Villa Rubein et al
Part 2 out of 6
Round the corner of the house, in the shadow of the wall, Dominique,
the Luganese, in embroidered slippers, was smoking a long cherry-wood
pipe, leaning against a tree--Mephistopheles in evening clothes.
Harz went up to him.
"Lend me a pencil, Dominique."
Resting a card against the tree Harz wrote to Mrs. Decie: "Forgive
me, I am obliged to go away. In a few days I shall hope to return,
and finish the picture of your nieces."
He sent Dominique for his hat. During the man's absence he was on
the point of tearing up the card and going back into the house.
When the Luganese returned he thrust the card into his hand, and
walked out between the tall poplars, waiting, like ragged ghosts,
silver with moonlight.
Harz walked away along the road. A dog was howling. The sound
seemed too appropriate. He put his fingers to his ears, but the
lugubrious noise passed those barriers, and made its way into his
heart. Was there nothing that would put an end to this emotion? It
was no better in the old house on the wall; he spent the night
tramping up and down.
Just before daybreak he slipped out with a knapsack, taking the road
He had not quite passed through Gries when he overtook a man walking
in the middle of the road and leaving a trail of cigar smoke behind
"Ah! my friend," the smoker said, "you walk early; are you going my
It was Count Sarelli. The raw light had imparted a grey tinge to his
pale face, the growth of his beard showed black already beneath the
skin; his thumbs were hooked in the pockets of a closely buttoned
coat, he gesticulated with his fingers.
"You are making a journey?" he said, nodding at the knapsack. "You
are early--I am late; our friend has admirable kummel--I have drunk
too much. You have not been to bed, I think? If there is no sleep
in one's bed it is no good going to look for it. You find that? It
is better to drink kummel...! Pardon! You are doing the right
thing: get away! Get away as fast as possible! Don't wait, and let
it catch you!"
Harz stared at him amazed.
"Pardon!" Sarelli said again, raising his hat, "that girl--the white
girl--I saw. You do well to get away!" he swayed a little as he
walked. "That old fellow--what is his name-Trrreffr-ry! What ideas
of honour!" He mumbled: "Honour is an abstraction! If a man is not
true to an abstraction, he is a low type; but wait a minute!"
He put his hand to his side as though in pain.
The hedges were brightening with a faint pinky glow; there was no
sound on the long, deserted road, but that of their footsteps;
suddenly a bird commenced to chirp, another answered--the world
seemed full of these little voices.
"That white girl," he said, speaking with rapidity. "Yes! You do
well! get away! Don't let it catch you! I waited, it caught me--
what happened? Everything horrible--and now--kummel!" Laughing a
thick laugh, he gave a twirl to his moustache, and swaggered on.
"I was a fine fellow--nothing too big for Mario Sarelli; the regiment
looked to me. Then she came--with her eyes and her white dress,
always white, like this one; the little mole on her chin, her hands
for ever moving--their touch as warm as sunbeams. Then, no longer
Sarelli this, and that! The little house close to the ramparts! Two
arms, two eyes, and nothing here," he tapped his breast, "but flames
that made ashes quickly--in her, like this ash--!" he flicked the
white flake off his cigar. "It's droll! You agree, hein? Some day
I shall go back and kill her. In the meantime--kummel!"
He stopped at a house close to the road, and stood still, his teeth
bared in a grin.
"But I bore you," he said. His cigar, flung down, sputtered forth
its sparks on the road in front of Harz. "I live here--good-morning!
You are a man for work--your honour is your Art! I know, and you are
young! The man who loves flesh better than his honour is a low type
--I am a low type. I! Mario Sarelli, a low type! I love flesh better
than my honour!"
He remained swaying at the gate with the grin fixed on his face; then
staggered up the steps, and banged the door. But before Harz had
walked on, he again appeared, beckoning, in the doorway. Obeying an
impulse, Harz went in.
"We will make a night of it," said Sarelli; "wine, brandy, kummel? I
am virtuous--kummel it must be for me!"
He sat down at a piano, and began to touch the keys. Harz poured out
some wine. Sarelli nodded.
"You begin with that? Allegro--piu--presto!
"Wine--brandy--kummel!" he quickened the time of the tune: "it is not
too long a passage, and this"--he took his hands off the keys--"comes
"Some men do not kill themselves," he said.
Sarelli, who was bending and swaying to the music of a tarantella,
broke off, and letting his eyes rest on the painter, began playing
Schumann's Kinderscenen. Harz leaped to his feet.
"Stop that!" he cried.
"It pricks you?" said Sarelli suavely; "what do you think of this?"
he played again, crouching over the piano, and making the notes sound
like the crying of a wounded animal.
"For me!" he said, swinging round, and rising.
"Your health! And so you don't believe in suicide, but in murder?
The custom is the other way; but you don't believe in customs?
Customs are only for Society?" He drank a glass of kummel. "You do
not love Society?"
Harz looked at him intently; he did not want to quarrel.
"I am not too fond of other people's thoughts," he said at last; "I
prefer to think my own.
"And is Society never right? That poor Society!"
"Society! What is Society--a few men in good coats? What has it
done for me?"
Sarelli bit the end off a cigar.
"Ah!" he said; "now we are coming to it. It is good to be an artist,
a fine bantam of an artist; where other men have their dis-ci-pline,
he has his, what shall we say--his mound of roses?"
The painter started to his feet.
"Yes," said Sarelli, with a hiccough, "you are a fine fellow!"
"And you are drunk!" cried Harz.
"A little drunk--not much, not enough to matter!"
Harz broke into laughter. It was crazy to stay there listening to
this mad fellow. What had brought him in? He moved towards the
"Ah!" said Sarelli, "but it is no good going to bed--let us talk. I
have a lot to say--it is pleasant to talk to anarchists at times."
Full daylight was already coming through the chinks of the shutters.
"You are all anarchists, you painters, you writing fellows. You live
by playing ball with facts. Images--nothing solid--hein? You're all
for new things too, to tickle your nerves. No discipline! True
anarchists, every one of you!"
Harz poured out another glass of wine and drank it off. The man's
feverish excitement was catching.
"Only fools," he replied, "take things for granted. As for
discipline, what do you aristocrats, or bourgeois know of discipline?
Have you ever been hungry? Have you ever had your soul down on its
"Soul on its back? That is good!"
"A man's no use," cried Harz, "if he's always thinking of what others
think; he must stand on his own legs."
"He must not then consider other people?"
"Not from cowardice anyway."
"What would you do," he said, striking his chest, "if you had a
devil-here? Would you go to bed?"
A sort of pity seized on Harz. He wanted to say something that would
be consoling but could find no words; and suddenly he felt disgusted.
What link was there between him and this man; between his love and
this man's love?
"Harz!" muttered Sarelli; "Harz means 'tar,' hein? Your family is
not an old one?"
Harz glared, and said: "My father is a peasant."
Sarelli lifted the kummel bottle and emptied it into his glass, with
a steady hand.
"You're honest--and we both have devils. I forgot; I brought you in
to see a picture!"
He threw wide the shutters; the windows were already open, and a rush
of air came in.
"Ah!" he said, sniffing, "smells of the earth, nicht wahr, Herr
Artist? You should know--it belongs to your father.... Come, here's
my picture; a Correggio! What do you think of it?"
"It is a copy."
"Then you have given me the lie, Signor," and drawing out his
handkerchief Sarelli flicked it in the painter's face.
Harz turned white.
"Duelling is a good custom!" said Sarelli. "I shall have the honour
to teach you just this one, unless you are afraid. Here are pistols-
-this room is twenty feet across at least, twenty feet is no bad
And pulling out a drawer he took two pistols from a case, and put
them on the table.
"The light is good--but perhaps you are afraid."
"Give me one!" shouted the infuriated painter; "and go to the devil
for a fool"
"One moment!" Sarelli murmured: "I will load them, they are more
Harz leaned out of the window; his head was in a whirl. 'What on
earth is happening?' he thought. 'He's mad--or I am! Confound him!
I'm not going to be killed!' He turned and went towards the table.
Sarelli's head was sunk on his arms, he was asleep. Harz
methodically took up the pistols, and put them back into the drawer.
A sound made him turn his head; there stood a tall, strong young
woman in a loose gown caught together on her chest. Her grey eyes
glanced from the painter to the bottles, from the bottles to the
pistol-case. A simple reasoning, which struck Harz as comic.
"It is often like this," she said in the country patois; "der Herr
must not be frightened."
Lifting the motionless Sarelli as if he were a baby, she laid him on
"Ah!" she said, sitting down and resting her elbow on the table; "he
will not wake!"
Harz bowed to her; her patient figure, in spite of its youth and
strength, seemed to him pathetic. Taking up his knapsack, he went
The smoke of cottages rose straight; wisps of mist were wandering
about the valley, and the songs of birds dropping like blessings.
All over the grass the spiders had spun a sea of threads that bent
and quivered to the pressure of the air, like fairy tight-ropes.
All that day he tramped.
Blacksmiths, tall stout men with knotted muscles, sleepy eyes, and
great fair beards, came out of their forges to stretch and wipe their
brows, and stare at him.
Teams of white oxen, waiting to be harnessed, lashed their tails
against their flanks, moving their heads slowly from side to side in
the heat. Old women at chalet doors blinked and knitted.
The white houses, with gaping caves of storage under the roofs, the
red church spire, the clinking of hammers in the forges, the slow
stamping of oxen-all spoke of sleepy toil, without ideas or ambition.
Harz knew it all too well; like the earth's odour, it belonged to
him, as Sarelli had said.
Towards sunset coming to a copse of larches, he sat down to rest. It
was very still, but for the tinkle of cowbells, and, from somewhere
in the distance, the sound of dropping logs.
Two barefooted little boys came from the wood, marching earnestly
along, and looking at Harz as if he were a monster. Once past him,
they began to run.
'At their age,' he thought, 'I should have done the same.' A hundred
memories rushed into his mind.
He looked down at the village straggling below--white houses with
russet tiles and crowns of smoke, vineyards where the young leaves
were beginning to unfold, the red-capped spire, a thread of bubbling
stream, an old stone cross. He had been fourteen years struggling up
from all this; and now just as he had breathing space, and the time
to give himself wholly to his work--this weakness was upon him!
Better, a thousand times, to give her up!
In a house or two lights began to wink; the scent of wood smoke
reached him, the distant chimes of bells, the burring of a stream.
Next day his one thought was to get back to work. He arrived at the
studio in the afternoon, and, laying in provisions, barricaded the
lower door. For three days he did not go out; on the fourth day he
went to Villa Rubein....
Schloss Runkelstein--grey, blind, strengthless--still keeps the
valley. The windows which once, like eyes, watched men and horses
creeping through the snow, braved the splutter of guns and the gleam
of torches, are now holes for the birds to nest in. Tangled creepers
have spread to the very summits of the walls. In the keep, instead
of grim men in armour, there is a wooden board recording the history
of the castle and instructing visitors on the subject of
refreshments. Only at night, when the cold moon blanches everything,
the castle stands like the grim ghost of its old self, high above the
After a long morning's sitting the girls had started forth with Harz
and Dawney to spend the afternoon at the ruin; Miss Naylor, kept at
home by headache, watched them depart with words of caution against
sunstroke, stinging nettles, and strange dogs.
Since the painter's return Christian and he had hardly spoken to each
other. Below the battlement on which they sat, in a railed gallery
with little tables, Dawney and Greta were playing dominoes, two
soldiers drinking beer, and at the top of a flight of stairs the
Custodian's wife sewing at a garment. Christian said suddenly: "I
thought we were friends."
"Well, Fraulein Christian, aren't we?"
"You went away without a word; friends don't do that."
Harz bit his lips.
"I don't think you care," she went on with a sort of desperate haste,
"whether you hurt people or not. You have been here all this time
without even going to see your father and mother."
"Do you think they would want to see me?"
Christian looked up.
"It's all been so soft for you," he said bitterly; "you don't
He turned his head away, and then burst out: "I'm proud to come
straight from the soil--I wouldn't have it otherwise; but they are of
'the people,' everything is narrow with them--they only understand
what they can see and touch."
"I'm sorry I spoke like that," said Christian softly; "you've never
told me about yourself."
There was something just a little cruel in the way the painter looked
at her, then seeming to feel compunction, he said quickly: "I always
hated--the peasant life--I wanted to get away into the world; I had a
feeling in here--I wanted--I don't know what I wanted! I did run
away at last to a house-painter at Meran. The priest wrote me a
letter from my father--they threw me off; that's all."
Christian's eyes were very bright, her lips moved, like the lips of a
child listening to a story.
"Go on," she said.
"I stayed at Meran two years, till I'd learnt all I could there, then
a brother of my mother's helped me to get to Vienna; I was lucky
enough to find work with a man who used to decorate churches. We
went about the country together. Once when he was ill I painted the
roof of a church entirely by myself; I lay on my back on the scaffold
boards all day for a week--I was proud of that roof." He paused.
"When did you begin painting pictures?"
"A friend asked me why I didn't try for the Academie. That started
me going to the night schools; I worked every minute--I had to get my
living as well, of course, so I worked at night.
"Then when the examination came, I thought I could do nothing--it was
just as if I had never had a brush or pencil in my hand. But the
second day a professor in passing me said, 'Good! Quite good!' That
gave me courage. I was sure I had failed though; but I was second
out of sixty."
"To work in the schools after that I had to give up my business, of
course. There was only one teacher who ever taught me anything; the
others all seemed fools. This man would come and rub out what you'd
done with his sleeve. I used to cry with rage--but I told him I
could only learn from him, and he was so astonished that he got me
into his class."
"But how did you live without money?" asked Christian.
His face burned with a dark flush. "I don't know how I lived; you
must have been through these things to know, you would never
"But I want to understand, please."
"What do you want me to tell you? How I went twice a week to eat
free dinners! How I took charity! How I was hungry! There was a
rich cousin of my mother's--I used to go to him. I didn't like it.
But if you're starving in the winter"
Christian put out her hand.
"I used to borrow apronsful of coals from other students who were as
poor--but I never went to the rich students."
The flush had died out of his face.
"That sort of thing makes you hate the world! You work till you
stagger; you're cold and hungry; you see rich people in their
carriages, wrapped in furs, and all the time you want to do something
great. You pray for a chance, any chance; nothing comes to the poor!
It makes you hate the world."
Christian's eyes filled with tears. He went on:
"But I wasn't the only one in that condition; we used to meet.
Garin, a Russian with a brown beard and patches of cheek showing
through, and yellow teeth, who always looked hungry. Paunitz, who
came from sympathy! He had fat cheeks and little eyes, and a big
gold chain--the swine! And little Misek. It was in his room we met,
with the paper peeling off the walls, and two doors with cracks in
them, so that there was always a draught. We used to sit on his bed,
and pull the dirty blankets over us for warmth; and smoke--tobacco
was the last thing we ever went without. Over the bed was a Virgin
and Child--Misek was a very devout Catholic; but one day when he had
had no dinner and a dealer had kept his picture without paying him,
he took the image and threw it on the floor before our eyes; it
broke, and he trampled on the bits. Lendorf was another, a heavy
fellow who was always puffing out his white cheeks and smiting
himself, and saying: 'Cursed society!' And Schonborn, an aristocrat
who had quarrelled with his family. He was the poorest of us all;
but only he and I would ever have dared to do anything--they all knew
Christian listened with awe. "Do you mean?" she said, "do you mean,
"You see! you're afraid of me at once. It's impossible even for you
to understand. It only makes you afraid. A hungry man living on
charity, sick with rage and shame, is a wolf even to you!"
Christian looked straight into his eyes.
"That's not true. If I can't understand, I can feel. Would you be
the same now if it were to come again?"
"Yes, it drives me mad even now to think of people fatted with
prosperity, sneering and holding up their hands at poor devils who
have suffered ten times more than the most those soft animals could
bear. I'm older; I've lived--I know things can't be put right by
violence--nothing will put things right, but that doesn't stop my
"Did you do anything? You must tell me all now."
"We talked--we were always talking."
"No, tell me everything!"
Unconsciously she claimed, and he seemed unconsciously to admit her
right to this knowledge.
"There's not much to tell. One day we began talking in low voices--
Garin began it; he had been in some affair in Russia. We took an
oath; after that we never raised our voices. We had a plan. It was
all new to me, and I hated the whole thing--but I was always hungry,
or sick from taking charity, and I would have done anything. They
knew that; they used to look at me and Schonborn; we knew that no one
else had any courage. He and I were great friends, but we never
talked of that; we tried to keep our minds away from the thought of
it. If we had a good day and were not so hungry, it seemed
unnatural; but when the day had not been good--then it seemed natural
enough. I wasn't afraid, but I used to wake up in the night; I hated
the oath we had taken, I hated every one of those fellows; the thing
was not what I was made for, it wasn't my work, it wasn't my nature,
it was forced on me--I hated it, but sometimes I was like a madman."
"Yes, yes," she murmured.
"All this time I was working at the Academie, and learning all I
could.... One evening that we met, Paunitz was not there. Misek was
telling us how the thing had been arranged. Schonborn and I looked
at each other--it was warm--perhaps we were not hungry--it was
springtime, too, and in the Spring it's different. There is
"While we were talking there came a knock at the door. Lendorf put
his eye to the keyhole, and made a sign. The police were there.
Nobody said anything, but Misek crawled under the bed; we all
followed; and the knocking grew louder and louder. In the wall at
the back of the bed was a little door into an empty cellar. We crept
through. There was a trap-door behind some cases, where they used to
roll barrels in. We crawled through that into the back street. We
went different ways."
He paused, and Christian gasped.
"I thought I would get my money, but there was a policeman before my
door. They had us finely. It was Paunitz; if I met him even now I
should wring his neck. I swore I wouldn't be caught, but I had no
idea where to go. Then I thought of a little Italian barber who used
to shave me when I had money for a shave; I knew he would help. He
belonged to some Italian Society; he often talked to me, under his
breath, of course. I went to him. He was shaving himself before
going to a ball. I told him what had happened; it was funny to see
him put his back against the door. He was very frightened,
understanding this sort of thing better than I did--for I was only
twenty then. He shaved my head and moustache and put me on a fair
wig. Then he brought me macaroni, and some meat, to eat. He gave me
a big fair moustache, and a cap, and hid the moustache in the lining.
He brought me a cloak of his own, and four gulden. All the time he
was extremely frightened, and kept listening, and saying: 'Eat!'
"When I had done, he just said: 'Go away, I refuse to know anything
more of you.'
"I thanked him and went out. I walked about all that night; for I
couldn't think of anything to do or anywhere to go. In the morning I
slept on a seat in one of the squares. Then I thought I would go to
the Gallerien; and I spent the whole day looking at the pictures.
When the Galleries were shut I was very tired, so I went into a cafe,
and had some beer. When I came out I sat on the same seat in the
Square. I meant to wait till dark and then walk out of the city and
take the train at some little station, but while I was sitting there
I went to sleep. A policeman woke me. He had my wig in his hand.
"'Why do you wear a wig?' he said.
"I answered: 'Because I am bald.'
"'No,' he said, 'you're not bald, you've been shaved. I can feel the
"He put his finger on my head. I felt reckless and laughed.
"'Ah!' he said, 'you'll come with me and explain all this; your nose
and eyes are looked for.'
"I went with him quietly to the police-station...."
Harz seemed carried away by his story. His quick dark face worked,
his steel-grey eyes stared as though he were again passing through
all these long-past emotions.
The hot sun struck down; Christian drew herself together, sitting
with her hands clasped round her knees.
"I didn't care by then what came of it. I didn't even think what I
was going to say. He led me down a passage to a room with bars
across the windows and long seats, and maps on the walls. We sat and
waited. He kept his eye on me all the time; and I saw no hope.
Presently the Inspector came. 'Bring him in here,' he said; I
remember feeling I could kill him for ordering me about! We went
into the next room. It had a large clock, a writing-table, and a
window, without bars, looking on a courtyard. Long policemen's coats
and caps were hanging from some pegs. The Inspector told me to take
off my cap. I took it off, wig and all. He asked me who I was, but
I refused to answer. Just then there was a loud sound of voices in
the room we had come from. The Inspector told the policeman to look
after me, and went to see what it was. I could hear him talking. He
called out: 'Come here, Becker!' I stood very quiet, and Becker went
towards the door. I heard the Inspector say: 'Go and find Schwartz,
I will see after this fellow.' The policeman went, and the Inspector
stood with his back to me in the half-open door, and began again to
talk to the man in the other room. Once or twice he looked round at
me, but I stood quiet all the time. They began to disagree, and
their voices got angry. The Inspector moved a little into the other
room. 'Now!' I thought, and slipped off my cloak. I hooked off a
policeman's coat and cap, and put them on. My heart beat till I felt
sick. I went on tiptoe to the window. There was no one outside, but
at the entrance a man was holding some horses. I opened the window a
little and held my breath. I heard the Inspector say: 'I will report
you for impertinence!' and slipped through the window. The coat came
down nearly to my heels, and the cap over my eyes. I walked up to
the man with the horses, and said: 'Good-evening.' One of the horses
had begun to kick, and he only grunted at me. I got into a passing
tram; it was five minutes to the West Bahnhof; I got out there.
There was a train starting; they were shouting 'Einsteigen!' I ran.
The collector tried to stop me. I shouted: 'Business--important!'
He let me by. I jumped into a carriage. The train started."
He paused, and Christian heaved a sigh.
Harz went on, twisting a twig of ivy in his hands: "There was another
man in the carriage reading a paper. Presently I said to him, 'Where
do we stop first?' 'St. Polten.' Then I knew it was the Munich
express--St. Polten, Amstetten, Linz, and Salzburg--four stops before
the frontier. The man put down his paper and looked at me; he had a
big fair moustache and rather shabby clothes. His looking at me
disturbed me, for I thought every minute he would say: 'You're no
policeman!' And suddenly it came into my mind that if they looked
for me in this train, it would be as a policeman!--they would know,
of course, at the station that a policeman had run past at the last
minute. I wanted to get rid of the coat and cap, but the man was
there, and I didn't like to move out of the carriage for other people
to notice. So I sat on. We came to St. Polten at last. The man in
my carriage took his bag, got out, and left his paper on the seat.
We started again; I breathed at last, and as soon as I could took the
cap and coat and threw them out into the darkness. I thought: 'I
shall get across the frontier now.' I took my own cap out and found
the moustache Luigi gave me; rubbed my clothes as clean as possible;
stuck on the moustache, and with some little ends of chalk in my
pocket made my eyebrows light; then drew some lines in my face to
make it older, and pulled my cap well down above my wig. I did it
pretty well--I was quite like the man who had got out. I sat in his
corner, took up his newspaper, and waited for Amstetten. It seemed a
tremendous time before we got there. From behind my paper I could
see five or six policemen on the platform, one quite close. He
opened the door, looked at me, and walked through the carriage into
the corridor. I took some tobacco and rolled up a cigarette, but it
shook, "Harz lifted the ivy twig, "like this. In a minute the
conductor and two more policemen came. 'He was here,' said the
conductor, 'with this gentleman.' One of them looked at me, and
asked: 'Have you seen a policeman travelling on this train?' 'Yes,'
I said. 'Where?' 'He got out at St. Polten.' The policeman asked
the conductor: 'Did you see him get out there?' The conductor shook
his head. I said: 'He got out as the train was moving.' 'Ah!' said
the policeman, 'what was he like?' 'Rather short, and no moustache.
Why?' 'Did you notice anything unusual?' 'No,' I said, 'only that
he wore coloured trousers. What's the matter?' One policeman said
to the other: 'That's our man! Send a telegram to St. Polten; he has
more than an hour's start.' He asked me where I was going. I told
him: 'Linz.' 'Ah!' he said, 'you'll have to give evidence; your name
and address please?' 'Josef Reinhardt, 17 Donau Strasse.' He wrote
it down. The conductor said: 'We are late, can we start?' They shut
the door. I heard them say to the conductor: 'Search again at Linz,
and report to the Inspector there.' They hurried on to the platform,
and we started. At first I thought I would get out as soon as the
train had left the station. Then, that I should be too far from the
frontier; better to go on to Linz and take my chance there. I sat
still and tried not to think.
"After a long time, we began to run more slowly. I put my head out
and could see in the distance a ring of lights hanging in the
blackness. I loosened the carriage door and waited for the train to
run slower still; I didn't mean to go into Linz like a rat into a
trap. At last I could wait no longer; I opened the door, jumped and
fell into some bushes. I was not much hurt, but bruised, and the
breath knocked out of me. As soon as I could, I crawled out. It was
very dark. I felt heavy and sore, and for some time went stumbling
in and out amongst trees. Presently I came to a clear space; on one
side I could see the town's shape drawn in lighted lamps, and on the
other a dark mass, which I think was forest; in the distance too was
a thin chain of lights. I thought: 'They must be the lights of a
bridge.' Just then the moon came out, and I could see the river
shining below. It was cold and damp, and I walked quickly. At last
I came out on a road, past houses and barking dogs, down to the river
bank; there I sat against a shed and went to sleep. I woke very
stiff. It was darker than before; the moon was gone. I could just
see the river. I stumbled on, to get through the town before dawn.
It was all black shapes-houses and sheds, and the smell of the river,
the smell of rotting hay, apples, tar, mud, fish; and here and there
on a wharf a lantern. I stumbled over casks and ropes and boxes; I
saw I should never get clear--the dawn had begun already on the other
side. Some men came from a house behind me. I bent, and crept
behind some barrels. They passed along the wharf; they seemed to
drop into the river. I heard one of them say: 'Passau before night.'
I stood up and saw they had walked on board a steamer which was lying
head up-stream, with some barges in tow. There was a plank laid to
the steamer, and a lantern at the other end. I could hear the
fellows moving below deck, getting up steam. I ran across the plank
and crept to the end of the steamer. I meant to go with them to
Passau! The rope which towed the barges was nearly taut; and I knew
if I could get on to the barges I should be safe. I climbed down on
this rope and crawled along. I was desperate, I knew they'd soon be
coming up, and it was getting light. I thought I should fall into
the water several times, but I got to the barge at last. It was
laden with straw. There was nobody on board. I was hungry and
thirsty--I looked for something to eat; there was nothing but the
ashes of a fire and a man's coat. I crept into the straw. Soon a
boat brought men, one for each barge, and there were sounds of steam.
As soon as we began moving through the water, I fell asleep. When I
woke we were creeping through a heavy mist. I made a little hole in
the straw and saw the bargeman. He was sitting by a fire at the
barge's edge, so that the sparks and smoke blew away over the water.
He ate and drank with both hands, and funny enough he looked in the
mist, like a big bird flapping its wings; there was a good smell of
coffee, and I sneezed. How the fellow started! But presently he
took a pitchfork and prodded the straw. Then I stood up. I couldn't
help laughing, he was so surprised--a huge, dark man, with a great
black beard. I pointed to the fire and said 'Give me some, brother!'
He pulled me out of the straw; I was so stiff, I couldn't move. I
sat by the fire, and ate black bread and turnips, and drank coffee;
while he stood by, watching me and muttering. I couldn't understand
him well--he spoke a dialect from Hungary. He asked me: How I got
there--who I was--where I was from? I looked up in his face, and he
looked down at me, sucking his pipe. He was a big man, he lived
alone on the river, and I was tired of telling lies, so I told him
the whole thing. When I had done he just grunted. I can see him now
standing over me, with the mist hanging in his beard, and his great
naked arms. He drew me some water, and I washed and showed him my
wig and moustache, and threw them overboard. All that day we lay out
on the barge in the mist, with our feet to the fire, smoking; now and
then he would spit into the ashes and mutter into his beard. I shall
never forget that day. The steamer was like a monster with fiery
nostrils, and the other barges were dumb creatures with eyes, where
the fires were; we couldn't see the bank, but now and then a bluff
and high trees, or a castle, showed in the mist. If I had only had
paint and canvas that day!" He sighed.
"It was early Spring, and the river was in flood; they were going to
Regensburg to unload there, take fresh cargo, and back to Linz. As
soon as the mist began to clear, the bargeman hid me in the straw.
At Passau was the frontier; they lay there for the night, but nothing
happened, and I slept in the straw. The next day I lay out on the
barge deck; there was no mist, but I was free--the sun shone gold on
the straw and the green sacking; the water seemed to dance, and I
laughed--I laughed all the time, and the barge man laughed with me.
A fine fellow he was! At Regensburg I helped them to unload; for
more than a week we worked; they nicknamed me baldhead, and when it
was all over I gave the money I earned for the unloading to the big
bargeman. We kissed each other at parting. I had still three of the
gulden that Luigi gave me, and I went to a house-painter and got work
with him. For six months I stayed there to save money; then I wrote
to my mother's cousin in Vienna, and told him I was going to London.
He gave me an introduction to some friends there. I went to Hamburg,
and from there to London in a cargo steamer, and I've never been back
After a minute's silence Christian said in a startled voice: "They
could arrest you then!"
"If they knew; but it's seven years ago."
"Why did you come here, when it's so dangerous?"
"I had been working too hard, I wanted to see my country--after seven
years, and when it's forbidden! But I'm ready to go back now." He
looked down at her, frowning.
"Had you a hard time in London, too?"
"Harder, at first--I couldn't speak the language. In my profession
it's hard work to get recognised, it's hard work to make a living.
There are too many whose interest it is to keep you down--I shan't
"But every one is not like that?"
"No; there are fine fellows, too. I shan't forget them either. I
can sell my pictures now; I'm no longer weak, and I promise you I
shan't forget. If in the future I have power, and I shall have
power--I shan't forget."
A shower of fine gravel came rattling on the wall. Dawney was
standing below them with an amused expression on his upturned face.
"Are you going to stay there all night?" he asked. "Greta and I have
bored each other."
"We're coming," called Christian hastily.
On the way back neither spoke a word, but when they reached the
Villa, Harz took her hand, and said: "Fraulein Christian, I can't do
any more with your picture. I shan't touch it again after this."
She made no answer, but they looked at each other, and both seemed to
ask, to entreat, something more; then her eyes fell. He dropped her
hand, and saying, "Good-night," ran after Dawney.
In the corridor, Dominique, carrying a dish of fruit, met the
sisters; he informed them that Miss Naylor had retired to bed; that
Herr Paul would not be home to dinner; his master was dining in his
room; dinner would be served for Mrs. Decie and the two young ladies
in a quarter of an hour: "And the fish is good to-night; little
trouts! try them, Signorina!" He moved on quickly, softly, like a
cat, the tails of his dress-coat flapping, and the heels of his white
Christian ran upstairs. She flew about her room, feeling that if she
once stood still it would all crystallise in hard painful thought,
which motion alone kept away. She washed, changed her dress and
shoes, and ran down to her uncle's room. Mr. Treffry had just
finished dinner, pushed the little table back, and was sitting in his
chair, with his glasses on his nose, reading the Tines. Christian
touched his forehead with her lips.
"Glad to see you, Chris. Your stepfather's out to dinner, and I
can't stand your aunt when she's in one of her talking moods--bit of
a humbug, Chris, between ourselves; eh, isn't she?" His eyes
Christian smiled. There was a curious happy restlessness in her that
would not let her keep still.
"Picture finished?" Mr. Treffry asked suddenly, taking up the paper
with a crackle. "Don't go and fall in love with the painter, Chris."
Christian was still enough now.
'Why not?' she thought. 'What should you know about him? Isn't he
good enough for me?' A gong sounded.
"There's your dinner," Mr. Treffry remarked.
With sudden contrition she bent and kissed him.
But when she had left the room Mr. Treffry put down the Times and
stared at the door, humming to himself, and thoughtfully fingering
Christian could not eat; she sat, indifferent to the hoverings of
Dominique, tormented by uneasy fear and longings. She answered Mrs.
Decie at random. Greta kept stealing looks at her from under her
"Decided characters are charming, don't you think so, Christian?"
Mrs. Decie said, thrusting her chin a little forward, and modelling
the words. "That is why I like Mr. Harz so much; such an immense
advantage for a man to know his mind. You have only to look at that
young man to see that he knows what he wants, and means to have it."
Christian pushed her plate away. Greta, flushing, said abruptly:
"Doctor Edmund is not a decided character, I think. This afternoon
he said: 'Shall I have some beer-yes, I shall--no, I shall not'; then
he ordered the beer, so, when it came, he gave it to the soldiers."
Mrs. Decie turned her enigmatic smile from one girl to the other.
When dinner was over they went into her room. Greta stole at once to
the piano, where her long hair fell almost to the keys; silently she
sat there fingering the notes, smiling to herself, and looking at her
aunt, who was reading Pater's essays. Christian too had taken up a
book, but soon put it down--of several pages she had not understood a
word. She went into the garden and wandered about the lawn, clasping
her hands behind her head. The air was heavy; very distant thunder
trembled among the mountains, flashes of summer lightning played over
the trees; and two great moths were hovering about a rosebush.
Christian watched their soft uncertain rushes. Going to the little
summer-house she flung herself down on a seat, and pressed her hands
to her heart.
There was a strange and sudden aching there. Was he going from her?
If so, what would be left? How little and how narrow seemed the
outlook of her life--with the world waiting for her, the world of
beauty, effort, self-sacrifice, fidelity! It was as though a flash
of that summer lightning had fled by, singeing her, taking from her
all powers of flight, burning off her wings, as off one of those pale
hovering moths. Tears started up, and trickled down her face.
'Blind!' she thought; 'how could I have been so blind?'
Some one came down the path.
"Who's there?" she cried.
Harz stood in the doorway.
"Why did you come out?" he said. "Ah! why did you come out?" He
caught her hand; Christian tried to draw it from him, and to turn her
eyes away, but she could not. He flung himself down on his knees,
and cried: "I love you!"
In a rapture of soft terror Christian bent her forehead down to his
"What are you doing?" she heard him say. "Is it possible that you
love me?" and she felt his kisses on her hair.
"My sweet! it will be so hard for you; you are so little, so little,
and so weak." Clasping his hand closer to her face, she murmured: "I
There was a long, soft silence, that seemed to last for ever.
Suddenly she threw her arms round his neck and kissed him.
"Whatever comes!" she whispered, and gathering her dress, escaped
from him into the darkness.
Christian woke next morning with a smile. In her attitudes, her
voice, her eyes, there was a happy and sweet seriousness, as if she
were hugging some holy thought. After breakfast she took a book and
sat in the open window, whence she could see the poplar-trees
guarding the entrance. There was a breeze; the roses close by kept
nodding to her; the cathedral bells were in full chime; bees hummed
above the lavender; and in the sky soft clouds were floating like
huge, white birds.
The sounds of Miss Naylor's staccato dictation travelled across the
room, and Greta's sighs as she took it down, one eye on her paper,
one eye on Scruff, who lay with a black ear flapped across his paw,
and his tan eyebrows quivering. He was in disgrace, for Dominique,
coming on him unawares, had seen him "say his prayers" before a
pudding, and take the pudding for reward.
Christian put her book down gently, and slipped through the window.
Harz was coming in from the road. "I am all yours!" she whispered.
His fingers closed on hers, and he went into the house.
She slipped back, took up her book, and waited. It seemed long
before he came out, but when he did he waved her back, and hurried
on; she had a glimpse of his face, white to the lips. Feeling faint
and sick, she flew to her stepfather's room.
Herr Paul was standing in a corner with the utterly disturbed
appearance of an easy-going man, visited by the unexpected. His fine
shirt-front was crumpled as if his breast had heaved too suddenly
under strong emotion; his smoked eyeglasses dangled down his back;
his fingers were embedded in his beard. He was fixing his eye on a
spot in the floor as though he expected it to explode and blow them
to fragments. In another corner Mrs. Decie, with half-closed eyes,
was running her finger-tips across her brow.
"What have you said to him?" cried Christian.
Herr Paul regarded her with glassy eyes.
"Mein Gott!" he said. "Your aunt and I!"
"What have you said to him?" repeated Christian.
"The impudence! An anarchist! A beggar!"
"Paul!" murmured Mrs. Decie.
"The outlaw! The fellow!" Herr Paul began to stride about the room.
Quivering from head to foot, Christian cried: "How dared you?" and
ran from the room, pushing aside Miss Naylor and Greta, who stood
blanched and frightened in the doorway.
Herr Paul stopped in his tramp, and, still with his eyes fixed on the
"A fine thing-hein? What's coming? Will you please tell me? An
"Paul!" murmured Mrs. Decie.
"Paul! Paul! And you!" he pointed to Miss Naylor--"Two women with
"There is nothing to be gained by violence," Mrs. Decie murmured,
passing her handkerchief across her lips. Miss Naylor, whose thin
brown cheeks had flushed, advanced towards him.
"I hope you do not--"she said; "I am sure there was nothing that I
could have prevented--I should be glad if that were understood."
And, turning with some dignity, the little lady went away, closing
the door behind her.
"You hear!" Herr Paul said, violently sarcastic: "nothing she could
have prevented! Enfin! Will you please tell me what I am to do?"
"Men of the world"--whose philosophy is a creature of circumstance
and accepted things--find any deviation from the path of their
convictions dangerous, shocking, and an intolerable bore. Herr Paul
had spent his life laughing at convictions; the matter had but to
touch him personally, and the tap of laughter was turned off. That
any one to whom he was the lawful guardian should marry other than a
well-groomed man, properly endowed with goods, properly selected, was
beyond expression horrid. From his point of view he had great excuse
for horror; and he was naturally unable to judge whether he had
excuse for horror from other points of view. His amazement had in it
a spice of the pathetic; he was like a child in the presence of a
thing that he absolutely could not understand. The interview had
left him with a sense of insecurity which he felt to be particularly
The door was again opened, and Greta flew in, her cheeks flushed, her
hair floating behind her, and tears streaming down her cheeks.
"Papa!" she cried, "you have been cruel to Chris. The door is
locked; I can hear her crying--why have you been cruel?" Without
waiting to be answered, she flew out again.
Herr Paul seized his hair with both his hands: "Good! Very good! My
own child, please! What next then?"
Mrs. Decie rose from her chair languidly. "My head is very bad," she
said, shading her eyes and speaking in low tones: "It is no use
making a fuss--nothing can come of this--he has not a penny.
Christian will have nothing till you die, which will not be for a
long time yet, if you can but avoid an apoplectic fit!"
At these last words Herr Paul gave a start of real disgust. "Hum!"
he muttered; it was as if the world were bent on being brutal to him.
Mrs. Decie continued:
"If I know anything of this young man, he will not come here again,
after the words you have spoken. As for Christian--you had better
talk to Nicholas. I am going to lie down."
Herr Paul nervously fingered the shirt-collar round his stout, short
"Nicholas! Certainly--a good idea. Quelle diable d'afaire!"
'French!' thought Mrs. Decie; 'we shall soon have peace. Poor
Christian! I'm sorry! After all, these things are a matter of time
and opportunity.' This consoled her a good deal.
But for Christian the hours were a long nightmare of grief and shame,
fear and anger. Would he forgive? Would he be true to her? Or
would he go away without a word? Since yesterday it was as if she
had stepped into another world, and lost it again. In place of that
new feeling, intoxicating as wine, what was coming? What bitter;
A rude entrance this into the life of facts, and primitive emotions!
She let Greta into her room after a time, for the child had begun
sobbing; but she would not talk, and sat hour after hour at the
window with the air fanning her face, and the pain in her eyes turned
to the sky and trees. After one or two attempts at consolation,
Greta sank on the floor, and remained there, humbly gazing at her
sister in a silence only broken when Christian cleared her throat of
tears, and by the song of birds in the garden. In the afternoon she
slipped away and did not come back again.
After his interview with Mr. Treffry, Herr Paul took a bath, perfumed
himself with precision, and caused it to be clearly understood that,
under circumstances such as these, a man's house was not suited for a
pig to live in. He shortly afterwards went out to the Kurbaus, and
had not returned by dinner-time.
Christian came down for dinner. There were crimson spots in her
cheeks, dark circles round her eyes; she behaved, however, as though
nothing had happened. Miss Naylor, affected by the kindness of her
heart and the shock her system had sustained, rolled a number of
bread pills, looking at each as it came, with an air of surprise, and
concealing it with difficulty. Mr. Treffry was coughing, and when he
talked his voice seemed to rumble even more than usual. Greta was
dumb, trying to catch Christian's eye; Mrs. Decie alone seemed at
ease. After dinner Mr. Treffry went off to his room, leaning heavily
on Christian's shoulder. As he sank into his chair, he said to her:
"Pull yourself together, my dear!" Christian did not answer him.
Outside his room Greta caught her by the sleeve.
"Look!" she whispered, thrusting a piece of paper into Christian's
hand. "It is to me from Dr. Edmund, but you must read it."
Christian opened the note, which ran as follows:
"MY PHILOSOPHER AND FRIEND,--I received your note, and went to our
friend's studio; he was not in, but half an hour ago I stumbled on
him in the Platz. He is not quite himself; has had a touch of the
sun--nothing serious: I took him to my hotel, where he is in bed. If
he will stay there he will be all right in a day or two. In any case
he shall not elude my clutches for the present.
"My warm respects to Mistress Christian.--Yours in friendship and
Christian read and re-read this note, then turned to Greta.
"What did you say to Dr. Dawney?"
Greta took back the piece of paper, and replied: "I said:
"'DEAR DR. EDMUND,--We are anxious about Herr Harz. We think he is
perhaps not very well to-day. We (I and Christian) should like to
know. You can tell us. Please shall you? GRETA.'
"That is what I said."
Christian dropped her eyes. "What made you write?"
Greta gazed at her mournfully: "I thought--O Chris! come into the
garden. I am so hot, and it is so dull without you!"
Christian bent her head forward and rubbed her cheek against Greta's,
then without another word ran upstairs and locked herself into her
room. The child stood listening; hearing the key turn in the lock,
she sank down on the bottom step and took Scruff in her arms.
Half an hour later Miss Naylor, carrying a candle, found her there
fast asleep, with her head resting on the terrier's back, and tear
stains on her cheeks....
Mrs. Decie presently came out, also carrying a candle, and went to
her brother's room. She stood before his chair, with folded hands.
"Nicholas, what is to be done?"
Mr. Treffry was pouring whisky into a glass.
"Damn it, Con!" he answered; "how should I know?"
"There's something in Christian that makes interference dangerous. I
know very well that I've no influence with her at all."
"You're right there, Con," Mr. Treffry replied.
Mrs. Decie's pale eyes, fastened on his face, forced him to look up.
"I wish you would leave off drinking whisky and attend to me. Paul
is an element--"
"Paul," Mr. Treffry growled, "is an ass!"
"Paul," pursued Mrs. Decie, "is an element of danger in the
situation; any ill-timed opposition of his might drive her to I don't
know what. Christian is gentle, she is 'sympathetic' as they say;
but thwart her, and she is as obstinate as....
"You or I! Leave her alone!"
"I understand her character, but I confess that I am at a loss what
"Do nothing!" He drank again.
Mrs. Decie took up the candle.
"Men!" she said with a mysterious intonation; shrugging her
shoulders, she walked out.
Mr. Treffry put down his glass.
'Understand?' he thought; 'no, you don't, and I don't. Who
understands a young girl? Vapourings, dreams, moonshine I.... What
does she see in this painter fellow? I wonder!' He breathed
heavily. 'By heavens! I wouldn't have had this happen for a hundred
For many hours after Dawney had taken him to his hotel, Harz was
prostrate with stunning pains in the head and neck. He had been all
day without food, exposed to burning sun, suffering violent emotion.
Movement of any sort caused him such agony that he could only lie in
stupor, counting the spots dancing before, his eyes. Dawney did
everything for him, and Harz resented in a listless way the intent
scrutiny of the doctor's calm, black eyes.
Towards the end of the second day he was able to get up; Dawney found
him sitting on the bed in shirt and trousers.
"My son," he said, "you had better tell me what the trouble is--it
will do your stubborn carcase good."
"I must go back to work," said Harz.
"Work!" said Dawney deliberately: "you couldn't, if you tried."
"My dear fellow, you couldn't tell one colour from another."
"I must be doing something; I can't sit here and think."
Dawney hooked his thumbs into his waistcoat: "You won't see the sun
for three days yet, if I can help it."
Harz got up.
"I'm going to my studio to-morrow," he said. "I promise not to go
out. I must be where I can see my work. If I can't paint, I can
draw; I can feel my brushes, move my things about. I shall go mad if
I do nothing."
Dawney took his arm, and walked him up and down.
"I'll let you go," he said, "but give me a chance! It's as much to
me to put you straight as it is to you to paint a decent picture.
Now go to bed; I'll have a carriage for you to-morrow morning."
Harz sat down on the bed again, and for a long time stayed without
moving, his eyes fixed on the floor. The sight of him, so desperate
and miserable, hurt the young doctor.
"Can you get to bed by yourself?" he asked at last.
"Then, good-night, old chap!" and Dawney left the room.
He took his hat and turned towards the Villa. Between the poplars he
stopped to think. The farther trees were fret-worked black against
the lingering gold of the sunset; a huge moth, attracted by the tip
of his cigar, came fluttering in his face. The music of a concertina
rose and fell, like the sighing of some disillusioned spirit. Dawney
stood for several minutes staring at the house.
He was shown to Mrs. Decie's room. She was holding a magazine before
her eyes, and received him with as much relief as philosophy
"You are the very person I wanted to see," she said.
He noticed that the magazine she held was uncut.
"You are a young man," pursued Mrs. Decie, "but as my doctor I have a
right to your discretion."
Dawney smiled; the features of his broad, clean-shaven face looked
ridiculously small on such occasions, but his eyes retained their air
"That is so," he answered.
"It is about this unfortunate affair. I understand that Mr. Harz is
with you. I want you to use your influence to dissuade him from
attempting to see my niece."
"Influence!" said Dawney; "you know Harz!"
Mrs. Decie's voice hardened.
"Everybody," she said, "has his weak points. This young man is open
to approach from at least two quarters--his pride is one, his work an
other. I am seldom wrong in gauging character; these are his vital
spots, and they are of the essence of this matter. I'm sorry for
him, of course--but at his age, and living a man's life, these
things--" Her smile was extra pale. "I wish you could give me
something for my head. It's foolish to worry. Nerves of course!
But I can't help it! You know my opinion, Dr. Dawney. That young
man will go far if he remains unfettered; he will make a name. You
will be doing him a great service if you could show him the affair as
it really is--a drag on him, and quite unworthy of his pride! Do
help me! You are just the man to do it!"
Dawney threw up his head as if to shake off this impeachment; the
curve of his chin thus displayed was imposing in its fulness;
altogether he was imposing, having an air of capability.
She struck him, indeed, as really scared; it was as if her mask of
smile had become awry, and failed to cover her emotion; and he was
puzzled, thinking, 'I wouldn't have believed she had it in her....'
"It's not an easy business," he said; "I'll think it over."
"Thank you!" murmured Mrs. Decie. "You are most kind."
Passing the schoolroom, he looked in through the open door.
Christian was sitting there. The sight of her face shocked him, it
was so white, so resolutely dumb. A book lay on her knees; she was
not reading, but staring before her. He thought suddenly: 'Poor
thing! If I don't say something to her, I shall be a brute!'
"Miss Devorell," he said: "You can reckon on him."
Christian tried to speak, but her lips trembled so that nothing came
"Good-night," said Dawney, and walked out....
Three days later Harz was sitting in the window of his studio. It
was the first day he had found it possible to work, and now, tired
out, he stared through the dusk at the slowly lengthening shadows of
the rafters. A solitary mosquito hummed, and two house sparrows, who
had built beneath the roof, chirruped sleepily. Swallows darted by
the window, dipping their blue wings towards the quiet water; a hush
had stolen over everything. He fell asleep.
He woke, with a dim impression of some near presence. In the pale
glimmer from innumerable stars, the room was full of shadowy shapes.
He lit his lantern. The flame darted forth, bickered, then slowly
lit up the great room.
A rustling seemed to answer. He peered about, went to the doorway,
and drew the curtain. A woman's cloaked figure shrank against the
wall. Her face was buried in her hands; her arms, from which the
cloak fell back, were alone visible.
She ran past him, and when he had put the lantern down, was standing
at the window. She turned quickly to him. "Take me away from here!
Let me come with you!"
"Do you mean it?"
"You said you wouldn't give me up!"
"You know what you are doing?"
She made a motion of assent.
"But you don't grasp what this means. Things to bear that you know
nothing of--hunger perhaps! Think, even hunger! And your people
won't forgive--you'll lose everything."
She shook her head.
"I must choose--it's one thing or the other. I can't give you up!
I should be afraid!"
"But, dear; how can you come with me? We can't be married here."
"I am giving my life to you."
"You are too good for me," said Harz. "The life you're going into--
may be dark, like that!" he pointed to the window.
A sound of footsteps broke the hush. They could see a figure on the
path below. It stopped, seemed to consider, vanished. They heard
the sounds of groping hands, of a creaking door, of uncertain feet on
Harz seized her hand.
"Quick!" he whispered; "behind this canvas!"
Christian was trembling violently. She drew her hood across her
face. The heavy breathing and ejaculations of the visitor were now
"He's there! Quick! Hide!"
She shook her head.
With a thrill at his heart, Harz kissed her, then walked towards the
entrance. The curtain was pulled aside.
It was Herr Paul, holding a cigar in one hand, his hat in the other,
and breathing hard.
"Pardon!" he said huskily, "your stairs are steep, and dark! mais en,
fin! nous voila! I have ventured to come for a talk." His glance
fell on the cloaked figure in the shadow.
"Pardon! A thousand pardons! I had no idea! I beg you to forgive
this indiscretion! I may take it you resign pretensions then? You
have a lady here--I have nothing more to say; I only beg a million
pardons for intruding. A thousand times forgive me! Good-night!"
He bowed and turned to go. Christian stepped forward, and let the
hood fall from her head.
Herr Paul pirouetted.
"Good God!" he stammered, dropping cigar and hat. "Good God!"
The lantern flared suddenly, revealing his crimson, shaking cheeks.
"You came here, at night! You, the daughter of my wife!" His eyes
wandered with a dull glare round the room.
"Take care!" cried Harz: "If you say a word against her---"
The two men stared at each other's eyes. And without warning, the
lantern flickered and went out. Christian drew the cloak round her
again. Herr Paul's voice broke the silence; he had recovered his
"Ah! ah!" he said: "Darkness! Tant mieux! The right thing for what
we have to say. Since we do not esteem each other, it is well not to
see too much."
"Just so," said Harz.
Christian had come close to them. Her pale face and great shining
eyes could just be seen through the gloom.
Herr Paul waved his arm; the gesture was impressive, annihilating.
"This is a matter, I believe, between two men," he said, addressing
Harz. "Let us come to the point. I will do you the credit to
suppose that you have a marriage in view. You know, perhaps, that
Miss Devorell has no money till I die?"
"And I am passably young! You have money, then?"
"In that case, you would propose to live on air?"
"No, to work; it has been done before."
"It is calculated to increase hunger! You are prepared to take Miss
Devorell, a young lady accustomed to luxury, into places like--this!"
he peered about him, "into places that smell of paint, into the
milieu of 'the people,' into the society of Bohemians--who knows? of
Harz clenched his hands: "I will answer no more questions."
"In that event, we reach the ultimatum," said Herr Paul. "Listen,
Herr Outlaw! If you have not left the country by noon to-morrow, you
shall be introduced to the police!"
Christian uttered a cry. For a minute in the gloom the only sound
heard was the short, hard breathing of the two men.
Suddenly Harz cried: "You coward, I defy you!"
"Coward!" Herr Paul repeated. "That is indeed the last word. Look
to yourself, my friend!"
Stooping and fumbling on the floor, he picked up his hat. Christian
had already vanished; the sound of her hurrying footsteps was
distinctly audible at the top of the dark stairs. Herr Paul stood
still a minute.
"Look to yourself, my dear friend!" he said in a thick voice, groping
for the wall. Planting his hat askew on his head, he began slowly to
descend the stairs.
Nicholas Treffry sat reading the paper in his room by the light of a
lamp with a green shade; on his sound foot the terrier Scruff was
asleep and snoring lightly--the dog habitually came down when Greta
was in bed, and remained till Mr. Treffry, always the latest member
of the household, retired to rest.
Through the long window a little river of light shone out on the
veranda tiles, and, flowing past, cut the garden in two.
There was the sound of hurried footsteps, a rustling of draperies;
Christian, running through the window, stood before him.
Mr. Treffry dropped his paper, such a fury of passion and alarm shone
in the girl's eyes.
"Chris! What is it?"
"Oh! Uncle! He's insulted, threatened! And I love his little finger
more than all the, world!"
Her passionate voice trembled, her eyes were shining.
Mr. Treffry's profound discomfort found vent in the gruff words: "Sit
"I'll never speak to Father again! Oh! Uncle! I love him!"
Quiet in the extremity of his disturbance, Mr. Treffry leaned forward
in his chair, rested his big hands on its arms, and stared at her.
Chris! Here was a woman he did not know! His lips moved under the
heavy droop of his moustache. The girl's face had suddenly grown
white. She sank down on her knees, and laid her cheek against his
hand. He felt it wet; and a lump rose in his throat. Drawing his
hand away, he stared at it, and wiped it with his sleeve.
"Don't cry!" he said.
She seized it again and clung to it; that clutch seemed to fill him
with sudden rage.
"What's the matter? How the devil can I do anything if you don't
She looked up at him. The distress of the last days, the passion and
fear of the last hour, the tide of that new life of the spirit and
the flesh, stirring within her, flowed out in a stream of words.
When she had finished, there was so dead a silence that the
fluttering of a moth round the lamp could be heard plainly.
Mr. Treffry raised himself, crossed the room, and touched the bell.
"Tell the groom," he said to Dominique, "to put the horses to, and
have 'em round at once; bring my old boots; we drive all night...."
His bent figure looked huge, body and legs outlined by light, head
and shoulders towering into shadow. "He shall have a run for his
money!" he said. His eyes stared down sombrely at his niece. "It's
more than he deserves!--it's more than you deserve, Chris. Sit down
there and write to him; tell him to put himself entirely in my
hands." He turned his back on her, and went into his bedroom.
Christian rose, and sat down at the writing-table. A whisper
startled her. It came from Dominique, who was holding out a pair of
"M'mselle Chris, what is this?--to run about all night?" But
Christian did not answer.
"M'mselle Chris, are you ill?" Then seeing her face, he slipped away
She finished her letter and went out to the carriage. Mr. Treffry
was seated under the hood.
"Shan't want you," he called out to the groom, "Get up, Dominique."
Christian thrust her letter into his hand. "Give him that," she
said, clinging to his arm with sudden terror. "Oh! Uncle! do take
"Chris, if I do this for you--" They looked wistfully at one
another. Then, shaking his head, Mr. Treffry gathered up the reins.
"Don't fret, my dear, don't fret! Whoa, mare!"
The carriage with a jerk plunged forward into darkness, curved with a
crunch of wheels, and vanished, swinging between the black
treepillars at the entrance....
Christian stood, straining to catch the failing sound of the hoofs.
Down the passage came a flutter of white garments; soft limbs were
twined about her, some ends of hair fell on her face.
"What is it, Chris? Where have you been? Where is Uncle Nic going?
Christian tore herself away. "I don't know," she cried, "I know
Greta stroked her face. "Poor Chris!" she murmured. Her bare feet
gleamed, her hair shone gold against her nightdress. "Come to bed,
Christian laughed. "You little white moth! Feel how hot I am!
You'll burn your wings!"
Harz had lain down, fully dressed. He was no longer angry, but felt
that he would rather die than yield. Presently he heard footsteps
coming up the stairs.
It was the voice of Dominique, whose face, illumined by a match, wore
an expression of ironical disgust.
"My master," he said, "makes you his compliments; he says there is no
time to waste. You are to please come and drive with him!"
"Your master is very kind. Tell him I'm in bed."
"Ah, M'sieu," said Dominique, grimacing, "I must not go back with
such an answer. If you would not come, I was to give you this."
Harz broke the seal and read Christian's letter.
"I will come," he said.
A clock was striking as they went out through the gate. From within
the dark cave of the phaeton hood Mr. Treffry said gruffly: "Come
Harz flung his knapsack in, and followed.
His companion's figure swayed, the whiplash slid softly along the
flank of the off horse, and, as the carriage rattled forward, Mr.
Treffry called out, as if by afterthought: "Hallo, Dominique!"
Dominque's voice, shaken and ironical, answered from behind: "M'
In the long street of silent houses, men sitting in the lighted cafes
turned with glasses at their lips to stare after the carriage. The
narrow river of the sky spread suddenly to a vast, limpid ocean
tremulous with stars. They had turned into the road for Italy.
Mr. Treffry took a pull at his horses. "Whoa, mare! Dogged does it!"
and the near horse, throwing up her head, whinnied; a fleck of foam
drifted into Harz's face.
The painter had come on impulse; because Christian had told him to,
not of his own free will. He was angry with himself, wounded in
self-esteem, for having allowed any one to render him this service.
The smooth swift movement through velvet blackness splashed on either
hand with the flying lamp-light; the strong sweet air blowing in his
face-air that had kissed the tops of mountains and stolen their
spirit; the snort and snuffle of the horses, and crisp rattling of
their hoofs--all this soon roused in him another feeling. He looked
at Mr. Treffry's profile, with its tufted chin; at the grey road
adventuring in darkness; at the purple mass of mountains piled above
it. All seemed utterly unreal.
As if suddenly aware that he had a neighbour, Mr. Treffry turned his
head. "We shall do better than this presently," he said, "bit of a
slope coming. Haven't had 'em out for three days. Whoa-mare!
"Why are you taking this trouble for me?" asked Harz.
"I'm an old chap, Mr. Harz, and an old chap may do a stupid thing
once in a while!"
"You are very good," said Harz, "but I want no favours."
Mr. Treffry stared at him.
"Just so," he said drily, "but you see there's my niece to be thought
of. Look here! We're not at the frontier yet, Mr. Harz, by forty
miles; it's long odds we don't get there--so, don't spoil sport!" He
pointed to the left.
Harz caught the glint of steel. They were already crossing the
railway. The sigh of the telegraph wires fluttered above them.
"Hear 'em," said Mr. Treffry, "but if we get away up the mountains,
we'll do yet!" They had begun to rise, the speed slackened. Mr.
Treffry rummaged out a flask.
"Not bad stuff, Mr. Harz--try it. You won't? Mother's milk! Fine
night, eh?" Below them the valley was lit by webs of milky mist like
the glimmer of dew on grass.
These two men sitting side by side--unlike in face, age, stature,
thought, and life--began to feel drawn towards each other, as if, in
the rolling of the wheels, the snorting of the horses, the huge dark
space, the huge uncertainty, they had found something they could
enjoy in common. The, steam from the horses' flanks and nostrils
enveloped them with an odour as of glue.
"You smoke, Mr. Harz?"
Harz took the proffered weed, and lighted it from the glowing tip of
Mr. Treffry's cigar, by light of which his head and hat looked like
some giant mushroom. Suddenly the wheels jolted on a rubble of loose
stones; the carriage was swung sideways. The scared horses,
straining asunder, leaped forward, and sped downwards, in the
Past rocks, trees, dwellings, past a lighted house that gleamed and
vanished. With a clink and clatter, a flirt of dust and pebbles, and
the side lamps throwing out a frisky orange blink, the carriage
dashed down, sinking and rising like a boat crossing billows. The
world seemed to rock and sway; to dance up, and be flung flat again.
Only the stars stood still.
Mr. Treffry, putting on the brake, muttered apologetically: "A little
Suddenly with a headlong dive, the carriage swayed as if it would fly
in pieces, slithered along, and with a jerk steadied itself. Harz
lifted his voice in a shout of pure excitement. Mr. Treffry let out
a short shaky howl, and from behind there rose a wail. But the hill
was over and the startled horses were cantering with a free, smooth
motion. Mr. Treffry and Harz looked at each other.
Mr. Treffry said with a sort of laugh: "Near go, eh? You drive? No?
That's a pity! Broken most of my bones at the game--nothing like
it!" Each felt a kind of admiration for the other that he had not
felt before. Presently Mr. Treffry began: "Look here, Mr. Harz, my
niece is a slip of a thing, with all a young girl's notions! What
have you got to give her, eh? Yourself? That's surely not enough;
mind this--six months after marriage we all turn out much the same--a
selfish lot! Not to mention this anarchist affair!
"You're not of her blood, nor of her way of life, nor anything--it's
taking chances--and--" his hand came down on the young man's knee,
"I'm fond of her, you see."
"If you were in my place," said Harz, "would you give her up?"
Mr. Treffry groaned. "Lord knows!"
"Men have made themselves before now. For those who don't believe in
failure, there's no such thing. Suppose she does suffer a little?
Will it do her any harm? Fair weather love is no good."
Mr. Treffry sighed.
"Brave words, sir! You'll pardon me if I'm too old to understand 'em
when they're used about my niece."
He pulled the horses up, and peered into the darkness. "We're going
through this bit quietly; if they lose track of us here so much the
better. Dominique! put out the lamps. Soho, my beauties!" The
horses paced forward at a walk the muffled beat of their hoofs in the
dust hardly broke the hush. Mr. Treffry pointed to the left: "It'll
be another thirty-five miles to the frontier."
They passed the whitewashed houses, and village church with its
sentinel cypress-trees. A frog was croaking in a runlet; there was a
faint spicy scent of lemons. But nothing stirred.
It was wood now on either side, the high pines, breathing their
fragrance out into the darkness, and, like ghosts amongst them, the
silver stems of birch-trees.
Mr. Treffry said gruffly: "You won't give her up? Her happiness
means a lot to me."
"To you!" said Harz: "to him! And I am nothing! Do you think I
don't care for her happiness? Is it a crime for me to love her?"
"Almost, Mr. Harz--considering...."
"Considering that I've no money! Always money!"
To this sneer Mr. Treffry made no answer, clucking to his horses.
"My niece was born and bred a lady," he said at last. "I ask you
plainly What position have you got to give her?"
"If she marries me," said Harz, "she comes into my world. You think
that I'm a common...."
Mr. Treffry shook his head: "Answer my question, young man."
But the painter did not answer it, and silence fell.
A light breeze had sprung up; the whispering in the trees, the
rolling of the wheels in this night progress, the pine-drugged air,
sent Harz to sleep. When he woke it was to the same tune, varied by
Mr. Treffry's uneasy snoring; the reins were hanging loose, and,
peering out, he saw Dominique shuffling along at the horses' heads.
He joined him, and, one on each side, they plodded up and up. A haze
had begun to bathe the trees, the stars burnt dim, the air was
colder. Mr. Treffry woke coughing. It was like some long nightmare,
this interminable experience of muffled sounds and shapes, of
perpetual motion, conceived, and carried out in darkness. But
suddenly the day broke. Heralded by the snuffle of the horses, light
began glimmering over a chaos of lines and shadows, pale as mother-
o'-pearl. The stars faded, and in a smouldering zigzag the dawn fled
along the mountain tops, flinging out little isles of cloud. From a
lake, curled in a hollow like a patch of smoke, came the cry of a
water-bird. A cuckoo started a soft mocking; and close to the
carriage a lark flew up. Beasts and men alike stood still, drinking
in the air-sweet with snows and dew, and vibrating faintly with the
running of the water and the rustling of the leaves.
The night had played sad tricks with Mr. Nicholas Treffry; his hat
was grey with dust; his cheeks brownish-purple, there were heavy
pouches beneath his eyes, which stared painfully.
"We'll call a halt," he said, "and give the gees their grub, poor
things. Can you find some water, Mr. Harz? There's a rubber bucket
"Can't get about myself this morning; make that lazy fellow of mine
stir his stumps."
Harz saw that he had drawn off one of his boots, and stretched the
foot out on a cushion.
"You're not fit to go farther," he said; "you're ill."
"Ill!" replied Mr. Treffry; "not a bit of it!"
Harz looked at him, then catching up the bucket, made off in search
of water. When he came back the horses were feeding from an india-
rubber trough slung to the pole; they stretched their heads towards
the bucket, pushing aside each other's noses.
The flame in the east had died, but the tops of the larches were
bathed in a gentle radiance; and the peaks ahead were like amber.
Everywhere were threads of water, threads of snow, and little threads
of dewy green, glistening like gossamer.
Mr. Treffry called out: "Give me your arm, Mr. Harz; I'd like to
shake the reefs out of me. When one comes to stand over at the
knees, it's no such easy matter, eh?" He groaned as he put his foot
down, and gripped the young man's shoulder as in a vise. Presently
he lowered himself on to a stone.
"'All over now!' as Chris would say when she was little; nasty temper
she had too--kick and scream on the floor! Never lasted long
though.... 'Kiss her! take her up! show her the pictures!' Amazing
fond of pictures Chris was!" He looked dubiously at Harz; then took
a long pull at his flask. "What would the doctor say? Whisky at
four in the morning! Well! Thank the Lord Doctors aren't always
with us." Sitting on the stone, with one hand pressed against his
side, and the other tilting up the flask, he was grey from head to
Harz had dropped on to another stone. He, too, was worn out by the
excitement and fatigue, coming so soon after his illness. His head
was whirling, and the next thing he remembered was a tree walking at
him, turning round, yellow from the roots up; everything seemed
yellow, even his own feet. Somebody opposite to him was jumping up
and down, a grey bear--with a hat--Mr. Treffry! He cried: "Ha-
alloo!" And the figure seemed to fall and disappear....
When Harz came to himself a hand was pouring liquor into his mouth,
and a wet cloth was muffled round his brows; a noise of humming and
hoofs seemed familiar. Mr. Treffry loomed up alongside, smoking a
cigar; he was muttering: "A low trick, Paul--bit of my mind!" Then,
as if a curtain had been snatched aside, the vision before Harz
cleared again. The carriage was winding between uneven, black-eaved
houses, past doorways from which goats and cows were coming out, with
bells on their necks. Black-eyed boys, and here and there a drowsy
man with a long, cherry-stemmed pipe betwen his teeth, stood aside to
Mr. Treffry seemed to have taken a new lease of strength; like an
angry old dog, he stared from side to side. "My bone!" he seemed to
say: "let's see who's going to touch it!"
The last house vanished, glowing in the early sunshine, and the
carriage with its trail of dust became entombed once more in the
gloom of tall trees, along a road that cleft a wilderness of
mossgrown rocks, and dewy stems, through which the sun had not yet
Dominique came round to them, bearing appearance of one who has seen
better days, and a pot of coffee brewed on a spirit lamp. Breakfast
--he said--was served!
The ears of the horses were twitching with fatigue. Mr. Treffry said
sadly: "If I can see this through, you can. Get on, my beauties!"
As soon as the sun struck through the trees, Mr. Treffry's strength
ebbed again. He seemed to suffer greatly; but did not complain.
They had reached the pass at last, and the unchecked sunlight was
streaming down with a blinding glare.
"Jump up!" Mr. Treffry cried out. "We'll make a finish of it!" and
he gave the reins a jerk. The horses flung up their heads, and the
bleak pass with its circling crown of jagged peaks soon slipped away.
Between the houses on the very top, they passed at a slow trot; and
soon began slanting down the other side. Mr. Treffry brought them to
a halt where a mule track joined the road.
"That's all I can do for you; you'd better leave me here," he said.
"Keep this track down to the river--go south--you'll be in Italy in a
couple of hours. Get rail at Feltre. Money? Yes? Well!" He held
out his hand; Harz gripped it.
"Give her up, eh?"
Harz shook his head.
"No? Then it's 'pull devil, pull baker,' between us. Good-bye, and
good luck to you!" And mustering his strength for a last attempt at
dignity, Mr. Treffry gathered up the reins.
Harz watched his figure huddled again beneath the hood. The carriage
moved slowly away.
At Villa Rubein people went about, avoiding each other as if detected
in conspiracy. Miss Naylor, who for an inscrutable reason had put on
her best frock, a purple, relieved at the chest with bird's-eye blue,
conveyed an impression of trying to count a chicken which ran about
too fast. When Greta asked what she had lost she was heard to
Christian, with big circles round her eyes, sat silent at her little
table. She had had no sleep. Herr Paul coming into the room about
noon gave her a furtive look and went out again; after this he went
to his bedroom, took off all his clothes, flung them passionately one
by one into a footbath, and got into bed.
"I might be a criminal!" he muttered to himself, while the buttons of
his garments rattled on the bath.
"Am I her father? Have I authority? Do I know the world? Bssss! I
might be a frog!"
Mrs. Decie, having caused herself to be announced, found him smoking
a cigar, and counting the flies on the ceiling.
"If you have really done this, Paul," she said in a restrained voice,
"you have done a very unkind thing, and what is worse, you have made
us all ridiculous. But perhaps you have not done it?"
"I have done it," cried Herr Paul, staring dreadfully: "I have done
it, I tell you, I have done it--"
"Very well, you have done it--and why, pray? What conceivable good
was there in it? I suppose you know that Nicholas has driven him to
the frontier? Nicholas is probably more dead than alive by this
time; you know his state of health."
Herr Paul's fingers ploughed up his beard.
"Nicholas is mad--and the girl is mad! Leave me alone! I will not
be made angry; do you understand? I will not be worried--I am not
fit for it." His prominent brown eyes stared round the room, as if
looking for a way of escape.
"If I may prophesy, you will be worried a good deal," said Mrs. Decie
coldly, "before you have finished with this affair."
The anxious, uncertain glance which Herr Paul gave her at these words
roused an unwilling feeling of compunction in her.
"You are not made for the outraged father of the family," she said.
"You had better give up the attitude, Paul; it does not suit you."
Herr Paul groaned.
"I suppose it is not your fault," she added.
Just then the door was opened, and Fritz, with an air of saying the
right thing, announced:
"A gentleman of the police to see you, sir."
Herr Paul bounded.
"Keep him out!" he cried.
Mrs. Decie, covering her lips, disappeared with a rustling of silk;
in her place stood a stiff man in blue....
Thus the morning dragged itself away without any one being able to
settle to anything, except Herr Paul, who was settled in bed. As was
fitting in a house that had lost its soul, meals were neglected, even
by the dog.
About three o'clock a telegram came for Christian, containing these
words: "All right; self returns to-morrow. Treffry." After reading
it she put on her hat and went out, followed closely by Greta, who,
when she thought that she would not be sent away, ran up from behind
and pulled her by the sleeve.
"Let me come, Chris--I shall not talk."
The two girls walked on together. When they had gone some distance
"I'm going to get his pictures, and take charge of them!"
"Oh!" said Greta timidly.
"If you are afraid," said Christian, "you had better go back home."
"I am not afraid, Chris," said Greta meekly.
Neither girl spoke again till they had taken the path along the wall.
Over the tops of the vines the heat was dancing.
"The sun-fairies are on the vines!" murmured Greta to herself.
At the old house they stopped, and Christian, breathing quickly,
pushed the door; it was immovable.
"Look!" said Greta, "they have screwed it!" She pointed out three
screws with a rosy-tipped forefinger.
Christian stamped her foot.
"We mustn't stand here," she said; "let's sit on that bench and
"Yes," murmured Greta, "let us think." Dangling an end of hair, she
regarded Christian with her wide blue eyes.
"I can't make any plan," Christian cried at last, "while you stare at
me like that."
"I was thinking," said Greta humbly, "if they have screwed it up,
perhaps we shall screw it down again; there is the big screw-driver
"It would take a long time; people are always passing."
"People do not pass in the evening," murmured Greta, "because the
Back to Full Books