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Sacred And Profane Love
by E. Arnold Bennett
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'You are sure? You know?'

'I know, madame. Be tranquil. Leave him. He could not have done better. It is perfect.'

'Perhaps I should fetch a doctor?' I suggested.

'It is not worth the pain,' she said, with conviction. 'You would have vexations uselessly. Leave him.'

I gazed at her, studying her, and I was satisfied. With her fluffly locks, and her simple eyes, and her fragile face, and her long hands, she had, nevertheless, the air of knowing profoundly her subject. She was a great expert on males and all that appertained to them, especially their vices. I was the callow amateur. I was compelled to listen with respect to this professor in the professor's garb. I was impressed, in spite of myself.

'One might arrange him more comfortably,' she said.

And we lifted the senseless victim, and put him on his back, and straightened his limbs, as though he had been a corpse.

'How handsome he is!' murmured my visitor, half closing her eyes.

'You think so?' I said politely, as if she had been praising one of my private possessions.

'Oh yes. We are neighbours, madame. I have frequently remarked him, you understand, on the stairs, in the street.'

'Has he been here long?' I asked.

'About a year, madame. You have, perhaps, not seen him since a long time. An old friend?'

'It is ten years ago,' I replied.

'Ah! Ten years! In England, without doubt?'

'In England, yes.'

'Ten years!' she repeated, musing.

'I am certain she has a kind heart,' I said to myself, and I decided to question her: 'Will you not sit down, madame?' I invited her.

'Ah, madame! it is you who should sit down,' she said quickly. 'You must have suffered.'

We both sat down. There were only two chairs in the room.

'I would like to ask you,' I said, leaning forward towards her, 'have you ever seen him—drunk—before?'

'No,' she replied instantly; 'never before yesterday evening.'

'Be frank,' I urged her, smiling sadly.

'Why should I not be frank, madame?' she said, with a grave, gentle appeal.

It was as if she had said: 'We are talking woman to woman. I know one of your secrets. You can guess mine. The male is present, but he is deaf. What reason, therefore, for deceit?'

'I am much obliged to you,' I breathed.

'Not at all,' she said. 'Decidedly he is alcoholic—that sees itself,' she proceeded. 'But drunk—no!... He was always alone.'

'Always alone?'

'Always.'

Her eyes filled. I thought I had never seen a creature more gentle, delicate, yielding, acquiescent, and fair. She was not beautiful, but she had grace and distinction of movement. She was a Parisienne. She had won my sympathy. We met in a moment when my heart needed the companionship of a woman's heart, and I was drawn to her by one of those sudden impulses that sometimes draw women to each other. I cared not what she was. Moreover, she had excited my curiosity. She was a novelty in my life. She was something that I had heard of, and seen—yes, and perhaps envied in secret, but never spoken with. And she shattered all my preconceptions about her.

'You are an old tenant of this house?' I ventured.

'Yes,' she said; 'it suits me. But the great heats are terrible here.'

'You do not leave Paris, then?'

'Never. Except to see my little boy.'

I started, envious of her, and also surprised. It seemed strange that this ribboned and elegant and plastic creature, whose long, thin arms were used only to dalliance, should be a mother.

'So you have a little boy?'

'Yes; he lives with my parents at Meudon. He is four years old.

'Excuse me,' I said. 'Be frank with me once again. Do you love your child, honestly? So many women don't, it appears.'

'Do I love him?' she cried, and her face glowed with her love. 'I adore him!' Her sincerity was touching and overwhelming. 'And he loves me, too. If he is naughty, one has only to tell him that he will make his petite mere ill, and he will be good at once. When he is told to obey his grandfather, because his grandfather provides his food, he says bravely: "No, not grandpapa; it is petite mere!" Is it not strange he should know that I pay for him? He has a little engraving of the Queen of Italy, and he says it is his petite mere. Among the scores of pictures he has he keeps only that one. He takes it to bed with him. It is impossible to deprive him of it.'

She smiled divinely.

'How beautiful!' I said. 'And you go to see him often?'

'As often as I have time. I take him out for walks. I run with him till we reach the woods, where I can have him to myself alone. I never stop; I avoid people. No one except my parents knows that he is my child. One supposes he is a nurse-child, received by my parents. But all the world will know now,' she added, after a pause. 'Last Monday I went to Meudon with my friend Alice, and Alice wanted to buy him some sweets at the grocer's. In the shop I asked him if he would like dragees, and he said "Yes." The grocer said to him, "Yes who, young man?" "Yes, petite mere," he said, very loudly and bravely. The grocer understood. We all lowered our heads.'

There was something so affecting in the way she half whispered the last phrase, that I could have wept; and yet it was comical, too, and she appreciated that.

'You have no child, madame?' she asked me.

'No,' I said. 'How I envy you!'

'You need not,' she observed, with a touch of hardness. 'I have been so unhappy, that I can never be as unhappy again. Nothing matters now. All I wish is to save enough money to be able to live quietly in a little cottage in the country.'

'With your child,' I put in.

'My child will grow up and leave me. He will become a man, and he will forget his petite mere.'

'Do not talk like that,' I protested.

She glanced at me almost savagely. I was astonished at the sudden change in her face.

'Why not?' she inquired coldly. 'Is it not true, then? Do you still believe that there is any difference between one man and another? They are all alike—all, all, all! I know. And it is we who suffer, we others.'

'But surely you have some tender souvenir of your child's father?' I said.

'Do I know who my child's father is?' she demanded. 'My child has thirty-six fathers!'

'You seem very bitter,' I said, 'for your age. You are much younger than I am.'

She smiled and shook her honey-coloured hair, and toyed with the ribbons of her peignoir.

'What I say is true,' she said gently. 'But, there, what would you have? We hate them, but we love them. They are beasts! beasts! but we cannot do without them!'

Her eyes rested on Diaz for a moment. He slept without the least sound, the stricken and futile witness of our confidences.

'You will take him away from Paris soon, perhaps?' she asked.

'If I can,' I said.

There was a sound of light footsteps on the stair. They stopped at the door, which I remembered we had not shut. I jumped up and went into the passage. Another girl stood in the doorway, in a peignoir the exact counterpart of my first visitor's, but rose-coloured. And this one, too, was languorous and had honey-coloured locks. It was as though the mysterious house was full of such creatures, each with her secret lair.

'Pardon, madame,' said my visitor, following and passing me; and then to the newcomer: 'What is it, Alice?'

'It is Monsieur Duchatel who is arrived.'

'Oh!' with a disdainful gesture. 'Je m'en fiche. Let him go.'

'But it is the nephew, my dear; not the uncle.'

'Ah, the nephew! I come. Bon soir, madams, et bonne nuit.'

The two peignoirs fluttered down the stairs together. I returned to my Diaz, and seeing his dressing-gown behind the door of the bedroom, I took it and covered him with it.



IV

His first words were:

'Magda, you look like a ghost. Have you been sitting there like that all the time?'

'No,' I said; 'I lay down.'

'Where?'

'By your side.'

'What time is it?'

'Tea-time. The water is boiling.

'Was I dreadful last night?'

'Dreadful? How?'

'I have a sort of recollection of getting angry and stamping about. I didn't do anything foolish?'

'You took a great deal too much of my sedative,' I answered.

'I feel quite well,' he said; 'but I didn't know I had taken any sedative at all. I'm glad I didn't do anything silly last night.'

I ran away to prepare the tea. The situation was too much for me.

'My poor Diaz!' I said, when we had begun to drink the tea, and he was sitting on the edge of the bed, his eyes full of sleep, his chin rough, and his hair magnificently disarranged, 'you did one thing that was silly last night.'

'Don't tell me I struck you?' he cried.

'Oh no!' and I laughed. 'Can't you guess what I mean?'

'You mean I got vilely drunk.'

I nodded.

'Magda,' he burst out passionately, seeming at this point fully to arouse himself, to resume acutely his consciousness, 'why were you late? You said four o'clock. I thought you had deceived me. I thought I had disgusted you, and that you didn't mean to return. I waited more than an hour and a quarter, and then I went out in despair.'

'But I came just afterwards,' I protested. 'You had only to wait a few more minutes. Surely you could have waited a few more minutes?'

'You said four o'clock,' he repeated obstinately.

'It was barely half-past five when I came,' I said.

'I had meant never to drink again,' he went on.

'You were so kind to me. But then, when you didn't come—'

'You doubted me, Diaz. You ought to have been sure of me.'

'I was wrong.'

'No, no!' I said. 'It was I who was wrong. But I never thought that an hour and a half would make any difference.'

There was a pause.

'Ah, Magda, Magda!'—he suddenly began to weep; it was astounding—'remember that you had deserted me once before. Remember that. If you had not done that, my life might have been different. It would have been different.'

'Don't say so,' I pleaded.

'Yes, I must say so. You cannot imagine how solitary my life has been. Magda, I loved you.'

And I too wept.

His accent was sincerity itself. I saw the young girl hurrying secretly out of the Five Towns Hotel. Could it be true that she had carried away with her, unknowing, the heart of Diaz? Could it be true that her panic flight had ruined a career? The faint possibility that it was true made me sick with vain grief.

'And now I am old and forgotten and disgraced,' he said.

'How old are you, Diaz?'

'Thirty-six,' he answered.

'Why,' I said, 'you have thirty years to live.'

'Yes; and what years?'

'Famous years. Brilliant years.'

He shook his head.

'I am done for—' he murmured, and his head sank.

'Are you so weak, then?' I took his hand. 'Are you so weak? Look at me.'

He obeyed, and his wet eyes met mine. In that precious moment I lived.

'I don't know,' he said.

'You could not have looked at me if you had not been strong, very strong,' I said firmly. 'You told me once that you had a house near Fontainebleau. Have you still got it?'

'I suppose so.'

'Let us go there, and—and—see.'

'But—'

'I should like to go,' I insisted, with a break in my voice.

'My God!' he exclaimed in a whisper, 'my God!'

I was sobbing violently, and my forehead was against the rough stuff of his coat.



V

And one morning, long afterwards, I awoke very early, and the murmuring of the leaves of the forest came through the open window. I had known that I should wake very early, in joyous anticipation of that day. And as I lay he lay beside me, lost in the dreamless, boyish, natural sleep that he never sought in vain. He lay, as always, slightly on his right side, with his face a little towards me—his face that was young again, and from which the bane had passed. It was one of the handsomest, fairest faces in the world, one of the most innocent, and one of the strongest; the face of a man who follows his instincts with the direct simplicity of a savage or a child, and whose instincts are sane and powerful. Seen close, perfectly at rest, as I saw it morning after morning, it was full of a special and mysterious attraction. The fine curves of the nostrils and of the lobe of the ear, the masterful lines of the mouth, the contours of the cheek and chin and temples, the tints of the flesh subtly varying from rose to ivory, the golden crown of hair, the soft moustache. I had learned every detail by heart; my eyes had dwelt on them till they had become my soul's inheritance, till they were mystically mine, drawing me ever towards them, as a treasure draws. Gently moving, I would put my ear close, close, and listen to the breath of life as it entered regularly, almost imperceptibly, vivifying that organism in repose. There is something terrible in the still beauty of sleep. It is as though the spiritual fabric hangs inexplicably over the precipice of death. It seems impossible, or at least miraculous, that the intake and the expulsion upon which existence depends should continue thus, minute by minute, hour by hour. It is as though one stood on the very confines of life, and could one trace but one step more, one single step, one would unveil the eternal secret. I would not listen long; the torture was too sweet, too exquisite, and I would gently slide back to my place.... His hand was on the counterpane, near to my breast—the broad hand of the pianist, with a wrist of incredible force, and the fingers tapering suddenly at the end to a point. I let my own descend on it as softly as snow. Ah, ravishing contact! He did not move. And while my small hand touched his I gazed into the spaces of the bedroom, with its walls of faded blue tapestry and its white curtains, and its marble and rosewood, and they seemed to hold peace, as the hollows of a field hold dew; they seemed to hold happiness as a great tree holds sunlight in its branches; and outside was the murmuring of the leaves of the forest and the virginal freshness of the morning.

Surely he must wake earlier that day! I pursed my lips and blew tenderly, mischievously, on his cheek, lying with my cheek full on the pillow, so that I could watch him. The muscles of his mouth twitched, his inner being appeared to protest. And then began the first instinctive blind movement of the day with him. His arms came forward and found my neck, and drew me forcibly to him, and then, just before our lips touched, he opened his eyes and shut them again. So it occurred every morning. Ere even his brain had resumed activity his heart had felt its need of me. This it was that was so wonderful, so overpowering! And the kiss, languid and yet warm, heavy with a human scent, with the scent of the night, honest, sensuous, and long—long! As I lay thus, clasped in his arms, I half closed my eyes, and looked into his eyes through my lashes, smiling, and all was a delicious blur....

It was the summit of bliss! No! I have never mounted higher! I asked myself, astounded, what I had done that I should receive such happiness, what I had done that existence should have no flaw for me. And what had I done? I know not, I know not. It passes me. I am lost in my joy. For I had not even cured him. I had anticipated painful scenes, interminable struggles, perhaps a relapse. But nothing of the kind. He had simply ceased at once the habit—that was all. We never left each other. And his magnificent constitution had perfectly recovered itself in a few months. I had done nothing.

'Magda,' he murmured indistinctly, drawing his mouth an inch away from mine, 'why can't your dark hair always be loose over your shoulders like that? It is glorious!'

'What ideas you have!' I murmured, more softly than he. 'And do you know what it is to-day?'

'No.'

'You've forgotten?' I pouted.

'Yes.'

'Guess.'

'No; you must tell me. Not your birthday? Not mine?'

'It's just a year since I met you,' I whispered timidly.

Our mouths met again, and, so enlocked, we rested, savouring the true savour of life. And presently my hand stole up to his head and stroked his curls.

Every morning he began to practise at eight o'clock, and continued till eleven. The piano, a Steinway in a hundred Steinways, was in the further of the two drawing-rooms. He would go into the room smoking a cigarette, and when he had thrown away the cigarette I would leave him. And as soon as I had closed the door the first notes would resound, slow and solemn, of the five-finger exercises with which he invariably commenced his studies. That morning, as often, I sat writing in the enclosed garden. I always wrote in pencil on my knee. The windows of the drawing-room were wide open, and Diaz' music filled the garden. The sheer beauty of his tone was such that to hear him strike even an isolated note gave pleasure. He created beauty all the time. His five-finger exercises were lovely patterns of sound woven with exact and awful deliberation. It seemed impossible that these should be the same bald and meaningless inventions which I had been wont to repeat. They were transformed. They were music. The material in which he built them was music itself, enchanting the ear as much by the quality of the tone as by the impeccable elegance of the form. To hear Diaz play a scale, to catch that measured, tranquil succession of notes, each a different jewel of equal splendour, each dying precisely when the next was born—this was to perceive at last what music is made of, to have glimpses of the divine magic that is the soul of the divinest art. I used to believe that nothing could surpass the beauty of a scale, until Diaz, after writing formal patterns in the still air innumerably, and hypnotizing me with that sorcery, would pass suddenly to the repetition of fragments of Bach. And then I knew that hitherto he had only been trying to be more purely and severely mechanical than a machine, and that now the interpreter was at work. I have heard him repeat a passage fifty times—and so slowly!—and each rendering seemed more beautiful than the last; and it was more beautiful than the last. He would extract the final drop of beauty from the most beautiful things in the world. Washed, drenched in this circumambient ether of beauty, I wrote my verse. Perhaps it may appear almost a sacrilege that I should have used the practising of a Diaz as a background for my own creative activity. I often thought so. But when one has but gold, one must put it to lowly use. So I wrote, and he passed from Bach to Chopin.

Usually he would come out into the garden for five minutes at half-past nine to smoke a cigarette, but that morning it had struck ten before the music ceased. I saw him. He walked absent-minded along the terrace in the strange silence that had succeeded. He was wearing his riding-breeches, for we habitually rode at eleven. And that morning I did not hide my work when he came. It was, in fact, finished; the time had arrived to disclose it. He stopped in front of me in the sunlight, utterly preoccupied with himself and his labours. He had the rapt look on his face which results from the terrible mental and spiritual strain of practising as he practised.

'Satisfied?' I asked him.

He frowned.

'There are times when one gets rather inspired,' he said, looking at me, as it were, without seeing me. 'It's as if the whole soul gets into one's hands. That's what's wanted.'

'You had it this morning?'

'A bit.'

He smiled with candid joy.

'While I was listening—' I began.

'Oh!' he broke in impulsively, violently, 'it isn't you that have to listen. It's I that have to listen. It's the player that has to listen. He's got to do more than listen. He's got to be in the piano with his inmost heart. If he isn't on the full stretch of analysis the whole blessed time, he might just as well be turning the handle of a barrel-organ.'

He always talked about his work during the little 'recess' which he took in the middle of the morning. He pretended to be talking to me, but it was to himself that he talked. He was impatient if I spoke.

'I shall be greater than ever,' he proceeded, after a moment. And his attitude towards himself was so disengaged, so apart and aloof, so critically appreciative, that it was impossible to accuse him of egoism. He was, perhaps, as amazed at his own transcendent gift as any other person could be, and he was incapable of hiding his sensations. 'Yes,' he repeated; 'I think I shall be greater than ever. You see, a Chopin player is born; you can't make him. With Chopin it's not a question of intellect. It's all tone with Chopin—tone, my child, even in the most bravura passages. You've got to get it.'

'Yes,' I agreed.

He gazed over the tree-tops into the blue sky.

'I may be ready in six months,' he said.

'I think you will,' I concurred, with a judicial air. But I honestly deemed him to be more than ready then.

Twelve months previously he had said: 'With six hours' practice a day for two years I shall recover what I have lost.'

He had succeeded beyond his hopes.

'Are you writing in that book?' he inquired carelessly as he threw down the cigarette and turned away.

'I have just finished something,' I replied.

'Oh!' he said, 'I'm glad you aren't idle. It's so boring.'

He returned to the piano, perfectly incurious about what I did, self-absorbed as a god. And I was alone in the garden, with the semicircle of trees behind me, and the facade of the old house and its terrace in front. And lying on the lawn, just under the terrace, was the white end of the cigarette which he had abandoned; it breathed upwards a thin spiral of blue smoke through the morning sunshine, and then it ceased to breathe. And the music recommenced, on a different plane, more brilliantly than before. It was as though, till then, he had been laboriously building the bases of a tremendous triumphal arch, and that now the two wings met, dazzlingly, soaringly, in highest heaven, and the completed arch became a rainbow glittering in the face of the infinite. He played two of his great concert pieces, and their intricate melodies—brocaded, embroidered, festooned—poured themselves through the windows into the garden in a procession majestic and impassioned, perturbing the intent soul of the solitary listener, swathing her in intoxicating sound. It was the unique virtuoso born again, proudly displaying the ultimate sublime end of all those slow-moving exercises to which he had subdued his fingers. Not for ten years had I heard him play so.

When we first came into the house I had said bravely to myself: 'His presence shall not deter me from practising as I have always done.' And one afternoon I had sat down to the piano full of determination to practise without fear of him, without self-consciousness. But before my hands had touched the keys shame took me, unreasoning, terror-struck shame, and I knew in an instant that while he lived I should never more play the piano. He laughed lightly when I told him, and I called myself silly. Yet now, as I sat in the garden, I saw how right I had been. And I wondered that I should ever have had the audacity even to dream of playing in his house; the idea was grotesque. And he did not ask me to play, save when there arrived new orchestral music arranged for four hands. Then I steeled myself to the ordeal of playing with him, because he wished to try over the music. And he would thank me, and say that pianoforte duets were always very enjoyable. But he did not pretend that I was not an amateur, and he never—thank God!—suggested that we should attempt Tristan again....

At last he finished. And I heard distantly the bell which he had rung for his glass of milk. And, remembering that I was not ready for the ride, I ran with guilty haste into the house and upstairs.

The two bay horses were waiting, our English groom at their heads, when I came out to the porch. Diaz was impatiently tapping his boot with his whip. He was not in the least a sporting man, but he loved the sensation of riding, and the groom would admit that he rode passably; but he loved more to strut in breeches, and to imitate in little ways the sporting man. I had learnt to ride in order to please him.

'Come along,' he exclaimed.

His eyes said: 'You are always late.' And I was. Some people always know exactly what point they have reached in the maze and jungle of the day, just as mariners are always aware, at the back of their minds, of the state of the tide. But I was not born so.

Diaz helped me to mount, and we departed, jingling through the gate and across the road into a glade of the forest, one of those long sandy defiles, banked on either side, and over-shadowed with tall oaks, which pierce the immense forest like rapiers. The sunshine slanted through the crimsoning leafwork and made irregular golden patches on the dark sand to the furthest limit of the perspective. And though we could not feel the autumn wind, we could hear it in the tree-tops, and it had the sound of the sea. The sense of well-being and of joy was exquisite. The beauty of horses, timid creatures, sensitive and graceful and irrational as young girls, is a thing apart; and what is strange is that their vast strength does not seem incongruous with it. To be above that proud and lovely organism, listening, apprehensive, palpitating, nervous far beyond the human, to feel one's self almost part of it by intimate contact, to yield to it, and make it yield, to draw from it into one's self some of its exultant vitality—in a word, to ride—yes, I could comprehend Diaz' fine enthusiasm for that! I could share it when he was content to let the horses amble with noiseless hoofs over the soft ways. But when he would gallop, and a strong wind sprang up to meet our faces, and the earth shook and thundered, and the trunks of the trees raced past us, then I was afraid. My fancy always saw him senseless at the foot of a tree while his horse calmly cropped the short grass at the sides of the path, or with his precious hand twisted and maimed! And I was in agony till he reined in. I never dared to speak to him of this fear, nor even hint to him that the joy was worth less than the peril. He would have been angry in his heart, and something in him stronger than himself would have forced him to increase the risks. I knew him! ... Ah! but when we went gently, life seemed to be ideal for me, impossibly perfect! It seemed to contain all that I could ever have demanded of it.

I looked at him sideways, so noble and sane and self-controlled. And the days in Paris had receded, far and dim and phantom-like. Was it conceivable that they had once been real, and that we had lived through them? And was this Diaz, the world-renowned darling of capitals, riding by me, a woman whom he had met by fantastic chance? Had he really hidden himself in my arms from the cruel stare of the world and the insufferable curiosity of admirers who, instead of admiring, had begun to pity? Had I in truth saved him? Was it I who would restore him to his glory? Oh, the astounding romance that my life had been! And he was with me! He shared my life, and I his! I wondered what would happen when he returned to his bright kingdom. I was selfish enough to wish that he might never return to his kingdom, and that we might ride and ride for ever in the forest.

And then we came to a circular clearing, with an iron cross in the middle, where roads met, a place such as occurs magically in some ballade of Chopin's. And here we drew rein on the leaf-strewn grass, breathing quickly, with reddened cheeks, and the horses nosed each other, with long stretchings of the neck and rattling of bits.

'So you've been writing again?' said Diaz, smiling quizzically.

'Yes,' I answered. 'I've been writing a long time, but I haven't let you know anything about it; and just to-day I've finished it.'

'What is it—another novel?'

'No; a little drama in verse.'

'Going to publish it?'

'Why, naturally.'

Diaz was aware that I enjoyed fame in England and America. He was probably aware that my books had brought me a considerable amount of money. He had read some of my works, and found them excellent—indeed, he was quite proud of my talent. But he did not, he could not, take altogether seriously either my talent or my fame. I knew that he always regarded me as a child gracefully playing at a career. For him there was only one sort of fame; all the other sorts were shadows. A supreme violinist might, perhaps, approach the real thing, in his generous mind; but he was incapable of honestly believing that any fame compared with that of a pianist. The other fames were very well, but they were paste to the precious stone, gewgaws to amuse simple persons. The sums paid to sopranos struck him as merely ridiculous in their enormity. He could not be called conceited; nevertheless, he was magnificently sure that he had been, and still was, the most celebrated person in the civilized world. Certainly he had no superiors in fame, but he would not admit the possibility of equals. Of course, he never argued such a point; it was a tacit assumption, secure from argument. And with that he profoundly reverenced the great composers. The death of Brahms affected him for years. He regarded it as an occasion for universal sorrow. Had Brahms condescended to play the piano, Diaz would have turned the pages for him, and deemed himself honoured—him whom queens had flattered!

'Did you imagine,' I began to tease him, after a pause, 'that while you are working I spend my time in merely existing?'

'You exist—that is enough, my darling,' he said. 'Strange that a beautiful woman can't understand that in existing she is doing her life's work!'

And he leaned over and touched my right wrist below the glove.

'You dear thing!' I murmured, smiling. 'How foolish you can be!'

'What's the drama about?' he asked.

'About La Valliere,' I said.

'La Valliere! But that's the kind of subject I want for my opera!'

'Yes,' I said; 'I have thought so.'

'Could you turn it into a libretto, my child?'

'No, dearest.'

'Why not?'

'Because it already is a libretto. I have written it as such.'

'For me?'

'For whom else?'

And I looked at him fondly, and I think tears came to my eyes.

'You are a genius, Magda!' he exclaimed. 'You leave nothing undone for me. The subject is the very thing to suit Villedo.'

'Who is Villedo?'

'My jewel, you don't know who Villedo is! Villedo is the director of the Opera Comique in Paris, the most artistic opera-house in Europe. He used to beg me every time we met to write him an opera.'

'And why didn't you?'

'Because I had neither the subject nor the time. One doesn't write operas after lunch in hotel parlours; and as for a good libretto—well, outside Wagner, there's only one opera in the world with a good libretto, and that's Carmen.'

Diaz, who had had a youthful operatic work performed at the Royal School of Music in London, and whose numerous light compositions for the pianoforte had, of course, enjoyed a tremendous vogue, was much more serious about his projected opera than I had imagined. He had frequently mentioned it to me, but I had not thought the idea was so close to his heart as I now perceived it to be. I had written the libretto to amuse myself, and perhaps him, and lo! he was going to excite himself; I well knew the symptoms.

'You wrote it in that little book,' he said. 'You haven't got it in your pocket?'

'No,' I answered. 'I haven't even a pocket.'

He would not laugh.

'Come,' he said—'come, let's see it.'

He gathered up his loose rein and galloped off. He could not wait an instant.

'Come along!' he cried imperiously, turning his head.

'I am coming,' I replied; 'but wait for me. Don't leave me like that, Diaz.'

The old fear seized me, but nothing could stop him, and I followed as fast as I dared.

'Where is it?' he asked, when we reached home.

'Upstairs,' I said.

And he came upstairs behind me, pulling my habit playfully, in an effort to persuade us both that his impatience was a simulated one. I had to find my keys and unlock a drawer. I took the small, silk-bound volume from the back part of the drawer and gave it to him.

'There!' I exclaimed. 'But remember lunch is ready.'

He regarded the book.

'What a pretty binding!' he said. 'Who worked it?'

'I did.'

'And, of course, your handwriting is so pretty, too!' he added, glancing at the leaves. '"La Valliere, an opera in three acts."'

We exchanged a look, each of us deliciously perturbed, and then he ran off with the book.

He had to be called three times from the garden to lunch, and he brought the book with him, and read it in snatches during the meal, and while sipping his coffee. I watched him furtively as he turned over the pages.

'Oh, you've done it!' he said at length—'you've done it! You evidently have a gift for libretto. It is neither more nor less than perfect! And the subject is wonderful!'

He rose, walked round the table, and, taking my head between his hands, kissed me.

'Magda,' he said, 'you're the cleverest girl that was ever born.'

'Then, do you think you will compose it?' I asked, joyous.

'Do I think I will compose it! Why, what do you imagine? I've already begun. It composes itself. I'm now going to read it all again in the garden. Just see that I'm not worried, will you?'

'You mean you don't want me there. You don't care for me any more.'

It amused me to pretend to pout.

'Yes,' he laughed; 'that's it. I don't care for you any more.'

He departed.

'Have no fear!' I cried after him. 'I shan't come into your horrid garden!'

His habit was to resume his practice at three o'clock. The hour was then half-past one. I wondered whether he would allow himself to be seduced from the piano that afternoon by the desire to compose. I hoped not, for there could be no question as to the relative importance to him of the two activities. To my surprise, I heard the piano at two o'clock, instead of at three, and it continued without intermission till five. Then he came, like a sudden wind, on to the terrace where I was having tea. Diaz would never take afternoon tea. He seized my hand impulsively.

'Come down,' he said—'down under the trees there.'

'What for?'

'I want you.'

'But, Diaz, let me put my cup down. I shall spill the tea on my dress.'

'I'll take your cup.'

'And I haven't nearly finished my tea, either. And you're hurting me.'

'I'll bring you a fresh cup,' he said. 'Come, come!'

And he dragged me off, laughing, to the lower part of the garden, where were two chairs in the shade. And I allowed myself to be dragged.

'There! Sit down. Don't move. I'll fetch your tea.'

And presently he returned with the cup.

'Now that you've nearly killed me,' I said, 'and spoilt my dress, perhaps you'll explain.'

He produced the silk-bound book of manuscript from his pocket and put it in my unoccupied hand.

'I want you to read it to me aloud, all of it,' he said.

'Really?'

'Really.'

'What a strange boy you are!' I chided.

Then I drank the tea, straightened my features into seriousness, and began to read.

The reading occupied less than an hour. He made no remark when it was done, but held out his hand for the book, and went out for a walk. At dinner he was silent till the servants had gone. Then he said musingly:

'That scene in the cloisters between Louise and De Montespan is a great idea. It will be magnificent; it will be the finest thing in the opera. What a subject you have found! what a subject!' His tone altered. 'Magda, will you do something to oblige me?'

'If it isn't foolish.'

'I want you to go to bed.'

'Out of the way?' I smiled.

'Go to bed and to sleep,' he repeated.

'But why?'

'I want to walk about this floor. I must be alone.'

'Well,' I said, 'just to prove how humble and obedient I am, I will go.'

And I held up my mouth to be kissed.

Wondrous, the joy I found in playing the decorative, acquiescent, self-effacing woman to him, the pretty, pouting plaything! I liked him to dismiss me, as the soldier dismisses his charmer at the sound of the bugle. I liked to think upon his obvious conviction that the libretto was less than nothing compared to the music. I liked him to regard the whole artistic productivity of my life as the engaging foible of a pretty woman. I liked him to forget that I had brought him alive out of Paris. I liked him to forget to mention marriage to me. In a word, he was Diaz, and I was his.

And as I lay in bed I even tried to go to sleep, in my obedience, because I knew he would wish it. But I could not easily sleep for anticipating his triumph of the early future. His habits of composition were extremely rapid. It might well occur that he would write the entire opera in a few months, without at all sacrificing the piano. And naturally any operatic manager would be loath to refuse an opera signed by Diaz. Villedo, apparently so famous, would be sure to accept it, and probably would produce it at once. And Diaz would have a double triumph, a dazzling and gorgeous re-entry into the world. He might give his first recital in the same week as the premiere of the opera. And thus his shame would never be really known to the artistic multitude. The legend of a nervous collapse could be insisted on, and the opera itself would form a sufficient excuse for his retirement.... And I should be the secret cause of all this glory—I alone! And no one would ever guess what Diaz owed to me. Diaz himself would never appreciate it. I alone, withdrawn from the common gaze, like a woman of the East, Diaz' secret fountain of strength and balm—I alone should be aware of what I had done. And my knowledge would be enough for me.

I imagine I must have been dreaming when I felt a hand on my cheek.

'Magda, you aren't asleep, are you?'

Diaz was standing over me.

'No, no!' I answered, in a voice made feeble by sleep. And I looked up at him.

'Put something on and come downstairs, will you?'

'What time is it?'

'Oh, I don't know. One o'clock.'

'You've been working for over three hours, then!'

I sat up.

'Yes,' he said proudly. 'Come along. I want to play you my notion of the overture. It's only in the rough, but it's there.'

'You've begun with the overture?'

'Why not, my child? Here's your dressing-gown. Which is the top end of it?'

I followed him downstairs, and sat close by him at the piano, with one limp hand on his shoulder. There was no light in the drawing-rooms, save one candle on the piano. My slipper escaped off my bare foot. As Diaz played he looked at me constantly, demanding my approval, my enthusiasm, which I gave him from a full heart. I thought the music charming, and, of course, as he played it...!

'I shall only have three motives,' he said. 'That's the La Valliere motive. Do you see the idea?'

'You mean she limps?'

'Precisely. Isn't it delightful?'

'She won't have to limp much, you know. She didn't.'

'Just the faintest suggestion. It will be delicious. I can see Morenita in the part. Well, what do you think of it?'

I could not speak. His appeal, suddenly wistful, moved me so. I leaned forward and kissed him.

'Dear girl!' he murmured.

Then he blew out the candle. He was beside himself with excitement.

'Diaz,' I cried, 'what's the matter with you? Do have a little sense. And you've made me lose my slipper.'

'I'll carry you upstairs,' he replied gaily.

A faint illumination came from the hall, so that we could just see each other. He lifted me off the chair.

'No!' I protested, laughing. 'And my slipper.... The servants!'

'Stuff!'

I was a trifle in those arms.



VI

The triumphal re-entry into the world has just begun, and exactly as Diaz foretold. And the life of the forest is over. We have come to Paris, and he has taken Paris, and already he is leaving it for other shores, and I am to follow. At this moment, while I write because I have not slept and cannot sleep, his train rolls out of St. Lazare.

Last night! How glorious! But he is no longer wholly mine. The world has turned his face a little from my face....

It was as if I had never before realized the dazzling significance of the fame of Diaz. I had only once seen him in public. And though he conquered in the Jubilee Hall of the Five Towns, his victory, personal and artistic, at the Opera Comique, before an audience as exacting, haughty, and experienced as any in Europe, was, of course, infinitely more striking—a victory worthy of a Diaz.

I sat alone and hidden at the back of a baignoire in the auditorium. I had drawn up the golden grille, by which the occupants of a baignoire may screen themselves from the curiosity of the parterre. I felt like some caged Eastern odalisque, and I liked so to feel. I liked to exist solely for him, to be mysterious, and to baffle the general gaze in order to be more precious to him. Ah, how I had changed! How he had changed me!

It was Thursday, a subscription night, and, in addition, all Paris was in the theatre, a crowded company of celebrities, of experts, and of perfectly-dressed women. And no one knew who I was, nor why I was there. The vogue of a musician may be universal, but the vogue of an English writer is nothing beyond England and America. I had not been to a rehearsal. I had not met Villedo, nor even the translator of my verse. I had wished to remain in the background, and Diaz had not crossed me. Thus I gazed through the bars of my little cell across the rows of bald heads, and wonderful coiffures, and the waving arms of the conductor, and the restless, gliding bows of the violinists, and saw a scene which was absolutely strange and new to me. And it seemed amazing that these figures which I saw moving and chanting with such grace in a palace garden, authentic to the last detail of historical accuracy, were my La Valliere and my Louis, and that this rich and coloured music which I heard was the same that Diaz had sketched for me on the piano, from illegible scraps of ruled paper, on the edge of the forest. The full miracle of operatic art was revealed to me for the first time.

And when the curtain fell on the opening act, the intoxicating human quality of an operatic success was equally revealed to me for the first time. How cold and distant the success of a novelist compared to this! The auditorium was suddenly bathed in bright light, and every listening face awoke to life as from an enchantment, and flushed and smiled, and the delicatest hands in France clapped to swell the mighty uproar that filled the theatre with praise. Paris, upstanding on its feet, and leaning over balconies and cheering, was charmed and delighted by the fable and the music, in which it found nothing but the sober and pretty elegance that it loves. And Paris applauded feverishly, and yet with a full sense of the value of its applause—given there in the only French theatre where the claque has been suppressed. And then the curtain rose, and La Valliere and Louis tripped mincingly forward to prove that after all they were Morenita and Montferiot, the darlings of their dear Paris, and utterly content with their exclusively Parisian reputation. Three times they came forward. And then the applause ceased, for Paris is not Naples, and it is not Madrid, and the red curtain definitely hid the stage, and the theatre hummed with animated chatter as elegant as Diaz' music, and my ear, that loves the chaste vivacity of the French tongue, was caressed on every side by its cadences.

'This is the very heart of civilization,' I said to myself. 'And even in the forest I could not breathe more freely.'

I stared up absently at Benjamin Constant's blue ceiling, meretricious and still adorable, expressive of the delicious decadence of Paris, and my eyes moistened because the world is so beautiful in such various ways.

Then the door of the baignoire opened. It was Diaz himself who appeared. He had not forgotten me in the excitements of the stage and the dressing-rooms. He put his hand lightly on my shoulder, and I glanced at him.

'Well?' he murmured, and gave me a box of bonbons elaborately tied with rich ribbons.

And I murmured, 'Well?'

The glory of his triumph was upon him. But he understood why my eyes were wet, and his fingers moved soothingly on my shoulder.

'You won't come round?' he asked. 'Both Villedo and Morenita are dying to meet you.'

I shook my head, smiling.

'You're satisfied?'

'More than satisfied,' I answered. 'The thing is wonderful.'

'I think it's rather charming,' he said. 'By the way, I've just had an offer from New York for it, and another from Rome.'

I nodded my appreciation.

'You don't want anything?'

'Nothing, thanks,' I said, opening the box of bonbons, 'except these. Thanks so much for thinking of them.'

'Well—'

And he left me again.

In the second act the legend—has not the tale of La Valliere acquired almost the quality of a legend?—grew in persuasiveness and in magnificence. It was the hour of La Valliere's unwilling ascendancy, and it foreboded also her fall. The situations seemed to me to be poignantly beautiful, especially that in which La Valliere and Montespan and the Queen found themselves together. And Morenita had perceived my meaning with such a sure intuition. I might say that she showed me what I had meant. Diaz, too, had given to my verse a voice than which it appeared impossible that anything could be more appropriate. The whole effect was astonishing, ravishing. And within me—far, far within the recesses of my glowing heart—a thin, clear whisper spoke and said that I, and I alone, was the cause of that beauty of sight and sound. Not Morenita, and not Montferiot, not Diaz himself, but Magda, the self-constituted odalisque, was its author. I had thought of it; I had schemed it; I had fashioned it; I had evoked the emotion in it. The others had but exquisitely embroidered my theme. Without me they must have been dumb and futile. On my shoulders lay the burden and the glory. And though I was amazed, perhaps naively, to see what I had done, nevertheless I had done it—I! The entire opera-house, that complicated and various machine, was simply a means to express me. And it was to my touch on their heartstrings that the audience vibrated. With all my humility, how proud I was—coldly and arrogantly proud, as only the artist can be! I wore my humility as I wore my black gown. Even Diaz could not penetrate to the inviolable place in my heart, where the indestructible egoism defied the efforts of love to silence it. And yet people say there is nothing stronger than love.

At the close of the act, while the ringing applause, much more enthusiastic than before, gave certainty of a genuine and extraordinary success, I could not help blushing. It was as if I was in danger of being discovered as the primal author of all that fleeting loveliness, as if my secret was bound to get about, and I to be forced from my seclusion in order to receive the acclamations of Paris. I played nervously and self-consciously with my fan, and I wrapped my humility closer round me, until at length the tumult died away, and the hum of charming, eager chatter reassured my ears again.

Diaz did not come. The entr'acte stretched out long, and the chatter lost some of its eagerness, and he did not come. Perhaps he could not come. Perhaps he was too much engaged, too much preoccupied, to think of the gallantry which he owed to his mistress. A man cannot always be dreaming of his mistress. A mistress must be reconciled to occasional neglect; she must console herself with chocolates. And they were chocolates from Marquis's, in the Passage des Panoramas....

Then he came, accompanied.

A whirl of high-seasoned, laughing personalities invaded my privacy. Diaz, smiling humorously, was followed by a man and a cloaked woman.

'Dear lady,' he said, with an intimate formality, 'I present Mademoiselle Morenita and Monsieur Villedo. They insisted on seeing you. Mademoiselle, Monsieur—Mademoiselle Peel.'

I stood up.

'All our excuses,' said Villedo, in a low, discreet voice, as he carefully shut the door. 'All our excuses, madame. But it was necessary that I should pay my respects—it was stronger than I.'

And he came forward, took my hand, and raised it to his lips. He is a little finicking man, with a little gray beard, and the red rosette in his button-hole, and a most consummate ease of manner.

'Monsieur,' I replied, 'you are too amiable. And you, madame. I cannot sufficiently thank you both.'

Morenita rushed at me with a swift, surprising movement, her cloak dropping from her shoulders, and taking both my hands, she kissed me impulsively.

'You have genius,' she said; 'and I am proud. I am ashamed that I cannot read English; but I have the intention to learn in order to read your books. Our Diaz says wonderful things of them.'

She is a tall, splendidly-made, opulent creature, of my own age, born for the footlights, with an extremely sweet and thrilling voice, and that slight coarseness or exaggeration of gesture and beauty which is the penalty of the stage. She did not in the least resemble a La Valliere as she stood there gazing at me, with her gleaming, pencilled eyes and heavy, scarlet lips. It seemed impossible that she could refine herself to a La Valliere. But that woman is the drama itself. She would act no matter what. She has always the qualities necessary to a role. And the gods have given her green eyes, so that she may be La Valliere to the very life.

I began to thank her for her superb performance.

'It is I who should thank you,' she answered. 'It will be my greatest part. Never have I had so many glorious situations in a part. Do you like my limp?'

She smiled, her head on one side. Success glittered in those orbs.

'You limp adorably,' I said.

'It is my profession to make compliments,' Villedo broke in; and then, turning to Morenita, 'N'est-ce pas, ma belle creature? But really'—he turned to me again—'but very sincerely, all that there is of most sincerely, dear madame, your libretto is made with a virtuosity astonishing. It is du theatre. And with that a charm, an emotion...! One would say—'

And so it continued, the flattering stream, while Diaz listened, touched, and full of pride.

'Ah!' I said. 'It is not I who deserve praise.'

An electric bell trembled in the theatre.

Morenita picked up her cloak.

'Mon ami,' she warned Villedo. 'I must go. Diaz, mon petit! you will persuade Mademoiselle Peel to come to the room of the Directeur later. Madame, a few of us will meet there—is it not so, Villedo? We shall count on you, madame. You have hidden yourself too long.'

I glanced at Diaz, and he nodded. As a fact, I wished to refuse; but I could not withstand the seduction of Morenita. She had a physical influence which was unique in my experience.

'I accept,' I said.

'A tout a l'heure, then,' she twittered gaily; and they left as they had come, Villedo affectionately toying with Morenita's hand.

Diaz remained behind a moment.

'I am so glad you didn't decline,' he said. 'You see, here in this theatre Morenita is a queen. I wager she has never before in all her life put herself out of the way as she has done for you to-night.'

'Really!' I faltered.

And, indeed, as I pondered over it, the politeness of these people appeared to be marvellous, and so perfectly accomplished. Villedo, who has made a European reputation and rejuvenated his theatre in a dozen years, is doubtless, as he said, a professional maker of compliments. In his position a man must be. But, nevertheless, last night's triumph is officially and very genuinely Villedo's. While as for Morenita and Diaz, the mere idea of these golden stars waiting on me, the librettist, effacing themselves, rendering themselves subordinate at such a moment, was fantastic. It passed the credible.... A Diaz standing silent and deferential, while an idolized prima donna stepped down from her throne to flatter me in her own temple! All that I had previously achieved of renown seemed provincial, insular.

But Diaz took his own right place in the spacious salon of Villedo afterwards, after all the applause had ceased, and the success had been consecrated, and the enraptured audience had gone, and the lights were extinguished in the silent auditorium. It is a room that seems to be furnished with nothing but a grand piano and a large, flat writing-table and a few chairs. On the walls are numberless signed portraits of singers and composers, and antique playbills of the Opera Comique, together with strange sinister souvenirs of the great fires which have destroyed the house and its patrons in the past. When Diaz led me in, only Villedo and the principal artists and Pouvillon, the conductor, were present. Pouvillon, astonishingly fat, was sitting on the table, idly swinging the electric pendant over his head; while Morenita occupied Villedo's armchair, and Villedo talked to Montferiot and another man in a corner. But a crowd of officials of the theatre ventured on Diaz' heels. And then came Monticelli, the premiere danseuse, in a coat and skirt, and then some of her rivals. And as the terrible Director did not protest, the room continued to fill until it was full to the doors, where stood a semicircle of soiled, ragged scene-shifters and a few fat old women, who were probably dressers. Who could protest on such a night? The democracy of a concerted triumph reigned. Everybody was joyous, madly happy. Everybody had done something; everybody shared the prestige, and the rank and file might safely take generals by the hand.

Diaz was then the centre of attraction. It was recognised that he had entered that sphere from a wider one, bringing with him a radiance brighter than he found there. He was divine last night. All felt that he was divine. He spoke to everyone with an admirable modesty, gaily, his eyes laughing. Several women kissed him, including Morenita. Not that I minded. In the theatre the code is different, coarser, more banal. He alone raised this crowd above its usual level and gave it distinction.

Someone suggested that, as the piano was there, he should play, and the demand ran from mouth to mouth. Villedo, appreciating its audacity, made a gesture to indicate that such a thing could not be asked. But Diaz instantly said that, if it would give pleasure, he would play with pleasure.

And he sat down to the piano, and looked round, smiling, and the room was hushed in a moment, and each face was turned towards him.

'What?' he ejaculated. And then, as no definite recommendation was offered, he said: 'Do you wish that I improvise?'

The idea was accepted with passionate, noisy enthusiasm.

A cold perspiration broke out over my whole body. I must have turned very pale.

'You are not ill, madame?' asked that ridiculous fop, Montferiot, who had been presented to me, and was whispering the most fatuous compliments.

'No, I thank you.'

The fact was that Diaz, since his retirement, had not yet played to anyone except myself. This was his first appearance. I was afraid for him. I trembled for him. I need not have done. He was absolutely master of his powers. His fingers announced, quite simply, one of the most successful airs from La Valliere, and then he began to decorate it with an amazing lacework of variations, and finished with a bravura display such as no pianist could have surpassed. The performance, marvellous in itself, was precisely suited to that audience, and it electrified the audience; it electrified even me. Diaz fought his way through kisses and embraces to Villedo, who stood on his toes and wept and put his arms round Diaz' neck.

'Cher maitre,' he cried, 'you overwhelm us!'

'You are too kind, all of you,' said Diaz. 'I must ask permission to retire. I have to conduct Mademoiselle Peel to her hotel, and there is much for me to do during the night. You know I start very early to-morrow.'

'Helas! Morenita sighed.

I had blushed. Decidedly I behaved like a girl last night. But, indeed, the new, swift realization, as Diaz singled me out of that multitude, that after all he utterly belonged to me, that he was mine alone, was more than I could bear with equanimity. I was the proudest woman in the universe. I scorned the lot of all other women.

The adieux were exchanged, and there were more kisses. 'Au revoir! Bon voyage! Much success over there.'

The majority of these good, generous souls were in tears.

Villedo opened a side-door, and we escaped into a corridor, only Morenita and one or two others accompanying us to the street.

And on the pavement a carpet had been laid. The electric brougham was waiting. I gathered up my skirt and sprang in. Diaz followed, smiling at me. He put his head out of the window and said a few words. Morenita blew a kiss. Villedo bowed profoundly. The carriage moved in the direction of the boulevard.... I had carried him off. Oh, the exquisite dark intimacy of the interior of that smooth-rolling brougham! When, after the theatre, a woman precedes a man into a carriage, does she not publish and glory in the fact that she is his? Is it not the most delicious of avowals? There is something in the enforced bend of one's head as one steps in. And when the man shuts the door with a masculine snap—

I wondered idly what Morenita and Villedo thought of our relations. They must surely guess.

We went down the boulevard and by the Rue Royale into the Place de la Concorde, where vehicles flitted mysteriously in a maze of lights under the vast dome of mysterious blue. And Paris, in her incomparable toilette of a June night, seemed more than ever the passionate city of love that she is, recognising candidly, with the fearless intellectuality of the Latin temperament, that one thing only makes life worth living. How soft was the air! How languorous the pose of the dim figures that passed us half hidden in other carriages! And in my heart was the lofty joy of work done, definitely accomplished, and a vista of years of future pleasure. My happiness was ardent and yet calm—a happiness beyond my hopes, beyond what a mortal has the right to dream of. Nothing could impair it, not even Diaz' continued silence as to a marriage between us, not even the imminent brief separation that I was to endure.

'My child,' said Diaz suddenly, 'I'm very hungry. I've never been so hungry.'

'You surely didn't forget to have your dinner?' I exclaimed.

'Yes, I did,' he admitted like a child; 'I've just remembered.'

'Diaz!' I pouted, and for some strange reason my bliss was intensified, 'you are really terrible! What can I do with you? You will eat before you leave me. I must see to that. We can get something for you at the hotel, perhaps.'

'Suppose we go to a supper restaurant?' he said.

Without waiting for my reply, he seized the dangling end of the speaking-tube and spoke to the driver, and we swerved round and regained the boulevard.

And in the private room of a great, glittering restaurant, one of a long row of private rooms off a corridor, I ate strawberries and cream and sipped champagne while Diaz went through the entire menu of a supper.

'Your eyes look sad,' he murmured, with a cigar between his teeth. 'What is it? We shall see each other again in a fortnight.'

He was to resume his career by a series of concerts in the United States. A New York agent, with the characteristic enterprise of New York agents, had tracked Diaz even into the forest and offered him two hundred and fifty thousand dollars for forty concerts on the condition that he played at no concert before he played in New York. And in order to reach New York in time for the first concert, it was imperative that he should catch the Touraine at Havre. I was to follow in a few days by a Hamburg-American liner. Diaz had judged it more politic that we should not travel together. In this he was undoubtedly right.

I smiled proudly.

'I am both sad and happy,' I answered.

He moved his chair until it touched mine, and put his arm round my neck, and brought my face close to his.

'Look at me,' he said.

And I looked into his large, splendid eyes.

'You mustn't think,' he whispered, 'that, because I don't talk about it, I don't feel that I owe everything to you.'

I let my face fall on his breast. I knew I had flushed to the ears.

'My poor boy,' I sobbed, 'if you talk about that I shall never forgive you.'

It was heaven itself. No woman has ever been more ecstatically happy than I was then.

He rang for the bill.

We parted at the door of my hotel. In the carriage we had exchanged one long, long kiss. At the last moment I wanted to alter the programme, go with him to his hotel to assist in his final arrangements, and then see him off at early morning at the station. But he refused. He said he could not bear to part from me in public. Perhaps it was best so. Just as I turned away he put a packet into my hand. It contained seven banknotes for ten thousand francs each, money that it had been my delight to lend him from time to time. Foolish, vain, scrupulous boy! I knew not where he had obtained—

* * * * *

It is now evening. Diaz is on the sea. While writing those last lines I was attacked by fearful pains in the right side, and cramp, so that I could not finish. I can scarcely write now. I have just seen the old English doctor. He says I have appendicitis, perhaps caused by pips of strawberries. And that unless I am operated on at once—And that even if—He is telephoning to the hospital. Diaz! No; I shall come safely through the affair. Without me Diaz would fall again. I see that now. And I have had no child. I must have a child. Even that girl in the blue peignoir had a—Chance is a strange—

Extract translated from 'Le Temps,' the Paris Evening Paper.

OBSEQUIES OF MISS PELL (sic).

The obsequies of Mademoiselle Pell, the celebrated English poetess, and author of the libretto of La Valliere, were celebrated this morning at eleven o'clock in the Church of St. Honore d'Eylau.

The chief mourners were the doctor who assisted at the last moments of Mademoiselle Pell, and M. Villedo, director of the Opera-Comique.

Among the wreaths we may cite those of the Association of Dramatic Artists, of Madame Morenita, of the management of the Opera-Comique, and of the artists of the Opera-Comique.

Mass was said by a vicar of the parish, and general absolution given by M. le Cure Marbeau.

During the service there was given, under the direction of M. Letang, chapel-master, the Funeral March of Beethoven, the Kyrie of Neidermeyer, the Pie Jesu of Stradella, the Ego Sum of Gounod, the Libera Me of S. Rousseau.

M. Deep officiated at the organ.

After the ceremony the remains were transported to the cemetery of Pere-Lachaise and cremated.

THE END

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