Part 5 out of 6
closed; a very good and gentle expression hovered on his face. A
curved mark showed on his right temple, the scar of a cut on the side
of his neck, and his left hand was covered by an old glove, the
little forger of which was empty. He woke up when the march was over
and brisked up his moustache.
The next thing on the programme was a little thing by Poise from Le
joli Gilles, played by Mons. Corsanego on the violin. Happening to
glance at my old neighbour, I saw a tear caught in the hollow of his
cheek, and another just leaving the corner of his eye; there was a
faint smile on his lips. Then came an interval; and while orchestra
and audience were resting, I asked him if he were fond of music. He
looked up without distrust, bowed, and answered in a thin, gentle
voice: "Certainly. I know nothing about it, play no instrument,
could never sing a note; but fond of it! Who would not be?" His
English was correct enough, but with an emphasis not quite American
nor quite foreign. I ventured to remark that he did not care for
Meyerbeer. He smiled.
"Ah!" he said, "I was asleep? Too bad of me. He is a little noisy--
I know so little about music. There is Bach, for instance. Would
you believe it, he gives me no pleasure? A great misfortune to be no
musician!" He shook his head.
I murmured, "Bach is too elevating for you perhaps."
"To me," he answered, "any music I like is elevating. People say
some music has a bad effect on them. I never found any music that
gave me a bad thought--no--no--quite the opposite; only sometimes, as
you see, I go to sleep. But what a lovely instrument the violin!"
A faint flush came on his parched cheeks. "The human soul that has
left the body. A curious thing, distant bugles at night have given
me the same feeling." The orchestra was now coming back, and,
folding his hands, my neighbour turned his eyes towards them. When
the concert was over we came out together. Waiting at the entrance
was his dog.
"You have a beautiful dog!"
"Ah! yes. Freda. mia cara, da su mano!" The dog squatted on her
haunches, and lifted her paw in the vague, bored way of big dogs when
requested to perform civilities. She was a lovely creature--the
purest brindle, without a speck of white, and free from the
unbalanced look of most dogs of her breed.
"Basta! basta!" He turned to me apologetically. "We have agreed to
speak Italian; in that way I keep up the language; astonishing the
number of things that dog will understand!" I was about to take my
leave, when he asked if I would walk a little way with him--"If you
are free, that is." We went up the street with Freda on the far side
of her master.
"Do you never 'play' here?" I asked him.
"Play? No. It must be very interesting; most exciting, but as a
matter of fact, I can't afford it. If one has very little, one is
He had stopped in front of a small hairdresser's shop. "I live
here," he said, raising his hat again. "Au revoir!--unless I can
offer you a glass of tea. It's all ready. Come! I've brought you
out of your way; give me the pleasure!"
I have never met a man so free from all self-consciousness, and yet
so delicate and diffident the combination is a rare one. We went up
a steep staircase to a room on the second floor. My companion threw
the shutters open, setting all the flies buzzing. The top of a
plane-tree was on a level with the window, and all its little brown
balls were dancing, quite close, in the wind. As he had promised, an
urn was hissing on a table; there was also a small brown teapot, some
sugar, slices of lemon, and glasses. A bed, washstand, cupboard, tin
trunk, two chairs, and a small rug were all the furniture. Above the
bed a sword in a leather sheath was suspended from two nails. The
photograph of a girl stood on the closed stove. My host went to the
cupboard and produced a bottle, a glass, and a second spoon. When
the cork was drawn, the scent of rum escaped into the air. He
sniffed at it and dropped a teaspoonful into both glasses.
"This is a trick I learned from the Russians after Plevna; they had
my little finger, so I deserved something in exchange." He looked
round; his eyes, his whole face, seemed to twinkle. "I assure you it
was worth it--makes all the difference. Try!" He poured off the
"Had you a sympathy with the Turks?"
"The weaker side--" He paused abruptly, then added: "But it was not
that." Over his face innumerable crow's-feet had suddenly appeared,
his eyes twitched; he went on hurriedly, "I had to find something to
do just then--it was necessary." He stared into his glass; and it
was some time before I ventured to ask if he had seen much fighting.
"Yes," he replied gravely, "nearly twenty years altogether; I was one
of Garibaldi's Mille in '60."
"Surely you are not Italian?"
He leaned forward with his hands on his knees. "I was in Genoa at
that time learning banking; Garibaldi was a wonderful man! One could
not help it." He spoke quite simply. "You might say it was like
seeing a little man stand up to a ring of great hulking fellows; I
went, just as you would have gone, if you'd been there. I was not
long with them--our war began; I had to go back home." He said this
as if there had been but one war since the world began. "In '60," he
mused, "till '65. Just think of it! The poor country. Why, in my
State, South Carolina--I was through it all--nobody could be spared
there--we were one to three."
"I suppose you have a love of fighting?"
"H'm!" he said, as if considering the idea for the first time.
"Sometimes I fought for a living, and sometimes--because I was
obliged; one must try to be a gentleman. But won't you have some
I refused more tea and took my leave, carrying away with me a picture
of the old fellow looking down from the top of the steep staircase,
one hand pressed to his back, the other twisting up those little
white moustaches, and murmuring, "Take care, my dear sir, there's a
step there at the corner."
"To be a gentleman!" I repeated in the street, causing an old French
lady to drop her parasol, so that for about two minutes we stood
bowing and smiling to each other, then separated full of the best
A week later I found myself again seated next him at a concert. In
the meantime I had seen him now and then, but only in passing. He
seemed depressed. The corners of his lips were tightened, his tanned
cheeks had a greyish tinge, his eyes were restless; and, between two
numbers of the programme, he murmured, tapping his fingers on his
hat, "Do you ever have bad days? Yes? Not pleasant, are they?"
Then something occurred from which all that I have to tell you
followed. There came into the concert-hall the heroine of one of
those romances, crimes, follies, or irregularities, call it what you
will, which had just attracted the "world's" stare. She passed us
with her partner, and sat down in a chair a few rows to our right.
She kept turning her head round, and at every turn I caught the gleam
of her uneasy eyes. Some one behind us said: "The brazen baggage!"
My companion turned full round, and glared at whoever it was who had
spoken. The change in him was quite remarkable. His lips were drawn
back from his teeth; he frowned; the scar on his temple had reddened.
"Ah!" he said to me. "The hue and cry! Contemptible! How I hate
it! But you wouldn't understand--! "he broke off, and slowly
regained his usual air of self-obliteration; he even seemed ashamed,
and began trying to brush his moustaches higher than ever, as if
aware that his heat had robbed them of neatness.
"I'm not myself, when I speak of such matters," he said suddenly; and
began reading his programme, holding it upside down. A minute later,
however, he said in a peculiar voice: "There are people to be found
who object to vivisecting animals; but the vivisection of a woman,
who minds that? Will you tell me it's right, that because of some
tragedy like this--believe me, it is always a tragedy--we should hunt
down a woman? That her fellow-women should make an outcast of her?
That we, who are men, should make a prey of her? If I thought
that...." Again he broke off, staring very hard in front of him.
"It is we who make them what they are; and even if that is not so--
why! if I thought there was a woman in the world I could not take my
hat off to--I--I--couldn't sleep at night." He got up from his seat,
put on his old straw hat with trembling fingers, and, without a
glance back, went out, stumbling over the chair-legs.
I sat there, horribly disturbed; the words, "One must try to be a
gentleman!" haunting me. When I came out, he was standing by the
entrance with one hand on his hip and the other on his dog. In that
attitude of waiting he was such a patient figure; the sun glared down
and showed the threadbare nature of his clothes and the thinness of
his brown hands, with their long forgers and nails yellow from
tobacco. Seeing me he came up the steps again, and raised his hat.
"I am glad to have caught you; please forget all that." I asked if
he would do me the honour of dining at my hotel.
"Dine?" he repeated with the sort of smile a child gives if you offer
him a box of soldiers; "with the greatest pleasure. I seldom dine
out, but I think I can muster up a coat. Yes--yes--and at what time
shall I come? At half-past seven, and your hotel is--? Good! I
shall be there. Freda, mia cara, you will be alone this evening.
You do not smoke caporal, I fear. I find it fairly good; though it
has too much bite." He walked off with Freda, puffing at his thin
roll of caporal.
Once or twice he stopped, as if bewildered or beset by some sudden
doubt or memory; and every time he stopped, Freda licked his hand.
They disappeared round the corner of the street, and I went to my
hotel to see about dinner. On the way I met Jules le Ferrier, and
asked him to come too.
"My faith, yes!" he said, with the rosy pessimism characteristic of
the French editor. "Man must dine!"
At half-past six we assembled. My "Cosmopolitan" was in an old
frock-coat braided round the edges, buttoned high and tight, defining
more than ever the sharp lines of his shoulders and the slight kink
of his back; he had brought with him, too, a dark-peaked cap of
military shape, which he had evidently selected as more fitting to
the coat than a straw hat. He smelled slightly of some herb.
We sat down to dinner, and did not rise for two hours. He was a
charming guest, praised everything he ate--not with commonplaces, but
in words that made you feel it had given him real pleasure. At
first, whenever Jules made one of his caustic remarks, he looked
quite pained, but suddenly seemed to make up his mind that it was
bark, not bite; and then at each of them he would turn to me and say,
"Aha! that's good--isn't it?" With every glass of wine he became
more gentle and more genial, sitting very upright, and tightly
buttoned-in; while the little white wings of his moustache seemed
about to leave him for a better world.
In spite of the most leading questions, however, we could not get him
to talk about himself, for even Jules, most cynical of men, had
recognised that he was a hero of romance. He would answer gently and
precisely, and then sit twisting his moustaches, perfectly
unconscious that we wanted more. Presently, as the wine went a
little to his head, his thin, high voice grew thinner, his cheeks
became flushed, his eyes brighter; at the end of dinner he said: "I
hope I have not been noisy."
We assured him that he had not been noisy enough. "You're laughing
at me," he answered. "Surely I've been talking all the time!"
"Mon Dieu!" said Jules, "we have been looking for some fables of your
wars; but nothing--nothing, not enough to feed a frog!"
The old fellow looked troubled.
"To be sure!" he mused. "Let me think! there is that about Colhoun
at Gettysburg; and there's the story of Garibaldi and the Miller."
He plunged into a tale, not at all about himself, which would have
been extremely dull, but for the conviction in his eyes, and the way
he stopped and commented. "So you see," he ended, "that's the sort
of man Garibaldi was! I could tell you another tale of him."
Catching an introspective look in Jules's eye, however, I proposed
taking our cigars over to the cafe opposite.
"Delightful!" the old fellow said: "We shall have a band and the
fresh air, and clear consciences for our cigars. I cannot like this
smoking in a room where there are ladies dining."
He walked out in front of us, smoking with an air of great enjoyment.
Jules, glowing above his candid shirt and waistcoat, whispered to me,
"Mon cher Georges, how he is good!" then sighed, and added darkly:
"The poor man!"
We sat down at a little table. Close by, the branches of a plane-
tree rustled faintly; their leaves hung lifeless, speckled like the
breasts of birds, or black against the sky; then, caught by the
breeze, fluttered suddenly.
The old fellow sat, with head thrown back, a smile on his face,
coming now and then out of his enchanted dreams to drink coffee,
answer our questions, or hum the tune that the band was playing. The
ash of his cigar grew very long. One of those bizarre figures in
Oriental garb, who, night after night, offer their doubtful wares at
a great price, appeared in the white glare of a lamp, looked with a
furtive smile at his face, and glided back, discomfited by its
unconsciousness. It was a night for dreams! A faint, half-eastern
scent in the air, of black tobacco and spice; few people as yet at
the little tables, the waiters leisurely, the band soft! What was he
dreaming of, that old fellow, whose cigar-ash grew so long? Of
youth, of his battles, of those things that must be done by those who
try to be gentlemen; perhaps only of his dinner; anyway of something
gilded in vague fashion as the light was gilding the branches of the
Jules pulled my sleeve: "He sleeps." He had smilingly dropped off;
the cigar-ash--that feathery tower of his dreams--had broken and
fallen on his sleeve. He awoke, and fell to dusting it.
The little tables round us began to fill. One of the bandsmen played
a czardas on the czymbal. Two young Frenchmen, talking loudly, sat
down at the adjoining table. They were discussing the lady who had
been at the concert that afternoon.
"It's a bet," said one of them, "but there's the present man. I take
three weeks, that's enough 'elle est declassee; ce n'est que le
My old friend's cigar fell on the table. "Monsieur," he stammered,
"you speak of a lady so, in a public place?"
The young man stared at him. "Who is this person?" he said to his
My guest took up Jules's glove that lay on the table; before either
of us could raise a finger, he had swung it in the speaker's face.
"Enough!" he said, and, dropping the glove, walked away.
We all jumped to our feet. I left Jules and hurried after him. His
face was grim, his eyes those of a creature who has been struck on a
raw place. He made a movement of his fingers which said plainly.
"Leave me, if you please!"
I went back to the cafe. The two young men had disappeared, so had
Jules, but everything else was going on just as before; the bandsman
still twanging out his czardas; the waiters serving drinks; the
orientals trying to sell their carpets. I paid the bill, sought out
the manager, and apologised. He shrugged his shoulders, smiled and
said: "An eccentric, your friend, nicht wahr?" Could he tell me
where M. Le Ferrier was? He could not. I left to look for Jules;
could not find him, and returned to my hotel disgusted. I was sorry
for my old guest, but vexed with him too; what business had he to
carry his Quixotism to such an unpleasant length? I tried to read.
Eleven o'clock struck; the casino disgorged a stream of people; the
Place seemed fuller of life than ever; then slowly it grew empty and
quite dark. The whim seized me to go out. It was a still night,
very warm, very black. On one of the seats a man and woman sat
embraced, on another a girl was sobbing, on a third--strange sight--a
priest dozed. I became aware of some one at my side; it was my old
"If you are not too tired," he said, "can you give me ten minutes?"
"Certainly; will you come in?"
"No, no; let us go down to the Terrace. I shan't keep you long."
He did not speak again till we reached a seat above the pigeon-
shooting grounds; there, in a darkness denser for the string of
lights still burning in the town, we sat down.
"I owe you an apology," he said; "first in the afternoon, then again
this evening--your guest--your friend's glove! I have behaved as no
gentleman should." He was leaning forward with his hands on the
handle of a stick. His voice sounded broken and disturbed.
"Oh!" I muttered. "It's nothing!"'
"You are very good," he sighed; "but I feel that I must explain. I
consider I owe this to you, but I must tell you I should not have the
courage if it were not for another reason. You see I have no
friend." He looked at me with an uncertain smile. I bowed, and a
minute or two later he began....
"You will excuse me if I go back rather far. It was in '74, when I
had been ill with Cuban fever. To keep me alive they had put me on
board a ship at Santiago, and at the end of the voyage I found myself
in London. I had very little money; I knew nobody. I tell you, sir,
there are times when it's hard for a fighting man to get anything to
do. People would say to me: 'Afraid we've nothing for a man like you
in our business.' I tried people of all sorts; but it was true--I
had been fighting here and there since '60, I wasn't fit for
anything--" He shook his head. "In the South, before the war, they
had a saying, I remember, about a dog and a soldier having the same
value. But all this has nothing to do with what I have to tell you."
He sighed again and went on, moistening his lips: "I was walking
along the Strand one day, very disheartened, when I heard my name
called. It's a queer thing, that, in a strange street. By the way,"
he put in with dry ceremony, "you don't know my name, I think: it is
Brune--Roger Brune. At first I did not recognise the person who
called me. He had just got off an omnibus--a square-shouldered man
with heavy moustaches, and round spectacles. But when he shook my
hand I knew him at once. He was a man called Dalton, who was taken
prisoner at Gettysburg; one of you Englishmen who came to fight with
us--a major in the regiment where I was captain. We were comrades
during two campaigns. If I had been his brother he couldn't have
seemed more pleased to see me. He took me into a bar for the sake of
old times. The drink went to my head, and by the time we reached
Trafalgar Square I was quite unable to walk. He made me sit down on
a bench. I was in fact--drunk. It's disgraceful to be drunk, but
there was some excuse. Now I tell you, sir" (all through his story
he was always making use of that expression, it seemed to infuse
fresh spirit into him, to help his memory in obscure places, to give
him the mastery of his emotions; it was like the piece of paper a
nervous man holds in his hand to help him through a speech), "there
never was a man with a finer soul than my friend Dalton. He was not
clever, though he had read much; and sometimes perhaps he was too
fond of talking. But he was a gentleman; he listened to me as if I
had been a child; he was not ashamed of me--and it takes a gentleman
not to be ashamed of a drunken man in the streets of London; God
knows what things I said to him while we were sitting there! He took
me to his home and put me to bed himself; for I was down again with
fever." He stopped, turned slightly from me, and put his hand up to
his brow. "Well, then it was, sir, that I first saw her. I am not
a poet and I cannot tell you what she seemed to me. I was delirious,
but I always knew when she was there. I had dreams of sunshine and
cornfields, of dancing waves at sea, young trees--never the same
dreams, never anything for long together; and when I had my senses I
was afraid to say so for fear she would go away. She'd be in the
corner of the room, with her hair hanging about her neck, a bright
gold colour; she never worked and never read, but sat and talked to
herself in a whisper, or looked at me for a long time together out of
her blue eyes, a little frown between them, and her upper lip closed
firm on her lower lip, where she had an uneven tooth. When her
father came, she'd jump up and hang on to his neck until he groaned,
then run away, but presently come stealing back on tiptoe. I used to
listen for her footsteps on the stairs, then the knock, the door
flung back or opened quietly--you never could tell which; and her
voice, with a little lisp, 'Are you better today, Mr. Brune? What
funny things you say when you're delirious! Father says you've been
in heaps of battles!"'
He got up, paced restlessly to and fro, and sat down again. "I
remember every word as if it were yesterday, all the things she said,
and did; I've had a long time to think them over, you see. Well, I
must tell you, the first morning that I was able to get up, I missed
her. Dalton came in her place, and I asked him where she was. 'My
dear fellow,' he answered, 'I've sent Eilie away to her old nurse's
inn down on the river; she's better there at this time of year.' We
looked at each other, and I saw that he had sent her away because he
didn't trust me. I was hurt by this. Illness spoils one. He was
right, he was quite right, for all he knew about me was that I could
fight and had got drunk; but I am very quick-tempered. I made up my
mind at once to leave him. But I was too weak--he had to put me to
bed again. The very next morning he came and proposed that I should
go into partnership with him. He kept a fencing-school and pistol-
gallery. It seemed like the finger of God; and perhaps it was--who
knows?" He fell into a reverie, and taking out his caporal, rolled
himself a cigarette; having lighted it, he went on suddenly: "There,
in the room above the school, we used to sit in the evenings, one on
each side of the grate. The room was on the second floor,
I remember, with two windows, and a view of nothing but the houses
opposite. The furniture was covered up with chintz. The things on
the bookshelf were never disturbed, they were Eilie's--half-broken
cases with butterflies, a dead frog in a bottle, a horse-shoe covered
with tinfoil, some shells too, and a cardboard box with three
speckled eggs in it, and these words written on the lid: 'Missel-
thrush from Lucy's tree--second family, only one blown.'" He smoked
fiercely, with puffs that were like sharp sighs.
"Dalton was wrapped up in her. He was never tired of talking to me
about her, and I was never tired of hearing. We had a number of
pupils; but in the evening when we sat there, smoking--our talk would
sooner or later--come round to her. Her bedroom opened out of that
sitting--room; he took me in once and showed me a narrow little room
the width of a passage, fresh and white, with a photograph of her
mother above the bed, and an empty basket for a dog or cat." He
broke off with a vexed air, and resumed sternly, as if trying to bind
himself to the narration of his more important facts: "She was then
fifteen--her mother had been dead twelve years--a beautiful, face,
her mother's; it had been her death that sent Dalton to fight with
us. Well, sir, one day in August, very hot weather, he proposed a
run into the country, and who should meet us on the platform when we
arrived but Eilie, in a blue sun-bonnet and frock-flax blue, her
favourite colour. I was angry with Dalton for not telling me that we
should see her; my clothes were not quite--my hair wanted cutting.
It was black then, sir," he added, tracing a pattern in the darkness
with his stick. "She had a little donkey-cart; she drove, and, while
we walked one on each side, she kept looking at me from under her
sunbonnet. I must tell you that she never laughed--her eyes danced,
her cheeks would go pink, and her hair shake about on her neck, but
she never laughed. Her old nurse, Lucy, a very broad, good woman, had
married the proprietor of the inn in the village there. I have never
seen anything like that inn: sweethriar up to the roof! And the
scent--I am very susceptible to scents!" His head drooped, and the
cigarette fell from his hand. A train passing beneath sent up a
shower of sparks. He started, and went on: "We had our lunch in the
parlour--I remember that room very well, for I spent the happiest
days of my life afterwards in that inn.... We went into a meadow
after lunch, and my friend Dalton fell asleep. A wonderful thing
happened then. Eilie whispered to me, 'Let's have a jolly time.'
She took me for the most glorious walk. The river was close by.
A lovely stream, your river Thames, so calm and broad; it is like the
spirit of your people. I was bewitched; I forgot my friend, I
thought of nothing but how to keep her to myself. It was such a day!
There are days that are the devil's, but that was truly one of God's.
She took me to a little pond under an elm-tree, and we dragged it, we
two, an hour, for a kind of tiny red worm to feed some creature that
she had. We found them in the mud, and while she was bending over,
the curls got in her eyes. If you could have seen her then, I think,
sir, you would have said she was like the first sight of spring....
We had tea afterwards, all together, in the long grass under some
fruit-trees. If I had the knack of words, there are things that I
could say." He bent, as though in deference to those unspoken
memories. "Twilight came on while we were sitting there. A wonderful
thing is twilight in the country! It became time for us to go.
There was an avenue of trees close by--like a church with a window at
the end, where golden light came through. I walked up and down it
with her. 'Will you come again?' she whispered, and suddenly she
lifted up her face to be kissed. I kissed her as if she were a little
child. And when we said good-bye, her eyes were looking at me across
her father's shoulder, with surprise and sorrow in them. 'Why do you
go away?' they seemed to say.... But I must tell you," he went on
hurriedly, "of a thing that happened before we had gone a hundred
yards. We were smoking our pipes, and I, thinking of her--when out
she sprang from the hedge and stood in front of us. Dalton cried
out, 'What are you here for again, you mad girl?' She rushed up to
him and hugged him; but when she looked at me, her face was quite
different--careless, defiant, as one might say--it hurt me. I
couldn't understand it, and what one doesn't understand frightens
"Time went on. There was no swordsman, or pistol-shot like me in
London, they said. We had as many pupils as we liked--it was the
only part of my life when I have been able to save money. I had no
chance to spend it. We gave lessons all day, and in the evening were
too tired to go out. That year I had the misfortune to lose my dear
mother. I became a rich man--yes, sir, at that time I must have had
not less than six hundred a year.
"It was a long time before I saw Eilie again. She went abroad to
Dresden with her father's sister to learn French and German. It was
in the autumn of 1875 when she came back to us. She was seventeen
then--a beautiful young creature." He paused, as if to gather his
forces for description, and went on.
"Tall, as a young tree, with eyes like the sky. I would not say she
was perfect, but her imperfections were beautiful to me. What is it
makes you love--ah! sir, that is very hidden and mysterious. She had
never lost the trick of closing her lips tightly when she remembered
her uneven tooth. You may say that was vanity, but in a young girl--
and which of us is not vain, eh? 'Old men and maidens, young men and
"As I said, she came back to London to her little room, and in the
evenings was always ready with our tea. You mustn't suppose she was
housewifely; there is something in me that never admired
housewifeliness--a fine quality, no doubt, still--" He sighed.
"No," he resumed, "Eilie was not like that, for she was never quite
the same two days together. I told you her eyes were like the sky--
that was true of all of her. In one thing, however, at that time,
she always seemed the same--in love for her father. For me! I don't
know what I should have expected; but my presence seemed to have the
effect of making her dumb; I would catch her looking at me with a
frown, and then, as if to make up to her own nature--and a more
loving nature never came into this world, that I shall maintain to my
dying day--she would go to her father and kiss him. When I talked
with him she pretended not to notice, but I could see her face grow
cold and stubborn. I am not quick; and it was a long time before I
understood that she was jealous, she wanted him all to herself. I've
often wondered how she could be his daughter, for he was the very
soul of justice and a slow man too--and she was as quick as a bird.
For a long time after I saw her dislike of me, I refused to believe
it--if one does not want to believe a thing there are always reasons
why it should not seem true, at least so it is with me, and I suppose
with all selfish men.
"I spent evening after evening there, when, if I had not thought only
of myself, I should have kept away. But one day I could no longer be
"It was a Sunday in February. I always had an invitation on Sundays
to dine with them in the middle of the day. There was no one in the
sitting-room; but the door of Eilie's bedroom was open. I heard her
voice: 'That man, always that man!' It was enough for me, I went
down again without coming in, and walked about all day.
"For three weeks I kept away. To the school of course I came as
usual, but not upstairs. I don't know what I told Dalton--it did not
signify what you told him, he always had a theory of his own, and was
persuaded of its truth--a very single-minded man, sir.
"But now I come to the most wonderful days of my life. It was an
early spring that year. I had fallen away already from my
resolution, and used to slink up--seldom, it's true--and spend the
evening with them as before. One afternoon I came up to the sitting-
room; the light was failing--it was warm, and the windows were open.
In the air was that feeling which comes to you once a year, in the
spring, no matter where you may be, in a crowded street, or alone in
a forest; only once--a feeling like--but I cannot describe it.
"Eilie was sitting there. If you don't know, sir, I can't tell you
what it means to be near the woman one loves. She was leaning on the
windowsill, staring down into the street. It was as though she might
be looking out for some one. I stood, hardly breathing. She turned
her head, and saw me. Her eyes were strange. They seemed to ask me
a question. But I couldn't have spoken for the world. I can't tell
you what I felt--I dared not speak, or think, or hope. I have been
in nineteen battles--several times in positions of some danger, when
the lifting of a finger perhaps meant death; but I have never felt
what I was feeling at that moment. I knew something was coming; and
I was paralysed with terror lest it should not come!" He drew a long
"The servant came in with a light and broke the spell. All that
night I lay awake and thought of how she had looked at me, with the
colour coming slowly up in her cheeks
"It was three days before I plucked up courage to go again; and then
I felt her eyes on me at once--she was making a 'cat's cradle' with a
bit of string, but I could see them stealing up from her hands to my
face. And she went wandering about the room, fingering at
everything. When her father called out: 'What's the matter with you,
Elie?' she stared at him like a child caught doing wrong. I looked
straight at her then, she tried to look at me, but she couldn't; and
a minute later she went out of the room. God knows what sort of
nonsense I talked--I was too happy.
"Then began our love. I can't tell you of that time. Often and
often Dalton said to me: 'What's come to the child? Nothing I can do
pleases her.' All the love she had given him was now for me; but he
was too simple and straight to see what was going on. How many times
haven't I felt criminal towards him! But when you're happy, with the
tide in your favour, you become a coward at once...."
"Well, sir," he went on, "we were married on her eighteenth birthday.
It was a long time before Dalton became aware of our love. But one
day he said to me with a very grave look:
"'Eilie has told me, Brune; I forbid it. She's too young, and
you're--too old!' I was then forty-five, my hair as black and thick
as a rook's feathers, and I was strong and active. I answered him:
'We shall be married within a month!' We parted in anger. It was a
May night, and I walked out far into the country. There's no remedy
for anger, or, indeed, for anything, so fine as walking. Once I
stopped--it was on a common, without a house or light, and the stars
shining like jewels. I was hot from walking, I could feel the blood
boiling in my veins--I said to myself 'Old, are you?' And I laughed
like a fool. It was the thought of losing her--I wished to believe
myself angry, but really I was afraid; fear and anger in me are very
much the same. A friend of mine, a bit of a poet, sir, once called
them 'the two black wings of self.' And so they are, so they are...!
The next morning I went to Dalton again, and somehow I made him
yield. I'm not a philosopher, but it has often seemed to me that no
benefit can come to us in this life without an equal loss somewhere,
but does that stop us? No, sir, not often....
"We were married on the 3oth of June 1876, in the parish church. The
only people present were Dalton, Lucy, and Lucy's husband--a big,
red-faced fellow, with blue eyes and a golden beard parted in two.
It had been arranged that we should spend the honeymoon down at their
inn on the river. My wife, Dalton and I, went to a restaurant for
lunch. She was dressed in grey, the colour of a pigeon's feathers."
He paused, leaning forward over the crutch handle of his stick;
trying to conjure up, no doubt, that long-ago image of his young
bride in her dress "the colour of a pigeon's feathers," with her blue
eyes and yellow hair, the little frown between her brows, the firmly
shut red lips, opening to speak the words, "For better, for worse,
for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health."
"At that time, sir," he went on suddenly, "I was a bit of a dandy. I
wore, I remember, a blue frock-coat, with white trousers, and a grey
top hat. Even now I should always prefer to be well dressed....
"We had an excellent lunch, and drank Veuve Clicquot, a wine that you
cannot get in these days! Dalton came with us to the railway
station. I can't bear partings; and yet, they must come.
"That evening we walked out in the cool under the aspen-trees. What
should I remember in all my life if not that night--the young
bullocks snuffling in the gateways--the campion flowers all lighted
up along the hedges--the moon with a halo-bats, too, in and out among
the stems, and the shadows of the cottages as black and soft as that
sea down there. For a long time we stood on the river-bank beneath a
lime-tree. The scent of the lime flowers! A man can only endure
about half his joy; about half his sorrow. Lucy and her husband," he
went on, presently, "his name was Frank Tor--a man like an old
Viking, who ate nothing but milk, bread, and fruit--were very good to
us! It was like Paradise in that inn--though the commissariat, I am
bound to say, was limited. The sweethriar grew round our bedroom
windows; when the breeze blew the leaves across the opening--it was
like a bath of perfume. Eilie grew as brown as a gipsy while we were
there. I don't think any man could have loved her more than I did.
But there were times when my heart stood still; it didn't seem as if
she understood how much I loved her. One day, I remember, she coaxed
me to take her camping. We drifted down-stream all the afternoon,
and in the evening pulled into the reeds under the willow-boughs and
lit a fire for her to cook by--though, as a matter of fact, our
provisions were cooked already--but you know how it is; all the
romance was in having a real fire. 'We won't pretend,' she kept
saying. While we were eating our supper a hare came to our clearing-
-a big fellow--how surprised he looked! 'The tall hare,' Eilie
called him. After that we sat by the ashes and watched the shadows,
till at last she roamed away from me. The time went very slowly; I
got up to look for her. It was past sundown. I called and called.
It was a long time before I found her--and she was like a wild thing,
hot and flushed, her pretty frock torn, her hands and face scratched,
her hair down, like some beautiful creature of the woods. If one
loves, a little thing will scare one. I didn't think she had noticed
my fright; but when we got back to the boat she threw her arms round
my neck, and said, 'I won't ever leave you again!'
"Once in the night I woke--a water-hen was crying, and in the
moonlight a kingfisher flew across. The wonder on the river--the
wonder of the moon and trees, the soft bright mist, the stillness! It
was like another world, peaceful, enchanted, far holier than ours.
It seemed like a vision of the thoughts that come to one--how seldom!
and go if one tries to grasp them. Magic--poetry-sacred!" He was
silent a minute, then went on in a wistful voice: "I looked at her,
sleeping like a child, with her hair loose, and her lips apart, and I
thought: 'God do so to me, if ever I bring her pain!' How was I to
understand her? the mystery and innocence of her soul! The river has
had all my light and all my darkness, the happiest days, and the
hours when I've despaired; and I like to think of it, for, you know,
in time bitter memories fade, only the good remain.... Yet the good
have their own pain, a different kind of aching, for we shall never
get them back. Sir," he said, turning to me with a faint smile,
"it's no use crying over spilt milk.... In the neighbourhood of
Lucy's inn, the Rose and Maybush--Can you imagine a prettier name? I
have been all over the world, and nowhere found names so pretty as in
the English country. There, too, every blade of grass; and flower,
has a kind of pride about it; knows it will be cared for; and all the
roads, trees, and cottages, seem to be certain that they will live
for ever.... But I was going to tell you: Half a mile from the inn
was a quiet old house which we used to call the 'Convent'--though I
believe it was a farm. We spent many afternoons there, trespassing
in the orchard--Eilie was fond of trespassing; if there were a long
way round across somebody else's property, she would always take it.
We spent our last afternoon in that orchard, lying in the long grass.
I was reading Childe Harold for the first time--a wonderful, a
memorable poem! I was at that passage--the bull-fight--you remember:
"'Thrice sounds the clarion; lo! the signal falls,
The din expands, and expectation mute'--
"when suddenly Eilie said: 'Suppose I were to leave off loving you?'
It was as if some one had struck me in the face. I jumped up, and
tried to take her in my arms, but she slipped away; then she turned,
and began laughing softly. I laughed too. I don't know why...."
"We went back to London the next day; we lived quite close to the
school, and about five days a week Dalton came to dine with us. He
would have come every day, if he had not been the sort of man who
refuses to consult his own pleasure. We had more pupils than ever.
In my leisure I taught my wife to fence. I have never seen any one
so lithe and quick; or so beautiful as she looked in her fencing
dress, with embroidered shoes.
"I was completely happy. When a man has obtained his desire he
becomes careless and self-satisfied; I was watchful, however, for I
knew that I was naturally a selfish man. I studied to arrange my
time and save my money, to give her as much pleasure as I could.
What she loved best in the world just then was riding. I bought a
horse for her, and in the evenings of the spring and summer we rode
together; but when it was too dark to go out late, she would ride
alone, great distances, sometimes spend the whole day in the saddle,
and come back so tired she could hardly walk upstairs--I can't say
that I liked that. It made me nervous, she was so headlong--but I
didn't think it right to interfere with her. I had a good deal of
anxiety about money, for though I worked hard and made more than
ever, there never seemed enough. I was anxious to save--I hoped, of
course--but we had no child, and this was a trouble to me. She grew
more beautiful than ever, and I think was happy. Has it ever struck
you that each one of us lives on the edge of a volcano? There is, I
imagine, no one who has not some affection or interest so strong that
he counts the rest for nothing, beside it. No doubt a man may live
his life through without discovering that. But some of us--! I am
not complaining; what is--is." He pulled the cap lower over his
eyes, and clutched his hands firmly on the top of his stick. He was
like a man who rushes his horse at some hopeless fence, unwilling to
give himself time, for fear of craning at the last moment. "In the
spring of '78, a new pupil came to me, a young man of twenty-one who
was destined for the army. I took a fancy to him, and did my best to
turn him into a good swordsman; but there was a kind of perverse
recklessness in him; for a few minutes one would make a great
impression, then he would grow utterly careless. 'Francis,' I would
say, 'if I were you I should be ashamed.' 'Mr. Brune,' he would
answer, 'why should I be ashamed? I didn't make myself.' God knows,
I wish to do him justice, he had a heart--one day he drove up in a
cab, and brought in his poor dog, who had been run over, and was
dying: For half an hour he shut himself up with its body, we could
hear him sobbing like a child; he came out with his eyes all red, and
cried: 'I know where to find the brute who drove over him,' and off
he rushed. He had beautiful Italian eyes; a slight figure, not very
tall; dark hair, a little dark moustache; and his lips were always a
trifle parted--it was that, and his walk, and the way he drooped his
eyelids, which gave him a peculiar, soft, proud look. I used to tell
him that he'd never make a soldier! 'Oh!' he'd answer, 'that'll be
all right when the time comes! He believed in a kind of luck that
was to do everything for him, when the time came. One day he came in
as I was giving Eilie her lesson. This was the first time they saw
each other. After that he came more often, and sometimes stayed to
dinner with us. I won't deny, sir, that I was glad to welcome him; I
thought it good for Eilie. Can there be anything more odious," he
burst out, "than such a self-complacent blindness? There are people
who say, 'Poor man, he had such faith!' Faith, sir! Conceit! I was
a fool--in this world one pays for folly....
"The summer came; and one Saturday in early June, Eilie, I, and
Francis--I won't tell you his other name--went riding. The night had
been wet; there was no dust, and presently the sun came out--a
glorious day! We rode a long way. About seven o'clock we started
back-slowly, for it was still hot, and there was all the cool of
night before us. It was nine o'clock when we came to Richmond Park.
A grand place, Richmond Park; and in that half-light wonderful, the
deer moving so softly, you might have thought they were spirits. We
were silent too--great trees have that effect on me....
"Who can say when changes come? Like a shift of the wind, the old
passes, the new is on you. I am telling you now of a change like
that. Without a sign of warning, Eilie put her horse into a gallop.
'What are you doing?' I shouted. She looked back with a smile, then
he dashed past me too. A hornet might have stung them both: they
galloped over fallen trees, under low hanging branches, up hill and
down. I had to watch that madness! My horse was not so fast. I
rode like a demon; but fell far behind. I am not a man who takes
things quietly. When I came up with them at last, I could not speak
for rage. They were riding side by side, the reins on the horses'
necks, looking in each other's faces. 'You should take care,' I
said. 'Care!' she cried; 'life is not all taking care!' My anger
left me. I dropped behind, as grooms ride behind their mistresses...
Jealousy! No torture is so ceaseless or so black.... In those
minutes a hundred things came up in me--a hundred memories, true,
untrue, what do I know? My soul was poisoned. I tried to reason
with myself. It was absurd to think such things! It was unmanly....
Even if it were true, one should try to be a gentleman! But I found
myself laughing; yes, sir, laughing at that word." He spoke faster,
as if pouring his heart out not to a live listener, but to the night.
"I could not sleep that night. To lie near her with those thoughts
in my brain was impossible! I made an excuse, and sat up with some
papers. The hardest thing in life is to see a thing coming and be
able to do nothing to prevent it. What could I do? Have you noticed
how people may become utter strangers without a word? It only needs
a thought.... The very next day she said: 'I want to go to Lucy's.'
'Alone?' 'Yes.' I had made up my mind by then that she must do just
as she wished. Perhaps I acted wrongly; I do not know what one ought
to do in such a case; but before she went I said to her: 'Eilie, what
is it?' 'I don't know,' she answered; and I kissed her--that was
all.... A month passed; I wrote to her nearly every day, and I had
short letters from her, telling me very little of herself. Dalton
was a torture to me, for I could not tell him; he had a conviction
that she was going to become a mother. 'Ah, Brune!' he said, 'my
poor wife was just like that.' Life, sir, is a somewhat ironical
affair...! He--I find it hard to speak his name--came to the school
two or three times a week. I used to think I saw a change, a purpose
growing up through his recklessness; there seemed a violence in him
as if he chafed against my blade. I had a kind of joy in feeling I
had the mastery, and could toss the iron out of his hand any minute
like a straw. I was ashamed, and yet I gloried in it. Jealousy is a
low thing, sir--a low, base thing! When he asked me where my wife
was, I told him; I was too proud to hide it. Soon after that he came
no more to the school.
"One morning, when I could bear it no longer, I wrote, and said I was
coming down. I would not force myself on her, but I asked her to
meet me in the orchard of the old house we called the Convent. I
asked her to be there at four o'clock. It has always been my, belief
that a man must neither beg anything of a woman, nor force anything
from her. Women are generous--they will give you what they can. I
sealed my letter, and posted it myself. All the way down I kept on
saying to myself, 'She must come--surely she will come!'"
"I was in high spirits, but the next moment trembled like a man with
ague. I reached the orchard before my time. She was not there. You
know what it is like to wait? I stood still and listened; I went to
the point whence I could see farthest; I said to myself, 'A watched
pot never boils; if I don't look for her she will come.' I walked up
and down with my eyes on the ground. The sickness of it! A hundred
times I took out my watch.... Perhaps it was fast, perhaps hers was
slow--I can't tell you a thousandth part of my hopes and fears.
There was a spring of water, in one corner. I sat beside it, and
thought of the last time I had been there--and something seemed to
burst in me. It was five o'clock before I lost all hope; there comes
a time when you're glad that hope is dead, it means rest. 'That's
over,' you say, 'now I can act.' But what was I to do? I lay down
with my face to the ground; when one's in trouble, it's the only
thing that helps--something to press against and cling to that can't
give way. I lay there for two hours, knowing all the time that I
should play the coward. At seven o'clock I left the orchard and went
towards the inn; I had broken my word, but I felt happy.... I should
see her--and, sir, nothing--nothing seemed to matter beside that.
Tor was in the garden snipping at his roses. He came up, and I could
see that he couldn't look me in the face. 'Where's my wife?' I said.
He answered, 'Let's get Lucy.' I ran indoors. Lucy met me with two
letters; the first--my own--unopened; and the second, this:
"'I have left you. You were good to me, but now--it is no use.
"She told me that a boy had brought a letter for my wife the day
before, from a young gentleman in a boat. When Lucy delivered it she
asked, 'Who is he, Miss Eilie? What will Mr. Brune say?' My wife
looked at her angrily, but gave her no answer--and all that day she
never spoke. In the evening she was gone, leaving this note on the
bed.... Lucy cried as if her heart would break. I took her by the
shoulders and put her from the room; I couldn't bear the noise. I
sat down and tried to think. While I was sitting there Tor came in
with a letter. It was written on the notepaper of an inn twelve
miles up the river: these were the words.
"'Eilie is mine. I am ready to meet you where you like.'"
He went on with a painful evenness of speech. "When I read those
words, I had only one thought--to reach them; I ran down to the
river, and chose out the lightest boat. Just as I was starting, Tor
came running. 'You dropped this letter, sir,' be said. 'Two pair of
arms are better than one.' He came into the boat. I took the sculls
and I pulled out into the stream. I pulled like a madman; and that
great man, with his bare arms crossed, was like a huge, tawny bull
sitting there opposite me. Presently he took my place, and I took
the rudder lines. I could see his chest, covered with hair, heaving
up and down, it gave me a sort of comfort--it meant that we were
getting nearer. Then it grew dark, there was no moon, I could barely
see the bank; there's something in the dark which drives one into
oneself. People tell you there comes a moment when your nature is
decided--'saved' or 'lost' as they call it--for good or evil. That
is not true, your self is always with you, and cannot be altered;
but, sir, I believe that in a time of agony one finds out what are
the things one can do, and what are those one cannot. You get to
know yourself, that's all. And so it was with me. Every thought and
memory and passion was so clear and strong! I wanted to kill him. I
wanted to kill myself. But her--no! We are taught that we possess
our wives, body and soul, we are brought up in that faith, we are
commanded to believe it--but when I was face to face with it, those
words had no meaning; that belief, those commands, they were without
meaning to me, they were--vile. Oh yes, I wanted to find comfort in
them, I wanted to hold on to them--but I couldn't. You may force a
body; how can you force a soul? No, no--cowardly! But I wanted to--
I wanted to kill him and force her to come back to me! And then,
suddenly, I felt as if I were pressing right on the most secret nerve
of my heart. I seemed to see her face, white and quivering, as if
I'd stamped my heel on it. They say this world is ruled by force; it
may be true--I know I have a weak spot in me.... I couldn't bear it.
At last I Jumped to my feet and shouted out, 'Turn the boat round!'
Tor looked up at me as if I had gone mad. And I had gone mad. I
seized the boat-hook and threatened him; I called him fearful names.
'Sir,' he said, 'I don't take such names from any one!' 'You'll take
them from me,' I shouted; 'turn the boat round, you idiot, you hound,
you fish!...' I have a terrible temper, a perfect curse to me. He
seemed amazed, even frightened; he sat down again suddenly and pulled
the boat round. I fell on the seat, and hid my face. I believe the
moon came up; there must have been a mist too, for I was cold as
death. In this life, sir, we cannot hide our faces--but by degrees
the pain of wounds grows less. Some will have it that such blows are
mortal; it is not so. Time is merciful.
"In the early morning I went back to London. I had fever on me--and
was delirious. I dare say I should have killed myself if I had not
been so used to weapons--they and I were too old friends, I suppose--
I can't explain. It was a long while before I was up and about.
Dalton nursed me through it; his great heavy moustache had grown
quite white. We never mentioned her; what was the good? There were
things to settle of course, the lawyer--this was unspeakably
distasteful to me. I told him it was to be as she wished, but the
fellow would come to me, with his--there, I don't want to be unkind.
I wished him to say it was my fault, but he said--I remember his
smile now--he said, that was impossible, would be seen through,
talked of collusion--I don't understand these things, and what's
more, I can't bear them, they are--dirty.
"Two years later, when I had come back to London, after the Russo-
Turkish war, I received a letter from her. I have it here." He took
an old, yellow sheet of paper out of a leathern pockethook, spread it
in his fingers, and sat staring at it. For some minutes he did not
"In the autumn of that same year she died in childbirth. He had
deserted her. Fortunately for him, he was killed on the Indian
frontier, that very year. If she had lived she would have been
thirty-two next June; not a great age.... I know I am what they call
a crank; doctors will tell you that you can't be cured of a bad
illness, and be the same man again. If you are bent, to force
yourself straight must leave you weak in another place. I must and
will think well of women--everything done, and everything said
against them is a stone on her dead body. Could you sit, and listen
to it?" As though driven by his own question, he rose, and paced up
and down. He came back to the seat at last.
"That, sir, is the reason of my behaviour this afternoon, and again
this evening. You have been so kind, I wanted!--wanted to tell you.
She had a little daughter--Lucy has her now. My friend Dalton is
dead; there would have been no difficulty about money, but, I am
sorry to say, that he was swindled--disgracefully. It fell to me to
administer his affairs--he never knew it, but he died penniless; he
had trusted some wretched fellows--had an idea they would make his
fortune. As I very soon found, they had ruined him. It was
impossible to let Lucy--such a dear woman--bear that burden. I have
tried to make provision; but, you see," he took hold of my sleeve,
"I, too, have not been fortunate; in fact, it's difficult to save a
great deal out of L 190 a year; but the capital is perfectly safe--
and I get L 47, 10s. a quarter, paid on the nail. I have often been
tempted to reinvest at a greater rate of interest, but I've never
dared. Anyway, there are no debts--I've been obliged to make a rule
not to buy what I couldn't pay for on the spot.... Now I am really
plaguing you--but I wanted to tell you--in case-anything should
happen to me." He seemed to take a sudden scare, stiffened, twisted
his moustache, and muttering, "Your great kindness! Shall never
forget!" turned hurriedly away.
He vanished; his footsteps, and the tap of his stick grew fainter and
fainter. They died out. He was gone. Suddenly I got up and
hastened after him. I soon stopped--what was there to say?
The following day I was obliged to go to Nice, and did not return
till midnight. The porter told me that Jules le Ferrier had been to
see me. The next morning, while I was still in bed, the door was
opened, and Jules appeared. His face was very pale; and the moment
he stood still drops of perspiration began coursing down his cheeks.
"Georges!" he said, "he is dead. There, there! How stupid you look!
My man is packing. I have half an hour before the train; my evidence
shall come from Italy. I have done my part, the rest is for you.
Why did you have that dinner? The Don Quixote! The idiot! The poor
man! Don't move! Have you a cigar? Listen! When you followed him,
I followed the other two. My infernal curiosity! Can you conceive a
greater folly? How fast they walked, those two! feeling their
cheeks, as if he had struck them both, you know; it was funny. They
soon saw me, for their eyes were all round about their heads; they
had the mark of a glove on their cheeks." The colour began to come
back, into Jules's face; he gesticulated with his cigar and became
more and more dramatic. "They waited for me. 'Tiens!' said one,
'this gentleman was with him. My friend's name is M. Le Baron de---.
The man who struck him was an odd-looking person; kindly inform me
whether it is possible for my friend to meet him?' Eh!" commented
Jules, "he was offensive! Was it for me to give our dignity away?
'Perfectly, monsieur!' I answered. 'In that case,' he said, 'please
give me his name and ad dress.... I could not remember his name, and
as for the address, I never knew it...! I reflected. 'That,' I said,
'I am unable to do, for special reasons.' 'Aha!' he said, 'reasons
that will prevent our fighting him, I suppose? 'On the contrary,' I
said. 'I will convey your request to him; I may mention that I have
heard he is the best swordsman and pistol-shot in Europe. Good-
night!' I wished to give them something to dream of, you
understand.... Patience, my dear! Patience! I was, coming to you,
but I thought I would let them sleep on it--there was plenty of time!
But yesterday morning I came into the Place, and there he was on the
bench, with a big dog. I declare to you he blushed like a young
girl. 'Sir,' he said, 'I was hoping to meet you; last evening I made
a great disturbance. I took an unpardonable liberty'--and he put in
my hand an envelope. My friend, what do you suppose it contained--a
pair of gloves! Senor Don Punctilioso, hein? He was the devil, this
friend of yours; he fascinated me with his gentle eyes and his white
moustachettes, his humility, his flames--poor man...! I told him I
had been asked to take him a challenge. 'If anything comes of it,' I
said, 'make use of me!' 'Is that so?' he said. 'I am most grateful
for your kind offer. Let me see--it is so long since I fought a
duel. The sooner it's over the better. Could you arrange to-morrow
morning? Weapons? Yes; let them choose.' You see, my friend, there
was no hanging back here; nous voila en train."
Jules took out his watch. "I have sixteen minutes. It is lucky for
you that you were away yesterday, or you would be in my shoes now. I
fixed the place, right hand of the road to Roquebrune, just by the
railway cutting, and the time--five-thirty of the morning. It was
arranged that I should call for him. Disgusting hour; I have not
been up so early since I fought Jacques Tirbaut in '85. At five
o'clock I found him ready and drinking tea with rum in it--singular
man! he made me have some too, brrr! He was shaved, and dressed in
that old frock-coat. His great dog jumped into the carriage, but he
bade her get out, took her paws on his shoulders, and whispered in
her ear some Italian words; a charm, hein! and back she went, the
tail between the legs. We drove slowly, so as not to shake his arm.
He was more gay than I. All the way he talked to me of you: how kind
you were! how good you had been to him! 'You do not speak of
yourself!' I said. 'Have you no friends, nothing to say? Sometimes
an accident will happen!' 'Oh!' he answered, 'there is no danger;
but if by any chance--well, there is a letter in my pocket.' 'And if
you should kill him?' I said. 'But I shall not,' he answered slyly:
'do you think I am going to fire at him? No, no; he is too young.'
'But,' I said, 'I--'I am not going to stand that!' 'Yes,' he
replied, 'I owe him a shot; but there is no danger--not the least
danger.' We had arrived; already they were there. Ah bah! You know
the preliminaries, the politeness--this duelling, you know, it is
absurd, after all. We placed them at twenty paces. It is not a bad
place. There are pine-trees round, and rocks; at that hour it was
cool and grey as a church. I handed him the pistol. How can I
describe him to you, standing there, smoothing the barrel with his
fingers! 'What a beautiful thing a good pistol!' he said. 'Only a
fool or a madman throws away his life,' I said. 'Certainly,' he
replied, 'certainly; but there is no danger,' and he regarded me,
raising his moustachette.
"There they stood then, back to back, with the mouths of their
pistols to the sky. 'Un!' I cried, 'deux! tirez!' They turned, I
saw the smoke of his shot go straight up like a prayer; his pistol
dropped. I ran to him. He looked surprised, put out his hand, and
fell into my arms. He was dead. Those fools came running up. 'What
is it?' cried one. I made him a bow. 'As you see,' I said; 'you
have made a pretty shot. My friend fired in the air. Messieurs, you
had better breakfast in Italy.' We carried him to the carriage, and
covered him with a rug; the others drove for the frontier. I brought
him to his room. Here is his letter." Jules stopped; tears were
running down his face. "He is dead; I have closed his eyes. Look
here, you know, we are all of us cads--it is the rule; but this--
this, perhaps, was the exception." And without another word he
Outside the old fellow's lodging a dismounted cocher was standing
disconsolate in the sun. "How was I to know they were going to fight
a duel?" he burst out on seeing me. "He had white hair--I call you
to witness he had white hair. This is bad for me: they will ravish
my licence. Aha! you will see--this is bad for me!" I gave him the
slip and found my way upstairs. The old fellow was alone, lying on
the bed, his feet covered with a rug as if he might feel cold; his
eyes were closed, but in this sleep of death, he still had that air
of faint surprise. At full length, watching the bed intently, Freda
lay, as she lay nightly when he was really asleep. The shutters were
half open; the room still smelt slightly of rum. I stood for a long
time looking at the face: the little white fans of moustache brushed
upwards even in death, the hollows in his cheeks, the quiet of his
figure; he was like some old knight.... The dog broke the spell.
She sat up, and resting her paws on the bed, licked his face. I went
downstairs--I couldn't bear to hear her howl. This was his letter to
me, written in a pointed handwriting:
"MY DEAR SIR,--Should you read this, I shall be gone. I am ashamed
to trouble you--a man should surely manage so as not to give trouble;
and yet I believe you will not consider me importunate. If, then,
you will pick up the pieces of an old fellow, I ask you to have my
sword, the letter enclosed in this, and the photograph that stands on
the stove buried with me. My will and the acknowledgments of my
property are between the leaves of the Byron in my tin chest; they
should go to Lucy Tor--address thereon. Perhaps you will do me the
honour to retain for yourself any of my books that may give you
pleasure. In the Pilgrim's Progress you will find some excellent
recipes for Turkish coffee, Italian and Spanish dishes, and washing
wounds. The landlady's daughter speaks Italian, and she would, I
know, like to have Freda; the poor dog will miss me. I have read of
old Indian warriors taking their horses and dogs with them to the
happy hunting-grounds. Freda would come--noble animals are dogs! She
eats once a day--a good large meal--and requires much salt. If you
have animals of your own, sir, don't forget--all animals require
salt. I have no debts, thank God! The money in my pockets would
bury me decently--not that there is any danger. And I am ashamed to
weary you with details--the least a man can do is not to make a fuss-
-and yet he must be found ready.--Sir, with profound gratitude, your
Everything was as he had said. The photograph on the stove was that
of a young girl of nineteen or twenty, dressed in an old-fashioned
style, with hair gathered backward in a knot. The eyes gazed at you
with a little frown, the lips were tightly closed; the expression of
the face was eager, quick, wilful, and, above all, young.
The tin trunk was scented with dry fragments of some herb, the
history of which in that trunk man knoweth not.... There were a few
clothes, but very few, all older than those he usually wore. Besides
the Byron and Pilgrim's Progress were Scott's Quentin Durward,
Captain Marryat's Midshipman Easy, a pocket Testament, and a long and
frightfully stiff book on the art of fortifying towns, much thumbed,
and bearing date 1863. By far the most interesting thing I found,
however, was a diary, kept down to the preceding Christmas. It was a
pathetic document, full of calculations of the price of meals;
resolutions to be careful over this or that; doubts whether he must
not give up smoking; sentences of fear that Freda had not enough to
eat. It appeared that he had tried to live on ninety pounds a year,
and send the other hundred pounds home to Lucy for the child; in this
struggle he was always failing, having to send less than the amount-
the entries showed that this was a nightmare to him. The last words,
written on Christmas Day, were these "What is the use of writing
this, since it records nothing but failure!"
The landlady's daughter and myself were at the funeral. The same
afternoon I went into the concert-room, where I had spoken to him
first. When I came out Freda was lying at the entrance, looking into
the faces of every one that passed, and sniffing idly at their heels.
Close by the landlady's daughter hovered, a biscuit in her hand, and
a puzzled, sorry look on her face.
SALVATION OF A FORSYTE
Swithin Forsyte lay in bed. The corners of his mouth under his white
moustache drooped towards his double chin. He panted:
"My doctor says I'm in a bad way, James."
His twin-brother placed his hand behind his ear. "I can't hear you.
They tell me I ought to take a cure. There's always a cure wanted
for something. Emily had a cure."
Swithin replied: "You mumble so. I hear my man, Adolph. I trained
him.... You ought to have an ear-trumpet. You're getting very
There was silence; then James Forsyte, as if galvanised, remarked: "I
s'pose you've made your will. I s'pose you've left your money to the
family; you've nobody else to leave it to. There was Danson died the
other day, and left his money to a hospital"
The hairs of Swithin's white moustache bristled. "My fool of a
doctor told me to make my will," he said, "I hate a fellow who tells
you to make your will. My appetite's good; I ate a partridge last
night. I'm all the better for eating. He told me to leave off
champagne! I eat a good breakfast. I'm not eighty. You're the same
age, James. You look very shaky."
James Forsyte said: "You ought to have another opinion. Have Blank;
he's the first man now. I had him for Emily; cost me two hundred
guineas. He sent her to Homburg; that's the first place now. The
Prince was there--everybody goes there."
Swithin Forsyte answered: "I don't get any sleep at night, now I
can't get out; and I've bought a new carriage--gave a pot of money
for it. D' you ever have bronchitis? They tell me champagne's
dangerous; it's my belief I couldn't take a better thing."
James Forsyte rose.
"You ought to have another opinion. Emily sent her love; she would
have come in, but she had to go to Niagara. Everybody goes there;
it's the place now. Rachel goes every morning: she overdoes it--
she'll be laid up one of these days. There's a fancy ball there to-
night; the Duke gives the prizes."
Swithin Forsyte said angrily: "I can't get things properly cooked
here; at the club I get spinach decently done." The bed-clothes
jerked at the tremor of his legs.
James Forsyte replied: "You must have done well with Tintos; you must
have made a lot of money by them. Your ground-rents must be falling
in, too. You must have any amount you don't know what to do with."
He mouthed the words, as if his lips were watering.
Swithin Forsyte glared. "Money!" he said; "my doctor's bill's
James Forsyte stretched out a cold, damp hand "Goodbye! You ought to
have another opinion. I can't keep the horses waiting: they're a new
pair--stood me in three hundred. You ought to take care of yourself.
I shall speak to Blank about you. You ought to have him--everybody
says he's the first man. Good-bye!"
Swithin Forsyte continued to stare at the ceiling. He thought: 'A
poor thing, James! a selfish beggar! Must be worth a couple of
hundred thousand!' He wheezed, meditating on life....
He was ill and lonely. For many years he had been lonely, and for
two years ill; but as he had smoked his first cigar, so he would live
his life-stoutly, to its predestined end. Every day he was driven to
the club; sitting forward on the spring cushions of a single
brougham, his hands on his knees, swaying a little, strangely solemn.
He ascended the steps into that marble hall--the folds of his chin
wedged into the aperture of his collar--walking squarely with a
stick. Later he would dine, eating majestically, and savouring his
food, behind a bottle of champagne set in an ice-pail--his waistcoat
defended by a napkin, his eyes rolling a little or glued in a stare
on the waiter. Never did he suffer his head or back to droop, for it
was not distinguished so to do.
Because he was old and deaf, he spoke to no one; and no one spoke to
him. The club gossip, an Irishman, said to each newcomer: "Old
Forsyte! Look at 'um! Must ha' had something in his life to sour
'um!" But Swithin had had nothing in his life to sour him.
For many days now he had lain in bed in a room exuding silver,
crimson, and electric light, smelling of opopanax and of cigars. The
curtains were drawn, the firelight gleamed; on a table by his bed
were a jug of barley-water and the Times. He made an attempt to
read, failed, and fell again to thinking. His face with its square
chin, looked like a block of pale leather bedded in the pillow. It
was lonely! A woman in the room would have made all the difference!
Why had he never married? He breathed hard, staring froglike at the
ceiling; a memory had come into his mind. It was a long time ago--
forty odd years--but it seemed like yesterday....
It happened when he was thirty-eight, for the first and only time in
his life travelling on the Continent, with his twin-brother James and
a man named Traquair. On the way from Germany to Venice, he had
found himself at the Hotel Goldene Alp at Salzburg. It was late
August, and weather for the gods: sunshine on the walls and the
shadows of the vine-leaves, and at night, the moonlight, and again on
the walls the shadows of the vine-leaves. Averse to the suggestions
of other people, Swithin had refused to visit the Citadel; he had
spent the day alone in the window of his bedroom, smoking a
succession of cigars, and disparaging the appearance of the passers-
by. After dinner he was driven by boredom into the streets. His
chest puffed out like a pigeon's, and with something of a pigeon's
cold and inquiring eye, he strutted, annoyed at the frequency of
uniforms, which seemed to him both needless and offensive. His
spleen rose at this crowd of foreigners, who spoke an unintelligible
language, wore hair on their faces, and smoked bad tobacco. 'A queer
lot!' he thought. The sound of music from a cafe attracted him; he
walked in, vaguely moved by a wish for the distinction of adventure,
without the trouble which adventure usually brought with it; spurred
too, perhaps, by an after-dinner demon. The cafe was the bier-halle
of the 'Fifties, with a door at either end, and lighted by a large
wooden lantern. On a small dais three musicians were fiddling.
Solitary men, or groups, sat at some dozen tables, and the waiters
hurried about replenishing glasses; the air was thick with smoke.
Swithin sat down. "Wine!" he said sternly. The astonished waiter
brought him wine. Swithin pointed to a beer glass on the table.
"Here!" he said, with the same ferocity. The waiter poured out the
wine. 'Ah!' thought Swithin, 'they can understand if they like.' A
group of officers close by were laughing; Swithin stared at them
uneasily. A hollow cough sounded almost in his ear. To his left a
man sat reading, with his elbows on the corners of a journal, and his
gaunt shoulders raised almost to his eyes. He had a thin, long nose,
broadening suddenly at the nostrils; a black-brown beard, spread in a
savage fan over his chest; what was visible of the face was the
colour of old parchment. A strange, wild, haughty-looking creature!
Swithin observed his clothes with some displeasure--they were the
clothes of a journalist or strolling actor. And yet he was
impressed. This was singular. How could he be impressed by a fellow
in such clothes! The man reached out a hand, covered with black
hairs, and took up a tumbler that contained a dark-coloured fluid.
'Brandy!' thought Swithin. The crash of a falling chair startled
him--his neighbour had risen. He was of immense height, and very
thin; his great beard seemed to splash away from his mouth; he was
glaring at the group of officers, and speaking. Swithin made out two
words: "Hunde! Deutsche Hunde!" 'Hounds! Dutch hounds!' he thought:
'Rather strong!' One of the officers had jumped up, and now drew his
sword. The tall man swung his chair up, and brought it down with a
thud. Everybody round started up and closed on him. The tall man
cried out, "To me, Magyars!"
Swithin grinned. The tall man fighting such odds excited his
unwilling admiration; he had a momentary impulse to go to his
assistance. 'Only get a broken nose!' he thought, and looked for a
safe corner. But at that moment a thrown lemon struck him on the
jaw. He jumped out of his chair and rushed at the officers. The
Hungarian, swinging his chair, threw him a look of gratitude--Swithin
glowed with momentary admiration of himself. A sword blade grazed
his--arm; he felt a sudden dislike of the Hungarian. 'This is too
much,' he thought, and, catching up a chair, flung it at the wooden
lantern. There was a crash--faces and swords vanished. He struck a
match, and by the light of it bolted for the door. A second later he
was in the street.
A voice said in English, "God bless you, brother!"
Swithin looked round, and saw the tall Hungarian holding out his
hand. He took it, thinking, 'What a fool I've been!' There was
something in the Hungarian's gesture which said, "You are worthy of
It was annoying, but rather impressive. The man seemed even taller
than before; there was a cut on his cheek, the blood from which was
trickling down his beard. "You English!" he said. "I saw you stone
Haynau--I saw you cheer Kossuth. The free blood of your people cries
out to us." He looked at Swithin. "You are a big man, you have a
big soul--and strong, how you flung them down! Ha!" Swithin had an
impulse to take to his heels. "My name," said the Hungarian, "is
Boleskey. You are my friend." His English was good.
'Bulsh-kai-ee, Burlsh-kai-ee,' thought Swithin; 'what a devil of a
name!' "Mine," he said sulkily, "is Forsyte."
The Hungarian repeated it.
"You've had a nasty jab on the cheek," said Swithin; the sight of the
matted beard was making him feel sick. The Hungarian put his fingers
to his cheek, brought them away wet, stared at them, then with an
indifferent air gathered a wisp of his beard and crammed it against
"Ugh!" said Swithin. "Here! Take my handkerchief!"
The Hungarian bowed. "Thank you!" he said; "I couldn't think of it!
Thank you a thousand times!"
"Take it!" growled Swithin; it seemed to him suddenly of the first
importance. He thrust the handkerchief into the Hungarian's hand,
and felt a pain in his arm. 'There!' he thought, 'I've strained a
The Hungarian kept muttering, regardless of passers-by, "Swine! How
you threw them over! Two or three cracked heads, anyway--the
"Look here!" said Swithin suddenly; "which is my way to the Goldene
The Hungarian replied, "But you are coming with me, for a glass of
Swithin looked at the ground. 'Not if I know it!' he thought.
"Ah!" said the Hungarian with dignity, "you do not wish for my
'Touchy beggar!' thought Swithin. "Of course," he stammered, "if you
put it in that way--"
The Hungarian bowed, murmuring, "Forgive me!"
They had not gone a dozen steps before a youth, with a beardless face
and hollow cheeks, accosted them. "For the love of Christ,
gentlemen," he said, "help me!"
"Are you a German?" asked Boleskey.
"Yes," said the youth.
"Then you may rot!"
"Master, look here!" Tearing open his coat, the youth displayed his
skin, and a leather belt drawn tight round it. Again Swithin felt
that desire to take to his heels. He was filled with horrid
forebodings--a sense of perpending intimacy with things such as no
gentleman had dealings with.
The Hungarian crossed himself. "Brother," he said to the youth,
"come you in!"
Swithin looked at them askance, and followed. By a dim light they
groped their way up some stairs into a large room, into which the
moon was shining through a window bulging over the street. A lamp
burned low; there was a smell of spirits and tobacco, with a faint,
peculiar scent, as of rose leaves. In one corner stood a czymbal, in
another a great pile of newspapers. On the wall hung some old-
fashioned pistols, and a rosary of yellow beads. Everything was
tidily arranged, but dusty. Near an open fireplace was a table with
the remains of a meal. The ceiling, floor, and walls were all of
dark wood. In spite of the strange disharmony, the room had a sort
of refinement. The Hungarian took a bottle out of a cupboard and,
filling some glasses, handed one to Swithin. Swithin put it gingerly
to his nose. 'You never know your luck! Come!' he thought, tilting
it slowly into his mouth. It was thick, too sweet, but of a fine
"Brothers!" said the Hungarian, refilling, "your healths!"
The youth tossed off his wine. And Swithin this time did the same;
he pitied this poor devil of a youth now. "Come round to-morrow!" he
said, "I'll give you a shirt or two." When the youth was gone,
however, he remembered with relief that he had not given his address.
'Better so,' he reflected. 'A humbug, no doubt.'
"What was that you said to him?" he asked of the Hungarian.
"I said," answered Boleskey, "'You have eaten and drunk; and now you
are my enemy!'"
"Quite right!" said Swithin, "quite right! A beggar is every man's
"You do not understand," the Hungarian replied politely. "While he
was a beggar--I, too, have had to beg" (Swithin thought, 'Good God!
this is awful!'), "but now that he is no longer hungry, what is he
but a German? No Austrian dog soils my floors!"
His nostrils, as it seemed to Swithin, had distended in an unpleasant
fashion; and a wholly unnecessary raucousness invaded his voice. "I
am an exile--all of my blood are exiles. Those Godless dogs!"
Swithin hurriedly assented.
As he spoke, a face peeped in at the door.
"Rozsi!" said the Hungarian. A young girl came in. She was rather
short, with a deliciously round figure and a thick plait of hair.
She smiled, and showed her even teeth; her little, bright, wide-set
grey eyes glanced from one man to the other. Her face was round,
too, high in the cheekbones, the colour of wild roses, with brows
that had a twist-up at the corners. With a gesture of alarm, she put
her hand to her cheek, and called, "Margit!" An older girl appeared,
taller, with fine shoulders, large eyes, a pretty mouth, and what
Swithin described to himself afterwards as a "pudding" nose. Both
girls, with little cooing sounds, began attending to their father's
Swithin turned his back to them. His arm pained him.
'This is what comes of interfering,' he thought sulkily; 'I might
have had my neck broken!' Suddenly a soft palm was placed in his, two
eyes, half-fascinated, half-shy, looked at him; then a voice called,
"Rozsi!" the door was slammed, he was alone again with the Hungarian,
harassed by a sense of soft disturbance.
"Your daughter's name is Rosy?" he said; "we have it in England--from
rose, a flower."
"Rozsi (Rozgi)," the Hungarian replied; "your English is a hard
tongue, harder than French, German, or Czechish, harder than Russian,
or Roumanian--I know no more."
"What?" said Swithin, "six languages?" Privately he thought, 'He
knows how to lie, anyway.'
"If you lived in a country like mine," muttered the Hungarian, "with
all men's hands against you! A free people--dying--but not dead!"
Swithin could not imagine what he was talking of. This man's face,
with its linen bandage, gloomy eyes, and great black wisps of beard,
his fierce mutterings, and hollow cough, were all most unpleasant.
He seemed to be suffering from some kind of mental dog-bite. His
emotion indeed appeared so indecent, so uncontrolled and open, that
its obvious sincerity produced a sort of awe in Swithin. It was like
being forced to look into a furnace. Boleskey stopped roaming up and
down. "You think it's over?" he said; "I tell you, in the breast of
each one of us Magyars there is a hell. What is sweeter than life?
What is more sacred than each breath we draw? Ah! my country!"
These words were uttered so slowly, with such intense mournfulness,
that Swithin's jaw relaxed; he converted the movement to a yawn.
"Tell me," said Boleskey, "what would you do if the French conquered
Swithin smiled. Then suddenly, as though something had hurt him, he
grunted, "The 'Froggies'? Let 'em try!"
"Drink!" said Boleskey--"there is nothing like it"; he filled
Swithin's glass. "I will tell you my story."
Swithin rose hurriedly. "It's late," he said. "This is good stuff,
though; have you much of it?"
"It is the last bottle."
"What?" said Swithin; "and you gave it to a beggar?"
"My name is Boleskey--Stefan," the Hungarian said, raising his head;
"of the Komorn Boleskeys." The simplicity of this phrase--as who
shall say: What need of further description?--made an impression on
Swithin; he stopped to listen. Boleskey's story went on and on.
"There were many abuses," boomed his deep voice, "much wrong done--
much cowardice. I could see clouds gathering--rolling over our
plains. The Austrian wished to strangle the breath of our mouths--to
take from us the shadow of our liberty--the shadow--all we had. Two
years ago--the year of '48, when every man and boy answered the great
voice--brother, a dog's life!--to use a pen when all of your blood
are fighting, but it was decreed for me! My son was killed; my
brothers taken--and myself was thrown out like a dog--I had written
out my heart, I had written out all the blood that was in my body!"
He seemed to tower, a gaunt shadow of a man, with gloomy, flickering
eyes staring at the wall.
Swithin rose, and stammered, "Much obliged--very interesting."
Boleskey made no effort to detain him, but continued staring at the
wall. "Good-night!" said Swithin, and stamped heavily downstairs.
When at last Swithin reached the Goldene Alp, he found his brother
and friend standing uneasily at the door. Traquair, a prematurely
dried-up man, with whiskers and a Scotch accent, remarked, "Ye're
airly, man!" Swithin growled something unintelligible, and swung up
to bed. He discovered a slight cut on his arm. He was in a savage
temper--the elements had conspired to show him things he did not want
to see; yet now and then a memory of Rozsi, of her soft palm in his,
a sense of having been stroked and flattered, came over him. During
breakfast next morning his brother and Traquair announced their
intention of moving on. James Forsyte, indeed, remarked that it was
no place for a "collector," since all the "old" shops were in the
hands of Jews or very grasping persons--he had discovered this at
once. Swithin pushed his cup aside. "You may do what you like," he
said, "I'm staying here."
James Forsyte replied, tumbling over his own words: "Why! what do you
want to stay here for? There's nothing for you to do here--there's
nothing to see here, unless you go up the Citadel, an' you won't do
Swithin growled, "Who says so?" Having gratified his perversity, he
felt in a better temper. He had slung his arm in a silk sash, and
accounted for it by saying he had slipped. Later he went out and
walked on to the bridge. In the brilliant sunshine spires were
glistening against the pearly background of the hills; the town had a
clean, joyous air. Swithin glanced at the Citadel and thought,
'Looks a strong place! Shouldn't wonder if it were impregnable!' And
this for some occult reason gave him pleasure. It occurred to him
suddenly to go and look for the Hungarian's house.
About noon, after a hunt of two hours, he was gazing about him
blankly, pale with heat, but more obstinate than ever, when a voice
above him called, "Mister!" He looked up and saw Rozsi. She was
leaning her round chin on her round hand, gazing down at him with her
deepset, clever eyes. When Swithin removed his hat, she clapped her
hands. Again he had the sense of being admired, caressed. With a
careless air, that sat grotesquely on his tall square person, he
walked up to the door; both girls stood in the passage. Swithin felt
a confused desire to speak in some foreign tongue. "Maam'selles," he
began, "er--bong jour-er, your father--pare, comment?"
"We also speak English," said the elder girl; "will you come in,
Swithin swallowed a misgiving, and entered. The room had a worn
appearance by daylight, as if it had always been the nest of tragic
or vivid lives. He sat down, and his eyes said: "I am a stranger,
but don't try to get the better of me, please--that is impossible."
The girls looked at him in silence. Rozsi wore a rather short skirt
of black stuff, a white shirt, and across her shoulders an
embroidered yoke; her sister was dressed in dark green, with a coral
necklace; both girls had their hair in plaits. After a minute Rozsi
touched the sleeve of his hurt arm.
"It's nothing!" muttered Swithin.
"Father fought with a chair, but you had no chair," she said in a
He doubled the fist of his sound arm and struck a blow at space. To
his amazement she began to laugh. Nettled at this, he put his hand
beneath the heavy table and lifted it. Rozsi clapped her hands. "Ah
I now I see--how strong you are!" She made him a curtsey and whisked
round to the window. He found the quick intelligence of her eyes
confusing; sometimes they seemed to look beyond him at something
invisible--this, too, confused him. From Margit he learned that they
had been two years in England, where their father had made his living
by teaching languages; they had now been a year in Salzburg.
"We wait," suddenly said. Rozsi; and Margit, with a solemn face,
repeated, "We wait."
Swithin's eyes swelled a little with his desire to see what they were
waiting for. How queer they were, with their eyes that gazed beyond
him! He looked at their figures. 'She would pay for dressing,' he
thought, and he tried to imagine Rozsi in a skirt with proper
flounces, a thin waist, and hair drawn back over her ears. She would
pay for dressing, with that supple figure, fluffy hair, and little
hands! And instantly his own hands, face, and clothes disturbed him.
He got up, examined the pistols on the wall, and felt resentment at
the faded, dusty room. 'Smells like a pot-house!' he thought. He
sat down again close to Rozsi.
"Do you love to dance?" she asked; "to dance is to live. First you
hear the music--how your feet itch! It is wonderful! You begin
slow, quick--quicker; you fly--you know nothing--your feet are in the
air. It is wonderful!"
A slow flush had mounted into Swithin's face.
"Ah!" continued Rozsi, her eyes fixed on him, "when I am dancing--out
there I see the plains--your feet go one--two--three--quick, quick,
quick, quicker--you fly."
She stretched herself, a shiver seemed to pass all down her.
"Margit! dance!" and, to Swithin's consternation, the two girls--
their hands on each other's shoulders--began shuffling their feet and
swaying to and fro. Their heads were thrown back, their eyes half-
closed; suddenly the step quickened, they swung to one side, then to
the other, and began whirling round in front of him. The sudden
fragrance of rose leaves enveloped him. Round they flew again.
While they were still dancing, Boleskey came into the room. He
caught Swithin by both hands.
"Brother, welcome! Ah! your arm is hurt! I do not forget." His
yellow face and deep-set eyes expressed a dignified gratitude. "Let
me introduce to you my friend Baron Kasteliz."
Swithin bowed to a man with a small forehead, who had appeared
softly, and stood with his gloved hands touching his waist. Swithin
conceived a sudden aversion for this catlike man. About Boleskey
there was that which made contempt impossible--the sense of
comradeship begotten in the fight; the man's height; something lofty
and savage in his face; and an obscure instinct that it would not pay
to show distaste; but this Kasteliz, with his neat jaw, low brow, and
velvety, volcanic look, excited his proper English animosity. "Your
friends are mine," murmured Kasteliz. He spoke with suavity, and
hissed his s's. A long, vibrating twang quavered through the room.
Swithin turned and saw Rozsi sitting at the czymbal; the notes rang
under the little hammers in her hands, incessant, metallic, rising
and falling with that strange melody. Kasteliz had fixed his glowing
eyes on her; Boleskey, nodding his head, was staring at the floor;
Margit, with a pale face, stood like a statue.
'What can they see in it?' thought Swithin; 'it's not a tune.' He
took up his hat. Rozsi saw him and stopped; her lips had parted with
a faintly dismayed expression. His sense of personal injury
diminished; he even felt a little sorry for her. She jumped up from
her seat and twirled round with a pout. An inspiration seized on
Swithin. "Come and dine with me," he said to Boleskey, "to-morrow--
the Goldene Alp--bring your friend." He felt the eyes of the whole
room on him--the Hungarian's fine eyes; Margit's wide glance; the
narrow, hot gaze of Kasteliz; and lastly--Rozsi's. A glow of
satisfaction ran down his spine. When he emerged into the street
he thought gloomily, 'Now I've done it!' And not for some paces did
he look round; then, with a forced smile, turned and removed his hat
to the faces at the window.
Notwithstanding this moment of gloom, however, he was in an exalted
state all day, and at dinner kept looking at his brother and Traquair
enigmatically. 'What do they know of life?' he thought; 'they might
be here a year and get no farther.' He made jokes, and pinned the
menu to the waiter's coat-tails. "I like this place," he said, "I
shall spend three weeks here." James, whose lips were on the point
of taking in a plum, looked at him uneasily.
On the day of the dinner Swithin suffered a good deal. He reflected
gloomily on Boleskey's clothes. He had fixed an early hour--there
would be fewer people to see them. When the time approached he
attired himself with a certain neat splendour, and though his arm was
still sore, left off the sling....
Nearly three hours afterwards he left the Goldene Alp between his
guests. It was sunset, and along the riverbank the houses stood out,
unsoftened by the dusk; the streets were full of people hurrying
home. Swithin had a hazy vision of empty bottles, of the ground
before his feet, and the accessibility of all the world. Dim
recollections of the good things he had said, of his brother and
Traquair seated in the background eating ordinary meals with
inquiring, acid visages, caused perpetual smiles to break out on his
face, and he steered himself stubbornly, to prove that he was a
better man than either' of his guests. He knew, vaguely, that he was
going somewhere with an object; Rozsi's face kept dancing before him,
like a promise. Once or twice he gave Kasteliz a glassy stare.
Towards Boleskey, on the other hand, he felt quite warm, and recalled
with admiration the way he had set his glass down empty, time after
time. 'I like to see him take his liquor,' he thought; 'the fellow's
a gentleman, after all.' Boleskey strode on, savagely inattentive to
everything; and Kasteliz had become more like a cat than ever. It
was nearly dark when they reached a narrow street close to the
cathedral. They stopped at a door held open by an old woman. The
change from the fresh air to a heated corridor, the noise of the door
closed behind him, the old woman's anxious glances, sobered Swithin.
"I tell her," said Boleskey, "that I reply for you as for my son."
Swithin was angry. What business had this man to reply for him!
They passed into a large room, crowded with men all women; Swithin
noticed that they all looked fit him. He stared at them in turn--
they seemed of all classes, some in black coats or silk dresses,
others in the clothes of work-people; one man, a cobbler, still wore
his leather apron, as if he had rushed there straight from his work.
Laying his hand on Swithin's arm, Boleskey evidently began explaining
who he was; hands were extended, people beyond reach bowed to him.
Swithin acknowledged the greetings with a stiff motion of his head;
then seeing other people dropping into seats, he, too, sat down.
Some one whispered his name--Margit and Rozsi were just behind him.
"Welcome!" said Margit; but Swithin was looking at Rozsi. Her face
was so alive and quivering! 'What's the excitement all about?' he
thought. 'How pretty she looks!' She blushed, drew in her hands
with a quick tense movement, and gazed again beyond him into the
room. 'What is it?' thought Swithin; he had a longing to lean back
and kiss her lips. He tried angrily to see what she was seeing in
those faces turned all one way.
Boleskey rose to speak. No one moved; not a sound could be heard but
the tone of his deep voice. On and on he went, fierce and solemn,
and with the rise of his voice, all those faces-fair or swarthy--
seemed to be glowing with one and the same feeling. Swithin felt the
white heat in those faces--it was not decent! In that whole speech
he only understood the one word--"Magyar" which came again and again.
He almost dozed off at last. The twang of a czymbal woke him.
'What?' he thought, 'more of that infernal music!' Margit, leaning
over him, whispered: "Listen! Racoczy! It is forbidden!" Swithin saw
that Rozsi was no longer in her seat; it was she who was striking
those forbidden notes. He looked round--everywhere the same unmoving
faces, the same entrancement, and fierce stillness. The music
sounded muffled, as if it, too, were bursting its heart in silence.
Swithin felt within him a touch of panic. Was this a den of tigers?
The way these people listened, the ferocity of their stillness, was
frightful...! He gripped his chair and broke into a perspiration;
was there no chance to get away? 'When it stops,' he thought,
'there'll be a rush!' But there was only a greater silence. It
flashed across him that any hostile person coming in then would be
torn to pieces. A woman sobbed. The whole thing was beyond words
unpleasant. He rose, and edged his way furtively towards the
doorway. There was a cry of "Police!" The whole crowd came pressing
after him. Swithin would soon have been out, but a little behind he
caught sight of Rozsi swept off her feet. Her frightened eyes
angered him. 'She doesn't deserve it,' he thought sulkily; 'letting
all this loose!' and forced his way back to her. She clung to him,
and a fever went stealing through his veins; he butted forward at the
crowd, holding her tight. When they were outside he let her go.
"I was afraid," she said.
"Afraid!" muttered Swithin; "I should think so." No longer touching
her, he felt his grievance revive.
"But you are so strong," she murmured.
"This is no place for you," growled Swithin, "I'm going to see you
"Oh!" cried Rozsi; "but papa and--Margit!"
"That's their look-out!" and he hurried her away.
She slid her hand under his arm; the soft curves of her form brushed
him gently, each touch only augmented his ill-humour. He burned with
a perverse rage, as if all the passions in him were simmering and
ready to boil over; it was as if a poison were trying to work its way
out of him, through the layers of his stolid flesh. He maintained a
dogged silence; Rozsi, too, said nothing, but when they reached the
door, she drew her hand away.
"You are angry!" she said.
"Angry," muttered Swithin; "no! How d'you make that out?" He had a
torturing desire to kiss her.
"Yes, you are angry," she repeated; "I wait here for papa and
Swithin also waited, wedged against the wall. Once or twice, for his
sight was sharp, he saw her steal a look at him, a beseeching look,
and hardened his heart with a kind of pleasure. After five minutes
Boleskey, Margit, and Kasteliz appeared. Seeing Rozsi they broke
into exclamations of relief, and Kasteliz, with a glance at Swithin,
put his lips to her hand. Rozsi's look said, "Wouldn't you like to
do that?" Swithin turned short on his heel, and walked away.
All night he hardly slept, suffering from fever, for the first time
in his life. Once he jumped out of bed, lighted a candle, and going
to the glass, scrutinised himself long and anxiously. After this he
fell asleep, but had frightful dreams. His first thought when he
woke was, 'My liver's out of order!' and, thrusting his head into
cold water, he dressed hastily and went out. He soon left the house
behind. Dew covered everything; blackbirds whistled in the bushes;
the air was fresh and sweet. He had not been up so early since he
was a boy. Why was he walking through a damp wood at this hour of
the morning? Something intolerable and unfamiliar must have sent him
out. No fellow in his senses would do such a thing! He came to a
dead stop, and began unsteadily to walk back. Regaining the hotel,
he went to bed again, and dreamed that in some wild country he was
living in a room full of insects, where a housemaid--Rozsi--holding a
broom, looked at him with mournful eyes. There seemed an unexplained
need for immediate departure; he begged her to forward his things;
and shake them out carefully before she put them into the trunk. He
understood that the charge for sending would be twenty-two shillings,
thought it a great deal, and had the horrors of indecision. "No," he
muttered, "pack, and take them myself." The housemaid turned
suddenly into a lean creature; and he awoke with a sore feeling in
His eye fell on his wet boots. The whole thing was scaring, and
jumping up, he began to throw his clothes into his trunks. It was
twelve o'clock before he went down, and found his brother and
Traquair still at the table arranging an itinerary; he surprised them
by saying that he too was coming; and without further explanation set
to work to eat. James had heard that there were salt-mines in the
neighbourhood--his proposal was to start, and halt an hour or so on
the road for their inspection; he said: "Everybody'll ask you if
you've seen the salt-mines: I shouldn't like to say I hadn't seen the
salt-mines. What's the good, they'd say, of your going there if you
haven't seen the salt-mines?" He wondered, too, if they need fee the
second waiter--an idle chap!
A discussion followed; but Swithin ate on glumly, conscious that his
mind was set on larger affairs. Suddenly on the far side of the
street Rozsi and her sister passed, with little baskets on their
arms. He started up, and at that moment Rozsi looked round--her face
was the incarnation of enticement, the chin tilted, the lower lip
thrust a little forward, her round neck curving back over her
shoulder. Swithin muttered, "Make your own arrangements--leave me
out!" and hurried from the room, leaving James beside himself with
interest and alarm.
When he reached the street, however, the girls had disappeared. He
hailed a carriage. "Drive!" he called to the man, with a flourish of
his stick, and as soon as the wheels had begun to clatter on the
stones he leaned back, looking sharply to right and left. He soon
had to give up thought of finding them, but made the coachman turn
round and round again. All day he drove about, far into the country,
and kept urging the driver to use greater speed. He was in a strange
state of hurry and elation. Finally, he dined at a little country
inn; and this gave the measure of his disturbance--the dinner was
Returning late in the evening he found a note written by Traquair.
"Are you in your senses, man?" it asked; "we have no more time to
waste idling about here. If you want to rejoin us, come on to
Danielli's Hotel, Venice." Swithin chuckled when he read it, and
feeling frightfully tired, went to bed and slept like a log.
Three weeks later he was still in Salzburg, no longer at the Goldene
Alp, but in rooms over a shop near the Boleskeys'. He had spent a
small fortune in the purchase of flowers. Margit would croon over
them, but Rozsi, with a sober "Many tanks!" as if they were her
right, would look long at herself in the glass, and pin one into her
hair. Swithin ceased to wonder; he ceased to wonder at anything they
did. One evening he found Boleskey deep in conversation with a pale,
"Our friend Mr. Forsyte--Count D....," said Boleskey.
Swithin experienced a faint, unavoidable emotion; but looking at the
Count's trousers, he thought: 'Doesn't look much like one!' And with
an ironic bow to the silent girls, he turned, and took his hat. But
when he had reached the bottom of the dark stairs he heard footsteps.
Rozsi came running down, looked out at the door, and put her hands up
to her breast as if disappointed; suddenly with a quick glance round
she saw him. Swithin caught her arm. She slipped away, and her face
seemed to bubble with defiance or laughter; she ran up three steps,
stopped, looked at him across her shoulder, and fled on up the
stairs. Swithin went out bewildered and annoyed.
'What was she going to say to me?' he kept thinking. During these
three weeks he had asked himself all sorts of questions: whether he
were being made a fool of; whether she were in love with him; what he
was doing there, and sometimes at night, with all his candles burning
as if he wanted light, the breeze blowing on him through the window,
his cigar, half-smoked, in his hand, he sat, an hour or more, staring
at the wall. 'Enough of this!' he thought every morning. Twice he
packed fully--once he ordered his travelling carriage, but
countermanded it the following day. What definitely he hoped,
intended, resolved, he could not have said. He was always thinking
of Rozsi, he could not read the riddle in her face--she held him in a
vice, notwithstanding that everything about her threatened the very
fetishes of his existence. And Boleskey! Whenever he looked at him
he thought, 'If he were only clean?' and mechanically fingered his
own well-tied cravatte. To talk with the fellow, too, was like being
forced to look at things which had no place in the light of day.
Freedom, equality, self-sacrifice!
'Why can't he settle down at some business,' he thought, 'instead of
all this talk?' Boleskey's sudden diffidences, self-depreciation,
fits of despair, irritated him. "Morbid beggar!" he would mutter;
"thank God I haven't a thin skin." And proud too! Extraordinary!
An impecunious fellow like that! One evening, moreover, Boleskey had
returned home drunk. Swithin had hustled him away into his bedroom,
helped him to undress, and stayed until he was asleep. 'Too much of
a good thing!' he thought, 'before his own daughters, too!' It was
after this that he ordered his travelling carriage. The other
occasion on which he packed was one evening, when not only Boleskey,
but Rozsi herself had picked chicken bones with her fingers.
Often in the mornings he would go to the Mirabell Garden to smoke his
cigar; there, in stolid contemplation of the statues--rows of half-
heroic men carrying off half-distressful females--he would spend an
hour pleasantly, his hat tilted to keep the sun off his nose. The
day after Rozsi had fled from him on the stairs, he came there as
usual. It was a morning of blue sky and sunlight glowing on the old
prim garden, on its yew-trees, and serio-comic statues, and walls
covered with apricots and plums. When Swithin approached his usual
seat, who should be sitting there but Rozsi
"Good-morning," he stammered; "you knew this was my seat then?"
Rozsi looked at the ground. "Yes," she answered.
Swithin felt bewildered. "Do you know," he said, "you treat me very
To his surprise Rozsi put her little soft hand down and touched his;
then, without a word, sprang up and rushed away. It took him a
minute to recover. There were people present; he did not like to
run, but overtook her on the bridge, and slipped her hand beneath his
"You shouldn't have done that," he said; "you shouldn't have run away
from me, you know."
Rozsi laughed. Swithin withdrew his arm; a desire to shake her
seized him. He walked some way before he said, "Will you have the
goodness to tell me what you came to that seat for?"
Rozsi flashed a look at him. "To-morrow is the fete," she answered.
Swithin muttered, "Is that all?"
"If you do not take us, we cannot go."
"Suppose I refuse," he said sullenly, "there are plenty of others."
Rozsi bent her head, scurrying along. "No," she murmured, "if you do
not go--I do not wish."