Part 6 out of 13
Johanna, had a way, when it came to the point, not of asking advice or
of faithfully discussing a question, but of emphatically giving her
opinion, or of stating what she considered to be the facts of the
From an odd mixture of experience and self-distrust, Johanna had,
however, acquired a certain faith in her mother's opinions--these
blind, instinctive hits and guesses, which often proved right where
Johanna's carefully drawn conclusions failed. Here, once more, her
mother's idea had broken in upon her like a flash of light, even
though she could not immediately bring herself to accept it. Maurice
and Ephie! She could not reconcile the one with the other. Yet what if
the child were fretting? What if he did not care? A pang shot through
her at the thought that any outsider should have the power to make
Ephie suffer. Oh, she would make him care!--she would talk to him as he
had never been talked to in his life before.
The sisters' rooms were connected by a door; and, gradually, in spite
of her preoccupation, Johanna could not but become aware how brokenly
Ephie was practising. Coaxing, encouragement, and sometimes even
severity, were all, it is true, necessary to pilot Ephie through the
two hours that were her daily task; but as idle as to-day, she had
never been. What could she be doing? Johanna listened intently, but
not a sound came from the room; and impelled by a curiosity to observe
her sister in a new light, she rose and opened the door.
Ephie was standing with her back to it, staring out of the window, and
supporting herself on the table by her violin, which she held by the
neck. At Johanna's entrance, she started, grew very red, and hastily
raised the instrument to her shoulder.
"What are you doing, Ephie? You are wasting a great deal of time,"
said Johanna in the tone of mild reproof that came natural to her, in
speaking to her little sister. "Is anything the matter to-day? If you
don't practice better than this, you won't have the ETUDE ready by
Friday, and Herr Becker will make you take it again--for the third
"He can if he likes. I guess I don't care," said Ephie nonchantly,
and, seizing the opportunity offered for a break, she sat
down, and laid bow and fiddle on the table.
"Have you remembered everything he pointed out to you at your last
lesson?" asked Johanna, going over to the music-stand, and peering at
the pages with her shortsighted eyes. "Let me see--what was it now?
Something about this double-stopping here, and the fingering in this
Ephie laughed. "Old Joan, what do you know about it?"
"Not much, dear, I admit," said Johanna pleasantly. "But try and master
it, like a good girl. So you can get rid of it, and go on to something
Ephie sat back, clasped her hands behind her head, and gave a long
sigh. "Yes, to the next one," she said. "Oh, if you only knew how sick
I am of them, Joan! The next won't be a bit better than this. They are
all alike--a whole book of them."
Johanna looked down at the little figure with the plump, white arms,
and discontented expression; and she tried to find in the childish
face something she had previously not seen there.
"Are you tired of studying, Ephie?" she asked. "Would you like to
leave off and go away?"
"Go away from Leipzig? Where to?" Ephie did not unclasp her hands, but
her eyes grew vigilant.
"Oh, there are plenty of other places, child. Dresden--or Weimar--or
Stuttgart--where you could take lessons just as well. Or if you are
tired of studying altogether, there is no need for you to go on with
it. We can return home, any day. Sometimes, I think it would be better
if we did. You have not been yourself lately, dear. I don't think you
are very well."
"I not myself?--not well? What rubbish you talk, Joan! I am quite
well, and wish you wouldn't tease me. I guess you want to go away
yourself. You are tired of being here. But nothing shall induce me to
go. I love old Leipzig. And I still have heaps to learn before I leave
off studying.--I don't even know whether I shall be ready by spring.
It all depends. And now, Joan, go away." She took up her violin and
put it on her shoulder. "Now it's you who are wasting time. How can I
practise when you stand there talking?"
Johanna was silent. But after this, she did not venture to mention
Maurice's name; and she had turned to leave the room when she
remembered her meeting with Mrs. Tully.
"I would rather you did not go to tea, Ephie," she ended, and then
regretted having said it.
"That's another of your silly prejudices, Joan. I want to know
why you feel so about Mrs. Tully. I think she's lovely. Not that I'd
have gone anyway. I promised Maurice to go for a walk with him at
five. I know what her 'few friends' means, too--just Boehmer, and she
asks me along so people will think he comes to see me, and not her. He
sits there, and twirls his moustache, and makes eyes at her, and she
makes them back. I'm only for show. No, I shouldn't have gone. I can't
bear Boehmer. He's such a goat."
"You didn't think that as long as he came to see us," expostulated
"No, of course not. But so he only comes to see her, I do.--And
sometimes, Joan, why it's just embarrassing. The last afternoon, why,
he had a headache or something, and she made him lie on the sofa, with
a rug over him, so she could bathe his head with eau-de-cologne. I
guess she's going to marry him. And I'm not the only one. The other
day I heard Frau Walter and Frau von Baerle talking in the dining-room
after dinner, and they said the little English widow was very
"Ephie, I don't like to hear you repeat such foolish gossip," said
Johanna in real distress. "And if you can understand and remember a
word like that, you might really take more pains with your German. It
is not impossible for you to learn, you see."
"Joan the preacher, and Joan the teacher, and Joan the wise old bird,"
sang Ephie, and laughed. "I think Mrs. Tully is real kind. She's going
to show me a new way to do my hair. This style is quite out in London,
"Don't let her touch your hair. It couldn't be better than it is,"
said Johanna quickly. But Ephie turned her head this way and that, and
considered herself in the looking-glass.
Now that she knew Maurice was expected that afternoon, Johanna awaited
his arrival with impatience. Meanwhile, she believed she was not wrong
in thinking Ephie unusually excited. At dinner, where, as always, the
elderly boarders made a great fuss over her, her laughter was so loud
as to grate on Johanna's ear; but afterwards, in their own
sitting-room, a trifle sufficed to put her out of temper. A new hat
had been sent home, a hat which Johanna had not yet seen. Now that it
had come, Ephie was not sure whether she liked it or not; and all the
cries of admiration her mother and Mrs. Tully uttered, when she put it
on, were necessary to reassure her. Johanna was silent, and this
unspoken disapproval irritated Ephie.
"Why don't you say something, Joan?" she cried crossly. "I suppose you
think it's homely?"
"Frankly, I don't care for it much, dear. To my mind, it's overtrimmed."
This was so precisely Ephie's own feeling that she was more annoyed
than ever; she taunted Johanna with old-fashioned, countrified tastes;
and, in spite of her mother's comforting assurances, retired in a pet
to her own room.
That afternoon, as they sat together at tea, Mrs. Cayhill, who for
some time had considered Ephie fondly, said: "I can't understand you
thinking she isn't well, Joan. I never saw her look better."
Ephie went crimson. "Now what has Joan been saying about me?" she
Johanna had left the table, and was reading on the sofa.
"I only said what I repeated to yourself, Ephie. That I didn't think
you were looking well."
"Just fancy," said Mrs. Cayhill, laughing good-humouredly, "she was
saying we ought to leave Leipzig and go to some strange place. Even
back home to America. You don't want to go away, darling, do you?"
"No, really, Joan is too bad," cried Ephie, with a voice in which
tears and exasperation struggled for the mastery. "She always has some
new fad in her head. She can't leave us alone--never! Let her go away,
so she wants to. I won't. I'm happy here. I love being here. Even if
you both go away, I shall stop."
She got up from the table, and went to a window, where she stood
biting her lips, and paying small attention to her mother's elaborate
protests that she, too, had no intention of being moved.
Johanna did not raise her eyes from her book. She could have wept: not
only at the spirit of rebellious dislike, which was beginning to show
more and more clearly in everything Ephie said. But was no one but
herself awake to the change that was taking place in the child, day by
day? She would write to her father, without delay, and make him insist
on their returning to America.
From the moment Maurice entered the room, she did not take her eyes
off him; and, under her scrutiny, the young man soon grew nervous. He
sat and fidgeted, and found nothing to say.
Ephie was wayward: she did not think she wanted to go out; it
looked like rain. Johanna refrained from interfering; but Maurice was
most persistent: he begged Ephie not to disappoint him, and, when this
failed, said angrily that she had no business to bring him there for
such capricious whims. This treatment cowed Ephie; and she went at
once to put on her hat and jacket.
"He wants to speak to her; and she knows it; and is trying to avoid
it," said Johanna to herself; and her heart beat fast for both of
them. But she was alone with Maurice; she must not lose the chance of
sounding him a little.
"Where do you think of going for a walk?" she asked, and her voice had
an odd tone to her ears.
"Where? Oh, to the ROSENTAL--or the SCHEIBENHOLZ--or along the river.
Anywhere. I don't know."
She coughed. "Have you noticed anything strange about Ephie lately?
She is not herself. I'm afraid she is not well."
He had noticed nothing. But he did not face Johanna; and he held the
photograph he was looking at upside down.
She leaned out of the window to watch them walk along the street. At
this moment, she was fully convinced of the correctness of her
mother's assumption; and by the thought of what might take place
within the next hour, she was much disturbed. During the rest of the
afternoon, she found it impossible to settle to anything; and she
wandered from one room to another, unable even to read. But it struck
six, seven, eight o'clock; it was supper-time; and still Ephie had not
come home. Mrs. Cayhill grew anxious, too, and Johanna strained her
eyes, watching the dark street. At nine and at ten, she was pacing the
room, and at eleven, after a messenger had been sent to Maurice's
lodging and had found no one there she buttoned on her rain-cloak, to
accompany one of the servants to the police-station.
"Why did I let her go?--Oh, why did I let her go!"
Maurice and Ephie walked along the LESSINGSTRASSE without speaking--it
was a dull, mild day, threatening to rain, as it had rained the whole
of the preceding night. But Ephie was not accustomed to be silent; she
found the stillness disconcerting, and before they had gone far, shot
a furtive look at her companion. She did not intend him to see it; but
he did, and turned to her. He cleared his throat, and seemed about to
speak, then changed his mind. Something in his face, as she observed
it more nearly, made Ephie change colour and give an awkward laugh.
"I asked you before how you liked my hat," she said, with another
attempt at the airiness which, to-day, she could not command. "And you
didn't say. I guess you haven't looked at it. You're in such a hurry."
Maurice turned his head; but he did not see the hat. Instead, he
mentally answered a question Louise had put to him the day before, and
which he had then not known how to meet. Yes, Ephie was pretty,
radiantly pretty, with the fresh, unsullied charm of a flower just
"Joan was so stupid about it," she went on at random; her face still
wore its uncertain smile. "She said it was overtrimmed, and top-heavy,
and didn't become me. As if she ever wore anything that suited her!
But Joan is an old maid. She hasn't a scrap of taste. And as for you,
Maurice, why I just don't believe you know one hat from another. Men
are so stupid."
Again they went forward in silence.
"You are tiresome to-day," she said at length, and looked at him with
a touch of defiance, as a schoolgirl looks at the master with whom she
ventures to remonstrate.
"Yes, I'm a dull companion."
"Knowing it doesn't make it any better."
But she was not really cross; all other feelings were swallowed up by
the uneasiness she felt at his manner of treating her.
"Where are we going?" she suddenly demanded of him, with a
little quick upward note in her voice. "This is not the way to the
"No." He had been waiting for the question. "Ephie,"--he cleared his
throat anew. "I am taking you to see a friend--of mine."
"Is that what you brought me out for? Then you didn't want to speak to
me, as you said? Then we're not going for a walk?"
"Afterwards, perhaps. It's like this. Some one I know has been very
ill. Now that she is getting better, she needs rousing and cheering
up, and that kind of thing; and I said I would bring you to call on
her. She knows you by sight--and would like to know you personally," he
added, with a lame effort at explanation.
"Is that so?" said Ephie with sudden indifference; and her heart,
which had begun to thump at the mention of a friend, quieted down at
once. In fancy, she saw an elderly lady with shawls and a footstool,
who had been attracted by her fresh young face; the same thing had
happened to her before.
Now, however, that she knew the object of their walk, she was greatly
relieved, as if a near danger had been averted; but she had not taken
many steps forward before she was telling herself that another hope
was gone. The only thing to do was to take the matter into her own
hands; it was now or never; and simply a question of courage.
"Maurice, say, do many people go away from here in the fall?--leave
the Con., I would say?" she asked abruptly. "I mean is this a time
more people leave than in spring?"
Maurice started; he had been lost in his own thoughts, which all
centred round this meeting he had weakly agreed to arrange. Again and
again he had tried to imagine how it would fall out. But he did not
know Louise well enough to foresee how she would act; and the nearer
the time came, the stronger grew his presentiment of trouble. His
chief remaining hope was that there would be no open speaking, that
Schilsky's name would not be mentioned; and plump into the midst of
this hope fell Ephie's question. He turned on her; she coloured
furiously, and walked into a pool of water; and, at this moment,
everything was as clear to Maurice as though she had said: "Where is
be? Why has he gone?"
"Why do you ask?" he queried with unconscious sharpness. "No, Easter
is the general time for leaving. But people who play in the
PRUFUNGEN then, sometimes stay for the summer term. Why do you ask?"
"Gracious, Maurice, how tiresome you are! Must one always say why? I
only wanted to know. I missed people I used to see about, that's all."
"Yes, a number have not come back."
He was so occupied with what they were saying that he, in his turn,
stepped into a puddle, splashing the water up over her shoe. Ephie was
"Look!--look what you've done!" she cried, showing him her spikey
little shoe. "Why don't you look where you're going? How clumsy you
are!" and, in a sudden burst of illhumour: "I don't know why you're
bringing me here. It's a horrid part of the city anyway. I didn't have
any desire to come. I guess I'll turn back and go home."
"We're almost there now."
"I don't care. I don't want to go."
"But you shall, all the same. What's the matter with you to-day that
you don't know your own mind for two minutes together?"
"You didn't inquire if I wanted to come. You're just horrid, Maurice."
"And you're a capricious child."
He quickened his pace, afraid she might still escape him; and Ephie
had hard work to keep up with him. As she trotted along, a few steps
behind, there arose in her a strong feeling of resentment against
Maurice, which was all the stronger because she suspected that she was
on the brink of hearing her worst suspicions confirmed. But she could
not afford to yield to the feeling, when the last chance she had of
getting definite information was passing from her. Knitting both hands
firmly inside her muff, she asked, with an earnestness which, to one
who knew, was fatally tale-telling: "Did anyone you were acquainted
with leave, Maurice?"
"Yes," said the young man at her side, with brusque determination. He
remained untouched by the tone of appeal in which Ephie put the
question; for he himself suffered under her continued hedging. "Yes,"
he said, "some one did, and that was a man called Schilsky--a tall,
red-haired fellow, a violinist. But he has only just gone. He came
back after the vacation to settle his affairs, and say good-bye to his
friends. Is there anything else you want to know?"
He regretted the words as soon as they were out of his mouth.
After all, Ephie was such a child. He could not see her face, which
was hidden by the brim of the big hat, but there was something
pathetic in the line of her chin, and the droop of her arms and
shoulders. She seemed to shrink under his words--to grow smaller. As he
stood aside to let her pass before him, through the house-door in the
BRUDERSTRASSE, he had a quick revulsion of feeling. Instead of being
rough and cruel to her, he should have tried to win her confidence
with brotherly kindness. But he had had room in his mind for nothing
but the meeting with Louise, and now there was no more time; they were
going up the stairs. All he could do was to say gently: "I ought to
tell you, Ephie, that the person we are going to see has been very,
very ill--and needs treating with the utmost consideration. I rely on
your tact and good-feeling."
But Ephie did not reply; the colour had left her face, and for once,
the short upper-lip closed firmly on the lower one. For some minutes
amazed anger with Maurice was all she felt. Then, however, came the
knowledge of what his words meant: he knew--Maurice knew; he had seen
through her fictions; he would tell on her; there would be dreadful
scenes with Joan; there would be reproaches and recriminations; she
would be locked up, or taken away. As for what lay beyond, his
assertion that Schilsky had been there--had been and gone, without a
word to her--that was a sickening possibility, which, at present, her
mind could not grasp. She grew dizzy under these blows that rained
down on her, one after the other. And meanwhile, she had to keep up
appearances, to go on as though nothing had happened, when it seemed
impossible even to drag herself to the top of the winding flight of
stairs. She held her head down; there was a peculiar clicking in her
throat, which she could not master; she felt at every step as if she
would have to burst out crying.
At the glass of the door, and at the wizened old face that appeared
behind it, she looked with unseeing eyes; and she followed Maurice
mechanically along the passage to a door at the end.
In his agitation the young man forgot to knock; and as they entered, a
figure sprang up from the sofa-corner, and made a few impulsive steps
Maurice went over to Louise and took her hand.
"I've brought her," he said in a low tone, and with a kind of appeal
in voice and eyes, which he was not himself aware of. Louise
answered the look, and went on looking at him, as if she were fearful
of letting her eyes stray. Both turned at an exclamation from Ephie.
She was still standing where Maurice had left her, close beside the
door; but her face was flaming, and her right hand fumbled with the
"Ephie!" said Maurice warningly. He was afraid she would turn the
handle, and, going over to her, took her by the arm.
"Say, Maurice, I'm going home," she said under her breath. "I can't
stop here. Oh, why did you bring me?"
"Ssh!--be a good girl, Ephie," he replied as though speaking to a
child. "Come with me."
An inborn politeness struggled with Ephie's dread. "I can't. I don't
know her name," she whispered. But she let him draw her forward to
where Louise was standing; and she held out her hand.
"Miss--?" she said in a small voice, and waited for the name to be
Louise had watched them whispering, with a stony fare, but, at Ephie's
gesture, life came into it. Her eyes opened wide; and drawing back
from the girl's outstretched hand, yet without seeming to see it, she
turned with a hasty movement, and went over to the window, where she
stood with her back to them.
This was the last straw; Ephie dropped on a chair, and hiding her face
in her hands, burst into the tears she had hitherto restrained. Her
previous trouble was increased a hundredfold. For she had recognised
Louise at once; she felt that she was in a trap; and the person who
had entrapped her was Maurice. Holding a tiny lace handkerchief to her
eyes, she sobbed as though her heart would break.
"Don't cry, dear, don't cry," said the young man. "It's all right."
But his thoughts were with Louise. He was apprehensive of what she
might do next.
As if in answer to his fear, she crossed the room.
"Ask her to take her hands down. I want to see her face."
Maurice bent over Ephie, and touched her shoulder.
"Ephie, dear, do you hear? Look up, like a good girl, and speak to
But Ephie shook off his hand.
Over her bowed head, their eyes met; and the look Louise gave the
young man was cold and questioning. He shrugged his shoulders:
he could do nothing; and retreating behind the writing-table, he left
the two girls to themselves.
"Stand up, please," said Louise in an unfriendly voice; and as Ephie
did not obey, she made a movement to take her by the wrists.
"No, no!--don't touch me," cried Ephie, and rose in spite of herself.
"What right have you to speak to me like this?"
She could say no more, for, with a quick, unforeseen movement, Louise
took the young girl's face in both hands, and turned it up. And after
her first instinctive effort to draw back, Ephie kept still, like a
fascinated rabbit, her eyes fixed on the dark face that looked down at
Seconds passed into minutes; and the minutes seemed hours. Maurice
watched, on the alert to intervene, if necessary.
At the entrance of her visitors, Louise had been unable to see
distinctly, so stupefied was she by the thought that the person on
whom her thoughts had run, with a kind of madness, for more than
forty-eight hours, was actually in the room beside her--it was just as
though a nightmare phantom had taken bodily form. And then, too,
though she had spent each of these hours in picturing to herself what
this girl would be like, the reality was so opposed to her imagining
that, at first, she could not reconcile the differences.
Now she forced herself to see every line of the face. Nothing escaped
her. She saw how loosened tendrils of hair on neck and forehead became
little curls; saw the finely marked brows, and the dark blue veins at
the temples; the pink and white colouring of the cheeks; the small
nose, modelled as if in wax; the fascinating baby mouth, with its
short upper-lip. Like most dark, sallow women, whose own brief
freshness is past, the elder girl passionately admired such
may-blossom beauty, as something belonging to a different race from
herself. And this was not all: as she continued to look into Ephie's
face, she ceased to be herself; she became the man whose tastes she
knew better than her own; she saw with his eyes, felt with his senses.
She pictured Ephie's face, arch and smiling, lifted to his; and she
understood and excused his weakness. He had not been able to help what
had happened: this was the prettiness that drew him in, the kind he
had invariably turned to look back at, in the street--something fair
and round, adorably small and young, something to be petted and
protected, that clung, and was childishly subordinate. For her dark
sallowness, for her wilful mastery, he had only had a passing fancy.
She was not his type, and she knew it. But to have known it
vaguely, when it did not matter, and to know it at a moment like the
present, were two different things.
In a burst of despair she let her arms fall to her sides; but her
insatiable eyes gazed on; and Ephie, though she was now free, did not
stir, but remained standing, with her face raised, in a silly
fascination. And the eyes, having taken in the curves of cheeks and
chin, and the soft white throat, passed to the rounded, drooping
shoulders, to the plumpness of the girlish figure, embracing the whole
body in their devouring gaze. Ephie went hot and cold beneath them;
she felt as if her clothes were being stripped from her, and she left
standing naked. Louise saw the changing colour, and interpreted it in
her own way. His--all his! He was not the mortal--she knew it only too
well--to have this flower within his reach, and not clutch at it,
instinctively, as a child clutches at sunbeams. It would riot have
been in nature for him to do otherwise than take, greedily, without
reflection. At the thought of it, a spasm of jealousy caught her by
the throat; her hanging hands trembled to hurt this infantile
prettiness, to spoil these lips that had been kissed by his.
Maurice was at her side. "Don't hurt her," he said, and did not know
how the words came to his lips.
The spell was broken. The unnatural expression died out of her face;
she was tired and apathetic.
"Hurt her?" she repeated faintly. "No, don't be afraid. I shall not
hurt her. But if I beat her with ropes till all my strength was gone,
I couldn't hurt her as she has hurt me."
"Hush! Don't say such things."
"I? I hurt you?" said Ephie, and began to cry afresh. "How could I? I
don't even know you."
"No, you don't know me; and yet you have done me the cruellest wrong."
"Oh, no, no," sobbed Ephic. "No, indeed!"
"He was all I had--all I cared for. And you plotted, and planned, and
stole him from me--with your silly baby face."
"It's not true," wept Ephie. "How could I? I didn't know anything
about you. He . . . he never spoke of you."
Louise laughed. "Oh, I can believe that! And you thought, didn't you,
you poor little fool, that he only cared for you? That was why my name
was never mentioned. He didn't need to scheme, and contrive, and lie,
lie abominably, for fear I should come to hear what he was doing!"
"No, indeed," sobbed Ephie. "Never! And you've no right to say
such things of him."
"I no right?" Louise drew herself up. "No right to say what I like of
him? Are you going to tell me what I shall say and what I shan't of
the man I loved?--yes, and who loved me, too, but in a way you couldn't
understandyou who think all you have to do is to smile your silly
smile, and spoil another person's life. You didn't know, no, of course
not!--didn't know this was his room as well as mine. Look, his music is
still lying on the piano; that's the chair he sat in, not many days
ago; here," she took Ephie by the shoulder and drew her behind the
screen, where a small door, papered like the wall, gave, direct from
the stair-head, a second entrance to the room--" here's the door he
came in at.--For he came as he liked, whenever he chose."
"It's not true; it can't be true," said Ephie, and raised her
tear-stained face defiantly. "We are engaged--since the summer. He's
coming back to marry me soon."
"He's coming back to marry you!" echoed Louise in a blank voice. "He's
coming back to marry you!"
She moved a few steps away, and stood by the writing-table, looking
dazed, as if she did not understand. Then she laughed.
Ephie cried with renewed bitterness. "I want to go home."
But Maurice did not pay any attention to her. He was watching Louise,
with a growing dismay. For she continued to laugh, in a breathless
way, with a catch in the throat, which made the laughter sound like
sobbing. On his approaching her, she tried to check herself, but
without success. She wiped her lips, and pressed her handkerchief to
them, then took the handkerchief between her teeth and bit it. She
crossed to the window, and stood with her back to the others; but she
could not stop laughing. She went behind the low, broad screen that
divided the room, and sat down on the edge of the bed; but still she
had to laugh on. She came out again into the other part of the room,
and saw Maurice pale and concerned, and Ephie's tears dried through
pure fear; but the sight of these two made her laugh more violently
than before. She held her face in her hands, and pressed her jaws
together as though she would break them; for they shook with a nervous
convulsion. Her whole body began to shake, with the efforts she made
Ephie cowered in her seat. "Oh, Maurice, let us go. I'm so afraid,"
she implored him.
"Don't be frightened! It's all right." But he was following
Louise about the room, entreating her to regain the mastery of
herself. When he did happen to notice Ephie more closely, he said: "Go
downstairs, and wait for me there. I'll come soon."
Ephie did not need twice telling: she turned and fled. He heard the
hall-door bang behind her.
"Do try to control yourself. Miss Dufrayer--Louise! Every one in the
house will hear you."
But she only laughed the more. And now the merest trifles helped to
increase the paroxysm--the way Maurice worked his hands, Ephie's muff
lying forgotten on a chair, the landlady's inquisitive face peering in
at the door. The laugh continued, though it had become a kind of
cackle--a sound without tone. Maurice could bear it no longer. He went
up to her and tried to take her hands. She repulsed him, but he was
too strong for her. He took both her hands in his, and pressed her
down on a chair. He was not clear himself what to do next; but, the
moment he touched her, the laughter ceased. She gasped for breath; he
thought she would choke, and let her hands go again. She pressed them
to her throat; her breath came more and more quickly; her eyes closed;
and falling forward on her knees, she hid her face in the cushioned
seat of the sofa.
Then the tears came, and what tears! In all his life, Maurice had
never heard crying like this. He moved as far away from her as he
could, stood at the window, staring out and biting his lips, while she
sobbed, regardless of his presence, with the utter abandon of a child.
Like a child, too, she wept rebelliously, unchastenedly, as he could
not have believed it possible for a grown person to cry. Such grief as
this, so absolute a despair, had nothing to do with reason or the
reasoning faculties; and the words were not invented that would be
able to soothe it.
But, little by little, a change came over her crying. The rebellion
died out of it; it grew duller, and more blunted, hopeless, without
life. Her strength was almost gone. Now, however, there was another
note of childishness in it, that of complete exhaustion, which it is
so hard to hear. The tears rose to his own eyes; he would have liked
to go to her, to lay his hand on her head, and treat her tenderly, to
make her cease and be happy once more; but he did not dare. Had he
done so, she might not have repelled him; for, in all intensely
passionate grief, there comes a moment of subsidence, when the
grief and its origin are forgotten, and the one overruling desire is
the desire to be comforted, no matter who the comforter and what his
means, so long as they are masterful and strong.
She grew calmer; and soon she was only shaken at widening intervals by
a sob. Then these, too, ceased, and Maurice held his breath. But as,
after a considerable time had elapsed, she still lay without making
sound or movement, he crossed the room to look at her. She was fast
asleep, half sitting, half lying, with her head on the cushions, and
the tears wet on her cheeks. He hesitated between a wish to see her in
a more comfortable position, and an unwillingness to disturb her.
Finally, he took an eider-down quilt from the bed, and wrapped it
round her; then slipped noiselessly from the room.
It was past eight o'clock.
* * * * *
Ephie ran down the stairs as if a spectre were at her heels, and even
when in the street, did not venture to slacken her speed. Although the
dusk was rapidly passing into dark, a good deal of notice was
attracted by the sight of a well-dressed young girl running along,
holding a handkerchief to her face, and every now and then emitting a
loud sob. People stood and stared after her, and some little boys ran
with her. Instead of dropping her pace when she saw this, Ephie grew
confused, and ran more quickly than before. She had turned at random,
on coming out of the house; and she was in a part of the town she did
not know. In her eagerness to get away from people, she took any turn
that offered; and after a time she found that she had crossed the
river, and was on what was almost a country road. A little further
off, she knew, lay the woods; if once she were in their shelter, she
would be safe; and, without stopping to consider that night was
falling, she ran towards them at full speed. On the first seat she
came to she sank breathless and exhausted.
Her first sensation was one of relief at being alone. She unpinned and
took off the big, heavy hat, and laid it on the seat beside her, in
order to be more at her case; and then she cried, heartily, and
without precautions, enjoying to the full the luxury of being
unwatched and unheard. Since teatime, she seemed to have been fighting
her tears, exercising a self-restraint that was new to her and
very hard; and not to-day alone--oh, no, for weeks past, she had been
obliged to act a part. Not even in her bed at night had she been free
to indulge her grief; for, if she cried then, it made her pale and
heavy-eyed next day, and exposed her to Joan's comments. And there
were so many things to cry about: all the emotional excitement of the
summer, with its ups and downs of hope and fear; the never-ceasing
need of dissimulation; the gnawing uncertainty caused by Schilsky's
silence; the growing sense of blankness and disappointment; Joan's
suspicions; Maurice's discovery; the knowledge that Schilsky had gone
away without a word to her; and, worst of all, and most inexplicable,
the terrible visit of the afternoon--at the remembrance of the madwoman
she had escaped from, Ephie's tears flowed with renewed vigour. Her
handkerchief was soaked and useless; she held her fur tippet across
her eyes to receive the tears as they fell; and when this grew too
wet, she raised the skirt of her dress to her face. Not a sound was to
be heard but her sobbing; she was absolutely alone; and she wept on
till those who cared for her, whose chief wish was to keep grief from
her, would hardly have recognized in her the child they loved.
How long she had been there she did not know, when she was startled to
her feet by a loud rustling in the bushes behind her. Then, of a
sudden, she became aware that it was pitch-dark, and that she was all
by herself in the woods. She took to her heels, in a panic of fear,
and did not stop running till the street-lamps came into sight. When
she was under their friendly shine, and could see people walking on
the other side of the river, she remembered that she had left her hat
lying on the seat. At this fresh misfortune, she began to cry anew.
But not for anything in the world would she have ventured back to
She crossed the Pleisse and came to a dark, quiet street, where few
people were; and here she wandered up and down. It was late; at home
they would be sitting at supper now, exhausting themselves in
conjectures where she could be. Ephie was very hungry, and at the
thought of the warmth and light of the supper-table, a lump rose in
her throat. If it had been only her mother, she might have faced
her--but Joan! Home in this plight, at this hour, hatless, and with
swollen face, to meet Joan's eyes and questions!--she shivered at the
idea. Moreover, the whole PENSION would get to know what had
happened to her; she would need to bear inquisitive. looks and words;
she would have to explain, or, still worse, to invent and tell stories
again; and of what use were they now, when all was over? A feeling of
lassitude overcame her--an inability to begin fresh. All over: he would
never put his arm round her again, never come towards her, careless
and smiling, and call her his "little, little girl."
She sobbed to herself as she walked. Everything was bleak, and black,
and cheerless. She would perhaps die of the cold, and then all of
them, Joan in particular, would be filled with remorse. She stood and
looked at the inky water of the river between its stone walls. She had
read of people drowning themselves; what if she went down the steps
and threw herself in?--and she feebly fingered at the gate. But it was
locked and chained; and at the idea of her warm, soft body touching
the icy water; at the picture of herself lying drowned, with dank
hair, or, like the Christian Martyr, floating away on the surface; at
the thought of their grief, of HIM wringing his hands over her corpse,
she was so moved that she wept aloud again, and amost ran to be out of
It had begun to drizzle. Oh, how tired she was! And she was obliged
constantly to dodge impertinently staring men. In a long, wide street,
she entered a door-way that was not quite so dark as the others, and
sat down on the bottom step of the stairs. Here she must have dozed,
for she was roused by angry voices on the floor above. It sounded like
some one who was drunk; and she fled trembling back to the street.
A neighbouring clock struck ten. At this time of night, she could not
go home, even though she wished to. She was wandering the streets like
any outcast, late at night, without a hat--and her condition of
hatlessness she felt to be the chief stigma. But she was starving with
hunger, and so tired that she could scarcely drag one foot after the
other. Oh, what would they say if they knew what their poor little
Ephie was enduring! Her mother--Joan---Maurice!
Maurice! The thought of him came to her like a ray of light. It was to
Maurice she would turn. He would be good to her, and help her; he had
always been kind to her, till this afternoon. And he knew what had
happened; it would not be necessary to explain.--Oh, Maurice, Maurice!
She knew his address, if she could but find the street. A droschke
passed, and she tried to hail it; but she did not like to
advance too far out of the shadow, on account of her bare head.
Finally, plucking up courage, she inquired the way of a feather-hatted
woman, who had eyed her with an inquisitive stare.
It turned out that the BRAUSTRASSE was just round the corner; she had
perhaps been in the street already, without knowing it; and now she
found it, and the house, without difficulty. The street-door was still
open; or she would never have been bold enough to ring.
The stair was poorly lighted, and full of unsavoury smells. In her
agitation, Ephie rang on a wrong floor, and a strange man answered her
timid inquiry. She climbed a flight higher, and rang again. There was
a long and ominous pause, in which her heart beat fast; if Maurice did
not live here either, she would drop where she stood. She was about to
ring a second time, when felt slippers and an oil lamp moved along the
passage, the glass window was opened, and a woman's face peered out at
her. Yes, Herr Guest lived there, certainly, said Frau Krause, divided
between curiosity and indignation at having to rise from bed; and she
held the lamp above her head, in order to see Ephie better. But he was
not at home, and, even if he were, at this hour of night . . . The
heavy words shuffled along, giving the voracious eyes time to devour.
At the thought that her request might be denied her, Ephie's courage
took its last leap.
"Why, I must see him. I have something important to tell him. Could I
not wait?" she urged in her broken German, feeling unspeakably small
and forlorn. And yielding to a desire to examine more nearly the bare,
damp head and costly furs, Frau Krause allowed the girl to pass before
her into Maurice's room.
She loitered as long as she could over lighting the lamp that stood on
the table; and meanwhile threw repeated glances at Ephie, who, having
given one look round the shabby room, sank into a corner of the sofa
and hid her face: the coarse browed woman, in petticoat and
night-jacket, seemed to her capable of robbery or murder. And so Frau
Krause unwillingly withdrew, to await further developments outside:
the holy, smooth-faced Herr Guest was a deep one, after all.
When Maurice entered, shortly before eleven, Ephie started up from a
broken sleep. He came in pale and disturbed, for Frau Krause had met
him in the passage with angry mutterings about a FRAUENZIMMER in his
room; and his thoughts had at once leaped fearfully to Louise.
When he saw Ephie, he uttered a loud exclamation of surprise.
"Good Lord, Ephie! What on earth are you doing here?"
She sprang at his hands, and caught her breath hysterically.
"Oh, Morry, you've come at last. Oh, I thought you would never come.
Where have you been? Oh, Morry, help me--help me, or I shall die!"
"Whatever is the matter? What are you doing here?"
At his perturbed amazement, she burst into tears, still clinging fast
to his hands. He led her back to the sofa, from which she had sprung.
"Hush, hush! Don't cry like that. What's the matter, child? Tell me
what it is--at once--and let me help you."
"Oh, yes, Morry, help me, help me! There's no one else. I didn't know
where to go. Oh, what shall I do!"
Her own words sounded so pathetic that she sobbed piteously. Maurice
stroked her hand, and waited for her to grow quieter. But now that she
had laid the responsibility of herself on other shoulders, Ephie was
quite unnerved: after the dark and fearful wanderings of the evening,
to be beside some one who knew, who would take care of her, who would
tell her what to do!
She sobbed and sobbed. Only with perseverance did Maurice draw from
her, word by word, an account of where she had been that evening,
broken by such cries as: "Oh, what shall I do! I can't ever go home
again--ever! . . . and I lost my hat. Oh, Morry, Morry! And I didn't
know he had gone away--and it wasn't true what I said, that he was
coming back to marry me soon.. I only said it to spite her, because
she said such dreadful things to me. But we were engaged, all the
same; he said he would come to New York to marry me. And now . . . oh,
dear, oh, Morry! . . ."
"Then he really promised to marry you, did he?"
"Yes, oh, yes. Everything was fixed. The last day I was there," she
wept. "But I didn't know he was going away; he never said a word about
it. Oh, what shall I do! Go after him, and bring him back, Morry. He
must come back. He can't leave me like this, he can't--oh, no, indeed!"
"You don't mean to say you went to see him, Ephie?--alone?--at his
room?" queried Maurice slowly, and he did not know how sternly. "When?
How often? Tell me everything. This is no time for fibbing."
But he could make little of Ephie's sobbed and hazy version of the
story; she herself could not remember clearly now; the
impressions of the last few hours had been so intense as to obliterate
much of what had gone before. "I thought I would drown myself . . .
but the water was so black. Oh, why did you take me to that dreadful
woman? Did you hear what she said? It wasn't true, was it? Oh, it
"It was quite true, Ephie. What he told YOU wasn't true. He never
really cared for anyone but her. They were--were engaged for years."
At this, she wept so heart-rendingly that he was afraid Frau Krause
would come in and interfere.
"You MUST control yourself. Crying won't alter things now. If you had
been frank and candid with us, it would never have happened." This was
the only reproach he could make her; what came after was Johanna's
business, not his. "And now I'm going to take you home. It's nearly
twelve o'clock. Think of the state your mother and sister will be in
But at the mention of Johanna, Ephie flung herself on the sofa again
and beat the cushions with her hands.
"Not Joan, not Joan!" she wailed. "No, I won't go home. What will she
say to me? Oh, I am so frightened! She'll kill me, I know she will."
And at Maurice's confident assurance that Johanna would have nothing
but love and sympathy for her, she shook her head. "I know Joan.
She'll never forgive me. Morry, let me stay with you. You've always
been kind to me. Oh, don't send me away!"
"Don't be a silly child, Ephie. You know yourself you can't stay
But he gave up urging her, coaxed her to lie down, and sat beside her,
stroking her hair. As he said no more, she gradually ceased to sob,
and in what seemed to the young man an incredibly short time, he heard
from her breathing that she was asleep. He covered her up, and stood a
sheet of music before the lamp, to shade her eyes. In the passage he
ran up against Frau Krause, whom he charged to prevent Ephie in the
event of her attempting to leave the house.
Buttoning up his coat-collar, he hastened through the mistlike rain to
There was a light in every window of the PENSION in the
LESSINGSTRASSE; the street-door and both doors of the flat stood open.
As he mounted the stairs a confused sound of voices struck his car;
and when he entered the passage, he heard Mrs. Cayhill crying noisily.
Johanna came out to him at once; she was in hat and cloak. She
listened stonily to his statement that Ephie was safe at his lodgings,
and put no questions; but, on her returning to the sitting-room, Mrs.
Cayhill's sobs stopped abruptly, and several women spoke at once.
Johanna preserved her uncompromising attitude as they walked the
midnight streets. But as Maurice made no mien to explain matters
further, she so far conquered her aversion as to ask: "What have you
done to her?"
The young man's consternation at this view of the case was so evident
that even she felt the need of wording her question differently.
"Answer me. What is Ephie doing at your rooms?"
Maurice cleared his throat. "It's a long and unpleasant story, Miss
Cayhill. And I'm afraid I must tell it from the beginning.--You didn't
suspect, I fear, that . . . well, that Ephie had a fancy for some one
At these words, which were very different from those she had expected,
Johanna eyed him in astonishment.
"A fancy!" she repeated incredulously. "What do you mean?"
"Even more--an infatuation," said Maurice with deliberation. "And for
some one I daresay you have never even heard of--a...a man here, a
violinist, called Schilsky."
The elaborate fabric she had that day reared, fell together about
Johanna's ears. She stared at Maurice as if she doubted his sanity;
and she continued to listen, with the same icy air of disbelief, to
his stammered and ineffectual narrative, until he said that he
believed "it" had been "going on since summer."
At this Johanna laughed aloud. "That is quite impossible," she said.
"I knew everything Ephie did, and everywhere she went."
"She met him nearly every day. They exchanged letters, and-----"
"It is impossible," repeated Johanna with vehemence, but less surely.
"----and a sort of engagement seems to have existed between them."
"And you knew this and never said a word to me?"
"I didn't know--not till to-night. I only suspected something--once . . .
long ago. And l couldn't--I mean--one can't say a thing like that
without being quite sure----"
But here he broke down, conscious, as never before, of the negligence
he had been guilty of towards Ephie. And Johanna was not
likely to spare him: there was, indeed, a bitter antagonism to his
half-hearted conduct in the tone in which she said: "I stood to Ephie
in a mother's place. You might have warned me--oh, you might, indeed!"
They walked on in silence--a hard, resentful silence. Then Johanna put
the question he was expecting to hear.
"And what has all this to do with to-night?"
Maurice took up the thread of his narrative again, telling how Ephie
had waited vainly for news since returning from Switzerland, and how
she had only learnt that afternoon that Schilsky had been in Leipzig,
and had gone away again, without seeing her, or letting her know that
he did not intend to return.
"And how did she hear it?"
"At a friend's house."
"A friend of mine, a--No; I had better be frank with you: the girl
this fellow was engaged to for a year or more."
"And Ephie did not know that?"
He shook his head.
"But you knew, and yet took her there?"
It was a hopeless job to try to exonerate himself. "Yes, there were
reasons--I couldn't help it, in fact. But I'm afraid I should not be
able to make you understand."
"No, never!" retorted Johanna, and squared her shoulders.
But there was more to be said--she had worse to learn before Ephie was
handed over to her care.
"And Ephie has been very foolish," he began anew, without looking at
her. "It seems--from what she has told me tonight--that she has been to
see this man . . . been at his rooms . . . more than once."
At first, he was certain, Johanna did not grasp the meaning of what he
said; she turned a blank face curiously to him. But, a moment later,
she gave a low cry, and hardly able to form the words for excitement,
asked: "Who . . . what . . . what kind of a man was he--this . . .
"Rotten," said Maurice; and she did not press him further. He heard
her breath coming quickly, and saw the kind of stiffening that went
through her body; but she kept silence, and did not speak again till
they were almost at his house-door. Then she said, in a voice that was
hoarse with feeling: "It has been all my fault. I did not take proper
care of her. I was blind and foolish. And I shall never be able to
forgive myself for it--never. But that Ephic--my little
Ephie--the child I--that Ephie could . . . could do a thing like
this . . ." Her voice tailed off in a sob.
Maurice struck matches, to light her up the dark staircase; and the
condition of the stairs, the disagreeable smells, the poverty of wall
and door revealed, made Johanna's heart sink still further: to
surroundings such as these had Ephie accustomed herself. They entered
without noise; everything was just as Maurice had left it, except that
the lamp had burned too high and filled the room with its fumes. As
Johanna paused, undecided what to do, Ephie started up, and, at the
sight of her sister, burst into loud cries of fear. Hiding her face,
she sobbed so alarmingly that Johanna did not venture to approach her.
She remained standing beside the table, one thin, ungloved hand
resting on it, while Maurice bent over Ephie and tried to soothe her.
"Please fetch a droschke," Johanna said grimly, as Ephie's sobs showed
no signs of abating; and when, after a lengthy search in the night,
Maurice returned, she was standing in the same position, staring with
drawn, unblinking eyes at the smoky lamp, which no one had thought of
lowering. Ephie was still crying, and only Maurice might go near her.
He coaxed her to rise, wrapped his rug round her, and carried her,
more than he led her, down the stairs.
"Be good enough to drive home with us," said Johanna. And so he sat
with his arm round Ephie, who pressed her face against his shoulder,
while the droschke jolted over the cobbled streets, and Johanna held
herself pale and erect on the opposite seat. She mounted the stairs in
front of them. Ephie was limp and heavy going up; but no sooner did
she catch sight of Mrs. Cayhill than, with a cry, she rushed from the
young man's side, and threw herself into her mother's arms.
"Oh, mummy, mummy!"
Downstairs, in the rain-soaked street, Maurice found the
droschke-driver waiting for his fare. It only amounted to a couple of
marks, and it was no doubt a just retribution for what had happened
that he should be obliged to lay it out; but, none the less, it seemed
like the last straw--the last dismal touch--in a day of forlorn
A few weeks later, a great variety of cabin-trunks and saratogas
blocked the corridor of the PENSION. The addresses they bore were in
Johanna's small, pointed handwriting.
On this, the last afternoon of the Cayhills' stay in Leipzig, Maurice
saw Johanna again for the first time. She had had her hands full. In
the woods, on that damp October night, and on her subsequent
wanderings, Ephie had caught a severe cold; and the doctor had feared
an inflammation of the lungs. This had been staved off; but there was
also, it seemed, a latent weakness of the chest, hitherto unsuspected,
which kept them anxious. Ephie still had a dry, grating cough, which
was troublesome at night, and left her tired and fretful by day. They
were travelling direct to the South of France, where they intended to
remain until she had quite recovered her strength.
Maurice sat beside Johanna on the deep sofa where he and Ephie had
worked at harmony together. But the windows of the room were shut now,
and the room itself looked unfamiliar; for it had been stripped of all
the trifles and fancy things that had given it such a comfortable,
home-like air, and was only the bare, lodging-house room once more.
Johanna was as self-possessed as of old, a trifle paler, a trifle
thinner of lip.
She told him that they intended leaving quietly the next morning,
without partings or farewells. Ephie was still weak and the less
excitement she had to undergo, the better it would be for her.
"Then I shall not see Ephie again?" queried Maurice in surprise.
Johanna thought not: it would only recall the unhappy night to her
memory; besides, she had not asked to see him, as she no doubt would
have done, had she wished it.--At this, the eleventh hour, Johanna did
not think it worth while to tell Maurice that Ephie bore him an
"I never want to see him again."
That was all she said to Johanna; but, during her illness, she had
brooded long over his treachery. And even if things had come all right
in the end, she would never have been able to forgive his
speaking to her of Schilsky in the way he had done. No, she was
finished with Maurice Guest; he was too double-faced, too deceitful
for her.--And she cried bitterly, with her face turned to the wall.
The young man could not but somewhat lamely agree with Johanna that it
was better to let the matter end thus: for he felt that towards the
Cayhills he had been guilty of a breach of trust such as it is
difficult to forgive. At the same time, he was humanly hurt that Ephie
would not even say good-bye to him.
He asked their further plans, and learnt that as soon as Ephie was
well again, they would sail for New York.
"My father has cabled twice for us."
Johanna's manner was uncompromisingly dry and short. After her last
words, there was a long pause, and Maurice made a movement to rise.
But she put out her hand and detained him.
"There is something I should like to say to you." And thereupon, with
the abruptness of a nervous person: "When I have seen my sister and
mother safe back, I intend leaving home myself. I am going to
Maurice realised that the girl was telling him a fact of considerable
importance to herself, and did his best to look interested.
"Really? That's always been a wish of yours, hasn't it?"
"Yes." Johanna coloured, hesitated as he had never known her to do,
then burst out: "And now there is nothing in the way of it." She drew
her thumb across the leaf-corners of a book that was lying on the
table. "Oh, I know what you will say: how, now that Ephie has turned
out to be weak and untrustworthy, there is all the more reason for me
to remain with her, to look after her. But that is not possible." She
faced him sharply, as though he had contradicted her. "I am incapable
of pretending to be the same when my feelings have changed; and, as I
told you--as I knew that night--I shall never be able to feel for Ephie
as I did before. I am ready, as I said, to take all the blame for what
has happened; I was blind and careless. But if the care and affection
of years count for nothing; if I have been so little able to win her
confidence; if, indeed, I have only succeeded in making her dislike
me, by my care of her, so that when she is in trouble, she turns from
me, instead of to me--why, then I have failed lamentably in what I had
made the chief duty of my life."
"Besides," she continued more quietly, "there is another reason:
Ephie is going to fall a victim to her nerves. I see that; and
my poor, foolish mother is doing her best to foster it.--You smile?
Only because you do not understand what it means. It is no laughing
matter. If an American woman once becomes conscious of her nerves,
then Heaven help her!--Now I am not of a disinterested enough nature to
devote myself to sick-nursing where there is no real sickness. And
then, too, my mother intends taking a French maid back with her, and a
person of that class will perform such duties much more competently
She spoke with bitterness. Maurice mumbled some words of sympathy,
wondering why she should choose to say these things to him.
"Even at home my place is filled," continued Johanna. "The housekeeper
who was appointed during our absence has been found so satisfactory
that she will continue in the post after our return. Everywhere, you
see, I have proved superfluous. There, as here."
"I'm sure you're mistaken," said Maurice with more warmth. "And, Miss
Joan, there's something I should like to say, if I may. Don't you
think you take what has happened here a little too seriously? No doubt
Ephie behaved foolishly. But was it after all any more than a girlish
Johanna turned her shortsighted eyes on the young man, and gazed at
him almost pityingly. How little, oh, how little, she said to herself,
one mortal knew and could know of another, in spite of the medium of
speech, in spite of common experiences! Some of the nights at the
beginning of Ephie's illness returned vividly to her mind, nights,
when she, Johanna, had paced her room by the hour, filled with a
terrible dread, a numbing uncertainty, which she would sooner have
died than have let cross her lips. She had borne it quite alone, this
horrible fear; her mother had been told of the whole affair only what
it was absolutely necessary for her to know. And, naturally enough,
the young man who now sat at her side, being a man, could not be
expected to understand. But the consciousness of her isolation made
Johanna speak with renewed harshness.
"Too seriously?" she repeated. "Oh, I think not. The girlish escapade,
as you call it, was the least of it. If that had been all, if it had
only been her infatuation for some one who was unworthy of
her, I could have forgiven Ephie till seventy times seven. But, after
all these years, after the way I have loved her--no, idolised her!--for
her to treat me as she did--do you think it possible to take that too
seriously? There was no reason she should not have had her little
secrets. If she had let me see that something was going on, which she
did not want to tell me about, do you think I should have forced her?"
--and Johanna spoke in all good faith, forgetful of how she had been
used to clip and doctor Ephie's sentiments. "But that she could
deceive me wilfully, and lie so lightly, with a smile, when, all the
time, she was living a double life, one to my face and one behind my
back--that I cannot forgive. Something has died in me that I used to
feel for her. I could never trust her again, and where there is no
trust there can be no real love."
"She didn't understand what she was doing. She is so young."
"Just for that reason. So young, and so skilled in deceit. That is
hardest of all, even to think of: that she could wear her dear
innocent face, while behind it, in her brain, were cold, calculating
thoughts how she could best deceive me! If there had been but a single
sign to waken my suspicions, then, yes, then I could have forgiven
her," said Johanna, and again forgot how often of late she had been
puzzled by the subtle change in Ephie. "If I could just know that, in
spite of her efforts, she had been too candid to succeed!"
She had unburdened herself and it had been a relief to her, but
nothing could be helped or mended. Both knew this, and after a few
polite questions about her future plans and studies, Maurice rose to
take his leave.
"Say good-bye to them both for me, and give Ephie my love."
"I will. I think she will be sorry afterwards that she did not see
you. She has always liked you."
"Good-bye then. Or perhaps it is only AUF WIEDERSEHEN?"
"I hardly think so." Johanna had returned to her usual sedate manner.
"If I do visit Europe again, it will not be for five or six years at
"And that's a long time. Who knows where I may be, by then!"
He held Johanna's hand in his, and saw her gauntly slim figure
outlined against the bare sitting-room. It was not likely that they
would ever meet again. But he could not summon up any very
lively feelings of regret. Johanna had not touched him deeply; she had
left him as cool as he had no doubt left her; neither had found the
key to the other. Her chief attraction for him had been her devotion
to Ephie; and now, having been put to the test, this was found
wanting. She had been wounded in her own pride and self-love, and
could not forgive. At heart she was no more generous and unselfish
than the rest.
He repeated farewell messages as he stood in the passage. Johanna held
the front door open for him, and, as he went down the stairs, he heard
it close behind him, with that extreme noiselessness that was
characteristic of Johanna's treatment of it.
The following morning, shortly after ten o'clock, a train steamed out
of the THURINGER BAHNHOF, carrying the Cayhills with it. The day was
misty and cheerless, and none of the three travellers turned her head
to give the town a parting glance. They left unattended, without
flowers or other souvenirs, without any of the demonstratively
pathetic farewells, the waving of hats, and crowding about the
carriage-door, which one of the family, at least, had connected
inseverably with their departure. And thus Ephie's musical studies
came to an abrupt and untimely end.
* * * * *
"My faith in women is shattered. I shall never believe in a woman
Dove paced the floor of Maurice's room with long and steady strides,
beneath which a particular board creaked at intervals. His voice was
husky, and the ruddiness of his cheeks had paled.
At the outset of Ephie's illness, Dove had called every morning at the
PENSION, to make inquiries and to leave his regards. But when the
story leaked out, as it soon did, in an exaggerated and distorted
form, he straightway ceased his visits. Thus he was wholly unprepared
for the family's hurried departure, the news of which was broken to
him by Maurice. Dove was dumbfounded. Not a single sententious phrase
crossed his lips; and he remained unashamed of the moisture that
dimmed his eyes. But he maintained his bearing commendably; and it was
impossible not to admire the upright, manly air with which he walked
down the street.
The next day, however, he returned, and was silent no longer. He made
no secret of having been hard hit; just as previously he had
let his friends into his hopes and intentions, so now every one heard
of his reverses. He felt a tremendous need of unbosoming himself; he
had been so sure of success, or, at least, so unthinking of failure,
and the blow to his selfesteem was a rude one.
Maurice sat with his hands in his pockets, and tried to urge reason.
But Dove would not admit even the possibility of his having been
mistaken. He had received innumerable proofs of Ephie's regard for
"Remember how young she was! Girls of that age never know their own
minds," said Maurice. But Dove was inclined to take Johanna's sterner
view, and to cry: "So young and so untender!" for which he, too,
substituted "untrue"; and, just on this score, to deduce unfavourable
inferences for Ephie's whole moral character. As Maurice listened to
him, he could not help thinking that Johanna's affection had been of
the same nature as Dove's, in other words, had had a touch of the
masculine about it: it had existed only as long as it could guide and
subordinate; it denied to its object any midget attempt at individual
life; it set up lofty moral standards, and was implacable when a
smaller, frailer being found it impossible to live up to them.
At the same time, he was sorry for Dove, who, in his blindness, had
laid himself open to receive this snubbing; and he listened patiently,
even a thought flattered by his confidence, until he learnt from
Madeleine that Dove was making the round of his acquaintances, and
behaving in the same way to anyone who would let him. Then he found
that the openness with which Dove related his past hopes, and the
marks of affection Ephie had given him, bordered on indecency. He said
so, with a wrathful frankness; but Dove could not see it in that
light, and was not offended.
As the personal smart weakened, the more serious question that Dove
had to face was, what he was going to tell his relatives at home. For
it now came out that he had represented the affair to them as settled;
in his perfectly sincere optimism, he had regarded himself as an all
but engaged man. And the point that disturbed him was, how to back out
with dignity, yet without violating the truth, on which he set great
"I'm sure he needn't let that trouble him," said Madeleine, on hearing
of his dilemma. "He has only to say that HE has changed his mind,
which is true enough."
This was the conclusion Dove eventually came to himself--
though not with such unseemly haste as Madeleine. Having approached
the matter from all sides, he argued that it would be more considerate
to Ephie to put it in this light than to tell the story in detail. And
consequently, two elderly people in Peterborough nodded to each other
one morning over the breakfast-table, and agreed that Edward had done
well. They had not been much in favour of the American match, but they
had trusted implicitly in their son's good sense, and now, as ever, he
had acted in the most becoming way. He had never given them an hour's
uneasiness since his birth.
CIRCUMSTANCES HAVE ARISEN, MY DEAR PARENTS, WHICH MAKE IT
INCONTROVERTIBLY CLEAR TO ME THAT THE YOUNG LADY TO WHOM I WAS PAYING
MY ADDRESSES WHEN I CONSULTED YOU IN SUMMER AND MYSELF WOULD NOT HAVE
KNOWN TRUE HAPPINESS IN OUR UNION. ON MORE INTIMATE ACQUAINTANCE IT
TRANSPIRED THAT OUR CHARACTERS WERE TOTALLY UNSUITED. I HAVE THEREFORE
FOUND IT ADVISABLE TO BANISH THE AFFAIR FROM MY MIND AND TO DEVOTE
MYSELF WHOLLY TO MY STUDIES.
As time passed, and Dove was able to view what had happened more
objectively, he began to feel and even to hint that, all things
considered, he had had a rather lucky escape; and from this, it was
not very far to believing that if he had not just seen through the
whole affair from the beginning, he had at any rate had some inkling
of it; and now, instead of giving proofs of Ephie's affection, he
narrated the gradual growth of his suspicions, and how these had
ultimately been verified. In conclusion, he congratulated himself on
having drawn back, with open eyes, while there was still time.
"Like his cheek!" said Madeleine. "But he could imagine himself into
being the Shah of Persia, if he sat down and gave his mind to it. I
don't believe the snub is going to do him a bit of good. He bobs up
again like a cork, irrepressible. HAVE you heard him quote: 'Frailty
thy name is woman!' or: 'If women could be fair and yet not
fond'?--It's as good as a play."
But altogether, Madeleine was very sharp of tongue since she learnt
the part Maurice had played in what, for a day, was the scandal of the
English-speaking colony. She had taken him to task at once, for his
"Haven't I warned you, Maurice, not to mix yourself up in
Louise's affairs? No good can come of it. She breeds mischief. And if
that absurd child had really drowned herself"--in the version of the
story that had reached Madeleine's ears, Maurice was represented
fishing Ephie bodily from the river--"you would have had to bear the
whole brunt of the blame. It ought to teach you a lesson. For you're
just the kind of boy women will always take advantage of, a mean
advantage, you know. Consider how you were treated in this case--by
both of them! They were not a scrap grateful to you for what you
did--women never are. They only look down on you for letting them have
their own way. Kindness and complaisance don't move them. A
well-developed biceps and a cruel mouth--that's what they want, and
that's all!" she wound up with a flourish, in an extreme bad temper.
She sat, one dull November afternoon, at her piano, and continued to
run her fingers over the keys. Maurice leant on the lid, and listened
to her. But they had barely exchanged a word, when there was a light
tap at the door, and Krafft entered. Both started at his unexpected
appearance, and Madeleine cried: "You come in like a ghost, to
frighten people out of their wits."
Krafft was buttoned to the chin in a travelling-ulster, and looked
pale and thin.
"What news from St. Petersburg?" queried Madeleine with a certain
But Maurice recalled an errand he had to do in town; and, on hearing
this, Krafft, who was lolling aimlessly, declared that he would
"But you've only just come!" expostulated Madeleine. "What in the name
of goodness did you climb the stairs for?"
He patted her cheek, without replying.
The young men went away together, Maurice puffing somewhat
ostentatiously at a cigarette. The wind was cold, and Krafft seemed to
shrink into his ulster before it, keeping his hands deep in his
pockets. But from time to time, he threw a side-glance at his friend,
and at length asked, in the tone of appeal which Maurice found it hard
to withstand: "What's the matter, LIEBSTER? Why are you so
"The matter? Nothing--that I'm aware of," said Maurice, and considered
the tip of his cigarette.
"Oh, yes, there is," and Krafft laid a caressing hand on his
companion's arm. "You are changed. You're not frank with me. I feel
such things at once."
"Well, how on earth am I to know when to be frank with you,
and when not? Before you . . . not very long ago, you behaved as if
you didn't want to have anything more to do with me."
"You are changed, and, if I'm not mistaken, I know why," said Krafft,
ignoring his answer. "You have been listening to gossip--to what my
enemies say of me."
"I don't listen to gossip. And I didn't know you had enemies, as you
"I ?--and not have enemies?" He flared up as though Maurice had
affronted him. "My good fellow, did you ever bear of a man worth his
salt, who didn't have enemies? It's the penalty one pays: only the
dolts and the 'all-too-many' are friends with the whole world. No one
who has work to do that's worth doing, can avoid making enemies. And
who knows what a friend is, who hasn't an enemy to match him? It's a
question of light and shade, theme and counter-theme, of artistic
proportion." He laughed, in his superior way. But directly afterwards,
he dropped back into his former humble tone. "But that you, my friend,
are so ready to let yourself be influenced--I should not have believed
it of you."
"What I heard, I heard from Furst; and I have no reason to suspect him
of falsehood.--Of course, if you assure me it was not true, that's a
different thing." He turned so sharply that he sent a beautiful flush
over Krafft's face. "Come, give me your word, Heirtz, and things will
be straight again."
But Krafft merely shrugged his shoulders, and his colour subsided as
rapidly as it had risen.
"Are you still such an outsider," he asked, "after all this time--in my
society--as to attach importance to a word? What is 'giving a word'? Do
you really think it is of any value? May I not give it tonight, and
take it back to-morrow, according to the mood I am in, according to
whether I believe it myself or not, at the moment?--You think a thing
must either be true or not true? You are wrong. Do you believe, when
you answer a question in the affirmative or the negative, that you are
actually telling the truth? No, my friend, to be perfectly truthful
one would need to lose oneself in a maze of explanation, such as no
questioner would have the patience to listen to. One would need to
take into account the innumerable threads that have gone to making the
statement what it is. Do you think, for instance, if I answered yes or
no, in the present case, it would be true? If I deny what you
heard--does that tell you that I have longed with all my heart for it
to come to pass? Or say I admit it--I should need to unroll my life
before you to make you understand. No, there's no such thing as
absolute truth. If there were, the finest subtleties of existence
would be lost. There is neither positive truth nor positive untruth;
life is not so coarse-fibred as that. And only the grossest natures
can be satisfied with a blunt yes or no. Truth?--it is one of the many
miserable conventions the human brain has tortured itself with, and
its first principle is an utter lack of the imaginative faculties.--A
In the days that followed, Maurice threw himself heart and soul into
his work. He had lost ground of late, he saw it plainly now: after his
vigorous start, he had quickly grown slack. He was not, to-day, at the
stage he ought to be, and there was not a doubt but that Schwarz saw
it, too. Now that he, came to think of it, he had more than once been
aware of a studied coolness in the master's manner, of a rather
ostentatious indifference to the quality of the work he brought to the
class: and this he knew by hearsay to be Schwarz's attitude towards
those of his pupils in whom his interest was waning. If he, Maurice,
wished to regain his place in the little Pasha's favour, he must work
like a coal-heaver. But the fact was, the strenuous industry to which
he now condemned himself, was something of a relaxation after the
mental anxiety he had recently undergone; this striking of a black and
white keyboard was a pleasant, thought-deadening employment, and could
be got through, no matter what one's mood.--And so he rose early again,
and did not leave the house till he had five hours' practice behind
WER SICH DER EINSAMKEIT ERGIEBT, ACH, DER IST BALD ALLEIN: at the end
of a fortnight, Maurice smiled to find the words of Goethe's song
proved on himself. If he did not go to see his friends, none of them
came to him. Dove, who was at the stage of: "I told you so," in the
affair of the Cayhills, had found fresh listeners, who were more
sympathetic than Maurice could be expected to be: and Madeleine was up
to her ears in work, as she phrased it, with the "C minor Beethoven."
"Agility of finger equals softening of the brain" was a frequent gibe
of Krafft's; and now and then, at the close of a hard day's work,
Maurice believed that the saying contained a grain of truth. Opening
both halves of his window, he would lean out on the sill, too tired
for connected thought. But when dusk fell, he lay on the sofa, with
his arms clasped under his head, his knees crossed in the air.
At first, in his new buoyancy of spirit, he was able to keep foolish
ideas behind him, as well as to put away all recollection of the
disagreeable events he had been mixed up in of late: after
having, for weeks, borne a load that was too heavy for him, he
breathed freely once more. The responsibility of taking care of Ephie
had been removed from him--and this by far outweighed the little that
he missed her. The matter had wound up, too, in a fairly peaceable
way; all being considered, things might have been worse. So, at first,
he throve under his light-heartedness; and only now became aware how
great the strain of the past few weeks had been. His chief sensation
was relief, and also of relief at being able to feel relieved--indeed,
the moment even came when he thought it would be possible calmly to
accept the fact of Louise having left the town, and of his never being
likely to see her again.
Gradually, however, he began to be astonished at himself, and in the
background of his mind, there arose a somewhat morbid curiosity, even
a slight alarm, at his own indifference. He found it hard to
understand himself. Could his feelings, those feelings which, a week
or two ago, he had believed unalterable, have changed in so short a
time? Was his nature one of so little stability? He began to consider
himself with something approaching dismay, and though, all this time,
he had been going about on a kind of mental tiptoe, for fear of
rousing something that might be dormant in him, he now could not help
probing himself, in order to see if the change he observed were
genuine or not. And this with a steadily increasing frequency. Instead
of continuing thankful for the respite, he ultimately grew uneasy
under it. Am I a person of this weak, straw-like consistency, to be
tossed about by every wind that blows? Is there something beneath it
all that I cannot fathom?
He had not seen Louise since the night he had left her alseep, beside
the sofa; and he was resolved not to see her--not, at least, until she
wished to see him. It was much better for him that the uncertainties
of the bygone months did not begin anew; then, too, she had called him
to her when she was in trouble, and not for anything in the world
would he presume on her appeal. Besides, his presence would recall to
her the unpleasant details connected with Ephie's visit, which he
hoped she had by this time begun to forget. Thus he argued with
himself, giving several reasons where one would have served; and the
upshot of it was, that his own state of mind occupied him
His friends noticed the improvement in him; the careworn expression
that had settled down on him of late gave way to his old air
of animation; and on all the small topics of the day, he brought a
sympathetic interest to bear, such as people had ceased to expect from
him. Madeleine, in particular, was satisfied with her "boy," as she
took to calling him. She noted and checked off, in wise silence, each
inch of his progress along the road of healthy endeavour; and the
relations between them bcame almost as hearty as at the commencement
of their friendship. Privately, she believed that the events of the
past month had taught him a lesson, which he would not soon forget. It
was sufficient, however, if they had inspired him with a distrust of
Louise, which would keep him from her for the present; for Madeleine
had grounds for believing that before many weeks had passed, Louise
would have left Leipzig.
So she kept Maurice as close to her as work permitted; and as the
winter's flood of concerts set in, in full force, he accompanied her,
almost nightly, to the Old Gewandhaus or the ALBERTHALLE; for
Madeleine was an indefatigable concert-goer, and never missed a
performer of note, rarely even a first appearance at the HOTEL DE
PRUSSE or a BLUTHNER MATINEE. On the night she herself played in an
AIBENDUNTERHALTUNG, with the easily gained success that attended all
she did, Maurice went with her to the green-room, and was the first
afterwards to tell her how her performance had "gone." That same
evening she took him with her to the house of friends of hers, the
Hensels. There he met some of the best musical society of the place,
made a pleasant impression, and was invited to return.
Meanwhile, winter had set in, with extreme severity. Piercing north
winds drove down the narrow streets, and raged round the corners of
the Gewandhaus square: on emerging from the PROBE on a Wednesday
morning, one's breath was cut clean off, and the tears raced down
one's cheeks. When the wind dropped, there were hard black frosts--a
deadly, stagnant kind of cold, which seemed to penetrate every pore of
the skin and every cranny of the house. Then came the snow, which fell
for three days and nights on end, and for several nights after, so
that the town was lost under a white pall: house-entrances were with
difficulty kept free, and the swept streets were banked with walls of
snow, four and five feet high. The night-frosts redoubled their
keenness; the snow underfoot crackled like electric sparks; the
sleighs crunched the roads. But except for this, and for the tinkling
of the sleigh-bells, the streets were as noiseless as though laid with
straw, and especially while fresh snow still formed a soft
coating on the crisp layer below. All dripping water hung as icicles;
water froze in ewers and pitchers; milk froze in cans and jugs; and
this though the great stoves in the dwelling-rooms were heated to
bursting-point. Red-nosed, red-eared men, on whose beards and
moustaches the breath had turned to ice-drops, cried to one another at
street-corners that such a winter had not been known for thirty years;
and, as they spoke, they stamped their feet, and clapped their hands,
to keep the chilly blood agoing. Women muffled and veiled themselves
like Orientals, hardly showing the tips of their noses; and all manner
of strange, antiquated fur-garments saw the day. At night, if one
opened a window, and peered out at the houses crouching beneath their
thick white load, and at the deserted, snow-bound streets, over which
the street-lamps threw a pale, uncertain light--at night, familiar
things took on an unfamiliar aspect, and the well-known streets might
have been the untrodden ways that led to a new world.
Early in November, all ponds and pools were bearing, and forthwith
many hundreds of people forgot the severity of the weather, and
thronged out with their skates.
Maurice was among the first. He was a passionate skater; and it was
the one form of sport in which he excelled. As four o'clock came
round, he could contain himself no longer; he would rather have gone
without his dinner, thanhave missed, on the JOHANNATEICH, the two
hours that elapsed before the sweepers, crying: "FEIERABEND!" drove
the skaters before them, with their brooms. In a tightly buttoned
square jacket, the collar of which was turned up as far as it would
go, with the flaps of his astrachan cap drawn over his cars, his hands
in coarse woollen gloves, Maurice defied the cold, flying round the
two ponds that formed the JOHANNATEICH, or practising intricate
figures with a Canadian acquaintance in a corner.
Madeleine watched him approvingly from one of the wooden bridges that
spanned the neck connecting the ponds. She rejoiced at his glowing
face and vigorous, boyish pleasure, also at the skill that marked him
out as one of the best skaters present. For some time, Maurice tried
in vain to persuade her to join him. Madeleine, usually so confident,
was here diffident and timid. She had never in her life attempted to
skate, and was sure she would fall. And what should she do if she
broke a thumb or strained a finger?--with her PRUFUNG just before the
door. She would never have the courage to confess to Schwarz
how it had happened; for he was against "sport" in any form. But
Maurice laughed at her fears.
"There is not the least chance of your falling," he cried up to her.
"Do come down, Madeleine. Before you've gone round twice, you'll be
able to throw off all those mufflings."
Finally, she let herself be persuaded, and according to his promise,
Maurice remained at her side from the moment of her first, hesitating
steps, each of which was accompanied by a faint scream, to the time
when, with the aid of only one of his hands, she made uncertain
efforts at striking out. She did not learn quickly; but she was soon
as enthusiastic a skater as Maurice himself; and he fell into the
habit of calling for her, every afternoon, on his way to the ponds.
Dove was also of assistance in the beginning, and, as usual, was well
up in the theory of the thing, though he did not shine in practice.
"Oh, bother, never mind how you go at first. That'll come afterwards,"
said Maurice impatiently. But Dove thought the rules should be
observed from the beginning, and gave Madeleine minute instructions
how to place her feet.
Towards five o'clock, the ice grew more crowded, and especially was
this the case on Wednesdays and Saturdays, when the schools had
half-holidays. On one of these latter days, Maurice did not find
Madeleine at home; and he had been on the ponds for nearly an hour,
before he espied her on a bench beside the GARDEROBE, having her
skates put on by a blue-smocked attendant. He waved his cap to her,
and skated over.
"Why are you so late?"
"Oh, thank goodness, there you are. I should never have dared to stand
up alone in this crowd. Aren't these children awful? Get away, you
little brutes! If you touch me, I'll fall.--Here, give me change," she
said to the ice-man, holding out a twenty-pfennig piece.
Maurice saw that she was unusually excited, and as soon as he had
drawn her out of reach of the children, asked her the reason.
"I've something interesting to tell you, Maurice."
But here Dove, coming up behind, took possession of her left hand,
with no other greeting than the military salute, which, on the ice, he
adopted for all his friends, male and female, alike; and Madeleine
hastily swallowed the rest of her sentence.
They skated round the larger of the ponds several times
without stopping. The cold evening air stung their faces; the sun had
gone down in a lurid haze; Madeleine's skirts swayed behind her and
lent her a fictitious grace.
But presently she cried a halt, and while she rested in a quiet
corner, they watched Maurice doing a complicated figure, which he and
his Canadian friend had invented the day before. Dove was explaining
how it was done--"It is really not so hard as it looks"--when, with a
cry of "ACHTUNG!" some one whizzed in among them, scattered the group,
and, revolving on himself, ended with a jump in the air. It was James.
He took out his handkerchief and blew his nose, in the most
unconcerned manner possible.
"I don't think such acrobatic tricks should be allowed," said
Madeleine disapprovingly; she had been forced to grab Dove's arm to
keep her balance.
"Say, do you boys know the river has six inches and will be open
to-morrow, if it isn't to-day?" asked James, stooping to tighten a
"Is that so? Oh gee, that's fine!" cried Miss Martin, who had skated
leisurely up in his rear. "Say, you people, why don't we fix up a
party an' go up it nights? A lady in my boarding-house done that with
some folks she was acquainted with last year. Seems to me we oughtn't
to be behind."
Miss Martin was a skilled and graceful skater, and looked her best in
a dark fur hat and jacket, which set off her abundance of pale flaxen
hair. Others had followed her, and it was resolved to form a party for
the following evening, provided Dove had previously ascertained if the
river actually was "free," in order that they ran no risk of being
ignominiously turned off.
"The ice may be a bit rough, but it's a fine run to Connewitz."
"An' by moonlight, too--but say, is there a moon? Why, I presume there
ought to be," said Miss Martin.
"'Doth the moon shine that night we play our play?'" quoted Dove,
examining a tiny pocket-calendar.
"Oh gee, that's fine!" repeated Miss Martin, on hearing his answer.
"Say, we must dance a FRANCAISE. Mr. Guest, you an' I'll be partners,
I surmise," and ceasing to waltz and pirouette with James, she took a
long sweep, then stood steady, and let her skates bear her out to the
middle of the pond. Her skirts clung close in front, and swept
out behind her lithe figure, until it was lost in the crowd.
"Don't you wish YOU could skate like that?" asked the sharp-tongued
little student, called Dickensey, who was standing beside Madeleine.
Madeleine, who held him in contempt because his trousers were baggy at
the knees, and because he had once appeared at a ball in white cotton
gloves, answered with asperity that there were other things in life
besides skating. She had no further chance of speaking to Maurice in
private, so postponed telling her news till the following evening.
Shortly after eight o'clock, the next night, a noisy party whistled
and hallooed in the street below Maurice's window. He was the last to
join, and then some ten or eleven of them picked their steps along the
hard-frozen ruts of the SCHLEUSSIGER WEG, a road that followed the
river to the outskirts of the town. Just above the GERMANIABAD, a
rough scat had been erected on the ice, for the convenience of
skaters. They were the first to make use of it; the snow before it was
untrodden; and the Pleisse wound white and solitary between its banks
They set off in a higgledy-piggledy fashion, each striking out for
himself. When, however, they had passed the narrower windings, gone
under the iron bridge which was low enough to catch the unwary by the
forehead, and when the full breadth of the river was before them, they
took hands, and, forming a long line, skated in time to the songs some
one struck up, and in which all joined: THE ROSE OF SHARON, JINGLE
BELLS, THERE IS A TAVERN IN OUR TOWN. As they advanced to the corners
where the big trees trailed their naked branches on the ice, just as
in summer they sank their leaves in the water, Miss Jensen, who,
despite her proportions, was a surprisingly good skater, sent her big
voice over the snow-bound stillness in an aria from the PROPHET; and
after this, Miss Martin, no; to be done, struck up the popular
ALLERSEELEN. This was the song of the hour; they all knew it, and up
and down and across the ice rang out their voices in unison: WIE EINST
IM MAI, WIE EINST IM MAI.
Inside Wagner's WALDCAFE at Connewitz, they sat closely packed round
one of the wooden tables, and drank beer and coffee, and ate BERLINER
PFANNKUCHEN. The great iron stove was almost red-hot; the ladies threw
off their wrappings; cold faces glowed and burnt, and frozen hands
tingled. One and all were in high spirits, and the jollity
reached a climax when, having exchanged hats, James and Miss Jensen
cleared a space in the middle of the floor and danced a nigger-dance,
the lady with her skirts tucked up above her ankles. In the adjoining
room, some one began to play a concertina, and then two or three
couples stood up and danced, with much laughter and many outcries at
the narrowness of the space. Even Dove joined in, his partner being a
very pretty American, whom Miss Martin had brought with her, and whose
side Dove had not left for a moment. Only Madeleine and Dickensey sat
aloof, and for once were agreed: Americans were really "very bad
form." There was no livelier pair than Maurice and Miss Martin; the
latter's voice could be heard above all others, as she taught Maurice
new steps in a corner of the room. Her flaxen hair had partly come
loose, and she did not stop to put it up. They were the first to run
through the dark garden, past the snow-laden benches and arbours,
which, in summer, were buried in greenery; and, from the low wooden
landingplace, they jumped hand in hand on to the ice, and had shot a
long way down the river before any of the rest could follow them.
But this did not please Madeleine. As it was, she was vexed at not
having had the opportunity of a quiet word with Maurice; and when she
had laboriously skated up, with Dickensey, to the spot where, in a
bright splash of moonlight, Maurice and Miss Martin were cutting
ingenious capers, she cried to the former in a peremptory tone:
"There's something wrong with my skate, Maurice. Will you look at it,
please?" and as sharply declined Dickensey's proffered aid.
Maurice came to her side at once, and in this way she detained him.
But Dickensey hovered not far off, and Miss Martin was still in sight.
Madeleine caught her skate in a crack, fell on her knee, and said she
had now loosened the strap altogether. She sat down on a heap of snow,
and Dickensey's shade vanished good-naturedly round a corner.
"Well, YOU seem to be enjoying yourself," she said as Maurice drew off
his gloves and knelt down.
"Why, yes, aren't you?" he replied so frankly that she did not
continue the subject.
"I've been trying all the evening to get a word with you. I told you
yesterday, you remember, that I wanted to speak to you. Sit down here,
for a moment, so that we can talk in peace," and she spread part of her
skirt over the snow-heap.
Maurice complied, and she could not discover any trace of
reluctance in his manner.
"I want your advice," she continued. "I was taken quite by surprise
myself. Schwarz sent for me, you know, after counterpoint. It was
about my PRUFUNG at Easter. If I play then, it's a case of the C minor
Beethoven. Well, now he says it's a thousand pities for me to break
off just at the stage I'm at, and he wants me to stay for another
year. If I do, he'll give me the G major--that's a temptation, isn't
it? On the other hand, I shall have been here my full time--three
years--at Easter. That's a year longer than I originally intended, and
I feel I'm getting too old to be a pupil. But this talk with Schwarz
has upset my plans. I'm naturally flattered at his interesting himself
in me. He wouldn't do it for every one. And I do feel I could gain an
immense deal in another year.--Now, what do you think?"
"Why, stay, of course, Madeleine. If you can afford it, that is. I
can't imagine anyone wanting to leave."
"Oh, my capital will last so long, and it's a good enough investment."
"But wasn't a place being kept open for you in a school?"
"Yes; but I don't think a year more or less will make much difference
to them. I must sound them, of course, though," said Madeleine, and
did not mention that she had written and posted the letter the night
before. "Then you advise me to stay?"
"Why, of course," he repeated, and was mildly astonished at her. "If
everything is as smooth as you say."
"You would miss me, if I left?"
"Why, of course I should," he said again, and wondered what in the
world she was driving at.
"Well, all the better," replied Madeleine. "For when one has really
got to like a person, one would rather it made a difference than not."
She was silent after this, and sat looking down the stretch of ice
they had travelled: the moon was behind a cloud, and the woods on
either side were masses of dense black shadow. Not a soul was in
sight; the river was like a deserted highway. Madeleine stared down
it, and did not feel exactly satisfied with the result of her
investigation. She had not expected anything extraordinary--Heaven
forbid!--but she had been uncomfortably conscious of Maurice's
surprise. To her last remark, he had made no answer: be was
occupied with the screw of one of his skates.
She drew his attention to the fact that, if she remained in Leipzig
for another twelvemonth, they would finish at the same time; and
thereupon she sketched out a plan of them going somewhere together,
and starting a music-school of their own. Maurice, who thought she was
jesting, laughingly assented. But Madeleine was in earnest: "Other
people have done it--why shouldn't we? We could take a 'cellist with
us, and go to America, or Australia, or Canada--there are hundreds of
places. And there's a great deal of money in it, I'm sure. A little
capital would be needed to begin with, but not much, and I could
supply that. You've always said you dreaded going back to the English
provinces to decay--here's your chance!"
She saw the whole scheme cut and dried before her. As they, skated
after the rest, she continued to enlarge upon it, in a detailed way
that astonished Maurice. He confessed that, with a head like hers to
conduct it, such a plan stood a fair chance of success; and thus
encouraged, Madeleine undertook to make a kind of beginning at once,
by sounding some of the numerous friends she had, scattered through
America. Her idea was that they should go over together, and travel to
various places, giving concerts, and acquainting themselves, as they
did so, with the musical conditions of the towns they visited.
"And the 'cellist shall be an American--that will draw."
According to the pace at which they were skating, the others should
have remained well out of reach. But on turning a corner, they came
upon the whole party dancing a FRANCAISE--which two members whistled--on
a patch of ice that was smoother than the rest.
"Here, Guest, come along, we want you," was the cry as soon as Maurice
appeared; and, to Madeleine's deep displeasure, she was thrown on
Dove, whose skill had not sufficed. When the dancing was over, Maurice
once more found himself with Miss Martin, whom, for some distance, he
pushed before him, she standing steady on her skates, and talking to
him over her shoulder.
"That wasn't a bit pretty of you, Mr. Guest," she asserted, with her
long, slow, twanged speech. "It was fixed up yesterday, I recollect,
that you were to dance the FRANCAISE with me. Yes, indeed. An' then I
had to take up with Mr. Dove. Now Mr. Dove is just a lovely gentleman,
but he don't skate elegantly, an' he nearly tumbled me twice.
Yes, indeed. But I presume when Miss Wade says come, then you're most
obliged to go."
"How is it one don't ever see you now?" she queried a moment later.
"It isn't anyhow so pleasurable at dinner as it used to be. But I hear
you're working most hard--it's to' bad."
"It's what one comes to here."
"I guess it is. But I do like to see my friends once in a while. Say,
now, Mr. Guest, won't you drink coffee with me one afternoon? I'll
make you some real American coffee if you do, sir. What they call
coffee here don't count."
She turned, offered him her hand, and they began to skate in long,
outward curving lines.
"I think one has just a fine time here, don't you?" she continued.
"Momma, she came right with me, an' stopped a bit, till I was fixed up
in a boarding-house. But she didn't find it agreeable, no sir. She
missed America, an' presumed I would, too. When she was leaving, she
said to me: 'EI'nor Martin, if you find you can't endure it among
these Dutch, just you cable, and poppa he'll come along an' fetch you
right home,' But I'm sure I haven't desired to quit, no, not once. I
think it's just fine. But then I've gotten me so many friends I don't
ever need to feel lonesome. Why, my friend Susie Fay, she says: 'Why,
EI'nor, I guess you're acquainted with most every one in the place.'
An' I reckon she's not far out. Anyways there ain't more than two
Americans in the city I don't know. An' I see most all strangers that
come. Say, are you acquainted with Miss Moses? She's from Chicago, an'
resides in a boarding-house way down by the COLONNADEN. I got
acquainted with her yesterday. She's a lovely lady, an', why, she's
just as smart as she can be. Say, if you like, I'll invite her along,
so you can get acquainted with her too."
Maurice expressed pleasure at the prospect; and Miss Martin continued
to rattle on, with easy frankness, of herself, her family, and her
friends. He listened vaguely, with half an ear, since it was only
required of him to throw in an occasional word of assent. But suddenly
his attention was arrested, and brought headlong back to what she was
saying: in the string of names that fell from her tongue, he believed
he had caught one he knew.
"Miss Dufrayer?" he queried.
"That's it," replied his companion. "Louise Dufrayer. Well,
sir, as I was going on to remark, when first I was acquainted with
her, she was just as sweet as she could be; yes, indeed; why, she was
just dandy. But she hasn't behaved a bit pretty--I presume you heard
tell of what took place here this fall?"
"Then you know Miss Dufrayer?"
"Yes, indeed. But I don't see her any more, an' I guess I don't want
to. Not but what I've heard she feels pretty mean about it now--beg
pardon?--how I know? Why, indeed, the other day, Schwarz come in an'
told us how she's moping what she can--moping herself to death--if I
recollect, those were his very words. Yes, indeed. She don't take
lessons no more, I presume. I think she should go right away from this
city. It ain't possible to be acquainted with her any more, for all
she's so lonesome, an' one feels sort of bad about it, yes, indeed.
But momma, the last thing she said to me was: 'Now EI'nor Martin, just
keep your eyes open, an' don't get acquainted with people you might
feel bad about afterwards.' An' I presume momma was right. I don't--
Oh, say, do look at her, isn't she a peach?"--this, as her pretty
friend, with Dove in tow, came gliding up to them. "Say, Susie Fay,
are you acquainted with Mr. Guest?"
"MR. Guest. Pleased to know you," said Susie cordially; and Miss
Martin was good-natured enough to skate off with Dove, leaving Maurice
to her friend.
But afterwards, at the bench, as he was undoing Madeleine's skates, he
overheard pretty Susie remark, without much care to moderate her
voice: "Say, EI'nor Martin, that's the quietest sort of young man I've
ever shown round a district. Why, seems to me, he couldn't say 'shoh.'
Guess you shouldn't have left us, EI'nor."
And Miss Martin guessed so, too.