Part 2 out of 3
disappearance. The gruffness had returned: or had it never been absent?
The lovelessness and leadenness of his temperament had once more
asserted themselves: or was it that they had never for one single day
been in the background?
These thoughts passed through her mind as he sat next to her reading his
paper--that paper which he never passed on to any one. She hardened her
heart against him; there was no need for ill-health and disappointment
to have brought any one to a miserable state of indifference like that.
Then she looked at his wan face and frail form, and her heart softened
at once. At the moment when her heart softened to him, he astonished her
by handing her his paper.
"Here is something to interest you," he said, "an article on Realism in
Fiction, or some nonsense like that. You needn't read it now. I don't
want the paper again.''
"I thought you never lent anything," she said, as she glanced at the
article, "much less gave it."
"Giving and lending are not usually in my line," he replied. "I think I
told you once that I thought selfishness perfectly desirable and
legitimate, if one had made the one great sacrifice."
"Yes," she said eagerly, "I have often wondered what you considered the
one great sacrifice."
"Come out into the air," he answered, "and I will tell you."
She went to put on her cloak and, hat, and found him waiting for her at
the top of the staircase. They passed out into the beautiful night: the
sky was radiantly bejewelled, the air crisp and cold, and harmless to do
ill. In the distance, the jodelling of some peasants. In the hotels, the
fun and merriment, side by side with the suffering and hopelessness. In
the deaconess's house, the body of the Dutchman. In God's heavens, God's
Robert Allitsen and Bernardine walked silently for some time.
"Well," she said, "now tell me."
"The one great sacrifice," he said half to himself, "is the going on
living one's life for the sake of another, when everything that would
seem to make life acceptable has been wrenched away, not the pleasures,
but the duties, and the possibilities of expressing one's energies,
either in one direction or another: when, in fact, living is only a
long tedious dying. If one has made this sacrifice, everything else
may be forgiven."
He paused a moment, and then continued:
"I have made this sacrifice, therefore I consider I have done my part
without flinching. The greatest thing I had to give up, I gave up: my
death. More could not be required of any one!"
He paused again, and Bernardine was silent from mere awe.
"But freedom comes at last," he said, "and some day I shall be free.
When my mother dies, I shall be free. She is old. If I were to die, I
should break her heart, or, rather she would fancy that her heart was
broken. (And it comes to the same thing). And I should not like to give
her more grief than she has had. So I am just waiting, it may be months,
or weeks, or years. But I know how to wait: if I have not learnt
anything else, I have learnt how to wait. And then" . . .
Bernardine had unconsciously put her hand on his arm; her face was full
"And then?" she asked, with almost painful eagerness.
"And then I shall follow your Dutchman's example," he said deliberately.
Bernardine's hand fell from the Disagreeable Man's arm.
"You are cold, you little thing," he said, almost tenderly for him.
"You are shivering."
"Was I?" she said, with a short laugh. "I was wondering when you would
get your freedom, and whether you would use it in the fashion you now
"Why should there be any doubt?" he asked.
"One always hopes there would be a doubt," she said, half in a whisper.
Then he looked up, and saw all the pain on the little face.
THE DISAGREEABLE MAN MAKES A LOAN.
THE Dutchman was buried in the little cemetery which faced the hospital.
Marie's tin wreath was placed on the grave. And there the matter ended.
The Kurhaus guests recovered from their depression: the German Baroness
returned to her buoyant vulgarity, the little danseuse to her busy
flirtations. The French Marchioness, celebrated in Parisian circles for
her domestic virtues, from which she was now taking a holiday, and a
very considerable holiday too, gathered her nerves together again and
took renewed pleasure in the society of the Russian gentleman. The
French Marchioness had already been requested to leave three other
hotels in Petershof; but it was not at all probable that the proprietors
of the Kurhaus would have presumed to measure Madame's morality or
immorality. The Kurhaus committee had a benign indulgence for humanity--
provided of course that humanity had a purse--an indulgence which some
of the English hotels would not have done badly to imitate. There was a
story afloat concerning the English quarter, that a tired little English
lady, of no importance to look at, probably not rich, and probably not
handsome, came to the most respectable hotel in Petershof, thinking to
find there the peace and quiet which her weariness required.
But no one knew who the little lady was, whence she had come, and why.
She kept entirely to herself, and was thankful for the luxury of
loneliness after some overwhelming sorrow.
One day she was requested to go. The proprietor of the hotel was
distressed, but he could not do otherwise than comply with the demands
of his guests.
"It is not known who you are, Mademoiselle," he said. "And you are not
approved of. You English are curious people. But what can I do? You
have a cheap room, and are a stranger to me. The others have expensive
apartments, and come year after year. You see my position, Mademoiselle?
I am sorry."
So the little tired lady had to go. That was how the story went. It was
not known what became of her, but it was known that the English people
in the Kurhaus tried to persuade her to come to them. But she had lost
heart, and left in distress.
This could not have happened in the Kurhaus, where all were received on
equal terms, those about whom nothing was known, and those about whom
too much was known. The strange mixture and the contrasts of character
afforded endless scope for observation and amusement, and Bernardine,
who was daily becoming more interested in her surroundings, felt that
she would have been sorry to have exchanged her present abode for the
English quarter. The amusing part of it was that the English people in
the Kurhaus were regarded by their compatriots in the English quarter
as sheep of the blackest dye! This was all the more ridiculous because
with two exceptions--firstly of Mrs. Reffold, who took nearly all her
pleasures with the American colony in the Grand Hotel; and secondly,
of a Scotch widow who had returned to Petershof to weep over her
husband's grave, but put away her grief together with her widow's
weeds, and consoled herself with a Spanish gentleman--with these two
exceptions, the little English community in the Kurhaus was most humdrum
and harmless, being occupied, as in the case of the Disagreeable Man,
with cameras and cheese-mites, or in other cases with the still more
engrossing pastime of taking care of one's ill-health, whether real or
fancied: but yet, an innocent hobby in itself and giving one absolutely
no leisure to do anything worse: a great recommendation for any pastime.
This was not Bernardine's occupation: it was difficult to say what she
did with herself, for she had not yet followed Robert Allitsen's advice
and taken up some definite work: and the very fact that she had no such
wish, pointed probably to a state of health which forbade it. She,
naturally so keen and hard-working, was content to take what the hour
brought, and the hour brought various things: chess with the Swedish
professor, or Russian dominoes with the shrivelled-up little Polish
governess who always tried to cheat, and who clutched her tiny winnings
with precisely the same greediness shown by the Monte Carlo female
gamblers. Or the hour brought a stroll with the French danseuse and her
poodle, and a conversation about the mere trivialities of life, which a
year or two, or even a few months ago, Bernardine would have condemned
as beneath contempt, but, which were now taking their rightful place in
her new standard of importances. For some natures learn with greater
difficulty and after greater delay than others, that the real
importances of our existence are the nothingnesses of every-day life,
the nothingnesses which the philosopher in his study, reasoning about
and analysing human character, is apt to overlook; but which,
nevertheless, make him and every one else more of a human reality and
less of an abstraction. And Bernardine, hitherto occupied with so-called
intellectual pursuits, with problems of the study, of no value to the
great world outside the study, or with social problems of the great
world, great movements, and great questions, was now just beginning to
appreciate the value of the little incidents of that same great world.
Or the hour brought its own thoughts, and Bernardine found herself
constantly thinking of the Disagreeable Man: always in sorrow and always
with sympathy, and sometimes with tenderness.
When he told her about the one sacrifice, she could have wished to wrap
him round with love and tenderness. If he could only have known it, he
had never been so near love as then. She had suffered so much herself,
and, with increasing weaknesses, had so wished to put off the burden of
the flesh, that her whole heart went out to him.
Would he get his freedom, she wondered, and would he use it? Sometimes
when she was with him, she would look up to see whether she could read
the answer in his face; but she never saw any variation of expression
there, nothing to give her even a suggestion. But this she noticed: that
there was a marked variation in his manner, and that when he had been
rough in bearing, or bitter in speech, he made silent amends at the
earliest opportunity by being less rough and less bitter. She felt this
was no small concession on the part of the Disagreeable Man.
He was particularly disagreeable on the day when the Dutchman was buried,
and so the following day when Bernardine met him in the little English
library, she was not surprised to find him almost kindly.
He had chosen the book which she wanted, but he gave it up to her at once
without any grumbling, though Bernardine expected him to change his mind
before they left the library.
"Well," he said, as they walked along together, "and have you recovered
from the death of the Dutchman?"
"Have you recovered, rather let me ask?" she said. "You were in a horrid
mood last night."
"I was feeling wretchedly ill," he said quietly.
That was the first time he had ever alluded to his own health.
"Not that there is any need to make an excuse," he continued, "for I do
not recognise that there is any necessity to consult one's surroundings,
and alter the inclination of one's mind accordingly. Still, as a matter
of fact, I felt very ill!"
"And to-day?" she asked.
"To-day I am myself again," he answered quickly: "that usual normal self
of mine, whatever that may mean. I slept well, and I dreamed of you.
I can't say that I had been thinking of you, because I had not. But I
dreamed that we were children together, and playmates. Now that was very
odd: because I was a lonely child, and never had any playmates."
"And I was lonely too," said Bernardine.
"Every one is lonely," he said, "but every one does not know it."
"But now and again the knowledge comes like a revelation," she said,
"and we realise that we stand practically alone, out of any one's reach
for help or comfort. When you come to think of it, too, how little able
we are to explain ourselves. When you have wanted to say something which
was burning within you, have you not noticed on the face of the listener
that unmistakable look of non-comprehension, which throws you back on
yourself? That is one of the moments when the soul knows its own
Robert Allitsen looked up at her.
"You little thing," he said, "you put things neatly sometimes. You have
felt, haven't you?"
"I suppose so," she said. "But that is true of most people."
"I beg your pardon," he answered, "most people neither think nor feel:
unless they think they have an ache, and then they feel it!"
"I believe," said Bernardine, "that there is more thinking and feeling
than one generally supposes."
"Well, I can't be bothered with that now," he said. "And you interrupted
me about my dream. That is an annoying habit you have."
"Go on," she said. "I apologize!"
"I dreamed we were children together, and playmates," he continued. "We
were not at all happy together, but still we were playmates. There was
nothing we did not quarrel about. You were disagreeable, and I was
spiteful. Our greatest dispute was over a Christmas-tree. And that was
odd, too, for I have never seen a Christmas-tree."
"Well?" she said, for he had paused. "What a long time you take to tell
"You were not called Bernardine," he said. "You were called by some
ordinary sensible name. I don't remember what. But you were very
disagreeable. That I remember well. At last you disappeared, and I went
about looking for you 'If I can find something to cause a quarrel,'
I said to myself, 'she will come back.' So I went and smashed your
doll's head. But you did not come back. Then I set on fire your doll's
house. But even that did not bring you back. Nothing brought you back.
That was my dream. I hope you are not offended. Not that it makes any
difference if you are."
"I am sorry that I should have been such an unpleasant playmate," she
said. "It was a good thing I did disappear."
"Perhaps it was," he said. "There would have been a terrible scene about
that doll's head. An odd thing for me to dream about Christmas-trees and
dolls and playmates: especially when I went to sleep thinking about my
"You have a new camera?" she asked.
"Yes," he answered, "and a beauty, too. Would you like to see it?"
She expressed a wish to see it, and when they reached the Kurhaus, she
went with him up to his beautiful room, where he spent his time in the
company of his microscope and his chemical bottles and his photographic
"If you sit down and look at those photographs, I will make you some
tea," he said. "There is the camera, but please not to touch it until I
am ready to show it myself."
She watched him preparing the tea; he did everything so daintily, this
Disagreeable Man. He put a handkerchief on the table, to serve for an
afternoon tea-cloth, and a tiny vase of violets formed the centre-piece.
He had no cups, but he polished up two tumblers, and no housemaid could
have been more particular, about their glossiness. Then he boiled the
water and made the tea. Once she offered to help him; but he shook his
"Kindly not to interfere." he said grimly. "No one can make tea better
than I can."
After tea, they began the inspection of the new camera, and Robert
Allitsen showed her all the newest improvements. He did not seem to
think much of her intelligence, for he explained everything as though
he were talking to a child, until Bernardine rather lost patience.
"You need not enter into such elaborate explanations," she suggested.
"I have a small amount of intelligence, though you do not seem to
He looked at her as one might look at an impatient child.
"Kindly not to interrupt me," he replied mildly. "How very impatient you
are! And how restless! What must you have been like before you fell ill?"
But he took the hint all the same, and shortened his explanations, and
as Bernardine was genuinely interested, he was well satisfied. From time
to time he looked at his old camera and at his companion, and from the
expression of unease on his face, it was evident that some contest was
going on in his mind. Twice he stood near his old camera, and turned
round to Bernardine intending to make some remark. Then he chanced his
mind, and walked abruptly to the other end of the room as though to seek
advice from his chemical bottles. Bernardine meanwhile had risen from
her chair, and was looking out of the window.
"You have a lovely view," she said. "It must be nice to look at that
when you are tired of dissecting cheese-mites. All the same, I think
the white scenery gives one a great sense of sadness and loneliness."
"Why do you speak always of loneliness?" he asked.
"I have been thinking a good deal about it," she said. "When I was
strong and vigorous, the idea of loneliness never entered my mind. Now I
see how lonely most people are. If I believed in God as a Personal God,
I should be inclined to think that loneliness were part of his scheme:
so that the soul of man might turn to him and him alone."
The Disagreeable Man was standing by his camera again: his decision was
"Don't think about those questions," he said kindly. "Don't worry and
fret too much about the philosophy of life. Leave philosophy alone, and
take to photography instead. Here, I will lend you my old camera."
"Do you mean that?" she asked, glancing at him in astonishment.
"Of course I mean it," he said.
He looked remarkably pleased with himself, and Bernardine could not
He looked just as a child looks when he has given up a toy to another
child, and is conscious that he has behaved himself rather well.
"I am very much obliged to you," she said frankly. "I have had a great
wish to learn photography."
"I might have lent my camera to you before, mightn't I?" he said
"No," she answered. "There was not any reason."
"No," he said, with a kind of relief, "there was not any reason. That
is quite true!"
"When will you give me my first lesson?" she asked. "Perhaps, though,
you would like to wait a few days, in case you change your mind."
"It takes me some time to make up my mind," he replied, "but I do not
change it. So I will give you your first lesson to-morrow. Only you
must not be impatient. You must consent to be taught; you cannot
possibly know everything!"
They fixed a time for the morrow, and Bernardine went off with the
camera; and meeting Marie on the staircase, confided to her the piece
of good fortune which had befallen her.
"See what Herr Allitsen has lent me, Marie!" she said.
Marie raised her hands in astonishment.
"Who would have thought such a thing of Herr Allitsen?" said Marie.
"Why, he does not like lending me a match."
Bernardine laughed and passed on to her room.
And the Disagreeable Man meanwhile was cutting a new scientific book
which had just come from England. He spent a good deal of money on
himself. He was soon absorbed in this book, and much interested in the
Suddenly he looked up to the corner where the old camera had stood,
before Bernardine took it away in triumph.
"I hope she won't hurt that camera," he said a little uneasily.
"I am half sorry that" . . .
Then a kinder mood took possession of him.
"Well, at least it will keep her from fussing and fretting and thinking.
Still, I hope she won't hurt it."
A DOMESTIC SCENE.
ONE afternoon when Mrs. Reffold came to say good-bye to her husband
before going out for the usual sledge-drive, he surprised her by his
"Take your cloak off," he said sharply. "You cannot go for your drive
this afternoon. You don't often give up your time to me; you must do so
She was so astonished, that she at once laid aside her cloak and hat,
and touched the bell.
"Why are you ringing?" Mr. Reffold asked testily.
"To send a message of excuse," she answered, with provoking cheerfulness.
She scribbled something on a card, and gave it to the servant who
answered the bell.
"Now," she said, with great sweetness of manner. And she sat down beside
him, drew out her fancy-work, and worked away contentedly. She would
have made a charming study of a devoted wife soothing a much-loved
husband in his hours of sickness and weariness.
"Do you mind giving up your drive?" he asked.
"Not in the least," she replied. "I am rather tired of sledging."
"You soon get tired of things, Winifred," he said.
"Yes, I do," was the answer. "I am so easily bored. I am quite tired of
"You will have to stay here a little longer," he said, "and then you
will be free to go where you choose. I wish I could die quicker for you,
Mrs. Reffold looked up from her embroidery.
"You will get better soon," she said. "You are better."
"Yes, you've helped a good deal to make me better," he said bitterly.
"You have been a most unselfish person haven't you? You have given me
every care and attention, haven't you?"
"You seem to me in a very strange mood to-day," she said, looking
puzzled. "I don't understand you."
Mr. Reffold laughed.
"Poor Winifred," he said. "If it is ever your lot to fall ill and be
neglected, perhaps then you will think of me."
"Neglected?" she said, in some surprise. "What do you mean? I thought
you had everything you wanted. The nurse brought excellent testimonials.
I was careful in the choice of her. You have never complained before."
He turned wearily on his side, and made no answer. And for some time
there was silence between them.
Then he watched her as she bent over her embroidery.
"You are very beautiful, Winifred," he said quietly, "but you are a
selfish woman. Has it ever struck you that you are selfish?"
Mrs. Reffold gave no reply, but she made a resolution to write to her
particular friend at Cannes and confide to her how very trying her
husband had become.
"I suppose it is part of his illness," she thought meekly. "But it is
hard to have to bear it."
And Mrs. Reffold pitied herself profoundly. She stitched sincere pity
for herself into that piece of embroidery.
"I remember you telling me," continued Mr. Reffold, "that sick people
repelled you. That was when I was strong and vigorous. But since I have
been ill, I have often recalled your words. Poor Winifred! You did not
think then that you would have an invalid husband on your hands. Well,
you were not intended for sick-room nursing, and you have not tried to
be what you were not intended for. Perhaps you were right, after all."
"I don't know why you should be so unkind to-day," Mrs. Reffold said,
with pathetic patience. "I can't understand you. You have never spoken
like this before."
"No," he said; "but I have thought like this before. All the hours you
have left me lonely, I have been thinking like this, with my heart full
of bitterness against you, until that little girl, that Little Brick
After that, it was some time before he spoke. He was thinking of his
Little Brick, and of all the pleasant hours he had spent with her, and
of the kind, wise words she had spoken to him, an ignorant fellow. She
was something like a companion.
So he went on thinking, and Mrs. Reffold went on embroidering. She was
now feeling herself to be almost a heroine. It is a very easy matter to
make oneself into a heroine or a martyr. Selfish, neglectful? What did
he mean? Oh, it was just part of his illness. She must go on bearing her
burden as she had borne it these many months. Her rightful position was
in a London ball-room. Instead of which, she had to be shut up in an
Alpine village: a hard lot. It was little enough pleasure she could get,
and apparently her husband grudged her that. His manner to her this
afternoon was not such as to encourage her to stay in from her drive on
another occasion. To-morrow she would go sledging.
That flash of light which reveals ourselves to ourselves had not yet
come to Mrs. Reffold.
She looked at her husband, and thought from his restfulness that he had
gone to sleep, and she was just beginning to write to that particular
friend at Cannes, to tell her what a trial she was undergoing, when
Mr. Reffold called her to his side.
"Winifred," he said gently, and there was tenderness in his voice, and
love written on his face, "Winifred, I am sorry if I have been sharp to
you. Little Brick says we mustn't come down like sledge-hammers on each
other; and that is what I have been doing this afternoon. Perhaps I have
been hard: I am such an illness to myself, that I must be an illness to
others too. And you weren't meant for this sort of thing--were you? You
are a bright beautiful creature, and I am an unfortunate dog not to have
been able to make you happier. I know I am irritable. I can't help
myself, indeed I can't."
This great long fellow was so yearning for love and sympathy.
What would it not have been to him if she had gathered him into her
arms, and soothed all his irritability and suffering with her love?
But she pressed his hand, and kissed him lightly on the cheek, and told
him that he had been a little sharp, but that she quite understood, and
that she was not hurt. Her charm of manner gave him some satisfaction;
and when Bernardine came in a few minutes later, she found Mr. Reffold
looking happier and more contented than she had ever seen him.
Mrs. Reffold, who was relieved at the interruption, received Bernardine
warmly, though there was a certain amount of shyness which she had never
been able to conquer in Bernardine's presence. There was something in
the younger woman which quelled Mrs. Reffold: it may have been some
mental quality, or it may have been her boots!
"Little Brick," said Mr. Reffold, "isn't it nice to have Winifred here?
And I have been so disagreeable and snappish."
"Oh, we won't say anything about that now," said Mrs. Reffold, smiling
"But I've said I am sorry," he continued. "And one can't do more."
"No," said Bernardine, who was amused at the notion of Mr. Reffold
apologizing to Mrs. Reffold, and of Mrs. Reffold posing as the gracious
forgiver, "one can't do more." But she could not control her feelings,
and she laughed.
"You seem rather merry this afternoon," Mr. Reffold said, in a
reproachful tone of voice.
"Yes," she said. And she laughed again. Mrs. Reffold's forgiving
graciousness had altogether upset her gravity.
"You might at least tell us the joke," Mrs. Reffold said. Bernardine
looked at her hopelessly, and laughed again.
"I have been developing photographs all the afternoon," she said, "and
I suppose the closeness of the air and the badness of my negatives have
been too much for me. Anyway, I know I must seem very rude."
She recovered herself after that, and tried hard not to think of
Mrs. Reffold as the dispenser of forgiveness, although it was some time
before she could look at her hostess without wishing to laugh. The
corners of her mouth twitched, and her brown eyes twinkled mischievously,
and she spoke very rapidly, making fun of her first attempts at
photography, and criticising herself so comically, that both and
Mrs. Reffold were much amused.
All the same, Bernardine was relieved when Mrs. Reffold went to fetch
some silks, and left her with Mr. Reffold.
"I am very happy this afternoon, Little Brick," he said to her. "My
wife has been sitting with me. But instead of enjoying the pleasure as
I ought to have done, I began to find fault with her. I don't know how
long I should not have gone on grumbling, but that I suddenly
recollected what you taught me: that we were not to come down like
sledge-hammers on each other's failings. When I remembered that, it was
quite easy to forgive all the neglect and thoughtlessness. Since you
have talked to me, Little Brick, everything has become easier to me!"
"It is something in your own mind which has worked this," she said;
"your own kind, generous mind, and you put it down to my words!"
But he shook his head.
"If I knew of any poor unfortunate devil that wanted to be eased and
comforted," he said, "I should tell him about you, Little Brick. You
have been very good to me. You may be clever, but you have never worried
my stupid brain with too much scholarship. I'm just an ignorant chap,
and you've never let me feel it."
He took her hand and raised it reverently to his lips.
"I say," he continued, "tell my wife it made me happy to have her with
me this afternoon; then perhaps she will stay in another time. I should
like her to know. And she was sweet in her manner, wasn't she? And, by
Jove, she is beautiful! I am glad you have seen her here to-day. It must
be dull for her with an invalid like me. And I know I am irritable. Go
and tell her that she made me happy--will you?"
The little bit of happiness at which the poor fellow snatched, seemed
to make him more pathetic than before. Bernardine promised to tell his
wife, and went of to find her, making as an excuse a book which
Mrs. Reffold had offered to lend her. Mrs. Reffold was in her bedroom.
She asked. Bernardine to sit down whilst she searched for the book.
She had a very gracious manner when she chose.
"You are looking much better, Miss Holme," she said kindly. "I cannot
help noticing your face. It looks younger and brighter. The bracing air
has done you good."
"Yes, I am better," Bernardine said, rather astonished that Mrs. Reffold
should have noticed her at all. "Mr. Allitsen informs me that I shall
live, but never be strong. He settles every question of that sort to his
own satisfaction, but not always to the satisfaction of other people!"
"He is a curious person," Mrs. Reffold said smiling; "though I must say
he is not quite as gruff as he used to be. You seem to be good friends
She would have liked to say more on this subject, but experience had
taught her that Bernardine was not to be trifled with.
"I don't know about being good friends," Bernardine said, "but I have a
great sympathy for him. I know myself what it is to be cut off from
work and active life. I have been through a misery. But mine is nothing
She rose to go, but Mrs. Reffold detained her.
Don't go yet,' she said. "It is pleasant to have you."
She was leaning back in an arm-chair playing with the fringe of an
"Oh, how tired I am of this horrid place!" she said suddenly. "And I
have had a most wearying afternoon. Mr. Reffold seems to be more
irritable every day. It is very hard that I should have to bear it."
Bernardine listened to her in astonishment.
"Yes," she added, "I am quite worn out. He never used to be so
irritable. It is all very tiresome. It is quite telling on my health."
She looked the picture of health.
Bernardine gasped; and Mrs. Reffold continued:
"His grumbling this afternoon has been incessant; so much so that he
himself was ashamed, and asked me to forgive him. You heard him, didn't
"Yes, I heard him," Bernardine said.
"And of course I forgave him at once," Mrs. Reffold said piously.
"Naturally one would do that, but the vexation remains all the same."
"Can these things be!" thought Bernardine to herself
"He spoke in a most ridiculous way," she went on: "it certainly is not
encouraging for me to spend another afternoon with him. I shall go
"You generally do go sledging, don't you?" Bernardine asked mildly.
Mrs. Reffold looked at her suspiciously. She was never quite sure that
Bernardine was not making fun of her.
"It is little enough pleasure I do have," she added, as though in self-
defence. "And he seems to grudge me that too."
"I don't think he would grudge you anything," Bernardine said, with
some warmth. "He loves you too much for that. You don't know how much
pleasure you give him when you spare him a little of your time. He told
me how happy you made him this afternoon. You could see for yourself
that he was happy. Mrs. Reffold, make him happy whilst you still have
him. Don't you understand that he is passing away from you--don't you
understand, or is it that you won't? We all see it, all except you!"
She stopped suddenly, surprised at her boldness.
Mrs. Reffold was still leaning back in the arm-chair, her hands clasped
together above her beautiful head. Her face was pale. She did not speak.
Bernardine waited. The silence was unbroken save by the merry cries of
some children tobogganing in the Kurhaus garden. The stillness grew
oppressive, and Bernardine rose. She knew from the effort which those
few words had cost her, how far removed she was from her old former self.
"Good-bye, Mrs. Reffold," she said nervously.
"Good-bye, Miss Holme," was the only answer.
CONCERNING THE CARETAKERS
THE Doctors in Petershof always said that the caretakers of the invalids
were a much greater anxiety than the invalids themselves. The invalids
would either get better or die: one of two things probably. At any rate,
you knew where you were with them. But not so with the caretakers: there
was nothing they were not capable of doing--except taking reasonable
care of their invalids! They either fussed about too much, or else they
did not fuss about at all. They all began by doing the right thing: they
all ended by doing the wrong. The fussy ones had fits of apathy, when
the poor irritable patients seemed to get a little better; the negligent
ones had paroxysms of attentiveness, when their invalids, accustomed to
loneliness and neglect, seemed to become rather worse by being worried.
To remonstrate with the caretakers would have been folly: for they were
well satisfied with their own methods.
To contrive their departure would have been an impossibility: for they
were firmly convinced that their presence was necessary to the welfare
of their charges. And then, too, judging from the way in which they
managed to amuse themselves, they liked being in Petershof, though they
never owned that to the invalids. On the contrary, it was the custom for
the caretakers to depreciate the place, and to deplore the necessity
which obliged them to continue there month after month. They were fond,
too, of talking about the sacrifices which they made, and the pleasures
which they willingly gave up in order to stay with their invalids. They
said this in the presence of their invalids. And if the latter had told
them by all means to pack up and go back to the pleasures which they
had renounced, they would have been astonished at the ingratitude which
could suggest the idea.
They were amusing characters, these caretakers. They were so thoroughly
unconscious of their own deficiencies. They might neglect their own
invalids, but they would look after other people's invalids, and play
the nurse most soothingly and prettily where there was no call and no
occasion. Then they would come and relate to their neglected dear ones
what they had been doing for others: and the dear ones would smile
quietly, and watch the buttons being stitched on for strangers, and the
cornflour which they could not, get nicely made for themselves, being
carefully prepared for other people's neglected dear ones.
Some of the dear ones were rather bitter. But there were many of a
higher order of intelligence, who seemed to realize that they had no
right to be ill, and that being ill, and therefore a burden on their
friends, they must make the best of everything, and be grateful for
what was given them, and patient when anything was withheld. Others of
a still higher order of understanding, attributed the eccentricities of
the caretakers to one cause alone: the Petershof air. They know it had
the invariable effect of getting into the head, and upsetting the
balance of those who drank deep of it. Therefore no one was to blame,
and no one need be bitter. But these were the philosophers of the
colony: a select and dainty few in any colony. But there were several
rebels amongst the invalids, and they found consolation in confiding to
each other their separate grievances. They generally held their
conferences in the rooms known as the newspaper-rooms, where they were
not likely to be interrupted by any caretakers who might have stayed at
home because, they were tired out.
To-day there were only a few rebels gathered together, but they were
more than usually excited, because the Doctors had told several of them
that their respective caretakers must be sent home.
"What must I do?" said little Mdlle. Gerardy, wringing her hands. "The
Doctor says that I must tell my sister to go home: that she only worries
me, and makes me worse. He calls her a 'whirlwind.' If I won't tell her,
then he will tell her, and we shall have some more scenes. Mon Dieu! and
I am so tired of them. They terrify me. I would suffer anything rather
than have a fresh scene. And I can't get her to do anything for, me.
She has no time for, me. And, yet she thinks she takes the greatest
possible care of me, and devotes the whole day to me. Why, sometimes I
never see her for hours together."
"Well, at least she does not quarrel with every one, as my mother does,"
said a Polish gentleman, M. Lichinsky. "Nearly every day she has a
quarrel with some one or other; and then she comes to me and says she
has been insulted. And others come to me mad with rage, and complain
that they have been insulted by her. As though I were to blame! I tell
them that now. I tell them that my mother's quarrels are not my quarrels.
But one longs for peace. And the Doctor says I must have it, and that
my mother must go home at once. If I tell her that, she will have a
tremendous quarrel with the Doctor. As it is, he will scarcely speak to
her. So you see, Mademoiselle Gerardy, that I, too, am in a bad plight.
What am I to do?"
Then a young American spoke. He had been getting gradually worse since
he came to Petershof, but his brother, a bright sturdy young fellow,
seemed quite unconscious of the seriousness of his condition.
"And what am I to do?" he asked pathetically. "My brother does not even
think I am ill. He says I am to rouse myself and come skating and
tobogganing with him. Then I tell him that the Doctor says I must lie
quietly in the sun. I have no one to take care of me, so I try to take
a little care of myself, and then I am laughed at. It is bad enough to
be ill; but it is worse when those who might help you a little, won't
even believe in your illness. I wrote home once and told them; but they
go by what he says; and they, too, tell me to rouse myself."
His cheeks were sunken, his eyes were leaden. There was no power in his
voice, no vigour in his frame. He was just slipping quickly down the
hill for want of proper care and understanding.
"I don't know whether I am much better off than you," said an English
lady, Mrs. Bridgetower. "I certainly have a trained nurse to look after
me, but she is altogether too much for me, and she does just as she
pleases. She is always ailing, or else pretends to be; and she is always
depressed. She grumbles from eight in the morning till nine at night.
I have heard that she is cheerful with other people, but she never gives
me the benefit of her brightness. Poor thing! She does feel the cold
very much, but it is not very cheering to see her crouching neat the
stove, with her arms almost clasping it! When she is not talking of her
own looks, all she says is: 'Oh, if I had only not come to Petershof!'
or, 'Why did I ever leave that hospital in Manchester?' or, 'The cold
is eating into the very marrow of my bones.' At first she used to read
to me; but it was such a dismal performance that I could not bear to
hear her. Why don't I send her home? Well, my husband will not hear of
me being alone, and he thinks I might do worse than keep Nurse Frances.
And perhaps I might."
"I would give a good deal to have a sister like pretty Fraeulein Mueller
has," said little Fraeulein Oberhof. "She came to look after me the other
day when I was alone. She has the kindest way about her. But when my
sister came in, she was not pleased to find Fraeulein Sophie Mueller with
me. She does not do anything for me herself, and she does not like any
one else to do anything either. Still, she is very good to other people.
She comes up from the theatre sometimes at half-past nine--that is the
hour when I am just sleepy--and she stamps about the room, and makes
cornflour for the old Polish lady. Then off she goes, taking with her
the cornflour together with my sleep. Once I complained, but she said I
was irritable. You can't think how teasing it is to hear the noise of
the spoon stirring the cornflour just when you are feeling drowsy. You
say to yourself, 'Will that cornflour never be made? It seems to take
"One could be more patient if it were being made for oneself," said
M. Lichinsky. "But at least, Fraeulein, your sister does not quarrel
with every one. You must be grateful for that mercy!"
Even as he spoke, a stout lady thrust herself into the reading-room.
She looked very hot and excited. She was M. Lichinsky's mother. She
spoke, with a whirlwind of Polish words. It is sometimes difficult to
know when these people are angry and when they are pleased. But there
was no mistake about Mme. Lichinsky. She was always angry. Her son rose
from the sofa and followed her to the door. Then he turned round to his
confederates, and shrugged his shoulders.
"Another quarrel!" he said hopelessly.
WHICH CONTAINS NOTHING.
"YOU may have talent for other things," Robert Allitsen said one day to
Bernardine, "but you certainly have no talent for photography. You have
not made the slightest progress."
"I don't at all agree with you," Bernardine answered rather peevishly.
"I think I am getting on very well."
"You are no judge," he said. "To begin with, you cannot focus properly.
You have a crooked eye. I have told you that several times!"
"You certainly have," she put in. "You don't let me forget that."
"Your photograph of that horrid little danseuse whom you like so much,"
he said, "is simply abominable. She looks like a fury. Well, she may be
one for all I know, but in real life she has not the appearance of one."
"I think that is the best photograph I have done," Bernardine said,
highly indignant. She could tolerate his uppishness about subjects of
which she knew far more than he did; but his masterfulness about a
subject of which she really knew nothing was more than she could bear
with patience. He had not the tact to see that she was irritated.
"I don't know about it being the best," he said; "unless it is the best
specimen of your inexperience. Looked at from that point of view, it
does stand first!"
She flushed crimson with temper.
"Nothing is easier than to make fun of others," she said fiercely. "It
is the resource of the ignorant."
Then, after the fashion of angry women, having said her say, she stalked
away. If there had been a door to bang, she would certainly have banged
it. However, she did what she could under the circumstances: she pushed
a curtain roughly aside, and passed into the concert-room, where every
night of the season's six months, a scratchy string orchestra entertained
the Kurhaus guests. She left the Disagreeable Man standing in the passage.
"Dear me," he said thoughtfully. And he stroked his chin. Then he trudged
slowly up to his room.
"Dear me," he said once more.
Arrived in his bedroom, he began to read. But after a few minutes he
shut his book, took the lamp to the looking-glass and brushed his hair.
Then he put on a black coat and a white silk tie. There was a speck of
dust on the coat. He carefully removed that, and then extinguished the
On his way downstairs he met Marie, who gazed at him in astonishment.
It was quite unusual for him to be seen again when he had once come up
from _table-d'hote_. She noticed the black coat and the white silk tie
too, and reported on these eccentricities to her colleague Anna.
The Disagreeable Man meanwhile had reached the Concert Hall. He glanced
around, and saw where Bernardine was sitting, and then chose a place in
the opposite direction, quite by himself. He looked somewhat like a dog
who has been well beaten. Now and again he looked up to see whether she
still kept her seat. The bad music was a great irritation to him. But he
stayed on heroically. There was no reason why he should stay. Gradually,
too, the audience began to thin. Still he lingered, always looking like
a dog in punishment.
At last Bernardine rose, and the Disagreeable Man rose too. He followed
her humbly to the door. She turned and saw him.
"I am sorry I put you in a bad temper," he said. "It was stupid of me."
"I am sorry I got into a bad temper," she answered, laughing. "It was
stupid of me."
"I think I have said enough to apologize," he said. "It is a process I
dislike very much."
And with that he wished her good-night and went to his room.
But that was not the end of the matter, for the next day when he was
taking his breakfast with her, he of his own accord returned to the
"It was partly your own fault that I vexed you last night," he said.
"You have never before been touchy, and so I have become accustomed to
saying what I choose. And it is not in my nature to be flattering."
"That is a very truthful statement of yours," she said, as she poured
out her coffee. "But I own I was touchy. And so I shall be again if you
make such cutting remarks about my photographs!"
"You have a crooked eye," he said grimly. "Look there, for instance!
You have poured your coffee outside the cup. Of course you can do as
you like, but the usual custom is to pour it inside the cup."
They both laughed, and the good understanding between them was cemented
"You are certainly getting better," he said suddenly. "I should not be
surprised if you were able to write a book after all. Not that a new
book is wanted. There are too many books as it is; and not enough people
to dust them. Still, it is not probable that you would be considerate
enough to remember that. You will write your book."
Bernardine shook her head.
"I don't seem to care now," she said. "I think I could now be content
with a quieter and more useful part."
"You will write your book," he continued. "Now listen to me. Whatever
else you may do, don't make your characters hold long discussions with
each other. In real life, people do not talk four pages at a time
without stopping. Also, if you bring together two clever men, don't make
them talk cleverly. Clever people do not. It is only the stupid who
think they must talk cleverly all the time. And don't detain your reader
too long: if you must have a sunset, let it be a short one. I could give
you many more hints which would be useful to you."
"But why not use your own hints for yourself?" she suggested.
"That would be selfish of me," he said solemnly. "I wish you to profit
"You are learning to be unselfish at a very rapid rate," Bernardine said.
At that moment Mrs. Reffold came into the breakfast-room, and, seeing
Bernardine, gave her a stiff bow.
"I thought you and Mrs. Reffold were such friends," Robert Allitsen said.
Bernardine then told him of her last interview with Mrs. Reffold.
"Well, if you feel uncomfortable, it is as it should be," he said. "I
don't see what business you had to point out to Mrs. Reffold her duty.
I dare say she knows it quite well though she may not choose to do it.
I am sure I should resent it, if any one pointed out my duty to me.
Every one knows his own duty. And it is his own affair whether or not
he does it."
"I wonder if you are right," Bernardine said. "I never meant to presume;
but her indifference had exasperated me."
"Why should you be exasperated about other people's affairs?" he said.
"And why interfere at all?"
"Being interested is not the same as being interfering," she replied
"It is difficult to be the one without being the other," he said. "It
requires a genius. There is a genius for being sympathetic as well as
a genius for being good. And geniuses are few."
"But I knew one," Bernardine said. "There was a friend to whom in the
first days of my trouble I turned for sympathy. When others only
irritated, she could soothe. She had only to come into my room, and
all was well with me."
There were tears in Bernardine's eyes as she spoke.
"Well," said the Disagreeable Man kindly, "and where is your genius now?"
"She went away, she and hers," Bernardine said "And that was the end of
"Poor little child," he said, half to himself. "Don't I too know
something about the ending of such a chapter?"
But Bernardine did not hear him; she was thinking of her friend. She was
thinking, as we all think, that those to whom in our suffering we turn
for sympathy, become hallowed beings. Saints they may not be; but for
want of a better name, saints they are to us, gracious and lovely
presences. The great time Eternity, the great space Death, could not rob
them of their saintship; for they were canonized by our bitterest tears.
She was roused from her reverie by the Disagreeable Man, who got up, and
pushed his chair noisily under the table.
"Will you come and help me to develop some photographs?" he asked
cheerily. "You do not need to have a straight eye for that!"
Then as they went along together, he said:
"When we come to think about it seriously, it is rather absurd for us to
expect to have uninterrupted stretches of happiness. Happiness falls to
our share in separate detached bits; and those of us who are wise,
content ourselves with these broken fragments."
"But who is wise?" Bernardine asked. "Why, we all expect to be happy.
No one told us that we were to be happy. Still, though no one told us,
it is the true instinct of human nature."
"It would be interesting to know at what particular period of evolution
into our present glorious types we felt that instinct for the first
time," he said. "The sunshine must have had something to do with it.
You see how a dog throws itself down in the sunshine; the most wretched
cur heaves a sigh of content then; the sulkiest cat begins to purr."
They were standing outside the room set apart for the photograph-maniacs
of the Kurhaus.
"I cannot go into that horrid little hole," Bernardine said. "And
besides, I have promised to play chess with the Swedish professor.
And after that I am going to photograph Marie. I promised Waerli I would."
The Disagreeable Man smiled grimly.
"I hope he will be able to recognize her!" he said. Then, feeling that
he was on dangerous ground, he added quickly:
"If you want any more plates, I can oblige you."
On her way to her room she stopped to talk to pretty Fraeulein Mueller,
who was in high spirits, having had an excellent report from the Doctor.
Fraeulein Mueller always insisted on talking English with Bernardine; and
as her knowledge of it was limited, a certain amount of imagination was
necessary to enable her to be understood.
"Ah, Miss Holme," she said, "I have deceived an exquisite report from
"You are looking ever so well," Bernardine said. "And the love-making
with the Spanish gentleman goes on well, too?"
"Ach!" was the merry answer. "That is your inventory! I am quite
indolent to him!"
At that moment the Spanish gentleman came out of the Kurhaus flower-
shop, with a beautiful bouquet of flowers.
"Mademoiselle," he said, handing them to Fraeulein Mueller, and at the
same time putting his hand to his heart. He had not noticed Bernardine
at first, and when he saw her, he became somewhat confused. She smiled
at them both, and escaped into the flower-shop, which was situated in
one of the covered passages connecting the mother-building with the
dependencies. Herr Schmidt, the gardener, was making a wreath. His
favourite companion, a saffron cat, was playing with the wire. Schmidt
was rather an ill-tempered man, but he liked Bernardine.
"I have put these violets aside for you, Fraeulein," he said, in his
sulky way. "I meant to have sent them to your room, but have been
interrupted in my work."
"You spoil me with your gifts," she said.
"You spoil my cat with the milk," he replied, looking up from his work.
"That is a beautiful wreath you are making, Herr Schmidt," she said.
"Who has died? Any one in the Kurhaus?"
"No, Fraeulein. But I ought to keep my door locked when I make these
wreaths. People get frightened, and think they, too, are going to die.
Shall you be frightened, I wonder?"
"No, I believe not," she answered as she took possession of her violets,
and stroked the saffron cat. "But I am glad no one has died here."
"It is for a young, beautiful lady," he said. "She was in the Kurhaus
two years ago. I liked her. So I am taking extra pains. She did not care
for the flowers to be wired. So I am trying my best without the wire.
But it is difficult."
She left him to his work, and went away, thinking. All the time she had
now been in Petershof had not sufficed to make her indifferent to the
sadness of her surroundings. In vain the Disagreeable Man's preachings,
in vain her own reasonings with herself.
These people here who suffered, and faded, and passed away, who were
they to her?
Why should the faintest shadow steal across her soul on account of them?
There was no reason. And still she felt for them all, she who in the old
days would have thought it waste of time to spare a moment's reflection
on anything so unimportant as the sufferings of an _individual_ human
And the bridge between her former and her present self was her own
What dull-minded sheep we must all be, how lacking in the very elements
of imagination, since we are only able to learn by personal experience
of grief and suffering, something about the suffering and grief of
Yea, how the dogs must wonder at us: those dogs who know when we are in
pain or trouble, and nestle nearer to us.
So Bernardine reached her own door. She heard her name called, and,
turning round, saw Mrs. Reffold. There was a scared look on the
"Miss Holme," she said, "I have been sent for--I daren't go to him
alone--I want you--he is worse. I am" . . .
Bernardine took her hand, and the two women hurried away in silence.
WHEN THE SOUL KNOWS ITS OWN REMORSE.
BERNARDINE had seen Mr. Reffold the previous day. She had sat by his
side and held his hand. He had smiled at her many times, but he only
"Little Brick," he whispered--for his voice had become nothing but a
whisper. "I remember all you told me. God bless you. But what a long
time it does take to die."
But that was yesterday.
The lane had come to an ending at last, and Mr. Reffold lay dead.
They bore him to the little mortuary chapel. And Bernardine stayed with
Mrs. Reffold, who seemed afraid to be alone. She clung to Bernardine's
"No, no," she said excitedly, "you must not go! I can't bear to be
alone: you must stay with me!"
She expressed no sorrow, no regret. She did not even speak his name.
She just sat nursing her beautiful face.
Once or twice Bernardine tried to slip away. This waiting about was a
strain on her, and she felt that she was doing no good.
But each time Mrs. Reffold looked up and prevented her.
"No, no," she said. "I can't bear myself without you. I must have you
near me. Why should you leave me?"
So Bernardine lingered. She tried to read a book which lay on the table.
She counted the lines and dots on the wall-paper. She thought about the
dead man; and about the living woman. She had pitied him; but when she
looked at the stricken face of his wife, Bernardine's whole heart rose
up in pity for her. Remorse would come, although it might not remain
long. The soul would see itself face to face for one brief moment; and
then forget its own likeness.
But for the moment--what a weight of suffering, what a whole century of
Bernardine grew very tender for Mrs. Reffold: she bent over the sofa,
and fondled the beautiful face.
"Mrs. Reffold" . . . she whispered.
That was all she said: but it was enough.
Mrs. Reffold burst into an agony of tears.
"Oh, Miss Holme," she sobbed, "and I was not even kind to him! And now
it is too late. How can I ever bear myself?"
And then it was that the soul knew its own remorse.
A RETURN TO OLD PASTURES.
SHE had left him alone and neglected for whole hours when he was alive.
And now when he was dead, and it probably mattered little to him where
he was laid, it was some time before she could, make up her mind to
leave him in the lonely little Petershof cemetery.
"It will be so dreary for him there," she said to the Doctor.
"Not so dreary as you made it for him here," thought the Doctor.
But he did not say that: he just urged her quietly to have her husband
buried in Petershof; and she yielded.
So they laid him to rest in the dreary cemetery.
Bernardine went to the funeral, much against the Disagreeable Man's wish.
"You are looking like a ghost yourself," he said to her. "Come out with
me into the country instead."
But she shook her head.
"Another day," she said. "And Mrs. Reffold wants me. I can't leave her
alone, for she is so miserable."
The Disagreeable Man shrugged his shoulders, and went of by himself.
Mrs. Reffold clung very much to Bernardine those last days before she
left Petershof. She had decided to go to Wiesbaden, where she had
relations; and she invited Bernardine to go with her: it was more than
that, she almost begged her. Bernardine refused.
"I have been from England nearly five months," she said, "and my money
is coming to an end. I must go back and work."
"Then come away with me as my companion," Mrs. Reffold suggested. "And
I will pay you a handsome salary."
Bernardine could not be persuaded.
"No," she said. "I could not earn money that way: it would not suit me.
And besides, you would not care to be a long time with me: you would
soon tire of me. You think you would like to have me with you now. But
I know how it would be: You would be sorry, and so should I. So let us
part as we are now: you going your way, and I going mine. We live in
different worlds, Mrs. Reffold. It would be as senseless for me to
venture into yours, as for you to come into mine. Do you think I am
So they parted. Mrs. Reffold had spoken no word of affection to
Bernardine, but at the, station, as she bent down to kiss her, she
"I know you will not think too hardly of me. Still, will you promise
me? And if you are ever in trouble, and I can help you, will you write
And Bernardine promised.
When she got back to her room, she found a small packet on her table.
It contained Mr. Reffold's watch-chain. She had so often seen him
playing with it. There was a little piece of paper enclosed with it,
and Mr. Reffold had written on it some two months ago: "Give my watch-
chain to Little Brick, if she will sacrifice a little of her pride, and
accept the gift." Bernardine unfastened her watch from the black hair
cord, and attached it instead to Mr. Reffold's massive gold chain.
As she sat there fiddling with it, the idea seized her that she would
be all the better for a day's outing. At first she thought she would go
alone, and then she decided to ask Robert Allitsen. She learnt from
Marie that he was in the dark room, and she hastened down. She knocked
several times before there was any answer.
"I can't be disturbed just now," he said. "Who is it?"
"I can't shout to you," she said.
The Disagreeable Man opened the door of the dark room.
"My negatives will be spoilt," he said gruffly. Then seeing Bernardine
standing there, he added:
"Why, you look as though you wanted some brandy."
"No," she said, smiling at his sudden change of manner. "I want fresh
air, a sledge drive, and a day's outing. Will you come?"
He made no answer, and retired once more into the dark room. Then he
came out with his camera.
"We will go to that inn again," he said cheerily. "I want to take the
photographs to those peasants."
In half an hours time they were on their way. It was the same drive as
before: and since then, Bernardine had seen more of the country, and was
more accustomed to the wonderful white scenery: but still the "white
presences" awed her, and still the deep silence held her. It was the
same scene, and yet not the same either, for the season was now far
advanced, and the melting of the snows had begun. In the far distance
the whiteness seemed as before; but on the slopes near at hand, the
green was beginning to assert itself, and some of the great trees had
cast off their heavy burdens, and appeared more gloomy in their freedom
than in the days of their snow-bondage. The roads were no longer quite
so even as before; the sledge glided along when it could, and bumped
along when it must. Still, there was sufficient snow left to make the
drive possible, and even pleasant.
The two companions were quiet. Once only the Disagreeable Man made a
remark, and then he said:
"I am afraid my negatives will be spoilt!"
"You said that before," Bernardine remarked.
"Well, I say it again," he answered in his grim way.
Then came a long pause.
"The best part of the winter is over," he said. "We may have some more
snow; but it is more probable that we shall not. It is not enjoyable
being here during the melting time."
"Well, in any case I should not be here much longer," she said; "and
for a simple reason, too. I have nearly come to the end of my money.
I shall have to go back and set to work again. I should not have been
able to give myself this chance, but that my uncle spared me some of
his money, to which I added my savings."
"Are you badly of?" the Disagreeable Man asked rather timidly.
"I have very few wants," she answered brightly. "And wealth is only a
relative word, after all.''
"It is a pity that you should go back to work so soon," he said half to
himself. "You are only just better; and it is easy to lose what one has
"Oh, I am not likely to lose," she answered; "but I shall be careful
this time. I shall do a little teaching, and perhaps a little writing:
not much--you need not be vexed. I shall not try to pick up the other
threads yet. I shall not be political, nor educational, nor anything
"If you call politics or education great," he said. "And heaven defend
me from political or highly educated women!"
"You say that because you know nothing about them," she said sharply.
"Thank you," he replied. "I have met them quite often enough!"
"That was probably some time ago," she said rather heartlessly. "If you
have lived here so long, how can you judge of the changes which go on
in the world outside Petershof?"
"If I have lived here so long," he repeated, in the bitterness of his
Bernardine did not notice: she was on a subject which always excited her.
"I don't know so much about the political women," she said, "but I do
know about the higher education people. The writers who rail against
the women of this date are really describing the women of ten years ago.
Why, the Girton girl of ten years ago seems a different creation from
the Girton girl of to-day. Yet the latter has been the steady outgrowth
of the former!"
"And the difference between them?" asked the Disagreeable Man; "since
you pride yourself on being so well informed."
"The Girton girl of ten years ago," said Bernardine, "was a, sombre,
spectacled person, carelessly and dowdily dressed, who gave herself up
to wisdom, and despised every one who did not know the Agamemnon by
heart. She was probably not lovable; but she deserves to be honoured
and thankfully remembered. She fought for woman's right to be well
educated, and I cannot bear to hear her slighted. The fresh-hearted
young girl who nowadays plays a good game of tennis, and takes a high
place in the Classical or Mathematical Tripos, and is book learned,
without being bookish, and . . ."
"What other virtues are left, I wonder?" he interrupted.
"And who does not scorn to take a pride in her looks because she happens
to take a pride in her books," continued Bernardine, looking at the
Disagreeable Man, and not seeming to see him: "she is what she is by
reason of that grave and loveless woman who won the battle for her."
Here she paused.
"But how ridiculous for me to talk to you in this way!" she said. "It
is not likely that you would be interested in the widening out of
"And pray why not?" he asked. "Have I been on the shelf too long?"
"I think you would not have been interested even if you had never been
on the shelf," she said frankly. "You are not the type of man to be
generous to woman."
"May I ask one little question of you, which shall conclude this
subject," he said, "since here we are already at the Gasthaus: to which
type of learned woman do you lay claim to belong?"
"That I leave to your own powers of discrimination." she said, and then
added, "if you have any."
And that was the end of the matter, for the word spread about that Herr
Allitsen had arrived, and every one turned out to give the two guests
greeting. Frau Steinhart smothered Bernardine with motherly tenderness,
and whispered in her ear:
"You are betrothed now, liebes Fraeulein? Ach, I am sure of it."
But Bernardine smiled and shook her head, and went to greet the others
who crowded round them; and at last poor Catharina drew near too,
holding Bernardine's hand lovingly within her own. Then Hans, Liza's
lover, came upon the scene, and Liza told the Disagreeable Man that she
and Hans were to be married in a month's time. And the Disagreeable Man,
much to Bernardine's amazement, drew from his pocket a small parcel,
which he confided to Liza's care. Every one pressed round her while she
opened it, and found what she had so often wished for, a silver watch
"Ach," she cried, "how heavenly! How all the girls here will envy me!
How angry my dear friend Susanna will be!"
Then there were the photographs to be examined.
Liza looked with stubborn disapproval on the pictures of herself in her
working-dress. But she did not conceal her admiration of the portraits
which showed her to the world in her best finery.
"Ach," she cried, "this is something like a photograph!"
The Disagreeable Man grunted, but behaved after the fashion of a hero,
claiming, however, a little silent sympathy from Bernardine.
It was a pleasant, homely scene: and Bernardine, who, felt quite at her
ease amongst these people, chatted away with them as though she had
known them all her life.
Then Frau Steinhart suddenly remembered that her guests needed some food,
and Liza was despatched to her duties as cook; though it was some time
before she could be induced to leave off looking at the photographs.
"Take them with you, Liza," said the Disagreeable Man. "Then we shall
get our meal all the quicker!"
She ran off laughing, and finally Bernardine found herself alone with
"Liza is very happy," she said to Bernardine. "She loves, and is loved."
"That is the greatest happiness," Bernardine said half to herself.
"Fraeulein knows?" Catharina asked eagerly.
Bernardine looked wistfully at her companion. "No, Catharina," she said.
"I have only heard and read and seen."
"Then _you_ cannot understand," Catharina said almost proudly. "But _I_
She spoke no more after that, but took up her knitting, and watched
Bernardine playing with the kittens. She was playing with the kittens,
and she was thinking; and all the time she felt conscious that this
peasant woman, stricken in mind and body, was pitying her because that
great happiness of loving and being loved had not come into her life.
It had seemed something apart from her; she had never even wanted it.
She had wished to stand alone, like a little rock out at sea.
In a few minutes the Disagreeable Man and she sat down to their meal.
In spite of her excitement, Liza managed to prepare everything nicely;
though when she was making the omelette _aux fines herbes_, she had to
be kept guarded lest she might run off to have another look at the
silver watch and the photographs of herself in her finest frock!
Then Bernardine and Robert Allitsen drank to the health of Hans and
Liza: and then came the time of reckoning. When he was paying the bill,
Frau Steinhart, having given him the change, said coaxingly:
"Last time, you and Fraeulein each paid a share: to-day you pay all. Then
perhaps you are betrothed at last, dear Herr Allitsen? Ach, how the old
Hausfrau wishes you happiness! Who deserves to be happy, if it is not
our dear Herr Allitsen?"
"You have given me twenty centimes too much," he said quietly. "You
have your head so full of other things that you cannot reckon properly."
But seeing that she looked troubled lest she might have offended him,
he added quickly:
"When I am betrothed, good little old housemother, you shall be the
first to know."
And she had to be content with that. She asked no more questions of
either of them: but she was terribly disappointed. There was something
a little comical in her disappointment; but Robert Allitsen was not
amused at it, as he had been on a former occasion. As he leaned back
in the sledge, with the same girl for his companion, he recalled his
feelings. He had been astonished and amused, and perhaps a little shy,
and a great deal relieved that she had been sensible enough to be
They had been constantly together for many months: he who had never
cared before for companionship, had found himself turning more and more
_And now he was going to lose her_.
He looked up once or twice to make sure that she was still by his side:
she sat there so quietly. At last he spoke in his usual gruff way.
"Have you exhausted all your eloquence in your oration about learned
women?" he asked.
"No, I am reserving it for a better audience," she answered, trying to
be bright. But she was not bright.
"I believe you came out to the country to day to seek for cheerfulness,"
he said after a pause. "Have you found it?"
"I do not know," she said. "It takes me some time to recover from
shocks; and Mr. Reffold's death was a sorrow to me. What do you think
about death? Have you any theories about life and death, and the bridge
between them? Could you say anything to help one?"
"Nothing," he answered. "Who could? And by what means?"
"Has there been no value in philosophy," she asked, "and the meditations
of learned men?"
"Philosophy!" he sneered. "What has it done for us? It has taught us
some processes of the mind's working; taught us a few wonderful things
which interest the few; but the centuries have come and gone, and the
only thing which the whole human race pants to know, remains unknown:
our beloved ones, shall we meet them, and how?--the great secret of the
universe. We ask for bread, and these philosophers give us a stone.
What help could come from them: or from any one? Death is simply one of
the hard facts of life."
"And the greatest evil," she said.
"We weave our romances about the next world," he continued; "and any
one who has a fresh romance to relate, or an old one dressed up in new
language, will be listened to, and welcomed. That helps some people for
a little while; and when the charm of the romance is over, then they
are ready for another, perhaps more fantastic than the last. But the
plot is always the same: our beloved ones--shall we meet them, and how?
Isn't it pitiful? Why cannot we be more impersonal? These puny, petty
minds of ours! When will they learn to expand?"
"Why should we learn to be more impersonal?" she said. "There was a time
when I felt like that; but now I have learnt something better: that we
need not be ashamed of being human; above all, of having the best of
human instincts, love, and the passionate wish for its continuance, and
the unceasing grief at its withdrawal. There is no indignity in this;
nor any trace of weakmindedness in our restless craving to know about
the Hereafter, and the possibilities of meeting again those whom we have
lost here. It is right, and natural, and lovely that it should be the
most important question. I know that many will say that there _are_
weightier questions: they say so, but do they think so? Do we want to
know first and foremost whether we shall do our work better elsewhere:
whether we shall be endowed with more wisdom: whether, as poor
Mr. Reffold said, we shall be glad to behave less like curs, and more
like heroes? These questions come in, but they can be put aside. The
other question can _never_ be put on one side. If that were to become
possible, it would only be so because the human heart had lost the best
part of itself, its own humanity. We shall go on building our bridge
between life and death, each one for himself. When we see that it is
not strong enough, we shall break it down and build another. We shall
watch other people building their bridges. We shall imitate, or
criticise, or condemn. But as time goes on, we shall learn not to
interfere, we shall know that one bridge is probably as good as the
other; and that the greatest value of them all has been in the building
of them. It does not matter what we build, but build we must: you, and I,
and every one."
"I have long ceased to build my bridge," the Disagreeable Man said.
"It is an almost unconscious process," she said. "Perhaps you are still
at work, or perhaps you are resting."
He shrugged his shoulders, and the two comrades fell into silence again.
They were within two miles of Petershof, when he broke the silence:
there was something wonderfully gentle in his voice.
"You little thing," he said, "we are nearing home, and I have something
to ask you. It is easier for me to ask here in the free open country,
where the space seems to give us breathing room for our cramped lungs
"Well," she said kindly; she wondered what he could have to say.
"I am a little nervous of offending you," he continued, "and yet I trust
you. It is only this. You said you had come to the end of your money,
and that you must go home. It seems a pity when you are getting better.
I have so much more than I need. I don't offer it to you as a gift, but
I thought if you wished to stay longer, a loan from me would not be
quite impossible to you. You could repay as quickly or as slowly as was
convenient to you, and I should only be grateful and" . . .
He stopped suddenly.
The tears had gathered in Bernardine's eyes her hand rested for one
moment on his arm.
"Mr. Allitsen," she said, "you did well to trust me. But I could not
borrow money of any one, unless I was obliged. If I could of any one,
it would have been of you. It is not a month ago since I was a little
anxious about money; my remittances did not come. I thought then that
if obliged to ask for temporary help, I should come to you: so you see
if you have trusted me, I, too, have trusted you."
A smile passed over the Disagreeable Man's face, one of his rare,
"Supposing you change your mind," he said quietly, "you will not find
that I have changed mine."
Then a few minutes brought them back to Petershof.
HE had loved her so patiently, and now he felt that he must have his
answer. It was only fair to her, and to himself too, that he should know
exactly where he stood in her affections. She had certainly given him
little signs here and there, which had made him believe that she was not
indifferent to his admiration. Little signs were all very well for a
short time; but meanwhile the season was coming to an end: she had told
him that she was going back to her work at home. And then perhaps he
would lose her altogether. It would not be safe now for him to delay a
single day longer. So the little postman armed himself with courage.
Waerli's brain was muddled that day. He who prided himself upon knowing
the names of all the guests in Petershof, made the most absurd mistakes
about people and letters too; and received in acknowledgment of his
stupidity a series of scoldings which would have unnerved a stronger
person than the little hunchback postman.
In fact, he ceased to care how he gave out the letters: all the
envelopes seemed to have the same name on them: _Marie Truog_. Every
word which he tried to decipher turned to that; so finally he tried no
more, leaving the destination of the letter to be decided by the
impulse of the moment. At last he arrived at that quarter of the
Kurhaus where Marie held sway. He heard her singing in her pantry.
Suddenly she was summoned downstairs by an impatient bellringer,
and on her return found Waerli waiting in the passage.
"What a goose you are!" she cried, throwing a letter at him; "you have
left the wrong letter at No. 82."
Then some one else rang, and Marie hurried off again. She came back with
another letter in her hand, and found Waerli sitting in her pantry.
"The wrong letter left at No. 54," she said, "and Madame in a horrid
temper in consequence. What a nuisance you are to-day, Waerli! Can't you
read? Here, give the remaining letters to me. I'll sort them."
Waerli took off his little round hat, and wiped his forehead.
"I can't read to-day, Marie," he said; something has gone wrong with me.
Every name I look at turns to Marie Truog. I ought to have brought every
one of the letters to you. But I knew they could not be all for you,
though you have so many admirers. For they would not be likely to write
at the same time, to catch the same post."
"It would be very dull if they did," said Marie, who was polishing some
water-bottles with more diligence than was usual or even necessary.
"But I am the one who loves you, Mariechen," the little postman said.
"I have always loved you ever since I can remember. I am not much to
look at, Mariechen: the binding of the book is not beautiful, but the
book itself is not a bad book."
Marie went on polishing the water-bottles. Then she held them up to the
light to admire their unwonted cleanness.
"I don't plead for myself," continued Waerli. "If you don't love me, that
is the end of the matter. But if you do love me, Mariechen, and will
marry me, you won't be unhappy. Now I have said all."
Marie put down the water-bottles, and turned to Waerli.
"You have been a long time in telling me," she said, pouting. "Why
didn't you tell me three months ago? It's too late now."
"Oh. Mariechen!" said the little postman, seizing her hand and covering
it with kisses; "you love some one else-you are already betrothed? And
now it's too late, and you love some one else!"
"I never said I loved some one else," Marie replied; "I only said it was
too late. Why, it must be nearly five o'clock, and my lamps are not yet
ready. I haven't a moment to spare. Dear me, and there is no oil in the
can; no, not one little drop!
"The devil take the oil!" exclaimed Waerli, snatching the can out of her
hands. "What do I want to know about the oil in the can? I want to know
about the love in your heart. Oh, Mariechen, don't keep me waiting like
this! Just tell me if you love me, and make me the merriest soul in all
"Must I tell the truth," she said, in a most melancholy tone of voice;
"the truth and nothing else? Well, Waerli, if you must know . . . how I
grieve to hurt you . . ." Waerli's heart sank, the tears came into his
eyes. "But since it must be the truth, and nothing else," continued the
torturer, "well Fritz . . . I love you!"
A few minutes afterwards, the Disagreeable Man, having failed to attract
any notice by ringing, descended to Marie's pantry, to fetch his lamp.
He discovered Waerli embracing his betrothed.
"I am sorry to intrude," he said grimly, and he retreated at once. But
directly afterwards he came back.
"The matron has just come upstairs," he said. And he hurried away.
"SHIPS THAT SPEAK EACH OTHER IN PASSING."
MANY of the guests in the foreign quarter had made a start downwards
into the plains; and the Kurhaus itself, though still well filled with
visitors, was every week losing some of its invalids. A few of the
tables looked desolate, and some were not occupied at all, the lingerers
having chosen, now that their party was broken up, to seek the refuge of
another table. So that many stragglers found their way to the English
dining-board, each bringing with him his own national bad manners, and
causing much annoyance to the Disagreeable Man, who was a true John Bull
in his contempt of all foreigners. The English table was, so he said,
like England herself: the haven of other nation's offscourings.
There were several other signs, too, that the season was far advanced.
The food had fallen of in quality and quantity. The invalids, some of
them better and some of them worse, had become impatient. And plans were
being discussed, where formerly temperatures and coughs and general
symptoms were the usual subjects of conversation! The caretakers, too,
were in a state of agitation; some few keenly anxious to be of to new
pastures; and others, who had perhaps formed attachments, an occurrence
not unusual in Petershof, were wishing to hold back time with both
hands, and were therefore delighted that the weather, which had not
yet broken up, gave no legitimate excuse for immediate departure.
Pretty Fraeulein Mueller had gone, leaving her Spanish gentleman quite
disconsolate for the time being. The French Marchioness had returned to
the Parisian circles where she was celebrated for all the domestic
virtues, from which she had been taking such a prolonged holiday in
Petershof. The little French danseuse and her poodle had left for Monte
Carlo. M. Lichinsky and his mother passed on to the Tyrol, where Madame
would no doubt have plenty of opportunities for quarrelling: or not
finding them, would certainly make them without any delay, by this means
keeping herself in good spirits and her son in bad health. There were
some, too, who had hurried off without paying their doctors: being of
course those who had received the greatest attention, and who had
expressed the greatest gratitude in their time of trouble, but who were
of opinion that thankfulness could very well take the place of francs:
an opinion not entirely shared by the doctors themselves.
The Swedish professor had betaken himself off, with his chessmen and his
chessboard. The little Polish governess who clutched so eagerly at her
paltry winnings, caressing those centimes with the same fondness and
fever that a greater gambler grasps his thousands of francs, she, had
left too; and, indeed, most of Bernardine's acquaintances had gone their
several ways, after six months' constant intercourse, and companionship,
saying good-bye with the same indifference as though they were saying
good-morning or good-afternoon.
This cold-heartedness struck Bernardine more than once, and she spoke
of it to Robert Allitsen. It was the day before her own departure, and
she had gone down with him to the restaurant, and sat sipping her
coffee, and making her complaint.
"Such indifference is astonishing, and it is sad too. I cannot
understand it," she said.
"That is because you are a goose," he replied, pouring out some more
coffee for himself, and as an after thought, for her too, "You pretend
to know something about the human heart, and yet you do not seem to
grasp the fact that most of us are very little interested in other
people: they for us and we for them can spare only a small fraction of
time and attention. We may, perhaps, think to the contrary, believing
that we occupy an important position in their lives; until one day,
when we are feeling most confident of our value, we see an unmistakable
sign, given quite unconsciously by our friends, that we are after all
nothing to them: we can be done without, put on one side, and forgotten
when not present. Then, if we are foolish, we are wounded by this
discovery, and we draw back into ourselves. But if we are wise, we draw
back into ourselves without being wounded: recognizing as fair and
reasonable that people can only have time and attention for their
immediate belongings. Isolated persons have to learn this lesson sooner
or later; and the sooner they do learn it, the better."
"And you," she asked, "you have learnt this lesson?"
"Long ago," he said decidedly.
"You take a hard view of life," she said.
"Life has not been very bright for me," he answered. "But I own that I
have not cultivated my garden. And now it is too late: the weeds have
sprung up everywhere. Once or twice I have thought lately that I would
begin to clear away the weeds, but I have not the courage now. And
perhaps it does not matter much."
"I think it does matter," she said gently. "But I am no better than you,
for I have not cultivated my garden.''
"It would not be such a difficult business for you as for me," he said,
They left the restaurant, and sauntered out together.
"And to-morrow you will be gone," he said.
"I shall miss you," Bernardine said.
"That is simply a question of time," he remarked. "I shall probably miss
you at first. But we adjust ourselves easily to altered circumstances:
mercifully. A few days, a few weeks at most, and then that state of
becoming accustomed, called by pious folk, resignation."
"Then you think that the every-day companionship, the every-day exchange
of thoughts and ideas, counts for little or, nothing?" she asked.
"That is about the colour of it," he answered, in his old gruff way.
She thought of his words when she was packing: the many pleasant hours
were to count for nothing; for nothing the little bits of fun, the
little displays of temper and vexation, the snatches of serious talk,
the contradictions, and all the petty details of six months' close
He was not different from the others who had parted from her so lightly.
No wonder, then, that he could sympathise with them.
That last night at Petershof, Bernardine hardened her heart against the
"I am glad I am able to do so," she said to herself. "It makes it
easier for me to go."
Then the vision of a forlorn figure rose before her. And the little
hard heart softened at once.
In the morning they breakfasted together as usual. There was scarcely
any conversation between them. He asked for her address, and she told
him that she was going back to her uncle who kept the second-hand book-
shop in Stone Street.
"I will send you a guide-book from the Tyrol," he explained. "I shall
be going there in a week or two to see my mother."
"I hope you will find her in good health," she said.
Then it suddenly flashed across her mind what he had told her about his
one great sacrifice for his mother's sake. She looked up at him, and he
met her glance without flinching.
He said good-bye to her at the foot of the staircase.
It was the first time she had ever shaken hands with him.
"Good-bye," he said gently. "Good luck to you."
"Good-bye," she answered.
He went up the stairs, and turned round as though he wished to say
something more. But he changed his mind, and kept his own counsel.
An hour later Bernardine left Petershof. Only the concierge of the
Kurhaus saw her off at the station.
TWO days after Bernardine had left Petershof, the snows began to melt.
Nothing could be drearier than that process: nothing more desolate than
The Disagreeable Man sat in his bedroom trying to read Carpenter's
Anatomy. It failed to hold him. Then he looked out of the window, and
listened to the dripping of the icicles. At last he took a pen, and
wrote as follows:
"LITTLE COMRADE, LITTLE PLAYMATE."
"I could not believe that you were really going. When you first said
that you would soon be leaving, I listened with unconcern, because it
did not seem possible that the time could come when we should not be
together; that the days would come and go, and that I should not know
how you were; whether you were better, and more hopeful about your life
and your work, or whether the old misery of indifference and ill-health
was still clinging to you; whether your voice was strong as of one who
had slept well and felt refreshed, or whether it was weak like that of
one who had watched through the long night.
"It did not seem possible that such a time could come. Many cruel things
have happened to me, as to scores of others, but this is the most cruel
of all. Against my wish and against my knowledge, you have crept into my
life as a necessity, and now I have to give you up. You are better, God
bless you, and you go back to a fuller life, and to carry on your work,
and to put to account those talents which no one realises more than I do;
and as for myself, God help me, I am left to wither away.
"You little one, you dear little one, I never wished to love you. I had
never loved any one, never drawn near to any one. I have lived lonely
all my young life; for I am only a young man yet. I said to myself time
after time: 'I will not love her. It will not do me any good, nor her
any good.' And then in my state of health, what right had I to think of
marriage, and making a home for myself? Of course that was out of the
question. And then I thought, that because I was a doomed man, cut off
from the pleasures which make a lovely thing of life, it did not follow
that I might not love you in my own quiet way, hugging my secret to
myself, until the love became all the greater because it was my secret.
I reasoned about it too: it could not harm you that I loved you. No one
could be the worse for being loved. So little by little I yielded myself
this luxury; and my heart once so dried up, began to flower again; yes,
little one, you will smile when I tell you that my heart broke out into
"When I think of it all now, I am not sorry that I let myself go. At
least I have learnt what I knew nothing of before: now I understand what
people mean when they say that love adds a dignity to life which nothing
else can give. That dignity is mine now, nothing can take it from me;
it is my own. You are my very own; I love everything about you. From the
beginning I recognized that you were clever and capable. Though I often
made fun of what you said, that was simply a way I had; and when I saw
you did not mind, I continued in that way, hoping always to vex you;
your good temper provoked me, because I knew that you made allowances
for me being a Petershof invalid. You would never have suffered a strong
man to criticize you as I did; you would have flown at him, for you are
a feverish little child: not a quiet woolly lamb. At first I was wild
that you should make allowances for me. And then I gave in, as weak men
are obliged. When you came, I saw that your troubles and sufferings
would make you bitter. Do you know who helped to cure you? _It was I_.
I have seen that often before. That is the one little bit of good I have
done in the world: I have helped to cure cynicism. You were shocked at
the things I said, and you were saved. I did not save you intentionally,
so I am not posing as a philanthropist. I merely mention that you came
here hard, and you went back tender. That was partly because you have
lived in the City of Suffering. Some people live there and learn
nothing. But you would learn to feel only too much. I wish that your
capacity for feeling were less; but then you would not be yourself,
your present self I mean, for you have changed even since I have known
you. Every week you seemed to become more gentle. You thought me rough
and gruff at parting, little comrade: I meant to be so. If you had only
known, there was a whole world of tenderness for you in my heart. I
could not trust myself to be tender to you; you would have guessed my
secret. And I wanted you to go away undisturbed. You do not feel things
lightly, and it was best for you that you should harden your heart