Part 8 out of 13
once more the self-contained girl he had first known, with a gift for
keeping an outsider beyond the circle of her thoughts and feelings. An
outsider! The weeks of intimate companionship were forgotten, seemed
never to have been. She had no further need of him, that was the clue
to the mystery, and the end of the matter.
And so it continued, the next day, and the next again; Louise
deliberately avoided touching on anything that lay below the surface.
She vouchsafed no explanation of the words that had disquieted him,
nor was the letter Maurice had written her once mentioned between
But, though she seemed resolved not to confide in him, she could not
dispense with the small, practical services, he was able to render
her. They were even more necessary to her than before; for, if one
thing was clear, it was that she no longer intended to cloister
herself up inside her four walls: the day after her return, she had
been out till late in the afternoon, and had come home with her hands
full of parcels. She took it now as a matter of course that Maurice
should accompany her; and did not, or would not, notice his
After the lapse of a very short time, however, the young man began to
feel that there was something feverish in the continual high level of
her mood. She broke down, once or twice, in trying to sustain it, and
was more of her eloquently silent self again: one evening, he came
upon her, in the dusk, when she was sitting with her chin on her hand,
looking out before her with the old questioning gaze.
Occasionally he thought that she was waiting for something: in the
middle of a sentence, she would break off, and grow absent-minded; and
more than once, the unexpected advent of the postman threw her into a
state of excitement, which she could not conceal. She was waiting for
a letter. But Maurice was proud, and asked no questions; he took pains
to use the cool, friendly tone, she herself adopted.
Not a week had dragged out, however, since her return, before he was
suffering in a new way, in the oldest, cruellest way of all.
The PENSION at which she had stayed in Dresden, had been frequented by
leisured foreigners: over twenty people, of various nationalities, had
sat down daily at the dinner-table. Among so large a number, it would
have been easy for Louise to hold herself aloof. But, as far as
Maurice could gather, she had felt no inclination to do this. From the
first, she seemed to have been the nucleus of an admiring circle,
chief among the members of which was a family of Americans--a brother
and two sisters, rich Southerners, possessed of a vague leaning
towards art and music. The names of these people recurred persistently
in her talk; and, as the days went by, Maurice found himself listening
for one name in particular, with an irritation he could not master.
Raymond van Houst--a ridiculous name!--fit only for a backstairs
romance. But as often as she spoke of Dresden, it was on her lips.
Whether in the Galleries, or at the Opera, on driving excursions, or
on foot, this man had been at her side; and soon the mere mention of
him was enough to set Maurice's teeth on edge.
One afternoon, he found her standing before an extravagant mass of
flowers, which were heaped up on the table; there were white and
purple violets, a great bunch of lilies of the valley, and roses of
different colours. They had been sent to her from Dresden, she said;
but, beyond this, she offered no explanation. All the vases in the
room were collected before her; but she had not begun to fill
them: she stood with her hands in the flowers, tumbling them about,
enjoying the contact of their moist freshness.
To Maurice's remark that she seemed to take a pleasure in destroying
them, she returned a casual: "What does it matter?" and taking up as
many violets as she could hold, looked defiantly at him over their
purple leaves. Through all she said and did ran a strong undercurrent
But before Maurice left, her manner changed. She came over to him, and
said, without looking up: "Maurice I want to tell you something."
"Yes; what is it?" He spoke with the involuntary coolness this mood of
hers called out in him; and she was quick to feel it. She returned to
"You ask so prosaically: you are altogether prosaic to-day. And it is
not a thing I can tell you off-hand. You would need to sit down again.
It's a long story; and you were going; and it's late. We will leave it
till to-morrow: that will be time enough. And if it is fine, we can go
out somewhere, and I'll tell you as we go."
It was a brilliant May afternoon: great white clouds were piled one on
the top of another, like bales of wool; and their fantastic bulging
roundnesses made the intervening patches of blue seem doubly distant.
The wind was hardly more than a breath, which curled the tips of thin
branches, and fluttered the loose ends of veils and laces. In the
ROSENTAL, where the meadow-slopes were emerald-green, and each branch
bore its complement of delicately curled leaves, the paths were so
crowded that there could be no question of a connected conversation.
But again, Louise was not in a hurry to begin.
She continued meditative, even when they had reached the KAISERPARK,
and were sitting with their cups before them, in the long, wooden,
shed-like building, open at one side. She had taken off her hat--a
somewhat showy white hat, trimmed with large white feathers--and laid
it on the table; one dark wing of hair fell lower than the other, and
shaded her forehead.
Maurice, who was on tenterhooks, subdued his impatience as long as he
could. Finally, he emptied his cup at a draught, and pushed it away.
"You wanted to speak to me, you said."--His manner was curt, from sheer
His voice startled her. "Yes, I have something to tell you,"
she said, with a hesitation he did not know in her. "But I must go
back a little.--If you remember, Maurice, you wrote to me while I was
away, didn't you?" she said, and looked not at him, but at her hands
clasped before her. "You gave me a number of excellent reasons why it
would be better for me not to come back here. I didn't answer your
letter at the time because . . . What should you say, Maurice, if I
told you now, that I intended to take your advice?"
"You are going away?" The words jerked out gratingly, of themselves.
"Perhaps.--That is what I want to speak to you about. I have a chance
of doing so."
"Chance? How chance?" he asked sharply.
"That's what I am going to tell you, if you will give me time."
Drawing a letter from her pocket, she smoothed the creases out of the
envelope, and handed it to him.
While he read it, she looked away, looked over the enclosure. Some
people were crossing it, and she followed them with her eyes, though
she had often seen their counterparts before. A man in a heavy
ulster--notwithstanding the mildness of the day--stalked on ahead,
unconcerned about the fate of his family, which dragged, a woman and
two children, in the rear: like savages, thought Louise, where the
male goes first, to scent danger. But the crackling of paper recalled
her attention; Maurice was folding the sheet, and replacing it in the
envelope, with a ludicrous precision. His face had taken on a pinched
expression, and he handed the letter back to her without a word.
She looked at him, expecting him to say something; but he was
obdurate. "This was what I was waiting all these days to tell you,"
"You knew it was coming then?" He scarcely recognised his own voice;
he spoke as he supposed a judge might speak to a proven criminal.
Louise shrugged her shoulders. "No. Yes.--That is, as far as it's
possible to know such a thing."
Through the crude glass window, the sun cast a medley of lines and
lights on her hands, and on the checkered table-cloth. There were two
rough benches, and a square table; the coffeecups stood on a metal
tray; the lid of the pot was odd, did not match the set: all these
inanimate things, which, a moment ago, Maurice had seen without seeing
them, now stood out before his eyes, as if each of them had
acquired an independent life, and no longer fitted into its
"Let us go home," he said, and rose.
"Go home? But we have only just come!" cried Louise, with what seemed
to him pretended surprise. "Why do you want to go home? It is so quiet
here: I can talk to you. For I need your advice, Maurice. You must
help me once again."
"I help you?--in this? No, thank you. All I can do, it seems, is to
wish you joy." He remained standing, with his hand on the back of the
But at the cold amazement of her eyes, he took his seat again. "It is
a matter for yourself--only you can decide. It's none of my business."
He moved the empty cups about on the cloth.
"But why are you angry?"
"Haven't I good reason to be? To see you--you !--accepting an
impertinence of this kind so quietly. For it IS an impertinence,
Louise, that a man you hardly know should write to you in this
cocksure way and ask you to marry him. Impertinent and absurd!"
"You have a way of finding most things I want to do absurd," she
answered. "In this case, though, you're. mistaken. The tone of the
letter is all it should be. And, besides, I know Mr. Van Houst very
Maurice looked at her with a sardonic smile.
"Seven weeks is a long time," she added.
"Seven weeks!--and for a lifetime!"
"Oh, one can get to know a man inside out, in seven weeks," she said,
with wilful flippancy. "Especially if, from the first, he shows so
plainly . . . Maurice, don't be angry. You have always been kind to
me; you're not going to fail me now that I really need help? I have no
one else, as you very well know." She smiled at him, and held out her
hand. He could not refuse to take it; but he let it drop again
"Let me tell you all about it, and how it happened, and then you will
understand," Louise went on, in a persuasive voice--he had once
believed that the sound of this voice would reconcile him to any fate.
"You think the time was short, but we were together every day, and
sometimes all day long. I knew from the first that he cared for me; he
made no secret of it. If anything, it is a proof of tactfulness on his
part that he should have written rather than have spoken to me
himself. I like him for doing it, for giving me time. And
then, listen, Maurice, what I should gain by marrying him. He is rich,
really rich, and good-looking--in an American way--and thirtytwo years
old. His sisters would welcome me--one of them told me as much, and
told me, too, that her brother had never cared for anyone before. He
would make an ideal husband," she added with a sudden recklessness, at
the sight of Maurice's unmoved face. "Americanly chivalrous to the
fingertips, and with just enough of the primitive animal in him to
ward off monotony."
Maurice raised his hand, as if in self-defence. "So you, too, then,
like any other woman, would marry just for the sake of marrying?" he
asked, with bitter disbelief.
"Yes.--And just especially and particularly I."
"For Heaven's sake, let us get out of here!"
Without listening to her protest, he went to find the waiter. Louise
followed him out of the enclosure, carrying hat and gloves in her
They struck into narrow by-paths going back, to avoid the people. But
it was impossible to escape all, and those they met, eyed them with
curiosity. The clear English voices rang out unconcerned; the pale
girl with the Italian eyes was visibly striving to appease her
companion, who marched ahead, angry and impassive.
For a few hundred yards neither of them spoke. Then Louise began anew.
"And that is not all. You judge harshly and unfairly because you don't
know the facts. I am almost quite alone in the world. I have no
relatives that I care for, except one brother. I lived with him, on
his station in Queensland, until I came here. But now he's married,
and there would be no room for me in the house--figuratively speaking.
If I go back now, I must share his home with his wife, whom I knew and
disliked. While here is some one who is fond of me, and is rich, and
who offers me not only a home of my own, but, what is far more to me,
an entirely new life in a new world."
"Excellent reasons! But in reckoning them up, you have forgotten what
seems to me the most important one of all; whether or no you care for
him, for this . . . "this in his trouble, he could not find a suitable
But Louise refused to be touched. "I like him," she answered, and
looked across the slope of meadow they were passing. "I liked him,
yes, as any woman would like a man who treated her as he did
me. He was very good tome. And not in the least repugnant.--But care?"
she interrupted herself. "If by care, you mean . . . Then no, a
hundred thousand times, no! I shall never care for anyone in that way
again, and you know it. I had enough of that to last me all my life."
"Very well, then, and I say, if you married a man you care for as
little as that, I should never believe in a woman again.--Not, of
course, that it matters to you what I believe in and what I don't? But
to hear you--you, Louise!--counting up the profits to be gained from it,
like . . . like--oh, I don't know what! I couldn't have believed it of
"You are a very uncomfortable person, Maurice."
"I mean to be. And more than uncomfortable. Listen to me! You talk of
it lightly and coolly; but if you married this man, without caring for
him more than you say you do, just for the sake of a home, or his
money, or his good manners, or the primitive animal, or whatever it is
that attracts you in him:"--he grew bitter again in spite of
himself--"if you did this, you would be stifling all that is good and
generous in your nature. For you may say what you like; the man is
little more than a stranger to you. What can you know of his real
character? And what can he know of you?"
"He knows as much of me as I ever intend him to know."
"Indeed! Then you wouldn't tell him, for instance, that only a few
months ago, you were eating your heart out for some one else?"
Louise winced as though the words had struck her in the face. Before
she answered, she stood still, in the middle of the path, and pinned
on, with deliberate movements, the big white hat, beneath the drooping
brim and nodding feathers of which, her eyes were as black as coals.
"No, I should not," she said. "Why should I? Do you think it would
make him care more for me to know that I had nearly died of love for
"Certainly not. And it might also make him less ready to marry you."
"That's exactly what I think."
One was as bitter as the other; but Maurice was the more violent of
"And so you would begin the new life you talk of, with lies and
deceit?--A most excellent beginning!"
"If you like to call it that. I only know, that no one with
any sense thinks of dragging up certain things when once they are dead
and buried. Or are you, perhaps, simple enough to believe any man
living would get over what I have to tell him, and care for me
afterwards in the same way ?"
He turned, with tell-tale words on his tongue. But the expression of
her face intimidated him. He had only to look at her to know that, if
he spoke of himself at this moment, she would laugh him to scorn.
But the beloved face acted on him in its own way; his sense of injury
weakened. "Louise," he said in an altered tone; "whatever you say to
the contrary, in a matter like this, I can't advise you. For I don't
understand--and never should.--But of one thing I'm as sure as I am
that the sun will rise to-morrow, and that is, that you won't do it.
Do you honestly think you could go on living, day after day, with a
man you don't sincerely care for?--of whom the most you can say is that
he's not repugnant to you? You little know what it would mean!--And you
may reason as you will; I answer for you; and I say no, and again no.
It isn't in you to do it. You are not mean and petty enough. You can't
hide your feelings, try as you will.--No, you couldn't deceive some
one, by pretending to care for him, for months on end. You would be
miserably unhappy; and then--then I know what would happen. You would
be candid--candid about everything--when it was too late."
There was no mistaking the sincerity of his words. But Louise was
boundlessly irritated, and made no further effort to check her
"You have an utterly false and ridiculous idea of me, and of
everything belonging to me."
"I haven't spent all this time with you for nothing. I know you better
than you know yourself. I believe in you, Louise. And I know I am
right. And some day you'll know it, too."
These words only incensed her the more.
"What you know--or think you know--is nothing to me. If you had listened
to me patiently, as I asked you to, instead of losing your temper, and
taking what I said as a personal affront, then, yes, then I should
have told you something else besides. How, when I came back, a
fortnight ago, I was quite resolved to marry this man, if he asked me
marry him and cut myself off for ever from my old life and its hateful
memories.--And why not? I'm still young. I still have a right to
pleasure--and change--and excitement.--And in all these days, I
didn't once hesitate--not till the letter came yesterday--and then not
till night. It wasn't like me; for when once I have made up my mind, I
never go back. So I determined to ask you--ask you to help me to
decide. For you had always been kind to me.--But this is what I get
for doing it." Her anger flared up anew. "You have treated me
abominably, to-day, Maurice; and I shan't forget it. All your
ridiculous notions about right and wrong don't matter a straw. What
does matter is, that when I ask for help, you should behave as if--as
if I were going to commit a crime. Your opinion is nothing to me. If I
decide to marry the man, I shall do it, no matter what you say."
"I'm sure you will."
"And if I don't, let me tell you this: it won't be because of anything
you've said to-day. Not from any high-flown notions of honesty, or
generosity, as you would like to make yourself believe; but merely
because I haven't the energy in me. I couldn't keep it up. I want to
be quiet, to have an easy life. The fact that some one else had to
suffer, too, wouldn't matter to me, in the least. It's myself I think
of, first and foremost, and as long as I live it will always be
Her voice belied her words; he expected each moment that she would
burst out crying. However, she continued to walk on, with her head
erect; and she did not take back one of the unkind things she had
They parted without being reconciled. Maurice stood and watched her
mount the staircase, in the vain hope that she would turn, before
reaching the top.
He did not see how the fine May afternoon declined, and passed into
evening; how the high stacks of cloud were broken up at sunset, and
shredded into small flakes and strips of cloud, which, saturated with
gold, vanished in their turn: how the shadows in the corners turned
from blue to black; nor did he note the mists that rose like steam
from the ground, intensifying the acrid smell of garlic, with which
the woods abounded. Screened by the thicket, he sat on his accustomed
scat, and gave himself up to being miserable.
For some time he was conscious only of how deeply he had been
wounded--just as one suffers from the bruise after the blow. At the
moment, he had been stunned into a kind of quiescence; now his nerves
throbbed and tingled. But, little by little, a vivid recollection of
what had actually occurred returned to sting him: and certain details
stood out fixed and unforgettable. Yet, in reliving the hours just
past, he felt no regret at the fact that they had quarrelled. What
first smote him was an unspeakable amazement at Louise. The knowledge
that, for weeks on end, she had been contemplating marriage, was
beyond his belief. Hardly recovered from the throes of a suffering
believed incurable, and while he was still going about her with gloved
hands, as it were, she was ready to throw herself into the arms of the
first likely man she met. He could not help himself: in this
connection, every little trait in her that was uncongenial to him,
started up with appalling distinctness. Hitherto, he had put it down
to his own sensitiveness; he was over-nice. But for the most part, he
had forgiven her on account of all she had come through; for he
believed that this grief had swept destructively through her nature,
leaving a jagged wound, which only time could heal. Now, as if to
prove to him what a fool he was, she showed him that he had been
mistaken in this also; she could recover her equilibrium, while he
still hedged her round with solicitude--recover herself, and transfer
her affection to another person. Good God! Was it so easy, a matter of
so little moment, to grow fond of one who was almost a stranger to
her?--for, in spite of what she said to the contrary, he was persuaded
that she had a stronger feeling for this man than she had been willing
to admit: this riper man, with his experienced way of treating women.
Was, then, his own idea of her wholly false? Was there, after all,
something in her nature that he could not, would not, understand? He
denied it fiercely, almost before he had formulated the question: no
matter what her actions were, or what words she said, deep down in her
was an intense will for good, a spring of noble impulse. It was only
that she had never had a proper chance. But he denied it to a vision
of her face: the haunting eyes which, at first sight, had destroyed
his peace of mind; the dead black hair against the ivory-coloured
skin. It was in these things that the truth lay, not in the blind
promptings of her inclination.
For the first time, the idea of marriage took definite shape in his
mind. For all he knew, it might have been lying dormant there, all
along; but he would doubtless have remained unconscious of it, for
weeks to come, had it not been for the events of the afternoon. Now,
however, Louise had made it plain that his feelings for her were of an
exaggerated delicacy; plain that she herself had no such scruples. He
need hesitate no longer. But marry! . . . marriage! . . . he marry
Louise!--at the thought of it, he laughed. That he, Maurice
Guest, should, for an instant, put himself on a par with her American
suitor! The latter, rich, leisured, able to satisfy her caprices,
surround her with luxury: himself, younger than she by several years,
without prospects, with nothing to offer her but a limitless devotion.
He tried to imagine himself saying: "Louise, will you marry me?" and
the words stuck in his throat; for he saw the amused astonishment of
her eyes. And not merely at the presumption he would be guilty of;
what was as clear to him as day was that she did not really care for
him; not as he cared for her; not with the faintest hint of a warmer
feeling. If he had never grasped this before, he did so now, to the
full. Sitting there, he affirmed to himself that she did not even like
him. She was grateful to him, of course, for his help and friendship;
but that was all. Beyond this, he would not have been surprised to
learn from her own lips that she actually disliked him: for there was
something irreconcilable about their two natures. And never, for a
moment, had she considered him in the light of an eligible lover--oh,
how that stung! Here was she, with an attraction for him which nothing
could weaken; and in him was not the smallest lineament, of body or of
mind, to wake a response in her. He was powerless to increase her
happiness by a hair's breadth. Her nerves would never answer to the
inflection of his voice, or the touch of his hand. How could such
things be? What anomaly was here?
To-day, her face rose before him unsought--the sweet, dark face with
the expression of slight melancholy that it wore in repose, as he
loved it best. It was with him when, stiff and tired, he emerged from
his seclusion, and walked home through the trails of mist that hung,
breast-high, on the meadow-land. It was with him under the
street-lamps, and, to its accompanying presence, the strong conviction
grew in him that evasion on his part was no longer possible. Sooner or
later, come what might, the words he had faltered over, even to
himself, would have to be spoken.
One day, some few weeks later, Madeleine sat at her writingtable,
biting the end of her pen. A sheet of note-paper lay before her; but
she had not yet written a word. She frowned to herself, as she sat.
Hard at work that morning, she had heard a ring at the door-bell, and,
a minute after, her landlady ushered in a visitor, in the shape of
Miss Martin. Madeleine rose from the piano with ill-concealed
annoyance, and having seated Miss Martin on the sofa, waited
impatiently for the gist of her visit; for she was sure that the
lively American would not come to see her without an object. And she
was right: she knew to a nicety when the important moment arrived.
Most of the visit was preamble; Miss Martin talked at length of her
own affairs, assuming, with disarming candour, that they interested
other people as much as herself. She went into particulars about her
increasing dissatisfaction with Schwarz, and retailed the glowing
accounts she heard on all sides of a teacher called Schrievers. He was
not on the staff of the Conservatorium; but he had been a favourite of
Liszt's, and was attracting many pupils. From this, Miss Martin passed
to more general topics, such as the blow Dove had recently received
over the head of his attachment to pretty Susie Fay. "Why, Sue, she
feels perfectly DREADFUL about it. She can't understand Mr. Dove
thinking they were anything but real good friends. Most every one here
knew right away that Sue had her own boy down home in Illinois. Yes,
Madeleine displayed her want of interest in Dove's concerns so
plainly, that Miss Martin could not do otherwise than cease discussing
them. She rose to end her call. As, however, she stood for the
momentary exchange of courtesies that preceded the hand-shake, she
said, in an off-hand way: "Miss Wade, I presume I needn't inquire if
you're acquainted with the latest about Louise Dufrayer? I say, I
guess I needn't inquire, seeing you're so well acquainted with Mr.
Guest. I presume, though, you don't see so much of him now. No,
indeed. I hear he's thrown over all his friends. I feel real
disappointed about him. I thought he was a most agreeable young man.
But, as momma says, you never can tell. An' I reckon Louise is
most to blame. Seems like she simply CAN'T exist without a beau. But I
wonder she don't feel ashamed to show herself, the way she's talked
of. Why, the stories I hear about her! . . . an' they're always
together. She's gotten her a heap of new things, too--a millionaire
asked her to marry him, when she was in Dresden, but he wasn't good
enough for her, no ma'am, an' all on account of Mr. Guest.--Yes,
indeed. But I must say I feel kind of sorry for him, anyway. He was a
real pleasant young man."
"Maurice Guest is quite able to look after. himself," said Madeleine
"Is that so? Well, I presume you ought to know, you were once so well
acquainted with him--if I may say, Miss Wade, we all thought it was you
was his fancy. Yes, indeed."
"Oh, I always knew he liked Louise."
But this was the chief grudge she, too, bore him: that he had been so
little open with her. His seeming frankness had been merely a feint;
he had gone his own way, and had never really let her know what he was
thinking and planning. She now recalled the fact that Louise had only
once been mentioned between them, since the time of her illness, over
six months ago; and she, Madeleine, had foolishly believed his
reticence to be the result of a growing indifference.
Since the night of the ball, they had shunned each other, by tacit
consent. But, though she could avoid him in person, Madeleine could
not close her cars to the gossipy tales that circulated. In the last
few weeks, too, the rumours had become more clamatory: these two
misguided creatures had obviously no regard for public opinion; and
several times, Madeleine had been obliged to go out of her own way, to
escape meeting them face to face. On these occasions, she told herself
that she had done with Maurice Guest; and this decision was the more
easy as, since the beginning of the year, she had moved almost
entirely in German circles. But now the distasteful tattle was thrust
under her very nose. It seemed to put things in a different light to
hear Maurice pitied and discussed in this very room. In listening to
her visitor, she had felt once more how strong her right of possession
was in him; she was his oldest friend in Leipzig. Now she was ready to
blame herself for having let her umbrage stand in the way of them
continuing friends: had he been dropping in as he had formerly done,
she might have prevented things from going so far, and
certainly have been of use in hindering them from growing worse; for,
with Louise, one was never sure. And so she determined to write to
him, without delay. In this, though, she was piqued as well by a
violent curiosity. Louise said to have given up a good match for his
sake! xxx she could not believe it. It was incredible that she could care
for him as he cared for her. Madeleine knew them both too well;
Maurice was not the type of man by whom Louise was attracted.
She wrote in a guarded way.
IT SEEMS ABSURD THAT OLD FRIENDS SHOULD BEHAVE AS WE ARE DOING. IF
ANYTHING THAT HAPPENED WAS MY FAULT, FORGIVE IT, AND SHOW ME YOU DON'T
BEAR ME A GRUDGE, BY COMING TO SEE ME TO-MORROW AFTERNOON.
They had not met for close on four months, and, for the first few
minutes after his arrival, Madeleine was confused by the change that
had taken place in Maurice. It was not only that he was paler and
thinner than of old: his boyish manner had deserted him; and, when he
forgot himself, his eyes had a strange, brooding expression.
"Other-worldly . . . almost," thought Madeleine; and, in order to
surmount an awkwardness she had been resolved not to feel, she talked
glibly. Maurice said he could not stay long, and wished to keep his
hat in his hand; but before he knew it, he was sitting in his
accustomed place on the sofa.
As they stirred their tea, she told him how annoyed she had felt at
having recently had a performance postponed in favour of Avery Hill:
and how the latter was said to be going crazy, with belief in her own
genius. Maurice seemed to be in the dark about what was happening, and
made no attempt to hide his ignorance. She could see, too, that he was
not interested in these things; he played with a tassel of the sofa,
and did not notice when she stopped speaking.
It is his turn now, she said to herself, and left the silence that
followed unbroken. Before it had lasted long, however, he looked up
from his employment of twisting the tassel as far round as it would
go, and then letting it fly back. "I say, Madeleine, now I'm here,
there's something I should like to ask you. I hope, though, you won't
think it impertinence on my part." He cleared his throat. "Once or
twice lately I've heard a report about you--several times, indeed. I
didn't pay any attention to it--not till a few days back, that
is--when I saw it--or thought I saw it--confirmed with my own eyes. I was
at Bonorand's on Monday evening; I was behind you."
In an instant Madeleine had grasped what he was driving at. "Well, and
what of that, pray?" she asked. "Do you think I should have been
there, if I had been ashamed of it?"
"I saw whom you were with," he went on, and treated the tassel so
roughly that it came away in his hand. "I say, Madeleine, it can't be
true, what they say--that you are thinking of . . . of marrying that
Madeleine coloured, but continued to meet his eyes. "And why not?" she
asked again.--"Don't destroy my furniture, please."
"Why not?" he echoed, and laid the tassel on the table. "Well, if you
can ask that, I should say you don't know the facts of the case. If I
had a sister, Madeleine, I shouldn't care to see her going about with
that man. He's an old ?? ??--don't you know he has had two wives, and is
divorced from both?"
"Fiddle-dee-dee! You and your sister! Do you think a man is going to
come to nearly fifty without knowing something of life? That he hasn't
been happy in his matrimonial relations is his misfortune, not his
"Then it's true?"
"Why not?" she asked for the third time.
"Then, of course, I've nothing more to say. I've no right to interfere
in your private affairs. I hoped I should still be in time--that's
"No, you can't go yet, sit still," she said peremptorily. "I too, have
something to say.--But will you first tell me, please, what it can
possibly matter to you, whether you are in time, as you call it, or
"Why, of course, it matters.--We haven't seen much of each other
lately; but you were my first friend here, and I don't forget it.
Particularly in a case like this, where everything is against the idea
of you marrying this man: your age--your character--all common sense."
"Those are only words, Maurice. With regard to my age, I am over
twenty-seven, as you know. I need no boy of eighteen for a husband.
Then I am plain: I shall never attract anyone by my personal
appearance, nor will a man ever be led to do foolish things for my
sake. I have worked hard all my life, and have never known what it is
to let to-morrow take care of itself.--Now here, at last, comes
a man of an age not wholly unsuitable to mine, whatever you may say.
What though he has enjoyed life? He offers me, not only a certain
social standing, but material comfort for the rest of my days.
Whereas, otherwise, I may slave on to the end, and die eventually in a
"YOU would never do that. You are not one of that kind. But do you
think, for a moment, you'd be happy in such a position of dependence?"
"That's my own affair. There would certainly be nothing extraordinary
in it, if I were."
"As you put it, perhaps not. But------If it were even some one of your
own race! But these foreigners think so queerly. And then, too,
Madeleine, you'll laugh, I daresay, but I've always thought of you as
different from other women--strong and independent, and quite sure of
yourself. The kind of girl that makes others seem little and stupid.
No one here was good enough for you."
Madeleine's amazement was so great that she did not reply immediately.
Then she laughed. "You have far too high an opinion of me. Do you
really think I like standing alone? That I do it by preference?--You
were never more mistaken, if you do. It has always been a case of
necessity with me, no one ever having asked me to try the other way. I
suppose like you, they thought I enjoyed it. However, set your mind at
rest. Your kind intervention has not come too late. There is still
"I'm glad to hear it."
"I don't say there mayn't be," she added. "Herr Lohse and I are
excellent friends, and it won't occur to me not to accept the
theatre-tickets and other amusements he is able to give me.--But it is
also possible that for the sake of 'your ideals, I may die a solitary
Here she was overcome by the comical side of the matter, and burst out
"What a ridiculous boy you are! If you only knew how you have turned
the tables on me. I sent for you, this afternoon, to give you a sound
talking-to, and instead of that, here you sit and lecture me."
"Well, if I have achieved something----"
"It's too absurd," she repeated more tartly. "For you to come here in
this way to care for my character, when you yourself are the talk of
His face changed, as she had meant it to do. He choked back a
sharp rejoinder. "I'd be obliged, if you'd leave my affairs out of the
"I daresay you would. But that's just what I don't intend to do. For
if there are rumours going the round about me, what on earth is one to
say of you? I needn't go into details. You know quite well what I
mean. Let me tell you that your name is in everybody's mouth, and that
you are being made to appear not only contemptible, but ridiculous."
"The place is a hot-bed of scandal. I've told you that before," he
cried, angry enough now. "These dirty-minded MUSIKER think it outside
the bounds of possibility for two people to be friends." But his tone
was unsure, and he was conscious of it.
"Yes--when one of the two is Louise."
"Kindly leave Miss Dufrayer out of the question."
"Oh, Maurice, don't Miss Dufrayer me!--I knew Louise before you even
knew that she existed.--But answer me one question, and I'm done. Are
you engaged to Louise?"
"Most certainly not."
"Well, then, you ought to be.--For though you don't care what people
say about yourself, your conscience will surely prick you when you
hear that you're destroying the last shred of reputation Louise had
left.--I should be sorry to repeat to you what is being said of her."
But after he had gone, she reproached herself for having put such a
question to him. At the pass things had reached, it was surely best
for him to go through with his infatuation, and get over it. Whereas
she, in a spasm of conventionality, had pointed him out the sure road
to perdition; for the worst thing that could happen would be for him
to bind himself to Louise, in any fashion. As if her reputation
mattered! The more rapidly she got rid of what remained to her, the
better it would be for every one, and particularly for Maurice Guest.
Had Maurice been in doubt as to Madeleine's meaning, it would have
been removed within a few minutes of his leaving the house. As he
turned a corner of the Gewandhaus, he came face to face with Krafft.
Though they had not met for weeks, Heinrich passed with no greeting
but a disagreeable smile. Maurice was not half-way across the road,
however, when Krafft came running back, and, taking the lappel of his
friend's coat, allowed his wit to play round the talent Maurice
displayed for wearing dead men's shoes.
CARMEN was given that night in the theatre; Maurice had fetched
tickets from the box-office in the morning. An ardent liking for the
theatre had sprung up in Louise of late; and they were there sometimes
two or three evenings in succession. Besides this, CARMEN was her
favourite opera, which she never missed. They heard it from the
second-top gallery. Leaning back in his corner, Maurice could see
little of the stage; but the bossy waves of his companion's head were
sharply outlined for him against the opposite tier.
Louise was engrossed in what was happening on the stage; her eyes were
wide open, immovable. He had never known anyone surrender himself so
utterly to the mimic life of the theatre. Under the influence of music
or acting that gripped her, Louise lost all remembrance of her
surroundings: she lived blindly into this unreal world, without the
least attempt at criticism. Afterwards, she returned to herself tired
and dispirited, and with a marked distaste for the dullness of real
life. Here, since the first lively clash of the orchestra, since the
curtain rose on gay Sevilla, she had been as far away from him as if
she were on another planet. Not, he was obliged to confess to himself,
that it made very much difference. Though he was now her constant
companion, though his love for her was stronger than it had ever been,
he knew less of her to-day than he had known six months ago, when one
all-pervading emotion had made her life an open book.
Since that unhappy afternoon on which he learnt the contents of the
letter from Dresden, they had spent a part of nearly every day in each
other's company. Louise had borne him no malice for what he had said
to her; indeed, with the generous forgetfulness of offence, which was
one of the most astonishing traits in her character, she met him, the
day after, as though nothing had passed between them. By common
consent, they never referred to the matter again; Maurice did not know
to this day, whether or how she had answered the letter. For, although
she had forgiven him, she was not quite the same with him as before; a
faint change had come over their relation to each other. It was
something so elusive that he could not have defined it; yet
nevertheless it existed, and he was often acutely conscious of it. It
was not that she kept her thoughts to herself; but she did not say ALL
she thought--that was it. And this shade of reserve, in her who had
been so frank, ate into him sorely. He accepted it, though, as a
chastisement, for he had been in a very contrite frame of mind on
awakening to the knowledge that he had all but lost her. And
so the days had slipped away. An outsider had first to open his eyes
to the fact that it was impossible for things to go on any longer as
they were doing; that, for her sake, he must make an end, and quickly.
And yet it had been so easy to drift, so hard to do otherwise, when
Louise accepted all he did for her as a matter of course, in that
high-handed way of hers which took no account of details. He felt
sorry for her, too, for she was not happy. There was a gnawing
discontent in her just now, and for this, in great measure, he held
himself responsible: for a few weeks she had been buoyed up by the
hope of a new life, and he had been the main agent in destroying this
hope. In return, he had had nothing to offer her--nothing but a rigid
living up to certain uncomfortable ideals, which brought neither
change nor pleasure with them: and, despite his belief in the innate
nobility of her nature, he could not but recognise that ideals were
for her something colder and sterner than for other people.
She made countless demands on his indulgence, and he learnt to see,
only too clearly, what a dependent creature she was. It was more than
a boon, it was a necessity to her, to have some one at her side who
would care for her comfort and well-being. He could not picture her
alone; for no one had less talent than she for the trifles that
compose life. Her thoughts seemed always to be set on something
larger, vaguer, beyond.
He devoted as much time to her as he could spare from his work, and
strove to meet her half-way in all she asked. But it was no slight
matter; for her changes of mood had never been so abrupt as they were
now. He did not know how to treat her. Sometimes, she was cold and
unapproachable, so wrapped up in herself that he could not get near
her; and perhaps only an hour later, her lips would curve upwards in
the smile which made her look absurdly young, and her eyes, too, have
all the questioning wonder of a child's. Or she would be silent with
him, not unkindly, but silent as a sphinx; and, on the same day, a fit
of loquacity would seize her, when she was unable to speak quickly
enough for the words that bubbled to her lips. He managed to please
her seldomer than ever. But however she behaved, he never faltered.
The right to be beside her was now his; and the times she was the
hardest on him were the times he loved her best.
As spring, having reached and passed perfection, slipped over
into summer, she was invaded by a restlessness that nothing could
quell. It got into her hands and her voice, into all her movements,
and worked upon her like a fever-like a crying need. So intense did it
become that it communicated itself to him also. He, too, began to feel
that rest and stillness were impossible for them both, and to be
avoided at any cost.
"I have never really seen spring," Louise said to him, one day, in
excuse of some irrational impulse that had driven her out of the
house. And the quick picture she drew, of how, in her native land, the
brief winter passed almost without transi tion into the scathing
summer; her suggestion of unchanging leaves, brown barrenness, and and
dryness; of grass burnt to cinders, of dust, drought, and hot, sandy
winds: all this helped him to understand something of what she was
feeling. A remembrance of this parched heat was in her veins, making
her eager not to miss any of the young, teeming beauty around her, or
one of the new strange scents; eager to let the magic of this
awakening permeate her and amaze her, like a primeval hap pening. But,
though he thus grasped something of what was going on in her, he was
none the less uneasy under it: just as her feverish unburdening of
herself after hours of silence, so now her attitude towards this mere
change of nature disquieted him; she over-enjoyed it, let herself go
in its exuberance. And, as usual, when she lost hold of her nerves, he
found himself retreating into his shell, practising self-control for
Often, how often he could not count, the words that had to be said had
risen to his lips. But they had never crossed them--in spite of the
wanton greenness of the woods, which should have been the very frame
in which to tell a woman you loved her. But not one drop of her
nervous exaltation was meant for him: she had never shown, by the
least sign, that she cared a jot for him; and daily he became more
convinced that he was chasing a shadow, that he was nothing to her but
the STAFFAGE in the picture of her life. He was torn by doubts, and
mortally afraid of the one little word that would put an end to them.
He recollected one occasion when he had nearly succeeded in telling
her, and when, but for a trick of fate, he would have done so. They
were on their way home from the NONNE, where the delicate undergrowth
of the high old trees was most prodigal, and where Louise had closed
her eyes, and drunk in the rich, earthy odours. They had
paused on the suspension. bridge, and stood, she with one ungloved
hand on the railing, to watch the moving water. Looking at her, it had
seemed to him that just on this afternoon, she might listen to what he
had to say with a merciful attentiveness; she was quiet, and her face
was gentle. He gripped the rail with both hands. But, before he could
open his lips, a third person turned from the wood-path on to the
bridge, making it tremble with his steps--a jaunty cavalry officer,
with a trim moustache and bright dancing eyes. He walked past them,
but threw a searching look at Louise, and, a little further along the
bridge, stood still, as if to watch something that was floating in the
water, in reality to look covertly back at her. She had taken no
notice of him as he passed, but when he paused, she raised her head;
and then she looked at him--with a preoccupied air, it was true, but
none the less steadily, and for several seconds on end. The words died
on Maurice's lips: and going home, he was as irresponsive as she
herself . . .
"I love you, Louise--love you." He said it now, sitting back in his
dark corner in the theatre; but amid the buzz and hum of the music,
and the shouting of the toreadors, he might have called the words
aloud, and still she would not have heard them.
Strangely enough, however, at this moment, for the first time during
the evening, she turned her head. His eyes were fixed on her, in a
dark, exorbitant gaze. Her own face hardened.
Maurice opened the jeather case, and gave her the glass. Their fingers
met, and hers groped for a moment round his hand. He withdrew it as
though her touch had burnt him. Louise flashed a glance at him, and
laid the opera-glass en the ledge in front of her, without making use
Slowly the traitorous blood subsided. To the reverberating music,
which held all ears, and left him sitting alone with his fate, Maurice
had a moment of preternatural clearness. He realised that only one
course was open to him, and that was to go away. BEI NACHT UND NEBEL,
if it could not be managed otherwise, but, however it happened, he
must go. More wholly for her sake than Madeleine had dreamed of:
unless he wanted to be led into some preposterous folly that would
embitter the rest of his life. Who could say how long the wall he had
built up round her--of the knowledge he shared with her, of
pity for what she had undergone--would stand against the onset of this
morbid, overmastering desire?
To the gay, feelingless music, he thought out his departure in detail,
sparing himself nothing.
But in the long interval after the second act, when they were
downstairs on the LOGGIA, where it was still half daylight; where the
lights of cafes and street-lamps were only beginning here and there to
dart into existence; where every man they met seemed to notice Louise
with a start of attention: here Maurice was irrevocably convinced that
it would be madness to resign his hard-won post without a struggle.
For that it would long remain empty, he did not for a moment delude
They hardly exchanged a word during the remainder of the evening. His
mouth was dry. Carmen, and her gaudy fate, drove past him like the
phantasmagoria of a sleepless night.
When, the opera was over, and they stood waiting for the crowd to
thin, he scanned his companion's face with anxiety, to discover her
mood. With her hand on the wire ledge, Louise watched the slow fall of
the iron curtain. Her eyes were heavy; she still lived in what she had
Her preoccupation continued as they crossed the square; her movements
were listless. Maurice's thoughts went back to a similar night, a year
ago, when, for the first time, he had walked at her side: it had been
just such a warm, lilac-scented night as this, and then, as now, he
had braced himself up to speak. At that time he had known her but
slightly; perhaps, for that very reason, he had been bolder in taking
He turned and looked at her. Her face was averted: he could only see
the side of her cheek, and the clear-cut line of her chin.
"Are you tired, Louise?" he asked, and, in the protective tenderness
of his tone, her name sounded like a term of endearment.
She made a vague gesture, which might signify either yes or no.
"It was too hot for you up there, to-night," he went on. "Next time, I
shall take you a scat downstairs--as I've always wanted to." As she
still did not respond, he added, in a changed voice: "Altogether,
though, it will be better for you to get accustomed to going alone to
She turned at this, with an indolent curiosity. "Why?"
"Because--why, because it will soon be necessary. I'm going away."
He had made a beginning now, clumsily, and not as he had intended, but
it was made, and he would stand fast.
"You are going away?"
She said each word distinctly, as if she doubted her ears.
"For several reasons. It's not a new decision. I've been thinking
about it for some time."
"Indeed? Then why choose just to-night to tell me?--you've had plenty
of other chances. And to-night I had enjoyed the theatre, and the
music, and coming out into the air . . ."
"I'm sorry. But I've put it off too long as it is. I ought to have
told you before.--Louise . . . you must see that things can't go on
like this any longer?"
His voice begged her for once to look at the matter as he did. But she
heard only the imperative.
"Must?" she repeated. "I don't see--not at all."
"Yes.--For your sake, I must go."
"Ah!--that makes it clearer. People have been talking, have they? Well,
let them talk."
"I can't hear you spoken of in that way."
"Oh, you're very good. But if we, ourselves, know that what's being
said is not true, what can it matter?"
"I refuse to be the cause of it."
"Do you, indeed?" She laughed. "You refuse? After doing all you can to
make yourself indispensable, you now say: get on as best you can
alone; I've had enough; I must go.--Don't say it's on my account--that
the thought of yourself is not at the bottom of it--for I wouldn't
believe you though you did."
"I give you my word, I have only thought of you. I meant it . . . I
mean it, for the best."
She quickened her steps, and he saw that she was nervously worked up.
"No man can want to injure the woman he respects--as I respect you."
Her shoulders rose, in her own emotional way.
"But tell me one thing," he begged, as she walked inexorable before
him. "Say it will matter a little to you if I go--that you will miss
me--if ever so little . . . Louise !"
"Miss you? What does it matter whether I miss you or not? It
seems to me that counts least of all. You, at any rate, will have
acted properly. You will have nothing to reproach yourself with.--Oh, I
wouldn't be a man for anything on earth! You are all--all alike. I hate
you and despise you--every one of you!"
They were within a few steps of the house. She pressed on, and,
without looking back at him, or wishing him good-night, disappeared in
It was a hot evening in June: the perfume of the lilac, now in fullest
bloom, lay over squares and gardens like a suspended wave. The sun had
gone down in a cloudless sky; an hour afterwards, the pavements were
still warm to the touch, and the walls of the buildings radiated the
heat they had absorbed. The high old houses in the inner town had all
windows set open, and the occupants leaned out on their
window-cushions, with continental nonchalance. The big garden-cafes
were filled to the last scat. In the woods, the midges buzzed round
people's heads in accompanying clouds; and streaks of treacherous
white mist trailed, like fixed smoke, over the low-lying meadow-land.
Maurice and Louise had rowed to Connewitz; but so late in the evening
that most of the variously shaped boats, with coloured lanterns at
their bows, were returning when they started.
Louise herself had proposed it. When he went to her that afternoon, he
found her stretched on the sofa. A theatre-ticket lay on the table--for
she had taken him at his word, and shown him that she could do without
him. But to-night she had no fancy for the theatre: it was too hot.
She looked very slight and young in her white dress; but was moody and
out of spirits.
On the way to Connewitz, they spoke no more than was necessary. Coming
back, however, they had the river to themselves; and she no longer
needed to steer. He placed cushions for her at the bottom of the boat;
and there she lay, with her hands clasped under her neck, watching the
starry strip of sky, which followed them, between the tops of the
trees above, like a complement of the river below.
The solitude was unbroken; they might have gone down in the murky
water, and no one would ever know how it had happened: a snag caught
unawares; a clumsy movement in the light boat; half a minute, and all
would be over.--Or, for the first and the last time in his life, he
would take her in his arms, hold her to him, feel her cheek on his; he
would kiss her, with kisses that were at once an initiation and a
farewell; then, covering her eyes with his hands, he would gently,
very gently, tilt the boat. A moment's hesitation; it sought
to right itself; rocked violently, and overturned: and beneath it,
locked in each other's arms, they found a common grave. . . .
In fancy, he saw it all. Meanwhile, he rowed on, with long, leisurely
strokes; and the lapping of the water round the oars was the only
sound to be heard.
At home, on the lid of his piano, lay the prospectuses of
music-schools in other towns. They were still arriving, in answer to
the impulsive letters he had written off, the night after the theatre.
But the last to come had remained unopened.--He was well aware of it:
his lingering on had all the appearance of a weak reluctance to face
the inevitable. For he could never make mortal understand what he had
come through, in the course of the past week. He could no more put
into words the isolated spasms of ecstasy he had experienced--when
nothing under the sun seemed impossible--than he could describe the
slough of misery and uncertainty, which, on occasion, he had been
forced to wade through. For the most part, he believed that the words
of contempt Louise had spoken, came straight from her heart; but he
had also known the faint stir ring of a new hope, and particularly was
this the case when he had not seen Louise for some time. Then, at
night, as he lay staring before him, this feeling became a sudden
refulgence, which lighted him through all the dark hours, only to be
reorselessly extinguished by daylight. Most frequently, however, it
was so slender a hope as to be a mere distracting flutter at his
heart. Whence it sprang, he could not tell--he knew Louise too well to
believe, for a moment, that she would make use of pique to hide her
feelings. But there was a something in her manner, which was strained;
in the fact that she, who had never cared, should at length be moved
by words of his; in a certain way she had looked at him, once or twice
in these days; or in a certain way she had avoided looking at him. No,
he did not know what it was. But nevertheless it was there--a faint,
inarticulate existence--and, compared with it, the tangible facts of
life were the shadows of a shadow.
Surely she had fallen asleep. He said her name aloud, to try her.
"Louise!" She did not stir, and the word floated out into the
night--became an expression of the night itself.
They had passed the weir and its foaming, and now glided under the
bridges that spanned the narrower windings of the river. The wooden
bathing-house looked awesome enough to harbour mysteries. Another
sharp turn, among sedge and rushes, and the outlying streets
of the town were on their right. The boat-sheds were in darkness, when
they drew up alongside the narrow landing-place. Maurice got out with
the chain in his hand, and secured the boat. Louise did not follow
immediately. her hair had come down, and she was stiff from the
cramped position in which she had been lying. When she did rise to her
feet, she could hardly stand. He put out his hand, and steadied her by
"A heavy dew must be falling. Your sleeve is wet."
She made a movement to draw her arm away; at the same moment, she
tangled her foot in her skirt, tripped, and, if he had not caught her,
would have fallen forward.
"Take care what you're doing! Do you want to drown yourself?"
"I don't know. I shouldn't mind, I think," she answered tonelessly.
His own balance had been endangered. Directly he had righted himself,
he set her from him. But it could not be undone: he had had her in his
arms, had felt all her weight on him. The sensation seemed to take his
strength away: after the long, black, silent evening, her body was
doubly warm, doubly real. He walked her back, along the deserted
streets, at a pace she could not keep up with. She lagged behind. She
was very pale, and her face wore an expression of almost physical
suffering. She looked resolutely away from Maurice; but when her eyes
did chance to rest on him, she was swept by such a sense of nervous
irritation that she hated the sight of him, as he walked before her.
Upstairs, in her room, when he had laid the cushions on the sofa; when
the lamp was lighted and set on the table; when he still stood there,
pale, and wretched, and undecided, Louise came to an abrupt decision.
Advancing to the table, she leaned her hands on it, and bending
forward, raised her white face to his.
"You told me you were going away; why do you not go? Why have you not
already gone?" she asked, and her mouth was hard. "I am waiting . . .
expecting to hear."
His answer was so hasty that it was all but simultaneous.
"Louise!--can't you forgive me?--for what I said the other night?"
"I have nothing to forgive," she replied, coldly in spite of herself.
"You said you must go. I can't keep you here against your will."
"It has made you angry with me. I have made you unhappy."
"You are making us both unhappy," she said in a low voice. "Now, it is
I who say, things can't go on like this."
"I know it." He drew a deep breath. "Louise! . . . if only you could
care a little!"
There was silence after these words, but not a silence of conclusion;
both knew now that more must follow. He raised his head, and looked
into her eyes.
"Can you not see how I love you--and how I suffer?"
It was a statement rather than a question, but he was not aware of
this: he was only amazed that, after all, he should be able to speak
so quietly, in such an even tone of voice.
There was another pause of suspense; his words seemed like balls of
down that he had tossed into the still air: they sank, lingeringly,
without haste; and she stood, and let them descend on her. His haggard
eyes hung on her face; and, as he watched, he saw a change come over
it: the enmity that had been in it, a few seconds back, died out; the
lips softened and relaxed; and when the eyes were raised to his again,
they were kind, full of pity.
"I'm sorry. Poor boy . . . poor Maurice."
She seemed to hesitate; then, with one of her frankest gestures, held
out her hand. At its touch, soft and living, he forgot everything:
plans and resolutions, hopes and despairs, happiness and unhappiness
no longer existed for him; he knew only that she was sorry for him,
that some swift change in her had made her sympathise and understand.
He looked down, with dim eyes, at the sweet, pale face, now alight
with compassion then, with disarming abruptness, he took her head
between his hands, and kissed her, repeatedly, whereever his lips
chanced to fall--on the warm mouth, the closed eyes, temples, and hair.
He was gone before she recovered from her surprise. She had
instinctively stemmed her hands against his shoulders; but, when she
was alone, she stood just as he left her, her eyes still shut, letting
the sensation subside, of rough, unexpected kisses. She had been taken
unawares; her heart was beating. For a moment or two, she remained in
the same attitude; then she passed her hand over her face. "That was
foolish of him . . . very," she said. She looked down at herself and
saw her hands. She stretched them out before her, with a sudden sense
"If I could care! Yes--if I could only care!"
At two o'clock that morning, Maurice wrote:
FORGIVE ME--I DIDN'T KNOW WHAT I WAS DOING. FOR I LOVE YOU, LOUISE--NO
WOMAN HAS EVER BEEN LOVED AS YOU ARE. I KNOW IT IS FOLLY ON MY PART. I
HAVE NOTHING TO OFFER YOU. BUT BE MY WIFE, AND I WILL WORK MY FINGERS
TO THE BONE FOR YOU.
He went out into the summer night, and posted the letter. Returning to
his room, he threw himself on the sofa, and fell into a heavy sleep,
from which he did not wake till the morning was well advanced.
Work was out of the question that day, when he waited as if for a
sentence of death. He paced his narrow room, incessantly, afraid to go
out, for fear of missing her reply. The hours dragged themselves by,
as it is their special province to do in crises of life; and with each
one that passed, he grew more convinced what her answer to his letter
It was late in the afternoon when the little boy she employed as a
messenger, put a note into his hands.
COME TO ME THIS EVENING.
It was all but evening now; he went, just as he was, on the heels of
The windows of her room were open. She sprang up to meet him, then
paused. He looked desperately yet stealthily at her. The commiseration
of the previous night was still in her face; but she was now quite
sure of herself: she drew him to the sofa and made him sit down beside
her. Then, however, for a few seconds, in which he waited with
hammering pulses, she did not speak. The dull fear at his heart became
a certainty; and, unable to bear the suspense any longer, he took one
of her hands and laid it on his forehead.
Then she said: "Maurice--poor, foolish Maurice!--it is not possible. You
see that yourself, I'm sure."
"Yes. I know quite well: it is presumption."
"Oh, I don't mean that. But there are so many reasons. And you, too,
Maurice . . . Look at me, and tell me if what you wrote was not just
an attempt to make up for what happened last night." And as he did not
reply, she added: "You mustn't make yourself reproaches. I, too, was
"It was nothing of the sort. I've been trying for weeks now to
tell you. I love you--have loved you since the first time I saw you."
He let go of her hand, and she sat forward, with her arms along her
knees. Her eyes were troubled; but she did not lose her calm manner of
speaking. "I'm sorry, Maurice, very sorry--you believe me' don't you,
when I say so? But believe me, too, it's not so serious as you think.
You are young. You will get over it, and forget--if not soon, at least
in time. You must forget me, and some day you will meet the nice, good
woman, who is to be your wife. And when that happens, you will look
back on your fancy for me as something foolish, and unreal. You won't
be able to understand it then, and you will be grateful to me, for not
having taken you at your word."
Maurice laughed. All the same, he tried to take his dismissal well: he
rose, wrung her hand, and left her.
In the seclusion of his own room, he went through the blackest hour of
He began to make final preparations for his departure. His choice had
fallen on Stuttgart: it was far distant from Leipzig; he would be well
out of temptation's way--the temptation suddenly to return. He wrote a
letter home, apprising his relatives of his intention: by the time
they received the letter, it would be too late for them to interfere.
Otherwise, he took no one into his confidence. He would greatly have
liked to wait until the present term was over; another month, and the
summer vacation would have begun, and he would have been able to leave
without making himself conspicuous. But every day it grew more
impossible to be there and not to see her--for four days now he had
kept away, fighting down his unreasoning desire to know what she was
doing. He intended only to see her once more, to bid her good-bye.
The afternoon before his interview with Schwarz--he had arranged this
with himself for the morning, at the master's private house--he sat at
his writing-table, destroying papers and old letters. There was a heap
of ashes in the cold stove by the time he took out, tied up in a
separate packet, the few odd scraps of writing he had received from
Louise. He balanced the bundle in his hand, hesitating what to do with
it. Finally, he untied the string, to glance through the letters once
At the sight of the bold, black, familiar writing, in which each
word--two or three to a line--seemed to have a life of its own; at the
well-conned pages, each of which he knew by heart; at the
characteristic, almost masculine signature, and the faint perfume that
still clung to the paper: at the sight of these things all--that he
had been thinking and planning since seeing her last, was effaced from
his mind. As often before, where she was concerned, a wild impulse,
surging up in him, took entire possession of him; and hours of patient
and laborious reasoning were by one swift stroke blotted out.
He rose, locked the letters up again, rested his arm on the lid of the
piano, his head on his arm. The more he toyed with his inclination to
go to her, the more absorbent it became, and straightway it was an
ungovernable longing: it came over him with a dizzy force, which made
him close his eyes; and he was as helpless before it as the drunkard
before his craving to drink. Standing thus, he saw with a flash of
insight that, though he went away as far as steam could carry him, he
would never, as long as he lived, be safe from overthrows of this
kind. It was something elemental, which he could no more control than
the flow of his blood. And he did not even stay to excuse himself to
himself: he went headlong to her, with burning words on his lips.
"My poor boy," she said, when he ceased to speak. "Yes, I know what it
is--that sudden rage that comes over one, to rush back, at all costs,
no matter what happens afterwards.--I'm so sorry for you, Maurice. It
is making me unhappy."
"You are not to be unhappy. It shall not happen again, I promise
you.--Besides, I shall soon be gone now." But at his own words, the
thought of his coming desolation pierced him anew. "Give me just one
straw to cling to! Tell me you won't forget me all at once; that you
will miss me and think of me--if ever so little."
"You asked me that the other night. Was what I said then, not answer
enough?--And besides, in these last four days, since I have been alone,
I've learnt just how much I shall miss you, Maurice. It's my
punishment, I suppose, for growing so dependent on anyone."
"You must go away, too. You can't stay here by yourself. We must both
go, in opposite directions, and begin afresh."
She did not reply at once. "I shouldn't know where to go," she said,
after a time. "Will nothing else do, Maurice? Is there no other
way?--Oh, why can't we go on being friends, as we were!"
He shook his head. "I've struggled against it so long--you don't know.
I've never really been your friend--only I couldn't hurt you
before, by telling you. And it has worn me out; I'm good for nothing.
Louise!--think, just once more--ask yourself, once more, if it's quite
impossible, before you send me into the outer darkness."
She was silent.
"I don't ask you to love me," he went on, in a low voice. "I've come
down from that, in these wretched days. I would be content with less,
much less. I only ask you to let yourself be loved--as I could love
you. If only you could say you liked me a little, all the rest would
come, I'm confident of it. In time, I should make you love me. For I
would take, oh, such care of you! I want to make you happy, only to
make you happy. I've no other wish than to show you what happiness
"It sounds so good . . . you are good, Maurice. But the future--tell
me, have thought of the future?"
"I should think I have.--Do you suppose it means nothing to me to be so
despicably poor as I am? To have absolutely nothing to offer you?"
She took his hand. "That's not what I mean. And you know it. Come, let
us talk sensibly this afternoon, and look things straight in the
face.--You want to marry me, you say, and let the rest come? That is
very, very good of you, and I shall never forget it.--But what does it
mean, Maurice? You have been here a little over a year now, haven't
you?--and still have about a year to stay. When that's over, you will
go back to England. You will settle in some small place, and spend
your life, or the best part of your life, there--oh, Maurice, you are
my kind friend, but I tell you frankly, I couldn't face life in an
English provincial town. I'm not brave enough for that."
He gleaned a ray of hope from her words. "We could live here--anywhere
you liked. I would make it possible. I swear I would."
She shook her head, and went on, with the same reasonable sweetness.
"And then, there's another thing. If I married you, sooner or later
you would have to take me home to your people. Have you really thought
of that, and how you would feel about it, when it came to the
point?--No, no, it's impossible for me to marry you."
"But that--that American!--you would have married him?"
"That was different," she said, and her voice grew thinner.
"It's the knowing that tells, Maurice. You would have that still to
learn. You don't realise it yet, but afterwards, it would come home to
you.--Listen! You have always been kind to me, I owe you such a debt of
gratitude, that I'm going to be frank, brutally frank with you. I've
told you often that I shall never really care for anyone again. You
know that, don't you? Well, I want to tell you, too--I want you to
understand quite, quite clearly that . . . that I belonged to him
altogether--entirely--that I . . . Oh, you know what I mean!"
Maurice covered his face with his hands. "The past is the past. It
should never be mentioned between us. It doesn't matter--nothing
"You say that--every one says that--beforehand," she answered; and not
only her words, but also her way of saying them, seemed to set her
down miles away from him, on a lonely pinnacle of experience.
"Afterwards, you would think differently."
"Louise, if you really cared, it would be different. You wouldn't say
such things, then--you would be only too glad not to say them."
In her heart she knew that he was right, and did not contradict him.
The busy little clock on the writing-table ticked away a few seconds.
With a jerk, Maurice rose to his feet. Louise remained sitting, and he
looked down on her black head. His gaze was so insistent that she felt
it, and raised her eyes. His forlorn face moved her.
"Why is it--what is the matter with me?--that I must upset your life
like this? I can't bear to see you so unhappy.--And yet I haven't done
anything, have I? I have always been honest with you; I've never made
myself out to be better than I am. There must be something wrong with
me, I think, that no one can ever be satisfied to be just my
friend.--Yet with you I thought it was different. I thought things
could go on as they were. Maurice, isn't it possible? Say it is! Show
me just one little spark of good in myself!"
"I'm not different from other men, Louise. I deluded myself long
enough, God knows!"
She made a despondent gesture, and turned away. "Well, then, if either
of us should go, I'm the one. You have your work. I do nothing; I have
no ties, no friends--I never even seem to have been able to make
acquaintances. And if I went, you could stay quietly on. In time, you
would forget me.--If I only knew where to go! I am so alone,
and it is all so hard. I shall never know what it is to be happy
myself, or to make anyone else happy--never!" and she burst into tears.
It was his turn now to play the comforter. Drawing a. chair up before
her, he took her hand, and said all he could think of to console her.
He could bear anything, he told her, but to see her unhappy. All would
yet turn out to be for the best. And, on one point, she was to set her
mind at rest: her going away would not benefit him in the least. He
would never consent to stay on alone, where they had been so much
"I've nothing to look forward to, nothing," she sobbed. "There's
nothing I care to live for."
As soon as she was quieter, he left her.
For an hour or more Louise lay huddled up on the sofa, with her face
pressed to her arm.
When she sat up again, she pushed back her heavy hair, and, clasping
her hands loosely round her knees, stared before her with vacant eyes.
But not for long; tired though she was, and though her head ached from
crying, there was still a deep residue of excitement in her. The level
beams of the sun were pouring blindly into the room; the air was dense
and oppressive. She rose to her feet and moved about. She did not know
what to do with herself: she would have liked to go out and walk; but
the dusty, jarring light of the summer streets frightened her. She
thought of music, of the theatre, as a remedy for the long evening
that yawned before her: then dismissed the idea from her mind. She was
in such a condition of restlessness, this night, that the fact of
being forced to sit still between two other human beings, would make
her want to scream.
The sun was getting low; the foliage of the trees in the opposite
gardens was black, with copper edges, against the refulgence of the
sky. She leaned her hands on the sill, and gazed fixedly at the
stretch of red and gold, which, like the afterglow of a fire, flamed
behind the trees. Her eyes were filled with it. She did not think or
feel: she became one, by looking, with the sight before her. As she
stood there, nothing of her existed but her two widely opened eyes;
she was a miracle wrought by the sunset; she WAS the sunset--in one of
those vacancies of mind, which all intense gazers know.
How long she had remained thus she could not have told, when a strange
thing happened to her. From some sub-conscious layer of her brain,
which started into activity because the rest of it was so
passive, a small, still thought glided in, and took possession of her
mind. At first, it was so faint that she hardly grasped it; but, once
established there, it became so vivid that, with one sweep, it blotted
out trees and sunset; so real that it seemed always to have been
present to her. Without conscious effort on her part, the solution to
her difficulties had been found; a decision had been arrived at, but
not by her; it was the work of some force outside herself.
She turned from the window, and pressed her hands to her blinded eyes.
Good God! it was so simple. To think that this had not occurred to her
before!--that, throughout the troubled afternoon, the idea had never
once suggested itself! There was no need of loneliness and suffering
for either of them. He might stay; they both might stay; she could
make him happy, and ward off the change she so dreaded.--Who was she to
stick at it?
But she remained dazed, doubtful as it were of this peaceful ending;
her hand still covered her eyes. Then, with one of the swift movements
by which it was her custom to turn thought into action, she went to
the writing-table, and scrawled a few, big words.
MAURICE, I HAVE FOUND A WAY. COME BACK TO-MORROW EVENING.
She hesitated only over the last two words, and, before writing them,
sat with her chin in her hand, and deliberately considered. Then she
addressed the envelope, and stamped it: it would be soon enough if he
got it through the post, the following morning.
But, with her, to resolve was to act; she was ill at ease under
enforced procrastination; and had often to fight against a burning
impatience, when circumstances delayed the immediate carrying out of
her will. In this case, however, she had voluntarily postponed
Maurice's return for twenty-four hours, when he might have been with
her in less than one: for, in her mind, there lurked the seductive
thought of a long, summer day, with an emotion at its close to which
she could look forward.
In the meantime, she was puzzled how to fill up the evening. After
all, she decided to go to the theatre, where she arrived in time to
hear the last two acts of AIDA. From a seat in the PARQUET, close to
the orchestra, she let the showy music play round her.
Afterwards, she walked home through the lilachaunted night, went to
bed, and at once fell asleep.
Next morning, she wakened early--that was the sole token of
disturbance, she could detect in herself. It was very still; there was
a faint twittering of birds, but the noises of the street had not yet
begun. She lay in the subdued yellow light of her room, with one arm
across her eyes.
Fresh from sleep, she understood certain things as never before. She
saw all that had happened of late--her slow recovery, her striving and
seeking, her growing friendship with Maurice--in a different light. On
this morning, too, she was able to answer one of the questions that
had puzzled her the night before. She saw that the relations in which
they had stood to each other, during the bygone months, would have
been impossible, had she really cared for him. She liked him, yes, had
always liked him; and, in addition, his patience and kindness had made
her deeply grateful to him. But that was all. Neither his hands, nor
his voice, nor his eyes, nor anything he did, had had the power to
touch her--SO to touch her, that her own hands and eyes would have met
his half-way; that the old familiar craving, which was partly fear and
partly attraction, would have made her callous to his welfare. Had
there been a breath of this, things would have come to a climax long
ago. Hot and eager as she was, she could not have lived on coolly at
his side--and, at this moment, she found it difficult to make up her
mind whether she admired Maurice or the reverse, for having been able
to carry his part through.
And yet, though no particle of personal feeling drew her to him, she,
too, had suffered, in her own way, during these weeks of morbid
tension, when he had been incapable either of advancing or retreating.
How great the strain had been, she recognised only in the instant when
he had spanned the breach, in clear, unmistakable words. If he had not
done it, she would have been forced to; for she could never find
herself to rights, for long, in half circumstances: if she were not to
grow bewildered, she had to see her road simple and straight before
her. His words to her after they had been on the river together--more,
perhaps, his bold yet timid kisses--had given her back strength and
assurance. She was no longer the miserable instrument on which he
tried his changes of mood; she was again the giver and the bestower,
since she held a heart and a heart's happiness in the hollow of her
What people would think and say was a matter of indifference
to her: besides, they practically believed the worst of her already.
No; she had nothing to lose and, it might be, much to gain. And after
all, it meant so little! The first time, perhaps; or if one cared too
much. But in this case, where she had herself well in hand, and where
there was no chance of the blind desire to kill self arising, which
had been her previous undoing; where the chief end aimed at was the
retention of a friend--here, it meant nothing at all.
The thought that she might possibly have scruples on his part to
combat, crossed her mind. She stretched her arm straight above her
head, then laid it across her eyes again. She would like him none the
less for these scruples, did they exist: now, she believed that, at
heart, she had really appreciated his reserve, his holding back, where
others would have been so ready to pounce in. For the first time, she
considered him in the light of a lover, and she saw him differently.
As if the mere contemplation of such a change brought her nearer to
him, she was stirred by a new sensation, which had him as its object.
And under the influence of this feeling, she told herself that perhaps
just in this gentler, kindlier love, which only sought her welfare,
true happiness lay. She strained to read the future. There would be
storms neither of joy nor of pain; but watchful sympathy, and the
fine, manly tenderness that shields and protects. Oh, what if after
all her passionate craving for happiness, it was here at her feet,
having come to her as good things often do, unexpected and unsought!
She could lie still no longer; she sprang up, with an alacrity that
had been wanting in her movements of late. And throughout the long
day, this impression, which was half a hope and half a belief was
present to her mind, making everything she did seem strangely festive.
She almost feared the moment when she would see him again, lest
anything he said should dissipate her hope.
When he came, her eyes followed him searchingly. With an instinct that
was now morbidly sharpened, Maurice was aware of the change in her,
even before he saw her eyes. His own were one devouring question.
She made him sit down beside her.
"What is it, Louise? Tell me--quickly. Remember, I've been all day in
suspense," he said, as seconds passed and she did not speak.
"You got my note then?"
"What is it?--what did you mean?"
"Just a little patience, Maurice. You take one's breath away.
You want to know everything at once. I sent for you because--oh,
because . . . I want you to let us go on being friends."
"Is that all?" he cried, and his face fell. "When I have told you
again and again that's just what I can't do?"
She smiled. "I wish I had known you as a boy, Maurice--oh, but as quite
a young boy!" she said in such a changed voice that he glanced up in
surprise. Whether it was the look she bent on him, or her voice, or
her words, he did not know; but something emboldened him to do what he
had often done in fancy: he slid to his knees before her, and laid his
head on her lap. She began to smooth back his hair, and each time her
hand came forward, she let it rest for a moment.--She wondered how he
would look when he knew.
"You can't care for me, I know. But I would give my life to make you
"Why do you love me?" She experienced a new pleasure in postponing his
knowing, postponing it indefinitely.
"How can I say? All I know is how I love you--and how I have suffered."
"My poor Maurice," she said, in the same caressing way. "Yes, I shall
always call you poor.--For the love I could give you would be worthless
compared with yours."
"To me it would be everything.--If you only knew how I have longed for
you, and how I have struggled!"
He took enough of her dress to bury his face in. She sat back, and
looked over him into the growing dusk of the room: and, in the
alabaster of her face, nothing seemed to live except her black eyes,
with the half-rings of shadow.
Suddenly, with the unexpectedness that marked her movements when she
was very intent, she leant forward again, and, with her elbow on her
knee, her chin on her hand, said in a low voice: "Is it for ever?"
"For ever and ever."
"Say it's for ever." She still looked past him, but her lips had
parted, and her face wore the expression of a child's listening to
fairy-tales. At her own words, a vista seemed to open up before her,
and, at the other end, in blue haze, shone the great good that had
hitherto eluded her.
"I shall always love you," said the young man. "Nothing can make any
"For ever," she repeated. "They are pretty words."
Then her expression changed; she took his head between her
"Maurice . . . I'm older than you, and I know better than you, what
all this means. Believe me, I'm not worth your love. I'm only the
shadow of my old self. And you are still so young and so . . . so
untried. There's still time to turn back, and be wise."
He raised his head.
"What do you mean? Why are you saying these things? I shall always
love you. Life itself is nothing to me, without you. I want you . . .
He put his arms round her, and tried to draw her to him. But she held
back. At the expression of her face, he had a moment of acute
uncertainty, and would have loosened his hold. But now it was she who
knotted her hands round his neck, and gave him a long, penetrating
look. He was bewildered; he did not understand what it meant; but it
was something so strange that, again, he had the impulse to let her
go. She bent her head, and laid her face against his; cheek rested on
cheek. He took her face between his hands, and stared into her eyes,
as if to tear from them what was passing in her brain. Over both, in
the same breath, swept the warm, irresistible wave of self-surrender.
He caught her to him, roughly and awkwardly, in a desperate embrace,
which the kindly dusk veiled and redeemed.
"Now you will not leave me, Maurice?"
"Never . . . while I live."
"And you . . ."
"No. Don't ask me yet. I can't tell you."
"Forgive me! Not yet. That after all you should care a little! After
all . . . that you should care so much!"
"And it is for ever?"
"For ever and ever . . . what do you take me for? But not here! Let us
go away--to some new place. We will make it our very own."
Their words came in haste, yet haltingly; were all but inaudible
whispers; went flying back and forwards, like brief cries for aid,
implying a peculiar sense of aloofness, of being cut adrift and thrown
on each other's mercy.
Louise raised her head.
"Yes, we will go away. But now, Maurice--at once!"
"Yes. To-night . . . to-morrow . . . when you like."
The next morning, he set out to find a place. Three weeks of the term
had still to run, and he was to have played in an ABENDUNTERHALTUNG,
before the vacation. But, compared with the emotional upheaval he had
undergone, this long-anticipated event was of small consequence. To
Schwarz, he alleged a succession of nervous headaches, which
interfered with his work. His looks lent colour to the statement; and
though, as a rule, highly irritated by opposition to his plans,
Schwarz only grumbled in moderation. He would have let no one else off
so easily, and, at another time, the knowledge of this would have
rankled in Maurice, as affording a fresh proof of the master's
indifference towards him. As it was, he was thankful for the freedom
it secured him.
On the strength of a chance remark of Madeleine's, which he had
remembered, he found what he looked for, without difficulty. It could
not have been better: a rambling inn, with restaurant, set in a
clearing on the top of a wooded hill, with an open view over the
That night, he wrote to Louise from the Rochlitzer Berg, painting the
nest he had found for them in glowing colours, and begging her
to come without delay. But the whole of the next day passed without a
word from her, and the next again, and not till the morning of the
third, did he receive a note, announcing her arrival for shortly after
midday. He took it with him to the woods, and lay at full length on
Although he had been alone now for more than forty-eight hours--a July
quiet reigned over the place--he had not managed to think connectedly.
He was still dazed, disbelieving of what had happened. Again and again
he told himself that his dreams and hopes--which he had always pushed
forward into a vague and far-off future--had actually come to pass. She
was his, all his; she had given herself ungrudgingly: as soon as he
could make it possible, she would be his wife. But, in the meantime,
this was all he knew: his nearer vision was obstructed by the
stupefying thought of the weeks to come. She was to be there, beside
him, day after day, in a golden paradise of love. He could only think
of it with moist eyes; and he swore to himself that he would repay her
by being more infinitely careful of her than ever man before of the
woman he loved. But though he repeated this to himself, and believed
it, his feelings had unwittingly changed their pole. On his knees
before her, he had vowed that her happiness was the end of all his
pleading; now it was frankly happiness he sought, the happiness of
them both, but, first and foremost, happiness. And it could hardly
have been otherwise: the one unpremeditated mingling of their lives
had killed thought; he could only feel now, and, throughout these
days, he was conscious of each movement he made, as of a song sung
aloud. He wandered up and down the wooded paths, blind to everything
but the image of her face, which was always with him, and oftenest as
it had bent over him that last evening, with the strange new fire in
its eyes. Closing his own, he felt again her arms on his shoulders,
her lips meeting his, and, at such moments, it could happen that he
threw his arms round a tree, in an ungovernable rush of longing.
Beyond the moment when he should clasp her to him again, he could not
see: the future was as indistinct as were the Saxon plains, in the
haze of morning or evening.
He set out to meet her far too early in the day, and when he had
covered the couple of miles that lay between the inn on the hill and
the railway-station at the foot, he was obliged to loiter about the
sleepy little town for over an hour. But gradually the time ticked
away; the hands of his watch pointed to a quarter to two, and
presently he found himself on the shadeless, sandy station
which lay at the end of a long, sandy street, edged with two rows of
young and shadeless trees; found himself looking along the line of
rail that was to bring her to him. Would the signal never go up? He
began to feel, in spite of the strong July sunlight, that there was
something illusive about the whole thing. Or perhaps it was just this
harsh, crude light, without relieving shadows, which made his
surroundings seem unreal to him. However it was, the nearer the moment
came when he would see her again, the more improbable it seemed that
the train, which was even now overdue, should actually be carrying her
towards him--her to him! He would yet waken, with a shock. But then,
coming round a corner in the distance, at the side of a hill, he saw
the train. At first it appeared to remain stationary, then it
increased in size, approached, made a slight curve, and was a snaky
line; it vanished, and reappeared, leaving first a white trail of
cloud, then thick rounded puffs of cloud, until it was actually there,
a great black object, with a creak and a rattle.
He had planted himself at the extreme end of the platform, and the
carriages went past him. He hastened, almost running, along the train.
At the opposite end, a door was opened, the porter took out some bags,
and Louise stepped down, and turned to look for him. He was the only
person on the station, besides the two officials, and in passing she
had caught a glimpse of his face. If he looks like that, every one
will know, she thought to herself, and her first words, as he came
breathlessly up, were: "Maurice, you mustn't look so glad!"
He had never really seen her till now, when, in a white dress, with
eyes and lips alight, she stood alone with him on the wayside
platform. To curb his first, impetuous gesture, Louise had stretched
out both her hands. He stood holding them, unable to take his eyes
from her face. At her movement to withdraw them, he stooped and kissed
"Not look glad? Then you shouldn't have come."
They left her luggage to be sent up later in the day, and set out on
their walk. Going down the shadeless street, and through the town, she
was silent. At first, as they went, Maurice pointed out things that he
thought would interest her, and spoke as if he attached importance to
them. While, in reality, nothing mattered, now that she was beside
him. And gradually, he, too, lapsed into silence, walking by her side
across the square, and through the narrow streets, with the solemnly
festive feelings of a child on Sunday. They crossed the moat,
passed through the gates and courtyard of the old castle, and began to
ascend the steep path that was a short-cut to the woods. It was
exposed to the full glare of the sun, and, on reaching the sheltering
trees, Louise gave a sigh of relief, and stood still to take off her
"It's so hot. And I like best to be bareheaded."
"Yes, and now I can see you better. Is it really you, at last? I still
can't believe it.--That you should have come to me!"
"Yes, I'm real," she smiled, and thrust the pins through the crown of
the hat. "But very tired, Maurice. It was so hot, and the train was so
"Tired?--of course, you must be. Come, there's a seat just round this
corner. You shall rest there."
They sat, and he laid his arm along the back of the bench. With his
left hand he turned her face towards him. "I must see you. I expect
every minute to wake and find it's not true."
"And yet you haven't even told me you're glad to see me."
"Glad? No. Glad is only a word."
She leaned lightly against the protective pressure of his arm. On one
of her hands lying in her lap, a large spot of sunlight settled. He
stooped and put his lips to it. She touched his head.
"Were the days long without me?"
"Why didn't you come sooner?"
Not that he cared, or even cared to know, now that she was there. But
he wanted to hear her speak, to remember that he could now have her
voice in his ears, whenever he chose. But Louise was not disposed to
talk; the few words she said, fell unwillingly from her lips. The
stillness of the forest laid its spell upon them: each faint rustling
among the leaves was audible; not a living thing stirred except
themselves. The tall firs and beeches stretched infinitely upwards,
and the patches of light that lay here and there on the moss, made the
cool darkness seem darker.
When they walked on again, Maurice put his arm through hers, and, in.
this intimacy of touch, was conscious of every step she took. It made
him happy to suit his pace to hers, to draw her aside from a spreading
root or loose stone, and to feel her respond to his pressure. She
walked for the most part languidly, looking to the ground. But at a
thickly wooded turn of the path, where it was very dark, where the
sunlight seemed far away, and the pine-scent was more pungent than
elsewhere, she stopped, to drink in the spicy air with open lips and
"It's like wine. Maurice, I'm glad we came here--that you found
this place. Think of it, we might still be sitting indoors, with the
blinds drawn, knowing that the pavements were baking in the sun. While
here! . . . Oh, I shall be happy here!"
She was roused for a moment to a rapturous content with her
surroundings. She looked childishly happy and very young. Maurice
pressed her arm, without speaking: he was so foolishly happy that her
praise of the place affected him like praise of himself. Again, he had
a chastened feeling of exhilaration: as though an acme of satisfaction
had been reached, beyond which it was impossible to go.
On catching sight of the rambling wooden building, in the midst of the
clearing that had been made among the encroaching trees, Louise gave
another cry of pleasure, and before entering the house, went to the
edge of the terrace, and looked down on the plains. But upstairs, in
her room on the first storey, he made her rest in an arm-chair by the
window. He himself prepared the tea, proud to perform the first of the
trivial services which, from now on, were to be his. There was nothing
he would not do for her, and, as a beginning, he persuaded her to lie
down on the sofa and try to sleep.
Once outside again, he did not know how to kill time; and the
remainder of the afternoon seemed interminable. He endeavoured to
read, but could not take in the meaning of two consecutive sentences.
He was afraid to go far away, in case she should wake and miss him. So
he loitered about in the vicinity of the house, and returned every few
minutes, to see if her blind were not drawn up. Finally, he sat down
at one of the tables on the terrace, where he had her window in sight.
Towards six o'clock, his patience was exhausted; going upstairs, he
listened outside the door of her room. Not a sound. With infinite
precaution, he turned the handle, and looked in.
She was lying just as he had left her, fast asleep. Her head was a
little on one side; her left hand was under her cheek, her right lay
palm upwards on the rug that covered her. Maurice sat down in the
At first, he looked furtively, afraid of disturbing her; then more
openly, in the hope that she would waken. Sitting thus, and thinking
over the miracle that had happened to him, he now sought to find
something in her face for him alone, which had previously not been
there. But his thoughts wandered as he gazed. How he loved it!--this
face of hers. He was invariably worked on afresh by the
blackness of the lustreless hair; by the pale, imperious mouth; by the
dead white pallor of the skin, which shaded to a dusky cream in the
curves of neck and throat, and in the lines beneath the eyes was of a
bluish brown. Now the lashes lay in these encircling rings. Without
doubt, it was the eyes that supplied life to the face: only when they
were open, and the lips parted over the strong teeth, was it possible
to realise how intense a vitality was latent in her. But his love
would wipe out the last trace of this wan tiredness. He would be
infinitely careful of her: he would shield her from the impulsiveness
of her own nature; she should never have cause to regret what she had
done. And the affection that bound them would day by day grow
stronger. All his work, all his thoughts, should belong to her alone;
she would be his beloved wife; and through him she would learn what
love really was.
He rose and stood over her, longing to share his feelings with her.
But she remained sunk in her placid sleep, and as he stood, he became
conscious of a different sensation. He had never seen her face--except
convulsed by weeping--when it was not under full control. Was it
because he had stared so long at it, or was it really changed in
sleep? There was something about it, at this moment, which he could
not explain: it almost looked less fine. The mouth was not so proudly
reticent as he had believed it to be; there was even a want of
restraint about it; and the chin had fallen. He did not care to see it
like this: it made him uneasy. He stooped and touched her hand. She
started up, and could not remember where she was. She put both hands
to her forehead. "Maurice!--what is it? Have I been asleep long?"
He held his watch before her eyes. With a cry she sprang to her feet.
Then she sent him downstairs.
They were the only guests. They had supper alone in a longish room, at
a little table spread with a coloured cloth. The window was open
behind them, and the branches of the trees outside hung into the room.
In honour of the occasion, Maurice ordered wine, and they remained
sitting, after they had finished supper, listening to the rustling and
swishing of the trees. The only drawback to the young man's happiness
was the pertinacious curiosity of the girl who waited on them. She
lingered after she had served them, and stared so hard that Maurice
turned at length and asked her what the matter was.
The girl coloured to the roots of her hair.
"Ach, Fraulein is so pretty," she answered naivly, in her
broad Saxon dialect.
Both laughed, and Louise asked her name, and if she always lived
there. Thus encouraged, Amalie, a buxom, thickset person, with a
number of flaxen plaits, came forward and began to talk. Her eyes were
fixed on Louise, and she only occasionally glanced from her to the
"It's nice to have a sweetheart," she said suddenly.
Louise laughed again and coloured. "Haven't you got one, Amalie?"
Amalie shook her head, and launched out into a tale of faithlessness
and desertion. "Yes, if I were as pretty as you, Fraulein, it would be
a different thing," she ended, with a hearty sigh.
Maurice clattered up from the table. "All right, Amalie, that'll do."
They went out of doors, and strolled about in the twilight. He had
intended to show her some of the pretty nooks in the neighbourhood of
the house. But she was not as affable with him as she had been with
Amalie; she walked at his side with an air of preoccupied
When they sat down on a seat, on the side of the hill, the moon had
risen. It was almost at the full, and a few gently sailing scraps of
cloud, which crossed it, made it seem to be coming towards them. The