Part 7 out of 13
When he had seen Madeleine home, Maurice returned to his room, and not
feeling inclined to sleep, sat down to read. But his thoughts strayed;
he forgot to turn the page; and sat staring over the book at the
pattern of the tablecloth. Incidents of the evening flashed before
him: Miss Jensen, in James's hat, with her skirts pinned up; Madeleine
earnest and decisive on the bank of snow; the maze and laughter of the
FRANCAISE; Miss Martin's slim, straight figure as he pushed her before
him. He did not try to control these details, nor was he conscious of
a mental effort; they stood out for an instant, as vivid sensations,
then glided by, to make room for others. But, as he let them pass, he
became aware that below them, in depths of his mind he had believed
undisturbed, there was present a feeling of strange unhappiness, which
he did not know the cause of: these sharp pictures resembled an
attempt on the part of his mind, to deceive him as to what was really
going on in him. But he did not want to know, and he allowed his
thoughts to take wider flights: recalling the scheme Madeleine had
proposed, he considered it with a clearness of view, which, at the
time, had been impossible. From this, he turned to America itself, and
reflected on the opportunities the country offered. He saw the two of
them sweeping through vast tracts of uncultivated land, in a train
that outdid all real trains in swiftness; saw unknown tropical places,
where the yellow fruit hung low and heavy, and people walked
shadeless, sandy roads, in white hats, under white umbrellas. He saw
Madeleine and himself on the awning-spanned deck of an ocean steamer,
anchoring in a harbour where the sea was the colour of turquoise,
touched to sapphire where the mountains came down to the shore.
"Moping herself to death": the phrase crystallised in his brain with
such suddenness that he said it aloud. Now he knew what it was that
was troubling him. He had not consciously recalled the words, nor had
they even made a very incisive impression on him at the time; but they
had evidently lain dormant, now to return and to strike him, as if no
others had been said. He explained to himself what they meant.
It was this: outside, in the crisp, stinging air, people lived and
moved, busy with many matters, or sported, as he and his companions
had done that evening: inside, she sat alone, mournful, forsaken. He
saw her in the dark sofacorner, with her head on her hands. Day passed
and night passed, but she was always in the same place; and her head
was bowed so low that her white fingers were lost in the waves of her
hair. He saw her thus with the distinctness of a vision, and except in
this way could not see her at all.
He felt it little short of shameful that he should have carelessly
amused himself; and, as always where she was concerned, a deep,
unreasoning sense of his own unworthiness, filled him. He demanded of
himself, with a new energy, what he could do to help her. Fantastic
plans rose as usual in his mind, and as usual were dismissed. For the
one thing he was determined not to do, was to thrust himself on her
uncalled. Her solitude was of her own choosing, and no one had the
right to break in upon it. It was perhaps her way of doing penance;
and, at this thought, he felt a thrill of satisfaction.
At night, he consoled himself that things would seem different in the
morning; but when he wakened from a restless sleep, crowded with
dreams one more grotesque than another, he was still prone to be
gloomy. He could think more clearly by daylight--that was all: his
pitying sympathy for her had only increased. It interfered with
everything he did; just as it had formerly done--just in the old way.
And he had been on the brink of believing himself grown indifferent,
and stronger in common sense. Fool that he was! Only a word was needed
to bring his card-house down. The placidity of the past weeks had been
a mere coating of thin ice, which had given way beneath the first
test. A distrust of himself took him, a distrust so deep that it
amounted to aversion; for in his present state of mind he discerned
only a despicable weakness. But though he was thus bewildered at his
own inconsistency, he was still assured that he would not approach
Louise--not, that is, unless she sent for him. So much control he still
had over his actions: and he went so far as to make his staying away a
touchstone of his stability. This, too, although reason told him the
end of it all would be, that Louise would actually leave Leipzig,
without sending for him, or even remembering his existence.
He worked steadily enough. A skilled observer might have
remarked a slight contraction of the corners of his mouth; none of his
friends, however, noticed anything, with the exception of Madeleine,
and all she said was: "You look so cross sometimes. Is anything the
Late one afternoon, they were on the ice as usual. While Madeleine
talked to Dickensey, Maurice practised beside them. In making a
particularly complicated gyration, he all but overbalanced himself,
and his cap fell on the ice. As he was brushing the snow off it, he
chanced to raise his eyes. A number of people were standing on the
wooden bridge, watching the skaters; to the front, some children
climbed and pushed on the wooden railing. His eye was ranging
carelessly over them, when he started so violently that he again let
his cap drop. He picked it up, threw another hasty look at the bridge,
then turned and skated some distance away, where he could see without
being seen. Yes, he had not been mistaken; it was Louise; he
recognised her although a fur hat almost covered her hair. She was
gazing down, with an intentness he knew in her; one hand rested on the
parapet. And then, as he looked, his blood seemed to congeal: she was
not alone; he saw her turn and speak to some one behind her. For a
moment things swam before him. Then, a blind curiosity drove him
forward to find out whom she spoke to. People moved on the bridge,
obstructing his view, then several went away, and there was no further
hindrance to his seeing: her companion was the shabby little
Englishman, of doubtful reputation, with whom he had met her once or
twice that summer. He felt himself grow cold. But now that he had
certainty, his chief idea was to prevent the others from knowing, too;
he grew sick at the thought of Madeleine's sharp comments, and
Dickensey's cynicism. Rejoining them, he insisted--so imperiously that
Madeleine showed surprise--on their skating with him on the further
pond; and he kept them going round and round without a pause.
When the bridge was empty, and he had made sure that Louise was not
standing anywhere about the edge of the ice, he left his companions,
and, without explanation, crossed to the benches and took off his
skates. He did not, however, go home; he went into the SCHEIBENHOLZ,
and from there along outlying roads till he reached the river; and
then, screwing on his skates again, he struck out with his face to the
wind. Dusk was falling; at first he met some skaters making for home;
but these were few, and he soon left them behind. When the
state of the ice did not allow of his skating further, he plunged into
the woods again, beyond Connewitz, tumbling in his haste, tripping
over snow-bound roots, sinking kneedeep in the soft snow. His
endeavour was to exhaust himself. If he sat at home now, before this
fever was out of him, he might be tempted to knock his head against
the wall of his room. Movement, space, air--plenty of air!--that was
what he needed.
Hitherto, he had been surprised at his own conduct; now he was aghast:
the hot rush of jealousy that had swept through him at the sight of
the couple on the bridge, was a revelation even to himself. His
previous feelings had been those of a child compared with this--a mere
weak revolt against the inevitable. But what had now happened was not
inevitable; that was the sting of it: it was a violent chance-effect.
And his distress was so keen that, for the first time, she, too, had
to bear her share of blame. He said jeeringly to himself, that,
quixotic as ever, he had held aloof from her, leaving her in solitude
to an atonement of his own imagining; and meanwhile, some one who was
not troubled by foolish ideals stepped in and took his place. For it
WAS his place; he could not rid himself of that belief. If anyone had
a right to be at her side it was he, unless, indeed, all that he had
undergone on her behalf during the past months counted for nothing.
Of course this Eggis was an unscrupulous fellow; but it was just such
men as this--he might note that for future use--who won where others
lost. At the same time, he shrank from the idea of imitating him; and
even had he been bold enough, not a single errand could he devise to
serve him as an excuse. He could not go to her and say: I come because
I have seen you with some one else. And yet that would be the truth;
and it would lurk beneath all he said.
The days of anxiety that followed were hard to bear. He dreaded every
street-corner, for fear Louise and the other should turn it; dreaded
raising his eyes to the bridges over the ice; and was so irritable in
temper that Madeleine suggested he should go to Dresden in the
Christmas holidays, for change of air.
For, over all this, Christmas had come down--the season of gift-making,
and glittering Christmas trees, of BOWLE, STOLLEN, and HONIGKUCHEN.
For a fortnight beforehand, the open squares and places were set out
with fir-trees of all sizes--their pungent fragrance met one at every
turn: the shops were ablaze till late evening, crowded with
eagerly seeking purchasers; the streets were impassible for the masses
of country people that thronged them. Every one carried brown paper
parcels, and was in a hurry. As the time drew near, subordinates and
officials grew noticeably polite; the very houseporter touched his cap
at your approach. Bakers' shops were piled high with
WEIHNACHTSSTOLLEN, which were a special mark of the festival: cakes
shaped like torpedoes, whose sugared, almonded coats brisked brown and
tempting. But the spicy scent of the firs was the motive that recurred
most persistently: it clung even to the stairways of the houses.
Maurice had assisted Madeleine with her circumstantial shopping; and,
at dusk on Christmas Eve, he helped her to carry her parcels to the
house of some German friends. He himself was invited to Miss Jensen's,
where a party of English and Americans would celebrate the evening in
their own fashion; but not till eight o'clock. When he had picked out
at a confectioner's, a TORTE for the Fursts, he did not know how to
kill time. He was in an unsettled mood, and the atmosphere of
excitement, which had penetrated the familiar details of life, jarred
on him. It seemed absurdly childish, the way in which even the
grown-up part of the population surrendered itself to the sentimental
pleasures of the season. But foreigners were only big children; or, at
least, they could lay aside age and dignity at will. He felt
misanthropic, and went for a long walk; and when he had passed the
last tree-market, where poor buyers were bargaining for the poor trees
that were left, he met only isolated stragglers. In some houses, the
trees were already lighted.
On his return, he went to a flower-shop in the KONIGSPLATZ, and chose
an azalea to take to Miss Jensen. While he was waiting for the pot to
be swathed in crimped paper, his eye was caught by a large bunch of
red and yellow roses, which stood in a vase at the back of the
counter. He regarded them for a moment, without conscious thought;
then, suddenly colouring, he streched out his hand.
"I'll take those roses, too. What do they cost?"
The girl who served him--a very pretty girl, with plaits of
straw-coloured hair, wound Madonna-like round her head--named a sum
that seemed exorbitant to his inexperience, and told a wordy story of
how they had been ordered, and then countermanded at the last moment.
"A pity. Such fine flowers!"
Her interest was awakened in the rather shabby young man who
paid the price without flinching; and she threw inquisitive looks at
him as she wrapped the roses in tissue-paper.
A moment later, Maurice was in the street with the flowers in his
hand. He had acted so spontaneously that he now believed his mind to
have been made up before he entered the shop; no, more, as if all that
had happened during the past week had led straight up to his impulsive
action. Or was it only that, at the sight of the flowers, a kind of
refrain had begun to run through his head: she loves roses, loves
But he did not give himself time for reflection; he hurried through
the cold night air, sheltering the flowers under his coat. Soon he was
once more in the BRUDERSTRASSE, on the stair, every step of which,
though he had only climbed it some three or four times, he seemed to
know by heart. As, however, he waited for the door to be opened, his
heart misgave him; he was not sure how she would regard his gift, and,
in a burst of cowardice, he resolved just to hand in the roses,
without even leaving his name. But his first ring remained unanswered,
and before he rang again, he had time to be afraid she would not be at
home--a simple, but disappointing solution.
There was another pause. Then he heard sounds, steps came along the
passage, and the door was opened by Louise herself.
He was so unprepared for this that he could not collect his wits; he
thrust the flowers into her hand, with a few stammered words, and his
foot was on the stair before she could make a movement to stop him.
Louise had peered out from the darkness of the passage to the dusk of
the landing, with the air of one roused from sleep. She looked from
him to the roses in her hand, and back at him. He tried to say
something else, raised his hat, and was about to go. But, when she saw
this, she impulsively stepped towards him.
"Are they for me?" she asked. And added: "Will you not come in?
Please, come in."
At the sound of her voice, Maurice came back from the stair-head. But
it was not possible for him to stay: friends--engaged--a promise of long
"Ah then . . . of course." She retreated into the shadow of the
doorway. "But I am quite alone. There is no one in but me."
"Why, however does that happen?" Maurice asked quickly, and
was ready at once to be wrath with all the world. He paused
irresolute, with his hand on the banisters.
"I said I didn't mind. But it is lonely."
"I should think it was.--On this night of all others, too."
He followed her down the passage. In the room there was no light
except what played on the walls from the streetlamps, the blinds being
still undrawn. She had been sitting in the dark. Now, she took the
globe off the lamp, and would have lighted it, but she could not find
"Let me do it," said Maurice, taking out his own; and, over the head
of this trifling service, he had a feeling of intense satisfaction. By
the light that was cast on the table, he watched her free the roses
from their paper, and raise them to her face. She did not mention them
again, but it was ample thanks to see her touch several of them
singly, as she put them in a jug of water.
But this done, they sat on opposite sides of the table, and had
nothing to say to each other. After each banal observation he made
came a heart-rending pause; she let a subject drop as soon as it was
broached. It was over two months now since Maurice had seen her, and
he was startled by the change that had taken place in her. Her face
seemed to have grown longer; and there were hollows in the fine oval
of the cheeks, in consequence of which the nose looked larger, and
more pinched. The chin-lines were sharpened, the eyes more sunken,
while the shadows beneath them were as dark as though they were
plastered on with bistre. But it was chiefly the expression of the
face that had altered: the lifelessness of the eyes was new to it, and
the firm compression of the mouth: now, when she smiled, no thin line
of white appeared, such as he had been used to watch for.
Even more marked than this, though, was the change that had taken
place in her manner. He had known her as passionately self-assertive;
and he could not now accustom himself to the condition of apathy in
which he found her. "Moping to death" had been no exaggeration; help
was needed here, and at once, if she were not to be irretrievably
As he thought these things, he talked at random. There were not many
topics, however, that could be touched on with impunity, and he
returned more than once to the ice and the skating, as offering a kind
of neutral ground, on which he was safe. And Louise listened, and
sometimes assented; but her look was that of one who listens
to the affairs of another world. Could she not be persuaded to join
them on the JOHANNATEICH, he was asking her. What matter though she
did not skate! It was easily learned. Madeleine had been a beginner
that winter, and now seldom missed an afternoon.
"Oh, if Madeleine is there, I should not go," she said with a touch of
the old arrogance.
Then he told her of the frozen river, with its long, lonely,
grey-white reaches. Her eyes kindled at this, he fancied, and in her
answer was more of herself. "I have never trodden on ice in my life.
Oh, I should be afraid--horribly afraid!"
For those who did not skate there were chairs, he urged--big,
green-painted, sledge-like chairs, which ran smoothly. The ice was
many inches thick; there was not the least need to be afraid.
But she only smiled, and did not answer.
"Then I can't persuade you?" he asked, and was annoyed at his own
powerlessness. She can go with Eggis, he told himself, and
simultaneously spoke out the thought. "I saw you on the bridge the
But if he had imagined this would rouse her, he was wrong.
"Yes?" she said indifferently, and with that laming want of curiosity
which prevents a subject from being followed up.
They sat in silence for some seconds. With her fingers, she pulled at
the fringe of the tablecloth. Then, all of a sudden rising from her
chair, she went over to the jug of roses, which she had placed on the
writing-table, bent over the flowers with a kind of perceptible
hesitation. and as suddenly came back to her seat.
"Suppose we went to-night." she said, and for the first time looked
hard at Maurice.
"To-night?" he had echoed, before he could check himself.
"Ah yes--I forgot. You are going out."
"That's the least of it," he answered, and stood up, fearful lest she
should sink back into her former listlessness. "But it's Christmas
Eve. There wouldn't be a soul on the river but ourselves. Are you sure
you would like it?"
"Just for that reason," she replied, and wound her handkerchief in and
out of her hands, so afraid was she now that he would refuse. "I could
be ready in five minutes."
With his brain in a whirl, Maurice went back to the flowershop, and,
having written a few words of apology on a card, ordered this to be
sent with his purchase to Miss Jensen. When he returned,
Louise was ready. But he was not satisfied: she did not know how cold
it would be: and he made her put on a heavy jacket under her fur cape,
and take a silk shawl, in which, if necessary, she could muffle up her
head. He himself carried a travelling-rug for her knees.
"As if we were going on a journey!" she said, as she obeyed him. Her
eyes shone with a spark of their old light, in approval of the
adventurous nature of their undertaking.
The hard-frozen streets, over which a cutting wind drove, were
deserted. In many windows, the golden glory of the CHRISTBAUM was
visible; the steep blackness of the houses was splashed with patches
of light. At intervals, a belated holidaymaker was still to be met
with hurrying townwards: only they two were leaving the town, and its
innocent revels, behind them. Maurice had a somewhat guilty feeling
about the whole affair: they also belonged by rights to the town
to-night. He was aware, too, of a vague anxiety, which he could not
repress; and these feelings successfully prevented him taking an undue
pleasure in what was happening to him. He had swung his skates,
fetched in passing, over his shoulder; and they walked as quickly as
the slippery snow permitted. Louise had not spoken since leaving the
house; she also stood mutely by, while the astonished boatman, knocked
out in the middle of his festivities, unlocked the boat-shed where the
ice-chairs were kept. The Christmas punch had made him merry; he
multiplied words, and was even a little facetious at their expense.
According to him, a snow-storm was imminent, and he warned them not to
be late in returning.
Maurice helped Louise into the chair, and wrapped the rug round her.
If she were really afraid, as she had asserted, she did not show it.
Even after they had started, she remained as silent as before; indeed,
on looking back, Maurice thought they had not exchanged a word all the
way to Connewitz. He pushed in a kind of dream; the wind was with
them, and it was comparatively easy work; but the ice was rough, and
too hard, and there were seamy cracks to be avoided. The snow had
drifted into huge piles at the sides; and, as they advanced, it lay
unswept on their track. It was a hazily bright night, but rapid clouds
were passing. Not a creature was to be seen: had a rift opened in the
ice, and had they two gone through it, the mystery of their
disappearance would never have been solved.
Slight, upright, unfathomable as the night, Louise sat before
him. What her thoughts were on this fantastic journey, he never knew,
nor just what secret nerve in her was satisfied by it. By leaning
sideways, he could see that her eyes were fixed on the grey-white
stretch to be travelled: her warm breath came back to him; and the
coil of her hair, with its piquant odour, was so close that, by
bending, he could have touched it with his lips. But he was still in
too detached a mood to be happy; he felt, throughout, as if all this
were happening to some one else, not to him.
At their journey's end, he helped her, cold and stiff, along the snowy
path to the WALDCAFE. In a corner of the big room, which was empty,
they sat beside the stove, before cups of steaming coffee. The
landlady served them herself, and looked with the same curious
interest as the boatman at the forlorn pair.
Louise had laid her fur cap aside with her other wraps, and had drawn
off her gloves; and now she sat with her hand propping her chin. She
was still disinclined to speak; from the expression of her eyes,
Maurice judged that her thought were very far away. Sitting opposite
her, he shaded his own eyes with his hand, and scrutinised her
closely. In the stronger light of this room, he could see more plainly
than before the havoc trouble had made of her face. And yet, in spite
of the shadows that had descended on it, it was still to him the most
adorable face in the world. He could not analyse his feelings any
better now than in the beginning; but this face had exactly the same
effect upon him now as then. It seemed to be a matter of the nerves.
Nor was it the face alone: it was also the lines of throat and chin,
when she turned her head; it was the gesture with which she fingered
the knot of hair on her neck; above all, her hands, whose every
movement was full of meaning: yes, these things sent answering ripples
through him, as sound does through air.
He had stared too openly: she felt his eyes, and raised her own. For a
few seconds, they looked at each other. Then she held out her hand.
"You are my friend."
He pressed it, without replying; he could not think of anything
suitable to say; what rose to his lips was too emotional, too
tell-tale. But he made a vow that, from this day on, she should never
doubt the truth of what she said.
"You are my friend."
He would take care of her as no one had ever yet tried to do.
She might safely give herself into his charge. The unobtrusive aid
that was mingled tenderness and respect, should always be hers.
"Are you warmer now?"
He could not altogether suppress the new note that had got into his
voice. All strangeness seemed to have been swept away between them; he
was wide-awake to the fact that he was sitting alone with her, apart
from the rest of the world.
He looked at his watch: it was time to go; but she begged for a little
longer, and so they sat on for another half-hour, in the warm and
Outside, they found a leaden sky; and they had not gone far before
snow began to fall: great flakes came flying to them, smiting their
faces, stinging their eyes, melting on their lips. The wind was
against them; they were exposed to the full force of the blizzard.
Maurice pushed till he panted; but their progress was slow. At
intervals, he stopped, to shake the snow off the rug, and to enwrap
Louise afresh; and each violent gust that met him when he turned a
corner, smote him doubly; for he pictured to himself the fury with
which it must hurl itself against her, sitting motionless before it.
It took them twice as long to return; and when Louise tried to get out
of the chair, she found herself so paralysed with cold that she could
hardly stand. Blinded by the snow, she clung to Maurice's arm; he
heard her teeth chatter, as they toiled their way along the
ARNDTSTRASSE, through the thick, new snow-layer. Not a droschke was to
be seen; and they were half-way home before they met one. The driver
was drunk or asleep, and had first to be roused. Louise sank limply
into a corner.
The cab slithered and slipped over the dangerous roads, jolting them
from side to side. Maurice had laid the rug across her knees, and she
had ceased to shiver. But, by the light of a street-lamp which they
passed, he was dismayed to see that tears were running down her
"What is it? Are you so cold?--Just a little patience. We shall soon be
He took her hand, and chafed it. At this, she began to cry. He did not
know how to comfort her, and looked out of the window, scanning each
house they passed, to see if it were not the last. She was still
crying when the cab drew up. The house-key had been forgotten; there
was nothing for it but to ring for the landlady, and to stand in the
wind till she came down. The old woman was not so astonished
as Maurice had expected; but she was very wroth at the folly of the
proceeding, and did not scruple to say so.
"SO 'NE DUMMHEIT, SO 'NE DUMMHEIT!" she mumbled, as, between them,
they got Louise up the stairs; and she treated Maurice's advice
concerning cordials and hot drinks with scant courtesy.
"JA, JA--JAWOHL!" she sniffed. And, on the landing, the door was shut
in his face.
What she needed, what she had always needed, was a friend, he said to
himself. She had never had anyone to stand by her and advise her to
wisdom, in the matter of impulsive acts and wishes. He would be that
friend. He had not, it was true, made a very happy beginning, with the
expedition that had ended so unfortunately; but he promised himself
not to be led into an indiscretion of the kind again. It was a
friend's part to warn in due time, and to point out the possible
consequences of a rash act. He only excused his behaviour because he
had not seen her for over two months, and had felt too sorry for her
to refuse the first thing she asked of him. But from now on, he would
be firm. He would win her back to life--reawaken her interest in what
was going on around her. He would devote himself to serving her: not
selfishly, as others had done, with their own ends in view; the
gentle, steady aid should be hers, which he had always longed to give
her. He felt strong enough to face any contingency: it seemed, indeed,
as if his love for her had all along been aiming at this issue; as if
each of the unhappy hours he had spent, since first meeting her, was
made up for by the words: "You are my friend."
A deep sense of responsibility filled him. In obedience, however, to a
puritanic streak in his nature, he hedged himself round with
restrictions, lest he should believe he was setting out on all too
primrose a path. He erected limiting boundaries, which were not to be
overstepped. For example, on the two days that followed the memorable
Christmas Eve, he only made inquiries at the door after Louise, and
when he learned that the cold she had caught was better, did not
return. For, on one point, his mind was made up: idle tongues should
have no fresh cause for gossip.
At the expiry of a fortnight, however, he began to fear that if he
remained away any longer, she would think him indifferent to her offer
of friendship. So, late one afternoon, he called to see her. But when
he was face to face with her, he doubted whether she had given him a
thought in the interval: she seemed mildly surprised at his coming. It
was even possible that she had forgotten, by now, what she had said to
him; and he sought anew for a means of impressing himself on
She was crouched in the rocking-chair, close beside the stove, and was
wrapped in a thick woollen shawl; but the hand she gave him was as
cold as stone. She was trying to keep warm, she said; she had not been
properly warm since the night on the ice.
"But there's an easy remedy for that," said Maurice, who came in ruddy
from the sharp air. "You must go out and walk. Then you will soon get
But she shuddered at the suggestion, and also made an expressive
gesture to indicate the general laxity of her dress--the soiled
dressing-gown, her untidy hair. Then she leaned forward again, holding
both hands, palms out, to the mica pane in the door of the stove,
through which the red coals glowed.
"If only winter were over!"
He gazed at the expressive lines of hand and wrist, and was reminded
of an adoring Madonna he had somewhere seen engraved: her hands were
held back in the same way; the thumbs slightly thrown out, the three
long fingers together, the little one apart: here as there, was the
same supple, passionate indolence. But he could find no more to say
than on the occasion of his former visit; she did not help him; and
more and more did it seem to the young man as if the words he bad gone
about hugging to him, had never been spoken. After a desperate quarter
of an hour, he rose to take leave. But simultaneously, she, too, got
up from the rocking-chair, and, standing pale and uncertain before
him, asked him if she might trouble him to do something for her. A box
had been sent to her from England, she told him, while she tumbled
over the dusty letters and papers accumulated on the writing-table,
and had been lying unclaimed at the custom-house for several weeks
now--how many she did not know, and she spread out her fingers, with a
funny little movement, to show her ignorance. She had only remembered
it a day or two ago; the dues would no doubt be considerable. If it
were not too much trouble . . . she would be so grateful; she would
rather ask him than Mr. Eggis.
"I should be delighted," said Maurice.
He went the next morning, at nine o'clock, spent a trying hour with
uncivil officials, and, in the afternoon, called to report to Louise.
As he was saying good-bye to her, he inquired if there were
nothing else of a similar nature he could do for her; he was glad to
be of use. Smiling, Louise admitted that there were other things, many
of them, more than he would have patience for. She should try him and
see, said Maurice, and laid his hat down again, to hear what they
As a consequence of this, the following days saw him on various
commissions in different quarters of the town, scanning the names of
shops, searching for streets he did not know. But matters did not
always run smoothly; complications arose, for instance, over a paid
bill that had been sent in a second time, and over an earlier one that
had not been paid at all; and Maurice was forced to confess his
ignorance of the circumstances. When this had happened more than once,
he sat down, with her consent, at the writing-table, to work through
the mass of papers, and the contents of a couple of drawers.
In doing this, he became acquainted with some of the more intimate
details of her life--minute and troublesome details, for which she had
no aptitude. From her scat at the stove, Louise watched him sorting
and reckoning, and she was as grateful to him as it was possible for
her to be, in her present mood. No one had ever done a thing of the
kind for her before; and she was callous to the fact of its being a
stranger, who had his hands thus in her private life. When, horrified
beyond measure at the confusion that reigned in all belonging to her,
Maurice asked her how she had ever succeeded in keeping order, she
told him that, before her illness, there had, now and again, come a
day of strength and purpose, on which she had had the "courage" to
face these distasteful trifles and to end them. But she did not
believe such a day would ever come again.
Bills, bills, bills: dozens of bills, of varying dates, sent in once,
twice, three times, and invariably tossed aside and forgotten--a mode
of proceeding incomprehensible to Maurice, who had never bought
anything on credit in his life. And not because she was in want of
money: there were plenty of gold pieces jingling loose in a drawer;
but from an aversion, which was almost an inability, to take in what
the figures meant. And the amounts added up to alarming totals;
Maurice had no idea what a woman's dress cost, and could only stand
amazed; but the sum spent on fruit and flowers alone, in two months,
represented to his eyes a small fortune. Then there was the Bluthner,
the unused piano; the hire of it had not been paid since the
previous summer. Three terms were owed at Klemm's musical library,
from which no music was now borrowed; fees were still being charged
against her at the Conservatorium, where she had given no formal
notice of leaving. It really did not matter, she said, with that
carelessness concerning money, which was characteristic of her; but it
went against the grain in Maurice to let several pounds be lost for
want of an effort; and he spent a diplomatic half-hour with the
secretaries in the BUREAU, getting her released from paying the whole
of the term that had now begun. As, however, she would not appear
personally, she was under the necessity of writing a letter, stating
that she had left the Conservatorium; and when she had promised twice
to do, it, and it was still unwritten, Maurice stood over her, and
dictated the words into her pen. A day or two afterwards, he prevailed
upon her to do the same for Schwarz, to inform him of her illness, and
to say that, at Easter, if she were better, she would come to him for
a course of private lessons. This was an idea of Maurice's own, and
Louise looked up at him before putting down the words.
"It's not true. But if you think I should say so--it doesn't matter."
This was the burden of all she said: nothing mattered, nothing would
ever matter again. There was not the least need for the half-jesting
tone in which Maurice clothed his air of authority. She obeyed him
blindly, doing what he bade her without question, glad to be
subordinate to his will. As long as he did not ask her to think. or to
feel, or to stir from her chair beside the stove.
But it was only with regard to small practical things; in matters of
more importance she was not to be moved. And the day came, only too
soon, when the positive help Maurice could give her was at an end; she
did not owe a pfennig to anyone; her letters and accounts were filed
and in order. Then she seemed to elude him again. He did what lay in
his power: brought her books that she did not read, brought news and
scraps of chit-chat, which he thought might interest her and which did
not, and an endless store of sympathy. But to all he said and did, she
made the same response: it did not matter.
Since the night on the river, she had not set foot across the
threshold of her room; nervous fears beset her. Maurice was bent on
her going out into the open air; he also wished her to mix with people
again, and thus rid herself of the morbid fancies that were
creeping on her. But she shrank as he spoke of it, and pressed both
hands to her face: it was too cold, she murmured, and too cheerless;
and then the streets! . . . the publicity of the streets, the noise,
the people! This was what she said to him; to herself she added: and
all the old familiar places, to each of which a memory was attached!
He spent hours in urging her to take up some regular occupation; it
would be her salvation, he believed, and, not allowing himself to be
discouraged, he returned to the attack, day after day. But she only
smiled the thin smile with which she defeated most of his proposals
for her good. Work?--what had she to do with work? It had never been
anything to her but a narcotic, enabling her to get through those
hours of the day in which she was alone.
She let Maurice talk on, and hardly heard what he said. He meant well,
but he did not understand. No one understood. No one but herself knew
the weight of the burden she had borne since the day when her
happiness was mercilessly destroyed. Now she could not raise a finger
to help herself. On waking, in the morning, she turned with loathing
from the new day. In the semi-darkness of the room, she lay mo
tionless, half sleeping, or dreaming with open eyes. The clock ticked
benumbingly the long hours away; the wind howled, or the wind was
still; snow fell, or it was frostily clear; but nothing
happened--nothing at all. The day was well ad vanced before she left
her bed for the seat by the stove; there she brooded until she dragged
herself back to bed. One day was the exact counterpart of another.
The only break in the deathlike monotony was Maurice's visit. He came
in, fresh, and eager to see her; he held her hand and said kind things
to her; he talked persuasively, and she listened or not, as she felt
disposed. But little though he was able to touch her, she
unconsciously began to look to his visits; and one day, when he was
detained and could not come, she was aware of a feeling of injury at
As time went by, however, Maurice felt more and more clearly that he
was making no headway. His uneasiness increased; for her want of
spirit had something about it that he could not understand. It began
to look to him like a somewhat morbid indulgence in grief.
"This can't go on," he said sternly.
She was in one of her most pitiable moods; for there were gradations
in her unhappiness, as he had learned to know.
"This can't go on. You are killing yourself by inches--and I'm
a party to it."
For the first time, there was a hint of impatience in his manner. To
his surprise, Louise raised her head, raised it quickly, as he had not
seen her make a movement for weeks.
"By inches? Inches only? Oh, I am so strong . . . Nothing hurts me.
Nothing is of any use."
"If you look in the glass, you will see that you're hurting yourself
"You mean that I'm getting old ?--and ugly?" she caught him up. "Do you
think I care?--Oh, if I had only had the courage, that day! A few
grains of something, and it would have been all over, long ago. But I
wasn't brave enough. And now I have no more courage in me than
strength in my little finger."
Maurice looked meditatively at her, without replying: this was the
single occasion on which she had been roused to a retort of any kind;
and, bitter though her words were, he could not prevent the spark of
hope which, by their means, was lit in him.
And from this day on, things went forward of themselves. Again and
again, some harmless observation on his part drew forth a caustic
reply from her; it was as if, having once experienced it, she found an
outcry of this kind a relief to her surcharged nerves. At first, what
she said was directed chiefly against herself--this self for which she
now nursed a fanatic hatred, since it had failed her in her need. But,
little by little, he, too, was drawn within the circle of her
bitterness; indeed, it sometimes seemed as if his very kindness
incited her, by laying her under an obligation to him, which it was in
her nature to resent: at others, again, as if she merely wished to try
him, to see how far she might go.
"Do I really deserve that thrust?" he once could not help asking. He
smiled, as he spoke, to take the edge off his words.
Louise threw a penitent glance at him, and, for all answer, held out
But, the very next day, after a similar incident, she crossed the room
to him, with the swiftness of movement that was always disturbing in
her, contrasting as it did with her customary indolence. "Forgive me.
I ought not to. And you are the only friend I have. But there's so
much I must say to some one. If I don't say it, I shall go mad."
"Why, of course. That's what I'm here for," said Maurice.
And so it went on--a strange state of things, in which he never called
her by her name, and seldom touched her hand. He had himself well
under control--except for the moment immediately before he saw her, and
the moment after. He could not yet meet her, after the briefest
For a week on end that penetrating rawness had been abroad, which
precedes and accompanies a thaw; and one day, early in February, when,
after the unequalled severity of the winter, the air seemed of an
incredible mildness, the thaw was there in earnest; on the ice of more
than three months' standing, pools of water had formed overnight. By
the JOHANNATEICH, Maurice and Madeleine stood looking dubiously across
the bank of snow, which, here and there, had already collapsed,
leaving miniature crater-rings, flecked with moisture. Several people
who could not tear themselves away, were still flying about the ice,
dexterously avoiding the watery places; and Dove and pretty Susie Fay
called out to them that it was ' better than it looked. But Maurice
was fastidious and Madeleine indifferent; she was really rather tired
of skating, she admitted, as they walked home, and was ashamed to
think of the time she had wasted on it. As, however, this particular
afternoon was already broken into, she would have been glad to go for
a walk; but Maurice did not take up her suggestion, and parted from
her at her house-door.
"Spring is in the air," he sought to tempt Louise, when, a few minutes
later, he entered her room.
She, too, had been aware of the change; for it had aggravated her
dejection. She raised her eyes to his like a tired child, and had not
strength enough to make her usual stand against him. Oh, if he really
wished it so much, she would go out, she said at last. And so he left
her to dress, and ran to the Conservatorium, arriving just in time for
Later on, a curious uneasiness drew him back to see how she had fared.
It was almost dark, but she had not returned; and he waited for half
an hour before he heard her step in the hall. Directly she came in, he
knew that something was the matter.
In each of her movements was a concentrated, but noiseless energy: she
shut the door after her as if it were never to open again; tore off
rather than unpinned the thick black veil in which she had
shrouded herself; threw her hat on the sofa, furs and jacket to the
hat; then stood motionless, pressing her handkerchief to her lips. Her
face had emerged from its wrappings with renewed pallor; her eyes
shone as if with belladonna. She took no notice of the silent figure
in the corner, did not even look in his direction.
"You've got back," said Maurice, for the sake of saying something.
"It's too late."
At his words, she dropped on a chair, put her arms on the table, and
hid her face in them.
"What's the matter? Has anything happened?" he asked, in quick alarm,
as she burst into violent sobs. He should have been accustomed to her
way of crying by this time--it sounded worse than it was, as he
knew--but it invariably racked him anew. He stood over her; but the
only comfort he ventured on was to lay his hand on her hair--this wild
black hair, which met his fingers springily, with a will of its own.
"What is the matter?" he besought her. "Tell me, Louise--tell me what
He had to ask several times before he received an answer. Finally, she
sobbed in a muffled voice, without raising her head: "How could you
make me go out! Oh, how COULD you!"
"What do you mean? I don't understand. What is it?" He had visions of
her being annoyed or insulted.
But she only repeated: "How could you! Oh, it was cruel of you!" and
Word by word, Maurice drew her story from her. There was not very much
She had gone out, and had walked hurriedly along quiet by-streets to
the ROSENTAL. But before she had advanced a hundred yards, her courage
began to fail, and the further she went, the more her spirits sank.
Her surroundings were indescribably depressing: the smirched, steadily
retreating snow was leaving bare all the drab brownness it had
concealed--all the dismal little gardens, and dirty corners. Houses,
streets and people wore their most bedraggled air. Particularly the
people: they were as ugly as the areas of roof and stone, off which
the soft white coating had slid; their contours were as painful to
see. And the mud--oh, God, the mud! It spread itself over every inch of
the way; the roads were rivers of filth, which spattered and splashed;
at the sides of the streets, the slush was being swept into beds.
Before she had gone any distance, her boots and skirts were heavy with
it; and she hated mud, she sobbed--hated it, loathed it, it
affected her with a physical disgust--and this lie might have known
when he sent her out. In the ROSENTAL, it was no better; the paths
were so soaked that they squashed under her feet; on both sides, lay
layers of rotten leaves from the autumn; the trees were only a
net-work of blackened twigs, their trunks surrounded by an undergrowth
that was as ragged as unkempt hair. And everything was mouldering: the
smell of moist, earthy decay reminded her of open graves. Not a soul
was visible but herself. She sat on a seat, the only living creature
in the scene, and the past rose before her with resistless force: the
intensity of her happiness; the base cruelty of his conduct; her
misery, her unspeakable misery; her forlorn desolation, which was of a
piece with the desolation around her, and which would never again be
otherwise, though she lived to be an old woman.--How long she sat
thinking things of this kind, she did not know. But all of a sudden
she started up, frightened both by her wretched thoughts and by the
loneliness of the wood; and she fled, not looking behind her, or
pausing to take breath, till she reached the streets. Into the first
empty droschke she met, she had sunk exhausted, and been driven home.
It was of no use trying to reason with her, or to console her.
"I can't bear my life," she sobbed. "It's too hard . . . and there is
no one to help me. If I had done anything to deserve it . . . then it
would be different . . . then I shouldn't complain. But I didn't--
didn't do anything--unless it was that I cared too much. At least it
was a mistake--a dreadful mistake. I should never have shown him how I
cared: I should have made him believe he loved me best. But I was a
fool. I flung it all at his feet. And it was only natural he should
get tired of me. The wonder was that I held him so long. But, oh, how
can one care as I did, and yet be able to plot and plan? I couldn't.
It isn't in me to do it."
She wept despairingly, with her head on her outstretched arms. When
she raised it again, her tear-stained face looked out, Medusa-like,
from its setting of ruffled hair. More to herself than to the young
man, as if, on this day, secret springs had been touched in her, she
continued with terse disconnectedness: "I couldn't believe it; I
wouldn't--even when I heard it from his own lips. You thought, all of
you, that I was ill; but I wasn't; I was only trying to get used to
the terrible thought--just as a suddenly blinded man has to get used to
being always in the dark. And while I was still struggling
came Madeleine, with her cruel tongue, and told me--you know what she
told me. Oh, if his leaving me had been hard to bear, this stung like
scorpions. I wonder I didn't go mad. I should have, if you hadn't come
to help me. For a day and night, I did not move from the corner of
that sofa there. I turned her words over till there was no sense left
in them. My nails cut my palms."
Her clasped hands were slightly stretched from her: her whole attitude
betrayed the tension at which she was speaking. "Oh, my God, how I
hated him . . . hated him . . . how I hate him still! If I live to be
an old, old woman, I shall never forgive him. For, in time, I might
have learnt to bear his leaving me, if it had only been his work that
took him from me. It was always between us, as it was; but it was at
least only a pale brain thing, not living flesh and blood. But that
all the time he should have been deceiving me, taking pains to do
it--that I cannot forgive. At first, I implored, I prayed there might
be some mistake: you, too, told me there was. And I hoped against
hope--till I saw her. Then, I knew it was true-----as plainly as if it
had been written on that wall." She paused for breath, in this bitter
pleasure of laying her heart bare. "For I wasn't the person he could
always have been satisfied with--I see it now. He liked a woman to be
fair, and soft, and gentle--not dark, and hot-tempered. It was only a
phase, a fancy, that brought him to me, and it couldn't have lasted
for ever. But all I asked of him was common honesty--to be open with
me: it wasn't much to ask, was it? Not more than we expect of a
stranger in the street. But it was too much for him, all the same. And
so . . . now . . . I have nothing left to remind me that I ever knew
him. That night, when I had seen her, I burned everything--every
photograph, every scrap of writing I had ever had from him . . . if
only one could burn memories too! I had to tear my heart over it; I
used to think I felt it bleeding, drop by drop. For all the suffering
fell on me, who had done nothing. He went free."
"Are you sure of that? It may have been hard for him, too--harder than
you think." Maurice was looking out of the window, and did not turn.
She shook her head. "The person who cares, can't scheme and contrive.
He didn't care. He never really cared for me--only for himself; at
heart, he was cold and selfish. No, I paid for it all--I who hate and
shrink from pain, who would do anything to avoid it. I want to
go through life knowing only what is bright and happy; and time and
again, I am crushed and flung down. But, in all my life, I haven't
suffered like this. And now perhaps you understand, why I never want
to hear his name again, and why I shall never--not if I live to be a
hundred years old--never forgive him. It isn't in me to do it. As a
child, I ground my heel into a rose if it pricked me."
There was a silence. Then she sighed, and pushed her hair back from
forehead. "I don't know why I should say all this to you," she said
contritely. "But often, just with you, I seem to forget what I am
saying. It must be, I think, because you're so quiet yourself."
At this, Maurice turned and came over to her. "No, it's for another
reason. You need to say these things to some one. You have brooded
over them to yourself till they are magnified out of all proportion.
It's the best thing in the world for you to say them aloud." He drew
up a chair, and sat down beside her. "Listen to me. You told me once,
not very long ago, that I was your friend. Well, I want to speak to
you to-night as that friend, and to play the doctor a little as well.
Will you not go away from here, for a time?--go away and be with people
who know nothing of . . . all this--people you don't need to be afraid
of? Let yourself be persuaded. You have such a healthy nature. Give it
She looked at him with a listless forbearance. "Don't go on. I know
everything you are going to say.--That's always the way with you calm,
quiet people, who are not easily moved yourselves. You still but faith
in these trite remedies; for you've never known the ills they're
supposed to cure."
"Never mind me. It's you we have to think of. And I want you to give
my old-fashioned remedy a trial."
But she did not answer, and again a few minutes went by, before she
stretched out her hand to him. "Forget what I've said to-night. I
shall never speak of it again.--But then you, too, must promise not to
make me go out alone--to think and remember--in all the dirt and
ugliness of the streets."
And Maurice promised.
The unnatural position circumstances had forced him into, was to him
summed up in the fact that he had spoken in defence of the man he
despised above all others. Only at isolated moments was he content
with the part he played; it was wholly unlike what he had intended. He
had wished to be friend and mentor to her, and he was now both; but
nevertheless, there was something wrong about his position. It seemed
as if he had at first been satisfied with too low a place in her
esteem, ever to allow of him taking a higher one. He was conscious
that in her liking for him, there was a drop of contempt. And he
tormented himself with such a question as: should a new crisis in her
life arise, would she, now that she knows you, turn to you? And in
moments of despondency he answered no. He felt the tolerance that
lurked in her regard for him. Kindness and care on his part were not
None of his friends had an idea of what was going on. No one he knew
lived in the neighbourhood of the BRUDERSTRASSE; and, the skating at
an end, he was free to spend his time as he chose. When another brief
nip of frost occurred, he alleged pressure of work, and did not take
advantage of it.
Then, early one morning, Dove paid him a visit, with a list in his
hand. Since the night of the skating party, his acquaintances had not
seen much of Dove; for he had been in close attendance on the pretty
little American, who made no scruple of exacting his services. Now,
after some preamble, it came out that he wished to include Maurice in
a list of mutual friends, who were clubbing to give a ball--a
"Bachelors' Ball," Dove called it, since the gentlemen were to pay for
the tickets, and to invite the ladies. But Maurice, vexed at the
interruption, made it clear that he had neither time nor inclination
for an affair of this kind: he did not care a rap for dancing. And
after doing his best to persuade him, and talking round the matter for
half an hour, Dove said he did not of course wish to press anyone
against his will, and departed to disturb other people.
Maurice had also to stand fire from Madeleine; for she had counted on
his inviting her. She was first incredulous, then offended, at
his refusal: and she pooh-poohed his strongest argument--that he did
not own a dress-suit. If that was all, she knew a shop in the BRUHL,
where such things could be hired for a song.
Maurice now thought the matter closed. Not many days later, however,
Dove appeared again, with a crestfallen air. He had still over a dozen
tickets on his hands, and, at the low price fixed, unless all were
sold, the expenses of the evening would not be covered. In order to
get rid of him, Maurice bought a ticket, on the condition that he was
not expected to use it, and also suggested some fresh people Dove
might try; so that the latter went off with renewed courage on his
Maurice mentioned the incident to Louise that evening, as he mentioned
any trifle he thought might interest her. He sat on the edge of his
chair, and did not mean to stay; for he had found her on the sofa with
So far, she had listened to him with scant attention; but at this, she
raised her eyebrows.
"Then you don't care for dancing?"--she could hardly believe it.
He repeated the words he had used to Dove.
She smiled faintly, looking beyond him, at a sombre patch of sky.
"I should think not. If it were me!----" She raised her hand, and
considered her fingers.
"If it were you?--yes?"
But she did not continue.
It had been almost a spring day: that, no doubt, accounted for her
headache. Maurice made a movement to rise. But Louise turned quickly
on her side, and, in her own intense way, said: "Listen. You have the
ticket, you say? Use it, and take me with you. Will you?"
He smiled as at the whim of a child. But she was in earnest.
"No, of course not."
He tempered his answer with the same smile. But she was not pleased--he
saw that. Her nostrils tightened, and then, dilated, as they had a way
of doing when she was annoyed. For some time after, she did not speak.
But the very next day, when he was remonstrating with her over some
small duty which she had no inclination to perform, she turned on him
with an unreasonable irritation. "You only want me to do
disagreeable things. Anything that is pleasant, you set yourself
It took him a minute to grasp that she was referring to what he had
said the evening before.
"Yes, but then . . . I didn't think you were in earnest."
"Am I in the habit of saying things I don't mean? And haven't you said
yourself that I am killing myself, shut up in here?--that I must go out
and mix with people? Very well, here is my chance."
He kept silence: he did not know whether she was not mainly inspired
by a spirit of contradiction, and he was afraid of inciting her, by
resistance, to say something she would be unable to retract. "I don't
think you've given the matter sufficient thought," he said at last.
"It can't be decided offhand."
She was angry, even more with herself than with him. "Oh, I know what
you mean. You think I shall be looked askance at. As if it mattered
what people say! All my life I haven't cared, and I shall not begin
now, when I have less reason than ever before."
He did not press the subject; he hoped she would change her mind, and
thus render further discussion unnecessary. But this was not the case;
she clung to the idea, and was deaf to reason. To a certain extent, he
could feel for her; but he was too troubled by the thought of
unpleasant possibilities, not to endeavour to persuade her against it:
he knew, as she did not, how unkindly she had been spoken of; and he
was not sure whether her declared bravado was strong enough to sustain
her. But the more he reasoned, the more determined she was to have her
own way; and she took his efforts in very bad part.
"You pretend to be solicitous about me," she said one afternoon, from
her seat by the fire. "Yet when a chance of diversion comes you
begrudge it to me. You would rather I mouldered on here."
"That's not generous of you. It is only you I am thinking of--in all
this ridiculous affair."
The word stung her. "Ridiculous? How dare you say that! I'm still
young, am I not? And I have blood in my veins, not water. Well, I want
to feel it. For months now, I have been walled up in this tomb. Now I
want to live. Not--do you understand?--to go out alone, on a filthy day,
with no companion but my own thoughts. I want to dance--to
forget myself--with light and music. It's the most natural thing in the
world. Anyone but you would think so."
"It is not life you mean; it's excitement."
"What it means is that you don't want to take me.--Yes, that's what it
is. But I can get some one else. I will send for Eggis; he will have
"Why drag in that cad's name? You know very well if you do go, it will
be with me, and no one else."
A slight estrangement grew up between them. Maurice was hurt: she had
shown too openly the small value she set on his opinion. In addition
to this, he was disagreeably affected by her craving for excitement at
any cost. To his mind, there was more than a touch of impropriety in
the proceeding; it was just as if a mourner of a few months' standing
should suddenly discard his mourning, and with it all the other
decencies of grief.
She had not been entirely wrong in accusing him of unreadiness to
accompany her. When he pictured to himself the astonished faces of his
friends, he found it impossible to look forward to the event with
composure. He saw now that it would have been better to make no secret
of his friendship with Louise; so harmless was it that every one he
knew might have assisted at it; but now, the very abruptness of its
disclosure would put it in a bad light. Through Dove, he noised it
abroad that he would probably be present at the ball after all; but he
shunned Madeleine with due precaution, and could not bring himself
even to hint who his companion might be. In his heart, he still
thought it possible that Louise might change her mind at the last
moment--take fright in the end, at what she might have to face.
But the night came, and this had not happened. While he dressed
himself in the hired suit, which was too large here, too small there,
he laid a plan of action for the evening. Since it had to be gone
through with, it must be carried off in a highhanded way. He would do
what he could to make her presence in the hall seem natural; he would
be attentive, without devoting himself wholly to her; and he would
induce her to leave early.
He called for her at eight o'clock. The landlady said that Fraulein
was not quite ready, and told him to wait in the passage. But the door
of the room was ajar, and Louise herself called to him to come in.
It was comparatively dark; for she had the lamp behind the
screen, where he heard her moving about. Her skirts rustled; drawers
and cupboards were pulled noisily open. Then she came out, with the
lamp in her hand.
Maurice was leaning against the piano. He raised his eyes, and made a
step forward, to take the lamp from her. But after one swift, startled
glance, he drew back, colouring furiously. For a moment he could not
collect himself: his heart seemed to have leapt into his throat, and
there to be hammering so hard that he had no voice with which to
answer her greeting.
Owing to what he now termed his idiotic preoccupation with himself, he
had overlooked the fact that she, too, would be in evening dress.
Another thing was, he had never seen Louise in any but street-dress,
or the loose dressing-gown. Now he called himself a fool and absurd;
this was how she was obliged to be. Convention decreed it, hence it
was perfectly decorous; it was his own feelings that were unnatural,
overstrained. But, in the same breath, a small voice whispered to him
that all dresses were not like this one; also that every girl was not
of a beauty, which, thus emphasised, made the common things of life
seen poor and stale.
Louise wore a black dress, which glistened over all its surface, as if
it were sown with sparks; it wound close about her, and out behind her
on the floor. But this was only the sheath, from which rose the
whiteness of her arms and shoulders, and the full column of her
throat, on which the black head looked small. Until now, he had seen
her bared wrist--no more. Now the only break on the long arm was a band
of black velvet, which as it were insisted on the petal-white purity
of the skin, and served in place of a sleeve.
Strange thoughts coursed through the young man's mind. His first
impulse had been to avert his eyes; in this familiar room it did not
seem fitting to see her dressed so differently from the way he had
always known her. Before, however, he had followed this sensation to
an end, he made himself the spontaneous avowal that, until now, he had
never really seen her. He had known and treasured her face--her face
alone. Now he became aware that to the beautiful head belonged also a
beautiful body, that, in short, every bit of her was beautiful and
desirable. And this feeling in its turn was overcome by a painful
reflection: others besides himself would make a similar observation;
she was about to show herself to a hundred other eyes: and this struck
him as such an unbearable profanation, that he could have gone
down on his knees to her, to implore her to stay at home.
Unconscious of his embarrassment, Louise had gone to the
console-glass; and there, with the lamp held first above her head,
then placed on the console-table, she critically examined her
appearance. As if dissatisfied, she held a velvet bow to the side of
her hair, and considered the effect; she took a powderpuff, and patted
cheeks and neck with powder. Next she picked up a narrow band of
velvet, on which a small star was set, and put it round her throat.
But the clasp would not meet behind, and, having tried several times
in vain to fasten it, she gave an impatient exclamation.
"I can't get it in."
As Maurice did not offer to help her, she went out of the room with
the thing in her hand. During the few seconds she was absent, the
young man racked his brain to invent telling reasons which would
induce her not to go; but when she returned, slightly flushed at the
landlady's ready flattery, she was still so engrossed in herself, and
so unmindful of him, that he recognised once more his utter
powerlessness. He only half existed for her this evening: her manner
was as different as her dress.
She gathered her skirts high under her cloak, displaying her feet in
fur-lined snow-boots. In the turmoil of his mind, Maurice found
nothing to say as they went. But she did not notice his silence; there
was a suppressed excitement in her very walk; and she breathed in the
cold, crisp air with open lips and nostrils, like a wild animal.
"Oh, how glad I am I came! I might still have been sitting in that
dull room--when I haven't danced for years--and when I love it so!"
"I can't understand you caring about it," he said, and the few words
contained all his bitterness.
"That is only because you don't know me," she retorted, and laughed.
"Dancing is a passion with me. I have dance-rhythms in my blood, I
think.--My mother was a dancer."
He echoed her words in a helpless way, and a set of new images ran
riot in his brain. But Louise only smiled, and said no more.
They were late in arriving; dancing had already begun; the cloak-rooms
were black with coats and mantles. In the narrow passage that divided
the rooms, two Englishmen were putting on their gloves. As Maurice
changed his shoes, close to the door, he overheard one of
these men say excitedly: "By Jove, there's a pair of shoulders! Who
the deuce is it?"
Maurice knew the speaker by sight: he was a medical student, named
Herries, who, on the ice, had been conspicuous for his skill as a
skater. He had a small dark moustache, and wore a bunch of violets in
"You haven't been here long enough, old man, or you wouldn't need to
ask," answered his companion. Then he dropped his voice, and made a
somewhat disparaging remark--so low, however, but what the listener was
forced to hear it, too.
Both laughed a little. But though Maurice rose and clattered his
chair, Herries persisted, with an Englishman's supreme indifference to
the bystander: "Do you think she can dance?"
"Can't tell. Looks a trifle heavy."
"Well, I'll risk it. Come on. Let's get some one to introduce us."
The blood had rushed to Maurice's head and buzzed there: another
second, and he would have stepped out and confronted the speaker. But
the incident had passed like a flash. And it was better so: it would
have been a poor service to her, to begin the evening with an
unpleasantness. Besides, was this not what he had been bracing himself
to expect? He looked stealthily over at Louise; considering the
proximity of the rooms, it was probable that she, too, had overheard
the derogatory words. But when she had put on her gloves, she took his
arm without a trace of discomfiture.
They entered the hall at the close of a polka, and slipped unnoticed
into the train of those who promenaded. But they had not gone once
round, when they were the observed of all eyes; although he looked
straight in front of him, Maurice could see the astonished eyebrows
and open mouths that greeted their advance. At one end of the hall was
an immense mirror: he saw that Louise, who was flushed, held her head
high, and talked to him without a pause. In a kind of bravado, she
made him take her round a second time; and after the third, which was
a solitary progress, they remained standing with their backs to the
mirror. Eggis at once came up, with Herries in his train, and, on
learning that she had no programme, the latter ran off to fetch one.
Before he returned, a third man had joined them, and soon she was the
centre of a little circle. Herries, having returned with the
programme, would not give it up until he had put his initials
opposite several dances. Louise only smiled--a rather artificial smile
that had been on her lips since she entered the hall.
Maurice had fallen back, and now stood unnoticed behind the group.
Once Louise turned her head, and raised her eyebrows interrogatively;
but a feeling that was mingled pride and dismay restrained him; and
as, even when the choosing of dances was over, he did not come
forward, she walked down the hall on Herries's arm. The musicians
began to tune; Dove, as master of ceremonies, was flying about, with
his hands in gloves that were too large for him; people ranged
themselves for the lancers in lines and squares. Maurice lost sight
for a moment of the couple he was watching. As soon as the dance
began, however, he saw them again; they were waltzing to the
FRANCAISE, at the lower end of the hall.
He was driven from the corner in which he had taken refuge, by hearing
some one behind him say, in an angry whisper: "I call it positively
horrid of her to come." It was Susie Fay who spoke; through some
oversight, she had not been asked to dance. Moving slowly along,
behind the couples that began a schottische, he felt a tap on his arm,
and, looking round, saw Miss Jensen. She swept aside her ample skirts,
and invited him to a seat beside her. But he remained standing.
"You don't care for dancing?" she queried. And, when he had replied:
"Well, say, now, Mr. Guest,--we are all dying to know--however have you
gotten Louise Dufrayer along here this evening? It's the queerest
"Indeed?" said the young man drily.
"Well, maybe queer is not just the word. But, why, we all presumed she
was perfectly inconsolable--thinking only of another world. That's so.
And then you work a miracle, and out she pops, fit as can be."
"I persuaded her . . . for the sake of variety," mumbled Maurice.
Little Fauvre, the baritone, had come up; but Miss Jensen did not heed
his meek reminder that this was their dance.
"That was excessively kind of you," said the big woman, and looked at
Maurice with shrewd, good-natured eyes. "And no doubt, Louise is most
grateful. She seems to be enjoying herself. Keep quiet, Fauvre, do,
till I am ready.--But I don't like her dress. It's a lovely goods, and
no mistake. But it ain't suitable for a little hop like this. It's too
"How Miss Dufrayer dresses is none of my business."
"Well, maybe not.--Now, Fauvre, come along"--she called it "Fover." "I
reckon you think you've waited long enough."
Maurice, left to himself again, was astonished to hear Madeleine's
voice in his ear. She had made her way to him alone.
"For goodness' sake, pull yourself together," she said cuttingly.
"Every one in the hall can see what's the matter with you."
Before he could answer, she was claimed by her partner--one of the few
Germans scattered through this Anglo-American gathering. "Is zat your
brozzer?" Maurice heard him ask as they moved away. He watched them
dancing together, and found it a ridiculous sight: round Madeleine,
tall and angular, the short, stout man rotated fiercely. From time to
time they stopped, to allow him to wipe his face.
Maurice contemplated escaping from the hall to some quiet room beyond.
But as he was edging forward, he ran into Dove's arms, and that was
the end of it. Dove, it seemed, had had his eye on him. The originator
of the ball confessed that he was not having a particularly good time;
he had everything to superintend--the dances, the musicians, the
arrangements for supper. Besides this, there were at least a dozen too
many ladies present; he believed some of the men had simply given
their tickets away to girl-friends, and had let them come alone. So
far, Dove had been forced to sacrifice himself entirely, and he was
hot and impatient.
"Besides, I've routed half a dozen men out of the billiardroom, more
than once," he complained irrelevantly, wiping the moisture from his
brow. "But it's of no----Now just look at that!" he interrupted
himself. "The 'cellist has had too much to drink already, and they're
handing him more beer. Another glass, and he won't be able to play at
all.--I say, you're not dancing. My dear fellow, it really won't do.
You must help me with some of these women."
Taking Maurice by the arm, he steered him to a corner of the hall
where sat two little provincial English sisters, looking hopeless and
forlorn. Who had invited them, it was impossible to say; but no one
wished to dance with them. They were dressed exactly alike, were alike
in face, too--as like as two nuts, thought Maurice, as he bowed to
them. Their hair was of a nutty brown, their eyes were brown, and they
wore brown d resses. He led them out to dance, one after the other,
and they were overwhelmingly grateful to him. He could hardly
tell them apart; but that did not matter; for, when he took one back
to her seat, the other sat waiting for her turn.
In dancing, he was thrown together with more of his friends, and he
was not slow to catch the looks--cynical, contemptuous, amused--that
were directed at him. Some were disposed to wink, and to call him a
sly dog; others found food for malicious gossip in the way Louise had
deserted him; and, when he met Miss Martin in a quadrille, she snubbed
his advances with a definiteness that left no room for doubt.
Round dances succeeded to square dances; the musicians' playing grew
more mechanical; flowers drooped, and dresses were crushed. An
Englishman or two ran about complaining of the ventilation. As often
as Maurice saw Louise, she was with Herries. At first, she had at
least made a feint of dancing with other people; now she openly showed
her preference. Always this dapper little man, with the violets and
the simpering smile.
They were the two best dancers in the hall. Louise, in particular,
gave herself up to the rhythm of the music with an abandon not often
to be seen in a ball-room. Something of the professional about it,
said Maurice to himself as he watched her; and, in his own estimation,
this was the hardest thought he had yet had of her.
At supper, he sat between the two little sisters, whose birdlike
chatter acted upon him as a reiterated noise acts on the nerves of one
who is trying to sleep. He could hardly bring himself to answer
civilly. At the further end of the table, on the same side as he, sat
Louise. She was with those who had been her partners during the
evening. They were drinking champagne, and were very lively. Maurice
could not see her face; but her loud, excited laugh jarred on his
Afterwards, the same round was to begin afresh, except that the
sisters had generously introduced him to a friend. But when the first
dance was over, Maurice abruptly excused himself to his surprised
partner, and made his way out of the hall.
At the disordered supper-table, a few people still lingered; and
deserters were again knocking balls about the green cloth of the
billiard-table. Maurice went past them, and up a flight of stairs that
led to a gallery overlooking the hall. This gallery was in
semidarkness. At the back of it, chairs were piled one on top of the
other; but the two front rows had been left standing, from the last
concert held in the building, and here, two or three couples were
sitting out the dance. He went into the extreme corner, where it was
At last he was alone. He no longer needed to dance with girls
he did not care a jot for, or to keep up appearances. He was free to
be as wretched as he chose, and he availed himself unreservedly of the
chance. It was not only the personal slight Louise had put upon him
throughout the evening, making use of him, as it were, to the very
door, and then throwing him off: but that she could be attracted by a
mere waxen prettiness, and well-fitting clothes--for the first time,
distrust of her was added to his hurt amazement.
He had not been in his hiding-place for more than a very few minutes,
when the door he had entered by reopened, and a couple came down the
steps to the corner where he was sitting.
"Oh, there's some one there!" cried Louise at the sight of the dark
figure. "Maurice! Is it you? What are you doing here?"
"Sssh!" said Herries warningly, afraid lest her clear voice should
carry too far.
"Yes. It's me," said Maurice stiffly, and rose. "But I'm going. I
shan't disturb you."
"Disturb?" she said, and laughed a little. "Nonsense! Of course not."
From her position on Herries's arm, she looked down at him, uncertain
how to proceed. Then she laughed again. "But how fortunate that I
found you! The next is our dance, isn't it?"---she pretended to
examine her programme. "It will begin in a minute. I think I'll wait
"The next may be, but not the next again, remember," said Herries,
before he allowed her to withdraw her arm. Louise nodded and laughed.
But after the door had dosed behind Herries, she remained standing, a
step higher than Maurice, tipping her face with her handkerchief.
When she descended the step, and was on a level with him, he could see
how her eyes glittered.
"Was that lie necessary?--for me?"
"What's the matter, Maurice? Why are you like this? Why have you not
asked me to dance?"
He was unpleasantly worked on by her free use of his name.
"I, you? Have I had a chance?"
"Wasn't it for you to make the chance? Or did you expect me to come to
you: Mr. Guest, will you do me the honour of dancing with me?--Oh,
please, don't be cross. Don't spoil my pleasure--for this one night at
But she laughed again as she spoke, as though she did not fear
his power to do so, and laid her hand on his arm: and, at her touch,
he seemed to feel through sleeve and glove, the superabundance of
vitality that was throbbing in her this evening. She was unable to be
still for a moment; in the delicate pallor of her face, her eyes
burned, black as jet.
"Are you really enjoying yourself so much? What CAN you find in it
"Come--come down and dance. Listen!--can you resist that music? Quick,
let us go down."
"I dance badly. I'm not Herries."
"But I can suit my step to anyone's. Won't you dance with me?--when I
She had been leaning forward, looking over the balustrade at the
couples arranging themselves below. Now she turned, and put her arm
They went down the stairs, into the hall. Close beside the door at
which they entered, they began to dance.
In all these months, Maurice had scarcely touched her hand. Now
convention required that he should take her in his arms: he had
complete control over her, could draw her closer, or put her further
away, as he chose. For the first round or two, this was enough to
occupy him entirely: the proximity of the lithe body, the nearness of
the dark head, the firm, warm resistance that her back offered to his
They were dancing to the music of the WIENER BLUT, most melancholy gay
of waltzes, in which the long, legato, upward sweep of the violins
says as plainly as in words that all is vanity. But with the passing
of the players to the second theme, the melody made a more direct
appeal: there was a passionate unrest in it, which disquieted all who
heard if. The dancers, with flushed cheeks and fixed eyes, responded
instinctively to its challenge: the lapidary swing with which they
followed the rhythm became less circumspect; and a desire to dance
till they could dance no more, took possession of those who were
fanatic. No one yielded to the impulse more readily than Louise; she
was quite carried away. Maurice felt the change in her; an uneasiness
seized him, and increased with every turn. She had all but closed her
eyes; her hair brushed his shoulder; she answered to the lightest
pressure of his arm. Even her face looked strange to him: its
expression, its individuality, all that made it hers, was as if wiped
out. Involuntarily he straightened himself, and his own movements grew
stiffer, in his effort to impart to her some of his own restraint. But
it was useless. And, as they turned and turned, to the
maddening music, cold spots broke out on his forehead: in this manner
she had danced with all her previous partners, and would dance with
those to come. Such a pang of jealousy shot through him at the thought
that, without knowing what he was doing, he pulled her sharply to him.
And she yielded to the tightened embrace as a matter of course.
With a jerk he stopped dancing and loosened his hold of her.
She stood and blinked at lights and people: she had been far away, in
a world of melody and motion, and could not come back to herself all
at once. Wonderingly she looked at Maurice; for the music was going
on, and no one else had left off dancing; and, with the same of
comprehension, but still too dazed to resist, she followed him up the
"It's easy to see you don't care for dancing," she said, when they
were back in the corner of the gallery. Her breath came unsteadily,
and again she touched her face with the small, scented handkerchief.
"No. Not dancing like that," he answered rudely. But now again, as so
often before, directly it was put into words, his feeling seemed
strained and puritanic.
Louise leaned forward in her seat to look into his face.
"Like what?--what do you mean? Oh, you foolish boy, what is the matter
with you to-night? You will tell me next I can't dance."
"You dance only too well."
"But you would rather I was a wooden doll--is that it How is one to
please you? First you are vexed with me because YOU did not ask ME to
dance; and when I send my partner away, on your account, you won't
finish one dance with me but exact that I shall sit here, in a dark
corner, and let that glorious music go by. I don't know what to make
of you." But her attention had already wandered to the dancers below.
"Look at them!--Oh, it makes me envious! No one else has dreamt of
stopping yet. For no matter how tired you are beforehand, when you
dance you don't feel it, and as long as the music goes on, you must go
on, too, though it lasted all night.--Oh, how often I have longed for a
night like this! And then I've never met a better dancer than Mr.
"And for the sake of his dancing, you can forget what a puppy he is?"
"Puppy?" At the warmth of his interruption, she laughed, the low,
indolent laugh, by means of which she seemed determined, on this
night, to keep anything from touching her too nearly. "How
crude you men are! Because he is handsome and dances well, you reason
that he must necessarily be a simpleton."
"Handsome? Yes--if a tailor's dummy is handsome."
But Louise only laughed again, like one over whom words had no power.
"If he were the veriest scarecrow, I would forgive him--for the sake of
She leant forward, letting her gloved arms lie along her knees; and
above the jet-trimmed line of her bodice, he saw her white chest rise
and fall. At a slight sound behind, she turned and looked expectantly
at the door.
"No, not yet," said the young man at her side. "Besides, even if it
were, this is my dance, remember. You said so yourself."
"You are rude to-night, Maurice--and LANGWEILIG." She averted her face,
and tapped her foot. But the content that lapped her made it
impossible for her to take anything earnestly amiss, and even that
others should show displeasure jarred on her like a false note.
"Don't be angry. To-morrow it will all be different again. Let me have
just this one night of pleasure--let me enjoy myself in my own way."
"To hear you talk, one would think I had no wish but to spoil your
"Oh, I didn't mean that. You misunderstand everything."
"What I say or think has surely no weight with you?"
She gave up the attempt to pacify him, and leaning back in her chair,
stifled a yawn. Then with an exclamation of: "How hot it is up here!"
she peeled off her gloves. With her freed hands, she tidied her hair,
drawing out and thrusting in again the silver dagger that held the
coil together. Then she let her bare arms fall on her lap, where they
lay in strong outline against the black of her dress. One was almost
directly under Maurice's eyes; even by the poor light, he could see
the mark left on the inside of the wrist, by the buttons of the glove.
It was a generously formed arm, but so long that it looked slender,
and its firm white roundness was flawless from wrist to shoulder. He
shut his eyes, but he could see it through his eyelids. Sitting beside
her like this, in the semidarkness, morbidly aware of the perfume of
her hair and dress, he suddenly forgot that he had been rude, and she
indifferent. He was conscious only of the wish to drive it home to
her, how unhappy she was making him.
"Louise," he said so abruptly that she started. "I'm going to
ask you to do something for me. I haven't made many demands, have
I?--since you first called me your friend." He paused and fumbled for
words. "Don't--don't dance any more to-night. Don't dance again."
She stooped forward to look at him. "Not dance again?--I? What do you
"What I say. Let us go home."
"Home? Now? When it's only half over?--You don't know what you are
saying." But her surprise was already on the wane.
"Oh, yes, I do. I'm not going to let you dance again."
She laughed, in spite of herself, at the new light in which he was
showing himself. But, the moment after, she ceased to laugh; for, with
an audacity he had not believed himself capable of, Maurice took the
arm that was lying next him, and, midway between wrist and elbow, put
his lips to it, kissing it several times, in different places.
Taken unawares, Louise was helpless. Then she freed herself, ungently.
"No, no, I won't have it. Oh, how can you be so foolish! My
gloves--where is my glove? Pick it up, and give it to me--at once!"
He groped on the dusty floor; the veins in his forehead hammered. She
had moved to a distance, and now stood busy with the gloves; she would
not look at him.
In the uneasy silence that ensued, Herries opened the door: a moment
later, they went out together. Maurice remained standing until he saw
them appear below. Then he dropped back into his seat, and covered his
face with his hands.
He did not regret what he had done; he did not care in the least,
whether he had made her angry with him or not. On the contrary, the
feeling he experienced was akin to relief: disapproval and
mortification, jealousy and powerlessness--all the varying emotions of
the evening--had found vent and alleviation in the few hastily snatched
kisses. He no longer felt injured by her treatment of him: that hardly
seemed to concern him now. His sensations, at this minute, resolved
themselves into the words: "She is mine, she is mine!" which went
round and round in his brain. And then, in a sudden burst of
clearness, he understood what it meant for him to say this. It meant
that the farce of friendship, at which he had played, was at an end;
it meant that he loved her--not as hitherto, with a touch of elegiac
resignation--but with a violence that made him afraid. If seemed
incredible to him now that he had spent two months in close
fellowship with her: it was ludicrous, inhuman. For he now saw, that
his ultimate desire had been neither to help her nor to restore her to
life--that was a comedy he had acted for the benefit of the traditions
in his blood. Brutally, at this moment, he acknowledged that he had
only wished to hear her voice and to touch her hand: to make for
himself so indispensable a place among the necessities of her life
that no one could oust him from it.--Mine--mine! Instinct alone spoke in
him to-night--that same blunt instinct which had reared its head the
first time he saw her, but which, until now, he had kept under, like a
medieval ascetic. No reason came to his aid; he neither looked into
the future nor did he consider the past: he only swore to himself in a
kind of stubborn wrath that she was his, and that no earthly power
should take her from him.
One by one the slow-dragging hours wore away. The dancers' ranks were
thinned; but those who remained, gyrated as insensately as ever. There
was an air of greater freedom over the ball-room. The chaperons who,
earlier in the evening, had sat patiently on the red velvet sofas, had
vanished with their charges, and, in their train, the more sedate of
the company: it was past three o'clock, and now, every few minutes, a
cloaked couple crossed a corner of the hall to the street-door.
When Maurice went downstairs, he could not find Louise, and some time
elapsed before she and Herries emerged from the supper-room. Although
the lines beneath her eyes were like rings of hammered iron, she
danced anew, went on to the very end, with a few other infatuated
people. Finally, the tired musicians rose stiffly to pack their
instruments; and, with a sigh of exhaustion, she received on her
shoulders the cloak Maurice stood holding.
They were among the last to leave the hall; the lights went out behind
them. Herries walked a part of the way home with them, and talked much
and idly--ineffable in his self-conceit, thought Maurice. But Louise
urged him on, saying wild, disconnected things, as if, as long as
words were spoken, it did not matter what they were. Again and again
her laugh resounded: it was hoarse, and did not ring true.
"She has had too much champagne," Maurice said to himself, as he
walked silent at her side.
In the ROSSPLATZ, Herries, who was in a becoming fur cap, and a coat
with a fur-lined collar, took a circumstantial leave of her. He raised
both her hands to his lips.
"To the memory of those divine waltzes--our waltzes!" he said
sentimentally. "And to all the others the future has in store for us!"
She left her hands in his, and smiled at him.
"Till to-morrow then," said Herries. "Or shall you forget your
"It is you who will forget--not I."
After this, Maurice and she walked on alone together. It was that
dreariest of all the hours between sunset and dawn, when it is
scarcely night any longer, and yet not nearly day. The crisp frost of
the previous evening had given place to a bleak rawness; the day that
was coming would crawl in, lugubriously, unable to get the better of
the darkness. The houses about them were wrapped in sleep; they two
were the only people abroad, and their footsteps echoed in the damp
streets. But, for once, Louise was not affected by the gloom of her
surroundings. She walked swiftly, and her chief aim seemed to be to
render any but the most trival words impossible. Now, however, her
strained gaiety had the aspect of a fever; Maurice believed that, for
the most part, she did not know what she was saying.
Until they stood in front of the house-door, she kept up the tension.
But when the young man had fitted the key in the lock and turned it,
she looked at him, and, for the first time this night, gave him her
"Good night--my friend!"
She was leaning against the woodwork; beneath the lace scarf, her eyes
were bent on him with a strange expression. Maurice looked down into
them, and, for a second or two, held them with his own, in one of
those looks which are not for ordinary use between a man and a woman.
Louise shivered under it, and gave a nervous laugh; the next moment,
she made a slight movement towards him, an involuntary movement, which
was so imperceptible as to be hardly more than an easing of her
position against the doorway, and yet was unmistakable--as unmistakable
as was the little upward motion with which she resigned herself at the
outset of a dance. For an instant, his heart stopped beating; in a
flash he knew that this was the solution: there was only one ending to
this night of longing and excitement, and that was to take her in his
arms, as she stood, to hold her to him in an infinite embrace, till
his own nerves were stilled, and the madness had gone from her. But
the returning beat of his blood brought the knowledge that a morrow
must surely come--a morrow for both of them--a cold, grey day to be
faced and borne. She was not herself, in the bonds of her
unnatural excitement; it was for him to be wise.
He took her limply hanging hand, and looked at her gravely and kindly.
"You are very tired."
At his voice, the wild light died out of her eyes; she seemed to
shrink into herself. "Yes, very tired. And oh, so cold!"
"Can't you get a cup of tea?--something to warm you?"
But she did not hear him; she was already on the stair. He waited till
her steps had died away, then went headlong down the street. But, when
he came to think things over, he did not pride himself on the
self-control he had displayed. On the contrary, he was tormented by
the wish to know what she would have said or done had he yielded to
his impulse; and, for the remainder of the night, his brain lost
itself in a maze of hazardous conjecture. Only when day broke, a
cheerless February day, was he satisfied that he could not have acted
Upstairs, in her room, Louise lay face downwards on her bed, and
there, her arms thrown wildly out over the pillows, all the froth and
intoxication of the evening gone from her--there lay, and wished she
* * * * *
Three days later, towards four o'clock in the afternoon, Maurice
watched the train that carried her from him steam out of the DRESDENER
The clearness he had gained as to his own motives, and the ruthless
probing of himself it induced, both led to the same conclusion: Louise
must go away. The day after the ball, too, he had found her in a state
of collapse, which was unparalleled even in the ups and downs of the
"Anything!--do anything you like with me. I wish I had never been
born;" and, though no muscle of her face moved, large slow tears ran
down her sallow cheeks.
Unconsciously twisting and bending Herries's card, which was lying on
the table, Maurice laid his plan before her. And having won the above
consent, he did not let the grass grow under his feet. He applied to
Miss Jensen for practical aid, and that lady was tactful enough to
give it without curiosity. She knew Dresden well, recommended it as a
lively place, and wrote forthwith to a PENSION there, engaging rooms
for a lady who had just recovered from a severe illness. By tacit
agreement, this was understood to cover any extravagance or
imprudence, of which Louise might make herself guilty.
Now she had gone, and with her, the central interest of his life. But
the tired gesture, with which he took off his hat and wiped his
forehead, as he walked home, was expressive of the relief he felt that
he was not going to see her again for some time.
He let a fortnight elapse--a fortnight of colourless days, unbroken by
word or sign from her. Then, one night, he spent several hours writing
to her--writing a carefully worded letter, in which he put forward the
best reasons he could devise, for her remaining away altogether.
To this he received no answer.
From one of the high, wooden benches, at the back of the amphitheatre
in the ALBERTHALLE, where he had lain at full length, listening to the
performance of a Berlin pianist, Krafft rose, full to the brim of
impressions, and eager to state them.
"That man," he began, as he left the hall between Maurice and Avery
Hill, "is a successful teacher. And therewith his fate as an artist is
sealed. No teacher can get on to the higher rungs of the ladder, and
no inspired musician be a satisfactory teacher. If the artist is
obliged to share his art, his pupils, should they be intelligent, may
pick up something of his skill, learn the trick of certain things; but
the moment he begins to set up dogmas, it is the end of him.--As if it
were possible for one person to prescribe to another, of a totally
different temperament, how he ought to feel in certain passages, or be
affected by certain harmonies! If I, for example, choose to play the
later Beethoven sonatas as I would the Brahms Concerto in B flat, with
a thoroughly modern irony, what is it that hinders me from doing it,
and from satisfying myself, and kindred souls, who are honest enough
to admit their feelings? Tradition, nothing in the world but tradition;
tradition in the shape of the teacher steps in and says anathema: to
this we are not accustomed, ERGO, it cannot be good.--And it is just
the same with those composers who are also pedagogues. They know, none
better, that there are no hard and fast rules in their art; that it is
only convention, or the morbid car of some medieval monk, which has
banished, say, consecutive fifths from what is called g pure writing
'; that further, you need only to have the regulation number of years
behind you, to fling squeamishness to the winds. In other words, you
learn rules to unlearn them with infinite pains. But the pupil, in his
innocence, demands a rigid basis to go on--it is a human weakness,
this, the craving for rules--and his teachers pamper him. Instead of
saying: develop your own ear, rely on yourself, only what you teach
yourself is worth knowing--instead of this, they build up walls and
barriers to hedge him in, behind which, for their benefit, he must go
through the antics of a performing dog. But nemesis overtakes them;
they fall a victim to their own wiles, just as the liar
finally believes his own lies. Ultimately they find their chief
delight in the adroitness with which they themselves overcome
His companions were silent. Avery Hill had a nine hours' working-day
behind her, and was tired; besides, she made a point of never replying
to Krafft's tirades. Once only, of late, had she said to him in
Maurice's presence: "You would reason the skin off one's bones, Heinz.
You are the most self-conscious person alive." Krafft had been much
annoyed at this remark, and had asked her to call him a Jew and be
done with it; but afterwards, he admitted to Maurice that she was
"And it's only the naive natures that count."
Maurice had found his way back to Krafft; for, in the days of
uncertainty that followed the posting of his letter, he needed human
companionship. Until the question whether Louise would return or not
was decided, he could settle to nothing; and Krafft's ramblings took
him out of himself. Since the ball, his other friends had given him
the cold shoulder; hence it did not matter whether or no they approved
of his renewed intimacy with Krafft--he said "they," but it was
Madeleine who was present to his mind. And Krafft was an easy person
to take up with again; he never bore a grudge, and met Maurice
It had not taken the latter long to shape his actions or what he
believed to be the best. But his thoughts were beyond control. He was
as helpless against sudden spells of depression as against dreams of
an iridescent brightness. He could no more avoid dwelling on the
future than reliving the Past. If Louise did not return, these
memories were all that were left him. If she did, what form were their
relations to each other going to assume?--and this was the question
that cost him most anxious thought.
A thing that affected him oddly, at this time, was his growing
inability to call up her face. It was incredible. This face, which he
had supposed he knew so well that he could have drawn it blindfold,
had taken to eluding him; and the more impatient he became, the poorer
was his success. The disquieting thing, however, was, that though he
could not materialise her face, what invariably rose before his eyes
was her long, bare arm, as it had lain on the black stuff of her
dress. At first, it only came when he was battling to secure the face;
then it took to appearing at unexpected moments; and eventually, it
became a kind of nightmare, which haunted him. He would start up from
dreaming of it, his hair moist with perspiration, for,
strangely enough, he was always on the point of doing it harm: either
his teeth were meeting in it, or he had drawn the blade of a knife
down the middle of the blue-veined whiteness, and the blood spurted
out along the line, which reddened instantly in the wake of the knife.
April had come, bringing April weather; it was fitfully sunny, and a
mild and generous dampness spurred on growth: shrubs and bushes were
so thickly sprinkled with small buds that, at a distance, it seemed as
though a transparent green veil had been flung over them. In the
Gewandhaus, according to custom, the Ninth Symphony had brought the
concert season to a close; once more, the chorus had struggled
victoriously with the ODE TO JOY. And early one morning, Maurice held
a note in his hand, in which Louise announced that she had "come
home," the night before.
She had been away for almost two months, and, to a certain extent, he
had grown inured to her absence. At the sight of her handwriting, he
had the sensation of being violently roused from sleep. Now he shrank
from the moment when he should see her again; for it seemed that not
only the present, but all his future depended on it.
Late in the evening, he returned from the visit, puzzled and
Seven had boomed from church-clocks far and near, before he reached
the BRUDERSTRASSE, but, nevertheless, he had been kept waiting in the
passage for a quarter of an hour: and he was in such an apprehensive
frame of mind that he took the delay as a bad omen.
When he crossed the threshold, Louise came towards him with one of
those swift movements which meant that she was in good spirits, and
confident of herself. She held out her hands, and smiled at him with
all her dark, mobile face, saying words that were as impulsive as her
gesture. Maurice was always vaguely chilled by her outbursts of
light-heartedness: they seemed to him strained and unreal, so
accustomed had he grown to the darker, less adaptable side of her
"You have come back?" he said, with her hand in his.
"Yes, I'm here--for the present, at least."
The last words caught in his ear, and buzzed there, making his
foreboding a certainty. On the spot, his courage failed him; and
though Louise continued to ring all the changes her voice was
capable of, he did not recover his spirits. It was not merely the
sense of strangeness, which inevitably attacked him after he had not
seen her for some time; on this occasion, it was more. Partly, it
might be due to the fact that she was dressed in a different way; her
hair was done high on her head, and she wore a light grey dress of
modish cut and design. Her face, too, had grown fuller; the hollows in
her cheeks had vanished; and her skin had that peculiar clear pallor
that was characteristic of it in health.
He was stupidly silent; he could not join in her careless vivacity.
Besides, throughout the visit, nothing was said that it was worth his
coming to hear.
But when she wished him good-bye, she said, with a strange smile:
"Altogether, I am very grateful to you, Maurice, for having made me go
He himself no longer felt any satisfaction at what he had done. As
soon as he left her, he tried to comprehend what had happened: the
change in her was too marked for him to be able to console himself
that he had imagined it. Not only had she seemingly recovered, as if
by magic, from the lassitude of the winter--he could even have forgiven
her the alteration in her style of dress, although this, too, helped
to alienate her from him. But what he ended by recognising, with a
jealous throb, was that she had mentally recovered as well; she was