Part 3 out of 6
gate at our end is always shut."
"We will come this evening, just before the gate is shut."
"But, Chris, how shall we get back again?"
"I don't know; I mean to have the pictures."
"It is not a high gate," murmured Greta.
After dinner the girls went to their room, Greta bearing with her the
big screw-driver of Fritz. At dusk they slipped downstairs and out.
They arrived at the old house, and stood, listening, in the shadow of
the doorway. The only sounds were those of distant barking dogs, and
of the bugles at the barracks.
"Quick!" whispered Christian; and Greta, with all the strength of her
small hands, began to turn the screws. It was some time before they
yielded; the third was very obstinate, till Christian took the screw-
driver and passionately gave the screw a starting twist.
"It is like a pig--that one," said Greta, rubbing her wrists
The opened door revealed the gloom of the dank rooms and twisting
staircase, then fell to behind them with a clatter.
Greta gave a little scream, and caught her sister's dress.
"It is dark," she gasped; "O Chris! it is dark!"
Christian groped for the bottom stair, and Greta felt her arm
"Suppose there is a man to keep guard! O Chris! suppose there are
"You are a baby!" Christian answered in a trembling voice. "You had
better go home!"
Greta choked a little in the dark.
"I am--not--going home, but I'm afraid of bats. O Chris! aren't you
"Yes," said Christian, "but I'm going to have the pictures."
Her cheeks were burning; she was trembling all over. Having found
the bottom step she began to mount with Greta clinging to her skirts.
The haze above inspired a little courage in the child, who, of all
things, hated darkness. The blanket across the doorway of the loft
had been taken down, there was nothing to veil the empty room.
"Nobody here, you see," said Christian.
"No-o," whispered Greta, running to the window, and clinging to the
wall, like one of the bats she dreaded.
"But they have been here!" cried Christian angrily. "They have
broken this." She pointed to the fragments of a plaster cast that
had been thrown down.
Out of the corner she began to pull the canvases set in rough, wooden
frames, dragging them with all her strength.
"Help me!" she cried; "it will be dark directly."
They collected a heap of sketches and three large pictures, piling
them before the window, and peering at them in the failing light.
Greta said ruefully:
"O Chris! they are heavy ones; we shall never carry them, and the
gate is shut now!"
Christian took a pointed knife from the table.
"I shall cut them out of the frames," she said. "Listen! What's
It was the sound of whistling, which stopped beneath the window. The
girls, clasping each other's hands, dropped on their knees.
"Hallo!" cried a voice.
Greta crept to the window, and, placing her face level with the
floor, peered over.
"It is only Dr. Edmund; he doesn't know, then," she whispered; "I
shall call him; he is going away!" cried Christian catching her
"Don't!" cried Christian catching her sister's dress.
"He would help us," Greta said reproachfully, "and it would not be so
dark if he were here."
Christian's cheeks were burning.
"I don't choose," she said, and began handling the pictures, feeling
their edges with her knife.
"Chris! Suppose anybody came?"
"The door is screwed," Christian answered absently.
"O Chris! We screwed it unscrewed; anybody who wishes shall come!"
Christian, leaning her chin in her hands, gazed at her thoughtfully.
"It will take a long time to cut these pictures out carefully; or,
perhaps I can get them out without cutting. You must screw me up and
go home. In the morning you must come early, when the gate is open,
unscrew me again, and help carry the pictures."
Greta did not answer at once. At last she shook her head violently.
"I am afraid," she gasped.
"We can't both stay here all night," said Christian; "if any one
comes to our room there will be nobody to answer. We can't lift
these pictures over the gate. One of us must go back; you can climb
over the gate--there is nothing to be afraid of"
Greta pressed her hands together.
"Do you want the pictures badly, Chris?"
Greta remained sitting where she was, shivering violently, as a
little animal shivers when it scents danger. At last she rose.
"I am going," she said in a despairing voice. At the doorway she
"If Miss Naylor shall ask me where you are, Chris, I shall be telling
her a story."
"I forgot that--O Greta, I am sorry! I will go instead."
Greta took another step--a quick one.
"I shall die if I stay here alone," she said; "I can tell her that
you are in bed; you must go to bed here, Chris, so it shall be true
Christian threw her arms about her.
"I am so sorry, darling; I wish I could go instead. But if you have
to tell a lie, I would tell a straight one."
"Would you?" said Greta doubtfully.
"I think," said Greta to herself, beginning to descend the stairs, "I
think I will tell it in my way." She shuddered and went on groping
in the darkness.
Christian listened for the sound of the screws. It came slowly,
threatening her with danger and solitude.
Sinking on her knees she began to work at freeing the canvas of a
picture. Her heart throbbed distressfully; at the stir of wind-
breath or any distant note of clamour she stopped, and held her
breathing. No sounds came near. She toiled on, trying only to think
that she was at the very spot where last night his arms had been
round her. How long ago it seemed! She was full of vague terror,
overmastered by the darkness, dreadfully alone. The new glow of
resolution seemed suddenly to have died down in her heart, and left
She would never be fit to be his wife, if at the first test her
courage failed! She set her teeth; and suddenly she felt a kind of
exultation, as if she too were entering into life, were knowing
something within herself that she had never known before. Her
fingers hurt, and the pain even gave pleasure; her cheeks were
burning; her breath came fast. They could not stop her now! This
feverish task in darkness was her baptism into life. She finished;
and rolling the pictures very carefully, tied them with cord. She
had done something for him! Nobody could take that from her! She
had a part of him! This night had made him hers! They might do
their worst! She lay down on his mattress and soon fell asleep....
She was awakened by Scruff's tongue against her face. Greta was
standing by her side.
"Wake up, Chris! The gate is open!"
In the cold early light the child seemed to glow with warmth and
colour; her eyes were dancing.
"I am not afraid now; Scruff and I sat up all night, to catch the
morning--I--think it was fun; and O Chris!" she ended with a rueful
gleam in her eyes, "I told it."
Christian hugged her.
"Come--quick! There is nobody about. Are those the pictures?"
Each supporting an end, the girls carried the bundle downstairs, and
set out with their corpse-like burden along the wall-path between the
river and the vines.
Hidden by the shade of rose-bushes Greta lay stretched at length,
cheek on arm, sleeping the sleep of the unrighteous. Through the
flowers the sun flicked her parted lips with kisses, and spilled the
withered petals on her. In a denser islet of shade, Scruff lay
snapping at a fly. His head lolled drowsily in the middle of a snap,
and snapped in the middle of a loll.
At three o'clock Miss Naylor too came out, carrying a basket and pair
of scissors. Lifting her skirts to avoid the lakes of water left by
the garden hose, she stopped in front of a rose-bush, and began to
snip off the shrivelled flowers. The little lady's silvered head and
thin, brown face sustained the shower of sunlight unprotected, and
had a gentle dignity in their freedom.
Presently, as the scissors flittered in and out of the leaves, she,
began talking to herself.
"If girls were more like what they used to be, this would not have
happened. Perhaps we don't understand; it's very easy to forget."
Burying her nose and lips in a rose, she sniffed. "Poor dear girl!
It's such a pity his father is--a--"
"A farmer," said a sleepy voice behind the rosebush.
Miss Naylor leaped. "Greta! How you startled me! A farmer--that is-
"A farmer with vineyards--he told us, and he is not ashamed. Why is
it a pity, Miss Naylor?"
Miss Naylor's lips looked very thin.
"For many reasons, of which you know nothing."
"That is what you always say," pursued the sleepy voice; "and that is
why, when I am to be married, there shall also be a pity."
"Greta!" Miss Naylor cried, "it is not proper for a girl of your age
to talk like that."
"Why?" said Greta. "Because it is the truth?"
Miss Naylor made no reply to this, but vexedly cut off a sound rose,
which she hastily picked up and regarded with contrition. Greta
"Chris said: 'I have got the pictures, I shall tell her'; but I shall
tell you instead, because it was I that told the story."
Miss Naylor stared, wrinkling her nose, and holding the scissors wide
"Last night," said Greta slowly, "I and Chris went to his studio and
took his pictures, and so, because the gate was shut, I came back to
tell it; and when you asked me where Chris was, I told it; because
she was in the studio all night, and I and Scruff sat up all night,
and in the morning we brought the pictures, and hid them under our
beds, and that is why--we--are--so--sleepy."
Over the rose-bush Miss Naylor peered down at her; and though she was
obliged to stand on tiptoe this did not altogether destroy her
"I am surprised at you, Greta; I am surprised at Christian, more
surprised at Christian. The world seems upside down."
Greta, a sunbeam entangled in her hair, regarded her with
inscrutable, innocent eyes.
"When you were a girl, I think you would be sure to be in love," she
Miss Naylor, flushing deeply, snipped off a particularly healthy bud.
"And so, because you are not married, I think--"
The scissors hissed.
Greta nestled down again. "I think it is wicked to cut off all the
good buds," she said, and shut her eyes.
Miss Naylor continued to peer across the rosebush; but her thin face,
close to the glistening leaves, had become oddly soft, pink, and
girlish. At a deeper breath from Greta, the little lady put down her
basket, and began to pace the lawn, followed dubiously by Scruff. It
was thus that Christian came on them.
Miss Naylor slipped her arm into the girl's and though she made no
sound, her lips kept opening and shutting, like the beak of a bird
contemplating a worm.
Christian spoke first:
"Miss Naylor, I want to tell you please--"
"Oh, my dear! I know; Greta has been in the confessional before
you." She gave the girl's arm a squeeze. "Isn't it a lovely day?
Did you ever see 'Five Fingers' look so beautiful?" And she pointed
to the great peaks of the Funffingerspitze glittering in the sun like
"I like them better with clouds about them."
"Well," agreed Miss Naylor nervously, "they certainly are nicer with
clouds about them. They look almost hot and greasy, don't they....
My dear!" she went on, giving Christian's arm a dozen little
squeezes, "we all of us--that is, we all of us--"
Christian turned her eyes away.
"My dear," Miss Naylor tried again, "I am far--that is, I mean, to
all of us at some time or another--and then you see--well--it is
Christian kissed the gloved hand resting on her arm. Miss Naylor
bobbed her head; a tear trickled off her nose.
"Do let us wind your skein of woof!" she said with resounding gaiety.
Some half-hour later Mrs. Decie called Christian to her room.
"My dear!" she said; "come here a minute; I have a message for you."
Christian went with an odd, set look about her mouth.
Her aunt was sitting, back to the light, tapping a bowl of goldfish
with the tip of a polished finger-nail; the room was very cool. She
held a letter out. "Your uncle is not coming back tonight."
Christian took the letter. It was curtly worded, in a thin, toppling
"DEAR CON--Can't get back to-night. Sending Dominique for things.
Tell Christian to come over with him for night if possible.--Yr.
aff. brother, NICLS. TREFFRY."
"Dominique has a carriage here," said Mrs. Decie. "You will have
nice time to catch the train. Give my love to your uncle. You must
take Barbi with you, I insist on that." She rose from her chair and
held Christian's hand: "My dear! You look very tired--very! Almost
ill. I don't like to see you look like that. Come!" She thrust her
pale lips forward, and kissed the girl's paler cheek.
Then as Christian left the room she sank back in her chair, with
creases in her forehead, and began languidly to cut a magazine.
'Poor Christian!' she thought, 'how hardly she does take it! I am
sorry for her; but perhaps it's just as well, as things are turning
out. Psychologically it is interesting!'
Christian found her things packed, and the two servants waiting. In
a few minutes they were driving to the station. She made Dominique
take the seat opposite.
"Well?" she asked him.
Dominique's eyebrows twitched, he smiled deprecatingly.
"M'mselle, Mr. Treffry told me to hold my tongue."
"But you can tell me, Dominique; Barbi can't understand."
"To you, then, M'mselle," said Dominique, as one who accepts his
fate; "to you, then, who will doubtless forget all that I shall tell
you--my master is not well; he has terrible pain here; he has a
cough; he is not well at all; not well at all."
A feeling of dismay seized on the girl.
"We were a caravan for all that night," Dominique resumed. "In the
morning by noon we ceased to be a caravan; Signor Harz took a mule
path; he will be in Italy--certainly in Italy. As for us, we stayed
at San Martino, and my master went to bed. It was time; I had much
trouble with his clothes, his legs were swollen. In the afternoon
came a signor of police, on horseback, red and hot; I persuaded him
that we were at Paneveggio, but as we were not, he came back angry--
Mon Die! as angry as a cat. It was not good to meet him--when he was
with my master I was outside. There was much noise. I do not know
what passed, but at last the signor came out through the door, and
went away in a hurry." Dominique's features were fixed in a sardonic
grin; he rubbed the palm of one hand with the finger of the other.
"Mr. Treffry made me give him whisky afterwards, and he had no money
to pay the bill--that I know because I paid it. Well, M'mselle, to-
day he would be dressed and very slowly we came as far as Auer; there
he could do no more, so went to bed. He is not well at all."
Christian was overwhelmed by forebodings; the rest of the journey was
made in silence, except when Barbi, a country girl, filled with the
delirium of railway travel, sighed: "Ach! gnadige Fraulein!" looking
at Christian with pleasant eyes.
At once, on arriving at the little hostel, Christian went to see her
uncle. His room was darkened, and smelt of beeswax.
"Ah! Chris," he said, "glad to see you."
In a blue flannel gown, with a rug over his feet, he was lying on a
couch lengthened artificially by chairs; the arm he reached out
issued many inches from its sleeve, and showed the corded veins of
the wrist. Christian, settling his pillows, looked anxiously into
"I'm not quite the thing, Chris," said Mr. Treffry. "Somehow, not
quite the thing. I'll come back with you to-morrow."
"Let me send for Dr. Dawney, Uncle?"
"No--no! Plenty of him when I get home. Very good young fellow, as
doctors go, but I can't stand his puddin's--slops and puddin's, and
all that trumpery medicine on the top. Send me Dominique, my dear--
I'll put myself to rights a bit!" He fingered his unshaven cheek,
and clutched the gown together on his chest. "Got this from the
landlord. When you come back we'll have a little talk!"
He was asleep when she came into the room an hour later. Watching
his uneasy breathing, she wondered what it was that he was going to
He looked ill! And suddenly she realised that her thoughts were not
of him.... When she was little he would take her on his back; he had
built cocked hats for her and paper boats; had taught her to ride;
slid her between his knees; given her things without number; and
taken his payment in kisses. And now he was ill, and she was not
thinking of him! He had been all that was most dear to her, yet
before her eyes would only come the vision of another.
Mr. Treffry woke suddenly. "Not been asleep, have I? The beds here
are infernal hard."
"Uncle Nic, won't you give me news of him?"
Mr. Treffry looked at her, and Christian could not bear that look.
"He's safe into Italy; they aren't very keen after him, it's so long
ago; I squared 'em pretty easily. Now, look here, Chris!"
Christian came close; he took her hand.
"I'd like to see you pull yourself together. 'Tisn't so much the
position; 'tisn't so much the money; because after all there's always
mine--" Christian shook her head. "But," he went on with shaky
emphasis, "there's the difference of blood, and that's a serious
thing; and there's this anarch--this political affair; and there's
the sort of life, an' that's a serious thing; but--what I'm coming to
is this, Chris--there's the man!"
Christian drew away her hand. Mr. Treffry went on:
"Ah! yes. I'm an old chap and fond of you, but I must speak out what
I think. He's got pluck, he's strong, he's in earnest; but he's got
a damned hot temper, he's an egotist, and--he's not the man for you.
If you marry him, as sure as I lie here, you'll be sorry for it.
You're not your father's child for nothing; nice fellow as ever
lived, but soft as butter. If you take this chap, it'll be like
mixing earth and ironstone, and they don't blend!" He dropped his
head back on the pillows, and stretching out his hand, repeated
wistfully: "Take my word for it, my dear, he's not the man for you."
Christian, staring at the wall beyond, said quietly: "I can't take
any one's word for that."
"Ah!" muttered Mr. Treffry, "you're obstinate enough, but obstinacy
"You'll give up everything to him, you'll lick his shoes; and you'll
never play anything but second fiddle in his life. He'll always be
first with himself, he and his work, or whatever he calls painting
pictures; and some day you'll find that out. You won't like it, and
I don't like it for you, Chris, and that's flat."
He wiped his brow where the perspiration stood in beads.
Christian said: "You don't understand; you don't believe in him; you
don't see! If I do come after his work--if I do give him everything,
and he can't give all back--I don't care! He'll give what he can; I
don't want any more. If you're afraid of the life for me, uncle, if
you think it'll be too hard--"
Mr. Treffry bowed his head. "I do, Chris."
"Well, then, I hate to be wrapped in cotton wool; I want to breathe.
If I come to grief, it's my own affair; nobody need mind."
Mr. Treffry's fngers sought his beard. "Ah! yes. Just so!"
Christian sank on her knees.
"Oh! Uncle! I'm a selfish beast!"
Mr. Treffry laid his hand against her cheek. "I think I could do
with a nap," he said.
Swallowing a lump in her throat, she stole out of the room.
By a stroke of Fate Mr. Treffry's return to Villa Rubein befell at
the psychological moment when Herr Paul, in a suit of rather too
bright blue, was starting for Vienna.
As soon as he saw the carriage appear between the poplars he became
as pensive as a boy caught in the act of stealing cherries. Pitching
his hatbox to Fritz, he recovered himself, however, in time to
whistle while Mr. Treffry was being assisted into the house. Having
forgotten his anger, he was only anxious now to smooth out its after
effects; in the glances he cast at Christian and his brother-in-law
there was a kind of shamed entreaty which seemed to say: "For
goodness' sake, don't worry me about that business again! Nothing's
come of it, you see!"
He came forward: "Ah! Mon cher! So you return; I put off my
departure, then. Vienna must wait for me--that poor Vienna!"
But noticing the extreme feebleness of Mr. Treffry's advance, he
exclaimed with genuine concern:
"What is it? You're ill? My God!" After disappearing for five
minutes, he came back with a whitish liquid in a glass.
"There!" he said, "good for the gout--for a cough--for everything!"
Mr. Treffry sniffed, drained the glass, and sucked his moustache.
"Ah!" he said. "No doubt! But it's uncommonly like gin, Paul."
Then turning to Christian, he said: "Shake hands, you two!"
Christian looked from one to the other, and at last held out her hand
to Herr Paul, who brushed it with his moustache, gazing after her as
she left the room with a queer expression.
"My dear!" he began, "you support her in this execrable matter? You
forget my position, you make me ridiculous. I have been obliged to
go to bed in my own house, absolutely to go to bed, because I was in
danger of becoming funny."
"Look here, Paul!" Mr. Treffry said gruffly, "if any one's to bully
Chris, it's I."
"In that case," returned Herr Paul sarcastically, "I will go to
"You may go to the devil!" said Mr. Treffry; "and I'll tell you what-
-in my opinion it was low to set the police on that young chap; a
low, dirty trick."
Herr Paul divided his beard carefully in two, took his seat on the
very edge of an arm-chair, and placing his hands on his parted knees,
"I have regretted it since--mais, que diable! He called me a coward-
-it is very hot weather!--there were drinks at the Kurhaus--I am her
guardian--the affair is a very beastly one--there were more drinks--I
was a little enfin!" He shrugged his shoulders. "Adieu, my dear; I
shall be some time in Vienna; I need rest!" He rose and went to the
door; then he turned, and waved his cigar. "Adieu! Be good; get
well! I will buy you some cigars up there." And going out, he shut
the door on any possibility of answer.
Mr. Treffry lay back amongst his cushions. The clock ticked; pigeons
cooed on the veranda; a door opened in the distance, and for a moment
a treble voice was heard. Mr. Treffry's head drooped forward; across
his face, gloomy and rugged, fell a thin line of sunlight.
The clock suddenly stopped ticking, and outside, in mysterious
accord, the pigeons rose with a great fluttering of wings, and flew
off'. Mr. Treffry made a startled, heavy movement. He tried to get
on to his feet and reach the bell, but could not, and sat on the side
of the couch with drops of sweat rolling off his forehead, and his
hands clawing his chest. There was no sound at all throughout the
house. He looked about him, and tried to call, but again could not.
He tried once more to reach the bell, and, failing, sat still, with a
thought that made him cold.
"I'm done for," he muttered. "By George! I believe I'm done for this
time!" A voice behind him said:
"Can we have a look at you, sir?"
"Ah! Doctor, bear a hand, there's a good fellow."
Dawney propped him against the cushions, and loosened his shirt.
Receiving no answer to his questions, he stepped alarmed towards the
bell. Mr. Treffry stopped him with a sign.
"Let's hear what you make of me," he said.
When Dawney had examined him, he asked:
"Well," answered Dawney slowly, "there's trouble, of course."
Mr. Treffry broke out with a husky whisper: "Out with it, Doctor;
don't humbug me."
Dawney bent down, and took his wrist.
"I don't know how you've got into this state, sir," he said with the
brusqueness of emotion. "You're in a bad way. It's the old trouble;
and you know what that means as well as I. All I can tell you is,
I'm going to have a big fight with it. It shan't be my fault,
there's my hand on that."
Mr. Treffry lay with his eyes fixed on the ceiling; at last he said:
"I want to live."
"I feel better now; don't make a fuss about it. It'll be very
awkward if I die just now. Patch me up, for the sake of my niece."
Dawney nodded. "One minute, there are a few things I want," and he
A moment later Greta stole in on tiptoe. She bent over till her hair
touched Mr. Treffry's face.
"Uncle Nic!" she whispered. He opened his eyes.
"I have come to bring you my love, Uncle Nic, and to say good-bye.
Papa says that I and Scruff and Miss Naylor are going to Vienna with
him; we have had to pack in half an hour; in five minutes we are
going to Vienna, and it is my first visit there, Uncle Nic."
"To Vienna!" Mr. Treffry repeated slowly. "Don't have a guide,
Greta; they're humbugs."
"No, Uncle Nic," said Greta solemnly.
"Draw the curtains, old girl, let's have a look at you. Why, you're
as smart as ninepence!"
"Yes," said Greta with a sigh, touching the buttons of her cape,
"because I am going to Vienna; but I am sorry to leave you, Uncle
"Are you, Greta?"
"But you will have Chris, and you are fonder of Chris than of me,
"I've known her longer."
"Perhaps when you've known me as long as Chris, you shall be as fond
"When I've known you as long--may be."
"While I am gone, Uncle Nic, you are to get well, you are not very
well, you know."
"What put that into your head?"
"If you were well you would be smoking a cigar--it is just three
o'clock. This kiss is for myself, this is for Scruff, and this is
for Miss Naylor."
She stood upright again; a tremulous, joyful gravity was in her eyes
and on her lips.
"Good-bye, my dear; take care of yourselves; and don't you have a
guide, they're humbugs."
"No, Uncle Nic. There is the carriage! To Vienna, Uncle Nic!" The
dead gold of her hair gleamed in the doorway. Mr. Treffry raised
himself upon his elbow.
"Give us one more, for luck!"
Greta ran back.
"I love you very much!" she said, and kissing him, backed slowly,
then, turning, flew out like a bird.
Mr. Treffry fixed his eyes on the shut door.
After many days of hot, still weather, the wind had come, and whirled
the dust along the parched roads. The leaves were all astir, like
tiny wings. Round Villa Rubein the pigeons cooed uneasily, all the
other birds were silent. Late in the afternoon Christian came out on
the veranda, reading a letter:
"DEAR CHRIS,--We are here now six days, and it is a very large place
with many churches. In the first place then we have been to a great
many, but the nicest of them is not St. Stephan's Kirche, it is
another, but I do not remember the name. Papa is out nearly all the
night; he says he is resting here, so he is not able to come to the
churches with us, but I do not think he rests very much. The day
before yesterday we, that is, Papa, I, and Miss Naylor, went to an
exhibition of pictures. It was quite beautiful and interesting (Miss
Naylor says it is not right to say 'quite' beautiful, but I do not
know what other word could mean 'quite' except the word 'quite,'
because it is not exceedingly and not extremely). And O Chris! there
was one picture painted by him; it was about a ship without masts--
Miss Naylor says it is a barge, but I do not know what a barge is--on
fire, and, floating down a river in a fog. I think it is extremely
beautiful. Miss Naylor says it is very impressionistick--what is
that? and Papa said 'Puh!' but he did not know it was painted by
Herr Harz, so I did not tell him.
"There has also been staying at our hotel that Count Sarelli who came
one evening to dinner at our house, but he is gone away now. He sat
all day in the winter garden reading, and at night he went out with
Papa. Miss Naylor says he is unhappy, but I think he does not take
enough exercise; and O Chris! one day he said to me, 'That is your
sister, Mademoiselle, that young lady in the white dress? Does she
always wear white dresses?' and I said to him: 'It is not always a
white dress; in the picture, it is green, because the picture is
called "Spring.'" But I did not tell him the colours of all your
dresses because he looked so tired. Then he said to me: 'She is very
charming.' So I tell you this, Chris, because I think you shall like
to know. Scruff' has a sore toe; it is because he has eaten too much
"It is not nice without you, Chris, and Miss Naylor says I am
improving my mind here, but I do not think it shall improve very
much, because at night I like it always best, when the shops are
lighted and the carriages are driving past; then I am wanting to
dance. The first night Papa said he would take me to the theatre,
but yesterday he said it was not good for me; perhaps to-morrow he
shall think it good for me again.
"Yesterday we have been in the Prater, and saw many people, and some
that Papa knew; and then came the most interesting part of all,
sitting under the trees in the rain for two hours because we could
not get a carriage (very exciting).
"There is one young lady here, only she is not any longer very young,
who knew Papa when he was a boy. I like her very much; she shall
soon know me quite to the bottom and is very kind.
"The ill husband of Cousin Teresa who went with us to Meran and lost
her umbrella and Dr. Edmund was so sorry about it, has been very much
worse, so she is not here but in Baden. I wrote to her but have no
news, so I do not know whether he is still living or not, at any rate
he can't get well again so soon (and I don't think he ever shall). I
think as the weather is very warm you and Uncle Nic are sitting much
out of doors. I am sending presents to you all in a wooden box and
screwed very firm, so you shall have to use again the big screw-
driver of Fritz. For Aunt Constance, photographs; for Uncle Nic, a
green bird on a stand with a hole in the back of the bird to put his
ashes in; it is a good green and not expensif please tell him,
because he does not like expensif presents (Miss Naylor says the bird
has an inquiring eye--it is a parrat); for you, a little brooch of
turquoise because I like them best; for Dr. Edmund a machine to weigh
medicines in because he said he could not get a good one in Botzen;
this is a very good one, the shopman told me so, and is the most
expensif of all the presents--so that is all my money, except two
gulden. If Papa shall give me some more, I shall buy for Miss Naylor
a parasol, because it is useful and the handle of hers is 'wobbley'
(that is one of Dr. Edmund's words and I like it).
"Good-bye for this time. Greta sends you her kiss.
"P. S.--Miss Naylor has read all this letter (except about the parasol)
and there are several things she did not want me to put, so I have
copied it without the things, but at the last I have kept that copy
myself, so that is why this is smudgy and several words are not spelt
well, but all the things are here."
Christian read, smiling, but to finish it was like dropping a
talisman, and her face clouded. A sudden draught blew her hair
about, and from within, Mr. Treffry's cough mingled with the soughing
of the wind; the sky was fast blackening. She went indoors, took a
pen and began to write:
"MY FRIEND,--Why haven't you written to me? It is so, long to wait.
Uncle says you are in Italy--it is dreadful not to know for certain.
I feel you would have written if you could; and I can't help thinking
of all the things that may have happened. I am unhappy. Uncle Nic
is ill; he will not confess it, that is his way; but he is very ill.
Though perhaps you will never see this, I must write down all my
thoughts. Sometimes I feel that I am brutal to be always thinking
about you, scheming how to be with you again, when he is lying there
so ill. How good he has always been to me; it is terrible that love
should pull one apart so. Surely love should be beautiful, and
peaceful, instead of filling me with bitter, wicked thoughts. I love
you--and I love him; I feel as if I were torn in two. Why should it
be so? Why should the beginning of one life mean the ending of
another, one love the destruction of another? I don't understand.
The same spirit makes me love you and him, the same sympathy, the
same trust--yet it sometimes seems as if I were a criminal in loving
you. You know what he thinks--he is too honest not to have shown
you. He has talked to me; he likes you in a way, but you are a
foreigner--he says-your life is not my life. 'He is not the man for
you!' Those were his words. And now he doesn't talk to me, but when
I am in the room he looks at me--that's worse--a thousand times; when
he talks it rouses me to fight--when it's his eyes only, I'm a coward
at once; I feel I would do anything, anything, only not to hurt him.
Why can't he see? Is it because he's old and we are young? He may
consent, but he will never, never see; it will always hurt him.
"I want to tell you everything; I have had worse thoughts than these-
-sometimes I have thought that I should never have the courage to
face the struggle which you have to face. Then I feel quite broken;
it is like something giving way in me. Then I think of you, and it
is over; but it has been there, and I am ashamed--I told you I was a
coward. It's like the feeling one would have going out into a storm
on a dark night, away from a warm fire--only of the spirit not the
body--which makes it worse. I had to tell you this; you mustn't
think of it again, I mean to fight it away and forget that it has
ever been there. But Uncle Nic--what am I to do? I hate myself
because I am young, and he is old and weak--sometimes I seem even to
hate him. I have all sorts of thoughts, and always at the end of
them, like a dark hole at the end of a passage, the thought that I
ought to give you up. Ought I? Tell me. I want to know, I want to
do what is right; I still want to do that, though sometimes I think I
am all made of evil.
"Do you remember once when we were talking, you said: 'Nature always
has an answer for every question; you cannot get an answer from laws,
conventions, theories, words, only from Nature.' What do you say to
me now; do you tell me it is Nature to come to you in spite of
everything, and so, that it must be right? I think you would; but
can it be Nature to do something which will hurt terribly one whom I
love and who loves me? If it is--Nature is cruel. Is that one of
the 'lessons of life'? Is that what Aunt Constance means when she
says: 'If life were not a paradox, we could not get on at all'? I am
beginning to see that everything has its dark side; I never believed
"Uncle Nic dreads the life for me; he doesn't understand (how should
he?--he has always had money) how life can be tolerable without money
--it is horrible that the accident of money should make such
difference in our lives. I am sometimes afraid myself, and I can't
outface that fear in him; he sees the shadow of his fear in me--his
eyes seem to see everything that is in me now; the eyes of old people
are the saddest things in the world. I am writing like a wretched
coward, but you will never see this letter I suppose, and so it
doesn't matter; but if you do, and I pray that you may--well, if I am
only worth taking at my best, I am not worth taking at all. I want
you to know the worst of me--you, and no one else.
"With Uncle Nic it is not as with my stepfather; his opposition only
makes me angry, mad, ready to do anything, but with Uncle Nic I feel
so bruised--so sore. He said: 'It is not so much the money, because
there is always mine.' I could never do a thing he cannot bear, and
take his money, and you would never let me. One knows very little of
anything in the world till trouble comes. You know how it is with
flowers and trees; in the early spring they look so quiet and self-
contained; then all in a moment they change--I think it must be like
that with the heart. I used to think I knew a great deal, understood
why and how things came about; I thought self-possession and reason
so easy; now I know nothing. And nothing in the world matters but to
see you and hide away from that look in Uncle Nic's eyes. Three
months ago I did not know you, now I write like this. Whatever I
look at, I try to see as you would see; I feel, now you are away even
more than when you were with me, what your thoughts would be, how you
would feel about this or that. Some things you have said seem always
in my mind like lights--"
A slanting drift of rain was striking the veranda tiles with a cold,
ceaseless hissing. Christian shut the window, and went into her
He was lying with closed eyes, growling at Dominique, who moved about
noiselessly, putting the room ready for the night. When he had
finished, and with a compassionate bow had left the room, Mr. Treffry
opened his eyes, and said:
"This is beastly stuff of the doctor's, Chris, it puts my monkey up;
I can't help swearing after I've taken it; it's as beastly as a
vulgar woman's laugh, and I don't know anything beastlier than that!"
"I have a letter from Greta, Uncle Nic; shall I read it?"
He nodded, and Christian read the letter, leaving out the mention of
Harz, and for some undefined reason the part about Sarelli.
"Ay!" said Mr. Treffry with a feeble laugh, "Greta and her money!
Send her some more, Chris. Wish I were a youngster again; that's a
beast of a proverb about a dog and his day. I'd like to go fishing
again in the West Country! A fine time we had when we were
youngsters. You don't get such times these days. 'Twasn't often the
fishing-smacks went out without us. We'd watch their lights from our
bedroom window; when they were swung aboard we were out and down to
the quay before you could say 'knife.' They always waited for us;
but your Uncle Dan was the favourite, he was the chap for luck. When
I get on my legs, we might go down there, you and I? For a bit, just
to see? What d'you say, old girl?"
Their eyes met.
"I'd like to look at the smack lights going to sea on a dark night;
pity you're such a duffer in a boat--we might go out with them. Do
you a power of good! You're not looking the thing, my dear."
His voice died wistfully, and his glance, sweeping her face, rested
on her hands, which held and twisted Greta's letter. After a minute
or two of silence he boomed out again with sudden energy:
"Your aunt'll want to come and sit with me, after dinner; don't let
her, Chris, I can't stand it. Tell her I'm asleep--the doctor'll be
here directly; ask him to make up some humbug for you--it's his
He was seized by a violent fit of pain which seemed to stab his
breath away, and when it was over signed that he would be left alone.
Christian went back to her letter in the other room, and had written
these words, when the gong summoned her to dinner:
"I'm like a leaf in the wind, I put out my hand to one thing, and
it's seized and twisted and flung aside. I want you--I want you; if
I could see you I think I should know what to do--"
The rain drove with increasing fury. The night was very black.
Nicholas Treffry slept heavily. By the side of his bed the night-
lamp cast on to the opposite wall a bright disc festooned by the
hanging shadow of the ceiling. Christian was leaning over him. For
the moment he filled all her heart, lying there, so helpless. Fearful
of waking him she slipped into the sitting-room. Outside the window
stood a man with his face pressed to the pane. Her heart thumped;
she went up and unlatched the window. It was Harz, with the rain
dripping off him. He let fall his hat and cape.
"You!" she said, touching his sleeve. "You! You!"
He was sodden with wet, his face drawn and tired; a dark growth of
beard covered his cheeks and chin.
"Where is your uncle?" he said; "I want to see him."
She put her hand up to his lips, but he caught it and covered it with
"He's asleep--ill--speak gently!"
"I came to him first," he muttered.
Christian lit the lamp; and he looked at her hungrily without a word.
"It's not possible to go on like this; I came to tell your uncle so.
He is a man. As for the other, I want to have nothing to do with
him! I came back on foot across the mountains. It's not possible to
go on like this, Christian."
She handed him her letter. He held it to the light, clearing his
brow of raindrops. When he had read to the last word he gave it her
back, and whispered: "Come!"
Her lips moved, but she did not speak.
"While this goes on I can't work; I can do nothing. I can't--I won't
bargain with my work; if it's to be that, we had better end it. What
are we waiting for? Sooner or later we must come to this. I'm sorry
that he's ill, God knows! But that changes nothing. To wait is
tying me hand and foot--it's making me afraid! Fear kills! It will
kill you! It kills work, and I must work, I can't waste time--I
won't! I will sooner give you up." He put his hands on her
shoulders. "I love you! I want you! Look in my eyes and see if you
dare hold back!"
Christian stood with the grip of his strong hands on her shoulders,
without a movement or sign. Her face was very white. And suddenly
he began to kiss that pale, still face, to kiss its eyes and lips, to
kiss it from its chin up to its hair; and it stayed pale, as a white
flower, beneath those kisses--as a white flower, whose stalk the
fingers bend back a little.
There was a sound of knocking on the wall; Mr. Treffry called feebly.
Christian broke away from Harz.
"To-morrow!" he whispered, and picking up his hat and cloak, went out
again into the rain.
It was not till morning that Christian fell into a troubled sleep.
She dreamed that a voice was calling her, and she was filled with a
helpless, dumb dream terror.
When she woke the light was streaming in; it was Sunday, and the
cathedral bells were chiming. Her first thought was of Harz. One
step, one moment of courage! Why had she not told her uncle? If he
had only asked! But why--why should she tell him? When it was over
and she was gone, he would see that all was for the best.
Her eyes fell on Greta's empty bed. She sprang up, and bending over,
kissed the pillow. 'She will mind at first; but she's so young!
Nobody will really miss me, except Uncle Nic!' She stood along while
in the window without moving. When she was dressed she called out to
"Bring me some milk, Barbi; I'm going to church."
"Ach! gnadiges Frdulein, will you no breakfast have?"
"No thank you, Barbi."
"Liebes Fraulein, what a beautiful morning after the rain it has
become! How cool! It is for you good--for the colour in your
cheeks; now they will bloom again!" and Barbi stroked her own well-
Dominique, sunning himself outside with a cloth across his arm, bowed
as she passed, and smiled affectionately:
"He is better this morning, M'mselle. We march--we are getting on.
Good news will put the heart into you."
Christian thought: 'How sweet every one is to-day!'
Even the Villa seemed to greet her, with the sun aslant on it; and
the trees, trembling and weeping golden tears. At the cathedral she
was early for the service, but here and there were figures on their
knees; the faint, sickly odour of long-burnt incense clung in the
air; a priest moved silently at the far end. She knelt, and when at
last she rose the service had begun. With the sound of the intoning
a sense of peace came to her--the peace of resolution. For good or
bad she felt that she had faced her fate.
She went out with a look of quiet serenity and walked home along the
dyke. Close to Harz's studio she sat down. Now--it was her own; all
that had belonged to him, that had ever had a part in him.
An old beggar, who had been watching her, came gently from behind.
"Gracious lady!" he said, peering at her eyes, "this is the lucky day
for you. I have lost my luck."
Christian opened her purse, there was only one coin in it, a gold
piece; the beggar's eyes sparkled.
She thought suddenly: 'It's no longer mine; I must begin to be
careful,' but she felt ashamed when she looked at the old man.
"I am sorry," she said; "yesterday I would have given you this, but--
but now it's already given."
He seemed so old and poor--what could she give him? She unhooked a
little silver brooch at her throat. "You will get something for
that," she said; "it's better than nothing. I am very sorry you are
so old and poor."
The beggar crossed himself. "Gracious lady," he muttered, "may you
Christian hurried on; the rustling of leaves soon carried the words
away. She did not feel inclined to go in, and crossing the bridge
began to climb the hill. There was a gentle breeze, drifting the
clouds across the sun; lizards darted out over the walls, looked at
her, and whisked away.
The sunshine, dappling through the tops of trees, gashed down on a
torrent. The earth smelt sweet, the vineyards round the white farms
glistened; everything seemed to leap and dance with sap and life; it
was a moment of Spring in midsummer. Christian walked on, wondering
at her own happiness.
'Am I heartless?' she thought. 'I am going to leave him--I am going
into life; I shall have to fight now, there'll be no looking back.'
The path broke away and wound down to the level of the torrent; on
the other side it rose again, and was lost among trees. The woods
were dank; she hastened home.
In her room she began to pack, sorting and tearing up old letters.
'Only one thing matters,' she thought; 'singleness of heart; to see
your way, and keep to it with all your might.'
She looked up and saw Barbi standing before her with towels in her
hands, and a scared face.
"Are you going a journey, gnadiges Fraulein?"
"I am going away to be married, Barbi," said Christian at last;
"don't speak of it to any one, please."
Barbi leant a little forward with the towels clasped to the blue
cotton bosom of her dress.
"No, no! I will not speak. But, dear Fraulein, that is a big
matter; have you well thought?"
"Thought, Barbi? Have I not!"
"But, dear Fraulein, will you be rich?"
"No! I shall be as poor as you."
"Ach! dear God! that is terrible. Katrina, my sister, she is
married; she tells me all her life; she tells me it is very hard, and
but for the money in her stocking it would be harder. Dear Fraulein,
think again! And is he good? Sometimes they are not good."
"He is good," said Christian, rising; "it is all settled!" and she
kissed Barbi on the cheek.
"You are crying, liebes Fraulein! Think yet again, perhaps it is not
quite all settled; it is not possible that a maiden should not a way
Christian smiled. "I don't do things that way, Barbi."
Barbi hung the towels on the horse, and crossed herself.
Mr. Treffry's gaze was fixed on a tortoise-shell butterfly fluttering
round the ceiling. The insect seemed to fascinate him, as things
which move quickly always fascinate the helpless. Christian came
"Couldn't stay in bed, Chris," he called out with an air of guilt.
"The heat was something awful. The doctor piped off in a huff, just
because o' this." He motioned towards a jug of claret-cup and a pipe
on the table by his elbow. "I was only looking at 'em."
Christian, sitting down beside him, took up a fan.
"If I could get out of this heat--" he said, and closed his eyes.
'I must tell him,' she thought; 'I can't slink away.'
"Pour me out some of that stuff, Chris."
She reached for the jug. Yes! She must tell him! Her heart sank.
Mr. Treffry took a lengthy draught. "Broken my promise; don't
matter--won't hurt any one but me." He took up the pipe and pressed
tobacco into it. "I've been lying here with this pain going right
through me, and never a smoke! D'you tell me anything the parsons
say can do me half the good of this pipe?" He leaned back, steeped
in a luxury of satisfaction. He went on, pursuing a private train of
thought: "Things have changed a lot since my young days. When I was
a youngster, a young fellow had to look out for peck and perch--he
put the future in his pocket. He did well or not, according as he
had stuff in him. Now he's not content with that, it seems--trades
on his own opinion of himself; thinks he is what he says he's going
"You are unjust," said Christian.
Mr. Treffry grunted. "Ah, well! I like to know where I am. If I
lend money to a man, I like to know whether he's going to pay it
back; I may not care whether he does or not, but I like to know. The
same with other things. I don't care what a man has--though, mind
you, Chris, it's not a bad rule that measures men by the balance at
their banks; but when it comes to marriage, there's a very simple
rule, What's not enough for one is not enough for two. You can't
talk black white, or bread into your mouth. I don't care to speak
about myself, as you know, Chris, but I tell you this--when I came to
London I wanted to marry--I hadn't any money, and I had to want.
When I had the money--but that's neither here nor there!" He
frowned, fingering his pipe.
"I didn't ask her, Chris; I didn't think it the square thing; it
seems that's out of fashion!"
Christian's cheeks were burning.
"I think a lot while I lie here," Mr. Treffry went on; "nothing much
else to do. What I ask myself is this: What do you know about what's
best for you? What do you know of life? Take it or leave it, life's
not all you think; it's give and get all the way, a fair start is
Christian thought: 'Will he never see?'
Mr. Treffry went on:
"I get better every day, but I can't last for ever. It's not
pleasant to lie here and know that when I'm gone there'll be no one
to keep a hand on the check string!"
"Don't talk like that, dear!" Christian murmured.
"It's no use blinking facts, Chris. I've lived a long time in the
world; I've seen things pretty well as they are; and now there's not
much left for me to think about but you."
"But, Uncle, if you loved him, as I do, you couldn't tell me to be
afraid! It's cowardly and mean to be afraid. You must have
Mr. Treffry closed his eyes.
"Yes," he said; "I'm old."
The fan had dropped into Christian's lap; it rested on her white
frock like a large crimson leaf; her eyes were fixed on it.
Mr. Treffry looked at her. "Have you heard from him?" he asked with
"Last night, in that room, when you thought I was talking to
The pipe fell from his hand.
"What!" he stammered: "Back?"
Christian, without looking up, said:
"Yes, he's back; he wants me--I must go to him, Uncle."
There was a long silence.
"You must go to him?" he repeated.
She longed to fling herself down at his knees, but he was so still,
that to move seemed impossible; she remained silent, with folded
Mr. Treffry spoke:
"You'll let me know--before--you--go. Goodnight!"
Christian stole out into the passage. A bead curtain rustled in the
draught; voices reached her.
"My honour is involved, or I would give the case up."
"He is very trying, poor Nicholas! He always had that peculiar
quality of opposition; it has brought him to grief a hundred times.
There is opposition in our blood; my family all have it. My eldest
brother died of it; with my poor sister, who was as gentle as a lamb,
it took the form of doing the right thing in the wrong place. It is
a matter of temperament, you see. You must have patience."
"Patience," repeated Dawney's voice, "is one thing; patience where
there is responsibility is another. I've not had a wink of sleep
these last two nights."
There was a faint, shrill swish of silk.
"Is he so very ill?"
Christian held her breath. The answer came at last.
"Has he made his will? With this trouble in the side again, I tell
you plainly, Mrs. Decie, there's little or no chance."
Christian put her hands up to her ears, and ran out into the air.
What was she about to do, then--to leave him dying!
On the following day Harz was summoned to the Villa. Mr. Treffry had
just risen, and was garbed in a dressing-suit, old and worn, which
had a certain air of magnificence. His seamed cheeks were newly
"I hope I see you well," he said majestically.
Thinking of the drive and their last parting, Harz felt sorry and
ashamed. Suddenly Christian came into the room; she stood for a
moment looking at him; then sat down.
"Chris!" said Mr. Treffry reproachfully. She shook her head, and did
not move; mournful and intent, her eyes seemed full of secret
Mr. Treffry spoke:
"I've no right to blame you, Mr. Harz, and Chris tells me you came to
see me first, which is what I would have expected of you; but you
shouldn't have come back."
"I came back, sir, because I found I was obliged. I must speak out."
"I ask nothing better," Mr. Treffry replied.
Harz looked again at Christian; but she made no sign, sitting with
her chin resting on her hands.
"I have come for her," he said; "I can make my living--enough for
both of us. But I can't wait."
Harz made no answer.
Mr. Treffry boomed out again: "Why? Isn't she worth waiting for?
Isn't she worth serving for?"
"I can't expect you to understand me," the painter said. "My art is
my life to me. Do you suppose that if it wasn't I should ever have
left my village; or gone through all that I've gone through, to get
as far even as I am? You tell me to wait. If my thoughts and my
will aren't free, how can I work? I shan't be worth my salt. You
tell me to go back to England--knowing she is here, amongst you who
hate me, a thousand miles away. I shall know that there's a death
fight going on in her and outside her against me--you think that I
can go on working under these conditions. Others may be able, I am
not. That's the plain truth. If I loved her less--"
There was a silence, then Mr. Treffry said:
"It isn't fair to come here and ask what you're asking. You don't
know what's in the future for you, you don't know that you can keep a
wife. It isn't pleasant, either, to think you can't hold up your
head in your own country."
Harz turned white.
"Ah! you bring that up again!" he broke out. "Seven years ago I was
a boy and starving; if you had been in my place you would have done
what I did. My country is as much to me as your country is to you.
I've been an exile seven years, I suppose I shall always be I've had
punishment enough; but if you think I am a rascal, I'll go and give
myself up." He turned on his heel.
"Stop! I beg your pardon! I never meant to hurt you. It isn't easy
for me to eat my words," Mr. Treffry said wistfully, "let that count
for something." He held out his hand.
Harz came quickly back and took it. Christian's gaze was never for a
moment withdrawn; she seemed trying to store up the sight of him
within her. The light darting through the half-closed shutters gave
her eyes a strange, bright intensity, and shone in the folds of her
white dress like the sheen of birds' wings.
Mr. Treffry glanced uneasily about him. "God knows I don't want
anything but her happiness," he said. "What is it to me if you'd
murdered your mother? It's her I'm thinking of."
"How can you tell what is happiness to her? You have your own ideas
of happiness--not hers, not mine. You can't dare to stop us, sir!"
"Dare?" said Mr. Treffry. "Her father gave her over to me when she
was a mite of a little thing; I've known her all her life. I've--
I've loved her--and you come here with your 'dare'!" His hand
dragged at his beard, and shook as though palsied.
A look of terror came into Christian's face.
"All right, Chris! I don't ask for quarter, and I don't give it!"
Harz made a gesture of despair.
"I've acted squarely by you, sir," Mr. Treffry went on, "I ask the
same of you. I ask you to wait, and come like an honest man, when
you can say, 'I see my way--here's this and that for her.' What
makes this art you talk of different from any other call in life? It
doesn't alter facts, or give you what other men have no right to
expect. It doesn't put grit into you, or keep your hands clean, or
prove that two and two make five."
Harz answered bitterly:
"You know as much of art as I know of money. If we live a thousand
years we shall never understand each other. I am doing what I feel
is best for both of us."
Mr. Treffry took hold of the painter's sleeve.
"I make you an offer," he said. "Your word not to see or write to
her for a year! Then, position or not, money or no money, if she'll
have you, I'll make it right for you."
"I could not take your money."
A kind of despair seemed suddenly to seize on Mr. Nicholas Treffry.
He rose, and stood towering over them.
"All my life--" he said; but something seemed to click deep down in
his throat, and he sank back in his seat.
"Go!" whispered Christian, "go!" But Mr. Treffry found his voice
again: "It's for the child to say. Well, Chris!"
Christian did not speak.
It was Harz who broke the silence. He pointed to Mr. Treffry.
"You know I can't tell you to come with--that, there. Why did you
send for me?" And, turning, he went out.
Christian sank on her knees, burying her face in her hands. Mr.
Treffry pressed his handkerchief with a stealthy movement to his
mouth. It was dyed crimson with the price of his victory.
A telegram had summoned Herr Paul from Vienna. He had started
forthwith, leaving several unpaid accounts to a more joyful
opportunity, amongst them a chemist's bill, for a wonderful quack
medicine of which he brought six bottles.
He came from Mr. Treffry's room with tears rolling down his cheeks,
"Poor Nicholas! Poor Nicholas! Il n'a pas de chance!"
It was difficult to find any one to listen; the women were scared and
silent, waiting for the orders that were now and then whispered
through the door. Herr Paul could not bear this silence, and talked
to his servant for half an hour, till Fritz also vanished to fetch
something from the town. Then in despair Herr Paul went to his room.
It was hard not to be allowed to help--it was hard to wait! When the
heart was suffering, it was frightful! He turned and, looking
furtively about him, lighted a cigar. Yes, it came to every one--at
some time or other; and what was it, that death they talked of? Was
it any worse than life? That frightful jumble people made for
themselves! Poor Nicholas! After all, it was he that had the luck!
His eyes filled with tears, and drawing a penknife from his pocket,
he began to stab it into the stuffing of his chair. Scruff, who sat
watching the chink of light under the door, turned his head, blinked
at him, and began feebly tapping with a claw.
It was intolerable, this uncertainty--to be near, and yet so far, was
Herr Paul stepped across the room. The dog, following, threw his
black-marked muzzle upwards with a gruff noise, and went back to the
door. His master was holding in his hand a bottle of champagne.
Poor Nicholas! He had chosen it. Herr Paul drained a glass.
Poor Nicholas! The prince of fellows, and of what use was one? They
kept him away from Nicholas!
Herr Paul's eyes fell on the terrier. "Ach! my dear," he said, "you
and I, we alone are kept away!"
He drained a second glass.
What was it? This life! Froth-like that! He tossed off a third
glass. Forget! If one could not help, it was better to forget!
He put on his hat. Yes. There was no room for him there! He was
He finished the bottle, and went out into the passage. Scruff ran
and lay down at Mr. Treffry's door. Herr Paul looked at him. "Ach!"
he said, tapping his chest, "ungrateful hound!" And opening the
front door he went out on tiptoe....
Late that afternoon Greta stole hatless through the lilac bushes; she
looked tired after her night journey, and sat idly on a chair in the
speckled shadow of a lime-tree.
'It is not like home,' she thought; 'I am unhappy. Even the birds
are silent, but perhaps that is because it is so hot. I have never
been sad like this--for it is not fancy that I am sad this time, as
it is sometimes. It is in my heart like the sound the wind makes
through a wood, it feels quite empty in my heart. If it is always
like this to be unhappy, then I am sorry for all the unhappy things
in the world; I am sorrier than I ever was before.'
A shadow fell on the grass, she raised her eyes, and saw Dawney.
"Dr. Edmund!" she whispered.
Dawney turned to her; a heavy furrow showed between his brows. His
eyes, always rather close together, stared painfully.
"Dr. Edmund," Greta whispered, "is it true?"
He took her hand, and spread his own palm over it.
"Perhaps," he said; "perhaps not. We must hope."
Greta looked up, awed.
"They say he is dying."
"We have sent for the best man in Vienna."
Greta shook her head.
"But you are clever, Dr. Edmund; and you are afraid."
"He is brave," said Dawney; "we must all be brave, you know. You
"Brave?" repeated Greta; "what is it to be brave? If it is not to
cry and make a fuss--that I can do. But if it is not to be sad in
here," she touched her breast, "that I cannot do, and it shall not be
any good for me to try."
"To be brave is to hope; don't give up hope, dear."
"No," said Greta, tracing the pattern of the sunlight on her skirt.
"But I think that when we hope, we are not brave, because we are
expecting something for ourselves. Chris says that hope is prayer,
and if it is prayer, then all the time we are hoping, we are asking
for something, and it is not brave to ask for things."
A smile curved Dawney's mouth.
"Go on, Philosopher!" he said. "Be brave in your own way, it will be
just as good as anybody else's."
"What are you going to do to be brave, Dr. Edmund?"
"I? Fight! If only we had five years off his life!"
Greta watched him as he walked away.
"I shall never be brave," she mourned; "I shall always be wanting to
be happy." And, kneeling down, she began to disentangle a fly,
imprisoned in a cobweb. A plant of hemlock had sprung up in the long
grass by her feet. Greta thought, dismayed: 'There are weeds!'
It seemed but another sign of the death of joy.
'But it's very beautiful,' she thought, 'the blossoms are like stars.
I am not going to pull it up. I will leave it; perhaps it will
spread all through the garden; and if it does I do not care, for now
things are not like they used to be and I do not, think they ever
shall be again.'
The days went by; those long, hot days, when the heat haze swims up
about ten of the forenoon, and, as the sun sinks level with the
mountains, melts into golden ether which sets the world quivering
At the lighting of the stars those sparkles die, vanishing one by one
off the hillsides; evening comes flying down the valleys, and life
rests under her cool wings. The night falls; and the hundred little
voices of the night arise.
It was near grape-gathering, and in the heat the fight for Nicholas
Treffry's life went on, day in, day out, with gleams of hope and
moments of despair. Doctors came, but after the first he refused to
"No," he said to Dawney--"throwing away money. If I pull through it
won't be because of them."
For days together he would allow no one but Dawney, Dominique, and
the paid nurse in the room.
"I can stand it better," he said to Christian, "when I don't see any
of you; keep away, old girl, and let me get on with it!"
To have been able to help would have eased the tension of her nerves,
and the aching of her heart. At his own request they had moved his
bed into a corner so that he might face the wall. There he would lie
for hours together, not speaking a word, except to ask for drink.
Sometimes Christian crept in unnoticed, and sat watching, with her
arms tightly folded across her breast. At night, after Greta was
asleep, she would toss from side to side, muttering feverish prayers.
She spent hours at her little table in the schoolroom, writing
letters to Harz that were never sent. Once she wrote these words: "I
am the most wicked of all creatures--I have even wished that he may
die!" A few minutes afterwards Miss Naylor found her with her head
buried on her arms. Christian sprang up; tears were streaming down
her cheeks. "Don't touch me!" she cried, and rushed away. Later,
she stole into her uncle's room, and sank down on the floor beside
the bed. She sat there silently, unnoticed all the evening. When
night came she could hardly be persuaded to leave the room.
One day Mr. Treffry expressed a wish to see Herr Paul; it was a long
while before the latter could summon courage to go in.
"There's a few dozen of the Gordon sherry at my Chambers, in London,
Paul," Mr. Treffry said; "I'd be glad to think you had 'em. And my
man, Dominique, I've made him all right in my will, but keep your eye
on him; he's a good sort for a foreigner, and no chicken, but sooner
or later, the women'll get hold of him. That's all I had to say.
Send Chris to me."
Herr Paul stood by the bedside speechless. Suddenly he blurted out.
"Ah! my dear! Courage! We are all mortal. You will get well!" All
the morning he walked about quite inconsolable. "It was frightful to
see him, you know, frightful! An iron man could not have borne it."
When Christian came to him, Mr. Treffry raised himself and looked at
her a long while.
His wistful face was like an accusation. But that very afternoon the
news came from the sickroom that he was better, having had no pain
for several hours.
Every one went about with smiles lurking in their eyes, and ready to
break forth at a word. In the kitchen Barbi burst out crying, and,
forgetting to toss the pan, spoiled a Kaiser-Schmarn she was making.
Dominique was observed draining a glass of Chianti, and solemnly
casting forth the last drops in libation. An order was given for tea
to be taken out under the acacias, where it was always cool; it was
felt that something in the nature of high festival was being held.
Even Herr Paul was present; but Christian did not come. Nobody spoke
of illness; to mention it might break the spell.
Miss Naylor, who had gone into the house, came back, saying:
"There is a strange man standing over there by the corner of the
"Really!" asked Mrs. Decie; "what does he want?"
Miss Naylor reddened. "I did not ask him. I--don't--know--whether
he is quite respectable. His coat is buttoned very close, and he--
doesn't seem--to have a--collar."
"Go and see what he wants, dear child," Mrs. Decie said to Greta.
"I don't know--I really do not know--" began Miss Naylor; "he has
very--high--boots," but Greta was already on her way, with hands
clasped behind her, and demure eyes taking in the stranger's figure.
"Please?" she said, when she was close to him.
The stranger took his cap off with a jerk.
"This house has no bells," he said in a nasal voice; "it has a
tendency to discourage one."
"Yes," said Greta gravely, "there is a bell, but it does not ring
now, because my uncle is so ill."
"I am very sorry to hear that. I don't know the people here, but I
am very sorry to hear that.
"I would be glad to speak a few words to your sister, if it is your
sister that I want."
And the stranger's face grew very red.
"Is it," said Greta, "that you are a friend of Herr Harz? If you are
a friend of his, you will please come and have some tea, and while
you are having tea I will look for Chris."
Perspiration bedewed the stranger's forehead.
"Tea? Excuse me! I don't drink tea."
"There is also coffee," Greta said.
The stranger's progress towards the arbour was so slow that Greta
arrived considerably before him.
"It is a friend of Herr Harz," she whispered; "he will drink coffee.
I am going to find Chris."
"Greta!" gasped Miss Naylor.
Mrs. Decie put up her hand.
"Ah!" she said, "if it is so, we must be very nice to him for
Miss Naylor's face grew soft.
"Ah, yes!" she said; "of course."
"Bah!" muttered Herr Paul, "that recommences.'
"Paul!" murmured Mrs. Decie, "you lack the elements of wisdom."
Herr Paul glared at the approaching stranger.
Mrs. Decie had risen, and smilingly held out her hand.
"We are so glad to know you; you are an artist too, perhaps? I take
a great interest in art, and especially in that school which Mr. Harz
The stranger smiled.
"He is the genuine article, ma'am," he said. "He represents no
school, he is one of that kind whose corpses make schools."
"Ah!" murmured Mrs. Decie, "you are an American. That is so nice.
Do sit down! My niece will soon be here."
Greta came running back.
"Will you come, please?" she said. "Chris is ready."
Gulping down his coffee, the stranger included them all in a single
bow, and followed her.
"Ach!" said Herr Paul, "garcon tres chic, celui-la!"
Christian was standing by her little table. The stranger began.
"I am sending Mr. Harz's things to England; there are some pictures
here. He would be glad to have them."
A flood of crimson swept over her face.
"I am sending them to London," the stranger repeated; "perhaps you
could give them to me to-day."
"They are ready; my sister will show you."
Her eyes seemed to dart into his soul, and try to drag something from
it. The words rushed from her lips
"Is there any message for me?"
The stranger regarded her curiously.
"No," he stammered, "no! I guess not. He is well.... I wish...." He
stopped; her white face seemed to flash scorn, despair, and entreaty
on him all at once. And turning, she left him standing there.
When Christian went that evening to her uncle's room he was sitting
up in bed, and at once began to talk. "Chris," he said, "I can't
stand this dying by inches. I'm going to try what a journey'll do
for me. I want to get back to the old country. The doctor's
promised. There's a shot in the locker yet! I believe in that young
chap; he's stuck to me like a man.... It'll be your birthday, on
Tuesday, old girl, and you'll be twenty. Seventeen years since your
father died. You've been a lot to me.... A parson came here today.
That's a bad sign. Thought it his duty! Very civil of him!
I wouldn't see him, though. If there's anything in what they tell
you, I'm not going to sneak in at this time o' day. There's one
thing that's rather badly on my mind. I took advantage of Mr. Harz
with this damned pitifulness of mine. You've a right to look at me
as I've seen you sometimes when you thought I was asleep. If I
hadn't been ill he'd never have left you. I don't blame you, Chris--
not I! You love me? I know that, my dear. But one's alone when it
comes to the run-in. Don't cry! Our minds aren't Sunday-school
books; you're finding it out, that's all!" He sighed and turned
The noise of sun-blinds being raised vibrated through the house. A
feeling of terror seized on the girl; he lay so still, and yet the
drawing of each breath was a fight. If she could only suffer in his
place! She went close, and bent over him.
"It's air we want, both you and I!" he muttered. Christian beckoned
to the nurse, and stole out through the window.
A regiment was passing in the road; she stood half-hidden amongst the
lilac bushes watching. The poplar leaves drooped lifeless and almost
black above her head, the dust raised by the soldiers' feet hung in
the air; it seemed as if in all the world no freshness and no life
were stirring. The tramp of feet died away. Suddenly within arm's
length of her a man appeared, his stick shouldered like a sword. He
raised his hat.
"Good-evening! You do not remember me? Sarelli. Pardon! You looked
like a ghost standing there. How badly those fellows marched! We
hang, you see, on the skirts of our profession and criticise; it is
all we are fit for." His black eyes, restless and malevolent like a
swan's, seemed to stab her face. "A fine evening! Too hot. The
storm is wanted; you feel that? It is weary waiting for the storm;
but after the storm, my dear young lady, comes peace." He smiled,
gently, this time, and baring his head again, was lost to view in the
shadow of the trees.
His figure had seemed to Christian like the sudden vision of a
threatening, hidden force. She thrust out her hands, as though to
keep it off.
No use; it was within her, nothing could keep it away! She went to
Mrs. Decie's room, where her aunt and Miss Naylor were conversing in
low tones. To hear their voices brought back the touch of this world
of everyday which had no part or lot in the terrifying powers within
Dawney slept at the Villa now. In the dead of night he was awakened
by a light flashed in his eyes. Christian was standing there, her
face pale and wild with terror, her hair falling in dark masses on
"Save him! Save him!" she cried. "Quick! The bleeding!"
He saw her muffle her face in her white sleeves, and seizing the
candle, leaped out of bed and rushed away.
The internal haemorrhage had come again, and Nicholas Treffry wavered
between life and death. When it had ceased, he sank into a sort of
stupor. About six o'clock he came back to consciousness; watching
his eyes, they could see a mental struggle taking place within him.
At last he singled Christian out from the others by a sign.
"I'm beat, Chris," he whispered. "Let him know, I want to see him."
His voice grew a little stronger. "I thought that I could see it
through--but here's the end." He lifted his hand ever so little, and
let it fall again. When told a little later that a telegram had been
sent to Harz his eyes expressed satisfaction.
Herr Paul came down in ignorance of the night's events. He stopped
in front of the barometer and tapped it, remarking to Miss Naylor:
"The glass has gone downstairs; we shall have cool weather--it will
still go well with him!"
When, with her brown face twisted by pity and concern, she told him
that it was a question of hours, Herr Paul turned first purple, then
pale, and sitting down, trembled violently. "I cannot believe it,"
he exclaimed almost angrily. "Yesterday he was so well! I cannot
believe it! Poor Nicholas! Yesterday he spoke to me!" Taking Miss
Naylor's hand, he clutched it in his own. "Ah!" he cried, letting it
go suddenly, and striking at his forehead, "it is too terrible; only
yesterday he spoke to me of sherry. Is there nobody, then, who can
"There is only God," replied Miss Naylor softly.
"God?" said Herr Paul in a scared voice.
"We--can--all--pray to Him," Miss Naylor murmured; little spots of
colour came into her cheeks. "I am going to do it now."
Herr Paul raised her hand and kissed it.
"Are you?" he said; "good! I too." He passed through his study door,
closed it carefully behind him, then for some unknown reason set his
back against it. Ugh! Death! It came to all! Some day it would come
to him. It might come tomorrow! One must pray!
The day dragged to its end. In the sky clouds had mustered, and,
crowding close on one another, clung round the sun, soft, thick,
greywhite, like the feathers on a pigeon's breast. Towards evening
faint tremblings were felt at intervals, as from the shock of
immensely distant earthquakes.
Nobody went to bed that night, but in the morning the report was the
same: "Unconscious--a question of hours." Once only did he recover
consciousness, and then asked for Harz. A telegram had come from
him, he was on the way. Towards seven of the evening the long-
expected storm broke in a sky like ink. Into the valleys and over
the crests of mountains it seemed as though an unseen hand were
spilling goblets of pale wine, darting a sword-blade zigzag over
trees, roofs, spires, peaks, into the very firmament, which answered
every thrust with great bursts of groaning. Just beyond the veranda
Greta saw a glowworm shining, as it might be a tiny bead of the
fallen lightning. Soon the rain covered everything. Sometimes a jet
of light brought the hilltops, towering, dark, and hard, over the
house, to disappear again behind the raindrops and shaken leaves.
Each breath drawn by the storm was like the clash of a thousand
cymbals; and in his room Mr. Treffry lay unconscious of its fury.
Greta had crept in unobserved; and sat curled in a corner, with
Scruff in her arms, rocking slightly to and fro. When Christian
passed, she caught her skirt, and whispered: "It is your birthday,
Mr. Treffry stirred.
"What's that? Thunder?--it's cooler. Where am I? Chris!"
Dawney signed for her to take his place.
"Chris!" Mr. Treffry said. "It's near now." She bent across him,
and her tears fell on his forehead.
"Forgive!" she whispered; "love me!"
He raised his finger, and touched her cheek.
For an hour or more he did not speak, though once or twice he moaned,
and faintly tightened his pressure on her fingers. The storm had
died away, but very far off the thunder was still muttering.
His eyes opened once more, rested on her, and passed beyond, into
that abyss dividing youth from age, conviction from conviction, life
At the foot of the bed Dawney stood covering his face; behind him
Dominique knelt with hands held upwards; the sound of Greta's
breathing, soft in sleep, rose and fell in the stillness.
One afternoon in March, more than three years after Mr. Treffry's
death, Christian was sitting at the window of a studio in St. John's
Wood. The sky was covered with soft, high clouds, through which
shone little gleams of blue. Now and then a bright shower fell,
sprinkling the trees, where every twig was curling upwards as if
waiting for the gift of its new leaves. And it seemed to her that
the boughs thickened and budded under her very eyes; a great
concourse of sparrows had gathered on those boughs, and kept raising
a shrill chatter. Over at the far side of the room Harz was working
at a picture.
On Christian's face was the quiet smile of one who knows that she has
only to turn her eyes to see what she wishes to see; of one whose
possessions are safe under her hand. She looked at Harz with that
possessive smile. But as into the brain of one turning in his bed
grim fancies will suddenly leap up out of warm nothingness, so there
leaped into her mind the memory of that long ago dawn, when he had
found her kneeling by Mr. Treffry's body. She seemed to see again
the dead face, so gravely quiet, and furrowless. She seemed to see
her lover and herself setting forth silently along the river wall
where they had first met; sitting down, still silent, beneath the
poplar-tree where the little bodies of the chafers had lain strewn in
the Spring. To see the trees changing from black to grey, from grey
to green, and in the dark sky long white lines of cloud, lighting to
the south like birds; and, very far away, rosy peaks watching the
awakening of the earth. And now once again, after all that time,
she felt her spirit shrink away from his; as it had shrunk in that
hour, when she had seemed hateful to herself. She remembered the
words she had spoken: "I have no heart left. You've torn it in two
between you. Love is all self--I wanted him to die." She remembered
too the raindrops on the vines like a million tiny lamps, and the
throstle that began singing. Then, as dreams die out into warm
nothingness, recollection vanished, and the smile came back to her
She took out a letter.
"....O Chris! We are really coming; I seem to be always telling it
to myself, and I have told Scruff many times, but he does not care,
because he is getting old. Miss Naylor says we shall arrive for
breakfast, and that we shall be hungry, but perhaps she will not be
very hungry, if it is rough. Papa said to me: 'Je serai
inconsolable, mais inconsolable!' But I think he will not be,
because he is going to Vienna. When we are come, there will be
nobody at Villa Rubein; Aunt Constance has gone a fortnight ago to
Florence. There is a young man at her hotel; she says he will be one
of the greatest playwriters in England, and she sent me a play of his
to read; it was only a little about love, I did not like it very
much.... O Chris! I think I shall cry when I see you. As I am quite
grown up, Miss Naylor is not to come back with me; sometimes she is
sad, but she will be glad to see you, Chris. She seems always sadder
when it is Spring. Today I walked along the wall; the little green
balls of wool are growing on the poplars already, and I saw one
chafer; it will not be long before the cherry blossom comes; and I
felt so funny, sad and happy together, and once I thought that I had
wings and could fly away up the valley to Meran--but I had none, so I
sat on the bench where we sat the day we took the pictures, and I
thought and thought; there was nothing came to me in my thoughts, but
all was sweet and a little noisy, and rather sad; it was like the
buzzing of the chafer, in my head; and now I feel so tired and all my
blood is running up and down me. I do not mind, because I know it is
"Dominique came to see us the other day; he is very well, and is half
the proprietor of the Adler Hotel, at Meran; he is not at all
different, and he asked about you and about Alois--do you know,
Chris, to myself I call him Herr Harz, but when I have seen him this
time I shall call him Alois in my heart also.
"I have a letter from Dr. Edmund; he is in London, so perhaps you
have seen him, only he has a great many patients and some that he has
'hopes of killing soon'! especially one old lady, because she is
always wanting him to do things for her, and he is never saying 'No,'
so he does not like her. He says that he is getting old. When I
have finished this letter I am going to write and tell him that
perhaps he shall see me soon, and then I think he will be very sad.
Now that the Spring is come there are more flowers to take to Uncle
Nic's grave, and every day, when I am gone, Barbi is to take them so
that he shall not miss you, Chris, because all the flowers I put
there are for you.
"I am buying some toys without paint on for my niece."
"O Chris! this will be the first baby that I have known."
"I am only to stay three weeks with you, but I think when I am once
there I shall be staying longer. I send a kiss for my niece, and to
Herr Harz, my love--that is the last time I shall call him Herr Harz;
and to you, Chris, all the joy that is in my heart.--Your loving
Christian rose, and, turning very softly, stood, leaning her elbows
on the back of a high seat, looking at her husband.
In her eyes there was a slow, clear, faintly smiling, yet yearning