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- Maurice Guest - 30/121 -


the chance of seeing Schilsky. When she caught sight of him, her eyes brightened; she greeted him with an inviting smile, and a saucy remark. But Schilsky did not take up her tone; he cut her words short.

"What are you doing here to-day?" he asked with a frown of displeasure, meanwhile keeping a watchful eye on the inner staircase--visible through the glass doors--down which Louise would come. "I haven't a moment to spare."

Mortally offended by his manner, Ephie drew back her extended hand, and giving him a look of surprise and resentment, was about to pass him by without a further word. But this was more than Schilsky could bear; he put out his hand to stop her, always, though, with one eye on the door.

"Now, don't be cross, little girl," he begged impatiently. "It's not my fault--upon my word it isn't. I wasn't expecting to see you to-day--you know that. Look here, tell me--this sort of thing is so unsatisfactory--is there no other place I could see you? What do you do with yourself all day? Come, answer me, don't be angry."

Ephie melted. "Come and visit us on Sunday afternoon," she said. "We are always at home then."

He laughed rudely, and took no notice of her words. "Come, think of something--quick!" he said.

He was on tenterhooks to be gone, and showed it. Ephie grew flustered, and though she racked her brains, could make no further suggestion.

"Oh well, if you can't, you know," he said crossly, and loosened his hold of her arm.

Then, at the last moment, she had a flash of inspiration; she remembered how, on the previous Sunday, Dove had talked enthusiastically of an opera-performance, which, if she were not mistaken, was to take place the following night. Dove had declared that all musical Leipzig would probably be present in the theatre. Surely she might risk mentioning this, without fear of another snub.

"I am going to the opera to-morrow night," she said in a small, meek voice, and was on the verge of tears. Schilsky hardly heard her; Louise had appeared at the head of the stairs. "The very thing," he said. "I shall look out for you there, little girl. Good-bye. AUF WIEDERSEHEN!"

He went down the steps, without even raising his hat, and when Louise came out, he was sauntering towards the building again, as if he had come from the other end of the street.

Ephie went home in a state of anger and humiliation which was new to her. For the first few hours, she was resolved never to speak to Schilsky again. When this mood passed, she made up her mind that he should atone for his behaviour to the last iota: he should grovel before her; she would scarcely deign to look at him. But the nearer the time came for their meeting, the more were her resentful feelings swallowed up by the wish to see him. She counted off the hours till the opera commenced; she concocted a scheme to escape Johanna's surveillance; she had a story ready, if it should be necessary, of how she had once been introduced to Schilsky. Her fingers trembled with impatience as she fastened on a pretty new dress, which had just been sent home: a light, flowered stuff, with narrow bands of black velvet artfully applied so as to throw the fairness of her hair and skin into relief.

The consciousness of looking her best gave her manner a light sureness that was very charming. But from the moment they entered the FOYER, Ephie's heart began to sink: the crowd was great; she could not see Schilsky; and in his place came Dove, who was not to be shaken off. Even Maurice was bad enough--what concern of his was it how she enjoyed herself? When, finally, she did discover the person she sought, he was with some one else, and did not see her; and when she had succeeded in making him look, he frowned, shook his head, and made angry signs that she was not to speak to him, afterwards going downstairs with the sallow girl in white. What did it mean? All through the tedious second act, Ephie wound her handkerchief round and round, and in and out of her fingers. Would it never end? How long would the fat, ugly Brunnhilde stand talking to Siegmund and the woman who lay so ungracefully between his knees? As if it mattered a straw what these sham people did or felt! Would he speak to her in the next interval, or would he not?

The side curtains had hardly swept down before she was up from her seat, hurrying Johanna away. This time she chose to stand against the wall, at the end of the FOYER. After a short time, he came in sight, but he had no more attention to spare for her than before; he did not even look in her direction. Her one consolation was that obviously he was not enjoying himself; he wore a surly face, was not speaking, and, to a remark the girl in white made, he answered by an angry flap of the hand. When they had twice gone past in this way, and she had each time vainly put herself forward, Ephie began to take an interest in what Dove was saying, to smile at him and coquet with him, and the more openly, the nearer Schilsky drew. Other people grew attentive, and Dove went into a seventh heaven, which made it hard for him placidly to accept the fit of pettish silence, she subsequently fell into.

The crowning touch was put to this disastrous evening by the fact that Schilsky's companion of the FOYER walked the greater part of the way home with them; and, what was worse, that she took not the slightest notice of Ephie.

XI.

Before leaving her bedroom the following morning, Ephie wrote on her scented pink paper a short letter, which began: "Dear Mr. Schilsky," and ended with: "Your sincere friend, Euphemia Stokes Cayhill." In this letter, she "failed to understand" his conduct of the previous evening, and asked him for an explanation. Not until she had closed the envelope, did she remember that she was ignorant of his address. She bit the end of her pen, thinking hard, and directly breakfast was over, put on her hat and slipped out of the house.

It was the first time Ephie had had occasion to enter the BUREAU of the Conservatorium; and, when the heavy door had swung to behind her, and she was alone in the presence of the secretaries, each of whom was bent over a high desk, writing in a ledger, her courage almost failed her. The senior, an old, white-haired man, with a benevolent face, did not look up; but after she had stood hesitating for some minutes, an under-secretary solemnly laid down his pen, and coming to the counter, wished in English to know what he could do for her. Growing very red, Ephie asked him if he "would . . . could . . . would please tell her where Mr. Schilsky lived."

Herr Kleefeld leaned both hands on the counter, and disconcerted her by staring at her over his spectacles.

"Mr. Schilsky? Is it very important?" he said with a leer, as if he were making a joke.

"Why, yes, indeed," replied Ephie timidly.

He nodded his head, more to himself than to her, went back to his desk, opened another ledger, and ran his finger down a page, repeating aloud as he did so, to her extreme embarrassment: "Mr. Schilsky--let me see. Mr. Schilsky--let me see."

After a pause, he handed her a slip of paper, on which he had painstakingly copied the address: "TALSTRASSE, 12 III."

"Why, I thank you very much. I have to ask him about some music. Is there anything to pay?" stammered Ephie.

But Herr Kleefeld, leaning as before on the counter, shook his head from side to side, with a waggish air, which confused Ephie still more. She made her escape, and left him there, still wagging, like a china Mandarin.

Having addressed the letter in the nearest post office, she entered a confectioner's and bought a pound of chocolate creams; so that when Johanna met her in the passage, anxious and angry at her leaving the house without a word, she was able to assert that her candy-box had been empty, and she felt she could not begin to practise till it was refilled. But Johanna was very cantankerous, and obliged her to study an hour overtime to atone for her escapade.

Then followed for Ephie several unhappy days, when all the feeling she seemed capable of concentrated itself on the visits of the postman. She remained standing at the window until she had seen him come up the street, and she was regularly the first to look through the mails as they lay on the lobby table. Two days brought no reply to her letter. On the third fell a lesson, which she was resolved not to take. But when the hour came, she dressed herself with care and went as usual. Schilsky was nowhere to be seen. Half a week later, the same thing was repeated, except that on this day, she made herself prettier than ever: she was like some gay, garden flower, in a big white hat, round the brim of which lay scarlet poppies, and a dress of a light blue, which heightened the colour of her cheeks, and, reflected in her eyes, made them bluer than a fjord in the sun. But her spirits were low; if she did not see him this time, despair would crush her.

But she did--saw him while she was still some distance off, standing near the portico of the Conservatorium; and at the sight of him, after the uncertainty she had gone through during the past week, she could hardly keep back her tears. He did not come to meet her; he stood and watched her approach, and only when she reached him, indolently held out his hand. As she refused to notice it, and went to the extreme edge of the pavement to avoid it, he made a barrier of his arms, and forced her to stand still. Holding her thus, with his hand on her elbow, he looked keenly at her; and, in spite of the obdurate way in which she kept her eyes turned from him, he saw that she was going to cry. For a moment he hesitated, afraid of the threatening scene, then, with a decisive movement, he took her violin-case out of her hand. Ephie made an ineffectual effort to get possession of it again, but he held it above her reach, and saying: "Wait a minute," ran up the steps. He came back without it, and throwing a swift glance round him, took the young girl's arm, and walked her off at a brisk pace to the woods. She made a few, faint protests. But he replied: "You and I have something to say to each other, little girl."

A full hour had elapsed when Ephie appeared again. She was alone, and walked quickly, casting shy glances from side to side. On reaching the Conservatorium, she waited in a quiet corner of the vestibule for nearly a quarter of an hour, before Schilsky sauntered in, and


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