested that he would now let
the matter drop.
The truth was that Madeleine's conscience was by no means easy.
She had gone to see Louise on that particular afternoon, with even
more inconvenience to herself than usual. On admitting her, Fraulein
Grunhut had endeavoured to detain her in the passage, mumbling and
gesticulating in the mystery-mongering way with which Madeleine had no
patience. It incited her to answer the old woman in a loud, clear
voice; then, brusquely putting her aside, she opened the door of the
sick girl's room.
As she did so, she utttered an exclamation of surprise.
Louise, in a flannel dressing-gown, was standing at the high tiled
stove behind the door. Both her arms were upraised and held to it, and
she leant her forehead against the tiles.
"Good Heavens, what are you doing out of bed?" cried Madeleine; and,
as she looked round the room: "And where is Sister Martha?"
Louise moved her head, so that another spot of forehead came in
contact with the tiles, and looked up at Madeleine from under her
heavy lids, without replying.
Madeleine laid one by one on the table some small purchases she had
made on the way there.
"Well, are you not going to speak to me to-day?" she said in a
pleasant voice, as she unbuttoned her jacket. "Or tell me what I ask
about the Sister?" There was not a shade of umbrage in her tone.
Louise moved her head again, and looked away from Madeleine to the
wall of the room. "I have got up," she answered, in such a low voice
that Madeleine had to pause in what she was doing, to hear her;
"because I could not bear to lie in bed any longer. And I've sent the
Sister away--because . . . oh, because I couldn't endure having her
"You have sent Sister Martha away?" echoed Madeleine. "On your own
responsibility? Louise!--how absurd! Well, I suppose I must put on my
hat again and fetch her back. How can you get on alone, I should like
to know? Really, I have no time to come oftener than I do."
"I'm quite well now. I don't need anyone."
"Come, get back into bed, like a good girl, and I will make you some
tea," said Madeleine, in the gently superior tone that one uses to a
sick person, to a young child, to anyone with whom it is not fitting
Instead, Louise left the stove, and sat down in a low American
rocking-chair, where she crouched despondently.
"I wish I had died," she said in a toneless voice.
Madeleine smiled with exaggerated cheerfulness, and rattled the
tea-cups. "Nonsense! You mustn't talk about dying--now that you are
nearly well again. Besides, you know, such things are easily said. One
doesn't mean them."
"I wish I had died. Why didn't you let me die?" repeated Louise in the
same apathetic way.
Madeleine did not reply; she was cogitating whether it would be more
convenient to go after the nurse at once, and what she ought
to do if she could not get her to come back. For Louise would
certainly have despatched her in tragedy-fashion.
Meanwhile the latter had laid her arms along the low arms of the
chair, and now sat gazing from one to the other of her hands. In their
way, these hands of hers had acquired a kind of fame, which she had
once been vain of. They had been photographed; a sculptor had
modelled them for a statue of Antigone--long, slim and strong, with
closely knit fingers, and pale, deep-set nails: hands like those of an
adoring Virgin; hands which had an eloquent language all their own,
but little or no agility, and which were out of place on the keys of a
piano. Louise sat looking at them, and her face was so changed--the
hollow setting of the eyes reminded perpetually of the bones beneath;
the lines were hammered black below the eyes; nostrils and lips were
pinched and thinned--that Madeleine, secretly observing her, remarked
to herself that Louise looked at least ten years older than before.
Her youth, and, with it, such freshness as she had once had, were gone
"Here is your tea."
The girl drank it slowly, as if swallowing were an effort, while
Madeleine went round the room, touching and ordering, and opening a
window. This done, she looked at her watch.
"I will go now," she said, "and see if I can persuade Sister Martha to
come back. If you haven't mortally offended her, that is."
Louise started up from her chair, and put her cup, only half emptied,
on the table.
"Madeleine!--please--please, don't! I can't have her back again. I am
quite well now. There was nothing more she could do for me. I shall
sleep a thousand times better at night if she is not here. Oh, don't
bring her back again! Her voice cut like a knife, and her hands were
She trembled with excitement, and was on the brink of tears.
"Hush!--don't excite yourself like that," said Madeleine, and tried to
soothe her. "There's no need for it. If you are really determined not
to have her, then she shall not come and that's the end of it. Not but
what I think it foolish of you all the same," she could not refrain
from adding. "You are still weak. However, if you prefer it, I'll do
my best to run up this evening to see that you have everything for the
"I don't want you either."
Madeleine shrugged her shoulders, and her pity became tinged
"The doctor says you must go away somewhere, for a change," she said
as she beat up the pillows and smoothed out the crumpled sheets,
preparatory to coaxing her patient back to bed.
Louise shook her head, but did not speak.
"A few weeks' change of air is what you need to set you up again."
"I cannot go away."
"Nonsense! Of course you can. You don't want to be ill all the winter?"
"I don't want to be well."
Madeleine sniffed audibly. "There's no reasoning with you. When you
hear on all sides that it's for your own good----"
"Oh, stop tormenting me!" cried Louise, raising a drawn face with
disordered hair. "I won't go away! Nothing will make me. I shall stay
here--though I never get well again."
"But why? Give me one sensible reason for not going.--You can't!"
"Yes . . . if . . . if Eugen should come back."
The words could only just be caught. Madeleine stood, holding a sheet
with both hands, as though she could not believe her ears.
"Louise!" she said at last, in a tone which meant many things.
Louise began to cry, and was shaken by hard, dry sobs. Madeleine did
not look at her again, but went severely on with her bedmaking. When
she had finished, she crossed to the washstand, and poured out a glass
Louise took it, humbled and submissive, and gradually her sobs abated.
But now Madeleine, in place of getting ready to leave, as she had
intended, sat down at the centre table, and revolved what she felt it
to be her duty to say. When all sound of crying had ceased, she began
to speak, persuasively, in a quiet voice.
"You have brought the matter up yourself, Louise," she said, "and, now
the ice is broken, there are one or two things I should like to say to
you. First then, you have been very ill, far worse than you know--the
immediate danger is over now, so I can speak of it. But who can tell
what may happen if you persist in remaining on here by yourself, in
the state you are in?"
Louise did not stir; her face was hidden.
"The reason you give for staying is not a serious one, I hope,"
Madeleine proceeded cautiously choosing her words. "After all
the . . . the precautions that were taken to ensure the . . . break,
it is not all likely . . . he would think of returning. And Louise,"
she added with warmth, "even though he did--suppose he did--after the
way he has behaved, and his disgraceful treatment of you----"
Louise looked up for an instant. "That is not true," she said.
"Not true?" echoed Madeleine. "Well, if you are able to admire his
behaviour--if you don't consider it disgraceful--no, more than
that--infamous----" She stopped, not being able to find a stronger
"It is not true," said Louise in the same expressionless voice. But
now she lifted her head, and pressed the palms of her hands together.
Madeleine pushed back her chair, as if she were about to rise. "Then I
have nothing more to say," she said; and went on: "If you are ready to
defend a man who has acted towards you as he has--in a way that makes a
respectable person's blood boil--there is indeed nothing more to be
said." She reddened with indignation. "As if it were not bad enough
for him to go, after all you have done for him, but that he must do it
in such a mean, underhand way--it's enough to make one sick. The only
thing to compare with it is his conduct on the night before he left.
Do you know, pray, that on the last evening, at a KNEIPE in the
GOLDENE HIRSCH, he boasted of what you had done for him--boasted about
everything that had happened between you--to a rowdy, tipsy crew? More
than that, he gave shameless details, about you going to his room that
"It's not true, it's not true," repeated Louise, as if she had got
these few words by heart. She rose from her chair, and leaned on it,
half turning her back to Madeleine, and holding her handkerchief to
Madeleine shrugged her shoulders. "Do you think I should say it, if it
weren't?" she asked. "I don't invent scandal. And you are bound to
hear it when you go out again. He did this, and worse than I choose to
tell you, and if you felt as you ought to about it, you would never
give him another thought. He's not worth it. He's not worth any
"Respectable!" burst in Louise, and raised two blazing eyes to her
companion's face. "That's the second time. Why do you come
here, Madeleine, and talk like that to me? He did what he was obliged
to--that's all: for I should never have let him go. Can't you see how
preposterous it is to think that by talking of respectability, and
unworthiness, you can make me leave off caring for him?--when for
months I have lived for nothing else? Do you think one can change
one's feelings so easily? Don't you understand that to love a person
once is to love him always and altogether?--his faults as
well--everything he does, good or bad, no matter what other people
think of it? Oh, you have never really cared for anyone yourself, or
you would know it."
"It's not preposterous at all," retorted Madeleine. "Yes--if he had
deserved all the affection you wasted on him, or if unhappy
circumstances had separated you. But that's not the case. He has
behaved scandalously, without the least attempt at shielding you. He
has made you the talk of the place. And you may consider me narrow and
prejudiced, but this I must say--I am boundlessly astonished at you.
When he has shown you as plainly as he can that he's tired of you,
that you should still be ready to defend him, and have so little
proper pride that you even say you would take him back!----"
Louise turned on her. "You would never do that, Madeleine, would
you?--never so far forget yourself as to crawl to a man's feet and
ask--ask?--no, implore forgiveness, for faults you were not conscious of
having committed. You would never beg him to go on loving you, after
he had ceased to care, or think nothing on earth worth having if he
would not--or could not. As I would; as I have done." But chancing to
look at Madeleine, she grew quieter. "You would never do that, would
you?" she repeated. "And do you know why?" Her words came quickly
again; her voice shook with excitement. "Because you will never care
for anyone more than yourself--it isn't in you to do it. You will go
through life, tight on to the end, without knowing what it is to care
for some one--oh, but I mean absolutely, unthinkingly----"
She broke down, and hid her face again. Madeleine had carried the cups
and saucers to a side-table, and now put on her hat.
"And I hope I never shall," she said, forcing herself to speak calmly.
"If I thought it likely, I should never look at a man again."
But Louise had not finished. Coming round to the front of the
rocking-chair, and leaning on the table, she gazed at Madeleine
with wild eyes, while her pale lips poured forth a kind of
revenge for the suffering, real and imaginary, that she had undergone
at the hands of this cooler nature.
"And I'll tell you why. You are doubly safe; for you will never be
able to make a man care so much that--that you are forced to love him
like this in return. It isn't in you to do it. I don't mean because
you're plain. There are plenty of plainer women than you, who can make
men follow them. No, it's your nature--your cold, narrow, egotistic
nature--which only lets you care for things outside yourself in a cold,
narrow way. You will never know what it is to be taken out of yourself,
taken and shaken, till everything you are familiar with falls away."
She laughed; but tears were near at hand. Madeleine had turned her
back on her, and stood buttoning her jacket, with a red, exasperated face.
"I shall not answer you," she said. "You have worked yourself into
such a state that you don't know what you're saying. All the same, I
think you might try to curb your tongue. I have done nothing to
you--but be kind to you."
"Kind to me? Do you call it kind to come here and try to set me
against the man I love best in the world? And who loves me best, too.
Yes; he does. He would never have gone, if he hadn't been forced to--if
I hadn't been a hindrance to him--a drag on him."
"It makes me ashamed of my sex to hear you say such things. That a
woman can so far lose her pride as to----"
"Oh, other women do it in other ways. Do you think I haven't seen how
you have been trying to make some one here like you?--doing your
utmost, without any thoughts of pride or self-respect.--And how you
have failed? Yes, failed. And if you don't believe me, ask him
yourself--ask him who it is that could bring him to her, just by
raising her finger. It's to me he would come, not to you--to me who
have never given him look or thought."
Madeleine paled, then went scarlet. "That's a direct untruth. You!--and
not to egg a man on, if you see he admires you! You know every time a
passer-by looks at you in the street. You feed on such looks--yes, and
return them, too. I have seen you, my lady, looking and being looked
at, by a stranger, in a way no decent woman allows.--For the rest, I'll
trouble you to mind your own business. Whatever I do or don't do,
trust me, I shall at least take care not to make myself the
laughing-stock of the place. Yes, you have only succeeded in making
yourself ridiculous. For while you were cringing before him, and aspiring
to die for his sake, he was making love behind your back to another girl.
For the last six months. Every one knew it, it seems, but you."
She had spoken with unconcealed anger, and now turned to leave the
room. But Louise was at the door before her, and spread herself across
"That's a lie, Madeleine! Of your own making. You shall prove it to me
before you go out of this room. How dare you say such a thing !--how
Madeleine looked at her with cold aversion, and drew back to avoid
"Prove it?" she echoed. "Are his own words not proof enough! He told
the whole story that night, just as he had first told all about you.
It had been going on for months. Sometimes, you were hardly out of his
room, before the other was in. And if you don't believe me, ask the
person you're so proud of having attracted, without raising your
Louise moved away from the door, and went back to the table, on which
she leaned heavily. All the blood had left her face and the dark rings
below her eyes stood out with alarming distinctness. Madeleine felt a
sudden compunction at what she had done.
"It's entirely your own fault that I told you anything whatever about
it," she said, heartily annoyed with herself. "You had no right to
provoke me by saying what you did. I declare, Louise, to be with you
makes one just like you. If it's any consolation to you to know it, he
was drunk at the time, and there's a possibility it may not be true."
"Go away--go out of my room!" cried Louise. And Madeleine went, without
delay, having almost a physical sensation about her throat of the
slender hands stretched so threateningly towards her.--And this
unpleasant feeling remained with her until she turned the corner of
On the afternoon when Maurice found that Madeleine had kept her word
he went home and paced his room in perplexity. He pictured Louise
lying helpless, too weak to raise her hand. His brain went stupidly
over the few people to whom he might turn for aid. Avery Hill?--Johanna
Cayhill? But Avery was occupied with her own troubles; and Johanna's
relationship to Ephie put her out of the question. He was thinking
fantastic thoughts of somehow offering his own services, or of even
throwing himself on the goodness of a person like Miss Jensen, whose
motherly form must surely imply a corresponding motherliness of heart,
when Frau. Krause entered the room, bearing a letter which she said
had been left for him an hour or two previously. She carried a lamp in
her hand, and eyed her restless lodger with suspicion.
"Why, in the name of goodness, didn't you bring this in when it came?"
he demanded. He held the unopened letter at arm's length, as if he
were afraid of it.
Frau Krause bridled instantly. Did he think she had nothing else to do
than to carry things in and out of his room? The letter had lain on
the chest of drawers in the passage; he could have seen it for
himself, had he troubled to look.
Maurice waved her away. He was staring at the envelope; he believed he
knew the handwriting. His heart beat with precise hammerings. He laid
the letter on the table, and took a few turns in the room before he
picked it up again. On examining it anew, it seemed to him that the
lightly gummed envelope had been tampered with, and he made a
threatening movement towards the door, then checked himself,
remembering that if the letter were what he believed, it would be
written in English. He tore it open, destroying the envelope in his
nervousness. There was no heading, and it was only a few lines long.
I MUST SPEAK TO YOU. WILL YOU COME TO ME THIS EVENING? LOUISE
His heart was thumping now. He was to go to her, she said so
herself; to go this moment, for it was evening already. As it was, she
was perhaps waiting for him, wondering why he did not come. He had not
shaved that day, and his first impulse was to call for hot water. In
the same breath he gave up the idea: it was out of the question by the
poor light of the lamp, and the extraordinary position of the
looking-glass. He made, however, a hasty toilet in his best, only to
colour at himself when finished. Was there ever such a fool as he? His
act contained the germ of an insult: and he rapidly changed back to
his workaday wear.
All this took time, and it was eight o'clock before he rang the
door-bell in the BRUDERSTRASSE. Now, the landlady did not mistake him
for a possible thief. But she looked at him in an unfriendly way, and
said grumblingly that Fraulein had been expecting him for an hour or
more. Then she pointed to the door of the room, and left him to make
his way in alone.
He knocked gently, but no one answered. The old woman, who stood
watching his movements, signed to him to enter, and he turned the
handle. The large room was dark, except for the light shed by a small
lamp, which stood on the table before the sofa. From somewhere out of
the dusk that lay beyond, a white figure rose and came towards him.
Louise was in a crumpled dressing-gown, and her hair was loosened from
its coil on her neck. Maurice saw so much, before she was close beside
him, her eyes searching his face.
"Oh, you have come," she said with a sigh, as if a load had been
lifted from her mind. "I thought you were not coming."
"I only got your note a few minutes ago. I . . . I came at once," he
said, and stammered, as he saw how greatly illness had changed her.
"I knew you would."
She did not give him her hand, but stood gazing at him; and her look
was so helpless and forlorn that he grew uncomfortable.
"You have been ill?" he said, to render the pause that followed less
"Yes; but I'm better now." She supported herself on the table; her
indecision seemed to increase, and several seconds passed before she
said: "Won't you sit down?"
He took one of the stuffed arm-chairs she indicated; and she went back
to the sofa. Again there was silence. With her elbows on her knees,
her chin on her two hands, Louise stared hard at the pattern of the
tablecloth. Maurice sat stiff and erect, waiting for her to tell him
why she had summoned him.
"You will think it strange that I should send for you like
this . . . when I know you so slightly," she began at length.
"But . . .since I saw you last . . . I have been in trouble,"--her voice
broke, but her eyes remained fixed on the cloth. "And I am quite alone. I
have no one to help me. Then I thought of you; you were kind to me
once; you offered to help me." She paused, and wound her handkerchief
to a ball.
"Anything!--anything that lies in my power," said Maurice fervently. He
fidgeted his hands round the brim of his hat, which he was holding to him.
"Won't you tell me what it is?" he asked, after another long break. "I
should be so glad, and grateful--yes, indeed, grateful--if there were
anything I could do for you."
She met his eyes, and tried to say something, but no sound came over
her lips. She was trying to fasten her thoughts on what she had to
say, but, in spite of her efforts, they eluded her. For more than
twenty-four hours she had brooded over one idea; the strain had been
too great; and, now that the moment had come, her strength deserted
her. She would have liked to lay her head on her arms and sleep; it
almost seemed to her now, in the indifference of sheer fatigue, that
it did not matter whether she spoke or not. But as she looked at the
young man, she became conscious of an expression in his face, which
made her own grow hard.
"I won't be pitied."
Maurice turned very red. His heart had gone out to her in her
distress; and his feelings were painted on his face. His discomfiture
at her discovery was so palpable that it gave her courage to go on.
"You were one of those, were you not, who were present at a certain
cafe in the BRUHL, one evening, three weeks ago." It was more of a
statement than a question. Her eyes held him fast. His retreating
colour rose again; he had a presentiment of what was coming.
"Then you must have heard----" she began quickly, but left the
His suspicions took shape, and he made a large, vague gesture of
dissent. "You heard all that was said," she continued, without paying
any heed to him. "You heard how . . . how some one--no, how the man I
loved and trusted . . . how he boasted about my caring for him; and
not only that, but how, before that drunken crowd, he told how
I had been to him ... to his room . . . that afternoon----" She could
not finish, and pressed her knotted handkerchief to her lips.
Maurice looked round him for assistance. "You are mistaken," he
declared. "I heard nothing of the kind. Remember, I, too, was among
those . . . in the state you mention," he added as an afterthought,
lowering his voice.
"That is not it." Leaning forward, she opened her eyes so wide that he
saw a rim of white round the brown of the pupils. "You must also have
heard . . . how, all this time, behind my back, there was some one
else . . . someone he cared for . . . when I thought it was only me."
The young man coloured, with her and for her. "It is not true; you
have been misled," he said with vehemence. And, again, a flash of
intuition suggested an afterthought to him. "Can you really believe
it? Don't you think better of him than that?"
For the first time since she had known him, Louise gave him a personal
look, a look that belonged to him alone, and held a warm ray of
gratitude. Then, however, she went on unsparingly: "I want you to tell
me who it was."
He laid his hat on a chair, and used his hands. "But if I assure you
it is not true? If I give you my word that you have been misinformed?"
"Who was it? What is her name?"
He rose, and went away from the table.
"I knew him better than you," she said slowly, as he did not speak:
"you or anyone else--a hundred thousand times better--and I KNOW it is
Still he did not answer. "Then you won't tell me?"
"Tell you? How can I? There's nothing to tell."
"I was wrong then. You have no pity for me?"
"Pity!--I no pity?" he cried, forgetting how, a minute ago, she had
resented his feeling it. "But all the same I can't tell you what you
ask me. You don't realise what it means: putting a slur on a young
girl's name . . . which has never been touched."
Directly he had said this, he was aware of his foolishness; but she
let the admission contained in the words pass unnoticed.
"Then she is not with him?" she cried, springing to her feet, and
there was a jubilation in her voice, which she did not attempt
to suppress. Maurice made no answer, but in his face was such a
mixture of surprise and disconcertion that it was answer enough.
She remained standing, with her head bowed; and Maurice, who, in his
nervousness, had gripped the back of his chair, held it so tightly
that it left a furrow in his hand. He was looking into the lamp, and
did not at first see that Louise had raised her head again and was
contemplating him. When she had succeeded in making him look at her,
she sat down on the sofa and drew the folds of her dressing-gown to
"Come and sit here. I want to speak to you."
But Maurice only shot a quick glance at her, and did not move.
She leaned forward, in her old position. She had pushed the heavy
wings of hair up from her forehead, and this, together with her
extreme pallor, gave her face a look of febrile intensity.
"Maurice Guest," she said slowly, "do you remember a night last
summer, when, by chance, you happened to walk with me, coming home
from the theatre?--Or have you perhaps forgotten?"
He shook his head.
"Then do you remember, too, what you said to me? How, since the first
time you had seen me--you even knew where that was, I believe--you had
thought about me . . . thought too much, or words to that effect. Do
"Do you think when a man says a thing like that he forgets it? "asked
Maurice in a gruff voice. He turned, as he spoke, and looked down on
her with a kind of pitying wisdom. "If you knew how often I have
reproached myself for it!" he added.
"There was no need for that," she answered, and even smiled a little.
"We women never resent having such things said to us--never--though it
is supposed we do, and though we must pretend to. But I remember, too,
I was in a bad mood that night, and was angry with you, after all.
Everything seemed to have gone against me. In the theatre--in . . . Oh,
no, no!" she cried, as she remembrance of that past night, with its
alternations of pain and pleasure, broke over her. "My God!"
Maurice hardly breathed, for fear he should remind her of his
presence. When the paroxysm had passed, she crossed to the window; the
blinds had not been drawn, and leaning her forehead on the glass, she
looked out into the darkness. In spite of his trouble of mind,
the young man could not but comment on the ironic fashion in which
fate was treating him: not once, in all the hours he had spent on the
pavement below, had Louise come, like this, to the window; now that
she did so, he was in the room beside her, wishing himself away.
Then, with a swift movement, she came back to him, and stood at his
"Then it was not true?--what you said that night."
"True?" echoed Maurice. He instinctively moved a step away from her,
and threw a quick glance at the pale face so near his own. "If I were
to tell you how much more than that is true, you wouldn't have
anything more to do with me."
For the second time, she seemed to see him and consider him. But he
kept his head turned stubbornly away.
"You feel like that," she began in slow surprise, to continue
hurriedly: "You care for me like that, and yet, when I ask the first
and only thing I shall ever ask of you, you won't do it? It is a
lesson to me, I suppose, not to come to you for help again.--Oh, I
can't understand you men! You are all--all alike."
"I would do anything in the world for you. Anything but this."
She repeated his last words after him. "But I want nothing else."
"This I can't tell you."
"Then you don't really care. You only think you do. If you can't do
this one small thing for me! Oh, there is no one else I can turn to,
or I would. Oh, please tell me!--you who make-believe to care for me.
You won't? When it comes to the point, a man will do nothing--nothing
"I would cut off my hands for you. But you are asking me to do
something I think wrong."
"Wrong! What is wrong?--and what is right? They are only words. Is it
right that I should be left like this?--thrown away like a broken
plate? Oh, I shall not rest till I know who it was that took him from
me. And you are the only person who can help me. Are you not a little
sorry for me? Is there nothing I can do to make you sorry?"
"You won't realise what you are asking me to do."
He spoke in a constrained voice, for he felt the impossiblity of
standing out much longer against her. Louise caught the note of
yielding, and taking his hand in hers, laid it against her forehead.
"Feel that! Feel how it throbs and burns! And so it has gone
on for hours now, for days. I can't think or feel--with that fever in
me. I must know who it was, or I shall go mad. Don't torture me then--
you, too! You are good. Be kind to me now. Be my friend, Maurice Guest."
Maurice was vanquished; in a low voice he told her what she wished to
hear. She read the syllables from his lips, repeated the name slowly
after him, then shook her head; she did not know it. Letting his hand
drop, she went back to the sofa.
"Tell me everything you know about her," she said imperiously. "What
is she like?--what is she like? What is the colour of her hair?"
Maurice was a poor hand at description. Questioned thus, he was not
even sure whether to call Ephie pretty or not; he knew that she was
small, and very young, but of her hair he could say little, except
that it was not black.
Louise caught at the detail. "Not black, no, not black!" she cried.
"He had black enough here," and she ran her hands through her own
There was nothing she did not want to know, did not try to force from
his lips; and a relentless impatience seized her at his powerlessness.
"I must see her for myself," she said at length, when he had stammered
into silence. "You must bring her to me."
"No, that you really can't ask me to do."
She came over to him again, and took his hands. "You will bring her
here to-morrow--to-morrow afternoon. Do you think I shall hurt her? Is
she any better than I am? Oh, don't be afraid! We are not so easily
Maurice demurred no more.
"For until I see her, I shall not know--I shall not know," she said to
herself, when he had pledged his word.
The tense expression of her face relaxed; her mouth drooped; she lay
back in the sofa-corner and shut her eyes. For what seemed a long
time, there was no sound in the room. Maurice thought she had fallen
asleep. But at his first light movement she opened her eyes.
"Now go," she said. "Please, go!" And he obeyed.
The night was cold, but, as he stood irresolute in the street, he
wiped the perspiration from his forehead. He felt very perplexed. Only
one thing was clear to him: he had promised to bring Ephie to see her
the next day, and, however wrong it might be, the promise was given
and must be kept. But what he now asked himself was: did not
the bringing of the child, under these circumstances, imply a tacit
acknowledgment that she was seriously involved?--a fact which, all
along, he had striven against admitting. For, after his one encounter
with Ephie and Schilsky, in the woods that summer, and the first
firing of his suspicions, he had seen nothing else to render him
uneasy; a few weeks later, Ephie had gone to Switzerland, and, on her
return in September, or almost directly afterwards--three or four days
at most--Schilsky had taken his departure. There had been, of course,
his drunken boasts to take into account, but firstly, Maurice had only
retained a hazy idea of their nature, and, in the next place, the
events which had followed that evening had been of so much greater
importance to him that he had had no thoughts to spare for Ephie--more
especially as he then knew that Schilsky was out of the way. But now
the whole affair rose vividly before his mind again, and in his heart
he knew that he had always believed--just as Louise believed--in Ephie's
guilt. No: guilt was too strong a word. Yet however harmless the
flirtation might have been in itself, it had been carried on in secret,
in an underhand way: there had been nothing straightforward or above-board
about it; and this alone was enough to compromise a young girl.
The Cayhills had been in Leipzig again for three weeks, but so
occupied had Maurice been during this time, that he had only paid them
one hasty call. Now he felt that he must see Ephie at once, not only
to secure her word that she would come out with him, the following
day, but also to read from her frank eyes and childish lips the
assurance of her innocence, or, at least, the impossibility of her guilt.
But as he walked to the LESSINGSTRASSE, he remembered, without being
able to help it, all the trifles which, at one time or another, had
disturbed his relations with Ephie. He recalled each of the thin,
superficial untruths, by means of which she had defended herself, the
day he had met her with Schilsky: it seemed incredible to him now that
he had not seen through them instantly. He called up her pretty,
insincere behaviour with the circle of young men that gathered round
her; the language of signs by which she had conversed with Schilsky in
the theatre. He remembered the astounding ease with which he had made
her acquaintance in the first case, or rather, with which she had made
his. Even the innocent kiss she had once openly incited him to, and on
the score of which she had been so exaggeratedly angry--this, too, was
summoned to bear witness against her. Each of these incidents
now seemed to point to a fatal frivolity, to a levity of character
which, put to a real test, would offer no resistance.
Supper was over in the PENSION, but only Mrs. Cayhill sat in her
accustomed corner. Ephie was with the rest of the boarders in the
general sitting-room, where Johanna conducted Maurice. Boehmer was
paying an evening visit, as well as a very young American, who
laughed: "Heh, heh!" at everything that was said, thereby displaying
two prominently gold teeth. Mrs. Tully sat on a small sofa, with her
arm round Ephie's waist: they were the centre of the group, and it did
not appear likely that Maurice would get an opportunity of speaking to
Ephie in private. She was in high spirits, and had only a saucy
greeting for him. He sat down beside Johanna, and waited, ill at ease.
Soon his patience was exhausted; rising, he went over to the sofa, and
asked Ephie if he might come to take her for a walk, the next
afternoon. But she would not give him an express promise; she pouted:
after all these weeks, it suddenly occurred to him to come and see
them, and then, the first thing he did, was to ask a favour of her.
Did he really expect her to grant it?
"Don't, Ephie, love, don't!" cried Mrs. Tully in her sprightly way.
"Men are really shocking creatures, and it is our duty, love, to keep
them in their place. If we don't, they grow presumptuous," and she
shot an arch look at Boehmer, who returned it, fingered his beard, and
"And even if I wanted to go when the time came, how do you expect me
to know so long beforehand? Ever so many things may happen before
to-morrow," said Ephie brilliantly; at which Mrs. Tully laughed very
much indeed, and still more at Boehmer's remark that it was an ancient
privilege of the ladies, never to be obliged to know their own minds.
"It's a libel--take that, you naughty boy!" she cried, and slapped him
playfully on the hand. "Ephie, love, how shall we punish him?"
"He is not to come again for a week," answered Ephie slily; and at
Boehmer's protestations of penitence and despair, both she and Mrs.
Tully laughed till the tears stood in their eyes, Ephie all the more
extravagantly because Maurice stood unsmiling before her.
"I ask this as a direct favour, Ephie. There's something I want to say
to you--something important," he added in a low voice, so that only she
could hear it.
Ephie changed colour at once, and tried to read his face.
"Then I may come at five? You will be ready? Good night."
Johanna followed him into the passage, and stood by while he put on
his coat. They had used up all their small talk in the sitting-room,
and had nothing more to say to each other. When however they shook
hands, she observed impulsively: "Sometimes I wish we were safe back
home again." But Maurice only said: "Indeed?" and displayed no
curiosity to know the reason why.
After he had gone, Ephie was livelier than before, as long as she was
being teased about her pale, importunate admirer. Then, suddenly, she
pleaded a headache, and went to her own room.
Johanna, listening outside the door, concluded from the stillness that
her sister was asleep. But Ephie heard Johanna come and go. She could
not sleep, nor could she get Maurice's words out of her mind. He had
something important to say to her. What could it be? There was only
one important subject in the world for her now; and she longed for the
hour of his visit--longed, hoped, and was more than half afraid.
Since her return to Leipzig, Ephie's spirits had gone up and down like
a barometer in spring. In this short time, she passed through more
changes of mood than in all her previous life. She learned what
uncertainty meant, and suspense, and helplessness; she caught at any
straw of hope, and, for a day on end, would be almost comforted; she
invented numberless excuses for Schilsky, and rejected them, one and
all. For she was quite in the dark about his movements; she had not
seen him since her return, and could hear nothing of him. Only the
first of the letters she had written to him from Switzerland had
elicited a reply, and he had left all the notes she had sent him,
since getting back, unanswered.
Her fellow-boarder, Mrs. Tully, was her only confidant; and that, only
in so far as this lady, knowing that what she called "a little
romance" was going on, had undertaken to enclose any letters that
might arrive during Ephie's absence. Johanna had no suspicions, or
rather she had hitherto had none. In the course of the past week,
however, it had become plain even to her blind, sisterly eyes that
something was the matter with Ephie. She could still be lively when
she liked, almost unnaturally lively, and especially in the company of
Mrs. Tully and her circle; but with these high spirits alternated fits
of depression, and once Johanna had come upon her in tears. Driven
into a corner, Ephie declared that Herr Becker had scolded her at her
lesson; but Johanna was not satisfied with this explanation; for
formerly, the master's blame or praise had left no impression on her
little sister's mind. Even worse than this, Ephie could now, on slight
provocation, be thoroughly peevish--a thing so new in her that it
worried Johanna most of all. The long walks of the summer had been
given up; but Ephie had adopted a way of going in and out of the
house, just as it pleased her, without a word to her sister. Johanna
scrutinised her keenly, and the result was so disturbing that she
resolved to broach the subject to her mother.
On the morning after Maurice's visit, therefore, she appeared in the
sitting-room, with a heap of undarned stockings in one hand,
her work-basket in the other, and with a very determined expression on
her face. But the moment was not a happy one: Mrs. Cayhill was deep in
WHY PAUL FERROL KILLED HIS WIFE; and would be lost to her surroundings
until the end of the book was reached. Had Johanna been of an
observant turn of mind, she would have waited a little; for, finding
the intermediate portion of the novel dry reading, Mrs. Cayhill was
getting over the pages at the rate of three or four a minute, and
would soon have been finished.
But Johanna sat down at the table and opened fire.
"I wish to speak to you, mother," she said firmly.
Mrs. Cayhill did not even blink. Johanna drew several threads across a
hole she was darning, before she repeated, in the same decided tone:
"Do you hear me, mother? There is something I wish to speak to you
"Hm," said Mrs. Cayhill, without raising her eyes from the page. She
heard Johanna, and was even vaguely distracted by her from the web of
circumstance that was enveloping her hero; but she believed, from
experience, that if she took no notice of her, Johanna would not
persist. What the latter had to say would only be a reminder that it
was mail-day, and no letters were ready; or that if she did not put on
her bonnet and go out for a walk, she would be obliged to take another
of her nerve-powders that night: and Mrs. Cayhill hated moral
persuasion with all her heart.
"Put down your book, mother, please, and listen to me," continued
Johanna, without any outward sign of impatience, and as she spoke, she
drew another stocking over her hand.
"What IS the matter, Joan? I wish you would let me be," answered Mrs.
Cayhill querulously, still without looking up.
"It's about Ephie, mother. But you can't hear me if you go on
"I can hear well enough," said Mrs. Cayhill, and turning a page, she
lost herself, to all appearance, in the next one. Johanna did not
reply, and for some minutes there was silence, broken only by the
turning of the leaves. Then, compelled by something that was stronger
than herself, Mrs. Cayhill laid her book on her knee, gave a loud
sigh, and glanced at Johanna's grave face.
"You are a nuisance, Joan. Well, make haste now--what is it?"
"It's Ephie, mother. I am not easy about her lately. I don't think she
can be well. She is so unlike herself."
"Really, Joan," said Mrs. Cayhill, laughing with an exaggerated
carelessness. "I think I should be the first to notice if she were sick.
But you like to make yourself important, that's what it is, and to have a
finger in every pie. There is nothing whatever the matter with the child."
"She's not well, I'm sure," persisted Johanna, without haste. "I have
noticed it for some time now. I think the air here is not agreeing
with her. I constantly hear it said that this is an enervating place.
I believe it would be better for her if we went somewhere else for the
winter--even if we returned home. Nothing binds us, and health is the
first and chief----"
"Go home?" cried Mrs. Cayhill, and turned her book over on its face.
"Really, Joan, you are absurd! Because Ephie finds it hard to settle
down again, after such a long vacation--and that's all it is--you want
to rush off to a fresh place, when . . . when we are just so
comfortably fixed here for the winter, and where we have at last
gotten us a few friends. As for going home, why, every one would
suppose we'd gone crazy. We haven't been away six months yet--and when
Mr. Cayhill is coming over to fetch us back--and . . . and everything."
She spoke with heat; for she knew from experience that what her elder
daughter resolved on, was likely to be carried through.
"That is all very well, mother," continued Johanna unmoved. "But I
don't think your arguments are sound if we find that Ephie is really
sick, and needs a change."
"Arguments not sound! What big words you love to use, Joan! You let
Ephie be. She grows prettier every day, and she's a favourite wherever
"That's another thing. Her head is being turned, and she will soon be
quite spoilt. She begins to like the fuss and attention so well that----"
"You had your chances too, Joan. You needn't be jealous."
Johanna had heard this remark too often to be sensitive to it.
"When it comes to serious 'chances,' as you call them, no one will be
more pleased for Ephie or more interested than I. But this is
something different. You see that yourself, mother, I am sure. These
young men who come about the house are so foolish, and immature, and
they have such different ideas of things from ourselves. They think
so. . . so"--Johanna hesitated for a word--"so laxly on earnest subjects.
And it is telling on Ephie--Look, for instance, at Mr. Dove! I don't
want to say anything against him, in particular. He is really
more serious than the rest. But for some time now, he has been making
himself ridiculous,"--Johanna had blushed for Dove on the occasion of
his last visit. "No one could be more in earnest than he is; but Ephie
only makes fun of him, in a heartless way. She won't see what a grave
matter it is to him."
Mrs. Cayhill laughed, not at all displeased. "Young people will be
young people. You can't put old heads on young shoulders, Joan, or
shut them up in separate houses. Ephie is an extremely pretty girl,
and it will be the same wherever we go.--As for young Dove, he knows
well enough that nothing can come of it, and if he chooses to continue
his attentions, why, he must take the consequences--that's all.
Absurd!--a boy and girl flirtation, and to make so much of it! A
mountain of a molehill, as usual. And half the time, you only imagine
things, and don't see what is going on under your very nose. Anyone
but you, I'm sure, would find more to object to in the way young Guest
behaves than Dove."
"Maurice Guest?" said Johanna, and laid her hands with stocking and
needle on the table.
"Yes, Maurice Guest," repeated Mrs. Cayhill, with complacent mockery.
"Do you think no one has eyes but yourself?--No, Joan, you're not sharp
enough. Just look at the way he went on last night! Every one but you
could see what was the matter with him. Mrs. Tully told me about it
afterwards. Why, he never took his eyes off her."
"Oh, I'm sure you are mistaken," said Johanna earnestly, and was
silent from sheer surprise. "He has been here so seldom of late," she
added after a pause, thinking aloud.
"Just for that very reason," replied Mrs. Cayhill, with the same air
of wisdom. "A nice-minded young man stays away, if he sees that his
feelings are not returned, or if he has no position to offer.--And
another thing I'll tell you, Joan, though you do think yourself so
clever. You don't need to worry if Ephie is odd and fidgety sometimes
just now. At her age, it's only to be expected. You know very well
what I mean. All girls go through the same thing. You did yourself."
After this, she took up her book again, having, she knew, successfully
silenced her daughter, who, on matters of this nature, was extremely
Johanna went methodically on with her darning; but the new idea which
her mother had dropped into her mind, took root and grew. Strange that
it had not occurred to her before! Dove's state of mind had been
patent from the first; but she had had no suspicions of Maurice Guest.
His manner with Ephie had hitherto been that of a brother: he had never
behaved like the rest. Yet, when she looked back on his visit of the
previous evening, she could not but be struck by the strangeness of his
demeanour: his distracted silence, his efforts to speak to Ephie alone,
and the expression with which he had watched her. And Ephie?--what of her?
Now that Johanna thought of it, a change had also come over Ephie's mode
of treating Maurice; the gay insouciance of the early days had given place
to the pert flippancy which, only the night before, had so pained her
sister. What had brought about this change? Was it pique? Was Ephie
chafing, in secret, at his prolonged absences, and was she, girl-like,
anxious to conceal it from him?
Johanna gathered up her work to go to her own room and think the
matter out in private. In the passage, she ran into the arms of Mrs.
Tully, whom she disliked; for, ever since coming to the PENSION, this
lady had carried on a kind of cult with Ephie, which was distasteful
in the extreme to Johanna.
"Oh, Miss Cayhill!" she now exclaimed. "I was just groping my way--it
is indeed groping, is it not?--to your sitting-room. WHERE is your
sister? I want SO much to ask her if she will have tea with me this
afternoon. I am expecting a few friends, and should be so glad if she
would join us."
"Ephie is practising, Mrs. Tully," said Johanna in her coolest tone.
"And I cannot have her disturbed."
"She is so very, very diligent," said Mrs. Tully with enthusiasm. "I
always remark to myself on hearing her, how very idle a life like mine
is in comparison. I am able to do SO little; just a mere trifle here
and there, a little atom of good, one might say. I have no
talents.--And you, too, dear Miss Cayhill. So studious, so clever! I
hear of you on every side," and, letting her eyes rest on Johanna's
head, she wondered why the girl wore her hair so unbecomingly.
Johanna did not respond.
"If only you would let your hair grow, it would make such a difference
to your appearance," said Mrs. Tully suddenly, with disconcerting
Johanna drew herself up.
"Thanks," she said. "I have always worn my hair like this, and at my
age, have no intention of altering it," and leaving Mrs. Tully
protesting vehemently at such false modesty, she went past her, into
her own room, and shut the door.
She sat down by the window to sew. But her hands soon fell to
her lap, and with her eyes on the backs of the neighbouring houses,
she continued her interrupted reflections. First, though, she threw a
quick, sarcastic side-glance on her mother and herself. As so often
before, when she had wanted to pin her mother's attention to a
subject, the centre of interest had shifted in spite of her efforts,
and they had ended far from where they had begun: further, she,