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Jean Christophe: In Paris by Romain Rolland

Part 3 out of 9

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at her tricks: then he went away, having made up his mind to break with
her. He was sick and sorry at heart. It was so stupid to grow so fond,
always to be falling into the trap!

When he reached home he toyed with his books, and idly opened his Bible and

"... _The Lord saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty and walk
with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go,
and making a tinkling with their feet,

"Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the
daughters of Zion, and the Lord will discover their secret parts_ ..."

He burst out laughing as he thought of Colette's little tricks: and he went
to bed well pleased with himself. Then he thought that he too must have
become tainted with the corruption of Paris for the Bible to have become a
humorous work to him. But he did not stop saying over and over again the
judgment of the great judiciary humorist: and he tried to imagine its
effect on the head of his young friend. He went to sleep laughing like a
child. He had lost all thought of his new sorrow. One more or less.... He
was getting used to it.

* * * * *

He did not give up Colette's music-lessons: but he refused to take the
opportunities she gave him of continuing their intimate conversations. It
was no use her being sorry about it or offended, and trying all sorts of
tricks: he stuck to his guns: they were rude to each other: of her own
accord she took to finding excuses for missing the lessons: and he also
made excuses for declining the Stevens' invitations.

He had had enough of Parisian society: he could not bear the emptiness
of it, the idleness, the moral impotence, the neurasthenia, its aimless,
pointless, self-devouring hypercriticism. He wondered how people could
live in such a stagnant atmosphere of art for art's sake and pleasure for
pleasure's sake. And yet the French did live in it: they had beep, a great
nation, and they still cut something of a figure in the world: at least,
they seemed to do so to the outside spectator. But where were the springs
of their life? They believed in nothing, nothing but pleasure....

Just as Christophe reached this point in his reflections, he ran into a
crowd of young men and women, all shouting at the tops of their voices,
dragging a carriage in which was sitting an old priest casting blessings
right and left. A little farther on he found some French soldiers battering
down the doors of a church with axes, and there were men attacking them
with chairs. He saw that the French did still believe in something--though
he could not understand in what. He was told that the State and the Church
were separated after a century of living together, and that as the Church
had refused to go with a good grace, standing on its rights and its power,
it was being evicted. To Christophe the proceeding seemed ungallant; but
he was so sick of the anarchical dilettantism of the Parisian artists that
he was delighted to find men ready to have their heads broken for a cause,
however foolish it might be.

It was not long before he discovered that there were many such people in
France. The political journals plunged into the fight like the Homeric
heroes: they published daily calls to civil war. It is true that it got
no farther than words, and that they very rarely came to blows. But there
was no lack of simple souls to put into action what the others declared in
words. Strange things happened: departments threatened to break away from
France, regiments deserted, prefectures were burned, tax-collectors were on
horseback at the head of a company of gendarmes, peasants were armed with
scythes, and put their kettles on to boil to defend the churches, which the
Free Thinkers were demolishing in the name of liberty: there were popular
redeemers who climbed trees to address the provinces of Wine, that had
risen against the provinces of Alcohol. Everywhere there were millions of
men shaking hands, all red in the face from shouting, and in the end all
going for each other. The Republic flattered the people: and then turned
arms against them. The people on their side broke the heads of a few of
their own young men--officers and soldiers.--And so every one proved to
everybody else the excellence of his cause and his fists. Looked at from
a distance, through the newspapers, it was as though the country had
gone back a few centuries, Christophe discovered that France--skeptical
France--was a nation of fanatics. But it was impossible for him to find out
the meaning of their fanaticism. For or against religion? For or against
Reason? For or against the country?--They were for and against everything.
They were fanatics for the pleasure of it.

* * * * *

He spoke about it one evening to a Socialist deputy whom he met sometimes
at the Stevens'. Although he had spoken to him before, he had no idea what
sort of man he was: till then they had only talked about music. Christophe
was very surprised to learn that this man of the world was the leader of a
violent party.

Achille Roussin was a handsome man, with a fair beard, a burring way of
talking, a florid complexion, affable manners, a certain polish on his
fundamental vulgarity, certain peasant tricks which from time to time he
used in spite of himself:--a way of paring his nails in public, a vulgar
habit of catching hold of the coat of the man he was talking to, or
gripping him by the arm:--he was a great eater, a heavy drinker, a high
liver with a gift of laughter, and the appetite of a man of the people
pushing his way into power: he was adaptable, quick to alter his manners to
sort with his surroundings and the person he was talking to, full of ideas,
and reasonable in expounding them, able to listen, and to assimilate at
once everything he heard: for the rest he was sympathetic, intelligent,
interested in everything, naturally, or as a matter of acquired habit, or
merely out of vanity: he was honest so far as was compatible with his
interests, or when it was dangerous not to be so.

He had quite a pretty wife, tall, well made, and well set tip, with a
charming figure which was a little too much shown off by her tight dresses,
which accentuated and exaggerated the rounded curves of her anatomy: her
face was framed in curly black hair: she had big black eyes, a long,
pointed chin: her face was big, but quite charming in its general effect,
though it was spoiled by the twitch of her short-sighted eyes, and her
silly little pursed-up mouth. She had an affected precise manner, like
a bird, and a simpering way of talking: but she was kindly and amiable.
She came of a rich shopkeeping family, broad-minded and virtuous, and she
was devoted to the countless duties of society, as to a religion, not to
mention the duties, social and artistic, which she imposed on herself:
she had her _salon_, dabbled in University Extension movements, and was
busy with philanthropic undertakings and researches into the psychology
of childhood,--all without any enthusiasm or profound interest,--from a
mixture of natural kindness, snobbishness, and the harmless pedantry of a
young woman of education, who always seems to be repeating a lesson, and
taking a pride in showing that she has learned it well. She needed to be
busy, but she did not need to be interested in what she was doing. It
was like the feverish industry of those women who always have a piece of
knitting in their hands, and never stop clicking their needles, as though
the salvation of the world depended on their work, which they themselves
do not know what to do with. And then there was in her--as in women who
knit--the vanity of the good woman who sets an example to other women.

The Deputy had an affectionate contempt for her. He had chosen well both as
regards his pleasure and his peace of mind. He enjoyed her beauty and asked
no more of her: and she asked no more of him. He loved her and deceived
her. She put up with that, provided she had her share of his attention.
Perhaps also it gave her a sort of pleasure. She was placid and sensual.
She had the attitude of mind of a woman of the harem.

They had two fine children of four and five years old, whom she looked
after, like a good mother, with the same amiable, cold attentiveness with
which she followed her husband's political career, and the latest fashions
in dress and art. And it produced in her the most odd mixture of advanced
ideas, ultra-decadent art, polite restlessness, and bourgeois sentiment.

They invited Christophe to go and see them. Madame Roussin was a good
musician, and played the piano charmingly: she had a delicate, firm touch:
with her little head bowed over the keyboard, and her hands poised above
it and darting down, she was like a pecking hen. She was talented and knew
more about music than most Frenchwomen, but she was as insensible as a fish
to the deeper meaning of music: to her it was only a succession of notes,
rhythms, and degrees of sound, to which she listened or reproduced
carefully: she never looked for the soul in it, having no use for it
herself. This amiable, intelligent, simple woman, who was always ready
to do any one a kindness, gave Christophe the graceful welcome which she
extended to everybody. Christophe was not particularly grateful to her
for it: he was not much in sympathy with her: she hardly existed for him.
Perhaps it was that unconsciously he could not forgive her acquiescence in
her husband's infidelities, of which she was by no means ignorant. Passive
acceptance was of all the vices that which he could least excuse.

He was more intimate with Achille Roussin. Roussin loved music, as he loved
the other arts, crudely but sincerely. When he liked a symphony, it became
a thing that he could take into his arms. He had a superficial culture and
turned it to good account: his wife had been useful to him there. He was
interested in Christophe because he saw in him a vigorous vulgarian such
as he was himself. And he found it absorbing to study an original of his
stamp--(he was unwearying in his observation of humanity)--and to discover
his impressions of Paris. The frankness and rudeness of Christophe's
remarks amused him. He was skeptic enough to admit their truth. He was
not put out by the fact that Christophe was a German. On the contrary: he
prided himself on being above national prejudice. And, when all was said
and done, he was sincerely "human"--(that was his chief quality);--he
sympathized with everything human. But that did not prevent his being quite
convinced of the superiority of the French--an old race, and an old
civilization--over the Germans, and making fun of the Germans.

* * * * *

At Achille Roussin's Christophe met other politicians, the Ministers of
yesterday, and the Ministers of to-morrow. He would have been only too glad
to talk to each of them individually, if these illustrious persons had
thought him worthy. In spite of the generally accepted opinion he found
them much more interesting than the other Frenchmen of his acquaintance.
They were more alive mentally, more open to the passions and the great
interests of humanity. They were brilliant talkers, mostly men from the
South, and they were amazingly dilettante: individually they were almost
as much so as the men of letters. Of course, they were very ignorant about
art, and especially about foreign art: but they all pretended more or
less to some knowledge of it: and often they really loved it. There were
Councils which were very like the coterie of some little Review. One of
them would be a playwright: another would scrape on the violin; another
would be a besotted Wagnerian. And they all collected Impressionist
pictures, read decadent books, and prided themselves on a taste for some
ultra-aristocratic art, which was almost always in direct opposition
to their ideas. It puzzled Christophe to find these Socialist or
Radical-Socialist Ministers, these apostles of the poor and down-trodden,
posing as connoisseurs of eclectic art. No doubt they had a perfect right
to do so: but it seemed to him rather disloyal.

But the odd thing was when these men who in private conversation were
skeptics, sensualists, Nihilists, and anarchists, came to action: at once
they became fanatics. Even the most dilettante of them when they came into
power became like Oriental despots: they had a mania for ordering
everything, and let nothing alone: they were skeptical in mind and
tyrannical in temper. The temptation to use the machinery of administrative
centralization created by the greatest of despots was too great, and it was
difficult not to abuse it. The result was a sort of republican imperialism
on to which there had latterly been grafted an atheistic catholicism.

For some time past the politicians had made no claim to do anything but
control the body--that is to say, money:--they hardly troubled the soul
at all, since the soul could not be converted into money. Their own souls
were not concerned with politics: they passed above or below politics,
which in France are thought of as a branch--a lucrative, though not very
exalted branch--of commerce and industry: the intellectuals despised the
politicians, the politicians despised the intellectuals.--But lately there
had been a closer understanding, then an alliance, between the politicians
and the lowest class of intellectuals. A new power had appeared upon the
scene, which had arrogated to itself the absolute government of ideas: the
Free Thinkers. They had thrown in their lot with the other power, which had
seen in them the perfect machinery of political despotism. They were trying
not so much to destroy the Church as to supplant it: and, in fact, they
created a Church of Free Thought which had its catechisms, and ceremonies,
its baptisms, its confirmations, its marriages, its regional councils,
if not its ecumenicals at Rome. It was most pitifully comic to see these
thousands of poor wretches having to band themselves together in order to
be able to "think freely." True, their freedom of thought consisted in
setting a ban on the thought of others in the name of Reason: for they
believed in Reason as the Catholics believed in the Blessed Virgin without
ever dreaming for a moment that Reason, like the Virgin, was in itself
nothing, or that the real thing lay behind it. And, just as the Catholic
Church had its armies of monks and its congregations stealthily creeping
through the veins of the nation, propagating its views and destroying every
other sort of vitality, so the Anti-Catholic Church had its Free Masons,
whose chief Lodge, the Grand-Orient, kept a faithful record of all the
secret reports with which their pious informers in all quarters of France
supplied them. The Republican State secretly encouraged the sacred
espionage of these mendicant friars and Jesuits of Reason, who terrorized
the army, the University, and every branch of the State: and it was never
noticed that while they pretended to serve the State, they were all the
time aiming at supplanting it, and that the country was slowly moving
towards an atheistic theocracy; very little, if anything, different from
that of the Jesuits of Paraguay.

Christophe met some of these gentry at Roussin's. They were all blind
fetish-worshippers. At that time they were rejoicing at having removed
Christ from the Courts of Law. They thought they had destroyed religion
because they had destroyed a few pieces of wood and ivory. Others were
concentrating on Joan of Arc and her banner of the Virgin, which they had
just wrested from the Catholics. One of the Fathers of the new Church,
a general who was waging war on the French of the old Church, had just
given utterance to an anti-clerical speech in honor of Vercingetorix: he
proclaimed the ancient Gaul, to whom Free Thought had erected a statue,
to be a son of the people, and the first champion against (the Church
of) Rome. The Ministers of the Marine, by way of purifying the fleet and
showing their horror of war, called their cruisers _Descartes_ and _Ernest
Renan_. Other Free Thinkers had set themselves to purify art. They
expurgated the classics of the seventeenth century, and did not allow the
name of God to sully the _Fables_ of La Fontaine. They did not allow it
in music either: and Christophe heard one of them, an old radical,--("_To
be a radical in old age_," says Goethe, "_is the height of folly_")--wax
indignant at the religious _Lieder_ of Beethoven having been given at a
popular concert. He demanded that other words should be used instead of

"What?" asked Christophe in exasperation. "The Republic?"

Others who were even more radical would accept no compromise and wanted
purely and simply to suppress all religious music and all schools in which
it was taught. In vain did a director of the University of Fine Arts, who
was considered an Athenian in that Boeotia, try to explain that musicians
must be taught music: for, as he said, with great loftiness of thought,
"when you send a soldier to the barracks, you teach him how to use a gun
and then how to shoot. And so it is with a young composer: his head is
buzzing with ideas: but he has not yet learned to put them in order." And,
being a little scared by his own courage, he protested with every sentence:
"I am an old Free Thinker.... I am an old Republican..." and he declared
audaciously that "he did not care much whether the compositions of
Pergolese were operas or Masses: all that he wanted to know was, were they
human works of art?"--But his adversary with implacable logic answered "the
old Free Thinker and Republican" that "there were two sorts of music: that
which was sung in churches and that which was sung in other places." The
first sort was the enemy of Reason and the State: and the Reason of the
State ought to suppress it.

All these silly people would have been more ridiculous than dangerous if
behind them there had not been men of real worth, supporting them, who
were, like them--and perhaps even, more--fanatics of Reason. Tolstoy
speaks somewhere of those "epidemic influences" which prevail in religion,
philosophy, politics, art, and science, "insensate influences, the folly of
which only becomes apparent to men when they are clear of them, while as
long as they are under their dominion they seem so true to them that they
think them beyond all argument." Instances are the craze for tulips, belief
in sorcery, and the aberrations of literary fashions.--The religion of
Reason was such a craze. It was common to the most ignorant and the most
cultured, to the "sub-veterinaries" of the Chamber, and certain of the
keenest intellects of the University. It was even more dangerous in the
latter than in the former: for with the latter it was mixed up with a
credulous and stupid optimism, which sapped its energy: while with the
others it was fortified and given a keener edge by a fanatical pessimism
which was under no illusion as to the fundamental antagonism of Nature and
Reason, and they were only the more desperately resolved to wage the war of
abstract Liberty, abstract Justice, abstract Truth, against the malevolence
of Nature. There was behind it all the idealism of the Calvinists, the
Jansenists, and the Jacobins, the old belief in the fundamental perversity
of mankind, which can and must be broken by the implacable pride of the
Elect inspired by the breath of Reason,--the Spirit of God. It was a very
French type, the type of intelligent Frenchman, who is not at all "human."
A pebble as hard as iron: nothing can penetrate it: it breaks everything
that it touches.

Christophe was appalled by the conversations that he had at Achille
Roussin's with some of these fanatics. It upset all his ideas about France.
He had thought, like so many people, that the French were a well-balanced,
sociable, tolerant, liberty-loving people. And he found them lunatics with
their abstract ideas, their diseased logic, ready to sacrifice themselves
and everybody else for one of their syllogisms. They were always talking of
liberty, but there never were men less able to understand it or to stand
it. Nowhere in the world were there characters more coldly and atrociously
despotic in their passion for intellect or their passion for always being
in the right.

And it was not only true of one party. Every party was the same. They
could not--they would not--see anything above or beyond their political or
religious formula, or their country, their province, their group, or their
own narrow minds. There were anti-Semites who expended all the forces of
their being in a blind, impotent hatred of all the privileges of wealth:
for they hated all Jews, and called those whom they hated "Jews." There
were nationalists who hated--(when they were kinder they stopped short
at despising)--every other nation, and even among their own people, they
called everybody who did not agree with them foreigners, or renegades, or
traitors. There were anti-protestants who persuaded themselves that all
Protestants were English or Germans, and would have them all expelled from
France. There were men of the West who denied the existence of anything
east of the Rhine: men of the North who denied the existence of everything
south of the Loire: men of the South who called all those who lived north
of the Loire Barbarians: and there were men who boasted of being of Gallic
descent: and, craziest of all, there were "Romans" who prided themselves on
the defeat of their ancestors: and Bretons, and Lorrainians, and Felibres,
and Albigeois; and men from Carpentras, and Pontoise, and Quimper-Corentin:
they all thought only of themselves, the fact of being themselves was
sufficient patent of nobility, and they wild not put up with the idea of
people being anything else. There is nothing to be done with such people:
they will not listen to argument from any other point of view: they must
burn everybody else at the stake, or be burned themselves.

Christophe thought that it was lucky that such people should live under a
Republic: for all these little despots did at least annihilate each other.
But if any one of them had become Emperor or King, it would have been the
end of him.

He did not know that there is one virtue left to work the salvation of
people of that temper of mind:--inconsequence.

The French politicians were no exception. Their despotism was tempered
with anarchy: they were for ever swinging between two poles. On one hand
they relied on the fanatics of thought, on the other they relied on the
anarchists of thought. Mixed up with them was a whole rabble of dilettante
Socialists, mere opportunists, who held back from taking any part in the
fight until it was won, though they followed in the wake of the army of
Free Thought, and, after every battle won, they swooped down on the spoils.
These champions of Reason did not labor in the cause of Reason.... _Sic
vos non vobis_ ... but in the cause of the Citizens of the World, who with
glad shouts trampled under foot the traditions of the country, and had no
intention of destroying one Faith in order to set up another, but in order
to set themselves up and break away from all restraint.

There Christophe marked the likeness of Lucien Levy-Coeur. He was not
surprised to learn that Lucien Levy-Coeur was a Socialist. He only thought
that Socialists must be fairly on the road to success to have enrolled
Lucien Levy-Coeur. But he did not know that Lucien Levy-Coeur had also
contrived to figure in the opposite camp, where he had succeeded in allying
himself with men of the most anti-Liberal opinions, if not anti-Semite, in
politics and art, He asked Achille Roussin:

"How can you put up with such men?"

Roussin replied:

"He is so clever! And he is working for us; he is destroying the old

"He is doing that all right," said Christophe. "He is destroying it so
thoroughly that I don't see what is going to be left for you to build up
again. Do you think there'll be timber enough left for your new house? And
are you even sure that the worms have not crept into your building-yard?"

Lucien Levy-Coeur was not the only nibbler at Socialism. The Socialist
papers were staffed by these petty men of letters, with their art for art's
sake, these licentious anarchists who had fastened on all the roads that
might lead to success. They barred the way to others, and filled the
papers, which styled themselves the organs of the people, with their
dilettante decadence and their _struggle for life_. They were not content
with being jobbed into positions: they wanted fame. Never had there been a
time when there were so many premature Statues, or so many speeches
delivered at the unveiling of them. But queerest of all were the banquets
that were periodically offered to one or other of the great men of the
fraternity by the sycophants of fame, not in celebration of any of their
deeds, but in celebration of some honor given to them: for those were the
things that most appealed to them. Esthetes, supermen, Socialist Ministers,
they were all agreed when it was a question of feasting to celebrate some
promotion in the Legion of Honor founded by the Corsican officer.

Roussin laughed at Christophe's amazement. He did not think the German far
out in his estimation of the supporters of his party. When they were alone
together he would handle them severely himself. He knew their stupidity
and their knavery better than any one: but that did not keep him from
supporting them in order to retain their support. And if in private he
never hesitated to speak of the people in terms of contempt, on the
platform he was a different man. Then he would assume a high-pitched voice,
shrill, nasal, labored, solemn tones, a tremolo, a bleat, wide, sweeping,
fluttering gestures like the beating of wings: exactly like Mounet-Sully.

Christophe tried hard to discover exactly how far Roussin believed in his
Socialism. It was obvious that at heart he did not believe in it at all:
he was too skeptical. And yet he did believe in it, to a certain extent;
and though he knew perfectly well that it was only a part of his mind that
believed in it--(perhaps the most important part)--he had arranged his
life and conduct in accordance with it, because it suited him best. It
was not only his practical interest that was served by it, but also his
vital interests, the foundations of his being and all his actions. His
Socialistic Faith was to him a sort of State religion.--Most people live
like that. Their lives are based on religious, moral, social, or purely
practical beliefs,--(belief in their profession, in their work, in the
utility of the part they play in life)--in which they do not, at heart,
believe. But they do not wish to know it: for they must have this apparent
faith, this "State religion," of which every man is priest, to live.

* * * * *

Roussin was not one of the worst. There were many, many others who called
themselves Socialists and Radicals, from--it can hardly be called ambition,
for their ambition was so short-sighted, and did not go beyond immediate
plunder and their re-election! They pretended to believe in a new order of
society. Perhaps there was a time when they believed in it: and they went
on pretending to do so: but, in fact, they had no idea beyond living on the
spoils of the dying order of society. This predatory Nihilism was saved
by a short-sighted opportunism. The great interests of the future were
sacrificed to the egoism of the present. They cut down the army; they would
have dislocated the country to please the electors. They were not lacking
in cleverness: they knew perfectly well what they ought to have done: but
they did not do it, because it would have cost them too much effort, and
they were incapable of effort. They wanted to arrange their own lives
and the life of the nation with the least possible amount of trouble and
sacrifice. All down the scale the point was to get the maximum of pleasure
with the minimum of effort. That was their morality, immoral enough, but it
was the only guide in the political muddle, in which the leaders set the
example of anarchy, and the disordered pack of politicians were chasing
ten hares at once, and letting them all escape one after the other, and
an aggressive Foreign Office was yoked with a pacific War Office, and
Ministers of War were cutting down the army in order to purify it, Naval
Ministers were inciting the workmen in the arsenals, military instructors
were preaching the horrors of war, and all the officials, judges,
revolutionaries, and patriots were dilettante. The political demoralization
was universal. Every man was expecting the State to provide him with
office, honors, pensions, indemnities: and the Government did, as a matter
of fact, feed the appetite of its supporters: honors and pensions were made
the quarry of the sons, nephews, grand-nephews, and valets of those in
power: the deputies were always voting an increase in their own salaries:
revenues, posts, titles, all the possessions of the State, were being
blindly squandered.--And, like a sinister echo of the example of the upper
classes, the lower classes were always on the verge of a strike: they had
men teaching contempt of authority and revolt against the established
order; post-office employes burned letters and despatches, workers in
factories threw sand or emery-powder into the gears of the machines, men
working in the arsenals sacked them, ships were burned, and artisans
deliberately made a horrible mess of their work,--the destruction not of
riches, but of the wealth of the world.

And to crown it all the intellectuals amused themselves by discovering that
this national suicide was based on reason and right, in the sacred right
of every human being to be happy. There was a morbid humanitarianism
which broke down the distinction between Good and Evil, and developed a
sentimental pity for the "sacred and irresponsible human" in the criminal,
the doting sentimentality of an old man:--it was a capitulation to crime,
the surrender of society to its mercies.

Christophe thought:

"France is drunk with liberty. When she has raved and screamed, she will
fall down dead-drunk. And when she wakes up she will find herself in

* * * * *

What hurt Christophe most in this demagogy was to see the most violent
political measures coldly carried through by these men whose fundamental
instability he knew perfectly well. The disproportion between the
shiftiness of these men and the rigorous Acts that they passed or
authorized was too scandalous. It was as though there were in them two
contradictory things: an inconsistent character, believing in nothing,
and discursive Reason, intent on truncating, mowing down, and crushing
life, without regard for anything. Christophe wondered why the peaceful
middle-class, the Catholics, the officials who were harassed in every
conceivable way, did not throw them all out by the window. He dared not
tell Roussin what he thought: but, as he was incapable of concealing
anything, Roussin had no difficulty in guessing it. He laughed and said:

"No doubt that is what you or I would do. But there is no danger of them
doing it. They are just a set of poor devils who haven't the energy:
they can't do much more than grumble. They're just the fag end of
an aristocracy, idiotic, stultified by their clubs and their sport,
prostituted by the Americans and the Jews, and, by way of showing how up to
date they are, they play the degraded parts allotted to them in fashionable
plays, and support those who have degraded them. They're an apathetic and
surly middle-class: they read nothing, understand nothing, don't want
to understand anything; they only know how to vilify, vilify, vaguely,
bitterly, futilely--and they have only one passion: sleep, to lie huddled
in sleep on their moneybags, hating anybody who disturbs them, and even
anybody whose tastes differ from theirs, for it does upset them to think of
other people working while they are snoozing! If you knew them you would
sympathize with us."

But Christophe could find nothing but disgust with both: for he did not
hold that the baseness of the oppressed was any excuse for that of the
oppressor. Only too frequently had he met at the Stevens' types of the rich
dull middle-class that Roussin described,

"... _L'anime triste di coloro,
Che visser senza infamia esenza lodo_,..."

He saw only too clearly the reason why Roussin and his friends were sure
not only of their power over these people, but of their right to abuse it.
They had to hand all the instruments of tyranny. Thousands of officials,
who had renounced their will and every vestige of personality, and obeyed
blindly. A loose, vulgar way of living, a Republic without Republicans:
Socialist papers and Socialist leaders groveling before Royalties when they
visited Paris: the souls of servants gaping at titles, and gold lace, and
orders: they could be kept quiet by just having a bone to gnaw, or the
Legion of Honor flung at them. If the Kings had ennobled all the citizens
of France, all the citizens of France would have been Royalist.

The politicians were having a fine time. Of the Three Estates of '89 the
first was extinct: the second was proscribed, suspect, or had emigrated:
the third was gorged by its victory and slept. And, as for the Fourth
Estate, which had come into existence at a later date, and had become a
public menace in its jealousy, there was no difficulty about squaring that.
The decadent Republic treated it as decadent Rome treated the barbarian
hordes, that she no longer had the power to drive from her frontiers;
she assimilated them, and they quickly became her best watch-dogs. The
Ministers of the middle-class called themselves Socialists, lured away
and annexed to their own party the most intelligent and vigorous of the
working-class: they robbed the proletariat of their leaders, infused
their new blood into their own system, and, in return, gorged them with
indigestible science and middle-class culture.

* * * * *

One of the most curious features of these attempts at distraint by the
middle-class on the people were the Popular Universities. They were little
jumble-sales of scraps of knowledge of every period and every country. As
one syllabus declared, they set out to teach "every branch of physical,
biological, and sociological science: astronomy, cosmology, anthropology,
ethnology, physiology, psychology, psychiatry, geography, languages,
esthetics, logic, etc." Enough to split the skull of Pico della Mirandola.

In truth there had been originally, and still was in some of them, a
certain grand idealism, a keen desire to bring truth, beauty, and morality
within the reach of all, which was a very fine thing. It was wonderful and
touching to see workmen, after a hard day's toil, crowding into narrow,
stuffy lecture-rooms, impelled by a thirst for knowledge that was stronger
than fatigue and hunger. But how the poor fellows had been tricked!
There were a few real apostles, intelligent human beings, a few upright
warm-hearted men, with more good intentions than skill to accomplish them;
but, as against them, there were hundreds of fools, idiots, schemers,
unsuccessful authors, orators, professors, parsons, speakers, pianists,
critics, anarchists, who deluged the people with their productions. Every
man jack of them was trying to unload his stock-in-trade. The most thriving
of them were naturally the nostrum-mongers, the philosophical lecturers
who ladled out general ideas, leavened with a few facts, a scientific
smattering, and cosmological conclusions.

The Popular Universities were also an outlet for the ultra-aristocratic
works of art: decadent etchings, poetry, and music. The aim was the
elevation of the people for the rejuvenation of thought and the
regeneration of the race. They began by inoculating them with all the fads
and cranks of the middle-class. They gulped them down greedily, not because
they liked them, but because they were middle-class. Christophe, who was
taken to one of these Popular Universities by Madame Roussin, heard her
play Debussy to the people between _la Bonne Chanson_ of Gabriel Faure and
one of the later quartets of Beethoven. He who had only begun to grasp the
meaning of the later works of Beethoven after many years, and long weary
labor, asked some one who sat near him pityingly:

"Do you understand it?"

The man drew himself up like an angry cock, and said:

"Certainly. Why shouldn't I understand it as well as you?"

And by way of showing that he understood it he encored a fugue, glaring
defiantly at Christophe.

Christophe went away. He was amazed. He said to himself that the swine had
succeeded in poisoning even the living wells of the nation: the People had
ceased to be--"People yourselves!" as a working-man said to one of the
would-be founders of the Theaters of the People. "I am as much of the
middle-class as you."

* * * * *

One fine evening when above the darkening town the soft sky was like an
Oriental carpet, rich in warm faded colors, Christophe walked along by the
river from Notre Dame to the Invalides. In the dim fading light the tower
of the cathedral rose like the arms of Moses held up during the battle.
The carved golden spire of the Sainte-Chapelle, the flowering Holy Thorn,
flashed out of the labyrinth of houses. On the other side of the water
stretched the royal front of the Louvre, and its windows were like weary
eyes lit up with the last living rays of the setting sun. At the back of
the great square of the Invalides behind its trenches and proud walls,
majestic, solitary, floated the dull gold dome, like a symphony of bygone
victories. And at the top of the hill there stood the Arc de Triomphe,
bestriding the hill with the giant stride of the Imperial legions.

And suddenly Christophe thought of it all as of a dead giant lying prone
upon the plain. The terror of it clutched at his heart; he stopped to gaze
at the gigantic fossils of a fabulous race, long since extinct, that in its
life had made the whole earth ring with the tramp of its armies,--the race
whose helmet was the dome of the Invalides, whose girdle was the Louvre,
the thousand arms of whose cathedrals had clutched at the heavens, who
traversed the whole world with the triumphant stride of the Arch of
Napoleon, under whose heel there now swarmed Lilliput.


Without any deliberate effort on his part, Christophe had gained a certain
celebrity in the Parisian circles to which he had been introduced by
Sylvain Kohn and Goujart. He was seen everywhere with one or other of his
friends at first nights, and at concerts, and his extraordinary face, his
ugliness, the absurdity of his figure and costume, his brusque, awkward
manners, the paradoxical opinions to which he gave vent from time to
time, his undeveloped, but large and healthy intellect, and the romantic
stories spread by Sylvain Kohn about his escapades in Germany, and his
complications with the police and flight to France, had marked him out for
the idle, restless curiosity of the great cosmopolitan hotel drawing-room
that Paris has become. As long as he held himself in check, observing,
listening, and trying to understand before expressing any opinion, as
long as nothing was known of his work or what he really thought, he was
tolerated. The French were pleased with him for having been unable to
stay in Germany. And the French musicians especially were delighted with
Christophe's unjust pronouncements on German music, and took them all
as homage to themselves:--(as a matter of fact, they heard only his old
youthful opinions, to many of which he would no longer have subscribed:
a few articles published in a German Review which had been amplified and
circulated by Sylvain Kohn).--Christophe was interesting and did not
interfere with anybody: there was no danger of his supplanting anybody.
He needed only to become the great man of a coterie. He needed only not
to write anything, or as little as possible, and not to have anything
performed, and to supply Goujart and his like with ideas, Goujart and the
whole set of men whose motto is the famous quip--adapted a little:

_"My glass is small: but I drink ... the wine of others."_

A strong personality sheds its rays especially on young people who are more
concerned with feeling than with action. There were plenty of young people
about Christophe. They were for the most part idle, will-less, aimless,
purposeless. Young men, living in dread of work, fearful of being left
alone with themselves, who sought an armchair immortality, wandering from
cafe to theater, from theater to cafe, finding all sorts of excuses for not
going home, to avoid coming face to face with themselves. They came and
stayed for hours, dawdling, talking, making aimless conversation, and going
away empty, aching, disgusted, satiated, and yet famishing, forced to go
on with it in spite of loathing. They surrounded Christophe, like Goethe's
water-spaniel, the "lurking specters," that lie in wait and seize upon a
soul and fasten upon its vitality. A vain fool would have found pleasure
in such a circle of parasites. But Christophe had no taste for pedestals.
He was revolted by the idiotic subtlety of his admirers, who read into
anything he did all sorts of absurd meanings, Renanian, Nietzschean,
hermaphroditic. He kicked them out. He was not made for passivity.
Everything in him cried aloud for action. He observed so as to understand:
he wished to understand so as to act. He was free of the constraint of
any school, and of any prejudice, and he inquired into everything, read
everything, and studied all the forms of thought and the resources of the
expression of other countries and other ages in his art. He seized on all
those which seemed to him effective and true. Unlike the French artists
whom he studied, who were ingenious inventors of new forms, and wore
themselves out in the unceasing effort of invention, and gave up the
struggle half-way, he endeavored not so much to invent a new musical
language as to speak the authentic language of music with more energy: his
aim was not to be particular, but to be strong. His, passion for strength
was the very opposite of the French genius of subtlety and moderation. He
scorned style for the sake of style and art for art's sake. The best French
artists seemed to him to be no more than pleasure-mongers. One of the
most perfect poets in Paris had amused himself with drawing up a "list
of the workers in contemporary French poetry, with their talents, their
productions, and their earnings": and he enumerated "the crystals, the
Oriental fabrics, the gold and bronze medals, the lace for dowagers, the
polychromatic sculpture, the painted porcelain," which had been produced in
the workshops of his various colleagues. He pictured himself "in the corner
of a vast factory of letters, mending old tapestry, or polishing up rusty
halberds."--Such a conception of the artist as a good workman, thinking
only of the perfection of his craft, was not without an element of
greatness. But it did not satisfy Christophe: and while he admitted in it
a certain professional dignity, he had a contempt for the poor quality of
life which most often it disguised. He could not understand writing for the
sake of writing, or talking for the sake of talking. He never said words;
he said--or wanted to say--the things themselves.

_"Ei dice cose, e voi dite parole...."_

After a long period of rest, during which he had been entirely occupied
with taking in a new world, Christophe suddenly became conscious of an
imperious need for creation. The antagonism which he felt between himself
and Paris called up all his reserve of force by its challenge of his
personality. All his passions were brimming in him, and imperiously
demanding expression. They were of every kind: and they were all equally
insistent. He tried to create, to fashion music, into which to turn the
love and hatred that were swelling in his heart, and the will and the
renunciation, and all the daimons struggling within him, all of whom
had an equal right to live. Hardly had he assuaged one passion in
music,--(sometimes he hardly had the patience to finish it)--than he hurled
himself at the opposite passion. But the contradiction was only apparent:
if they were always changing, they were in truth always the same. He
beat out roads in music, roads that led to the same goal: his soul was a
mountain: he tried every pathway up it; on some he wound easily, dallying
in the shade: on others he mounted toilsomely with the hot sun beating up
from the dry, sandy track: they all led to God enthroned on the summit.
Love, hatred, evil, renunciation, all the forces of humanity at their
highest pitch, touched eternity, and were a part of it. For every man the
gateway to eternity is in himself: for the believer as for the atheist, for
him who sees life everywhere as for him who everywhere denies it, and for
him who doubts both life and the denial of it,--and for Christophe in whose
soul there met all these opposing views of life. All the opposites become
one in eternal Force. For Christophe the chief thing was to wake that Force
within himself and in others, to fling armfuls of wood upon the fire, to
feed the flames of Eternity, and make them roar and flicker. Through the
voluptuous night of Paris a great flame darted in his heart. He thought
himself free of Faith, and he was a living torch of Faith.

Nothing was more calculated to outrage the French spirit of irony. Faith is
one of the feelings which a too civilized society can least forgive: for
it has lost it and hates others to possess it. In the blind or mocking
hostility of the majority of men towards the dreams of youth there is for
many the bitter thought that they themselves were once even as they, and
had ambitions and never realized them. All those who have denied their
souls, all those who had the seed of work within them, and have not brought
it forth rather to accept the security of an easy, honorable life, think:

"Since I could not do the thing I dreamed, why should they do the things
they dream? I will not have them do it."

How many Hedda Gablers are there among men! What a relentless struggle
is there to crush out strength in its new freedom, with what skill is it
killed by silence, irony, wear and tear, discouragement,--and, at the
crucial moment, betrayed by some treacherous seductive art!...

The type is of all nations. Christophe knew it, for he had met it in
Germany. Against such people he was armed. His method of defense was
simple: he was the first to attack; pounced on the first move, and declared
war on them: he forced these dangerous friends to become his enemies.
But if such a policy of frankness was an excellent safeguard for his
personality, it was not calculated to advance his career as an artist. Once
more Christophe began his German tactics. It was too strong for him. Only
one thing was altered: his temper: he was in fine fettle.

Lightheartedly, for the benefit of anybody who cared to listen, he
expressed his unmeasured criticism of French artists: and so he made many
enemies. He did not take the precaution, as a wise man would have done,
of surrounding himself with a little coterie. He would have found no
difficulty in gathering about him a number of artists who would gladly
have admired him if he had admired them. There were some who admired him
in advance, investing admiration as it were. They considered any man
they praised as a debtor, of whom, at a given moment, they could demand
repayment. But it was a good investment.--But Christophe was a very bad
investment. He never paid back. Worse than that, he was barefaced enough to
consider poor the works of men who thought his good. Unavowedly they were
rancorous, and engaged themselves on the next opportunity to pay him back
in kind.

Among his other indiscretions Christophe was foolish enough to declare war
on Lucien Levy-Coeur. He found him in the way, everywhere, and he could not
conceal an extraordinary antipathy for the gentle, polite creature who was
doing no apparent harm, and even seemed to be kinder than himself, and was,
at any rate, far more moderate. He provoked him into argument: and, however
insignificant the subject of it might be, Christophe always brought into
it a sudden heat and bitterness which surprised their hearers. It was as
though Christophe were seizing every opportunity of battering at Lucien
Levy-Coeur, head down: but he could never reach him. His enemy had an
extraordinary skill, even when he was most obviously in the wrong, in
carrying it off well: he would defend himself with a courtesy which showed
up Christophe's bad manners. Christophe still spoke French very badly,
interlarding it with slang, and often with very coarse expressions which
he had picked up, and, like many foreigners, used wrongly, and he was
incapable of outwitting the tactics of Lucien Levy-Coeur and he raged
furiously against his gentle irony. Everybody thought him in the wrong,
for they could not see what Christophe vaguely felt: the hypocrisy of that
gentleness, which when it was brought up against a force which it could not
hold in check, tried quietly to stifle it by silence. He was in no hurry,
for, like Christophe, he counted on time, not, as Christophe did, to build,
but to destroy. He had no difficulty in detaching Sylvain Kohn and Goujart
from Christophe, just as he had gradually forced him out of the Stevens'
circle. He was isolating Christophe.

Christophe himself helped him. He pleased nobody, for he would not join any
party, but was rather against all parties. He did not like the Jews: but he
liked the anti-Semites even less. He was revolted by the cowardice of the
masses stirred up against a powerful minority, not because it was bad,
but because it was powerful, and by the appeal to the basest instincts of
jealousy and hatred. The Jews came to regard him as an anti-Semite, and
the anti-Semites looked on him as a Jew. As for the artists, they felt his
hostility. Instinctively Christophe made himself more German than he was,
in art. Revolting against the voluptuous ataraxia of a certain class of
Parisian music, he set up, with violence, a manly, healthy pessimism. When
joy appeared in his music, it was with a want of taste, a vulgar ardor,
which were well calculated to disgust even the aristocratic patrons of
popular art. An erudite, crude form. In his reaction he was not far from
affecting an apparent carelessness in style and a disregard of external
originality, which were bound to be offensive to the French musicians. And
so those of them, to whom he sent some of his work, without any careful
consideration, visited on it the contempt they had for the belated
Wagnerism of the contemporary German school. Christophe did not care: he
laughed inwardly, and repeated the lines of a charming musician of the
French Renaissance--adapted to his own case:

* * * * *
_"Come, come, don't worry about those who will say:
'Christophe has not the counterpoint of A,
And he has not such harmony as Monsieur B.'
I have something else which they never will see."_

But when he tried to have some of his music performed, he found the doors
shut against him. They had quite enough to do to play--or not to play--the
works of young French musicians, and could not bother about those of an
unknown German.

Christophe did not go on trying. He shut himself up in his room and went on
writing. He did not much care whether the people of Paris heard him or not.
He wrote for his own pleasure and not for success. The true artist is not
concerned with the future of his work. He is like those painters of the
Renaissance who joyously painted mural decorations, knowing full well that
in ten years nothing would be left of them. So Christophe worked on in
peace, quite good-humoredly resigned to waiting for better times, when help
would come to him from some unexpected source.

* * * * *

Christophe was then attracted by the dramatic form. He dared not yet
surrender freely to the flood of his own lyrical impulse. He had to run it
into definite channels. And, no doubt, it is a good thing for a young man
of genius, who is not yet master of himself, and does not even know exactly
what he is, to set voluntary bounds upon himself, and to confine therein
the soul of which he has so little hold. They are the dikes and sluices
which allow the course of thought to be directed. Unfortunately Christophe
had not a poet: he had himself to fashion his subjects out of legend and

Among the visions which had been floating before his mind for some months
past were certain figures from the Bible.--That Bible, which his mother had
given him as a companion in his exile, had been a source of dreams to him.
Although he did not read it in any religious spirit, the moral, or, rather,
vital energy of that Hebraic Iliad had been to him a spring in which, in
the evenings, he washed his naked soul of the smoke and mud of Paris. He
was concerned with the sacred meaning of the book: but it was not the
less a sacred book to him, for the breath of savage nature and primitive
individualities that he found in its pages. He drew in its hymns of the
earth, consumed with faith, quivering mountains, exultant skies, and human

One of the characters in the book for whom he had an especial tenderness
was the young David. He did not give him the ironic smile of the Florentine
boy, or the tragic intensity of the sublime works of Michael Angelo and
Verrochio: he knew them not. His David was a young shepherd-poet, with
a virgin soul, in which heroism slumbered, a Siegfried of the South, of
a finer race, and more beautiful, and of greater harmony in mind and
body.--For his revolt against the Latin spirit was in vain: unconsciously
he had been permeated by that spirit. Not only art influences art, not
only mind and thought, but everything about the artist:--people, things,
gestures, movements, lines, the light of each town. The atmosphere of Paris
is very powerful: it molds even the most rebellious souls. And the soul of
a German is less capable than any other of resisting it: in vain does he
gird himself in his national pride: of all Europeans the German is the most
easily denationalized. Unwittingly the soul of Christophe had already begun
to assimilate from Latin art a clarity, a sobriety, an understanding of the
emotions, and even, up to a point, a plastic beauty, which otherwise it
never would have had. His _David_ was the proof of it.

He had endeavored to recreate certain episodes of the youth of David: the
meeting with Saul, the fight with Goliath: and he had written the first
scene. He had conceived it as a symphonic picture with two characters.

On a deserted plateau, on a moor covered with heather in bloom, the young
shepherd lay dreaming in the sun. The serene light, the hum and buzz of
tiny creatures, the sweet whispering of the waving grass, the silvery
tinkling of the grazing sheep, the mighty beat and rhythm of the earth sang
through the dreaming boy unconscious of his divine destiny. Drowsing, his
voice and the notes of his flute joined the harmonious silence: and his
song was so calmly, so limpidly joyous, that, hearing it, there could be no
thought of joy or sorrow, only the feeling that it must be so and could not
be otherwise.--Suddenly over the moor reached great shadows: the air was
still: life seemed to withdraw into the veins of the earth. Only the music
of the flute went on calmly. Saul, with his crazy thoughts, passed. The mad
King, racked by his fancy, burned like a flame, devouring itself, flung
this way and that by the wind. He breathed prayers and violent abuse,
hurling defiance at the void about him, the void within himself. And when
he could speak no more and fell breathless to the ground, there rang
through the silence the smiling peace of the song of the young shepherd,
who had never ceased. Then, with a furious beating in his heart, came Saul
in silence up to where the boy lay in the heather: in silence he gazed at
him: he sat down by his side and placed his fevered hand on the cool brows
of the shepherd. Untroubled, David turned, and smiled, and looked at the
King. He laid his hand on Saul's knees, and went on singing and playing his
flute. Evening came: David went to sleep in the middle of his song, and
Saul wept. And through the starry night there rose once more the serene
joyous hymn of nature refreshed, the song of thanksgiving of the soul
relieved of its burden.

When he wrote the scene, Christophe had thought of nothing but his own joy:
he had never given a thought to the manner of its performance: and it had
certainly never occurred to him that it might be produced on the stage. He
meant it to be sung at a concert at such time as the concert-halls should
be open to him.

One evening he spoke of it to Achille Roussin, and when, by request, he had
tried to give him an idea of it on the piano, he was amazed to see Roussin
burst into enthusiasm, and declare that it must at all costs be produced at
one of the theaters, and that he would see to it. He was even more amazed
when, a few days later, he saw that Roussin was perfectly serious: and his
amazement grew to stupefaction when he heard that Sylvain Kohn, Goujart,
and Lucien Levy-Coeur were taking it up. He had to admit that their
personal animosity had yielded to their love of art: and he was much
surprised. The only man who was not eager to see his work produced was
himself. It was not suited to the theater: it was nonsense, and almost
hurtful to stage it. But Roussin was so insistent, Sylvain Kohn so
persuasive, and Goujart so positive, that Christophe yielded to the
temptation. He was weak. He was so longing to hear his music!

It was quite easy for Roussin. Manager and artist rushed to please him.
It happened that a newspaper was organizing a benefit matinee for some
charity. It was arranged that the _David_ should be produced. A good
orchestra was got together. As for the singers, Roussin claimed that he had
found the ideal representative of David.

The rehearsals were begun. The orchestra came through the first reading
fairly well, although, as usual in France, there was not much discipline
about it. Saul had a good, though rather tired, voice: and he knew his
business. The David was a handsome, tall, plump, solid lady with a
sentimental vulgar voice which she used heavily, with a melodramatic
tremolo and all the cafe-concert tricks. Christophe scowled. As soon as
she began to sing it was obvious that she could not be allowed to play the
part. After the first pause in the rehearsal he went to the impresario, who
had charge of the business side of the undertaking, and was present, with
Sylvain Kohn, at the rehearsal. The impresario beamed and said:

"Well, are you satisfied?"

"Yes," said Christophe. "I think it can be made all right There's only one
thing that won't do: the singer. She must be changed. Tell her as gently
as you can: you're used to it.... It will be quite easy for you to find me

The impresario looked disgruntled: he looked at Christophe as though he
could not believe that he was serious; and he said:

"But that's impossible!"

"Why is it impossible?" asked Christophe.

The impresario looked cunningly at Sylvain Kohn, and replied:

"But she has so much talent!"

"Not a spark," said Christophe.

"What!... She has a fine voice!"

"Not a bit of it."

"And she is beautiful."

"I don't care a damn."

"That won't hurt the part," said Sylvain Kohn, laughing.

"I want a David, a David who can sing: I don't want Helen of Troy," said

The impresario rubbed his nose uneasily.

"It's a pity, a great pity ..." he said. "She is an excellent artist.... I
give you my word for it! Perhaps she is not at her best to-day. You must
give her another trial."

"All right," said Christophe. "But it is a waste of time."

He went on with the rehearsal. It was worse than ever. He found it hard to
go on to the end: it got on his nerves: his remarks to the singer, from
cold and polite, became dry and cutting, in spite of the obvious pains she
was taking to satisfy him, and the way she ogled him by way of winning his
favor. The impresario prudently stopped the rehearsal just when it seemed
to be hopeless. By way of softening the bad effect of Christophe's remarks,
he bustled up to the singer and paid her heavy compliments. Christophe,
who was standing by, made no attempt to conceal his impatience, called the
impresario, and said:

"There's no room for argument. I won't have the woman. It's unpleasant, I
know: but I did not choose her. Do what you can to arrange the matter."

The impresario bowed frigidly, and said coldly:

"I can't do anything. You must see M. Roussin."

"What has it got to do with M. Roussin? I don't want to bother him with
this business," said Christophe.

"That won't bother him," said Sylvain Kohn ironically.

And he pointed to Roussin, who had just come in.

Christophe went up to him. Roussin was in high good humor, and cried:

"What! Finished already? I was hoping to hear a bit of it. Well, maestro,
what do you say? Are you satisfied?"

"It's going quite well," said Christophe. "I don't know how to thank

"Not at all! Not at all!"

"There is only one thing wrong."

"What is it? We'll put it right. I am determined to satisfy you."

"Well ... the singer. Between ourselves she is detestable."

The beaming smile on Roussin's face froze suddenly. He said, with some

"You surprise me, my dear fellow."

"She is useless, absolutely useless," Christophe went on. "She has no
voice, no taste, no knowledge of her work, no talent. You're lucky not to
have heard her!..."

Roussin grew more and more acid. He cut Christophe short, and said

"I know Mlle. de Sainte-Ygraine. She is a very talented artiste. I have
the greatest admiration for her. Every man of taste in Paris shares my

And he turned his back on Christophe, who saw him offer his arm to the
actress and go out with her. He was dumfounded, and Sylvain Kohn, who had
watched the scene delightedly, took his arm and laughed, and said as they
went down the stairs of the theater:--

"Didn't you know that she was his mistress?"

Christophe understood. So it was for her sake and not for his own that his
piece was to be produced! That explained Roussin's enthusiasm, the money
he had laid out, and the eagerness of his sycophants. He listened while
Sylvain Kohn told him the story of the Sainte-Ygraine: a music-hall singer,
who, after various successes in the little vaudeville theaters, had, like
so many of her kind, been fired with the ambition to be heard on a stage
more worthy of her talent. She counted on Roussin to procure her an
engagement at the Opera or the Opera-Comique: and Roussin, who asked
nothing better, had seen in the performance of _David_ an opportunity of
revealing to the Parisian public at no very great risk the lyrical gifts
of the new tragedienne, in a part which called for no particular dramatic
acting, and gave her an excellent opportunity of displaying the elegance of
her figure.

Christophe heard the story through to the end: then he shook off Sylvain
Kohn and burst out laughing. He laughed and laughed. When he had done, he

"You disgust me. You all disgust me. Art is nothing to you. It's always
women, nothing but women. An opera is put on for a dancer, or a singer, for
the mistress of M. So-and-So, or Madame Thingummy. You think of nothing but
your dirty little intrigues. Bless you, I'm not angry with you: you are
like that: very well then, be so and wallow in your mire. But we must part
company: we weren't made to live together. Good-night."

He left him, and when he reached home, wrote to Roussin, saying that he
withdrew the piece, and did not disguise his reasons for doing so.

It meant a breach with Roussin and all his gang. The consequences were
felt at once. The newspapers had made a certain amount of talk about the
forthcoming piece, and the story of the quarrel between the composer and
the singer appeared in due course. A certain conductor was adventurous
enough to play the piece at a Sunday afternoon concert. His good fortune
was disastrous for Christophe. The _David_ was played--and hissed. All
the singer's friends had passed the word to teach the insolent musician a
lesson: and the outside public, who had been bored by the symphonic poem,
added their voices to the verdict of the critics. To crown his misfortunes,
Christophe was ill-advised enough to accept the invitation to display his
talents as a pianist at the same concert by giving a _Fantasia_ for piano
and orchestra. The unkindly disposition of the audience, which had been to
a certain extent restrained during the performance of the _David_, out of
consideration for the interpreters, broke loose, when they found themselves
face to face with the composer,--whose playing was not all that it might
have been. Christophe was unnerved by the noise in the hall, and stopped
suddenly half-way through a movement: and he looked jeeringly at the
audience, who were startled into silence, and played _Malbrouck s'en
va-t-en guerre_!--and said insolently:

"That is all you are fit for."

Then he got up and went away.

There was a terrific row. The audience shouted that he had insulted them,
and that he must come and apologize. Next day the papers unanimously
slaughtered the grotesque German to whom justice had been meted out by the
good taste of Paris.

And then once more he was left in absolute isolation. Once more Christophe
found himself alone, more solitary than ever, in that great, hostile,
stranger city. He did not worry about it. He began to think that he was
fated to be so, and would be so all his life.

He did not know that a great soul is never alone, that, however Fortune may
cheat him of friendship, in the end a great soul creates friends by the
radiance of the love with which it is filled, and that even in that hour,
when he thought himself for ever isolated, he was more rich in love than
the happiest men and women in the world.

* * * * *

Living with the Stevens was a little girl of thirteen or fourteen, to whom
Christophe had given lessons at the same time as Colette. She was a distant
cousin of Colette's, and her name was Grazia Buontempi. She was a little
girl with a golden-brown complexion, with cheeks delicately tinged with
red: healthy-looking: she had a little aquiline nose, a large well-shaped
mouth, always half-open, a round chin, very white, calm clear eyes, softly
smiling, a round forehead framed in masses of long, silky hair, which fell
in long, waving locks loosely down to her shoulders. She was like a little
Virgin of Andrea del Sarto, with her wide face and serenely gazing eyes.

She was Italian. Her parents lived almost all the year round in the country
on an estate in the North of Italy: plains, fields, little canals. From the
loggia on the housetop they looked down on golden vines, from which here
and there the black spikes of the cypress-trees emerged. Beyond them were
fields, and again fields. Silence. The lowing of the oxen returning from
the fields, and the shrill cries of the peasants at the plow were to be

_"Ihi!... Fat innanz'!..."_

Grasshoppers chirruped in the trees, frogs croaked by the waterside. And at
night there was infinite silence under the silver beams of the moon. In the
distance, from time to time, the watchers by the crops, sleeping in huts of
branches, fired their guns by way of warning thieves that they were awake.
To those who heard them drowsily, these noises meant no more than the
chiming of a dull clock in the distance, marking the hours of the night.
And silence closed again, like a soft cloak, about the soul.

Round little Grazia life seemed asleep. Her people did not give her much
attention. In the calmness and beauty that was all about her she grew up
peacefully without haste, without fever. She was lazy, and loved to dawdle
and to sleep. For hours together she would lie in the garden. She would let
herself be borne onward by the silence like a fly on a summer stream. And
sometimes, suddenly, for no reason, she would begin to run. She would run
like a little animal, head and shoulders a little leaning to the right,
moving easily and supply. She was like a kid climbing and slithering among
the stones for the sheer joy of leaping about. She would talk to the dogs,
the frogs, the grass, the trees, the peasants, and the beasts in the
farmyard. She adored all the creatures about her, great and small: but she
was less at her ease with the great. She saw very few people. The estate
was isolated and far from any town. Very rarely there came along the dusty
road some trudging, solemn peasant, or lovely country woman, with bright
eyes and sunburnt face, walking with a slow rhythm, head high and chest
well out. For days together Grazia lived alone in the silence of the
garden: she saw no one: she was never bored: she was afraid of nothing.

One day a tramp came, stealing fowls. He stopped dead when he saw the
little girl lying on the grass, eating a piece of bread and butter and
humming to herself. She looked up at him calmly, and asked him what he
waited. He said:

"Give me something, or I'll hurt you."

She held out her piece of bread and butter and smiled, and said:

"You must not do harm."

Then he went away.

Her mother died. Her father, a kind, weak man, was an old Italian of a good
family, robust, jovial, affectionate, but rather childish, and he was quite
incapable of bringing up his child. Old Buontempi's sister, Madame Stevens,
came to the funeral, and was struck by the loneliness of the child, and
decided to take her back to Paris for a while, to distract her from her
grief. Grazia and her father wept: but when Madame Stevens had made up her
mind to anything, there was nothing for it but to give in: nobody could
stand out against her. She had the brains of the family: and, in her house
in Paris, she directed everything, dominated everybody: her husband,
her daughter, her lovers:--for she had not denied herself in the matter
of love: she went straight at her duties, and her pleasures: she was a
practical woman and a passionate--very worldly and very restless.

Transplanted to Paris, Grazia adored her pretty cousin Colette, whom she
amused. The pretty little savage was taken out into society and to the
theater. They treated her as a child, and she regarded herself as a child,
although she was a child no longer. She had feelings which she hid away,
for she was fearful of them: accesses of tenderness for some person or
thing. She was secretly in love with Colette, and would steal a ribbon
or a handkerchief that belonged to her: often in her presence, she could
not speak a word: and when she expected her, when she knew that she was
going to see her, she would tremble with impatience and happiness. At the
theater when she saw her pretty cousin, in evening dress, come into the
box and attract general attention, she would smile humbly, affectionately,
lovingly: and her heart would leap when Colette spoke to her. Dressed in
white, with her beautiful black hair loose and hanging over her shoulders,
biting the fingers of her long white cotton gloves, and idly poking her
fingers through the holes,--every other minute during the play she would
turn towards Colette in the hope of meeting a friendly look, to share the
pleasure she was feeling, and to say with her clear brown eyes:

"I love you."

When they were out together in the Bois, outside Paris, she would walk in
Colette's shadow, sit at her feet; run in front of her, break off branches
that might be in her way, place stones in the mud for her to walk on. And
one evening in the garden, when Colette shivered and asked for her shawl,
she gave a little cry of delight--she was at once ashamed of it--to think
that her beloved would be wrapped in something of hers, and would give it
back to her presently filled with the scent of her body.

There were books, certain passages in the poets, which she read in
secret--(for she was still given children's books)--which gave her
delicious thrills. And there were more even in certain passages in music,
although she was told that she could not understand them: and she persuaded
herself that she did not understand them:--but she would turn pale and cold
with emotion. No one knew what was happening within her at such moments.

Outside that she was just a docile little girl, dreamy, lazy, greedy,
blushing on the slightest provocation, now silent for hours together, now
talking volubly, easily touched to tears and laughter, breaking suddenly
into fits of sobbing or childish laughter. She loved to laugh, and silly
little things would amuse her. She never tried to be grown up. She remained
a child. She was, above all, kind and could not bear to hurt anybody, and
she was hurt by the least angry word addressed to herself. She was very
modest and retiring, ready to love and admire anything that seemed good and
beautiful to her, and so she attributed to others qualities which they did
not possess.

She was being educated, for she was very backward. And that was how she
came to be taught music by Christophe.

She saw him for the first time at a crowded party in her aunt's house.
Christophe, who was incapable of adapting himself to his audience, played
an interminable _adagio_ which made everybody yawn: when it seemed to be
over he began again: and everybody wondered if it was ever going to end.
Madame Stevens was boiling with impatience: Colette was highly amused: she
was enjoying the absurdity of it, and rather pleased with Christophe for
being so insensible of it: she felt that he was a force, and she liked
that: but it was comic too: and she would have been the last person to
defend him. Grazia alone was moved to tears by the music. She hid herself
away in a corner of the room. When it was over she went away, so that no
one should see her emotion, and also because she could not bear to see
people making fun of Christophe.

A few days later, at dinner, Madame Stevens in her presence spoke of her
having music-lessons from Christophe. Grazia was so upset that she let her
spoon drop into her soup-plate, and splashed herself and her neighbor.
Colette said she ought first to have lessons in table-manners. Madame
Stevens added that Christophe was not the person to go to for that. Grazia
was glad to be scolded in Christophe's company.

Christophe began to teach her. She was stiff and frozen, and held her arms
close to her sides, and could not stir: and when Christophe placed his
hand on hers, to correct the position of her fingers, and stretched them
over the keys, she nearly fainted. She was fearful of playing badly for
him; but in vain did she practise until she nearly made herself ill, and
evoked impatient protests from her cousin: she always played vilely when
Christophe was present: she was breathless, and her fingers were as stiff
as pieces of wood, or as flabby as cotton: she struck the wrong notes and
gave the emphasis all wrong: Christophe would lose his temper, scold her,
and go away: then she would long to die.

He paid no attention to her, and thought only of Colette. Grazia was
envious of her cousin's intimacy with Christophe: but, although it hurt
her, in her heart she was glad both for Colette and for Christophe. She
thought Colette so superior to herself that it seemed natural to her that
she should monopolize attention.--It was only when she had to choose
between her cousin and Christophe that she felt her heart turn against
Colette. With her girlish intuition she saw that Christophe was made to
suffer by Colette's coquetry, and the persistent courtship of her by Lucien
Levy-Coeur. Instinctively she disliked Levy-Coeur, and she detested him as
soon as she knew that Christophe detested him. She could not understand
how Colette could admit him as a rival to Christophe. She began secretly
to judge him harshly. She discovered certain of his small hypocrisies, and
suddenly changed her manner towards him. Colette saw it, but did not guess
the cause: she pretended to ascribe it to a little girl's caprice. But it
was very certain that she had lost her power over Grazia: as was shown by
a trifling incident. One evening, when they were walking together in the
garden, a gentle rain came on, and Colette, tenderly, though coquettishly,
offered Grazia the shelter of her cloak: Grazia, for whom, a few weeks
before, it would have been happiness ineffable to be held close to her
beloved cousin, moved away coldly, and walked on in silence at a distance
of some yards. And when Colette said that she thought a piece of music that
Grazia was playing was ugly, Grazia was not kept from playing and loving

She was only concerned with Christophe. She had the insight of her
tenderness, and saw that he was suffering, without his saying a word. She
exaggerated it in her childish, uneasy regard for him. She thought that
Christophe was in love with Colette, when he had really no more than an
exacting friendship. She thought he was unhappy, and she was unhappy for
him, and she had little reward for her anxiety. She paid for it when
Colette had infuriated Christophe: then he was surly and avenged himself on
his pupil, waxing wrathful with her mistakes. One morning when Colette had
exasperated him more than usual, he sat down by the piano so savagely that
Grazia lost the little nerve she had: she floundered: he angrily scolded
her for her mistakes: then she lost her head altogether: he fumed, wrung
his hands, declared that she would never do anything properly, and that she
had better occupy herself with cooking, sewing, anything she liked, only,
in Heaven's name, she must not go on with her music! It was not worth the
trouble of torturing people with her mistakes. With that he left her in the
middle of her lesson. He was furious. And poor Grazia wept, not so much for
the humiliation of anything he had said to her, as for despair at not being
able to please Christophe, when she longed to do so, and could only succeed
in adding to his sufferings. The greatest grief was when Christophe ceased
to go to the Stevens' house. Then she longed to go home. The poor child, so
healthy, even in her dreams, in whom there was much of the sweet peace of
the country, felt ill at ease in the town, among the neurasthenic, restless
women of Paris. She never dared say anything, but she had come to a fairly
accurate estimation of the people about her. But she was shy, and, like her
father, weak, from kindness, modesty, distrust of herself. She submitted
to the authority of her domineering aunt and her cousin, who was used to
tyrannizing over everybody. She dared not write to her father, to whom she
wrote regularly long, affectionate letters:

"Please, please, take me home!"

And her father dared not take her home, in spite of his own longing: for
Madame Stevens had answered his timid advances by saying that Grazia was
very well off where she was, much better off than she would be with him,
and that she must stay for the sake of her education.

But there came a time when her exile was too hard for the little southern
creature, a time when she had to fly back towards the light.--That was
after Christophe's concert. She went to it with the Stevens: and she
was tortured by the hideous sight of the rabble amusing themselves with
insulting an artist.... An artist? The man who, in Grazia's eyes, was the
very type of art, the personification of all that was divine in life! She
was on the point of tears; she longed to get away. She had to listen to
all the caterwauling, the hisses, the howls, and, when they reached home,
to the laughter of Colette as she exchanged pitying remarks with Lucien
Levy-Coeur. She escaped to her room, and through part of the night she
sobbed: she spoke to Christophe, and consoled him: she would gladly have
given her life for him, and she despaired of ever being able to do anything
to make him happy. It was impossible for her to stay in Paris any longer.
She begged her father to take her away, saying:

"I cannot live here any longer; I cannot: I shall die if you leave me here
any longer."

Her father came at once, and though it was very painful to them both to
stand up to her terrible aunt, they screwed up their courage for it by a
desperate effort of will.

Grazia returned to the sleepy old estate. She was glad to get back to
Nature and the creatures that she loved. Every day she gathered comfort
for her sorrow, but in her heart there remained a little of the melancholy
of the North, like a veil of mist, that very slowly melted away before
the sun. Sometimes she thought of Christophe's wretchedness. Lying on the
grass, listening to the familiar frogs and grasshoppers, or sitting at her
piano, which now she played more often than before, she would dream of the
friend her heart had chosen: she would talk to him, in whispers, for hours
together, and it seemed not impossible to her that one day he would open
the door and come in to her. She wrote to him, and, after long hesitation,
she sent the letter, unsigned, which, one day, with beating heart, she went
secretly and dropped into the box in the village two miles away, beyond the
long plowed fields,--a kind, good, touching letter, in which she told him
that he was not alone, that he must not be discouraged, that there was
one who thought of him, and loved him, and prayed to God for him,--a poor
little letter, which was lost in the post, so that he never received it.

Then the serene, monotonous days succeeded each other in the life of his
distant friend. And the Italian peace, the genius of tranquillity, calm
happiness, silent contemplation, once more took possession of that chaste
and silent heart, in whose depths there still burned, like a little
constant flame, the memory of Christophe.

* * * * *

But Christophe never knew of the simple love that watched over him from
afar, and was later to fill so great a room in his life. Nor did he know
that at that same concert, where he had been insulted, there sat the woman
who was to be the beloved, the dear companion, destined to walk by his
side, shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand.

He was alone. He thought himself alone. But he did not suffer overmuch. He
did not feel that bitter anguish that had given him such great agony in
Germany. He was stronger, riper: he knew that it must be so. His illusions
about Paris were destroyed: men were everywhere the same: he must be a law
unto himself, and not waste strength in a childish struggle with the world:
he must be himself, calmly, tranquilly. As Beethoven had said, "If we
surrender the forces of our lives to life, what, then, will be left for the
noblest and highest?" He had firmly grasped a knowledge of his nature and
the temper of his race, which formerly he had so harshly judged. The more
he was oppressed by the atmosphere of Paris, the more keenly did he feel
the need of taking refuge in his own country, in the arms of the poets and
musicians, in whom the best of Germany is garnered and preserved. As soon
as he opened their books his room was filled with the sound of the sunlit
Rhine and lit by the loving smiles of old friends new found.

How ungrateful he had been to them! How was it he had failed to feel the
treasure of their goodness and honesty? He remembered with shame all the
unjust, outrageous things he had said of them when he was in Germany. Then
he saw only their defects, their awkward ceremonious manners, their tearful
idealism, their little mental hypocrisies, their cowardice. Ah! How small
were all these things compared with their great virtues! How could he have
been so hard upon their weaknesses, which now made them even more moving in
his eyes: for they were more human for them! In his reaction he was the
more attracted to those of them to whom he had been most unjust. What
things he had said about Schubert and Bach! And now he felt so near to
them. Now it was as though these noble souls, whose foibles he had so
scorned, leaned over him, now that he was in exile and far from his own
people, and smiled kindly and said:

"Brother, we are here! Courage! We too have had more than our share of
misery ... Bah! one wins through it...."

He heard the soul of Johann Sebastian Bach roaring like the sea:
hurricanes, winds howling, the clouds of life scudding,--men and women
drunk with joy, sorrow, fury, and the Christ, all meekness, the Prince of
Peace, hovering above them,--towns awakened by the cries of the watchmen,
running with glad shouts, to meet the divine Bridegroom, whose footsteps
shake the earth,--the vast store of thoughts, passions, musical forms,
heroic life, Shakespearean hallucinations, Savonarolaesque prophecies,
pastoral, epic, apocalyptic visions, all contained in the stunted body of
the little Thuringian _cantor_, with his double chin, and little shining
eyes under the wrinkled lids and the raised eyebrows ...--he could see him
so clearly! somber, jovial, a little absurd, with his head stuffed full of
allegories and symbols, Gothic and rococo, choleric, obstinate, serene,
with a passion for life, and a great longing for death ...--he saw him
in his school, a genial pedant, surrounded by his pupils, dirty, coarse,
vagabond, ragged, with hoarse voices, the ragamuffins with whom he
squabbled, and sometimes fought like a navvy, one of whom once gave him
a mighty thrashing ...--he saw him with his family, surrounded by his
twenty-one children, of whom thirteen died before him, and one was an
idiot, and the rest were good musicians who gave little concerts....
Sickness, burial, bitter disputes, want, his genius misunderstood:--and
through and above it all, his music, his faith, deliverance and light, joy
half seen, felt, desired, grasped,--God, the breath of God kindling his
bones, thrilling through his flesh, thundering from his lips.... O Force!
Force! Thrice joyful thunder of Force!...

Christophe took great draughts of that force. He felt the blessing of that
power of music which issues from the depths of the German soul. Often
mediocre, and even coarse, what does it matter? The great thing is that
it is so, and that it flows plenteously. In France music is gathered
carefully, drop by drop, and passed through Pasteur filters into bottles,
and then corked. And the drinkers of stale water are disgusted by the
rivers of German music! They examine minutely the defects of the German men
of genius!

"Poor little things!"--thought Christophe, forgetting that he himself had
once been just as absurd--"they find fault with Wagner and Beethoven! They
must have faultless men of genius!... As though, when the tempest rages, it
would take care not to upset the existing order of things!..."

He strode about Paris rejoicing in his strength. If he were misunderstood,
so much the better! He would be all the freer. To create, as genius must, a
whole world, organically constituted according to his own inward laws, the
artist must live in it altogether. An artist can never be too much alone.
What is terrible is to see his ideas reflected in a mirror which deforms
and stunts them. He must say nothing to others of what he is doing until he
has done it: otherwise he would never have the courage to go on to the end:
for it would no longer be his idea, but the miserable idea of others that
would live in him.

Now that there was nothing to disturb his dreams, they bubbled forth like
springs from all the corners of his soul, and from every stone of the roads
by which he walked. He was living in a visionary state. Everything he saw
and heard called forth in him creatures and things different from those he
saw and heard. He had only to live to find everywhere about him the life
of his heroes. Their sensations came to him of their own accord. The eyes
of the passers-by, the sound of a voice borne by the wind, the light on
a lawn, the birds singing in the trees of the Luxembourg, a convent-bell
ringing so far away, the pale sky, the little patch of sky seen from his
room, the sounds and shades of sound of the different hours of the day, all
these were not in himself, but in the creatures of his dreams.--Christophe
was happy.

But his material position was worse than ever. He had lost his few pupils,
his only resource. It was September, and rich people were out of town, and
it was difficult to find new pupils. The only one he had was an engineer, a
crazy, clever fellow, who had taken it into his head, at forty, to become a
great violinist. Christophe did not play the violin very well: but he knew
more about it than his pupil: and for some time he gave him three hours a
week at two francs an hour. But at the end of six weeks the engineer got
tired of it, and suddenly discovered that painting was his vocation.--When
he imparted his discovery to Christophe, Christophe laughed heartily: but,
when he had done laughing, he reckoned up his finances, and found that he
had in hand the twelve francs which his pupil had just paid him for his
last lessons. That did not worry him: he only said to himself that he must
certainly set about finding some other means of living, and start once more
going from publisher to publisher. That was not very pleasant.... Pff!...
It was useless to torment himself in advance. It was a jolly day. He went
to Meudon.

He had a sudden longing for a walk. As he walked there rose in him scraps
of music. He was as full of it as a hive of honey: and he laughed aloud at
the golden buzzing of his bees. For the most part it was changing music.
And lively leaping rhythms, insistent, haunting.... Much good it is to
create and fashion music buried within four walls! There you can only make
combinations of subtle, hard, unyielding harmonies, like the Parisians!

When he was weary he lay down in the woods. The trees were half in leaf,
the sky was periwinkle blue. Christophe dozed off dreamily, and in his
dreams there was the color of the sweet light falling from October clouds.
His blood throbbed. He listened to the rushing flood of his ideas. They
came from all corners of the earth: worlds, young and old, at war, rags and
tatters of dead souls, guests and parasites that once had dwelled within
him, as in a city. The words that Gottfried had spoken by the grave of
Melchior returned to him: he was a living tomb, filled with the dead,
striving in him,--all his unknown forefathers. He listened to those
countless lives, it delighted him to set the organ roaring, the roaring of
that age-old forest, full of monsters, like the forest of Dante. He was
no longer fearful of them as he had been in his youth. For the master was
there: his will. It was a great joy to him to crack his whip and make the
beasts howl, and feel the wealth of living creatures in himself. He was
not alone. There was no danger of his ever being alone. He was a host in
himself. Ages of Kraffts, healthy and rejoicing in their health. Against
hostile Paris, against a hostile people, he could set a whole people: the
fight was equal.

* * * * *

He had left the modest room--it was too expensive--which he occupied and
taken an attic in the Montrouge district. It was well aired, though it
had no other advantage. There was a continual draught. But he wanted to
breathe. From his window he had a wide view over the chimneys of Paris to
Montmartre in the background. It had not taken him long to move: a handcart
was enough: Christophe pushed it himself. Of all his possessions the most
precious to him, after his old bag, was one of those casts, which have
lately become so popular, of the death-mask of Beethoven. He packed it with
as much care as though it were a priceless work of art. He never let it out
of his sight. It was an oasis in the midst of the desert of Paris. And also
it served him as a moral thermometer. The death-mask indicated more clearly
than his own conscience the temperature of his soul, the character of his
most secret thoughts: now a cloudy sky, now the gusty wind of the passions,
now fine calm weather.

He had to be sparing with his food. He only ate once a day, at one in the
afternoon. He bought a large sausage, and hung it up in his window: a thick
slice of it, a hunk of bread, and a cup of coffee that he made himself were
a feast for the gods. He would have preferred two such feasts. He was angry
with himself for having such a good appetite. He called himself to task,
and thought himself a glutton, thinking only of his stomach. He lost flesh:
he was leaner than a famished dog. But he was solidly built, he had an iron
constitution, and his head was clear.

He did not worry about the morrow, though he had good reason for doing so.
As long as he had in hand money enough for the day he never bothered about
it. When he came to the end of his money he made up his mind to go the
round of the publishers once more. He found no work. He was on his way
home, empty, when, happening to pass the music-shop where he had been
introduced to Daniel Hecht by Sylvain Kohn, he went in without remembering
that he had already been there under not very pleasant circumstances. The
first person he saw was Hecht. He was on the point of turning tail: but he
was too late: Hecht had seen him. Christophe did not wish to seem to be
avoiding him: he went up to Hecht, not knowing what to say to him, and
fully prepared to stand up to him as arrogantly as need be: for he was
convinced that Hecht would be unsparingly insolent. But he was nothing
of the kind. Hecht coldly held out his hand, muttered some conventional
inquiry after his health, and, without waiting for any request from
Christophe, he pointed to the door of his office, and stepped aside to let
him pass. He was secretly glad of the visit, which he had foreseen, though
he had given up expecting it. Without seeming to do so, he had carefully
followed Christophe's doings: he had missed no opportunity of hearing his
music: he had been at the famous performance of the _David_: and, despising
the public, he had not been greatly surprised at its hostile reception,
since he himself had felt the beauty of the work. There were probably not
two people in Paris more capable than Hecht of appreciating Christophe's
artistic originality. But he took care not to say anything about it, not
only because his vanity was hurt by Christophe's attitude towards himself,
but because it was impossible for him to be amiable: it was the peculiarly
ungracious quality of his nature. He was sincerely desirous of helping
Christophe: but he would not have stirred a finger to do so: he was waiting
for Christophe to come and ask it of him. And now that Christophe had
come,--instead of generously seizing the opportunity of wiping out the
memory of their previous misunderstanding by sparing his visitor any
humiliation, he gave himself the satisfaction of hearing him make his
request at length: and he even went so far as to offer Christophe, at least
for the time being, the work which he had formerly refused. He gave him
fifty pages of music to transpose for mandoline and guitar by the next
day. After which, being satisfied that he had made him truckle down, he
found him less distasteful work, but always so ungraciously that it was
impossible to be grateful to him for it: Christophe had to be ground
down by necessity before he would ever go to Hecht again. In any case he
preferred to earn his money by such work, however irritating it might
be, than accept it as a gift from Hecht, as it was once more offered to
him:--and, indeed, Hecht meant it kindly: but Christophe had been conscious
of Hecht's original intention to humiliate him: he was forced to accept
his conditions, but nothing would induce him to accept any favor from
him: he was willing to work for him:--by giving and giving he squared the
account:--but he would not be under any obligation to him. Unlike Wagner,
that impudent mendicant where his art was concerned, he did not place his
art above himself: the bread that he had not earned himself would have
choked him.--One day, when he brought some work that he had sat up all
night to finish, he found Hecht at table. Hecht, remarking his pallor and
the hungry glances that involuntarily he cast at the dishes, felt sure that
he had not eaten that day, and invited him to lunch. He meant kindly, but
he made it so apparent that he had noticed Christophe's straits that his
invitation looked like charity: Christophe would have died of hunger rather
than accept. He could not refuse to sit down at the table--(Hecht said he
wanted to talk to him):--but he did not touch a morsel: he pretended that
he had just had lunch. His stomach was aching with hunger.

Christophe would gladly have done without Hecht: but the other publishers
were even worse.--There were also wealthy amateurs who had conceived some
scrap of a musical idea, and could not even write it down. They would send
for Christophe, hum over their lucubrations, and say:

"Isn't it fine?"

Then they would give them to him for elaboration,--(to be written):--and
then they would appear under their own names through some great publishing
house. They were quite convinced that they had composed them themselves.
Christophe knew such a one, a distinguished nobleman, a strange, restless
creature, who would suddenly call him "Dear friend," grasp him by the
arm, and burst into a torrent of enthusiastic demonstrations, talking and
giggling, babbling and telling funny stories, interlarded with cries of
ecstatic laughter: Beethoven, Verlaine, Faure, Yvette Guilbert.... He made
him work, and failed to pay. He worked it out in invitations to lunch and
handshakes. Finally he sent Christophe twenty francs, which Christophe gave
himself the foolish luxury of returning. That day he had not twenty sous
in the world: and he had to buy a twenty-five centimes stamp for a letter
to his mother. It was Louisa's birthday, and Christophe would not for the
world have failed her: the poor old creature counted on her son's letter,
and could not have endured disappointment. For some weeks past she had been
writing to him more frequently, in spite of the pain it caused her. She
was suffering from her loneliness. But she could not bring herself to
join Christophe in Paris: she was too timid, too much attached to her own
little town, to her church, her house, and she was afraid of traveling. And
besides, if she had wanted to come, Christophe had not enough money: he had
not always enough for himself.

He had been given a great deal of pleasure once by receiving a letter from
Lorchen, the peasant girl for whose sake he had plunged into the brawl with
the Prussian soldiers:[Footnote: See _Jean-Christophe_--I, "Revolt."] she
wrote to tell him that she was going to be married: she gave him news of
his mother, and sent him a basket of apples and a piece of cake to eat in
her honor. They came in the nick of time. That evening with Christophe was
a fast, Ember Days, Lent: only the butt end of the sausage hanging by the
window was left. Christophe compared himself to the anchorite saints fed by
a crow among the rocks. But no doubt the crow was hard put to it to feed
all the anchorites, for he never came again.

In spite of all his difficulties Christophe kept his end up. He washed his
linen in his basin, and cleaned his boots, whistling like a blackbird. He
consoled himself with the saying of Berlioz: "Let us raise our heads above
the miseries of life, and let us blithely sing the familiar gay refrain,
_Dies irae_...."--He used to sing it sometimes, to the dismay of his
neighbors, who were amazed and shocked to hear him break off in the middle
and shout with laughter.

He led a life of stern chastity. As Berlioz remarked: "The lover's life is
a life for the idle and the rich." Christophe's poverty, his daily hunt
for bread, his excessive sobriety, and his creative fever left him neither
the time nor the taste for any thought of pleasure. He was more than
indifferent about it: in his reaction against Paris he had plunged into a
sort of moral asceticism. He had a passionate need of purity, a horror of
any sort of dirtiness. It was not that he was rid of his passions. At other
times he had been swept headlong by them. But his passions remained chaste
even when he yielded to them: for he never sought pleasure through them but
the absolute giving of himself and fulness of being. And when he saw that
he had been deceived he flung them furiously from him. Lust was not to
him a sin like any other. It was the great Sin, that which poisons the
very springs of life. All those in whom the old Christian belief has not
been crusted over with strange conceptions, all those who still feel in
themselves the vigor and life of the races, which through the strengthening
of an heroic discipline have built up Western civilization, will have
no difficulty in understanding him. Christophe despised cosmopolitan
society, whose only aim and creed was pleasure.--In truth it is good to
seek pleasure, to desire pleasure for all men, to combat the cramping
pessimistic beliefs, that have come to weigh upon humanity through twenty
centuries of Gothic Christianity. But that can only be upon condition
that it is a generous faith, earnestly desirous of the good of others.
But instead of that, what happens? The most pitiful egoism. A handful of
loose-living men and women trying to give their senses the maximum of
pleasure with the minimum of risk, while they take good care that the rest
shall drudge for it.--Yes, no doubt, they have their parlor Socialism!...
But they know perfectly well that their doctrine of pleasure is only
practicable for "well-fed" people, for a select pampered few, that it is
poison to the poor....

"The life of pleasure is a rich man's life."

* * * * *

Christophe was neither rich nor likely to become so. When he made a little
money he spent it at once on music: he went without food to go to concerts.
He would take cheap seats in the gallery of the _Theatre du Chatelet_: and
he would steep himself in music: he found both food and love in it. He had
such a hunger for happiness and so great a power of enjoying it that the
imperfections of the orchestra never worried him: he would stay for two or
three hours, drowsy and beatific, and wrong notes or defective taste never
provoked in him more than an indulgent smile: he left his critical faculty
outside: he was there to love, not to judge. Around him the audience sat
motionless, with eyes half closed, letting itself be borne on by the great
torrent of dreams. Christophe fancied them as a mass of people curled up
in the shade, like an enormous cat, weaving fantastic dreams of lust and
carnage. In the deep golden shadows certain faces stood out, and their
strange charm and silent ecstasy drew Christophe's eyes and heart: he loved
them: he listened through them: he became them, body and soul. One woman in
the audience became aware of it, and between her and Christophe during the
concert there was woven one of those obscure sympathies, which touch the
very depths, though never by one word are they translated into the region
of consciousness, while, when the concert is over and the thread that binds
soul to soul is snapped, nothing is left of it. It is a state familiar
to lovers of music, especially when they are young and do most wholly
surrender: the essence of music is so completely love, that the full savor
of it is not won unless it be enjoyed through another, and so it is that,
at a concert, we instinctively seek among the throng for friendly eyes, for
a friend with whom to share a joy too great for ourselves alone.

Among such friends, the friends of one brief hour, whom Christophe marked
out for choice of love, the better to taste the sweetness of the music, he
was attracted by one face which he saw again and again, at every concert.
It was the face of a little grisette who seemed to adore music without
understanding it at all. She had an odd little profile, a short, straight
nose, almost in line with her slightly pouting lips and delicately molded
chin, fine arched eyebrows, and clear eyes: one of those pretty little
faces behind the veil of which one feels joy and laughter concealed by calm
indifference. It is perhaps in such light-hearted girls, little creatures
working for their living, that one finds most the old serenity that is no
more, the serenity of the antique statues and the faces of Raphael. There
is but one moment in their lives, the first awakening of pleasure: all too
soon their lives are sullied. But at least they have lived for one lovely

It gave Christophe an exquisite pleasure to look at her: a pretty face
would always warm his heart: he could enjoy without desire: he found joy in
it, force, comfort,--almost virtue. It goes without saying that she quickly
became aware that he was watching her: and, unconsciously, there was set up
between them a magnetic current. And as they met at almost every concert,
almost always in the same places, they quickly learned each other's likes
and dislikes. At certain passages they would exchange meaning glances: when
she particularly liked some melody she would just put out her tongue as
though to lick her lips: or, to show that she did not think much of it, she
would disdainfully wrinkle up her pretty nose. In these little tricks of
hers there was a little of that innocent posing of which hardly any one
can be free when he knows that he is being watched. During serious music
she would sometimes try to look grave and serious: and she would turn her
profile towards him, and look absorbed, and smile to herself, and look
out of the corner of her eye to see if he were watching. They had become
very good friends, without exchanging a word, and even without having
attempted--at least Christophe did not--to meet outside.

At last by chance at an evening concert they found themselves sitting
next each other. After a moment of smiling hesitation they began to talk
amicably. She had a charming voice and said many stupid things about music:
for she knew nothing about it and wanted to seem as if she knew: but she
loved it passionately. She loved the worst and the best, Massenet and
Wagner: only the mediocre bored her. Music was a physical pleasure to her:
she drank it in through all the pores of her skin as Danae did the golden
rain. The prelude of _Tristan_ made her blood run cold: and she loved
feeling herself being carried away, like some warrior's prey, by the
_Symphonia Eroica_. She told Christophe that Beethoven was deaf and dumb,
and that, in spite of it all, if she had known him, she would have loved
him, although he was precious ugly. Christophe protested that Beethoven
was not so very ugly: then they argued about beauty and ugliness: and she
agreed that it was a matter of taste: what was beautiful for one person was
not so for another: "We're not golden louis and can't please every one." He
preferred her when she did not talk: he understood her better. During the
death of Isolde she held out her hand to him: her hand was warm and moist:
he held it in his until the end of the piece: they could feel life coursing
through the veins of their clasped hands.

They went out together: it was near midnight. They walked back to the Latin
Quarter talking eagerly: she had taken his arm and he took her home: but
when they reached the door, and she seemed to suggest that he should go
up and see her room, he disregarded her smile and the friendliness in her
eyes and left her. At first she was amazed, then furious: then she laughed
aloud at the thought of his stupidity: and then, when she had reached her
room and began to undress, she felt hurt and angry, and finally wept in
silence. When next she met him at a concert she tried to be dignified and
indifferent and crushing. But he was so kind to her that she could not hold
to her resolution. They began to talk once more: only now she was a little
reserved with him. He talked to her warmly but very politely and always
about serious things, and the music to which they were listening and what
it meant to him. She listened attentively and tried to think as he did. The
meaning of his words often escaped her: but she believed him all the same.
She was grateful to Christophe and had a respect for him which she hardly
showed. By tacit agreement they only spoke to each other at concerts.
He met her once surrounded with students. They bowed gravely. She never
talked about him to any one. In the depths of her soul there was a little
sanctuary, a quality of beauty, purity, consolation.

And so Christophe, by his presence, by the mere fact of his existence,
exercised an influence that brought strength and solace. Wherever he passed
he unconsciously left behind the traces of his inward light. He was the
last to have any notion of it. Near him, in the house where he lived, there
were people whom he had never seen, people who, without themselves
suspecting it, gradually came under the spell of his beneficent radiance.

For several weeks Christophe had no money for concerts even by fasting: and
in his attic under the roof, now that winter was coming in, he was numbed
with the cold: he could not sit still at his table. Then he would get
up and walk about Paris, trying to warm himself. He had the faculty of
forgetting the seething town about him, and slipping away into space and
the infinite. It was enough for him to see above the noisy street the
dead, frozen moon, hung there in the abysm of the sky, or the sun, like a
disc, rolling through the white mist; then Paris would sink down into the
boundless void and all the life of it would seem to be no more than the
phantom of a life that had been once, long, long ago ... ages ago ... The
smallest tiny sign, imperceptible to the common lot of men, of the great
wild life of Nature, so sparsely covered with the livery of civilization,
was enough to make it all come rushing mightily up before his gaze. The
grass growing between the stones of the streets, the budding of a tree
strangled by its cast-iron cage, airless, earthless, on some bleak
boulevard: a dog, a passing bird, the last relics of the beasts and
birds that thronged the primeval world, which man has since destroyed: a
whirling cloud of flies: the mysterious epidemic that raged through a whole
district:--these were enough in the thick air of that human hothouse to
bring the breath of the Spirit of the Earth up to slap his cheeks and whip
his energy to action.

During those long walks, when he was often starving, and often had
not spoken to a soul for days together, his wealth of dreams seemed
inexhaustible. Privation and silence had aggravated his morbid heated
condition. At night he slept feverishly, and had exhausting dreams: he saw
once more and never ceased to see the old house and the room in which he
had lived as a child: he was haunted by musical obsessions. By day he
talked and never ceased to talk to the creatures within himself and the
beings whom he loved, the absent and the dead.

One cold afternoon in December, when the grass was covered with frost, and
the roofs of the houses and the great domes were glistening through the
fog, and the trees, with their cold, twisted, naked branches, groping
through the mist that hung about them, looked like great weeds at the
bottom of the sea,--Christophe, who had been shivering all day and could
not get warm again, went into the Louvre, which he hardly knew at all.

Till then painting had never moved him much. He was too much absorbed by
the world within himself to grasp the world of color and form. They only
acted on him through their music and rhythm, which only brought him an
indistinguishable echo of their truth. No doubt his instinct did obscurely
divine the selfsame laws that rule the harmony of visible form, as of the
form of sounds, and the deep waters of the soul, from which spring the two
rivers of color and sound, to flow down the two sides of the mountain of
life. But he only knew one side of the mountain, and he was lost in the
kingdom of the eye, which was not his. And so he missed the secret of the
most exquisite, and perhaps the most natural charm of clear-eyed France,
the queen of the world of light.

Even had he been interested in painting, Christophe was too German to
adapt himself to so widely different a vision of things. He was not one of
those up-to-date Germans who decry the German way of feeling, and persuade
themselves that they admire and love French Impressionism or the artists of
the eighteenth century,--except when they go farther and are convinced that
they understand them better than the French. Christophe was a barbarian,
perhaps: but he was frank about it. The pink flesh of Boucher, the fat
chins of Watteau, the bored shepherds and plump, tight-laced shepherdesses,
the whipped-cream souls, the virtuous oglings of Greuze, the tucked shirts
of Fragonard, all that bare-legged poesy interested him no more than a
fashionable, rather spicy newspaper. He did not see its rich and brilliant
harmony; the voluptuous and sometimes melancholy dreams of that old
civilization, the highest in Europe, were foreign to him. As for the French
school of the seventeenth century, he liked neither its devout ceremony nor
its pompous portraits: the cold reserve of the gravest of the masters, a
certain grayness of soul that clouded the proud works of Nicolas Poussin
and the pale faces of Philippe de Champaigne, repelled Christophe from
old French art. And, once more, he knew nothing about it. If he had known
anything about it he would have misunderstood it. The only modern painter
whose fascination he had felt at all in Germany, Boecklin of Basle, had not
prepared him much for Latin art. Christophe remembered the shock of his
impact with that brutal genius, which smacked of earth and the musty smell
of the heroic beasts that it had summoned forth. His eyes, seared by the
raw light, used to the frantic motley of that drunken savage, could hardly
adapt themselves to the half-tints, the dainty and mellifluous harmonies of
French art.

But no man with impunity can live in a foreign land. Unknown to him it sets
its seal upon him. In vain does he withdraw into himself: upon a day he
must wake up to find that something has changed.

There was a change in Christophe on that evening when he wandered through
the rooms of the Louvre. He was tired, cold, hungry; he was alone. Around
him darkness was descending upon the empty galleries, and sleeping forms
awoke. Christophe was very cold as he walked in silence among Egyptian
sphinxes, Assyrian monsters, bulls of Persepolis, gleaming snakes from
Palissy. He seemed to have passed into a magic world: and in his heart
there was a strange, mysterious emotion. The dream of humanity wrapped him
about,--the strange flowers of the soul....

In the misty gilded light of the picture-galleries, and the gardens of
rich brilliant hues, and painted airless fields, Christophe, in a state
of fever, on the very brink of illness, was visited by a miracle.--He
was walking, numbed by hunger, by the coldness of the galleries, by the
bewildering mass of pictures: his head was whirling. When he reached the
end of the gallery that looks on to the river, he stood before the _Good
Samaritan_ of Rembrandt, and leaned on the rail in front of the pictures to
keep himself from falling: he closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened
them on the picture in front of him--he was quite close to it--and he was
held spellbound....

Day was spent. Day was already far gone; it was already dead. The invisible
sun was sinking down into the night. It was the magic hour when dreams and
visions come mounting from the soul, saddened by the labors of the day,
still, musing drowsily. All is silent, only the beating of the heart is
heard. In the body there is hardly the strength to move, hardly to breathe;
sadness; resignation; only an immense longing to fall into the arms of
a friend, a hunger for some miracle, a feeling that some miracle must
come.... It comes! A flood of golden light flames through the twilight, is
cast upon the walls of the hovel, on the shoulder of the stranger bearing
the dying man, touches with its warmth those humble objects, and those poor
creatures, and the whole takes on a new gentleness, a divine glory. It is
the very God, clasping in his terrible, tender arms the poor wretches,
weak, ugly, poor, unclean, the poor down-at-heel rascal, the miserable
creatures, with twisted haggard faces, thronging outside the window, the
apathetic, silent creatures standing in mortal terror,--all the pitiful
human beings of Rembrandt, the herd of obscure broken creatures who know
nothing, can do nothing, only wait, tremble, weep, and pray.--But the
Master is there. He will come: it is known that He will come. Not He
Himself is seen: only the light that goes before, and the shadow of the
light which He casts upon all men....

Christophe left the Louvre, staggering and tottering. His head ached. He
could not see. In the street it was raining, but he hardly noticed the
puddles between the flags and the water trickling down from his shoes.
Over the Seine the yellowish sky was lit up, as the day waned, by an
inward flame--like the light of a lamp. Still Christophe was spellbound,
hypnotized. It seemed as though nothing existed: not the carriages rattling
over the stones with a pitiless noise: the passers-by were not banging into
him with their wet umbrellas: he was not walking in the street: perhaps he
was sitting at home and dreaming: perhaps he had ceased to exist.... And
suddenly,--(he was so weak!)--he turned giddy and felt himself falling
heavily forward.... It was only for the flash of a second: he clenched his
fists, hurled himself backward, and recovered his balance.

At that very moment when he emerged into consciousness his eyes met the
eyes of a woman standing on the other side of the street, who seemed to
be looking for recognition. He stopped dead, trying to remember when he
had seen her before. It was only after a moment or two that he could place
those sad, soft eyes: it was the little French governess whom, unwittingly,
he had had dismissed in Germany, for whom he had been looking for so long
to beg her to forgive him. She had stopped, too, in the busy throng, and
was looking at him. Suddenly he saw her try to cross through the crowd of
people and step down into the road to come to him. He rushed to meet her:
but they were separated by a block in the traffic: he saw her again for a
moment struggling on the other side of that living wall: he tried to force
his way through, was knocked over by a horse, slipped and fell on the
slippery asphalt, and was all but run over. When he got up, covered with
mud, and succeeded in reaching the other side of the street, she had

He tried to follow her, but he had another attack of giddiness, and he had
to give it up. Illness was close upon him: he felt that, but he would not
submit to it. He set his teeth, and would not go straight home, but went
far out of his way. It was just a useless torment to him: he had to admit
that he was beaten: his legs ached, he dragged along, and only reached home
with frightful difficulty. Half-way up the stairs he choked, and had to sit
down. When he got to his icy room he refused to go to bed: he sat in his
chair, wet through; his head was heavy and he could hardly breathe, and he
drugged himself with music as broken as himself. He heard a few fugitive
bars of the _Unfinished Symphony_ of Schubert. Poor Schubert! He, too, was
alone when he wrote that, feverish, somnolent, in that semitorpid condition
which precedes the last great sleep: he sat dreaming by the fireside: all
round him were heavy drowsy melodies, like stagnant water: he dwelt on
them, like a child half-asleep delighting in some self-told story, and
repeating some passage in it twenty times: so sleep comes, then death....
And Christophe heard fleetingly that other music, with burning hands,
closed eyes, a little weary smile, heart big with sighs, dreaming of the
deliverance of death:--the first chorus in the Cantata of J. S. Bach:
"_Dear God, when shall I die?_"... It was sweet to sink back into the soft
melodies slowly floating by, to hear the distant, muffled clangor of the
bells.... To die, to pass into the peace of earth!... _Und dann selber Erde
werden_.... "And then himself to become earth...."

Christophe shook off these morbid thoughts, the murderous smile of the
siren who lies in wait for the hours of weakness of the soul. He got up,
and tried to walk about his room: but he could not stand. He was shaking
and shivering with fever. He had to go to bed. He felt that it was serious
this time: but he did not lay down his arms: he never was of those who,
when they are ill, yield utterly to their illness: he struggled, he refused
to be ill, and, above all, he was absolutely determined not to die. He had
his poor mother waiting for him in Germany. And he had his work to do: he
would not yield to death. He clenched his chattering teeth, and firmly
grasped his will that was oozing away: he was like a sturdy swimmer
battling with the waves dashing over him. At every moment, down he plunged:
his mind wandered, endless fancies haunted him, memories of Germany and of
Parisian society: he was obsessed by rhythms and scraps of melody which
went round, and round, and round, like horses in a circus: the sudden shock
of the golden light of the _Good Samaritan_: the tense, stricken faces in
the shadow: and then, dark nothingness and night. Then up he would come
once more, wrenching away the grimacing mists, clenching his fists, and
setting his jaw. He clung to all those whom he loved in the present and the
past, to the face of the friend he had just seen in the street, his dear
mother, and to the indestructible life within himself, that he felt was
like a rock, impervious to death. But once more the rock was covered by the
tide: the waves dashed over it, and tore his soul away from its hold upon
it: it was borne headlong and dashed by the foam. And Christophe struggled
in delirium, babbling strangely, conducting and playing an imaginary
orchestra: trombones, horns, cymbals, timbals, bassoons, double-bass,...
he scraped, blew, beat the drum, frantically. The poor wretch was bubbling
over with suppressed music. For weeks he had been unable to hear or play
any music, and he was like a boiler at high pressure, near bursting-point.
Certain insistent phrases bored into his brain like gimlets, pierced his
skull, and made him scream with agony. After these attacks he would fall
back on his pillow, dead tired, wet through, utterly weak, breathless,
choking. He had placed his water-jug by his bedside, and he took great
draughts of it. The various noises of the adjoining rooms, the banging of
the attic doors, made him start. He was filled with a delirious disgust for
the creatures swarming round him. But his will fought on, sounded a warlike
clarion-note, declaring battle on all devils.... "_Und wenn die Welt voll
Teufel waer, und wollten uns verschlingen, so fuerchten wir uns nicht so

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