Part 6 out of 8
a man of his self-control, and paralyze his will. But after that--
what then? How would it end? Better not begin--not begin. That would
be the wisest ending.
He left the shore and returned to the hotel. The view before him was
remarkable. At the further end of the street rose the church, its
Gothic flourishes outlined sharply against the lighter background of
the sky. Just behind it stood the full moon, tracing--as if for its
amusement--the silhouette of the roof of the church tower upon the
ground. Where the shadow of the church ended, the moon poured its
silvery light in a broad flood over the street, and further off
painted, with, a bold stroke of the brush, a glittering streak of
white light across the sea, away to the semi-transparent mists on
Passing first through the shimmering light, and then through the
black shadow of the church, Wilhelm reached the hotel, where the
lights were already extinguished. Without lighting the candle, which
he found ready for him at the foot of the stairs, he mounted to his
room. He was surprised, on reaching the door, to find Fido lying in
front of it, his nose resting on his outstretched paws.
"I suppose they have shut you out, and you want a night's lodging
with me," said Wilhelm; "very well, I won't refuse you my
He opened the door and let the dog pass in before him, then
followed, pushed the bolt, and put the candlestick down on the
table. Suddenly two cool, bare arms were laid about his neck, and
his startled cry was smothered by the pressure of two burning lips
upon his own.
IN THE HORSELBERG
The good landlady of the Hotel de France was not a little surprised
next morning when Wilhelm came down to the kitchen and informed her
that he must leave that forenoon. And when very soon afterward Anne
appeared, and announced in her stiffest, most impenetrable manner
that Madame la Comtesse desired two places, for herself and her
maid, in the hotel omnibus which went to the station at Eu, the
landlady remarked, "Indeed!" and there was a liberal interchange of
meaning glances in the kitchen.
At no price would Wilhelm remain at Ault. The countess, who liked
the place well enough, begged, entreated, and pouted in vain. He was
not to be persuaded. He protested that he knew himself too well to
think that he would be capable of keeping up the appearance of
reserve toward her which decency demanded. And he need not, she
declared; she considered herself free to do as she pleased, and. so
was he; their love did not interfere with their duty toward anybody,
and so it was immaterial if people found it out and talked about it.
Her utter disregard for the trammels of convention, her cool
contempt for the opinion of others, filled him with horror.
"No, no, I could not look one of them in the face again."
"But do you suppose that these people are any better? You surely
don't imagine that the man with the calves and his ravening wolf are
"How can you say such things!"
"Why, you big baby, one can see that at a glance. He is far too nice
to her for her to be his legitime."
"That may be. At all events he has had so much consideration for
outward appearance as to pass the person off as his wife. But we
made our acquaintance here, under their very eye."
"Wilhelm!"--from her lips the name sounded more like Gwillem--"I
should not know you for the same person. Why, where is your boasted
philosophy and stoicism to which you were going to convert me? Is
that your indifference to the world and its hypocritical ways, its
prejudices and its sneers?"
She was quite right. He was untrue to his principles, but he could
not do otherwise. He had had the courage to decline the duel with
Herr von Pechlar, but he had not the boldness to let the foolish
gossips of the table d'hote be witnesses of his new love-making.
Why? For the very simple reason that, in his heart of hearts, he
disapproved of his liaison with Pilar.
As he would not give in, the countess resigned herself to what she
called his "schoolgirl crotchet," and they traveled together to St.
Valery-en-Caux, another little seaside place several hours' journey
Here they took rooms together at a hotel, and wrote themselves down
as man and wife. The countess' letters were forwarded by the
postmistress at Ault under cover to Anne. The only thing that
disturbed Wilhelm's peace of mind was the presence of Anne. Her
manner was just as impassive, her face as solemn as before, and she
never showed that she noticed any change in her mistress way of
life. But it was just this cold-blooded acceptance of facts which
must at the very least excite her remark that upset him so much, and
every time Anne came into the room and found him with Pilar, he was
as much ashamed as if she had surprised him in some cowardly and
wicked deed. Did he happen to be sitting beside her on the sofa, he
started as if to jump up; if he had hold of her hand, he dropped it
on the spot. Pilar noticed it, of course, and thought it an
excellent joke. She was herself perfectly unconcerned before Anne,
and put no constraint on herself whatever in her presence. On the
contrary, she thought it great fun to throw her arms round Wilhelm
when the maid came and he attempted to move away, or she would
tutoyer him and kiss him to her face, and was intensely amused at
his embarrassed and miserable air as he suffered her caresses,
though not without a stolen gesture of objection. His shyness was
not unobserved by Anne's quick though furtive eyes, and she owed him
a grudge for wishing to exclude her from his secret.
But with the exception of the discomfort caused him by this silent
witness, his happiness was unalloyed. He lived in a constant rapture
of the senses, and Pilar took good care that he should not awake
from it. She never left him to himself, except during the two hours
in the morning which she devoted to her toilette. It was her
peculiar habit to steal away in the early morning while Wilhelm was
still asleep, and repair noiselessly to the dressing-room, where
Anne was already waiting, and where she gave herself up into the
skilled hands of the maid, who kneaded her, washed and rubbed her,
and treated her hands, feet, and hair with consummate art, and the
aid of an army of curious instruments and an exhaustive collection
of cosmetics. She would then appear to wake Wilhelm with a kiss. On
opening his eyes it was to see her in the full glory of her beauty,
with the flush of health upon her cheeks, with rosy fingers, her
skin cool, soft and perfumed, her eyes bright, her lips smiling, and
her magnificent hair in order. But from that moment onward she was
always about him, nestling close to him when they were alone, her
eyes on his when they walked arm in arm through the streets.
In the morning she bathed in the sea while Wilhelm sat on the shore
and watched her. She swam like a fish; he could not swim at all. She
pledged her word to make him equally proficient in a few days, but
her superiority made him feel small, and he would not accept her
offer. For twenty minutes she practiced her art in the water, lay on
her back and on her side, turned somersaults, dived, trod the water
and finally came out, like Venus newly risen from the waves, and
joined Wilhelm, who was waiting for her with her bath-mantle. He
enveloped her in its soft folds, she roguishly shook the drops of
water off her rosy finger-tips into his face and hurried to her
bathing house without a glance for the spectators who had been
watching her graceful play in the water, and devoured her with their
eyes when she came on dry land.
The rest of the day was filled up by long walks broken by delightful
rests under the shade of cornricks on grassy hillslopes beside some
purling brook. Then Pilar would sit on the rug or the camp stool,
while Wilhelm lay at her feet with his head in her lap caressed by
the little hands that played with his hair or wandered softly over
his face, resting fondly on his lips for him to kiss. If there were
flowers within reach, she would pluck a quantity and strew his head
and face with the fresh petals, while he gazed alternately into the
blue summer sky and the bright brown eyes above him, or even closed
his own for quarters of an hour of delicious dreaming. Then
everything outside his immediate surroundings would fade from his
mind, and he would be conscious only of what was nearest to him, the
faint scent of ylang-ylang that hovered round the beautiful woman,
her smooth, caressing fingers, and the low sound of her deep,
"You are so handsome," she whispered in his ear on one such
occasion, and bending over him to kiss him; "do you know, I shall
draw your portrait."
"Can you draw?" he asked, raising himself on his elbow.
"I hardly know whether I ought to say yes," she returned, with an
arch, self-conscious smile that belied the humility of her tone.
"But you shall see."
"Very well," said he, "and while you are drawing my portrait I shall
"Bravo!" she cried, and wanted to go home at once, so that they
As was his custom, Wilhelm had all that was needful in his big
trunk, and could supply Pilar with materials. The next afternoon
they set to work. They established themselves in the middle of a
great meadow, committing thereby an extreme act of trespass, and
making their way to it over a ditch, a low wall, and through a
blackberry hedge. Here no prying eye would annoy them, their sole
and most discreet spectator being Fido, and he was generally asleep.
Pilar had a drawing-block and used a pencil, Wilhelm sketched his
picture on a page of a large album in colored chalks like a pastel.
She kept trying to peep at his work, but he would not allow it, and
insisted on their making a compact not to look at one another's work
of art till it was finished. Two sittings sufficed, however, and the
portraits could be exchanged. Pilar gave a cry of surprise when
Wilhelm handed her his picture.
"How strange that we should have had almost the same idea."
She was represented as a Sphinx, after the Greek rather than the
Egyptian conception. A voluptuous, soft, round, feline body,
graceful, cruel paws, a wonderful bosom as if hewn out of marble,
and above it all Pilar's regally poised head with its crown of
shimmering gold hair, shrewd eyes, and blood-red vampire lips.
Between her forepaws she held a little trembling mouse in which
Wilhelm's features were cleverly indicated, and she looked down upon
her victim with a smile in which there was something of a foretaste
of the joy of tearing a quivering creature to pieces and sucking its
Pilar's drawing was a very good likeness of Wilhelm as Apollo in
Olympian nudity, handsome, slender and vapid, in its resemblance to
school copies of the antique. A charming little cat with Pilar's
features was rubbing herself against his leg. The pussy blinked up
at the young Greek god with an expression of adoration, half-comic,
half-touching, while he bent his head and gazed down at her
thoughtfully. Pilar took the sheet from Wilhelm's hand and compared
it with hers.
"They are exactly the same," she said at last, "only that they are
entirely the opposite of one another. Do you really feel that I am
as you have drawn me?"
"Yes," he answered in a low voice.
"How unjust you are to yourself and to me--I a Sphinx and you a
frightened mouse! To begin with, the Sphinx-cat did not condescend
to mice, but occupied herself with men, and humbled herself before
the right one when he came."
"You are decidedly too learned for me," laughed Wilhelm.
"No, no, seriously, it hurts me that you should regard our relations
in that light. Am I not at your feet? Am I not your slave, your
chattel, your plaything, what you will? Have I not chosen you to be
lord and master over me? Am I a riddle to you? My love for you is
the solution of any mystery you may find in me. Or do you accuse me
of cruelty? That could only be in fun, you bad man."
"You take a mere playful idea too tragically, dearest Pilar. The
character of your head suggested it to me, that was all. And then--"
"Well, if you must know it, the fearless, what shall I say, Amazon-
like manner in which you seized upon a man and took possession of
him, body and soul."
"Did I do that?"
"And you are mine?"
He nodded again.
"Tell me so, dearest, only love--say it."
He did not say it, but he kissed her.
"It is quite true," she remarked after a short pause, "I did take
possession of you. That was unwomanly, but I could not help it. You
are a cold-blooded German, and different from any man I ever knew
before. You did not know how to appreciate the good fortune that
befell you when chance set you down at my side in that dreary little
hole. You abominable creature, for a whole fortnight you took not
the slightest notice of me; you sat there beside me like a block,
and never so much as looked at me. For a long time I did not know
what to make of you. At first I tried to think you as ridiculous as
the other idiots round the table, but I could not, try as I would.
Your ugly owlish face had made too great an impression on me. And
then I was annoyed by your reserve, and when I used to see you stalk
in, looking so haughty, and you bowed so coldly to me and remained
so distant, I thought to myself--just wait, monsieur the iceberg,
some day you will be at my feet begging for love, and then it will
be my turn to be proud, and I shall be triumphant."
"There you see the Sphinx and the mouse."
"Oh, but it all happened quite differently. I spoke first, I made
you every sort of advance; and what did you do? You held forth to me
on the mortification of the flesh. You ought to be ashamed of
yourself. And even when I saw that love was burning in your eyes,
you remained stiff-necked and tried to run away from me. If I was
set upon happiness, I found I must take it by force. I know you
better now. You were capable of never confessing your love to me, of
never asking anything of me. Am I right or not, tell me?"
"You are right," he murmured.
"But that would have been a sin--a deadly sin, a capital crime
against the High Majesty of Nature. What! Fate takes the trouble to
think out the most improbable combinations, sets the most
complicated machinery in motion to bring us together; it drags you
out of the depths of Germany, and me from Castile, and brings us to
a little hotel in a little village in Picardy, the very name of
which was unknown to either of us a short time before; we instantly
feel that we are made for one another and are certain to be happy
together, and yet all these exertions on the part of Fate are to
have been in vain? Never! Our paths crossed each other at a single
point, for a moment they were united, it depended on us whether they
should always remain so. And I was to let you go, never to meet
again on this side of eternity? It was not possible, and as you were
so clumsy, or so timid, or so self-torturing--"
She finished the sentence with a long kiss, at which he closed his
eyes once more, and shut out everything but its flame.
Was it calculation, was it her natural instinct?--suffice it to say
that Pilar never by any chance alluded in their conversations to her
past. She was fond of talking, and talked a great deal, and her
conversation was always startling, original and vivacious; her power
of imagination as lively as her sparkling eyes, springing from the
nearest object to the furthest, from the ordinary to the sublime,
but never one word escaped her which might remind Wilhelm that she
had gone through confessed and unconfessed experiences of every
kind, and reached the turning-point of her existence without him.
Her life, it would appear, had only begun with the moment at which
he had risen upon her horizon. What went before that was torn out of
the book of memory--one scarcely noticed the gaps where the pages
were missing. She did all she could to make him forget that she was
a stranger to him, and to strengthen in him the delusion that she
belonged to him, that she was one with him, that it had always been
so. She took possession of his past, she crept into his ideas and
sentiments; she wanted to know everything about him, down to the
smallest details. He must tell her about every day, every hour of
his existence; she made the acquaintance of his entire circle of
friends; she loathed Loulou, she adored Schrotter, she went into
raptures over gentle, refined Bhani, she smiled at Paul Haber and
his well-dressed Malvine, and her inventive grandmamma; she
determined to send good Frau Muller (who had looked after Wilhelm
for ten years like a mother) a beautiful Christmas present. She
could make personal remarks on all his friends and acquaintances,
and her only trouble was that she knew no German. What would she not
have given to be able to read the letters he wrote or received, to
converse with him in his mother-tongue! She loved and admired the
French language, which, although she retained the ineradicable
accent of her country, she spoke as fluently as Spanish; but now,
for the first time, she felt something akin to hatred against it for
being the one remaining barrier--certainly a very slight and
scarcely perceptible one--between herself and Wilhelm, which forever
drew his attention to the fact that she was not naturally a part of
his life, and prevented their absolute union, the growing together
of their souls. She therefore determined to learn German as soon as
she returned to Paris, and, if need be, to stay for some length of
time in Germany in order to master the language quickly and
She thought and spoke much of the future, and in all her dreams,
plans, and resolves Wilhelm was always, and as a matter of course,
the central figure and sharer of her life. In him her life found its
consummation she had him fast, and would never let him go.
Her love was a curious mixture of ardent passion and melting,
sentimental tenderness. At one moment the Bacchante, drinking long
draughts of love and life from his lips, at another, the innocent
girl who sought and found a chaste felicity in the mere rapturous
contemplation of the man she adored. The longer she knew him, the
deeper she penetrated into his character, the more did the Bacchante
recede and yield her place to the Psyche. The allegory of Wilhelm's
pastel seemed wrong, her own drawing right. She was no bloodthirsty
Sphinx revelling in human victims, but a harmless little cat purring
against the side of the young god. She was diffident, eager to
learn, slow to contradict. She broke herself of her paradoxes, and
concealed her originality. She liked best to listen while he talked.
He must explain everything to her, enlarge her experience, correct
and improve her judgment. Her favorite words were, give me, show me,
tell me! From morning till night he must give, tell, show. The sea
washed up a medusa to the shore--give it me! They surprised a crab
in the act of shedding his armor--show me! A ride on donkeys to a
neighboring village reminded him of a students' picnic at
Heidelberg--tell me about it! Such of his peculiarities of temper as
she did not understand, she guessed at and felt with her fine
womanly instinct. If at Ault she had been extremely simple in her
dress, here she was almost exaggeratedly so. She banished the "kohl"
with which she had underlined her brilliant eyes, and strewed the
violet powder to the four winds, as soon as she discovered that he
preferred to stroke her full, firm cheeks when they were guiltless
of powder. She dropped her former freedom of speech, gave up the
telling of highly-spiced anecdotes, and checked her roving glances
and the frolicsome imps--somewhat too deeply versed in Boccaccio--
that haunted her lively brain, when she saw that he took umbrage at
anything the least risky. Her cigarettes horrified him, so she threw
them out of the window, and never smoked again. She even quelled the
sensuality of her self-surrender, and veiled it with a show of
shame-faced backwardness and the adorable ingenuousness of a
schoolgirl on her honeymoon. She strove to obliterate the
remembrances of the heathenish abandonment of the first days, with
their unrestrained impulses, testifying all too plainly to the fact
that she was a woman well versed in all the arts of seduction. At
first this was dissimulation, the maneuvers of a shrewd, reader of
character, but it soon came to be instinct and second nature; she
deceived herself honestly, and returned, in her own mind, to the
pristine virginity of her soul and body, finally coming to look upon
herself as a simple-minded girl, ignorant of the world and of life,
and conscious only of her boundless love for this one glorious man,
and to whom the memories of a less harmless past seemed like wicked
dreams sent by the Tempter to molest her chastity. This self-
deception, or rather retrogression of her instincts, led her into
touches of mysticism. The story of little Sonia who had fallen in
love with the ten-year-old Wilhelm at first sight, to die shortly
afterward with his name upon her lips, made a deep impression on
her, and set her dreaming. "When sweet little Sonia died I was
born." Now this was not quite accurate, as Pilar must have been at
least two or three years old at the time, but mystic raptures take
no count of time. "My life is a continuation of hers. Your Spanish
love inherited the soul of your little Russian. Thus I have been
yours since my birth--and before. I loved you before ever I knew
you. I have had a presentiment of you, have felt and expected you
from the beginning. Hence my troubled seeking all the time, hence my
horror and shuddering when I discovered that I was mistaken, that it
was not the one I yearned for whose image I bore secretly in my
heart. Now I see why I was so irresistibly drawn to you from the
first moment I set eyes on you. The man of my dreams stood in bodily
shape before me. Here at last was my heart's dear image in flesh and
blood. I had no need to get to know you; I knew you already. My own,
Real tears rolled down her cheeks as she spoke, and Wilhelm was not
sufficiently blase to scoff at the doting nonsense of a love-sick
woman. Love has enormous power, and at its heat all firmness, all
resistance, melts away. Pilar's affection filled Wilhelm with
heartfelt emotion and gratitude. He denied himself the right of
judging her, suspecting or doubting her, or of discovering dark
spots upon her shining orb. As she was forever at his side, and made
it her sole care to occupy him entirely, body and soul, his whole
world was soon filled by her and her alone. Wherever he looked his
eyes fell upon her; she intercepted his view on all sides. Her
shadow fell even upon his past, as far back as his childhood. He
failed to notice that whole days passed now without his giving a
thought to Schrotter or Paul, and he was quite surprised when he
discovered that he had left a letter from the former unanswered for
a week. His former life began to fade and grow dim, and, compared to
the sun-flooded, glowing present, looked like the dark background of
a courtyard beside an open space in the full blaze of a summer day.
The whole society of the place was deeply interested in the handsome
couple, who took so little trouble to conceal their love. The young
people thought it most affecting, the older ones, especially the
ladies, turned up their noses, with the remark that even people on
their honeymoon might put some restraint upon themselves on the
beach, or in the street. Wilhelm and Pilar were quite unconscious of
the talk for which they furnished the material. They had no eyes for
anybody but each other. They were unconscious of the flight of time.
Their lives passed as in a morning dream, or a wondrous fairy-tale,
where two lovers wander in a sunny garden among great flowers and
singing birds, or rest, surrounded by attendant sprites, who fulfill
each wish before it is uttered.
They were disagreeably brought back to the realities of life when
one day Anne asked, with her most impassive air, when Madame la
Comtesse thought of leaving, for if she were going to stay any
longer, they must provide themselves with winter clothing. They had
reached the end of September; it rained nearly every day, the
streets of the village were impassable, sitting on the shore out of
the question, the equinoctial gales howled across the country from
the tempestuous sea; all the world had gone home, and Wilhelm and
Pilar were the last guests in the desolate hotel, spending most of
the day in their room, where an inadequate fire spluttered on the
hearth. For a fortnight past Anne had boiled with silent rage, which
she sometimes let out on poor, snorting, asthmatic Fido. She had
been absent from Paris since the middle of July, and had counted on
being back by the beginning of September at the latest, and here was
October coming upon them in this God-forsaken little hole, and her
mistress showed no signs of returning home.
Anne's question came like a rough hand to shake Pilar out of sleep.
Like a drowsy child who does not want to get up, she kept her eyes
closed for awhile. Another week! Four days more! Two days more! But
then she had to pack, for Anne exaggerated a slight cold, and at
short intervals let off a dry cough with the suddenness and force of
a pistol-shot, tied her head up in a white shawl, and begged to be
allowed to send to Paris for warm underclothing and her fur cloak.
In the hotel, too, from which all the servants had been dismissed,
and only the landlord, his wife, and a half-grown daughter remained,
the neglect became conspicuous. The rooms were not put in order till
late in the evening, and even then the landlady would come and
grumble that she could not manage so much work, and that was the
reason everything was late. A leg of mutton appeared upon the table
three days running, till nothing was left but the bone. In short, it
was not to be misunderstood that the hotel family wished to be
At last, at the beginning of the second week of October, the return
to Paris took place. During the five hours' railway journey Pilar
was silent and moody. She felt that an enchanting chapter of her
love-story had come to an end, and a fresh one beginning, the
unforeseen possibilities of which filled her with alarm. She held
fast to Wilhelm, and would not let him go free; but what form was
their life together going to take in Paris? Not that she cared for
the opinion of the world--far from it; but other difficulties
remained which menaced her happiness. At the seaside all the
circumstances had combined to aid and befriend them. Surrounded by
people to whom she and Wilhelm were alike strangers, they were
thrown entirely upon one another, and even his scruples could find
nothing to prevent him treating her openly as his wife. In Paris, on
the other hand, all the circumstances became disturbing and
inimical. Pilar had her circle of friends, and her accustomed way of
life, to which Wilhelm would have to adapt himself. Would that occur
without opposition on his part? Would not many a tender sentiment be
wounded beyond the power of healing in that struggle? But of what
avail were all these tormenting questions? She had to look the
future in the face, and prepare to engage in a struggle in which he
was determined to come off victorious.
From time to time she glanced at Wilhelm, and always found him deep
in thought. He was reviewing, with a touch of self-mockery, the
latest development of his affairs. Here he was on his way to Paris.
He had not chosen this destination. Once again another will than his
own had determined his path for him. He resigned himself without a
struggle; he allowed himself to be taken along like an obedient
child. Was it weakness? Perhaps. Possibly, however, it was not.
Possibly he did not think it worth the trouble to call his will into
play. Why should he, after all? As long as he might not live in
Berlin, what did it matter where he lived? and Paris was as good a
place as any other. To have resisted Pilar's persuasions would not
have been an evidence of strength, but simply the obstinacy of a
conceited fool, who wants to prove to himself that he is capable of
setting somebody else at defiance. So that after all he was going to
Paris because he wished it, or rather, because he saw no reason for
not doing so. But as he spun the web of these thoughts in his mind,
he heard all the time a still small voice, which contradicted him,
and whispered: "It is not true. You are not your own master; you are
going you know not whither; you are doing you know not what. Two
beautiful eyes are your guiding star, and in following their magic
beckoning your feet may slip at any moment, and you may be hurled
into unknown depths."
Pilar must have divined that Wilhelm's thoughts were enemies to her
peace, and must be dispersed. They were alone in the carriage, and
she could give free rein to her feelings. She took his hand and
kissed it, and laying her arm round his neck, she said fondly:
"Don't be so depressed, Wilhelm. Of course it is only natural that
one should be afraid of any change after one has been so happy, but
you shall have no cause to regret St. Valery. You will see, it will
be still nicer in Paris. We remain the same as we were before, and
surely my little home is a more fitting frame for our love than the
bare room at the hotel!"
Wilhelm started back.
"You surely do not imagine that I am going to live in your house?"
"But there can be no question about it!" she answered in surprise.
"Never!" Wilhelm declared, with a determination that frightened
Pilar, it was so new to her. "How could you think of such a thing?"
"But, Wilhelm," she returned, "what else could we do? I should not
like to think that it was your plan we should part at the station
and each go our different ways. If I believed that, I would throw
myself under the wheels of the train this very instant. We have not
been indulging in a little summer romance, entertaining enough at
the seaside, but which must die a natural death as soon as we return
to Paris. My love is a serious matter to me, and to you too, I hope.
You are mine forever, and as long as there is life in this hand, it
will hold you fast," and she cast herself passionately upon his
breast, and clung to him as if he were going to be torn from her.
"I never said I would leave you," he returned gently, and trying to
disengage himself; "but it is quite inconceivable that you should
have thought you would simply bring me back with you from the
journey and present me to your people."
"My people! You are my all, and nobody else exists for me."
"One says that in the heat of the moment, but you have relations--
you told me so yourself. What will they think of us if I calmly
settle down in your house?"
"Think?--always what people will think. That is the only fault you
have, Wilhelm. How can you do people the honor to take them into
consideration when it is a question of my life's happiness? Let them
think what they like. They will think you are the master and I am
your slave, who only lives in and for you."
Wilhelm only shook his head, for he was unwilling to wound her by
saying what he thought of such an unworthy connection. She hung
trembling on his looks, and asked, as he still did not answer:
"Well, darling, is it to be my way? We will drive quietly home and
pretend we are at St. Valery?"
"No," he answered firmly, "that is impossible. I shall go to an
hotel. No, do not try to dissuade me, for it would be useless."
"And you can let me go from you?"
"Only for a few hours. We shall be in the same town, and can see one
another as often as we like."
"And you would be satisfied with that?"
"It will have to be so, as the circumstances will not permit of
She broke into a storm of tears, and sobbed, "You do not love me."
He soothed and comforted her; he kissed her eyes, he pressed her
head to his heart, and tried to calm her as he would a child, but it
was long before he brought her round. At last she raised her head
"You are determined to go to an hotel?"
"I must, dear heart."
"Very well; then I shall go too."
He had nothing to say against this and so it was settled.
It was close upon midnight when the train ran into the St. Lazare
station. Anne came hurrying from the next carriage.
"You can drive home," said Pilar to her. "Take the large boxes with
you. You can leave the small one and the portmanteau with me. I am
going with monsieur. I shall come round to-morrow and see if things
are in order."
Anne opened her eyes in astonishment, but her face did not betray
any further emotion, and she answered calmly:
"Very good, Madame la Comtesse. Auguste is here with a cab. Does
madame desire to use it?"
"No, Auguste can get us another. You take his."
Auguste, the man-servant, had come up meanwhile and greeted his
mistress. He shot a quick glance at the strange gentleman on whose
aim she leaned, but it was more expressive of curiosity than
surprise; he then hurried away to carry out the remarkable orders
Anne had dryly transmitted to him. Soon after he reappeared, and
announced that the other fiacre was there. Fido, released from the
captivity of the dog-box, sprang upon the countess with short-
breathed barks that soon degenerated into a cough, and wagged his
tail and frolicked madly about. When Pilar and Wilhelm entered their
cab, Anne and Auguste remaining outside, the dog seemed undecided as
to which party he was to follow. Chancing to catch Wilhelm's eye, he
made up his mind, jumped into the cab, regardless of Anne's angry
call, and licked Wilhelm's hand delightedly, accepting his friendly
pat as an invitation to stay.
By Pilar's direction the cab took them to an hotel in the Rue de
Rivoli. As they drove along Pilar leaned silently in her corner,
only heaving a deep sigh from time to time; and Wilhelm, too, found
nothing to say, oppressed as he was by the consciousness of being in
an untenable situation, the eventual end of which he could not
foresee. Arrived at the hotel, they retired at once to their rooms
and to rest, scarcely touching the supper which Pilar had ordered
rather for Wilhelm than herself. She lay awake for hours, and it was
daybreak before she got any sleep.
It was nearly midday when she opened her eyes. Wilhelm was sitting
fully dressed at the window that faced the Tuileries, gazing down
upon the dreary autumnal park with its trees half-bare, the paths
covered with dead leaves--its marble statues and silent fountains.
She stretched out her arms to him, and he hastened over to kiss her
fondly. As her eye fell upon her tiny jeweled watch, she gave a cry
"Twelve o'clock! Oh, go away--quick--and send the chambermaid to me.
I will do my best to be ready soon. Wait for me in the salon. You
can read the papers or write letters. But whatever you do, you must
not leave the hotel--do you hear?"
An hour later she appeared in the salon to fetch him to lunch, which
was served in their room. Pilar was nervous and put out. The
chambermaid's assistance had not been all that she could have
wished. The slow waiting at lunch vexed her. Whatever trifle she
might require she was obliged to go into the untidy bedroom herself
and search in her boxes. Her head was full of schemes and plans, to
none of which, however, she gave expression. Never had she had such
an uncomfortable meal with Wilhelm.
"What are you going to do now?" asked Wilhelm, when the waiter had
cleared the table.
"I think we had better go and have a look at our house," answered
Pilar, trying hard to assume a perfectly unconcerned tone.
"Of course," said Wilhelm; "and while you go home, I will take a
look at the streets of Paris."
"What--you are not coming with me?"
"I think it better you should go by yourself the first time. You
have no doubt got a good deal to set in order, and I should only be
in the way."
"Wilhelm," she said very gravely, "you are determined to hurt me.
Have I deserved that of you?"
"But, dearest Pilar--"
"I want proofs that I am your dearest Pilar. I have given myself to
you--body, soul and spirit. If you want my life as well, then say
so. I should be overjoyed to give it you. And you? Since yesterday
your every word and look tells me plainly that you regard me as a
stranger, and want to have nothing more to do with me. Oh, yes, you
do it all in a very delicate and considerate manner, that is your
way, but there is no need to speak more plainly to me"
"Do not excite yourself Pilar, I assure you that you are entirely
She shook her head.
"I am not a child. Let us talk it over seriously. I told you
yesterday I would not let you go. Of course you understand what I
mean by that. I will not keep you if you want to be free. But then
be honest, and tell me frankly that you are tired of me, and want to
be rid of me. I shall at least know what I have to do. Do not be
afraid, I shall not make a scene, I shall not cause you any
annoyance, not even reproach you. I shall receive my sentence of
death in silence, and kiss the hand that inflicts it on me."
She buried her face in her hands, and tears trickled down between
"And all this," said Wilhelm, "because I thought it better not to
accompany you to-day. The whole affair is not worth one of your
"Then you will come with me?" she cried excitedly, lifting her face
"I suppose I shall have to, since you talk about death sentences and
terrible things of the kind."
She embraced him frantically, rang the bell, threw the things that
lay about anyhow into the box, and when the waiter came, ordered a
carriage. As they went downstairs she gave a hurried order in the
office, and with a beaming and triumphant face, passed through the
hall on Wilhelm's arm to the carriage.
Their destination was a small house on the Boulevard Pereire, of two
stories, three windows wide, and a balcony in front of the first-
floor windows. At Wilhelm'a ring the door was opened by Anne, who
made him a careless courtesy, but greeted her mistress respectfully.
Wilhelm was going to let Pilar precede him, but she said: "No, no;
you go first. It is a better omen."
Assembled in the hall they found Auguste, an old woman with a red
nose, and a man not in livery, who expressed their satisfaction at
their mistress' return, and complimented her on her improved
appearance, but were in reality chiefly engaged in taking stock of
Wilhelm while they did so. Pilar gave the man some direction in
Spanish, and then drew Wilhelm into the salon, which opened into the
"Welcome, a thousand times, to this house," she said, clasping him
in her arms; "and may your coming bring happiness to us both. I will
take off my things now, and say a word, to my servants, and be with
you again directly."
With that she hurried away, and Wilhelm found himself alone. He
looked about him. The salon was luxuriously, if, according to
Wilhelm's taste, somewhat gaudily furnished. The walls were draped
in yellow silk, the portieres, window-curtains, and gilt-backed
chairs being of the same brilliant hue, though its monotony was
fortunately broken by numerous oil paintings, forming, as it were,
dark islands in a sea of sulphur. Opposite to the window hung two
life-sized portraits of a lady and an officer. The lady wore a
Spanish costume with a mantilla, the gentleman a gorgeously
embroidered general's uniform, with a quantity of stars and orders,
and the ribbon of the Grand Cross. In another life-sized picture
this personage figured in the robes of some unknown military order,
and appeared a third time as a bronze bust in a corner, on a black
marble pedestal. The chimney-piece was adorned by a strange and
wonderful clock, a painfully accurate copy in gilt and colored
enamel of the Mihrab of the Mosque in Cordova. Between the windows,
on a high buhl cabinet, stood a marble bust of Queen Isabella, a
gift, according to an inscription on the base, to her valued
Adjutant-General Marquis de Henares. A charming pastel under glass
showed Pilar as a very young girl. As Wilhelm gazed at the dewy
freshness of this sixteen-year-old budding beauty, the dazzling
complexion of milk and roses, the sparkle of the merry, childish
eyes, an immense tenderness came over him, and he thought to himself
that surely nature had not sufficiently protected all these charms
against the desire they must necessarily awaken in the beholder.
Such a ravishing creature might well be excused if her heart led her
astray. How could she choose aright when her beauty roused men's
passion before she had had time to gain experience or judgment
enough to defend herself?
There were a thousand other attractions in this room. A picture, or
rather a sketch, by Goya, with all the fantastic want of finish, the
gorgeous dabs of color that make so many of that master's works like
the visions of delirium; on an inlaid table, a little Moorish
casket, through the crystal lid of which one saw a collection of old
Spanish coins of astounding dimensions; a small cabinet on the wall,
containing stars and orders, with their chains, on a white satin
ground; a trophy formed of a sword, gold spurs, epaulettes, and a
gold-fringed scarf; here and there great Catalonian knives with open
blades, daggers in rich sheaths and with engraved handles, and even
an open velvet-lined case with a pair of chased ivory pistols. Some
photographs on the chimney-piece and on the gold brocade-covered
piano arrested Wilhelm's attention. First of all, Pilar in two
different positions, then the pictures of three children, a girl and
two boys, and finally the full-length portrait of a gentleman in the
embroidered dress coat and sword of the diplomatic service, and the
handsome, vacuous, carefully groomed head of a fashion plate.
Wilhelm was enagaged in studying this face, with its fashionably
twirled mustache, when Pilar entered the room.
"You have changed your dress?" cried Wilhelm, surprised; for she had
donned an emerald-green velvet tea-gown, with a long train, and her
hair was hanging down.
"Yes," said she, as she kissed him fondly, "for we are not going
away again just yet. You will stay and dine with me--I have given
the necessary orders. You must be quite sick of the monotonous hotel
meals. For my part, I simply yearn to eat at my own table with you."
So saying, she took his hat out of his hand, coaxingly relieved him
of his greatcoat, then rang and ordered Auguste to take them away.
Taking advantage of this distraction of Wilhelm's attention, she
rapidly snatched up the photograph he had been examining when she
came in, and hid it under the piano-cover. She then opened the
piano, seated herself, and gazing passionately over her shoulder at
Wilhelm standing behind her, she began playing the Wedding March out
of "Midsummer Night's Dream." The melodious sounds rushed from under
her fingers like a flight of startled doves, and fluttered about
her, joyous and exultant. She went on with immense power and
brilliancy till she came to the first repetition of the triumphant
opening motif, with its jubilant blare of trumpets, then stopped
abruptly, and jumping up and throwing her arms round Wilhelm:
"Isn't it that, my one and only Wilhelm?" she said, with a beaming
"My sweetest Pilar," he answered, and clasped her to his breast. His
heart was really full to overflowing at that moment She took his arm
and proceeded to lead him about the room, showing and explaining the
various objects to him. "This is my mamma as she looked twenty-five
years ago, when she went to the Feria at Seville. That is a sort of
fair at Easter, and one of the most famous popular festivals of
Spain. We must go to it some day together. And that is my late
father as major-general. Here he is in the robes of a Knight of San
Iago, one of our highest military orders. It has existed since the
twelfth century, and, strangely enough, one of my ancestors was
among its first members. These are my father's decorations and
badges of office. Come and look at this clock, it is quite unique.
The province of Gordova had it made, and presented it to my father
when he gave up his command there. I suppose you recognized this
pastel. It is a very good likeness. Do you think it pretty?"
"Pretty! The word is a gross injustice. Say rather exquisitely,
"Thanks, my Wilhelm. And if you had known me then, you would have
loved me and wanted to marry me, would you not?"
"But you would hardly have wanted to marry me, a poor devil of a
plebeian, who was badly dressed and did not even know how to dance."
"Do not make fun of me, you sweet, bad creature; if I had had as
much sense then as I have now, I should have loved you then as I
love you now, and I would have belonged to you, even if it had cost
me my father's love." She gazed thoughtfully at the picture in which
her innocent past confronted her in so angelic a form, and continued
in tones of indescribable tenderness: "Why did I not know you
sooner? Is it my fault that you who were made for me should live so
far away and wait so long before you came to me? How I should have
rejoiced to be able to offer you the pure young creature of this
picture! But I can but give you all I have--my first real love, the
virginity of my heart--surely that is something?"
Her hazel eyes pleaded for a great deal of compassion, and her full
scarlet lips for a great deal of love, and only a heart of cast iron
could have refused her either.
Beyond the salon was a roomy dining-room, hung with magnificent
Cordova leather, and from this a glass door led into a pretty little
garden with an arbor in the corner, and some old trees. High, ivy-
clad walls inclosed the square green spot of nature. Up the stairs,
on the walls of which hung many valuable pictures, for which there
was no place in the rooms, Pilar and Wilhelm mounted to the second
floor. They entered first a red salon with windows opening on to the
balcony and in which the all-pervading scent of ylang-ylang betrayed
that it was the favorite apartment of the lady of the house. She did
not keep Wilhelm long in this dainty bower, but drew him into the
large bedroom adjoining. The walls were draped with Japanese silk,
patterned with strange landscapes, fabulous flowers, gay-colored
birds on the wing, and a network of twining creatures, and drawn
together at the ceiling like the roof of a tent. Out of the soft
folds of the center rosette hung a lamp with golden dragons on its
pink globe. There was a wardrobe with looking-glass doors, a
toilette table, an immense bed of carved ebony inlaid with scenes
from the antique in ivory, and chairs covered with Persian stuffs.
Beside all this there was an old oak Gothic priedieu, a small altar
draped in rose color and white lace, a mass of flowers, and numerous
crucifixes and Madonnas of various sizes in silver, ivory and
"Are you so devout? That is news to me," exclaimed Wilhelm,
surprised. He little knew that the first thing Pilar had done on
entering the house was to hasten to her bedroom, kiss the holy
silver Madonna del Pilar with deepest devotion, and kneel for a few
moments on her priedieu.
"Oh, no, I am not at all devout. I am just the pagan you have always
known. But--que voulez-vouz?--one has old habits. I regard the
Blessed Virgin chiefly in the light of Our Lady of Sorrows, whose
heart is pierced with seven swords, and Christ as the eternal type
of sublimest love. You are a heretic, but I know that pictures and
symbols are not as offensive to you as to certain vulgar free-
Going up to the bed, she clung still more fondly to Wilhelm, and
murmured in coy and halting tones--"Perhaps you have not noticed
that everything in this room, except the altar and the priedieu, is
new; I had this fresh little nest arranged for us while we were in
St. Valery. I hope our rest may be sweet and our dreams happy ones."
He sought nervously for some appropriate answer, but she gave him no
time, and opening a door in the wall beside the fireplace, she went
on--"And this is your room. Tell me, have I guessed your taste?"
Without even glancing into the cozy, one-windowed room, he said,
taking Pilar's hand in his: "Why torture me, Pilar?--you know it
"Wilhelm!" her voice was firm, and she looked him full in the eyes,
"do you love me?"
"You know it."
"Do we belong to each other?"
"That is not a straightforward answer. We do belong to one another.
You know perfectly well that if I were free you would marry me, and
then you certainly would have no scruples in coming into this house
as its master. Where is the difference?"
"You know where the difference lies."
"It is enough to drive one crazy! Is a paltry prejudice to triumph
over our right to be happy? We are both of age. We are accountable
to no one on earth for our actions. An insurmountable obstacle, for
the moment, prevents us making our relations respectable in the eyes
of the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick-maker by paying a few
francs to a registry-office and a priest. Has the mumbling of a
priest so much meaning for you? Must you first enjoy the edifying
spectacle of a mavre in a fringed scarf before you can feel like my
husband? Or do you want any one else's consent? My father is dead,
but my mother would adore you and do anything in the world for you,
if I told her you made her only child unspeakably happy. What more
do you want?"
"I could not reconcile myself to such a position, There is nothing
to be said against your arguments. But for me to live on you--"
"For shame!" she cried, and tapped him lightly on the cheek with her
forefinger. "Ah, you see I love you better than you love me. If you
were very rich and I had not a penny, I would not hesitate for an
instant to accept everything from you. I trust my heart is of more
value to you than this paltry little house and its sticks of
furniture. You have my heart--what is all the rest compared with
He still shook his head unconvinced, but she knelt before him and
said imploringly: "Wilhelm, you will not hurt me so. Even if it
costs you a great deal, make this sacrifice for my sake. Give it a
trial. You will see how soon you will get accustomed to it. And if
not, then I am ready to go with you to the ends of the earth--to the
Black Forest--wherever you will. Only try it, Wilhelm--have pity on
He stooped to lift her up, but reading in his eyes that he was
yielding, she sprang to her feet and threw herself, gleeful as a
child, upon his breast. Her victory filled her with such joy she
could have shouted it out of the windows. She coaxed and fondled
Wilhelm, called him by every endearing name, drew him over to the
long mirror that he might see how handsome he was, dragged him into
his room and then back into the bedroom, and required a considerable
time to recover her self-control.
Meanwhile it had grown dark. She did not notice it till now, and
rang for Anne to bring lamps.
"Has Don Pablo come back?" she asked of the maid.
"Half an hour ago, madame."
"Then send up the boxes at once."
"You have sent for the luggage already?" was Wilhelm's astonished
inquiry when Anne had left the room.
"Naturally, my darling. I was certain, you know, that you would not
break your Pilar's heart."
Auguste and the man whom Pilar called Don Pablo now carried up the
one small box and two large ones Wilhelm always took about with him.
Pilar asked him for the keys, and proceeded to put away his
belongings in the various receptacles of the room. She would not
suffer him to help her. Only his books she allowed him to pile up in
a corner for the present; their orderly arrangement in the bookcase
was put off till the daylight.
At dinner Pilar was in the seventh heaven, and more in love than
ever before. In her wild spirits she threw all her glasses into the
garden, and would only drink out of Wilhelm's. It was a real
banquet: costly Spanish wines, red and white, rough and sweet, from
her well-stocked cellar, accompanied by choice dishes, and finally
champagne, of which Pilar partook--valiantly. After dessert she
skipped into the salon, put the champagne glass down on the piano,
and between sips and kisses played and sang Spanish love-songs that
drove the flames to her cheeks. That evening she was all Bacchante.
In the bedroom she tore off her clothes with impatient fingers, and
held out her small, high-bred feet for Wilhelm to pull off her silk
stockings. He knelt and kissed the little feet, while she gazed down
at him with burning misty eyes, and between the blood-red lips
slightly parted in a wanton smile gleamed pearly teeth that looked
as if they could bite with satisfaction into a quivering heart. It
was the Sphinx and the poor trembling mouse in the dust before her
to the life.
When Wilhelm awoke next morning, he saw Pilar standing all fresh and
ready at the bedside to greet him with a happy smile. With her iron
nerves and superabundant animal strength, she required but little
sleep, and had at once resumed her old habit of stealing away early
to perform the rites of her toilette while he still slept.
He dressed quickly, she being occupied meanwhile in completing the
coquettish adornment of his room with knots of ribbon, bouquets of
flowers, Japanese fans, pictures and bronzes which she arranged with
unerring taste on the walls beside the mirror, over the doors and
window, or strewed about the secretaire, the table, or the chest of
drawers, in studied negligence. They had breakfast in the red salon,
after which she led him to her boudoir, which he had not yet seen,
and that looked like a pink silk-lined jewel box. She drew up an
armchair beside the crackling wood fire, begged Wilhelm to sit down
put a little inlaid rosewood table before him, and out of a cabinet
she fetched a large Russia leather pocketbook with a gold lock and
laid it on the table.
"Let us settle these details once for all," she said to Wilhelm, who
had watched her proceeding with surprise, "so that we need never
refer to them again. You are my husband, and must relieve me now of
all my business cares. Here--" she opened the pocketbook and spread
out some formidable-looking papers, with stamps and seals attached,
before him: "This is my check book, here the deposit receipts for my
government stock and, bonds."
"What do you mean?" cried Wilhelm. "I understand nothing of such
things; I have never had anything to do with them, and I am
certainly not going to begin now, and with you." He gathered up the
papers impatiently, thrust them back into the pocketbook, which he
closed with a snap, and seeing Pilar standing there like a
disappointed child balked of a surprise, he added: "However, I am
grateful for the suggestion, as it helps me out of a dilemma. I was
at a loss in what form to put what I must say to you--you have
helped me in the nick of time. Pilar," he drew her on to his knee
and kissed her, "at the seaside the matter was very simple, we had
only to divide the bill between us. That will not do here. I am not
well enough off to defray half the expense of such an establishment
"Oh, Wilhelm!" she exclaimed, horror-stricken, and attempted to jump
down, but he held her fast and continued:
"I know this subject is painful to you, so it is to me; but, as you
said yourself, it must be settled once for all. You must allow me to
defray my own expenses as I would in a good family pension. I will
put the trifling sum in your pocketbook once a month, and you will
have a little more for your poor--one cannot have too much for
"I am simply petrified," murmured Pilar, "that you can take such a
thing into consideration?"
"It is the one condition on which I stay here," returned Wilhelm
"What a dreadful proud boy you are! You will not accept a thing from
me, and I told you yesterday that I would never be too proud to
share your possessions with you. And if you had married me, you
would no doubt have scorned to touch my dowry, and wanted to pay me
for your board too."
"Dear heart, I imagine the question is settled between us, and never
to be discussed again. I simply cannot live free of expense in the
house of my--"
"Your wife," she broke in hastily.
"Very well," she said, resigning herself, "you must have your own
way, I suppose. But explain to me, my Teutonic philosopher, how
comes it that so high-bred a body and so noble a mind can contain a
corner holding such a tradesman's idea? How can one make these
commonplace calculations when one is in love? Are you Germans all
like that, or is it an inherited weakness in your family?"
"In my family," he answered simply, and without a trace of
bitterness, "as far back as I know of (though that is certainly not
anything like as far as your ancestor, the first knight of San
Iago), we have always worked for our living, and owed all to our own
industry. I am the first who found the table ready spread for him,
and who knows if it has been an advantage to me."
"Now you are making fun of my ancestors, you disagreeable man--when
did I ever say such a silly thing?"
"I never said you did, but you asked an explanation of the German
philosopher, and the German philosopher has done his best to give
She locked her pocketbook in the cabinet again, and there the matter
ended between them.
The rest of the household, which seemed to accept the establishing
of the new guest without the faintest surprise, consisted, beside
Anne, of the man-servant Auguste, a young, knowing-looking southern
Frenchman, with a clean-shaven, lackey's face, the old Spanish cook
Isabel, a colossal, unwieldly, hippopotamus-like person with a red
nose, watery, bloodshot eyes, and a strident voice, and Don Pablo,
who seemed to be a mixture of servant, major-domo, and the
confidential attendant of the old plays. Pilar esteemed him highly,
and always spoke of him in terms of respect. According to her, he
came of a good Catalonian family, had served with the Carlists and
received titles and orders of distinction from Don Carlos. After the
downfall of the cause for which he had fought he had come to Paris
like so many of his compatriots and Pilar had rescued him from
terrible want. He did not live in the house, but had an attic
somewhere in the town. Every morning he appeared at the Boulevard
Pereire to receive Pilar's orders, was occupied during the whole day
in going on errands and doing shopping of every description, and his
work over returned late in the evening to his lodging. He was a
tall, thin, middle-aged man with a long leathery face, a long
painted nose, long oily hair, and long gray mustache. The entire
loose, bony figure looked like a reflection in a concave glass--all
distorted into length. Don Pablo had a deeply melancholy air, never
smiled and spoke but little. During the few spare hours which the
countess' service--in which his legs were chiefly in demand--
permitted, he might be seen in a back room on the ground floor,
engaged in manufacturing pictures out of gummed hair--an art in
which he was a proficient. He had even achieved a portrait of Pilar
in blonde, brown, and red hair. It looked like the queen in a pack
of cards, but Don Pablo was very proud of the masterpiece, and never
forgave Pilar for not hanging it in one of the salons, but in quite
another place. It was this accomplishment of his which led Auguste
to declare firmly and with conviction that he was nothing more nor
less than a common hairdresser. The relations between the two were
altogether very strained. Auguste was annoyed by the Spaniard's
high-and-mighty airs, and his French instincts of equality revolted
against Don Pablo's pretensions to be better than the rest of the
servants. They had their meals in common, but Don Pablo occupied the
seat of honor and demanded to be waited upon, while Auguste, Anne
and Isabel had to be content to wait upon themselves. As ill-luck
would have it, Auguste had once got a sight of Don Pablo's uniform
and great order; whereupon he instantly cut out a monstrous tin star
out of the lid of a sardine box and wore it at meals. Don Pablo was
so furious that he spoke seriously of challenging Auguste to a duel
to the death, and it required a stern order from the countess to
make him give up his bloodthirsty design and Auguste his practical
The sharp-tongued Anne and noisy old Isabel were on a similar
warlike footing. The maid was jealous of the cook because she had
long, secret confabulations with the countess, who let her do
exactly as she pleased, and even forgave her her pronounced liking
for her excellent Val de Penas, of which she--Isabel--drank at least
a barrel a year to her own account. One day Wilhelm, coming
unexpectedly into the boudoir, surprised Pilar and the red-nosed
cook together, the latter engaged in telling her mistress' fortune
by the cards. This was the secret of Isabel's influence. She
hurriedly took herself off with her cards, but Wilhelm shook his
head: "I should not have believed it of my clever Pilar."
"What would you have?" she returned, half-laughing, half-ashamed;
"we all of us have some little remnant of superstition in some dark
corner of our minds. And after all, it is very odd that ever since
our return she is continually turning up the knave of hearts." And
as Wilhelm was obviously still unenlightened, she explained,
"Barbarian, don't you know that that always means a sweetheart?"
Pilar arranged their life as if they were on their honeymoon. Every
midday and evening meal was a banquet with flowers, choice dishes,
and champagne, till Wilhelm forbade it; every day a drive in an
elegant coupe; every evening to some theater in a half-concealed
stage box, in which Pilar hid herself in the dim background. Wilhelm
did not care for the theater, but Pilar insisted that he should
become acquainted with the French stage. She showed him about Paris
as if he were a schoolboy allowed to come to town in the holidays as
a reward for having passed his examination well. And she was such an
interesting, entertaining guide! She was thoroughly acquainted with
the history or the anecdotes connected with the various streets and
buildings, and on their way from the Column of July to the Opera
House, from the Madeleine to the Arc de Triomphe, from the Odeon to
the Pantheon, she unrolled a sparkling picture of Paris, past and
present, now showing him the seething crowds of the lower classes
and their customs and doings in good and bad hours, now describing
well-known contemporaries with all that was absurd or commendable in
them. Stories, scandals, traits of character, encounters she had
had, adventures that had befallen her, all flowed from her lips in a
gay, babbling, inexhaustible stream, and initiated her hearer into
all the intricacies of Parisian life. She was as familiar with the
galleries as with the famous buildings, and in front of the works of
art in the one and the facades of the other she fired off a rocket-
like shower of original remarks, paradoxes, and brilliant criticism.
She knew exactly where to scoff and where to be enthusiastic, jeered
with all the ruthless slang of the Paris gamins at the pompously
mediocre sights recommended to the tourists' admiration by Baedeker,
and gave evidence of deep and true comprehension of all that was
At the very beginning she dragged Wilhelm to a photographer's studio
and disclosed to him, when it was too late to beat a retreat, that
he was to be photographed. What for? A fancy of hers--she wanted to
have his likeness. Half-length, full-length, full-face, profile.
Only when the pictures were sent home did he discover, that she did
not want them for herself, but to send to her mother. It was high
time she should see what the man was like who alone made life worth
living for her only child. That she should draw her mother into an
affair of the kind of which women do not, as a rule, boast to their
families, seemed to him peculiarly bad taste. "What," he cried, "you
have told your mother the whole story?"
"My mother is a Spaniard, she will guess what one leaves unsaid."
"And you are not ashamed that she should know?"
"That is why I am sending her your likeness; she will then
understand that, on the contrary, I have every reason to be proud."
What she did not consider it necessary to explain to him was, that
she had palmed off a complete romance upon the Marquise de Henares,
to the effect that Wilhelm had saved her life at Ault while bathing,
that he was a celebrated German revolutionist, and the future
President of the German Republic, to whom she was affording a refuge
in her house because, for the time being, he was obliged to be in
hiding from the German secret police, and so forth, and so forth.
The marquise believed every word. In her answer, she certainly
reproached her daughter gently for having anything to do with
foreign conspirators, but otherwise praised her evidence of
gratitude toward her preserver, and frankly expressed her admiration
for the handsome person of this interesting German. She even
inclosed a note to him, in which she thanked him from her
overflowing mother's heart for all he had done for her only child,
and adjured him to be very prudent. He could make nothing out of it,
and Pilar declared that she was equally in the dark. "I only see
this much," she said in an off-hand manner, "that mamma loves you
already, and will do still more so when she gets to know you
personally. And that is all that matters."
It was on the second Sunday after their arrival in Paris that the
children came to visit their mother. Pilar looked forward with some
uneasiness to Wilhelm's first meeting with them, and he too felt far
from comfortable when Pilar brought a half-grown girl and a ten-year
old boy to him, and addressing herself to them said, "Embrace
Monsieur le Docteur, and look at him well. He is the best friend
your mother has on earth. You must love him very much, for he
The girl was fair like her mother. She was already dressed with
conspicuous elegance, and her manner betrayed extreme self-
consciousness. She glanced at Wilhelm with sly and wanton eyes, in
which it was easily to be read that she had a very good idea of the
real state of the case. She offered her forehead for his kiss,
bestowed a few cold and perfunctory caresses on her mother, and
slipped away to Anne, with whom she spent the whole afternoon in
eager whispered conversation, till the governess came to take her
back to the fashionable boarding school where she was being trained
to be a perfect great lady, and to make some enviable man happy in
the future by the bestowal of her hand.
The boy, who was accompanied by a priest, and was being educated at
a fashionable Jesuit institution, was of a better sort. He gave his
hand to Wilhelm shyly but heartily, while his innocent eyes looked
frankly and openly into his, and then hung over his mother with a
tenderness that had a touch of chivalry in it--half-funny, half-
affecting. Wilhelm felt decidedly drawn to the slender, healthy-
But in the course of the afternoon another--a third child--appeared
upon the scene; a lovely, brown, four-year-old boy, with bold black
eyes and long raven curls, whom a maid-servant brought to Pilar that
he might kiss his mamma.
Wilhelm was much surprised. "Three? You never told me that," he
"This is little Manuel, my sweet little Manuelito," she answered in
a low voice, and buried her face in the child's black curls that she
might not have to look at Wilhelm. She covered little Manuelito with
kisses, and then pushed him gently over to Wilhelm, in whom the most
conflicting emotions were struggling for the mastery. It was
impossible to feel any ill-will toward this captivating mite with
the dark Bronzino face, and yet to Wilhelm he seemed to represent a
distinct act of treachery. How could she have been so underhand as
to hide the fact from him that her connection with the fashion-plate
diplomat had not been without results! He made as if to draw away
from the boy, who stood staring nervously at him, but the next
moment his natural love of children prevailed, and he clasped the
sweet little fellow to his breast.
"Such a lovely child!" he said, "and so young, and in need of a
mother's care. Why does it not live with you?"
"He lives with a sister of his father," she answered, hardly above
"And you let it go?"
"The father would not let me keep it. And I could not do anything
against it because--it is not registered as my child, and does not
bear my name."
The past, to which Wilhelm and Pilar had closed their eyes till now,
presented itself that afternoon in incontestably lively form before
them. Dispelled was the artificial fabric of their dream of a love
that was as old as life itself--dispelled the poetic figment that
they were in the honeymoon of a young pure union of the heart! These
three children told a tale of Pilar in which Wilhelm bore no part,
and the chapters of that story bore different names, as did the
Pilar divined easily enough what was passing in Wilhelm's mind at
sight of the children. She never let them come to the house again,
but henceforth went to see them at their respective homes. He was
sure that they liked coming to the Boulevard Pereire, and was sorry
that they should miss this pleasure on his account. Pilar begged
him, however, not to allude to the subject again--he was dearer to
her than her children, and there was nothing she would not do to
spare him a moment's unpleasantness.
The first visitor whom Wilhelm saw in Pilar's house was a little
tubby gentleman with a clean-shaven face and a rosette in his
buttonhole, composed of sixteen different colored ribbons at the
very lowest computation. He enjoyed the privilege of coming at any
hour of the day, and being instantly admitted to the boudoir. He was
introduced to Wilhelm as Don Antonio Gorra, and Pilar explained
afterward that Don Antonio was a lawyer, an old friend of her
family, and that he conducted her business affairs for her. For a
time she had long daily consultations, to which Wilhelm was not
invited. As soon as he left, she would come to Wilhelm with a
significant and mysterious air, evidently expecting that he would
ask what all this putting together of heads might mean. As he did
not evince the slightest curiosity, she grew impatient at last, and
asked with assumed lightness:
"Are you not at all jealous, you fish-blooded German?"
"Jealous? No, I certainly am not. Besides which, you give me no
"Indeed! and what about my tete-a-tetes with Don Antonio?"
"Oh, Don Antonio!" laughed Wilhelm.
"You are quite right, sweetheart, but it aggravates me that you
should not want to know what he and I are brewing. You do not take
nearly so much interest in my affairs as you ought."
"But you told me that Don Antonio was your man of business."
"Well, then--no--this time it is not a matter of business. I wanted
to prepare a surprise for you." She seated herself on his knee, and
laying her cheek to his, she whispered: "I have been trying to have
myself naturalized in Belgium, and then, as a Belgian subject, get a
divorce from Count Pozaldez. In that way I might have become your
wife before the law as well."
He looked at her with a face expressive rather of alarm and
astonishment than joy, and she went on with a sigh, "However, Don
Antonio has just told me I must give up that pleasant dream--it
cannot be realized."
He kissed her lips and brow, and stroked her silky hair. She laid
her head on his shoulder, and remained long in silent thought.
Presently she rose, walked up and down the room once or twice, and
finally seated herself on a footstool at Wilhelm's feet. "But
something I must do to bind you to me," she said. "I shall not rest
till there is some written bond, something legal between us. I shall
alter my will, and give you the place in it you occupy in my life."
"Pilar," exclaimed Wilhelm, "if you love me, and if you wish that we
should remain what we are to one another, never say such a word
again. If I ever find out that you have mentioned me in your will,
all is at end between us." She drooped her head disconsolately, and
he continued in a milder tone--"Dorfling's will has not brought me
so much luck that I should ever wish to inherit money again."
The idea to which she had given expression did not leave Pilar,
however. There should be something in writing--some document with
stamps and seals to testify that Wilhelm belonged to her. This wish
assumed the proportions of a superstition with her, and she never
rested till it was satisfied.
One morning the inmates of the house on the Boulevard Pereire saw
the arrival of three carriages, which discharged eight persons at
the door. A well-dressed gentleman rang the bell, marshaled his
seven companions in the hall, and desired to be shown up to the
countess. She was expecting him, and received him in the red salon.
After a short conversation, she went downstairs with him to the
yellow salon, where Wilhelm, at her request, followed them. The
visitor was the Spanish consul in Paris. He produced a casket
ornamented with mother-o'-pearl, broke a seal with which it was
fastened, unlocked it with a small silver key, and took out a
document in a closed envelope, and handed it to Pilar. He then
opened the door, and permitted his followers to enter. They came in
in single file, and ranged themselves silently along the wall. They
were tall, lean men in great circular Spanish cloaks of brown or
bottle-green, defective in the matter of footgear, and with
shapeless greasy hats in their ungloved hands. Their deportment was
as dignified as if they had been the chapter of a religious order,
and every face was turned with an air of contemplative solemnity
toward the countess. With nervous haste she wrote a few lines at the
foot of the document, read it over three or four times and altered a
word here and there; she then folded the paper, returned it to the
envelope, and handed it back to the consul. She sealed it with her
seal and wrote something on it, the seven men then advanced one by
one to the table, and with extreme gravity and precision put their
signatures on the envelope. The casket was then relocked and
resealed, and the company withdrew with a ceremonious bow, not,
however, without leaving behind them such a piercing smell of garlic
that the yellow salon was still full of it next day.
When Pilar found herself alone with Wilhelm, she asked: "I suppose
you would like to know what all this means?"
"We have in Spain what we call mysterious wills, the contents of
which may be kept secret. A will of that kind is valid if an
official person and seven witnesses vouch for it by their signatures
on the envelope that it has been written or altered in their
presence. To-day I have added something to my secret will."
He made a movement, but she would not give him time to speak.
"Do not be afraid, I have not acted against your wishes nor wounded
your pride. On our Vega de Henares in Old Castile, we have a family
tomb where my ancestors have been laid to rest since the sixteenth
century. It is the Renaissance mausoleum of the picture hanging in
your room. The marble tomb stands in the middle of an oak wood, not
far from a little brook, and it is cool and still there. I shall lie
there some day, wherever I may die, and I have assigned you a place
beside me. Promise me, Wilhelm, that you will accept it. Promise me
that you, in your turn, will make the necessary arrangements for
your remains to be brought at last to our vega. I do not know if I
may ever belong to you as your wife in my lifetime, but in death I
want to have you forever at my side. Grant me this consolation. Give
me your hand upon it."
Great tears welled slowly into the hazel eyes, and it was plainly of
such sacred and earnest import to her that Wilhelm had not the heart
to smile at her strained and sentimental idea. Moved and touched, he
clasped her to his heart in silence.
"To be as much alone with you in great Paris as if we were on a
desert island in the Pacific--in the midst of the crowd, yet having
no part with it; spectators of its amusing doings, and yet unnoticed
by it. You all my world, and I yours--what a sweet and perfect
dream!" Thus Pilar as she went out in fine weather, thickly veiled,
on Wilhelm's arm into the crowded streets, and she did her utmost to
prolong the charming delusion as far as possible. She paid no
visits, invited no one to the house, avoided every familiar face in
the street. Through the consul and Don Antonio, however, her more
immediate circle got wind by degrees of her return to Paris, and
visitors began to call at the little house on the Boulevard Pereire
who would not submit to being sent away. With the versatility of
mind peculiar to her, Pilar soon adapted herself to the new position
of affairs, and tried to make the best of it. Of course it would
have been infinitely more agreeable, she said to Wilhelm, to have
been able to remain longer in their delicious seclusion, but, sooner
or later, social life would have to be resumed, and it was best he
should make a beginning now. "Do not be afraid," she added, "that I
shall ask you to make the acquaintance of all the asses and parrots
that have chattered and gesticulated round me for years. You shall
only know a really select few, who are fond of me, and who can offer
you friendship and appreciation."
And so the march past of the elect began, most of them being invited
either to lunch or dinner. Wilhelm found them very peculiar and
uncongenial, and, on the whole, derived but little satisfaction from
their acquaintance. Pilar had a small weakness; according to her
account, each one of her more intimate friends was a striking and
original character, the possessor of the rarest qualities. It was
the only touch of snobbishness of which one could have accused her.
She announced the arrival of an old Spanish general, "a hero of
quite the antique, classic type, one of the most remarkable figures
in the history of modern warfare," and there entered to them a
little old man, shuffling in with the flurried, dragging gait of a
paralytic, unable to lift his feet from the ground, stammering out a
few commonplaces, who could not keep his gold eyeglasses on his
nose, and who, when he was informed that Wilhelm had fought in the
Franco-Prussian War, frankly admitted that, though he had commanded
at many a grand review, he had never been in real action.
Another time a Great Thinker was to appear, a profound sage, with
whom Wilhelm would be delighted, thoroughly versed in German
philosophy, a critic of immense and independent spirit. But what
Wilhelm really saw was a slovenly, pock-marked man, with a very
arrogant manner, who smoked cigarettes without intermission, and
preserved an obstinate silence, behind which one was naturally free
to imagine the profoundest thoughts, if one wished it; and who, when
Pilar tried to lead him on to air his opinions on German philosophy,
answered sententiously: "I do not care for Kant; his was not a
republican spirit." A man who was said to be famed for his wit
perpetrated such atrocious puns that even Pilar was forced to admit
after he left that he had had a surprisingly bad day. An
aristocratic member of the Jockey Club, "a truly distinguished
being"--when Pilar wished to give any one the highest praise she
always alluded to them as "a being"--"and not superficial like the
most of his class," talked for two consecutive hours of the coming
elections to the Jockey Club, and of the attempt to bring in the
wearing of bracelets as a fashion among gentlemen. The only figure
in this gallery which made anything like a favorable impression on
Wilhelm was a Catalonian, naturalized in France, a professor at a
Paris lycee. He had simple, winning manners, spoke and looked like
an intelligent person, and met Wilhelm with much friendliness. He
was to learn later on that this amiable, frank, unfailingly good-
tempered acquaintance had made the most ill-natured, not to say
defamatory remarks about him, before Pilar and her whole circle of
One afternoon Anne announced that "the consumptive poet was below,
and begged to be allowed to pay his respects to Madame la Comtesse."
"Another great man, no doubt," thought Wilhelm, sadly resigned to
his fate. To his surprise Pilar turned furiously red, and said
"I am not at home!"
Anne retired, but came back again immediately.
"He sent to ask," she said, in a tone of studied indifference, which
ineffectually concealed her inward satisfaction, "what he had done
to deserve madame's displeasure, and why he should be treated like a
"Anne," cried Pilar, her voice quivering with rage, "how dare you
bring me such a message! If the man does not go instantly, then
order Don Pablo and Auguste to see that he does."
The maid withdrew, and Pilar, without waiting for Wilhelm's
question, muttered resentfully:
"A man I was kind to out of pity, because he was such a poor wretch,
an unknown poet, and bound to die soon--and now he is impudent and
intrusive. But that is just what one may expect when one is kind-
Wilhelm thought no more of this episode, and had almost forgotten
that it had ever occurred, when one day soon afterward a friend of
Pilar's, the Countess Cuerbo, came to call. She was the wife of a
fabulously rich Spanish banker, whose house, racing-stables, picture
gallery, carriages, and dinners were among the marvels of Paris.
This lady's most striking characteristic was a vulgar boastfulness,
such as is seldom met with even among the worst upstarts of the
Bourse. It was said that she had originally been a washerwoman or a
cigarette maker in Seville, but this was perhaps an exaggeration. So
much, however, was certain, that her husband had begun in a very
small way, and had received his title at the accession of King
Alfonso, in return for financial services which had materially
helped toward the re-establishment of the throne. The Countess
Cuerbo could now give points as to pride of station to the bluest-
blooded grandee. She associated exclusively with persons of title,
and strove, in every possible way, to play the "grande dame." She
was always bedizened with the most costly diamonds, and so
shamelessly rouged that she must have been mobbed had she gone
through the Boulevards on foot. She was not actually plain, but so
affected that she did not know what to do with herself, and made
such frightful grimaces that one was afraid to look at her. Nor
could she be called stupid, for she had the inborn natural wit of
the Andalusians, and when she spoke Spanish, could give very droll
turns to her remarks. Her French was calculated to induce toothache
in her hearers, and in the unfamiliar language the wit evaporated
and left only the vulgar behind. She was the terror of her female
friends, for she considered absolute freedom of speech to be the
privilege and badge of nobility, and thought herself every inch an
aristocrat when she alluded, without the faintest regard for
decency, not only to her own numerous affairs of gallantry, but to
those of her friends to their faces. Her tactlessness had been the
cause of many a disaster, but she remained incorrigible, in spite of
repeated and severe snubbings and even bitter insults.
No sooner had she entered the room than Wilhelm received a sample of
her peculiar style. Anne announced the Countess Cuerbo. Wilhelm
rose, prepared to leave Pilar alone, but the visitor had followed on
the heels of the maid, and rustled into the red salon, exclaiming in
her strident voice and horrible Spanish accent as she embraced
"This is your German friend, I suppose, about whom I have heard so
much. Oh, please don't go away, I am so curious to know you."
Wilhelm was dumfounded. Such calm insolence he had never yet
encountered. Pilar shot a glance of fury at the countess, to which
she did not pay the slightest attention, but examined Wilhelm
insolently through her gold eyeglasses, and went on with a vulgar
"General Varon told me about you, and described you to me. He thinks
you very nice, and I must say I think he is right."
Pilar's patience gave out.
"Madame," she said very dryly, "if Monsieur le Docteur Eynhardt
feels himself honored by your astounding familiarities that is his
affair. I do not disguise from you that I think them in very bad
"Oh, my dear countess," replied the lady, in no way discomposed by
this snub, "don't be so severe upon me. I have no designs upon your
friend, and you need not be prudish with me. Surely ladies of our
rank have no need to be particular like any little grocer's wife."
That was Pilar's own creed, and before any other audience she would
smilingly have agreed with the Countess Cuerbo. But she pictured to
herself what an effect this tone would have upon Wilhelm's German,
middle-class sense of propriety, which she knew so well, and was
indignant at her visitor's cool cynicism.
"Madame," she returned, still more icily, "you force upon me the
opinion that there are circumstances under which it would be well to
take an example by the grocer's wives whom you despise so much."
This remark, in which the Bourse-countess did not fail to hear the
ring of the real aristocrat's disdain, touched her in her tenderest
point. She tried to smile, but turned livid under her paint, and
determined to return the stab on the spot.
"Don't be angry, dearest countess, I was only joking, and you know
as well as anybody that we Andalusians do not weigh our words too
carefully. By the bye, your French poet--you know--the one before
you went to the seaside--is simply beside himself. You have thrown
him over, it seems. He comes to me every day, imploring me to say a
good word for him to you. He talks of challenging his fortunate
successor, and goodness only knows what nonsense beside."
Pilar turned very white. She sprang to her feet.
"Shall I give a name to what you are doing?" she cried, her voice
"Don't trouble," returned her visitor, perfectly delighted, and
rising as she spoke. "I see, dearest countess, that you have one of
your nervous days, so I had better come again another time."
So saying she swept out of the room, throwing an offensively
friendly nod at Wilhelm as she passed. To the grinning Anne, who was
waiting in the hall to see her to her carriage, she said:
"Well, it looks serious this time--the countess is over head and
ears. But it is quite true, he is much better-looking than any of
"Looks are not everything," returned Anne sagely, and her
contemptuous shrug conveyed plainly enough that she did not share
her mistress' taste.
Upstairs Pilar had rushed over to Wilhelm as soon as the countess
disappeared, and hid her face on his breast.
Wilhelm pushed her gently away, and said sadly:
"I have no right to reproach you, or, if I did, it would only be for
not having been open with me, although you boast of your extreme
"Wilhelm," she entreated, clasping his hand in both of hers, "do not
judge me hastily. I might excuse myself, I might even deny it, but I
am not capable of that. When I told you the story of my life, I
believed honestly that I had made you a full confession. You shake
your head? Is it true--I swear it is! This man had entirely escaped
my memory. Why, I never loved him! It was in some part a childish
folly, but principally pity and perhaps little caprice on the part
of a bored and lonely woman. My heart had not the smallest part in
it. He was given up by the doctors, they thought he might die any
day--in such a case one gives oneself is one would offer him a cup
of tisane--the action of a Good Samaritan."
"Your defense," he said grimly, as he freed himself from her grasp,
"is far worse than any reproach I might bring against you. You never
loved him? Your heart had no part in this childish folly? That makes
it all the uglier--then it becomes unpardonable. Love alone could
extenuate such a fault to some degree."
He turned to leave the room, but she threw herself upon him and
clung to him.
"You are right--quite right, darling," her voice half-choked with
terror and excitement; "but forgive me--forgive me for the sake of
my love to you. That story belongs to the past, and the past is
buried--buried forever. I cannot believe myself that it is not all a
hideous dream--that it should be really true! It was not I--it was
another woman, a stranger whom I do not know--with whom I have
nothing in common. I was not alive then--I have only lived since you
were mine. Oh, why did you come so late?" And her wild, passionate
words sank into heartrending sobs.
He could not but be sorry for her. Was it wise, was it fitting to
rake up the past? Had he any right to call her to account for faults
which were not committed against him? She was good and pure now. She
had not broken faith with him--not even in her thoughts--for she had
no eyes for anybody in the world but him! He held out his hand to
"I will forget what I heard to-day," he said, "and do not let us
ever speak again of what has been."
He was quite sincere in saying this, for he really wished to forget.
But our memory is not subject to our will. Do what he would, he
could not banish the consumptive poet from his mind, nor the
diplomat with the silly, handsome face, and other figures more
shadowy than these two, but none the less annoying. He learned to
know that most torturing form of jealousy--the jealousy of the past-
-against which it is hopeless to struggle, which will not be
dispelled, and which, in its unalterable steadfastness, mocks at the
despair of the heart that is forever searching after new grounds for
torment, and yet cries aloud when it finds what it sought. His
imagination wandered perpetually from the lovely pastel in the
yellow salon to the new ebony bed, with its inlaid ivory scenes in
the bedroom, and saw or guessed things between these two points that
made him shudder.
Thus, New Year's night found him in a very gloomy frame of mind, and
the letter he wrote to Schrotter expressed a still deeper dejection
than that of the year before. Since recounting the conversation
about the donkey in Ault, he had never again mentioned Pilar to his
friend, nor betrayed by a single word the circumstances in which he
had lived since the middle of August. Such disclosures would have
necessitated a moral effort on his part, for which even his
friendship for Schrotter could not supply him with sufficient force.
He knew that Schrotter's views on morality were neither narrow nor
pharisaical, that to him virtue did not consist in the outward
observance of social rules, but in self-forgetful, brotherly love
and a strict adherence to duty. It would have afforded him
unspeakable relief to have been able to pour out his heart to his
friend, to give him an insight into his turbid love-story and the
conflict in his soul. But a sense of shame--the outcome, no doubt,
of his own disgust at the unsavory accessories of his love--had
withheld him from making these confidences. He made none now,
complained only in a general way of the emptiness of his life, to
which neither desire nor hope bound him any more; especially that he
had no future, and looked forward to each new day with horror and
Schrotter's answer was, as usual, full of faithful affection and
wise encouragement. He chid him gently for his want of spirit, and
then went on to say:
"You have no future! I am amazed at such a remark in the mouth of a
man of thought. Which one of us can say he has a future? To say we
have a future is simply to say that we wish for something, strive
after something, set some aim before us. That which we call a man's
future does not lie outside of him, but in himself. I would have you
observe that events rarely or never happen as we expect, and that
the plans which we have worked out most zealously are scarcely ever
carried out. And yet we firmly believe, all the time, that we have a
future. Nature permits us no outlook into Time. A wall rises before
our eyes to hide what is coming. But the cheerless nakedness of that
wall being unbearable to us, we paint it over with landscapes of our
own devising. And that is what the unthinking mind calls the future.
Any one can paint these pictures on the wall, and to complain of its
bareness is to acknowledge the poverty of one's own imagination
wishing for something,--never mind what. The higher, the more
unattainable, the better. Only desire earnestly, and you will feel
yourself alive again. Your misfortune, my friend, is that you have
not to work for your daily bread. A settled income is only a
blessing to those to whom the attainment of the trifling and
external pleasures of life seems worth the trouble of an effort. You
are wise enough to set no value on what the world can give you. You
are neither vain nor ambitious. Therefore you do not exercise your
capacities in wrestling for position, recognition, honors, or fame.
On the other hand, you have no need to trouble yourself about the
bare necessities of life, and are thereby deprived of another
occasion for bringing your strength into play. Now, you are provided
with organic forces, and it is the circumstance that these forces
are lying fallow that affects you like a malady. It is in work alone
that you can hope to find a cure, or at least an improvement.
Accordingly, if you have not sufficient strength of will to set
yourself some task, my will shall come to your aid. I suggest, nay,
I insist, that you proceed manfully with your 'History of Human
Ignorance,' about which I have heard nothing for months, and that
you show me at least the first volume ready for the press by the end
of this time next year."
Wilhelm caught desperately at this advice, offered to him by his
friend in the paradoxical form of a command. He got out his books
and papers again, and began devoting his mornings to work. Pilar was
delighted. She was far too wise not to know that honeymoons do not
last forever, and although she was persuaded that she, for her part,
would never desire anything better than to be always at Wilhelm's
side, passing the time in interminable conversations about herself
and himself, in kissing and fondling, she quite understood that that
was not enough to satisfy a man accustomed to a wider range of
pursuits. She had looked forward with anxiety to the moment when
mere love-making would pall upon him, and he would begin to be
bored, and wish for a change. She had kept a sharp lookout for the
approach of this ticklish moment that her ingenious mind might have
some fresh interest ready for him. This trouble had been spared her.
He himself took thought for a suitable occupation to fill up his
time. So much the better. He had adapted himself to the
circumstances, after all. He no longer looked upon it as a passing
liaison, but had settled down permanently and finally to lead his
accustomed life with her.
It took a weight off her mind, and gave her a sense of peace and
security such as she had not known since the return to Paris. She
too began to come out of her shell, and to resume her former mode of
life. She fulfilled her social duties, and paid and received calls,
which Wilhelm was allowed to shirk. At the end of January the first
ball of the Spanish embassy took place. Pilar's whole set was
invited, and she could not well absent herself without exciting
remark. She therefore made the necessary preparations for the
festivity. A diadem of brilliants was sent to be reset, a
sensational gown composed, after repeated conferences with a great
ladies' tailor, a pattern in seed pearls chosen for the embroidery
of the long gloves. Don Pablo galloped about like a post-horse from
morning till night; gorgeous vans, with liveried attendants, from
the fashionable shops stopped constantly at the door to deliver
parcels; there was an unceasing stream of messengers, shop people,
and needlewomen. But Wilhelm was oblivious of it all; Pilar did not
trouble him with such frivolous matters. It was not till the very
day of the ball that she handed him the card of invitation she had
procured for him at the embassy, and asked, as a precaution:
"You have all you require, have you not?"
Wilhelm glanced at the pink, glazed card.
"But, Pilar, do you know me so little?"
"I know that you do not care for these stupid entertainments," she
answered coaxingly, "but I thought you would go to please me."
"So you are going?" he asked.
"I must," she replied. "They know that I am in Paris, and I wish to
avoid the remark that would be made if I stayed away."
"You are quite right," said Wilhelm, "but you will have to go
"Don't be a bear!" she urged. "It will interest you to see this side
of Parisian life. I don't say that I would ask you to do it often,
but you might--just this once. Beside, you have been more than three
months in Paris, and you do not know one real Parisian. Now, here is
an opportunity of meeting artists, authors, academicians, senators--
and there are some remarkable men among them, well worth talking
"I am sincerely grateful," he returned, and kissed her hand. "Please
do not trouble about it. I am quite sure that there are many people
in Paris I should like to meet, but they are scarcely likely to be
present at an embassy ball. And even if they were, a mere
introduction, an interchange of society platitudes, would not bring
me any further. No; go you to your ball, and leave me at home."
Pilar sighed, and gave up the struggle, and then received the
jeweler, who had brought the newly-set ornament for the hair, a
miracle of taste, delicate workmanship, and splendor.
In the afternoon Monsieur Martin, the prince of Paris hairdressers,
arrived, to compose her a coiffure for the ball. He was a little
man, with a clean-shaven upper lip, and the mutton-chop whiskers of
a solicitor. He wore a long black coat, of severe cut, buttoned up
to the top, and a ribbon in his buttonhole. In his very pale cravat
was a breastpin with a magnificent cat's eye. Patent leather boots
and kid gloves completed the faultless attire of this gentleman,
whom one would sooner have taken for a minister than a hairdresser.
A liveried servant followed him, carrying a silver-bound morocco
box, which he took from him at the door of the boudoir, and placed
with his own hands on the rosewood table.
After an extremely ceremonious greeting, he drew off his gloves,
seated himself in an armchair by the fire, and made the countess
describe what she was going to wear. He listened with almost tragic
attention, his forehead in his hand, his eyes closed. After some
reflection, he exclaimed:
"Where is the diadem?"
Pilar placed it on the table in front of him.
He contemplated it earnestly, and then murmured:
"Good, very good. But now I must see the robe."
"Monsieur Martin," Pilar returned reproachfully, "don't you know
that my tailor respects himself far too much to send home one of his
creations before the last moment?"
"It is always the same story," he complained mournfully; "I am to
arrange a coiffure for Madame la Comtesse, the coiffure is to
harmonize with the whole, and I am not permitted to see the robe."
"But I have given you the general idea of it."
"General idea! general idea! Does Madame la Comtesse think that that
"For an artist like you, Monsieur Martin--"
"Oh, of course--for an artist like me! I can answer for myself, but
how do I know if the tailor has caught madame's style correctly? I
am perfectly competent to compose a coiffure which shall agree
entirely with the type of Madame la Comtesse, but what if the tailor
has been mistaken--what if the robe turns out a disguise rather than
an enhancement? In that case, adieu to the harmony."
Pilar reassured the sorely-tried master, and exchanged glances of
amusement with Wilhelm. She had described him to Wilhelm beforehand
as a Parisian oddity, and invited him to be present during the
visit. While Anne enveloped her mistress in the white dressing-
mantle, Monsieur Martin laid out the battery of combs, brushes, and
tortoise-shell hair-pins provided by the maid, added, out of his own
box, two hand-glasses, and a box of gold-powder, and began to loosen
the countess' abundant tresses. As the golden waves flowed over the
back of the chair to the ground, he murmured, drawing his fingers
repeatedly through the silken mass:
"What a fleece, Madame la Comtesse! It takes a Spaniard to have such
He now began rapidly and skillfully to comb, brush, coil, and
fasten, to smooth away here, loosen there, shook the gold dust over
it, touched the locks upon the forehead, placed the diadem, and fell
back a step to review his work. A groan burst from him.
"That is not it! that is not it!" he wailed, and shook his head
dolefully from side to side. "I am not permitted to see the costume
of Madame la Comtesse, I am not to use pads or curling-irons, and
yet all is to be in the grand style--only a diadem--not a flower,
not a feather! No, it will not do." He glared at her for a moment,
and then cried suddenly, "No, it positively will not do!" And before
Pilar could prevent him, he had rapidly pulled out all the hairpins,
removed the diadem, and disarranged with nervous fingers the whole
"A coiffure that bears my signature must not be allowed to leave my
hands like that," he said. "And yet the ground is burning beneath my
feet. It is three o'clock, and I have not yet lunched."
"Poor Monsieur Martin!" cried Pilar. "Will you have something to eat
at once? They shall serve it to you downstairs."
"Madame la Comtesse is very good, but I have no time to sit down
comfortably at a table. I have all that is necessary in my carriage,
and shall take some slight refreshment there, on my way to my next
"Have you much to do to-day?"
Monsieur Martin drew out a little notebook, with ivory tablets, and
a silver monogram, and held it up before Pilar's eyes.
"Eleven heads after that of Madame la Comtesse."
"All for the embassy ball?"
"No, madame; I have another dance to-night in the Faubourg, and a
betrothal party in the American colony."
While speaking he had not remained idle. The coiffure was being
built up on a different plan, and this time Monsieur Martin appeared
to be satisfied with his creation. He walked all round the smiling
countess, begged her to walk slowly up and down the room once or
twice, touched up the front locks a little, and then the back, and
"Charming! Ravishing! Our head will have a great success!"
He departed, after a ceremonious leave-taking. At the door of the
boudoir his servant again relieved him of his box, and carried it
after him downstairs, and a few minutes later they heard his
carriage drive away.
"You have not anything like that in Berlin yet," said Pilar,
laughing, when the solemn and important artist had left.
"I think not," Wilhelm replied; "at least, not in the circles with
which I am acquainted. But I do not laugh at him--on the contrary, I
envy him. He takes himself so seriously, and combs with his whole
soul. Happy man!"
It was about half-past ten when Pilar entered the red salon, in full
ball dress. Wilhelm was sitting by the fire reading. She came up to