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- Maurice Guest - 103/121 -
One afternoon they walked to Connewitz. It had rained heavily during the night, and the unpaved roads were inchdeep in mud. The sky was a level sheet of cloud, darker and more forbidding in the east.
Their direction was Maurice's choice. Louise would have liked better to keep to the town: for, though the streets, too, were mud-bespattered, there would soon be lights, and the reflection of lights in damp pavements. She yielded, however, without even troubling to express her wish. But just because of the dirt and naked ugliness which met her, at every turn, she was voluble and excited; and an exaggerated hilarity seized her at trifles. Maurice, who had left the house in a more composed frame of mind than usual, gradually relapsed, at her want of restraint, into silence. He suffered under her looseness of tongue and laughter: her sallow, heavy-eyed face was ill-adapted to such moods; below her feverish animation there lurked, he was sure of it, a deadly melancholy. He had always been rendered uneasy by her spurts of gaiety. Now in addition, he asked himself: what has happened to make he. like this?
Feeling his hostility, Louise grew quieter, and soon she, too, was silent. Having gained his end, Maurice wished to atone for it, and slipping his arm through hers, he took her hand. For a few steps they walked on in this fashion. Then, he received one of those sudden impressions which flash on us from time to time, of having seen or done a certain thing before. For a moment, he could not verify it; then he knew. just in this way, arm in arm, hand in hand, had she come towards him with Schilsky, that very first day. It was no doubt a habit of hers. Like this, too, she would, in all probability, walk with the one who came after. And the picture of Herries, in the place he now occupied, was photographed on his brain.
He withdrew his arm, as if hers had burnt him: his mind was off again on its old round. But she, too, had to suffer for it. As he stood back to let her pass before him, on a dry strip of the path, his eye caught a yellow rose she was wearing at her belt. Till now he had seen it without seeing it.
"Why are you wearing that rose?"
Louise looked down from him to the flower and back again." Why?--you know I like to wear flowers."
"Where did you get it?"
She foresaw what he was driving at, and did not reply.
"You were wearing a rose like that the first time I saw you. Do you remember?"
"How should I remember? It's so long ago."
"Where had you got that one from, then?"
She repeated the same words. "How should I know now?"
"But I know. It was from him--he had given it to you."
She raised her shoulders. "Perhaps."
"Perhaps? No. For certain."
"Well, and if so--was there anything strange in that?"
They walked a few paces without speaking. Then he asked: "Who has given you this one?"
"Maurice!" There was a note of warning in her voice. He heard it in vain. "Give it to me, Louise."
"No--let it be. It will wither soon enough where it is."
"Please give it to me," he urged, rendered the more determined by her refusal.
"I wish to keep it."
"And I mean to have it."
To avoid the threatening scene, she took the rose from her belt and gave it to him. He fingered it indecisively for a moment, then threw it over the bridge they were crossing, into the river. It struggled, filled with muddy water, and floated away.
In the next breath, however, he asked himself ruefully what he had gained by his action. She had given him the rose, and he had destroyed it; but he would never know how she had come by it, and what it had been to her.
He was incensed with himself and with her for the whole length of the SCHLEUSSIGER WEG. Then the inevitable regret for his hastiness followed. He took her limply hanging hand and pressed it. But there was no responsive pressure on her part. Louise looked away from him, beyond the woods, as far as she could see, in the vain hope of there discovering some means of escape.
In descending one evening the broad stair of the Gewandhaus, and forced, by reason of the crowd, to pause on every step, Madeleine overheard the talk of two men behind her, one of whom, it seemed, had all the gossip of the place at his fingertips. From what she caught up greedily, as soon as Maurice's name was mentioned, she learnt a surprising piece of news. "A cat and dog life," was the phrase used by the speaker. As she afterwards picked her way through snow and slush, Madeleine confessed to herself that it was impossible to feel regret at what she had heard. Perhaps, after all, things would come right of themselves. In order to recover from his infatuation, to learn what Louise really was, it had only been necessary for Maurice to be constantly at her side.--Was it not Goethe who said that the way to cure a bad habit was to indulge it?
But a few days afterwards, her satisfaction was damped. Late one afternoon she had entered Seyffert's Cafe, to drink a cup of chocolate. At a table parallel with the one she chose, two fellow-students were playing draughts. Madeleine had only been there for a few minutes, when their talk, which went on unrestrainedly between the moves of the game, leapt, with a witticism, to the unlucky pair in whom she was interested. To her astonishment, she now heard Louise's name, coupled with that of another man.
"Well, I never!" said the second of the two behind her. "I say it's your move.--That's rough on Guest, isn't it?"
Madeleine turned in her chair and faced the man who had spoken.
"Excuse me, who is Herries?" she asked without ceremony.
In her own room that evening, she pondered long. It was one thing for the two to drift naturally apart; another for Maurice to see himself superseded. If this were true, jealousy, and nothing else, would be at the root of their disunion. Madeleine felt very unwilling to mix herself up in the affair: it would be like plunging two clean hands into dirty water. But then, you never could tell how a man would act in a case like this: the odds were ten to one he did something foolish.
And so she wrote to Maurice, making her summons imperative. This failing, she tried to waylay him going to or from his classes; but the only satisfaction she gained, was the knowledge of his irregularity: during the week she waited she did not once come face to face with him. Next, she looked round her for some common friend, and found that he had not an intimate left in all Leipzig. She wrote again, still more plainly, and again he ignored her letter.
One Saturday afternoon, she was walking along the crowded streets of the inner town. She had been to the MOTETTE, in the THOMASKIRCHE, and was now on her way home, carrying music from the library. The snow had melted to mud, and sleet was falling. Madeleine had no umbrella; the collar of her cloak was turned up round her ears, and her small felt hat covered her head like an extinguisher.
On entering the PETERSTRASSE, she was jostled together with Dove. It was impossible to beat a retreat.
Dove seldom hurried. On this day, as on any other, he walked with a somewhat pompous emphasis through slush and stinging rain, holding his umbrella straight aloft over him, as he might have carried a banner. He was shocked to find Madeleine without one, at once took her under his, and loaded himself with her music--all with that air of matter-of-course-ness, which invariably made her keen to decline his aid. Dove was radiant; he prospered as do only the happy few; and his satisfaction with himself, and with the world in general, was somehow expressed even through the medium of his long neck and gently sloping shoulders. He greeted Madeleine with an exaggerated pleasure, accompanying his words by the slow smile which sometimes set her wondering if he were not, perhaps, being inwardly satirical at the expense of other people, fooling them by means of his own foolishness. But, however this might be, the cynical feelings that took her in his presence, mounted once more; she knew his symptoms, and an excess of content was just as distasteful to her as gluttony, or wine-bibbing, or any other self-indulgence.
However, she checked the desire to snub him--to snub until she had succeeded in raising that impossible ire, which, she believed, MUST lurk somewhere in Dove--for, as she plodded along at his side, sheltered from the brunt of the weather, it occurred to her that here was some one whom she might tap on the subject of Maurice. She opened fire by congratulating her companion on his recent performance in an ABENDUNTERHALTUNG; at the time, even she had been forced to admit it a creditable piece of work. Dove, who privately considered it epochmaking, was outwardly very modest. He could not refrain from letting fall that the old director had afterwards thanked him in person; but, in the next breath, he pointed out a slip he had made in a particular passage of the sonata. It had not, it was true, been observed, he believed, by anyone except Schwarz and himself; still it had caused him considerable annoyance; and he now related how, as far as he could judge, it had come about.
The current inquiries concerning the PRUFUNGEN then passed between them.
"Poor old Schwarz!" said Madeleine. "We shall be few enough, this year. Tell me, what of Heinz? I haven't seen him for an age."
"I regret to say that Krafft is making an uncommon donkey of himself," said Dove. "He had another shocking row with Schwarz last week."
"Tch, tch, tch!" said Madeleine. "Heinz is a freak.--And Maurice Guest,
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