Part 9 out of 13
plains beneath were veiled in haze; detached sounds mounted from them:
the prolonged barking of a dog, the drone of an approaching train.
Round about them, the air was heavy with the scent of the sun-warmed
pines. Maurice had taken her hand and sat holding it: it was the one
thing that existed for him. All else was vague and unreal: only their
two hearts beat in all the universe. But there was no interchange
between them of binding words or endearments, such as pass between
How long they sat, neither could have told. But suddenly, far below, a
human voice was raised in a long cry, which echoed against the side of
the hill. Louise shivered: and he had a moment of apprehension.
"You're cold. We have sat too long. Let us go."
They rose, and walked slowly back to the house.
Although the doors were still open, the building was in darkness, and
they had to grope their way up the stairs. Outside her room, he paused
to light the candle that was standing on the table, but Louise opened
the door and went in. As she did so, she gave a cry. The blind
had not been lowered, and a patch of greenish-white moonlight lay on
the floor before the window, throwing the rest of the room into massy
shadow. She went forward and stood in it.
"Don't make a light," she said to him over her shoulder.
Maurice put down the matches, with which he had been fumbling, went
quickly in after her, and shut the door.
Before anyone else was astir, he had flung out into the freshness of
the morning. It was cool in the shade of the woods; grass and moss
were a little moist with dew. He did not linger under the trees; he
needed movement; and striding along the driving-road, which ran down
the hill where the incline was easiest, he went out on the plains,
among the little villages that dotted the level land like huge clumps
of mushrooms. He carried his cap in his hand, and let the early sun
play on his head.
When he returned, it was nine o'clock, and he was ravenously hungry.
Amalie carried the coffee and the crisp brown rolls to one of the
small tables on the terrace, and herself stood, after she had served
him, and looked over the edge of the hill. When he had finished
eating, he opened a volume of DICHTUNG UND WAHRHEIT, which he carried
in his pocket, and began to read. But after a few lines, his thoughts
wandered; the book had a chilling effect on him in his present mood;
the writing seemed stiff and strained--the work of a very old man.
At first, that morning, he had not ventured to review even in thought
the past hours. Now, however, that he was again within a stone's throw
of Louise, memories crowded upon him; he gazed, with a passion of
gratefulness, at her window. One detail stood out more vividly than
all the rest. It was that of waking suddenly at dawn, from a dreamless
sleep, and of finding on his pillow, a thick tress of black ruffled
hair. For a moment, he had hardly been able to believe his eyes; and
even yet, the mere remembrance of this dusky hair on the pillow's
whiteness, seemed to bring what had happened home to him, as nothing
else could have done.
She had slept on, undisturbed, and she was still asleep, to judge from
the lowered blind. But though hours seemed to pass while he sat there,
he was not dissatisfied; it was enough to know how near she was to
When she came, she was upon him before he was aware of it. At the
light step behind, he sprang from his seat.
"Are you tired of waiting for me?"
She was in the same white dress, and a soft-brimmed hat fell over her
forehead. He did not answer her words; for Amalie followed on her
heels with fresh coffee, and made a great business of re-setting the
"WUNSCHE GUTEN APPETIT!"
The girl retired to a distance, but still lingered, keeping them in
sight. Maurice leaned across the table. "Tell me how you are. Have you
forgotten me?" He tried to take her hand.
"Take care, Maurice. We can be seen here."
"How that girl stares! Why doesn't she go away?"
"She is envying me my sweetheart again . . . who won't let me eat my
"I've been alone for hours, Louise. Tell me what I want to know."
"Yes--afterwards. The coffee is getting cold."
He sat back and watched her movements, with fanatic eyes. She was not
confused by the insistence of his gaze; but she did not return it. She
was paler than usual; and the lines beneath her eyes were blacker.
Maurice believed that he could detect a new note in her voice this
morning; and he tried to make her speak, in order that he might hear
it; but she was as chary of her words as of her looks. Attracted by
the two strangers, a little child of the landlord's came running up to
stare shyly. She spread a piece of bread with honey, and gave it to
the child. He was absurdly jealous, and she knew it.
For the rest of the morning, she would have been content to bask in
the sun, but when she saw how impatient he was, she gave way, and they
went out of the sight of other people, into the friendly, screening
"I thought you would never come."
"Why didn't you wake me? Oh, gently, Maurice! You forget that I've
just done my hair."
"To-day I shall forget everything. Let me look at you again . . .
right into your eyes."
"To-day you believe I'm real, don't you? Are you satisfied?"
"And you, Louise, you?--Say you're happy, too!"
They came upon the FRIEDRICH AUGUST TURM, a stone tower, standing on
the highest point of the hill, beside a large quarry; and, too idly
happy to refuse, climbed the stone steps, led by a persuasive old
pensioner, who, on the platform at the top, adjusted the telescope,
and pointed out the distant landmarks, with something of an owner's
pride. On this morning, Maurice would not have been greatly
surprised to hear that the streaky headline of the Dover coast was
visible: he had eyes for her alone, as, with assumed interest, she
followed the old man's hand, learned where Leipzig lay, and how, on a
clear day, its many spires could be distinguished.
"Over there, Maurice . . . a little more to the right. How far away we
Leaning against the parapet, he continued to look at her. The few
ordinary words meant in reality something quite different. It was as
if she had said to him: "Yes, yes, be at rest--I am still yours;" and
he told himself, with a feverish pleasure, that, from now on,
everything she said in the presence of others would be a cloak for
what she really meant to say. He had been right, there was a new tone
in her voice this morning, an imperceptible vibration, a sensuous
undertone, which seemed to have been left over from those moments when
it had quivered like a roughly touched string beneath a bow. Going
down the steps behind her, he heard her dress swish from step to step,
and saw the fine grace of her strong, supple body. At a bend in the
stair, he held her back and kissed her neck, just where the hair
stopped growing. On the ground-floor, she paused to pick out a trifle
from a table set with mementoes. The old man praised his wares with
zeal, taking up this and that in his old, reddened hands, on which the
skin was drawn and glazed, like a coating of gelatine. Louise chose a
carved wooden pen; a tiny round of glass was set in the handle,
through which might be seen a view of the tower, with an encircling
After this, he had her to himself, for the rest of the day. They sat
on a seat that was screened by trees, and thickly grown about. His arm
lay along the back of the bench, and every now and then his hand
sought and pressed the warm, soft round of her shoulder. In this
attitude, he poured out his heart to her. Hitherto, the very essence
of his love had been taciturn endurance; now, he felt how infinitely
much he had to say to her: all that he had undergone since knowing her
first, all the hopes and feelings that had so long been pent up in
him, struggled to escape. Now, there was no hindrance to his telling
her everything; it was not only permissible, but right that he should:
henceforth there must be no strangeness between them, no knowledge,
pleasant or unpleasant, that she did not share. And he went back, and
dwelt on details and events long past, which, unknown to himself, his
memory had stored up; but it was chiefly the restless misery of the
past half year that was his theme--he took the same pleasure
in reciting it, now that it was over, as the convalescent in relating
his sufferings. Besides that, it was easier, there being nothing to
conceal; whereas, in referring to an earlier time, a certain name had
to be shirked and gone round about, like a plague-spot. His
impassioned words knew no halt; he was amazed at his own eloquence.
And the burden of months fell away from him as he talked.
The receptiveness of her silence spurred him on. She sat motionless,
with loosely clasped hands; and spots of light settled on her bare
head, and on the white stuff of her dress. Occasionally, at something
he said, a smile would raise the corners of her mouth; sometimes, but
less often, she turned her head with incredulous eyes. But, though she
was emotionally so irresponsive, Maurice had the feeling that she was
content, even happy, to sit inactive at his side, and listen to his
Each of these first wonderful days was of the same pattern. They
themselves lost count of time, so like was one day to another; and yet
each that passed was a little eternity in itself. The weather was
superb, and to them, in their egotism, it came to seem in the order of
things that they should rise in the morning to cloudless skies and
golden sunshine; that the cool green seclusion of the woods should be
theirs, where they were more securely shut off from the world than
inside the house. Louise lay on the moss, with her arms under her
head, or sat with her back against a tree-trunk. Maurice was always in
front of her, so that he could see her face as he talked--this face of
which he could never see enough.
He was happy, in a dazed way; he could not appraise the extent of his
happiness all at once. Its chief outward sign was the nervous flood of
talk that poured from his lips--as though they had been sealed and
stopped for years. But Louise urged him on; what he had first felt
dimly, he soon knew for certain: that she was never tired of learning
how much he loved her, how he had hoped, and ventured, and despaired,
and how he had been prepared to lose her, up to the very last day. She
also made him describe to her more than once how he had first seen
her: his indelible impression of her as she played; her appearance at
his side in the concert-hall; how he had followed her out and looked
for her, and had vainly tried to learn who she was.
"I stood quite close to you, you say, Maurice? Perhaps I even looked
at you. How strange things are!"
Still, the interest she displayed was of a wholly passive kind; she
took no part herself in this building up of the past. She left
it to him, just as she left all that called for firmness or decision,
in this new phase of her life. The chief step taken, it seemed as if
no further initiative were left in her; she let herself be loved,
waited for everything to come from him, was without will or wish. He
had to ask no self-assertion of her now, no impulsive resolutions.
Over all she did, lay a subtle languor; and her abandon was
absolute--he heard it in the very way she said his name.
In the first riotous joy of possession, Maurice had been conscious of
the change in her as of something inexpressibly sweet and tender,
implying a boundless faith in him. But, before long, it made him
uneasy. He had imagined several things as likely to happen; had
imagined her the cooler and wiser of the two, checking him and chiding
him for his over-devotion; had imagined even moments of self-reproach,
on her part, when she came to think over what she had done. What he
had not imagined was the wordless, unthinking fashion in which she
gave herself into his hands. The very expression of her face altered
in these days: the somewhat defiant, bitter lines he had so loved in
it, and behind which she had screened herself, were smoothed out; the
lips seemed to meet differently, were sweeter, even tremulous; the
eyes were more veiled, far less sure of themselves. He did not admit
to himself how difficult she made things for him. Strengthened, from
the first, by his good resolutions, he was determined not to let
himself be carried off his feet. But it would have been easier for him
to stand firm, had she met him in almost any other way than this--even
with a frank return of feeling, for then they might have spoken
openly, and have helped each other. As it was, he had no thoughts but
of her; his watchful tenderness knew no bounds; but the whole
responsibility was his. It was he who had to maintain the happy mean
in their relations; he to draw the line beyond which it was better for
all their after-lives that they should not go. He affirmed to himself
more than once that he loved her the more for her complete subjection:
it was in keeping with her openhanded nature which could do nothing by
halves. Yet, as time passed, he began to suffer under it, to feel her
absence of will as a disquieting factor--to find anything to which he
could compare it, he had to hark back to the state she had been in
when he first offered her aid and comfort. That was the lassitude of
grief, this of . . . he could not find a word. But it began to tell on
him, and more than once made him a little sharp with her; for, at
moments, he would be seized by an overpowering temptation to
shake her out of her lassitude, to rouse her as he very well knew she
could be roused. And then, strange desires awoke in him; he did not
himself know of what he was capable.
One afternoon, they were in the woods as usual. It was very sultry;
not a leaf stirred. Louise lay with her elbow on the moss-grown roots
of a tree; her eyes were heavy. Maurice, before her, smoked a
cigarette, and watched for the least recognition of his presence,
thinking, meanwhile, that she looked better already for these days
spent out-of-doors--the tiny lines round her eyes were fast
disappearing. By degrees, however, he grew restless under her
protracted silence; there was something ominous about it. He threw his
cigarette away, and, taking her hand, began to pull apart the long
fingers with the small, pink nails, or to gather them together, and
let them drop, one by one, like warm, but lifeless things.
"What ARE you thinking of?" he asked at last, and shut her hand firmly
She started. "I? . . . thinking? I don't know. I wasn't thinking at
"But you were. I saw it in your face. Your thoughts were miles away."
"I don't know, Maurice. I couldn't tell you now." And a moment later,
she added: "You think one must always be thinking, when one is
"Yes, I'm jealous of your thoughts. You tell me nothing of them. But
now you have come back to me, and it's all right."
He drew her nearer to him by the hand he held, and, putting his arm
under her neck, bent her head back on the moss. Her stretched throat
was marked by two encircling lines; he traced them with his finger.
She lay and smiled at him. But her eyes remained shaded: they were
meditative, and seemed to be considering him, a little deliberately.
"Tell me, Louise," he said suddenly; "why do you look at me like that?
It's not the first time--I've seen it before. And then, I can't help
thinking there's some mistake--that after all you don't really care for
me. It is so--so critical."
"You are curious to-day, Maurice."
"Yes. There's so much I want to know, and you tell me nothing. It is I
who talk and talk--till you must be tired of hearing me."
"No, I like to listen best. And I have nothing to say."
"Nothing? Really nothing?"
"Only that I'm glad to be here--that I am happy."
He kissed her on the throat, the eyes and the lips; kissed
her, until, under his touch, that vague, elusive influence began to
emanate from her, which, he was aware, might some day overpower him,
and drag him down. They were quite alone, shut in by high trees; no
one would find them, or disturb them. And it was just this mysterious
power in her that his nerves had dreamed of waking: yet now, some
inexplicable instinct made him hesitate, and forbear. He drew his arm
from under her head, and rose to his feet, where he stood looking down
at her. She lay just as he had left her, and he felt unaccountably
"There it is again!" he cried. "You are looking at me just as you did
Louise passed her hand over her eyes, and sat up. "Why, Maurice, what
do you mean? It was nothing--only something I was trying to
But what it was that she did not understand, he could not get her to
A fortnight passed. One morning, when a soft south breeze was in
motion, Maurice reminded her with an air of playful severity, that, so
far, they had not learned to know even their nearer surroundings;
while of all the romantic explorings in the pretty Muldental, which he
had had in view for them, not one had been undertaken. Louise was not
fond of walking in the country; she tired easily, and was always
content to bask in the sun and be still. But she did not attempt to
oppose his wish; she put on her hat, and was ready to start.
His love of movement reasserted itself. They went down the
driving-road, and out upon the long, ribbon-like roads that zigzagged
the plains, connecting the dotted villages. These roads were edged
with fruit-trees--apple and cherry. The apples were still hard, green,
polished balls, but the berries were at their prime. And everywhere
men were aloft on ladders, gathering the fruit for market. For the sum
of ten pfennigs, Maurice could get his hat filled, and, by the
roadside, they would sit down to make a second breakfast off black,
luscious cherries, which stained the lips a bluish purple. When it
grew too hot for the open roads, they descended the steep, wooded back
of the bill, to the romantic little town of Wechselburg at its base.
Here, a massive bridge of reddish-yellow stone spanned the winding,
slate-grey Mulde; a sombre, many-windowed castle of the same stone as
the bridge looked out over a wall of magnificent chestnuts.
On returning from these, and various other excursions, they
were pleasantly tired and hungry. After supper, they sat upstairs by
the window in her room, Louise in the big chair, Maurice at her feet,
and there watched the darkness come down, over the tops of the trees.
Somewhat later in the month, the fancy took her to go to a place
called Amerika. Maurice consulted the landlord about the distance.
Their original plan of taking the train a part of the way was,
however, abandoned when the morning came; for it was an uncommonly
lovely day, and a fresh breeze was blowing. So, having scrambled down
to Wechselburg again, they struck out on the flat, and began their
walk. The whole day lay before them; they were bound to no fixed
hours; and, throughout the morning, they made frequent halts, to
gather the wild raspberries that grew by the roadside. Having passed
under a great railway viaduct, which dominated the landscape, they
stopped at a village inn, to rest and drink coffee. About two o'clock,
they came to Rochsburg, and finally arrived, towards the middle of the
afternoon, at the picturesque restaurant that bore the name, of
Amerika. Here they dined. Afterwards, they returned to Rochsburg, but
much less buoyantly--for Louise was growing footsore--paid a
bridge-toll, were shown through the castle, and, at sunset, found
themselves on the little railway-station, waiting for an overdue
train. The restaurant in which they sat, was a kind of shed, roofed by
a covering of Virginia creeper; the station stood on an eminence; the
plains stretched before them, as far as they could see; the evening
sky was an unbroken sheet of red and gold.
The half-hour's journey over--it was made in a narrow wooden
compartment, crowded with peasants returning from a market--they left
the train, and began to climb the hill. But, by now, Louise was at the
end of her strength, and Maurice began to fear that he would never get
her home; she could with difficulty drag one foot after the other, and
had to rest every few minutes, so that it was nearly ten o'clock
before they entered the house. In her room, he knelt before her and
took off her boots; Amalie carried her supper up on a tray. She hardly
touched it: her eyes were closing with fatigue, and she was asleep as
soon as her head touched the pillow.
Next day she did not waken till nearly noon, and she remained in bed
till after dinner. For the rest of the day, she sat in the armchair.
Maurice wished to read to her, but she preferred quiet--did not even
want to be talked to. The weather was on her nerves, she
said--for it had grown very sultry, and the sky was overcast. The
landlord prophesied a thunderstorm. In the evening, however, as it was
still dry, and he had been in the house all day, Maurice went out for
a solitary walk.
He swung down the road at a pace he could only make when he was alone.
It had looked threatening when he left the house, but, as he went, the
clouds piled themselves up with inconceivable rapidity, and before he
was three miles out on the plain, the storm broke, with a sudden fury
from which there was no escape. He took to his heels, and ran to the
next village, some quarter of a mile in front of him. There, in the
smoky room of a tiny inn, together with a handful of country-people,
he was held a prisoner for over two hours; the rain pelted, and the
thunder cracked immediately overhead. When, drenched to the skin, he
reached the top of the hill again, it was going on for midnight. He
had been absent for close on four hours.
The candle in her room was guttering in its socket. By its failing
light, he saw that she was lying across the bed, still dressed. Over
her bent Amalie.
He had visions of sudden illness, and brushed the girl aside.
"What is it? What's the matter?"
At his voice, Louise lifted a wild face, stared at him as though she
did not recognise him, then rose with a cry, and flung herself upon
"Take care! I'm wet through."
For all answer, she burst out crying, and trembled from head to foot.
"What is it, darling? Were you afraid?"
But she only clung to him and trembled.
Amalie was weeping with equal vehemence; he ordered her out of the
room. Notwithstanding his dripping clothes, he was forced to support
Louise. In vain he implored her to speak; it was long before she was
in a state to reply to his questionings. Outside the storm still
raged; it was a wild night.
"What was it? Were you afraid? Did you think I was lost?"
"I don't know--Oh, Maurice! You will never leave me, will you?"
She wounded her lips against his shoulder.
"Leave you! What has put such foolish thoughts into your head?"
"I don't know.--But on a night like this, I feel that anything might
"And did it really matter so much whether I came back or not?"
He felt her arms tighten round him.
"Did you care as much as that?--Louise!"
"I said: my God!--what if he should never come back! And then, then . . ."
"And then the noise of the storm . . . and I was so alone . . . and
all the long, long hours . . . and at every sound I said, there he is
. . . and it never was you . . . till I knew you were lying somewhere
. . . dead . . . under a tree."
"You poor little soul!" he began impulsively, then stopped, for he
felt the sudden thrill that ran through her.
"Say that again, Maurice!--say it again!"
"You poor, little fancy-ridden soul!"
"Oh, if you knew how good it sounds!--if I could make you understand!
You're the only person who has ever said a thing like that to me--the
only one who has ever been in the least sorry for me. Promise me
now--promise again--that you will never leave me.--For you are all I
"Promise?--again? When you are more to me than my own life?"
"And you will never get tired of me?--never?"
"My own dear wife!"
She strained him to her with a strength for which he would not have
given her credit. He tried to see her face.
"Do you know what that means?"
"Yes, I know. It means, if you leave me now, I shall die."
By the next morning, all traces of the storm had vanished; the sun
shone; the slanting roads were hard and dry again. Other storms
followed--for it was an exceptionally hot summer--and many an evening
the two were prisoners in her room, listening to the angry roar of the
trees, which lashed each other with a sound like that of the open sea.
Every Sunday in August, too, brought a motley crowd of guests to the
inn, and then the whole terrace was set out with little tables. Two
waiters came to assist Amalie; a band played in an arbour; carts and
wagonettes were hitched to the front of the house; and the noise and
merry-making lasted till late in the night. Together they leaned from
the window of Louise's room, to watch the people; they hardly ventured
out of doors, for it was unpleasant to see their favourite nooks
invaded by strangers. Except on Sundays, however, their
seclusion remained undisturbed; half a dozen visitors were staying in
the other wing of the building, and of these they sometimes caught a
glimpse at meals; but that was all: the solitude they desired was
And so the happy days slid past; August was well advanced, by this
time, and the tropical heat was at its height. In the beginning, it
had been Maurice who regretted the rapid flight of the days: now it
was Louise. Occasionally, a certain shadow settled on her face, and,
at such moments, he well knew what she was thinking of: for, once, out
of the very fulness of his content, he had said to her with a lazy
sigh: "To-day is the first of August," and then, for the first time,
he had seen this look of intense regret cross her face. She had
entreated him not to say any more; and, after that, the speed with
which the month decreased, was not mentioned between them.
But his carelessly dropped words had sown their seed. A couple of
weeks later, the remembrance of the work he had still to do for
Schwarz, before the beginning of the new term, broke over him like a
douche of cold water. It was a resplendent morning; he had been
leaning out of the window, idly tapping his fingers on the sill.
Suddenly they seemed to him to have grown stiff, to have lost their
agility; and by the thoughts that now came, he was so disquieted that
he shut himself up in his own room.
At his first words to her, Louise, who was still in bed, turned pale.
"Yes, yes, be quiet!--I know," she said, and buried her face in the
In this position she remained for some seconds; Maurice stood staring
out of the window. Then, without raising her face, she held out her
hand to him.
He took it; but he did not do what she expected he would: sit down on
the side of the bed, and put his arm round her. He stood holding it,
absent-mindedly. She stole a glance at him, and turned still paler.
Then, with a jerk, she released her hand, sat up in bed, and pushed
her hair from her face.
"Maurice! . . . then if it has to be . . . then to-day . . . please,
please, to-day! Don't ask me to stay here, and think, and remember,
that it's all over--that this is the end--that we shall never, never be
here in this little room again! Oh, I couldn't bear it!--! can't bear
it, Maurice! Let us go away--please, let us go!"
In vain he urged reason; there was no gainsaying her: she
brushed aside, without listening to it, his objection that their rooms
in Leipzig would not be ready for them. Throwing back the bedclothes,
she got up at once and dressed herself, with cold fingers, then flung
herself upon the packing, helped and hindered by Amalie, who wept
beside her. The hour that followed was like a bad dream. Finally,
however, the luggage was carried downstairs, the bill paid, and the
circumstantial good-byes were said: they set off, at full speed, down
the woodpath to the station, to catch the midday train. Louise was
white with exhaustion: her breath came sobbingly. In a firstclass
carriage, he made her lie down on the seat. With her hand in his, he
said what he could to comfort her; for her face was tragic.
"We will come again, darling. It is only AUF WIEDERSEHEN, remember!"
But she shook her head.
"We shall never be here again."
Leipzig, at three o'clock on an August afternoon, lay baking in the
sun. He put her in a covered droschke, himself carrying the bags, for
he could not find a porter.
"At seven, then! Try to sleep. You are so pale."
His hand rested on the door of the droschke. She laid hers on it, and
clung to it as though she would never, let it go.
. . . dove il Sol tace.
Frau Krause was ill pleased at his unlooked-for reappearance, and did not
scruple to say so. From the condition of disorder in which he found his
room, Maurice judged that it had been occupied, during his absence, by the
entire family. Having been caught napping, Frau Krause carried the matter
off with a high hand: she gave him to understand that his behaviour in
descending upon her thus, was not that of a decent lodger. Maurice never
parleyed with her; ascertaining by a glance that his books and music had
been left untouched, he made his escape from the pails of water that were
straightway brought into evidence, as well as from her irate assurances
that the room would be ready for him in a quarter of an hour.
He went into the town, and did various small errands necessary to the
taking up anew of the old life. After he had had dinner, and had looked
through the newspapers, the temptation was strong to go to Louise, and
spend the hot afternoon hours at her side. But he resisted; for that would
have been a poor beginning to the sensible way of life they would have to
follow, from now on. Besides, with the certainty of seeing her again in a
very short time, it was not impossible to be patient. No more uncertainty,
no more doubts and fears!--the day for these was over.--And so, having
satisfied himself that his room was still uninhabitable, he strolled to
the Conservatorium, to see what notices had remained affixed to the
notice-board. As he was leaving again, he met the janitor, and from him
learned that his name was down for the first ADBENDUNTERHALTUNG of the
In the shadeless street, he paused irresolute. The heat of the slumbrous
afternoon was oppressive; all animation seemed suspended. The trees in
streets and gardens drooped, brownishyellow, and heavy with dust. The sun
met the eyes blindingly, and was reflected from every house-wall. Maurice
went for a walk in the woods. In his pocket he had a letter, still unread,
which he had found waiting for him that day. It was from his
mother, and his eyes slid carelessly over the pages. There were the usual
reproaches for his prolonged silences, the never-failing reminders that
his time in Leipzig would come to an end the following spring, as well as
several details of domestic interest. Then, however, followed a piece of
news, which rallied his attention.
YOU WILL DOUBTLESS BE INTERESTED TO HEAR, she wrote, THAT YOUR FRIEND THE
OLD MUSIC TEACHER IN NORWICH DIED SUDDENLY LAST WEEK. HIS PUPILS HAD
FALLEN OFF GREATLY OF LATE AND WHEN EVERYTHING HAD BEEN SOLD THERE WAS
SCARCELY ENOUGH TO COVER THE FUNERAL EXPENSES. YOUR FATHER THINKS THAT
THOUGH A YOUNG PERSON FROM LONDON OF THE NAME OF SMITH OR SMYTHE HAS
LATELY SET UP THERE AND ATTRACTED MANY OF THE BEST PAYING FAMILIES YET THE
OLD CONNECTION MIGHT BE WORKED UP AGAIN AND IT WOULD BE WORTH YOUR WHILE
TRYING TO DO IT. AT FIRST YOU COULD LIVE AT HOME AND GO OVER ONCE OR TWICE
A WEEK. YOUR FATHER HAS BEEN MAKING INQUIRIES ABOUT A SUITABLE ROOM.
This news called up a feeling of repugnance in Maurice: it came like a
message from another world; the very baldness of its expression seemed to
throw him back, at one stroke, into the hated atmosphere of his home. He
folded the letter and replaced it in the envelope, with such a conscious
hostility to all that his blood-relations did or said, as he had not felt
since the day when, in their midst, he had struggled to assert his
independence. How little they understood him! It was like them, in their
unimaginative dulness, to suppose that they could arrange his life for
him--draw up the lines on which it was to be spent. He saw himself bound
down hand and foot again, to the occupation he so hated; saw himself
striving to oust the young person from London, just as no doubt his old
friend had striven; saw himself becoming proficient in all the mean, petty
tricks of rival teachers, and either vanquishing or being vanquished, in
the effort to earn a living.
However he viewed them, his prospects had nothing hopeful in them. They
were vague, too, to the last degree. On one question alone was his mind
made up: he meant to marry Louise at the earliest possible date. Whatever
else happened, this should come to pass. For the first time, he thought
with something akin to remorse, over the turn affairs had taken. He had
been blind and dizzy with his infatuation, sick for her to his very
marrow--he could only look back on those feverish weeks in June as
on the horrors of a nightmare--and he would not have missed a single hour
of the happy days at Rochlitz. But, none the less, he had always felt a
peculiar aversion to people who allowed their feelings to get the better
of them. Now, he himself was one of them. If only she were his wife! Had
she consented, he would have married her there and then, without
reflection. They might have lived on, just as they were going to do, and
have kept their marriage a secret, reserving to themselves the pleasure of
knowing that their intimacy was legal. At it was, he must console himself
with the thought that, married or not, they were indissolubly bound: he
knew now better than before, that no other woman would ever exist for him;
and surely, in the case of an all-absorbing passion such as this, the
overstepping of conventional boundaries would not be counted too heavily
against them: laws and conventions existed only for the weak and
vacillating loves of the rest of the world.
Then, however, and almost against his will, the other side of the question
forced itself upon his notice. As the marriage had not already taken
place, as, indeed, Louise chose to evade the subject when he brought it
up, he could not but admit to it would be pleasanter for him if it were
now postponed until he was independent of home-support. His family would,
he knew, bitterly resent his taking the step; and in regard to them, he
was proud. Where Louise was concerned, of course, it was a different
matter: there, no misplaced pride should stand in the way. She had ample
means for her own needs; it was merely a question of earning enough to
keep himself. The sole advantage of the present state of affairs was, that
it might still be concealed; whereas even a secret marriage implied a
possible publicity; it might somehow leak out, and, in the event of this,
he knew that his parents would immediately cut off supplies. If once he
were independent of them, he could do as he liked. He set his teeth at the
thought of it. To no small extent, his way was mapped out for him.
Marrying Louise meant giving up all idea of returning home. He understood
now, more clearly than before, how unfitted she was for the narrow life
that would there be expected of her. And even--if he had longed for
approval and consent, he would never have had courage to ask her to face
the petty, ignoble details of conventional propriety, which such a
sanction implied. No, if he wished to ensure her happiness, he must secure
to her the freer atmosphere in which she was accustomed to live.
He must burn his ships behind him, and the most satisfactory thing was,
that he was able to do it without a pang.
He racked his brains as to the means of making a livelihood. There was
nothing he would not do. He was more ready to work than ever a labourer
with a starving family at his back. But, having let every possibility pass
before his mind's eye, he was forced to the conclusion that the only
occupation open to him was the one he had come to Leipzig to escape. He
was fit for nothing but to be a teacher. All he could do at the piano,
hundreds of others could do better; his talents as a conductor were, he
had learned, of the meagrest; the pleasing little songs he might compose,
of small value. Yet, if this were the price he had to pay for making her
his wife, he was content to pay it: no sacrifice was too great for him.
And then, to be a teacher here meant something different from what it
meant in England. Here, it was possible to retain your self-respect--the
caste of the class was another to begin with--and also to remain in touch
with all that was best worth knowing. As a foreigner, he might add to his
earnings by teaching English; but piano-lessons would of necessity be his
chief source of income. They were plentiful enough: Avery Hill supported
herself entirely by them, and Furst kept his family. Of course, though,
this was due to Schwarz: his influence was a key to all doors. Both of
these were favourite pupils; while a melancholy fact, which had to be
faced, was, that he did not stand well with Schwarz. Somehow, they had
never taken to each other: he, perhaps, had had too open an eye for the
master's foibles, and Schwarz had no doubt been aware, from the first, of
his pupil's fatally divided interests. The crown had probably been set by
his ill-considered flight in July. If he wished ultimately to achieve
something, the interest he had forfeited must be regained, cost what it
might. He would work, in these coming months, as never before. Could he
make a brilliant, even a wholly respectable job of the trio he was to
play, it would go far towards reinstating him in Schwarz's good graces:
and he might then venture to approach the master with a request for
assistance. This was the first piece of work that lay to his hand, and he
would do it with all his might. After that, the rest.
There was no time to lose. A mild despair overcame him at the thought of
the intricate sonata, the long, mazy concerto by Hummel, which had formed
his holiday task. In exactly a fortnight from this date, the vacation came
to an end, and, as yet, he did not know a note of them. Through
the motionless heat of the paved streets, he went home, and turning Frau
Krause out of his room, sat down at the piano to scales and exercises. Not
until he felt suppleness and strength coming back to his fingers, did he
allow his thoughts to wander. Then, however, they leapt to Louise; after
this break in his consciousness, he seemed to have been absent from her
The sun was full on her windows; curtains and blinds were drawn against
it. While he hesitated, still dazzled by the glare of the streets, she
sprang to meet him, laying both hands on his shoulders.
He blinked, and laughed, and held her at arm's length. "At last?--Why,
what does that mean?"
"That I have been waiting for you, and hoping you would come--for hours."
"But, dearest, I'm too early as it is. It's not six o'clock."
"Yes, I know. But I was so sure you would come sooner,--that you wouldn't
be able to stay away! Oh, the afternoon has been endless; and the heat was
suffocating. I couldn't dress, and I haven't unpacked a thing."
Now he saw that she was in her dressing-gown, and that the bags and
valises stood in a corner, just as they had been carried up from the
With her hands still on his shoulders, she put back her head. A thin line
of white appeared between her lips, and, under their drooped lids, her
eyes shone with a moist brilliance. She looked at him eagerly for some
seconds, and it seemed to hirn wistfully, too. Then, in an inexplicable
change of mood, she let her arms fall, and turned away. She had grown pale
and despondent. There was only one thing for him to do: to put his arms
round her and draw her to his knee. Holding her thus, he whispered in her
ear words such as she loved to hear. He had grown skilled in repeating
them. Under the even murmur of his voice, her face grew tranquil; she sank
little by little into a state of well-being; her one fear was that he
would cease speaking.
On the writing-table, a gold-faced clock ticked solemnly: its minutes went
by unheeded. Maurice was the first to feel the disillusioning shudder of
reality; simultaneously, the remembrance returned to him of what he had
come intending to tell her.--He loosened her arms.
"Louise!" he said in an altered voice. "Look up, dear!--and let me
see your eyes. You won't believe me, I think, but I came this evening
meaning to talk very sensibly--nothing but common sense, in fact. There's
a great deal I want to say to you. Come, let us be two rational
people--yes? As a beginning, I'll draw up the blinds. The sun's behind the
and the room is so close."
Louise shrank from the violent, dusty light; and her face, a moment back
rapturously content, took on at once a look of apprehension.
"Not to-night, Maurice--not to-night! It's too . . . too hot for common
He laughed and took her hand. "Be my own brave girl, and help me. You have
only to look at me, as you know, to make me forget everything. And that
mustn't be. We have got to be serious for a little--have you ever thought,
Louise, how seldom you and I have talked seriously together? There was
never time, was there? . . . in all these weeks. There was only time to
tell you how much you are to me.--But now--well, so many things were
running in my head this afternoon. This letter from home was the beginning
of them. Read it--this page here, at least--and then I'll tell you what
I've been thinking."
He put the letter into her hand, and she ran her eyes over the page. But
she laid it down without comment.
A fear crossed his mind. "Don't misunderstand it," he said hastily. "You
know that point was settled months ago. There's no question of going back
for me now--and I'm glad of it. I never want to see England again. But it
gave me a lot to think about--how the staying here was to be managed, and
things like that."
He was conscious of becoming somewhat wordy; and as she did not respond,
his uneasiness grew. In his anxiety to make her think as he did, he
clasped his hand over hers.
"I needn't say again, need I, darling, what the past weeks have meant to
me? I'm so grateful to you for them that I could only prove it with years
of my life. But--and don't misunderstand this either, or think I don't
love you more now than ever before--you know I do. But, look at it as we
will, those weeks were play--glorious play, worth half one's existence,
but still only play. They couldn't last for ever. Now we've come back, and
we have to face work and the workaday world--you see what I mean, I'm
There was a note of entreaty in his voice. As she still kept
silence, he gave his whole strength to demolishing the mute opposition he
felt in her.
"From now on, dear, we must make up our minds to be two very sensible
people. I've an enormous amount of work to get through, in the coming
months. And at Easter, I shall probably be thrown on my own resources. But
I'll fight my way somehow--here, beside you. We'll live our own life. Just
you and I.--Let me tell you what I propose to do,"--and here, he laid
before her, in their entirety, his plans for winning over Schwarz, for
gaining a foothold, and for making a modest income. "A good PRUFUNG," he
concluded, "and I'll be able to get anything I want out of him. In the
meantime, I've got to make a decent job next month of the trio--I'm pretty
well in his black books, I can guess, for going off as I did in July.
I must work as I've never done before. Each single day must be mapped out,
and nothing allowed to interfere. It's an undertaking; but you'll help me,
won't you, darling?--as only you can. I've let things go, far too much--I
see it now. But it was impossible--frankly, I didn't care. I only wanted
you. Now, it will . . . it must be different. The unrest is gone; you
belong to me, and I to you. We are sure of each other."
"Oh, it's stifling! There's no air in the room."
She rose from his side, and went to the open window, where she stood with
her back to him. As a result of his words, her life seemed suddenly to
stretch before her, just as dry, and dusty, and commonplace, as the street
she looked down on.
"I want to show you, too," he continued behind her, "that you haven't
utterly thrown yourself away. I know how little I can do; but honest
endeavour must count for something. I ask nothing better than to work for
you, Louise--and you know it."
A wave of warm air came in at the window; the dying afternoon turned to
"Yes . . . and I? What am I to do? What room is there for me in your plans
He glanced sharply at her; but she had not moved.
"Louise, dearest! I know that what I say must sound selfish and
inconsiderate. And yet I can't help it. I'm forced to ask you to
wait . . . merely to wait. And for what? Good Heavens, no one realises it
as I do! I have nothing to offer you, in return--but my love for you. But
if you knew how strong that is--if you knew how happy I am resolved to
make you! Have a little patience, darling! It will all come right in the
end--if only you love me! And you do, don't you? Say once more you do."
She turned so swiftly that the tail of her dressing-gown twisted, and fell
over on itself.
"Can you still ask that? Have you not had proof enough? Is there an inch
of you that doesn't believe in my love for you? Oh, Maurice! . . . It's
only that I'm tired to-night--and restless. I was so wretched at having to
come back. And the heat has got on my nerves. I wish a great storm would
come, and shake the house, and make the branches of the trees beat against
the panes--do you remember? And we were so safe. The worse the storm was,
the closer you held me." She sat down beside him, on the arm of the sofa.
"Such a night seemed doubly wild after the long, still days that had gone
before it--do you remember?--Oh, why had it all to end? Weren't we happy
enough? Or did we ask too much? Why must time go just the same over
happiness and unhappiness alike?" She got up again, and strayed back to
the window. "Days like those will never--CAN never--come again. Even as it
is, coming back has made a difference. Could you even yesterday have
spoken as you do to-day? Was there any room then for common sense between
us? No, we were too happy. It was enough to know we were alive."
"Be reasonable, darling. I am as sorry as you that these weeks are over;
but, glorious as they were, they couldn't last for ever. And trust me; we
shall know other days just as happy.--But if, because I talk like this,
you imagine I don't love you a hundred times better even than
yesterday--but you don't mean that! You know me better, my Rachel!"
"Yes. Perhaps you're right--you ARE right. But I am right, too."
She came back, and sat down on the sofa again, and propped her chin on her
"You're tired to-night, dear--that's all. To-morrow things will look
different, and you'll see the truth of what I say. At night, things get
"No, no, one only really sees in the dark," she interrupted him.
--"but in the morning, one can smile at one's fears. Trust me, Louise, and
believe in me. All our future happiness depends on how we act just now."
"Our future happiness . . . yes," she said slowly. "But what of
"Isn't it worth while sacrificing a brief present to a long future?"
She threw him a quick glance. "You talk like an orthodox Christian,
Maurice," she said, and added: "The present is here: it belongs to us. The
future is so unclear--who knows what it will bring us!"
"And isn't it just for that very reason that I speak as I do? If
everything lay clear and straight before us, do you think I should bother
about anything but you? It's the uncertainty of the whole thing that
troubles me. But however vague it is, I can tell you one thing that will
happen. And you know, dearest, what that is--the only ambition I have
left: to make you my wife at the earliest possible moment."
She gazed at him meditatively.
"Why wouldn't you let me have my way at first?" he cried. "Why were you
against it? We could have kept it a secret: no one need have known a thing
about it. And I should never have asked you to go to England, or to see my
people. Call it narrow, if you must, I can't help it; it's the only thing
for us to do. Why won't you agree? Tell me what you have against it.
Listen!" He knelt down and put his arms round her. "We have still a
fortnight--that's time enough. Let us go to England to-morrow, and be
married without a word to anyone--in the first registrar's office we find.
Only marry me!"
"Would it make you love me more?"
She looked at him intently, turning the whole weight of her dark glance
"You!" he said. "You to ask such a thing! You with these eyes . . . and
this hair! And these hands!--I love every line of them . . . You can't
understand, can you, you bundle of emotions, that I should care for you as
I do, and yet be able to talk soberly? It seems to you a man's way of
loving--and poor at that. But if you imagine I don't love you all the more
for what you have sacrificed for me--no, you didn't say that, I know, but
it comes to the same thing in the end."
She made no answer; and a feeling of discouragement began to creep over
him. He rose to his feet.
"A man who loves a woman as I love you," he said almost violently, "has
only one wish--can have only one. I shall never rest or be thoroughly
happy till you consent to marry me. That you can refuse as you do, seems
to prove that you don't care for me enough."
She put her arms round his neck: her wide sleeves fell back, leaving her
arms bear. "Maurice," she said gently, "why must you worry yourself?--You
know if you are set on our marrying, I'll give way. But I don't want to be
married--not yet. There's plenty of time. It's only a small matter now; it
doesn't seem as if it could make any difference; and yet it might. The
sense of being bound; of some one--no, of the law permitting us to love
each other . . . no, Maurice, not yet.--Listen! I'm older and wiser than
you, and I know. Happiness like this doesn't come every day. Instead of
brooding and hesitating, one must seize it while it's there: it's such a
slippery thing; it's gone before you know it. You can't bind it fast, and
say it shall last so and so long. We have it now; don't let us talk and
reason about it.--Oh, to-day, I'm nervous! Let me make a confession. As a
child I had presentiments--things I foresaw came true, and on the morning
of a misfortune, I've felt such a load on my chest that I could hardly
breathe. Well, to-day, when I came into this room again, it seemed as if
two black wings shut out the sunlight; and I was afraid. The past weeks
have been so unreasonably happy--such happiness mustn't be let go. Help me
to hold it; I can't do it alone. Don't try to make it fast to the future;
while you do that, it's going--do you think one can draw out happiness
like a thread? Oh, help me!--don't let any thing take it from us. And I
will give up everything to it. Only you must always be beside me, Maurice,
and love me. Don't let anything come between us! For my sake, for
In the face of this outpouring, his own opinions seemed of little matter;
his one concern was to ward off the tears that he saw were imminent. He
held her to him, stroked her hair, and murmured words of comfort. But when
she raised her head again, her eyelids were reddened, as though she had
"Now I know you. Now you are my own again," she whispered. "How could I
know you as you were then? I'd never seen you like that--seen you cold and
He looked down at her without speaking, in a preoccupied way.
She touched his face with her finger. "Here are lines I don't know--I see
them now for the first time--lines of reason, of common sense, of all that
is strange to me in you."
He caught her hand, continuing to gaze at her with the same
expression of aloofness. "I need them for us both. You have none."
Her lips parted in a smile. Then this faded, and she looked at him with
eyes that reminded him of an untamed animal, or of a startled child.
"Mine . . . still mine!" she said passionately.--And in the hours it took
to reassure her, his primly reasoned conclusions were blown like chaff
before the wind.
The next fortnight flew by; and familiar faces began to appear again. The
steps and inner vestibule of the Conservatorium became a lounge for seeing
acquaintances. In the cafe at the corner, the click of billiard balls was
to be heard from early morning on.
Maurice looked forward to meeting his friends, with some embarrassment. It
was unlikely that the events of the summer had remained a secret; for
that, there was a clique in the place over-much on the alert for scandal,
to which unfortunately the name of Louise Dufrayer lent itself only too
readily. He could not decide what position to take up, with regard to
their present intimacy; to flaunt it openly, to be pointed at as her
lover, would for her sake be repugnant to him. It made him reject an idea
he had revolved, of begging her to let him announce their engagement: for,
in the present state of things, the word "BRAUTIGAM" had an evil sound.
Eventually, he came to the conclusion that they must be more cautious than
they had ever been, and give absolutely no food for talk.
One day, in the GRASSISTRASSE, he came upon a little knot of men he knew.
And it was just as he supposed; the secret was a secret no longer. He saw
it at once in their treatment of him. There was a spice of deference in
their manner: and their looks expressed curiosity, envious surprise, even
a kind of brotherly welcome. After this, Maurice changed his mind. the
only course open to him was to brazen things out. He would not wait for
his friends to show him what they thought; he would be beforehand with
A chance soon offered ofputting his intentions into practice. On entering
Seyffert's one afternoon, he espied Dove, who had just returned. Dove sat
alone at a small table, reading the TAGEBLATT; before him stood a cup of
cocoa. When he saw Maurice, he raised the newspaper a trifle higher, so
that it covered the level of his eyes. But Maurice went across the room,
and touched him on the shoulder. Dove dropped his shield, and sprang up,
exclaiming with surprise. Maurice sat down beside him, and, by dint of a
little wheedling, put Dove at his ease. The latter was bubbling over with
new experiences and future prospects. It seemed that in Peterborough,
Dove's native town, the art of music was taking strides that were
nothing short of marvellous. To hear Dove talk, the palm for progress must
be awarded to Peterborough, over and above all the other towns of Great
Britain; and he was agog with plans and expectations. During the holidays,
he had held conversations with several local magnates, all of whom
expressed themselves in favour of his scheme for founding a school of
music, and promised him their support. Dove had returned to Leipzig in a
brand-new outfit, and a hard hat; his studies were coming to an end in
spring, and he began to think already of casting the skin of Bohemianism.
Maurice listened to him leniently--even drew Dove out a little. But he
kept his eye on the clock. In less than half an hour, he would be with
Louise; from some corner of the semidarkened room, she would spring
towards him, and throw herself into his arms.
The majority of the classes were not yet assembled, when one day, a rumour
rose, and spreading, ran from mouth to mouth. Those who heard it were at
first incredulous; as, however, it continued to make headway, they
whistled to themselves, or vented their surprise in a breathless "ACH!"
Later in the day, they stood about in groups, and excitedly discussed the
subject. Ten of Schwarz's most advanced pupils had left the master for the
outsider named Schrievers. At the head of the list stood Furst.
The Conservatorium, royally endowed and municipally controlled, held to
its time-honoured customs with tenacity. The older masters laboured to
uphold tradition, and such younger ones as were progressively inclined,
had not the influence to effect a change. Unattached teachers were
regarded with suspicion--unless they happened to be former pupils of the
institution, in which case it was assumed that they carried out its
precepts. There had naturally always been plenty of others as well; but
these were comparatively powerless: they could give their pupils neither
imposing certificates, nor gala public performances, such as the
PRUFUNGEN, and, for the most part, they flourished unknown. This was
previous to the arrival of Schrievers. It was now about a year and a half
ago that his settling in Leipzig had caused a flutter in musical circles.
Then, however, he had been forgotten, or at least remembered only at
intervals, when it was heard that he had caught another fish, in the shape
of a renegade pupil.
Schrievers was a burly, red-bearded man, still well under middle
age, and possessed of plenty of push and self-confidence. It soon
transpired that he was an out-and-out champion of modern ideas in music;
for, from the first, he was connected with a leading paper, in which he
made his views known. He had a trenchant pen, and, with unfailing
consistency, criticised the musical conditions of Leipzig adversely. The
progressive LISZTVEREIN, of which he was soon the leading spirit, alone
escaped; the opera, bereft of Nikisch, and the Gewandhaus, under its
gentle and aged conductor, were treated by him with biting sarcasm. But
his chief butt was the Conservatorium, and its ancient methods. He
asserted that not a jot of the curriculum had been altered for fifty
years; and its speedy downfall was the sole result to be expected and
hoped for. The fact that, at this time, some seven hundred odd students
were enrolled on its books went far to discredit this pious hope; but,
nevertheless, Schrievers harped always on the same string; and just as
perpetual dropping wears a stone, so his continued diatribes ate into
emotional and sensitive natures. He began to attract a following, and,
simultaneously, to make himself known as a pupil of Liszt. This brought
him a fresh batch of enemies. Even a small German town is seldom without
its Liszt-pupil, and in Leipzig several were settled, none of whom had
ever heard of Martin Schrievers. They refused to admit him to their
jealous clique. In their opinion, he belonged to that goodly class of
persons, who, having by hook or by crook, contrived to spend an hour in
the Abbe of Weimar's presence, afterwards abused the sacred narre of
pupil. He was hated by these chosen few with more vigour than by the
conservative pedagogues, who, naturally enough, saw the ruin of art in all
Various reasons were given for his success, no one being willing to
believe that it was due to his merits as a teacher. Some said that he
recognised in a twinkling the weak points of the individual with whom he
had to deal. He humoured foibles, was tender of self-conceit. He also
flattered his pupils by giving them music that was beyond their powers of
execution: those, for instance, who had worked long and with feeble
interest at Czerny, Dussek and Hummel, were dazzled at the prospect of
Liszt and Chopin, which was suddenly thrust beneath their, eyes. Other
ill-wishers believed that his chief bait was the musical SOIREES he gave
when a famous pianist came to the town. By virtue of his journalistic
position, he was personally acquainted with all the great; they
visited at his house, and his pupils had thus not merely the opportunity
of getting to know artists like Rubinstein and d'Albert, and of hearing
them play in private, but, what was more to the point, of themselves
taking part in the performance, and perhaps receiving a golden word from
the great man's lips. And though no huge parchment scroll was forthcoming
on the termination of one's studies, yet Schrievers held the weapon of
criticism in his hand, and, at the first tentative public appearance of
the young performer, could make or mar as he chose. He lived on good
terms, too, with his fellow-critics, so that wire-pulling was
easy--incomparably more so than were the embarrassing visits, open to any
snub, which were common if one was only a pupil of the Conservatorium, and
which, in the case of the ladypupils, included costly bouquets of flowers.
Among those who had deserted Schwarz were some, like Miss Martin,
malcontents, who had flitted from place to place, and from master to
master, in the perpetual hope of discovering that ideal teacher who would
estimate them at their true worth. These were radiantly satisfied with the
change. Miss Martin bore, wherever she went, an octave-study by Liszt, and
flaunted it in the faces of her friends: and Miss Moses, who had been
under Bendel, could not say two sentences without throwing in: "That
Chopin ETUDE I studied last," or: "The Polonaise in E flat I'm working
at;" for, beforehand, she too had been a humble performer of Haydn and
Bertini. James had the prospect of playing a Concerto by Liszt--forbidden
fruit to the pupils of the Conservatorium--in one of the concerts of the
LISZTVEREIN, and was sure, in advance, of being favourably criticised.
Boehmer wished to specialise in Bach, and if Schwarz set himself against
one thing more than another, it was a one-sided musical taste: within the
bounds of classicism, the master demanded catholic sympathies; those
students who had romantic leanings towards Chopin and Schumann, were
castigated with severely classical compositions; and, vice versa, he had
insisted on Boehmer widening his horizon on Schubert and Mendelssohn. And
there were also several others, who, having been dragged forward by
Schwarz, from inefficient beginnings, now left him, to write their
acquired skill to Schrievers' credit. Furst was the greatest riddle of
all. It was he who, on subsequent concert-tours, was to have extended the
fame of the Conservatorium; he was the show pupil of the institution, and,
in the coming PRUFUNGEN, was to have distinguished himself, and
his master with him, by playing Beethoven's Concerto in E flat.
Other teachers besides Schwarz had been forsaken for the new-comer, but in
no case by so large a body of students. They bore their losses
philosophically. Bendel, one of the few masters who spoke English--it was
against the principles of Schwarz to know a word of it: foreign pupils had
to learn his language, not he theirs--Bendel, frequented chiefly by the
American colony, was of a phlegmatic temperament and not easily roused. He
alluded to the backsliders with an ironical jest, preferring to believe
that they were the losers. But Schwarz was of a diametrically opposite
nature. In the short, thickset man, with the all-seeing eyes, and the head
of carefully waved hair, just streaked with grey--a head at once too
massive and too fine for the clumsy body--in Schwarz, dwelt a fierce and
indomitable pride. His was one of those moody, sensitive natures, quick to
resent, always on the look-out for offence. He was ever ready to translate
things into the personal; for though he had an overweening sense of his
own importance, there was yet room in him for a secret doubt; and with
this doubt, he, as it were, put other people to the test. The loss of the
flower of his flock made him doubly unsure; he felt himself a marked man,
for Bendel and other enemies to jeer at. Aloud, he spoke long and
vehemently, as if mere noisy words would heal the wound. And the pupils
who had remained faithful to him, gathered all the more closely round him,
and burned as he did. If wishes could have injured or killed, Furst's
career would then and there have come to an end: his ingratitude, his
treachery, and his lack of moral fibre, were denounced on every hand.
One day, at this time, Maurice entered Schwarz's room. The class was
assembled; but, although the hour was well advanced, no one had begun to
play. The master stood at the window, with his back to the grass-grown
courtyard. He was haranguing, in a strident voice, the three pupils who
sat along the wall. From what followed, Maurice gathered that that very
afternoon Schwarz had been informed of the loss of four more pupils; and
though, as every one knew, he had hitherto not set much store by any of
them, he now discovered latent talent in all four, and was, at the same
time, exasperated that such nonentities should presume to judge him.
To infer from the appearance of those present, the storm had raged fora
considerable period. And still it went on. After the expiry of a
futher interval, Krafft who, throughout, had sat shading his eyes with his
hand, woke as though from sleep, yawned heartily, stretched himself and,
taking out his watch, studied it with profound attention. For the first
time, Schwarz was checked in his flow of words; he coughed, fumbled for an
epithet, then stopped, and, to the general surprise, motioned Krafft to
But Heinrich was in a bad mood. He stifled another yawn before beginning,
and played in a mechanical way.
Schwarz had often enough made allowance for this pupil's varying moods; he
was not now in the humour to do so.
"HALT!" he cried before the first page was turned. "What in God's name is
the meaning of this? Do you come here to read from sight?"
Krafft continued to play as if nothing had been said.
"Do you hear me?" thundered Schwarz.
"It's impossible," said Krafft, and proceeded.
"BARMHERZIGER GOTT!--"The master's short neck reddened, and twisted in its
"Give me music I care to play, and I'll show you how it should be done. I
can make nothing of this," answered Krafft.
Schwarz strode up to the piano, and swept the volume from the rack; it
fell with a crash on the keys and on Krafft's hands, and effectually
hindered him from continuing.
What had gone before was as a summer shower to a deluge. With his arms
stiffly knotted behind his back, Schwarz paced the floor with a tread that
shook it. His steely blue eyes flashed with passion; the veins stood out
on his forehead; his large, prominent mouth gaped above his tuft of beard;
he struck ludicrous attitudes, pouring out, meanwhile, without stint--for
he had soon passed from Krafft's particular case of insubordination to the
general one--pouring out the savage anger and deep-felt injury that had
accumulated in him. Finally, he invited the class to rise and leave him,
there and then. For what, in God's name, were they waiting? Let them up
and away, without more ado!
On receiving the volume of Beethoven on his fingers, Krafft straightened
out the pages, and taking down his hat from its peg, left the room, with
movements of a calculated coolness. But only a pupil of Bullow's might
take such a liberty; the rest had to assist quietly at the painful scene.
Maurice studied his finger nails, and Dove did not once remove his eyes
from the leg of the piano. They, at least, knew from experience that,
in time, the storm would pass; also that it sounded worse, than it
actually was. But a new-comer, a stout Bavarian lad, with hair cut like
Rubinstein's, who was present at the lesson for the first time, was pale
and frightened, and sat drinking in every word.
Towards the end of the hour, when quiet was re-established, one's
inclination was rather to escape from the room and be free, than to sit
down to play something that demanded coolness and concentration. Dove, who
was not sensitive to externals, came safely through the ordeal; but
Maurice made a poor job of the trio in which he had hoped to excel.
Schwarz did not even offer to turn the pages. This, Beyerlein, the
new-comer, did, in a nervous desire to ingratiate himself; but he was
still so flustered that, at a critical moment, he brought the music down
on the keys. Schwarz said nothing; wrapped in the moody silence that
invariably followed his outbursts, he hardly seemed aware that anyone was
playing. After two movements of the trio, he signed to Beyerlein to take
his turn, and proffered no comment on Maurice's work. Maurice would have
hurried away, without a further word, had he not already learned the early
date of his performance. He knew, too, that if the practical side of the
affair--rehearsals with string players, and so on--was not satisfactorily
arranged, he would be blamed for it. So he reminded Schwarz of the matter.
From what ensued, it was plain that the master still bore him a grudge for
absconding in summer. Schwarz glared coldly at him, as if unsure to what
Maurice alluded; and when the latter had recalled the details of the case
to his mind, he said rudely: "You went your way, Herr Guest. Now I go
mine." He commenced to turn the leaves of his ponderous note-book, and
after Maurice had stood for some few minutes, listening to Beyerlein trip
and stumble through Mozart, he felt that, for this day at least, he could
put up with no more, and left the class.
Shaking all disagreeable impressions from him, he sped through the fading
light of the September afternoon.
This was the time--it was six o'clock--at which he could rejoin Louise
with a free mind. It was the exception for him to go earlier, or at other
hours; but, did he chance to go, no matter when, she met him in the same
way--sprang towards him from the window, where she had been sitting or
standing, with her eyes on the street.
"I believe you watch for me all day long," he said to her once.
On this particular afternoon, when he had used much the same words to her,
she put back her head and looked up at him, with a pale, unsmiling face.
"Not quite," she answered slowly. "But I have a fancy, Maurice--a foolish,
fancy--that once you will come early--in the morning--and we shall have
the whole day together again. Perhaps even go away somewhere . . . before
summer is quite over."
"And I promise you, dearest, we will. Just let me get through the next
fortnight, and then I shall be freer. We'll take the train, and go back to
Rochlitz, or anywhere you like. In the meantime, take more care of
yourself. You are far too pale. You will go out tomorrow, yes?--to please
But this was a request he had often made, and generally in vain.
Since the afternoon of their return, Louise had made no further attempt to
stem or alter circumstance. She accepted Maurice's absences without demur.
But one result was, that her feelings were hoarded up for the few hours he
passed with her: these were then a working-off of emotion; and it seemed
impossible to cram enough into them, to make good the starved remainder of
Maurice was vaguely troubled. He was himself so busy at this time, and so
full of revived energy, that he could not imagine her happy, living as she
did, entirely without occupation. At first he had tried to persuade her to
take up her music again; but she would not even consider it. To all his
arguments, she made the same reply.
"I have no real talent. With me, it was only an excuse--to get away
Nor could he induce her to renew her acquaintance with people she had
"Do you know, I once thought you didn't care a jot what people said of
you?" It was not a very kind thing to say; it slipped out unawares.
But she did not take it amiss. "I used not to," she answered with her
invincible frankness. "But now--it seems--I do."
"Why, dearest? Aren't you happy enough not to care?"
For answer, she took his face between her hands, and looked at him with
such an ill-suppressed fire in her eyes that all he could do was to draw
her into his arms.
His pains for her good came to nothing. He took her his favourite books,
but--with the exception of an occasional novel--Louise was no reader. In
those he brought her, she seldom advanced further than the first few
pages; and she could sit for an hour without turning a leaf. He had never
seen her with a piece of sewing or any such feminine employment in her
hands. Nor did she spend time on her person; as a rule, he found her in
her dressing-gown. He had to give up trying to influence her, and to
become reconciled to the fact that she chose to live only for him. But on
this September day, after the unpleasant episode with Schwarz, he had a
fancy to go for a walk; Louise was unwilling; and he felt anew how
preposterous it was for her to spend these fine autumn days, in this
"You are burying yourself alive--just as you did last winter."
She laid her hand on his lips. "No, no!--don't say that. Now I am happy."
"But are you really? Sometimes I'm not sure." He was tired himself this
evening, and found it difficult to be convinced. "It troubles me when I
think how dull it must be for you. Dearest, are you--can you really be
happy like this?"
"I have you, Maurice."
"But only for an hour or two in the twenty-four. Tell me, what do you
"All that time? Of poor, plain, ordinary me?"
"You are mine," she said with vehemence, and looked at him with what he
called her "hungry-beast" eyes.
"You would like to eat me, I think."
"Yes. And I should begin here; this is the bit of you I love best"--and
before he knew what she was going to do, she had stooped, and he felt her
teeth in the skin of his neck.
"That's a strange way of showing your love," he said, and involuntarily
put his hand to the spot, where two bluish-red marks had appeared.
"It's my way. I want you--I WANT you. I want to feel that you're mine--to
make you more mine than you've ever been. I wish I had a hundred arms. I
would hold you with them all, and never let you go."
"But, dearest, one would think I wanted to go. Do you really believe if I
had my own way, I should be anywhere but here with you?"
"No.--I don't know.--How should I know?"
"No, no, not doubts. It's only--oh, I don't know what it is. If you could
always be with me, Maurice, they wouldn't come. For what I never meant to
happen HAS happened. I have grown to care too much--far too much. I want
you, I need you, at every moment of the day. I want you never to be out of
Maurice held her at arm's length, and looked at her. "You can say that--at
last!" And drawing her to him: "Patience, darling. Just a little patience.
Some day you will never be alone again."
"I do have patience, Maurice. But let me be patient in my own way. For I'm
not like you. I have no room in me now for other things. I can't think of
anything else. If I had my way, we should shut ourselves up alone, and
live only for each other. Not share it, not make it just a part of what we
"But man can't live on nectar and honey alone. It wouldn't be life."
"It wouldn't be life, no. It would be more than life."
Some of the evening shadows seemed to invade her face. Her expression was
childishly pathetic. He drew her to his knee.
"I should like to see you happier, Louise--yes, yes, I know!--but I mean
perfectly happy, as you were sometimes at Rochlitz. Since we came back, it
has never been just the right thing--say what you like."
"If only we had never come back!"
"If you still think so, darling, when I've finished here, we'll go
away at once. In the meantime, patience."
"Oh, I don't mean to be unreasonable!" But her head was on his shoulder,
his arms were round her; and in this position, nothing mattered greatly to
Patience?--yes, there was need for him to exhort her to patience. It ate
already into her soul as iron bands eat into flesh. The greater part of
her life was now spent in practising it. And for sheer loathing of it, she
turned over, on waking, and kept her eyes closed, in an attempt to prolong
the night. For the day stretched empty before her; the hours passed, one
by one, like grey-veiled ghosts. Yet not for a moment had she harboured
his idea of regular occupation; she knew herself too well for that. In the
fever into which her blood had worked itself she could settle to nothing:
her attention was centred wholly in herself; and all her senses were
preternaturally acute. But she suffered, too, under the stress of her
feeling; it blunted her, and made her, on the one hand, regardless of
everything outside it, on the other, morbidly sensitive to trifles. She
waited for him, hour after hour, crouched in a corner of the sofa, or
stretched at full length, with closed eyes.
Long before it was time for him to come, she was stationed at the window.
She learned to know the people who appeared in the street between the
hours of four and six so accurately that she could have described them
blindfold. There was the oldfaced little girl who delivered milk; there
was the postman who emptied into his canvas receptacle, the blue
letter-box affixed to the opposite wall; the student with the gashed face
and red cap, who lived a couple of doors further down, and always whistled
the same tune; the big Newfoundland dog that stalked majestically at his
side, and answered to the name of Tasso--she knew them all. These two last
hours were weighted with lead. He came, sometimes a poor half-hour too
soon, but usually not till past six o'clock. Never, in her life, had she
waited for anyone like this, and, towards the end of the time, a sense of
injury, of more than mortal endurance, would steal through her and dull
her heart towards him, in a way that frightened her.
When, at length, she saw him turn the corner, when she had caught and
answered his swift upward glance, she drew back into the shadow of the
room, and hid her face in her hands.
Then she listened.
He had the key of the little papered door in the wall. Between the sound
of his step on the stair, and the turning of the key in the lock,
there was time for her to undergo a moment of suspense that drove her hand
to her throat. What if, after the tension of the afternoon, her heart, her
nerves--parts of her over which she had no control--should not take their
customary bound towards him? What if her pulses should not answer his? But
before she could think her thought to the end, he was there; and when she
saw his kind eyes alight, his eager hands outstretched, her nervous fears
were vanquished. Maurice hardly gave himself time to shut the door, before
catching her to him in a long embrace. And yet, though she did not suspect
it, he, too, had a twinge of uncertainty on entering. Her bodily presence
still affected him with a sense of strangeness--it took him a moment to
get used to her again, as it were--and he was forced to reassure himself
that nothing had changed during his absence, that she was still all his
When the agitation of these first, few, speechless minutes had subsided, a
great tenderness seized Louise; freeing one hand, she smoothed back his
hair from his forehead, with movements each of which was a caress. As for
him, his first impetuous rush of feeling was invariably followed by an
almost morbid pity for her, which, in this form, was a new note in their
relation to each other, or a harking back to the oldest note of all. When
he considered how dependent she was on him, how her one desire was to have
him with her, he felt that he could never repay her or do enough for her:
and, whatever his own state of mind previous to coming, when once he was
there, he exerted himself to the utmost, to cheer her. It was always she
who needed consolation; and, by means of his endearments, she was petted
back to happiness like a tired child.
In his efforts to take her out of herself, Maurice told her how he had
spent the day: where he had been, and whom he had met--every detail that
he thought might interest her. She listened, in grateful silence, but she
never put a question. This at an end, he returned once more, in a kind of
eternal circle, to the one subject of which she never wearied. He might
repeat, for the thousandth time, how dear she was to him, without the
least fear that the story would grow stale in the telling.
And once here, amidst the deep tenderness of his words, he felt her slowly
come to life again, and unfold like a flower. After the long, dead day,
Louise was consumed by a desire to drain such moments as these to the
dregs. She did not let a word of his pass unchallenged, and all that she
herself said, was an attempt to discover some spasm of mental ecstasy,
which they had not yet experienced. Sometimes, the feeling grew so
strong that it forced her to give an outward sign. Slipping to her knees,
she gazed at him with the eyes of a faithful animal. "What have I done to
make you look at me like that?" asked Maurice, amazed.
"What can I do to show you how I love you? Tell me what I can do."
"Do?--what do you want to do? Be your own dear self--that's all, and more
But she continued to look beseechingly at him, waiting for the word that
might be the word of her salvation.
"Haven't you done enough already, in giving yourself to me?" he asked,
seeing how she hung on his lips.
But she repeated: "What can I do? Let me do something. Oh, I wish you
would hurt me, or be unkind to me!"
He tried to make her understand that he wished for no such humble
adoration, that, indeed, he could not be happy under it. If either was to
serve the other, it was he; he asked nothing better than to put his hands
under her feet. But he could neither coax her nor laugh her out of her
absorption: she had the will to self-abasement; and she remained
unsatisfied, waiting for the word he would not speak.
Once or twice, during these weeks, they went out in the evening, and, in
the corner of some quiet restaurant, took a festive little meal. But, for
the most part, she preferred to stay at home. She was not dressed, she
said, or she was tired, or it was too hot, or it had rained. And Maurice
did not urge her; for, on the last occasion, the evening had been spoiled
for him by the conduct of some people at a neighbouring table; they had
stared at Louise, and whispered remarks about her. At home, she herself
prepared the supper, moving indolently about the room, her dressing-gown
dragging after her, from table to cupboard, and back again, often with a
pause at his side, in which she forgot what she had set out for. Maurice
disputed each trifling service with her; he could only think of Louise as
made to be waited on, slow to serve herself.
"Let me do it, dearest."
She had risen anew to fetch something. Now she stood beside him, and put
her arms round his neck.
"What can I do for you? Tell me what I can do," she said, and crushed his
head against her breast.
He loosened her fingers, and drew her to his knee. "What do you
want me to say, dear discontent? Do?--you were never meant to do anything
in this world. Your hands were made to lie one on top of the other...so!
Look at them! Most white and most useless!"
"There are things not made with hands," she answered obscurely. She let
him do what he liked; but she kept her face turned away; and over her eyes
passed a faint shadow of resignation.
But this mood also was a transient one; hours followed, when she no longer
sought and questioned, but when she gave, recklessly, in a wild endeavour
to lose the sense of twofold being. And before these outbreaks, the young
man was helpless. His past life, and such experience as he had gathered in
it, grew fantastic and unreal, might all have belonged to some one else:
the sole reality in a world of shadows was this soft human body that he
held in his arms.
Point by point, however, each of which wounded, consciousness fought
itself free again. Such violent extremes of emotion were, in truth,
contrary to his nature. They made him unsure. And, as the pendulum swung
back, something vital in him made protest.
"Sometimes, it seems as if there were something else . . . something
that's not love at all . . . more like hate--yes, as if you hated me . . .
would like to kill me."
Her whole body was moved by the sigh she drew.
"If I only could! Then I should know that you were mine indeed."
"Is it possible for me to be more yours than I am?"
"Part of you would never be mine, though we spent all our lives together."
He roused himself from his lethargy. "How can you say that?--And yet I
think I know what you mean. It's like a kind of rage that comes over
one--Yes, I've felt it, too. Listen, darling!--there are things one can't
say in daylight. I, too, have felt . . . sometimes . . . that in spite of
all my love for you--I mean our love for each other--yet there was still
something, a part of you, I had no power over. The real you is
something--some one I don't really know in spite of all the kisses.
Yes"--and the more he tried to find words for what he meant, the more
convinced he grew of its truth. "Nothing keeps us apart; you love me, are
here in my arms, and yet . . .yet there's a bit of you I can't
influence--that is still strange to me. How often I have to ask you why
you look at me in a certain way, or what you are thinking of! I never know
your thoughts; I've never once been able to read them; you always keep
something back.--Why is it, dear? Is it my fault? If I could just once get
at your real self--if I knew that once, only once, in all these weeks, you
had been mine--every bit of you--then . . . yes, then, I believe I would
be satisfied to . . . to--I don't know what!"
He had spoken in an even, monotonous voice, almost more to himself than to
her. Now, however, he was forced to the opposite extreme of anxious
solicitude. "No, no, I didn't really mean it. Darling! . . . hush!--don't
cry like that. I didn't know what I was saying; it isn 't true, not a word
She had flung herself across him; her own elemental weeping shook her from
head to foot. He realised, for the first time, the depth and strength of
it, now that it, as it were, went through him, too. Gathering her to him,
he made wild and foolish promises. But nothing soothed her: she wept on,
until the dawn crept in, thinly grey, round the windows. But when it grew
so light that the objects in the room were recovering their form, she fell
asleep, and he hardly dared to breathe, for fear of disturbing her.
By day, the sensations he had tried to express to her seemed the figments
of the night. He needed only to be absent from her to feel the old
restlessness tug at his heart-strings. At such moments, it seemed to him
ridiculous to torment himself about an infinitesimal flaw in their love,
and one which perhaps existed only in his imagination. To be with her
again was his sole desire; and to feel her cheek on his, to be free to run
his hands through her exciting hair, belonged, when he was separated from
her, to that small category of things for which he would have bartered his
One evening, towards the end of September, Louise watched for him at the
window. It had been a warm autumn day, rich in varying lights and shades.
Now it was late, nearly half-past six, and still he had not come: her eyes
were tired with staring down the street.
When at last he appeared, she saw that that he was carrying flowers. Her
heart, which, at the sight of him, had set up a glad and violent beating,
settled down again at once, to its normal course. She knew what the
flowers meant: in a spirit of candour, which had something disarming in
it, he invariably brought them when he could not stay long with her; and
she had learned to dread seeing them in his hand.
In very truth, he was barely inside the room before he told her
that he could only stay for an hour. He was to play his trio the following
evening, and now, at the last moment, the 'cellist had been taken ill. He
had spent the greater part of the afternoon looking for a substitute, and
having found one, had still to interview him again, to let him know the
time at which Schwarz had appointed an extra rehearsal for the next day.
Maurice had mentioned more than once the date of his playing; but it had
never seemed more to Louise than a disturbing outside fact, to be put out
of mind or kissed away. She had forgotten all about it, and the knowledge
of this overcame her disappointment; she tried to atone, by being
reasonable. Maurice had steeled himself against pleadings and despondency,
and was grateful to her for making things easy. He wished to outdo himself
in tender encouragement; but she remained evasive: and since, in spite of
himself, he could not hinder his thoughts from slipping forward to the
coming evening, he, too, had moments of preoccupied silence.
When the clock struck eight, he rose to go. In saying goodnight, he turned
her face up, and asked her had she decided if she were coming to hear him
It was on her direct lips to reply that she had not thought anything about
it. A glance at his face checked her. He was waiting anxiously for her
answer: it was a matter of importance to him. Her previous sense of
remissness was still with her, hampering her, making her unfree; and for a
minute she did not know what to say.
"Would you mind much if I asked you not to come?" he said as she
"No, of course not," she hastened to respond, glad to be relieved of the
decision. "If you would rather I didn't."
"It's a fancy of mine, dearest--foolish, I know--that I shall get on
better if you're not there."
"It's all right. I understand."
When he had gone, she returned to her place at the window. It was a fine
night: there was no moon; but the stars glittered furiously in the
inky-blue sky, a stretch of which was visible above the gardens. The
vastness of the night, the distance of sky and stars, made her shiver.
Leaning her wrists on the cold, moist sill, she looked down into the
street; it was not very far; but a jump from where she was, to the
pavement, would suffice to put an end to every feeling. She was very
lonely; no one wanted her. Here she might stand, at this forlorn post, for
hours, for the whole night; no one would either know or care.--And
her feeling of error, of unfreedom and desolation grew so hard to bear
that, for fear she should actually throw herself down, she banged the
window to, with a crash that resounded through the street.
But there was something else at work in her to-night, which she could not
understand. She struggled with it, as one struggles with a forgotten
melody, which hovers behind the consciousness, and will not emerge.
Except for the light thrown by a small lamp, the room was in shadow. She
went slowly back to the sofa. On the way she trod on the roses; they had
been knocked down and forgotten. She picked them up, and laid them on the
cushioned seat beside her. They were dark crimson, and gave out a strong
scent: Maurice had seldom brought her such beautiful roses. She sat with
her elbows on her knees, her hands closed and pressed to her cheeks, as
though she could only think with her muscles at a strain. In memory, she
went over what he had said, reflected on what his words meant, and strove,
honestly, to project herself into that part of his life, of which she knew
nothing. But it was not easy; for one thing, the smell of the roses was
too strong; it seemed to hinder her imagination. They had the scent that
only deep red roses have--one which seems to come from a distance, from
the very heart of cool, pure things--and more and more, she felt as if
something within her were trying to find vent in it, something that
swelled up, subsided, and mounted again, with what was almost a physical
effort. It had been the truth when she told him that she understood; but
it had touched her strangely all the same: for it had let her see into an
unsuspected corner of his nature. He, too, then, had a cranny in his
brain, where such fancies lodged--such an eccentric, artist fancy, or
whim, or superstition--as that, out of several hundred people, a single
individual could distract and disturb. He . . . too!
The little word had done it. Now she knew--knew what the roses had been
trying to tell her. And as if invisible hands had touched a spring in her
brain, thereby opening some secret place, the memory of a certain hour
returned to her, returned with such force that she fell on her knees, and
pressed her face to the seat of the sofa. On the floor beside her lay the
roses. Why, oh why, had he needed to bring them to her, on this night of
On the day she remembered, they had been lavished over the
room-one June evening, two years ago. And ever afterwards, the scent of
blood-red roses had been associated for her with one of the sweet, leading
themes in Beethoven's violin concerto. There was a special concert that
night at the Conservatorium; the hall was filled to the last place. She
waited with him in the green-room, until his turn came to play. Then she
went into the hall, and stood at the back, under the gallery. Once more,
she was aware of the stir that ran through the audience, as Schilsky
walked down the platform. Hardly, however, had he drawn his bow across the
strings, when she felt a touch on her arm, and a Russian, who was an
intimate friend of his, beckoned her outside. There, he told her that he
had been sent to ask her to leave the hall; and they smiled at each other,
in understanding of the whim. Afterwards, she learned how, just about to
step on to the platform, Schilsky had had a presentiment that things would
go wrong if she remained inside. In his gratitude, and in the boyish
exultation with which success filled him, he had collected all the roses,
and wantonly pulled them to pieces. Red petals fell like flakes of red
snow; and, crushed and bruised, the fragile leaves had yielded a scent,
While it lasted, the vision was painfully intense: on returning to
herself, she was obliged to look round and think where she was. The lamp
burned steadily; the dull room was just as she had left it. With a cry,
she buried her face in the cushions again, and held her hands to her ears.
More, more, and more again! She was as hungry for these memories as a
child for dainties. She was starved for them. And now, dead to the
present, she relived the past happy hours of triumph and excitement, not
one of which had hung heavy, in each of which her craving for sensation
had been stilled. She saw herself as she had then been, proud, secure,
unspeakably content. Forgotten words rang in her ears, words of love and
of anger, words that were like ointment and like knives. Then, not a day
had been empty or tedious; life was always highly coloured, and there was
neither pleasure nor pain that she had not tasted to the full. Even the
suffering she had gone through, for his sake, was no longer hateful to
her. Anything--anything rather than this dead level of monotony on which
she had fallen.
When, finally, she raised her head, she might, for all she knew, have been
absent for days. Things had lost their familiar aspect; she had once more
lived right through the great experience of her life. Putting her hands to
her forehead, she tried to force her thoughts back to reality.
Then, stiffly, she rose from her knees. In doing so, she touched the
roses. With a gesture that was her real awakening, she caught them up and
pressed them to her face. It was a satisfaction to her that fingers and
cheeks were pricked by their thorns. She was conscious of wishing to hurt
herself. With her lips on the cool buds, she stammered broken words:
"Maurice--my poor Maurice!" and kissed the flowers, feeling as if, in some
occult way, he would be aware of her kisses, of the love she was thus
expending on him.
For, in a sudden revulsion of feeling, she was sensible of a great
compassion for him; and with each pressure of her lips to the roses, she
implored his forgiveness for her unpremeditated desertion. She called to
mind his tenderness, his unceasing care of her, and, closing her eyes,
stretched out her arms to him, in the empty room. Already she began to
live for the following evening, when he would come again. Now, only to
sleep through as many as she could of the hours that separated them! She
would be to him the next night, what she had never yet been: his own rival
in fondness. And as a beginning, she crossed the room, and put the fading
roses in a pitcher of water.
Towards seven o'clock the following evening, Maurice loitered about the
vestibule of the Conservatorium. In spite of his attempt to time himself,
he had arrived too early, and his predecessor on the programme had still
to play two movements of a sonata by Beethoven.
As he stood there, Madeleine entered by the street-door.
"Is that you?" she asked, in the ironical tone she now habitually used to
him. "You look just as if you were posing for the John in a Rubens
Crucifixion.--Feel shaky? No? You ought to, you know. One plays all the
better for it.--Well, good luck to you! I'll hold my thumbs."
He went along the passage to the little green-room, at the heels of his
string-players. On seeing them go by, it had occurred to him that he might
draw their attention to a passage in the VARIATIONS, with which he had not
been satisfied at rehearsal that day. But when he caught them up, they
were so deep in talk that he hesitated to interrupt. The 'cellist, a
greasy, little fellow with a mop of touzled hair, was relating an
adventure he had had the night before. His droll way of telling it was
more amusing than the long-winded story, and he himself was more tickled
by it than was the violinist, a lanky German-American boy, with oily black
hair and a pimpled face. Throughout, both tuned their instruments
assiduously, with that air of inattention common to string-players.
Meanwhile, the sonata by Beethoven ran its course. While the story-teller
still smacked his lips, it came to an end, and the performer, a tall,
Polish girl, with a long, sallow, bird-like neck, round which was wound a
piece of black velvet, descended the steps. Behind her was heard the
applause of many hands. As this showed no sign of ceasing, Schwarz, who
had come out of the hall by a lower door, bade her return and bow her
thanks. At his words, the girl burst into tears.
"NA, NA, NA!" he said soothingly. "What's all this about? You did
She seized his hand and clung to it. The 'cellist ran to fetch water; the
other two young men were embarrassed, and looked away.
Here, however, several friends burst into the room, and bore
Fraulein Prybowski off. Schwarz gave the signal, the stringplayers picked
up their instruments, and the little procession, with Maurice at its head,
mounted the steps to the platform.
Although before an audience for the first time in his life, Maurice had
never felt more composed. Passing by the organ, and the empty seats of the
orchestra, he descended to the front of the platform, where two grand
pianos stood side by side; and, as he went, he noted that the hall was
exceptionally well filled. He let down the lid of the piano to the peg for
chambermusic; he lowered the piano-chair, and flicked the keys with his
handkerchief. And Schwarz, sitting by him, to turn the pages of the music,
felt so sure of this pupil's coolness that he yawned, and stroked the
insides of his trouser-legs.
Maurice was just ready for the start, when the 'cellist, who was restless,
discovered that the stand which had been placed for him was insecure;
rising from his scat, he went to fetch another from the back of the
platform. In the delay that ensued, Maurice looked round at the audience.
He saw innumerable heads and faces, all turned expectantly towards him,
like lines of globular fruits. His eye ranged indifferently over the
occupants of the front seats--strange faces, which told him nothing--until
his attention was arrested by a face almost directly beneath him, in the
second row. For the flash of a second, he thought he knew the person to
whom it belonged, and struggled to recall a name. Then, almost as swiftly,
he dismissed the idea. It was, however, a face of that kind which, once
seen, is never forgotten--a frog-like face, with protruding eyes, and the
frog's expressive leer. Somewhere, not very long ago, this face had been
before him, and had stared at him in the same disconcerting manner--but
where? when? In the few seconds that remained, his brain worked furiously,
sped back in desperate haste over all the likely places where he might
have seen it. And a restaurant evolved itself; a table in a secluded
corner; chrysanthemums and their acrid scent; a screen, round which this
repulsive face had peered. It had fixed them both, with such malevolence
that it had destroyed his pleasure, and he had persuaded Louise to go
home. His memory was now so alert that he could recall the man's two
companions as well.
The scene built itself up with inconceivable rapidity. And while he was
still absorbed by it, Schwarz raised a decisive hand. It was the signal to
begin; he obeyed unthinkingly; and was at the bottom of the first page
before he knew it.
Throughout the whole of the opening movement, he was not rightly
awake to what he was doing. His fingers, like well-drilled soldiers, went
automatically through their work, neither blundering nor forgetting; but
the mind which should have controlled them was unable to concentrate
itself: he heard himself play as though he were listening to some one
else. He was only roused by the burst of applause that succeeded the final
chords. As he struck the first notes of the ANDANTE WITH VARIATIONS, he
nerved himself for an effort; but now, as if it were the result of his
previous inattention, an odd uneasiness beset him; and his beginning to
weigh each note as he played it, his fingers hesitated and grew less sure.
Having failed, through over-care, in the rounding of a turn, he resolved
to let things go as they would, and his thoughts wander at will. The
movements of the trio succeeded one another; the VARIATIONS ceased, and
were followed by the crisp gaiety of the MINUET. The lights above his head
were reflected in the shining ebony of the piano; regularly, every moment
or two, he was struck by the appearance of Schwarz's broad, fat hand,
which crossed his range of vision to turn a leaf; he meditated absently on
a sharp uplifting of this hand that occurred, as though the master were
dissatisfied with the rhythm--the 'cellist's fault, no doubt: he had been
inexact at rehearsal, and, this evening, was too much taken up with his
own witticisms beforehand, to think about what he had to do. And thus the
four divisions of the trio slipped past, separated by a disturbing noise
of hands, which continued to seem as unreal to Maurice as everything else.
Only as the last notes of the PRESTISSIMO died away, in the disappointing,
ineffectual scales in C major, with which the trio closed--not till then
did he grasp that the event to which he had looked forward for many weeks
was behind him, and also that no one present knew less of how it had
passed off than he himself.
With his music in his hand, he turned to Schwarz, to learn what success he
had had, from the master's face. According to custom, Schwarz shook hands
with him; he also nodded. but he did not smile. He was, however, in a
hurry; the old: white-haired director had left his seat, and stood waiting
to speak to him. Both 'cellist and violinist had vanished on the instant;
the audience, eager as ever at the end of a concert to shake off an
imposed restraint, had risen while Maurice still played the final notes;
and, by this time, the hall was all but empty.
He slowly ascended the platform. Now that it was over, he felt how
tired he was; his very legs were tired, as though he had walked for miles.
The green-room was deserted; the gas-jet had been screwed down to a peep.
None of his friends had come to say a word to him. He had really hardly
expected it; but, all the same, a hope had lurked in him that Krafft would
perhaps afterwards make some sign--even Madeleine. As, however, neither of
them appeared, he seemed to read a confirmation of his failure in their
absence, and he loitered for some time in the semi-darkness, unwilling to
face the dispersing crowd. When at length he went down the passage, only a
few stragglers remained. One or two acquaintances congratulated him in due
form, but he knew neither well enough to try to get at the truth. As he
was nearing the street-door, however, Dove came out of the BUREAU. He made
for Maurice at once; his manner was eager, his face bore the imprint of
"I say, Guest!" he cried, while still some way off. "An odd coincidence.
Young Leumann is to play this very same trio next week. A little chap in
knickerbockers, you know--pupils of Rendel's. He is said to have a
glorious LEGATO--just the very thing for the VARIATIONS."
"Indeed?" said Maurice with a well-emphasised dryness. His tone nudged
"By the way, all congratulations, of course," he hastened to add. "Never
heard you play better. Especially the MENUETTO. Some people sitting behind
me were reminded of Rubinstein."
"Well, good-night, I'm off," said Maurice, and, even as he spoke, he shot
away, leaving his companion in some surprise.
Once out of Dove's sight, he took off his hat and passed his hand over his
forehead. Any slender hope he might have had was now crushed; his playing
had been so little remarkable that even Dove had been on the point of
overlooking it altogether.
Louise threw herself into his arms. At last! she exulted to herself. But
his greeting had not its usual fervour; instead of kissing her, he laid
his face against her hair. Instantly, she became uncertain. She did not
quite know what she had been expecting; perhaps it had been something of
the old, pleasurable excitement that she had learnt to associate with an
occasion like the present. She put back her head and looked at him, and
her look was a question.
"Yes. At least it's over, thank goodness!" he said in reply.
Not knowing what answer to make to this, she led him to the sofa. They sat
down, and, for a few minutes, neither spoke. Then, he did what on the way
there, he had imagined himself doing: laid his head on her lap, and
himself placed her hands on his hair. She passed them backwards and
forwards; her sense of having been repulsed, yielded, and she tried to
change the current of his thoughts.
"Did you notice, Maurice, as you came along, how full the air was of
different scents to-night?" she asked as her cool hands went to and fro.
"It was like an evening in July. I was at the window trying to make them
out. But the roses were too strong for them; for you see--or rather you
have not seen--all the roses I have got for you--yes, just dark red roses.
This afternoon I went to the little shop at the corner, and bought all
they had. The pretty girl served me--do you remember the pretty girl with
the yellow hair, who tried to make friends with you last summer? You like
roses, too, don't you? Though not as much as I do. They were always my
favourite flowers. As a child, I used to imagine what it would be like to