Symud i'r prif gynnwys
Cuddio Rhestr Erthyglau

10 erthygl ar y dudalen hon



QUIDA'S NEW TALE. OTHMAE. .\1 CHAPTER XLII.—(CONTINUED.) When night fell he took her with him to the Theatre Francis; not for the first time. It was the night of a premiere (new play) of a great dramatist. The house was filled with the choicest critics of Paris; the most famous actors occupied the classic stage. Behind the grating of the hidden box to which he led her she could see without being seen. Before this she had been only taken to rehearsals in the daytime; she had never seen a great theatre in the full blaze of one of its gala nights. It blinded and oppressed her. She longed for the coolness, for the shadows, for the dewy still. ness of the country. The pungent scents, the blazing lights, the multitude of faces, the hum of voices, made her afraid; afraid as she had not been all alone in the hours of night adrift in her boat on the sea. Watch and listen and learn," said Rosselin. "You may be on this stage one day, or on none." She did not reply: the new play had begun; the most famous players in Paris acted with that exquisite grace and ease which characterise them the play was witty and brilliant; each scene had its separate success, each phrase its separate charm. Rosselin himself, vividly interested and keenly cri- :ical, gave all his attention to the stage, and for the Lime forgot bis companion. When the curtain fell apon the first act he turned to speak to her; he was startled to see that her face was pale as death, and her eyes, wide open and fascinated, were fastened on the opposite side of the house. He looked where she was looking, and saw a great, lady with a bouquet of orchids lying on the cushion before her, and several gentlemen in her box behind her. "Ah, Madame Nadine! murmured Rosselin. "She does not often deign to honour a first night, even when it is Sardou's. She is going to some great ball afterwards, I suppose, for look at her diamonds, and she has her Russian orders on. Voila une veritable grande dame." (Truly a genuine grand lady.) Damaris gazed at her without a wurd; her eyes were strained, her very lips were pale, she breathed quickly and painfully, the theatre seemed to circle- round and round her, and across its intense light of all the many faces there she saw but this one. When the second act began she had no ears for it, and no consciousness of what was said or done in it. She never once looked at the stage. Her eyes remained rivetted on the wife of Othmar; the voices of the actors were a mere dull babble to her; when the audience laughed she knew not why they laughed; when they applauded she had no knowledge why they did so; all sho saw was that delicate, colourless beauty on the other side of the bouse with the great jewels shining on it like stars. She looked, and looked, and looked till her eyes Bwam and her heart grew sick. This was the woman whom he loved, this great lady leaning there with that look of utter indiffe- rence on her face, with that slight smile 83 this man or the other entered her box, with the diamonds shining in the whiteness of her breast, with her uncovered shoulders gleaming white as snow; a hothouse flower in all the rarity, the langour, the perfection, which the hothouse gives. The same sense which had come to her in the drawing-rooms of St. Pharamond came again to the child: a sense of rudeness, ot rusticity, of inferiority, of coarseness in herself as contrasted with that patrician elegance, that pale and languid loveliness, that marvellous charm of the world and of its highest form of culture. What can I look like to him!" she thought, with humiliation. Beside her I muet seem to him like some rude peasant All that she had felt vaguely before the mirrors of St. Pharamond came back upon her, embittered, intensified, made conscious. She realised the immense distance that there was between her and Othmar as she saw his wife. She realised the grace and splendour of this life in the world which they led. She realised the passion which he had given to her. She realised that she hers- If could only stand outside his life, like a beggar outside his gates. When the curtain fell again, Rosselin looked at her with impatience. You looked at that woman always, never at the stage." he said angrily. She is a great lady leagues above you, leagues beyond you you have nothing in common with her. But one day you may force her to hear you in this very house, if you choose. Will you choose jI" She will not care," said Damaris. Tears were standing in her eyes; the sense of an infinite loneliness and of a great inferiority was OE her. What would it matter if she ever became famous vonder on those classic boards? That great lady would come and see her for an hour— smile or censure—then forget. The dreams which she had nurtured of compelling the admiration of the world seemed to dissolve like a mirage before the mere presence of Othmar's wife. "She would not care," she said wearily. To this patrician she would always be a half- barbarian and uncultured creature. The heart of the child asked with longing to go back to her old life in the sunny air by the blue water, with the homely people, with the simple wants, with the sound of the birds in the leaves, and the feel of the wind on the sea. But she knew that never could she go back so any more. If her feet were to travel thither her soul would 5 Of, go. The passion of the world, the aims of ambition, the heart-sickness of jealousy and desire were all in her; where they have passed the soul is for ever a stranger to peace, even as where fire has burnt the soil of a green field grass will grow no more. Why did she not let me alone?" she thought. Betweenthe second and the third acts Rosselin left her to go to the fover, where he had been for so many years so conspicuous a figure and so dreaded a critic. "Fasten the door after me, and if a thousand people should knock,let uo one in until you hear nay voice," he said to her, drawing the door behind him. Left to herself she drew back into the deepest, shadow of the little den she occupied, and gazed as ahe would at the woman who ha.d been destiny to her. She saw numerous gentlemen come and go in her box, make their reference to her, linger, if ihey were permitted, or withdraw and give place to others. Nadine had changed her position so that aer profile only was now turned towards the house. She leaned her elbow on the cushion, and her cheek on her hand, a butterfly of emeralds sparkled Under her shoulder; sometimes her face was hidden by the fan of white ostrich feathers, some- times she furled the fan and let it lie unused beside Lbo orchids. Damaris watched her with the strange fascina- tion of fear and wonder, of hatred and admiration, which had moved her in the salons of St. Phara- mond. All the words which Othmar had spoken a few days before were sounding in her ears. Her Simple and candid thoughts were beginning to gain something of the complexity, of the weari- ness, of the pain of his. She understood why he had loved this woman so much that, empty though his heart might be, it would remain untenanted. Innocent as Mignon, she yet watched her rival with something of the passion of Adrienne Lecouvreur. She is his he is hers—and she does not care!" thought the child, in whom the ignorance of childhood still lingered, blent with the awakening strength and heat of a tropical nature. As the curtain rose for the third act Othmar himself entered his Vvife's box. Damaris shrank farther and farther back against the wall, though the knew well that the keenest eyes could not find her out in her obscurity. Her breath came hard "nd fast like a panting hare's; the great tears rose to her eYbs; she suddenly realised what this world was which held him so closely. She saw his wife give him the same slight smile that she gave to others; no more. She saw him bend before her with the same low bow the others gave; she saw him converse with the gentlemen near him from time to time he glanced round the house. Once or twice his wife turned her head and spoke to him as she spoke to the others. To this child, who had the heart of Juliet, the soul of Heloise, the conven- tionalities of the world seemed like the frost of death. She is his; he is hers—and she does not care That was all she could think of as she watched them across that sea of light. The wit of the play Unused him, and Othmar looked less weary and more animated than usual. To her he appeared happy. Rosselin called thrice to her through the door before she heard him and let him enter. You should not dream like that when you are at the Fran9:11s. You should study. What more J admirable lessons can you have?" he said angrily. "Poets may dream if they like. They speak best in their trances. Those who would only interpret them must never dare to do so. Have I not told You so a score of times ? There is nothing poetic about the stage; it is all hard, prosaic, literal. If Tou will dream go and bury yourself under green leaves, under yellow corn; do not come to the theatres of the world." Damaris for once did not even hear him. He lOoked across the house and saw Othmar. Come," he said to her, you will miss the last train that pauses at Trappes if you do not come away now. Never will they forgive me for leaving before the close But that will not matter much. They know I am old; they can think I am ill. Come, or you will be too late." Wait a little," said Damaris, in a shamed, bushed voice; her face grew red as she spoke. Rosselin glanced impatiently at the box on the ftther side of the house. He said nothing; he waited, Artiste as he was in all the fibres of his nature his syea and his ears and his art were all with Got, With the Coquelins, with the moving and speaking persons of the stage: yet a. little corner of his •teart ached still for the child. What wretchedness 8he prepares for herself!" e thought with pity and sorrow combined. she 11l never be a great artiste, because with her feel- Ing will always take the mastery. You are only a £ reat artiste if when you suffer, though you suffer horribly, you can study what you feel, you can ^ake your own heart strings into a lyre. If you nnot do that, you are only a creature that loves pother. Ah, my dear! No one ever conquered world so!" » fie let her alone until the piece was over; the 7°* of the Countess Othmar had been vacated 1I0111e moments before the termination of the last t. He did not speak to her whilst he hurried through private passages and into the frosty the streets.. Cover yourself well; it is cold," was all he said "8 took'her with gentle steps over the pavement mch jeet jja(j trodden so many thousands of in the hurry of youth, in the ecstasy of triumph, in all the alternations of a manh )od tossed up and down upon the stormy seaoi of public favour and of public caprice. All that net- work of streets about the Français was as dear to him as the banks of Doun to Burns, as the green wood and ways of Milly to Lamartine, as the sweet meads and streams of Penshurst to Philip Sydney. Damaris walked on beside him, her head bent, her face covered. The tears were rolling slowly down her cheeks. Let me do what I would," she thought, she would not care." Rosselin took her home to his own little house that night, for it was too late to return to Les Hameaux. He made her seat herself by his fire; he dried the damp of the night on her hair and her clothes; he would have her eat of his preserved nectarines and drink of his choice wines which were sent by his friends. But she would not touch anything. She sat lost in thought. All she saw was that beautiful woman all she heard was the voice of Othmar saying, I have so loved her that I shall never love any other woman ever again." No doubt it was so she could understand. Only he seemed to go away from her, herself, utterly and for ever; to glide out of her life as the ships she had used to watch from her balcony, as the nightingales sang under the moon, used to pass away further and further, till the great distance and the shadows of night swallowed them up and they were no more seen. and all the wide sea was empty. Rosselin watched her sadly. Poor Mignon," ho thought. Who shall trans- form her to a Mademoiselle Mars ? How does the gymnast teach his child to stand and catch the metal ball, to tread and hold the rope in air. He works and kneads the tender flesh till it grows hard, he strains the soft limbs till they become like steel, he bends and twists and forces and forges the immature sinews and tendons till they are like cords to resist, and in every separate muscle there almost seems a separate brain. When their nature has been driven out and the body has become an iron machine the teacher has succeeded. Who shall do for her mind and her heart what the gym- nast does to his son's limbs and spine ? And will ever anybody do it ? Will she ever be Mars—be Rachel ? Will he ever fling her soul away and keep only her body and her brain? And if she do not do that what success will she ever have ?" In that kind of cruelty with which the true artiste would always emulate any living thing to art, he almost wished that Othmar were a man with less honour and less compassion, more licence and more seltishness. "If he would break her heart and rouse her hatred, how much art would gain," he thought. She would pass through the fire like Goethe's dancing girl, and come out of it immortal." He knew the weakness of love, and he knew the strength of genius. Listen to me," he said, as the wood fire gleamed and murmured. •' You dream too much of Othmar. I understand he was your saviour he is your hero, your saint, your god all that is inevi- table, and he is a man whom women will always love, because he has a great grace and gentleness about him, and his discontent and sadness are in picturesque contrast with his magnificent and enviable fortunes. But he will never love you, my child; just because he has so loved that woman that his heart has grown cloyed, yet cold because great passions always leave that kind of satiety behind them. And then the world holds him, a hundred thousand invisible threads bind him if he had the heart left for it, which he has not, he would not have the time to turn back his life is fixed, such as it is, and he and the world are wedded together, though it may not be the spouse he would have chosen. Do not either live for him or die for him. What will she say if you do either? That you are a love-sick fool. I "do not talk to you as moralists would talk, because I do not believe in conventional morality; it is an absurdity, like all conventional things. No doubt your old friend Melville would speak much better than I do, but I speak honestly, and according to my lights. You have wished, and the wish has seemed to me natural, to compel recognition of your own powers from the person who first caused you to leave the happy obscurity of your life. You have said that you wish her to see you can have a greatness she has not. It is a personal motive, and art is best served by impersonal motives. Still, it seems to me natural; I can understand it. But to do this you must be strong, you must be bold, you must be true to yourself, you must not be overcome because you see her looking like the groat lady she is. There is only one thing which the wife of Othmar respects, it is genius; she respects that because her intellect appreciates, and her gold cannot buy, it. Prove to her that it is in you, and she will respect you. If you died for her lord to-morrow, she would only say that you had forgotten you were not upon the stage. I seem to speak harshly and roughly. Ah, my dear, my heart is neither but I wish to save you from your own heart if I can. You are all alone, and you are scarcely more than a child, and the world, the world, is a beast. She did not answer; her head was bent down on her arms, and her face was hidden all he could see was the hot flush on the ivory of her throat, and the curling hair, which was made golden by the ruddy light from the leaping flames. All her dreams and aspirations and ambitions seemed all huddled together, bruised and colour- less, like a heap of child's toys broken and faded. She would not care that was all she thought. If the world were to give her fame, what would the best that she could ever reach seem to the unreachable disdain of that other woman ? No more than the gleam of a glow-worm may seem to the planet on high. A rude, sun-browned wench pf the sea and the land, good to row through blue water and mow down green billows of grass: that was all she would ever seem to Othmar's wife. Tell me what you wish," she said in a low tone. If I can I will do it." The voice of Rosselin shook a little as he answered, My child, I want you to do what she cannot. These people have all things; they have ease and mirth, and soft beds, and mirids without care, and great riches, and great palaceB, and great powers, but there are two things which often cscape them, and ofttimes the poor have the one and now and then they are born to the other I mean that great consoler of the humble, content, and that great redresser of injustice," genius. You have it. In your seagull's nest the muses found you. Oh, child, be grateful! You are richer than the kings who ruled hero in Paris— if only you knew your riches She looked up at him suddenly, pushing her troubled curls out of her eyes. "If I spoke before her my throat would dry up —my voice would be strangled in it. If I were to do well, she would never care. If I were to fail, she would smile. I should see her smile in my grave. He loves her, you know, he loves her so much. but she has made his heart numb in him with the frost of her indifference and her scorn." He was awed and amazed at such intensity of dread in a nature which had always seemed to him bold as the winds, and resolute, and head- strong. Yes," he said, almost brutally. If you fail she will smile, she will laugh she knows nothing of failure. But you will not fail. Only the weak fail. You are strong. You will not let that woman think that you threw away your genius for love of her lord! They were words which were hard and rough and brutal; but they seemed to him the wisest words that he could speak. She was a child with a passionate heart half broken unless that heart were torn out and trodden under her foot he thought that she would never walk straight to where the laurels, the bitter tyurels, grew. He meant to do well; he spoke according to his light; but he was only a man and childless, and forgot a little what easily bruised things the hearts of some womeu are when they are very young, and have hot blood in their veins, and are all alone in a world which feels to them as the stony road of the moorland feels to the shot doe when there is many a long mile to be covered between her and the herd. She turned her head from him quickly, and he saw the dark red flush which stained her throat. She did not answer. The words brought no solace to her. Her heart was empty. He saw the great tears roll slowly down her cheeks. He realised that the hilt of this two-edged sword which he held out to her was too cold a pillow for so young a breast. CHAPTER XLIII. The weeks passed on, and Othmar returned no more to the fields of Chevreuse. The great interests and the vast operations of his house occupied his time, and the days of this man, whom Nature had created a dreamer and a student, went away in the consideration of financial enterprises, in the audience of his innumerable supplicants, in the emission of national loans, and in the study of political situations. He thought oftentimes of her, but he went to her no more. To let her alone he saw, as Rdsselin saw, was all that he could do for her. His wife he scarcely saw. Now and then, when it was unavoidable, he went with her to some great dinner or reception; oftener they received at home themselves, and on such evenings he saw her in all the grace and elegance which the highest culture and the utmost fashion can lend to a woman already patrician in every fibre of her being. Sometimes she addressed a few words to him concerning the children, or the horses, or some matter of mutual interest; and he saw her carriage passing in and out, her friends and acquaintances coming and going on the stairs, her attendants carrying her chocolate, or her bouquets, or the offerings made her by her courtiers that was all. In no year had she been more absorbingly mondaine; in no year had she been so conspicuous as the greatest lady in Paris in no year had her balls, her fetes, her banquets. her concerts been more wonderful in their novelty and more exclusive in their invitations. .pam,e! elle a un chic incmyable I" (Certainly she is the height of fashion) thought Blanchette, angrily watching her and conscious that her day was not done as she had hoped. Meantime in the brilliant movement of which his house was the centre Othmar felt that he was becoming rapidly a mere cipher amidst it all, as Platon Napraxino had been, and he perceived no way by which he could recover his influence without her lidicule and the world's comment. That had come to him which he had said should never come: he was nothing in her life, not so much as one of her mere acquaintances. Such a position had always seemed to him the deepest humiliation that any man could accept; he had always thought that any man might save his dignity if he could not secure his own happi- ness but now he saw how easy it is to theorise, how difficult it is to resist the slow, insidious influence of circumstances. We drift into posi- tions which we hate without being conscious of our descent, and the effect of others upon our nature and our actions is as subtle and as un- perceived as those of climate or of time. He could not have said when the first coldness had come between himself and her, when the first irritation had crept into their intercourse, when the first frost of indifference had passed from her manner over the warmth of his own emotions. It had been unperceived, uncounted, I but its remits had grown and strengthened, until now they were like ten thousand other men and women in the .world, living under the same roof, but wholly strangers to each other, only united by one slender thread, their mutual interest in their children. It was a position which wounded him, humiliated him, oppressed him with a constant dense of weakness and of failure he had not the slightest power over her, though she retained much over him strong men, he thought, either left their wives or forced them to keep their marriage vows; and he did neither. Of late she had become almost insolent in her tone to him she seemed to take pleasure in passing the most marked slights upon him she purposely withheld from him the slightest acquain- tance with her movements or intentions, and at times her eyes looked at him with a cynical disdain. It was absurd, he felt, and exaggerated, and probably wholly ungrounded in every way, but there were moments when he imagined that she wished to remind him of his social inferiority to herself, when the recollection of the origin of the Othmar fortunes spoilt for a passing hour her pleasure in the existence of her children. But though he did not harbour the suspicion, but threw it away from him as unworthy of both himself and her, it yet. existed and made him over-sensitive to any slight upon her part, quick to perceive the faintest tinge of contempt in her tone to him. He knew that she could count her great ancestries far beyond the dim days of Rurick; whilst there were Courts of Europe where teudal etiquette still prevailed strongly enough to make his presence in their throne-rooms impos- siblt. These were mere nominal differences, no doubt, and he might perchance have saved from bankruptcy the very State in which he would have been forbidden to pass the palace gates if lie had sought to accompany her through them but. still, there where moments when the voice and the glance of his wife re-called these conventional things to him out of the limbo of absolute nullity in which, but for those, he let them lie. Never by any spoken word or hint had she ever reminded him of them, yet now and then in her colder moments he thought: "Perhaps she remembers that two hundred years ago if her forefathers rode over the plains of Croatia they could ride down mine before them, and drive them with thér: whips like so many acorn-eating swine He began to believe that she was in truth as cruel as the world had always called her and a feeling which was almost hatred at times awoke in him and blent with the suffering she caused him. It seemed to him that no man on earth ever gave a woman such passion and such worship as he had given her; these might at least, he thought, have secured respect from her, even if they had failed to hold her sympathy. He said nothing to her. Remonstrance would have been useless, supplication unmanly. He let time drift them where it would and in" the ever- exercising burden of his pain Damaris became almost forgotten. Some weeks after the performance of the Ruth Blanche de Laon, calling on the woman whom she hated on her "jour," came late, staved until the rooms were nearly emptied of their crowd, and then snuk down beside her hostess on a low couch in a earner, palm shadowed, where banks of lilies of tile valley gave out their fragrance under rose-shaded lamps, and great Japanese vases were tilled with the rosy flowers of the gesneria and the philesia. She always paid great outward deference to Nadege, was coaxing and ealine, and for her alone subdued the rudeness and the shrillness of her voice and manner. She leaned now beside her on the broad low seat of the cushioned corner whilst the few people who remained in the rooms conversed in little groups, and the flowers, the porcelains, the stuffs. the pictures, the embroidered satins of the walls, t he long vista of salons opening one out of another. made up one of those pictures of harmonised colour and of artistically-arranged luxuries of which the modern world is so full. Blanchette had all manner of confidential things to disclose, secrets of this toilette and that, of this scandal and the other, of the true reason of a dear friend's sudden indisposition, and the actual cause of a coming duel: all these secrets de Polichinelle(Y\inch,s secrets) which society loves to carry about and distribute, things which are mysteries of life and death whispered at every petit quad d'heure (little scrap of leisure) in every house known to fashion. Nadine listened, leaning back amongst her cushions, indifferent, scarcely affecting attention, thinking of her own costume at a coming ball she was about to give, in which the Regne animal of Cuvier was to furnish the dresses. She had chosen a panther. All the yellow and black would make her delicate, colourless skin look so well, and she would wear all her diamonds, and--She was aroused from her meditation by the question which Blanche de Laon put suddenly to her. Do tell me," she said, leaning down amongst her cushions—" you know I like to be the first to hear things—when will the new genius make her debut with you ?" What do you mean ?" "Oh, you know what I mean this young artiste whom Rosselin is training, in whom your husband is interested, and who is to make her first appear- ance here? Who is she? Do tell me about her. I should like to have her appear at my house if you have no proprietary rights to her exclusive production." I have no idea of what person you speak about. I am not fond of untried artistes," she answered, with perfect indifference, but Blanchette saw a shade of surprise and a coldness of displeasure on her face. Oh, surely you like une Nouveauth ?" she said carelessly. It always amuses people so much, something quite new, and I believe this girl is beautiful; does not Othmar say so?" But by this time her hostess was on her guard and her expression wholly under control. I think I know whom you mean now," she replied indifferently. But as to a debut here— that is quite in the future. I am not fond of untried artistes, as I say; one does not take out untried horses to drive in a crowd. Genius is admirable, but I think, like wine, it wants time and a seal upon it before one offers it at one's table." Blanche de Ll10n was perplexed. "Does she know all about it or nothing about it ?" she wondered. "I want to know more myself before I go on with it." Some other people approached them at that moment; the conversation turned on the Regne animal ball; Blanchette, disappointed, rose and went and drank deux doiQts de liqueur fa sip of liqueur), and ate a caviare biscuit, in another room, where Loris Loswa was drawing some caricatures of mutual acquaintances, as the beasts of Cuvier, on his visiting cards, and distributing them amongst some ladies of fashion. Meet me on Saturday at eleven at the Rond point," she murmured to him as she took from him a sketch of her brother-in-law, the Due d'Ypres, as a wild boar in top boots, over which she con- descended to shriek her shrillest laughter and approval. When her rooms were all quite emptied and she was left alone in them Nadine remained leaning back amongst the cushions motionless and with a cold, contemptuous anger on her face. To think that I should accept such a part as that!" she thought. "He must be mad and the whole world with him Weak women, indulgent women, women who were afraid and wanted pardon for their own secrets, these women did these things, aided their husbands' amours, received their husbands' favourites, helped their husbands to conventional disguises of equivocal situations, but that rule was not hers. And he came from this girl to me in Russia!" she thought with that physical disgust which is so strong in some women, and which men never understand. One forenoon on entering his study Othmar missed from the wall the sketch made by Loswa. There was only a blank space between the places of the Corot and the Aivanoffsky. He rang for the major domo. "Who has taken the potrait from that place?" he asked he feared tho entrance of some thief from the gardens. The major domo, astonished and alarmed, replied that he had taken it down that morning by command of his mistress and had sent it whither she had directed him to do; to a certain gallery recently built on the Trocadero. "You were quite right to do so if Madame desired you," said Othmar; and dismissed the official without more comment. As soon as he could be admitted to his wife's presence he went to her and opened the subject with scanty preface. Philippe says that you ordered him to send the sketch by Loswa out of my study to the new gallery on the Trocadero," he said, when he had made her his usual greeting. "Is that true?" "Very true. One would think I had ordered him to blow up the Louvre or the Luxembourg!" May I venture to inquire your reasons ?" "Certainly. There is an exhibition of Loswa's works about to be opened there. You are aware that these exhibitions of a single master are very popular now. That head is one of the best things he has done. It will come back to you in three months. Cannot you live without it till then?" Othmar felt that he coloured like a boy. "I would of course have lent it," he said with a little hesitation. I have sent all his portraits of myself and of the children," she said with a cold glance at him. You do not appear to have missed those." "I have probably not entered the rooms in which they hung. If you will pardon my saying so, I do not care to know less of what you wish to do than my servants know—and to know it first through them." If I had told you, you would have objected. When I know that people will object, I never ask them what they wish." The method has the merit of simplicity" He felt exceedingly angered in the first place he did not care to have the portrait seen by all Paris at a moment when the original was livin" so near Paris with no friend but himself, and in" the second place he indignantly resented being treated like a cipher in his own houses; lie never per- mitted himself to intrude on her personal arrange- ments, could she not respect his ? a Now and then, and above all of late, there had been something high-handed and even insolent in her occasional treatmentof things which concerned him, and on which she did not consult him some- thing which made him fancy that in the deepest depth of the thoughts and feelings there was occasionally the remembrance that the great race of princes from whom she herself descended would have deemed her alliance with one of the princes of finance a gross mesalliance. This was a trifle, no doubt, and he was not a man who ever disputed small matters. But the tone with which she had spoken had given it something of personal offence, and he could not shake from him the impression that she had purposely sent away the portrait. The exhibition was about to take place, no doubt, at the new gallery on the Trocadero. Loswa, having quarrelled violently with the Committee of the Salon, had chosen to prove that the collection of his works would be more attractive to the public than any- thing which the Salon could offer without his assistance, but the manner in which this sketch had been removed from his study conveyed to Othmar the impression of some persoDAl motive, some personal meaning in the act. Capricious as his wife always was, she yet was usually courteous. This insolence of the removal of his picture was unlike her. She always held the very true creed that mutual politeness is the first of obligations to render the intimacy of daily life endurable. He left her presence quickly, afraid of what his anger might bring him into saying. He had never as yet wholly lost his temper with her, though there were times when it was sorely tried. That cold, nonchalant, slighting tone was that which always tried it the most. Of all things which he most hated it was to be spoken to as Platon Napraxine has been like the last of her lacqueys, as he thought bitterly now. She looked after him with some scorn. Is he gone to the Trocadero to seize back his lost treasure ?" With an impulse which was as swift as thought itself, and which he did not pause to consider, he turned back as he reached the threshold of her boudoir and stood before her. Nadege," he began with an impetuosity which yet had a certain timidity in it, there is some- thing which I wished to tell you the other day. There is a reason which makes me especially regret that you should have sent that portrait for exhibition without referring the matter to me. Are you inclined to be patient enough to hear a little tale which might interest you perhaps if it were a sketch by Ludovic Halevy, but I fear will not do so told in my poor words ?" He did not observe the expression of her eye, which surveyed him with a cynical coldness, as she asked Do you mean that you have written a romance ? —or played one ?" There was the mockery in the words which he had dreaded so much that he had put off this moment day after day, week after week, month after month. "Neither," he answered curtly. "I have not talent for the one, nor time and inclination for the other. You may believe me," he added a little bitterly, if I had been foolish enough to tempt fate with either, your indulgence is the last mercy for which I should hope." Her eyes still looked at him coldly, steadfastly, with no revelation in her gaze of whether she were surprised, interested, indifferent, or already wearied. She was leaning back in her long, low chair; there was a great deal of lace ruffled at her bosom and on her arms; she wore a Jong, loose satin gown of palest rose effeuillee of which the lights and shadows were vory beautiful; her hands were lightly clasped upon her lap; her great pearls gleamed behind the lace she looked like a woman of the time of the Stuarts or of the Valois. At her elbow stood an immense bowl of Louise de Savov roses; as she looked at him she drew out one and put it in her bosom. She did not speak or attempt t.o aid him in any way to continue the conversa- tion which he had bogún. She only waited, and as he saw her in that impassive attitude his task grew harder to him that sudden sense of her cruelty, of her want of sympathy, of her im- movable indifference, which had come to him so sharply on the night of her return from Russia, struck him once more and hardened in him almost to dislike. Why should he tell her anything ? She cared nothing what he did or what he felt. She dwelt in that serene, rarified atmosphere of her own in which no passions or pains of his could disturb her. If she had once seemed to him to lean from it for a little while to share his emotions, that time was passed, long passed, never to return again. She was silent many minutes, but she asked no question8, threw out no conjecture, did not even by a glance assist him to begin his offered narra- tive. If she would only have said something— anything—it would have broken the ice at least. But tho marble bust of herself which stood near her, carved by Hildebrand, was not more mute than she; and she was quite motionless, her hands clasped on another rose with which she toyed. He was angered with himself to feel that his cheeks grew warm, and that his voice was nervous as he said at last: I regret that the portrait is gone to the Trcca- dero, because the original of it is living near Paris, and it may lead to comment and conjecture which may be injurious to her she is scarcely more than a child, and she will be an artiste; she is better without the attention of the public until she challenges it directly. He did not notice the gleam which flashed over him at one instant from the unrevealing eyes of his wife; the next moment the eyes of the bust were not colder and more im- penetrable than hers. I have long meant to tell you," he continued with rapidity, his words now coming with eager- ness and eloquence from his lips, but I have been afraid of your ridicule. Long ago, in the midsummer of last year, I found the child of Bona- venture dying in the streets. It was at the time my uncle was on his death bed. I did all I could for her, of course. She was long ill; when she re- covered I placed her in the country with good, simple people whom 1 knew. She is there now. Rosselin, the great actor, whose name you will remember, though his career was over before your time or mine, has trained her these many months past: he believes that she has great talents that she has a future; that when you predicted the career of Desclee for her you showed your usual insight. She has had little but sorrow since that day you tempted her from her island; it has always seemed to me that we owed her a great debt, that we had done her a great brutality but for us her life would have gone on in peace and prosperity, she would never have left her little kingdom; if you realised what you did that day you would regret your caprice. There are many more details 1 could tell you if you cared to hear them, but I know your intolerance of any demand upon your patience." She smiled slightly; the smile was very chill; it checked the expansion and the confidence of his words. "You are pleased to ridicule my knight- errantry no doubt," he said, with heightened colour in his face, "but no man living would have done less than I did, I think, being conscious as I was that the invitation which you gave her with- out thought was the origin of all her unmerited misfortune. I believe you were right that she has genius.or something very nearly approaching genius in her and it may be that the world will in time compensate to her for all she has lost. But mean- time-" You do so The words were very calm and cold, but they struck Othmar like the cut of a whip. They cast on his words the dishonour of disbelief. He strove to command his temper as he replied: "I do not; no one can she lost what no one ever can give back to her, when you showed her what the world was like and taught her discontent. But for you, and that one evening in your house, she would have lived, and married, and spent all the even tenour of her days in her native air, on her native soil, as ignorant of ambition as any of the sea birds on her coast," She looked at him with an expression of fatigue and of exhausted patience; he saw that she was perfectly incredulous, that his words might as well have remained unspoken for any impression of their truthfulness which they conveyed to her. Is this all your story ?" she asked. "It is the outline of it all," he answered. ''If you care to know more of the causes which drove her from her home They do not interest me in the least." Her voice was as chill as frost. Then allow me to apologise for having intruded even so much as this on your attention." He bowed before her, and was about to leave the room but she, without rising a hair's breadth from the languid attitude in which she reclined, said, Wait." He waited, in sanguine expectation of an im- pulse of sympathy in with those more generous instincts, those kinder emotions which sometimes swayed her, would be aroused on behalf of a life she had thoughtlessly injured. Still without rising she stretched out her arm, and took up a blotting-book from her writing cabinet, which stood near. In the blotting-case was a tiny note-book of ivory and silver; she opened it, and read from it in a serene voice certain dates. Before you giye your idyl to Halevy—or to the journalists in general—let me renew your memory with these memoranda, she said in the same soft, cold voice. Your narrative, as you tell it, is bald and wanting, as you admit, in detail. I will supply some of those details. On June 10 you brought Damaris Berarde to this house, where she remained ill for many days, even weeks. On July 20 you went yourself to visit her cousin, the present proprietor of the island of Bonaventure, and endeavoured to negotiate through bankers of Aix the purchase of the island, which, however, the owner refused to sell. On August 2 you had her taken, accompanied by her yardes-malades (sick- nurse), to the farm of the Croix Blanche, which lies between the villages of Les Hameaux and Magny. On August 15 you visited Les Hameaux. In the last week of July many objects of artistic interest and value had been already sent by you to the farmhouse. In the same week, Rentes to the amount of a hundred thousand francs were purchased on the Bourse in the name of Damaris Berarde. There many more dates than these in my note-book, but those are enough to supply the lacunae in your story. Onpeut broder dessus (One can fill up all the rest) without anv great imagi- nation. A knowledge of human nature will suffice. You will do me the favour never to re- open the subject; and, as a jmatter of good taste, to endeavour that you idyl shall not be too largely talked about for the amusement of the world in general." Then she slid the little note-book within the leaves of blotting-paper, and fastened the rose in the lace at her breast. It was impossible for him to misunderstand her meaning. (To he continued.)








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