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- Maurice Guest - 70/121 -
born;" and, though no muscle of her face moved, large slow tears ran down her sallow cheeks.
Unconsciously twisting and bending Herries's card, which was lying on the table, Maurice laid his plan before her. And having won the above consent, he did not let the grass grow under his feet. He applied to Miss Jensen for practical aid, and that lady was tactful enough to give it without curiosity. She knew Dresden well, recommended it as a lively place, and wrote forthwith to a PENSION there, engaging rooms for a lady who had just recovered from a severe illness. By tacit agreement, this was understood to cover any extravagance or imprudence, of which Louise might make herself guilty.
Now she had gone, and with her, the central interest of his life. But the tired gesture, with which he took off his hat and wiped his forehead, as he walked home, was expressive of the relief he felt that he was not going to see her again for some time.
He let a fortnight elapse--a fortnight of colourless days, unbroken by word or sign from her. Then, one night, he spent several hours writing to her--writing a carefully worded letter, in which he put forward the best reasons he could devise, for her remaining away altogether.
To this he received no answer.
From one of the high, wooden benches, at the back of the amphitheatre in the ALBERTHALLE, where he had lain at full length, listening to the performance of a Berlin pianist, Krafft rose, full to the brim of impressions, and eager to state them.
"That man," he began, as he left the hall between Maurice and Avery Hill, "is a successful teacher. And therewith his fate as an artist is sealed. No teacher can get on to the higher rungs of the ladder, and no inspired musician be a satisfactory teacher. If the artist is obliged to share his art, his pupils, should they be intelligent, may pick up something of his skill, learn the trick of certain things; but the moment he begins to set up dogmas, it is the end of him.--As if it were possible for one person to prescribe to another, of a totally different temperament, how he ought to feel in certain passages, or be affected by certain harmonies! If I, for example, choose to play the later Beethoven sonatas as I would the Brahms Concerto in B flat, with a thoroughly modern irony, what is it that hinders me from doing it, and from satisfying myself, and kindred souls, who are honest enough to admit their feelings? Tradition, nothing in the world but tradition; tradition in the shape of the teacher steps in and says anathema: to this we are not accustomed, ERGO, it cannot be good.--And it is just the same with those composers who are also pedagogues. They know, none better, that there are no hard and fast rules in their art; that it is only convention, or the morbid car of some medieval monk, which has banished, say, consecutive fifths from what is called g pure writing '; that further, you need only to have the regulation number of years behind you, to fling squeamishness to the winds. In other words, you learn rules to unlearn them with infinite pains. But the pupil, in his innocence, demands a rigid basis to go on--it is a human weakness, this, the craving for rules--and his teachers pamper him. Instead of saying: develop your own ear, rely on yourself, only what you teach yourself is worth knowing--instead of this, they build up walls and barriers to hedge him in, behind which, for their benefit, he must go through the antics of a performing dog. But nemesis overtakes them; they fall a victim to their own wiles, just as the liar finally believes his own lies. Ultimately they find their chief delight in the adroitness with which they themselves overcome imaginary obstacles."
His companions were silent. Avery Hill had a nine hours' working-day behind her, and was tired; besides, she made a point of never replying to Krafft's tirades. Once only, of late, had she said to him in Maurice's presence: "You would reason the skin off one's bones, Heinz. You are the most self-conscious person alive." Krafft had been much annoyed at this remark, and had asked her to call him a Jew and be done with it; but afterwards, he admitted to Maurice that she was right.
"And it's only the naive natures that count."
Maurice had found his way back to Krafft; for, in the days of uncertainty that followed the posting of his letter, he needed human companionship. Until the question whether Louise would return or not was decided, he could settle to nothing; and Krafft's ramblings took him out of himself. Since the ball, his other friends had given him the cold shoulder; hence it did not matter whether or no they approved of his renewed intimacy with Krafft--he said "they," but it was Madeleine who was present to his mind. And Krafft was an easy person to take up with again; he never bore a grudge, and met Maurice readily, half-way.
It had not taken the latter long to shape his actions or what he believed to be the best. But his thoughts were beyond control. He was as helpless against sudden spells of depression as against dreams of an iridescent brightness. He could no more avoid dwelling on the future than reliving the Past. If Louise did not return, these memories were all that were left him. If she did, what form were their relations to each other going to assume?--and this was the question that cost him most anxious thought.
A thing that affected him oddly, at this time, was his growing inability to call up her face. It was incredible. This face, which he had supposed he knew so well that he could have drawn it blindfold, had taken to eluding him; and the more impatient he became, the poorer was his success. The disquieting thing, however, was, that though he could not materialise her face, what invariably rose before his eyes was her long, bare arm, as it had lain on the black stuff of her dress. At first, it only came when he was battling to secure the face; then it took to appearing at unexpected moments; and eventually, it became a kind of nightmare, which haunted him. He would start up from dreaming of it, his hair moist with perspiration, for, strangely enough, he was always on the point of doing it harm: either his teeth were meeting in it, or he had drawn the blade of a knife down the middle of the blue-veined whiteness, and the blood spurted out along the line, which reddened instantly in the wake of the knife.
April had come, bringing April weather; it was fitfully sunny, and a mild and generous dampness spurred on growth: shrubs and bushes were so thickly sprinkled with small buds that, at a distance, it seemed as though a transparent green veil had been flung over them. In the Gewandhaus, according to custom, the Ninth Symphony had brought the concert season to a close; once more, the chorus had struggled victoriously with the ODE TO JOY. And early one morning, Maurice held a note in his hand, in which Louise announced that she had "come home," the night before.
She had been away for almost two months, and, to a certain extent, he had grown inured to her absence. At the sight of her handwriting, he had the sensation of being violently roused from sleep. Now he shrank from the moment when he should see her again; for it seemed that not only the present, but all his future depended on it.
Late in the evening, he returned from the visit, puzzled and depressed.
Seven had boomed from church-clocks far and near, before he reached the BRUDERSTRASSE, but, nevertheless, he had been kept waiting in the passage for a quarter of an hour: and he was in such an apprehensive frame of mind that he took the delay as a bad omen.
When he crossed the threshold, Louise came towards him with one of those swift movements which meant that she was in good spirits, and confident of herself. She held out her hands, and smiled at him with all her dark, mobile face, saying words that were as impulsive as her gesture. Maurice was always vaguely chilled by her outbursts of light-heartedness: they seemed to him strained and unreal, so accustomed had he grown to the darker, less adaptable side of her nature.
"You have come back?" he said, with her hand in his.
"Yes, I'm here--for the present, at least."
The last words caught in his ear, and buzzed there, making his foreboding a certainty. On the spot, his courage failed him; and though Louise continued to ring all the changes her voice was capable of, he did not recover his spirits. It was not merely the sense of strangeness, which inevitably attacked him after he had not seen her for some time; on this occasion, it was more. Partly, it might be due to the fact that she was dressed in a different way; her hair was done high on her head, and she wore a light grey dress of modish cut and design. Her face, too, had grown fuller; the hollows in her cheeks had vanished; and her skin had that peculiar clear pallor that was characteristic of it in health.
He was stupidly silent; he could not join in her careless vivacity. Besides, throughout the visit, nothing was said that it was worth his coming to hear.
But when she wished him good-bye, she said, with a strange smile: "Altogether, I am very grateful to you, Maurice, for having made me go away."
He himself no longer felt any satisfaction at what he had done. As soon as he left her, he tried to comprehend what had happened: the change in her was too marked for him to be able to console himself that he had imagined it. Not only had she seemingly recovered, as if by magic, from the lassitude of the winter--he could even have forgiven her the alteration in her style of dress, although this, too, helped to alienate her from him. But what he ended by recognising, with a jealous throb, was that she had mentally recovered as well; she was once more the self-contained girl he had first known, with a gift for keeping an outsider beyond the circle of her thoughts and feelings. An outsider! The weeks of intimate companionship were forgotten, seemed never to have been. She had no further need of him, that was the clue to the mystery, and the end of the matter.
And so it continued, the next day, and the next again; Louise deliberately avoided touching on anything that lay below the surface. She vouchsafed no explanation of the words that had disquieted him, nor was the letter Maurice had written her once mentioned between them.
But, though she seemed resolved not to confide in him, she could not dispense with the small, practical services, he was able to render her. They were even more necessary to her than before; for, if one thing was clear, it was that she no longer intended to cloister herself up inside her four walls: the day after her return, she had
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