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 Christophe had got so far with his clumsy efforts towards the reform of German art when there happened to pass through the town a troupe1 of French actors. It would be more exact to say, a band; for, as usual, they were a collection of poor devils, picked up goodness knows where, and young unknown players too happy to learn their art, provided they were allowed to act. They were all harnessed to the chariot of a famous and elderly actress who was making tour of Germany, and passing through the little princely town, gave their performances there.  
Waldhaus' review made a great fuss over them. Mannheim and his friends knew or pretended to know about the literary and social life of Paris: they used to repeat gossip picked up in the boulevard newspapers and more or less understood; they represented the French spirit in Germany. That robbed Christophe of any desire to know more about it. Mannheim used to overwhelm him with praises of Paris. He had been there several times; certain members of his family were there. He had relations in every country in Europe, and they had everywhere assumed the nationality and aspect of the country: this tribe of the seed of Abraham included an English baronet, a Belgian senator, a French minister, a deputy in the Reichstag, and a Papal Count; and all of them, although they were united and filled with respect for the stock from which they sprang, were sincerely English, Belgian, French, German, or Papal, for their pride never allowed of doubt that the country of their adoption3 was the greatest of all. Mannheim was paradoxically the only one of them who was pleased to prefer all the countries to which he did not belong. He used often to talk of Paris enthusiastically, but as he was always extravagant4 in his talk, and, by way of praising the Parisians, used to represent them as a species of scatterbrains, lewd5 and rowdy, who spent their time in love-making and revolutions without ever taking themselves seriously, Christophe was not greatly attracted by the "Byzantine and decadent6 republic beyond the Vosges." He used rather to imagine Paris as it was presented in a naïve engraving7 which he had seen as a frontispiece to a book that had recently appeared in a German art publication; the Devil of Notre Dame8 appeared huddled9 up above the roofs of the town with the legend:
"Eternal luxury like an insatiable Vampire10 devours11 its prey12 above the great city."
Like a good German he despised the debauched Volcae and their literature, of which he only knew lively buffooneries like L'Aiglon, Madame Sans Gêne, and a few café songs. The snobbishness13 of the little town, where those people who were most notoriously incapable14 of being interested in art flocked noisily to take places at the box office, brought him to an affectation of scornful indifference15 towards the great actress. He vowed17 that he would not go one yard to hear her. It was the easier for him to keep his promise as seats had reached an exorbitant18 price which he could not afford.
The repertory which the French actors had brought included a few classical pieces; but for the most part it was composed of those idiotic19 pieces which are expressly manufactured in Paris for exportation, for nothing is more international than mediocrity. Christophe knew La Tosca, which was to be the first production of the touring actors; he had seen it in translation adorned20 with all those easy graces which the company of a little Rhenish theater can give to a French play: and he laughed scornfully and declared that he was very glad, when he saw his friends go off to the theater, not to have to see it again. But next day he listened none the less eagerly, without seeming to listen, to the enthusiastic tales of the delightful21 evening they had had: he was angry at having lost the right to contradict them by having refused to see what everybody was talking about.
The second production announced was a French translation of Hamlet. Christophe had never missed an opportunity of seeing a play of Shakespeare's. Shakespeare was to him of the same order as Beethoven, an inexhaustible spring of life. Hamlet had been specially22 dear to him during the period of stress and tumultuous doubts through which he had just passed. In spite of his fear of seeing himself reflected in that magic mirror he was fascinated by it: and he prowled about the theater notices, though he did not admit that he was longing24 to book a seat. But he was so obstinate25 that after what he had said to his friends he would not eat his words: and he would have stayed at home that evening if chance had not brought him in contact with Mannheim just as he was sadly going home.
Mannheim took his arm and told him angrily, though he never ceased his banter26, that an old beast of a relation, his father's sister, had just come down upon them with all her retinue27 and that they had all to stay at home to welcome her. He had time to get out of it: but his father would brook28 no trifling29 with questions of family etiquette30 and the respect due to elderly relatives: and as he had to handle his father carefully because he wanted presently to get money out of him, he had had to give in and not go to the play.
"You had tickets?" asked Christophe.
"An excellent box: and I have to go and give it—(I am just going now)—to that old pig, Grünebaum, papa's partner, so that he can swagger there with the she Grünebaum and their turkey hen of a daughter. Jolly!… I want to find something very disagreeable to say to them. They won't mind so long as I give them the tickets—although they would much rather they were banknotes."
He stopped short with his month open and looked at Christophe:
"Oh! but—but just the man I want!" He chuckled31:
"Christophe, are you going to the theater?"
"Good. You shall go. I ask it as a favor. Yon cannot refuse."
Christophe did not understand.
"But I have no seat."
"Here you are!" said Mannheim triumphantly32, thrusting the ticket into his hand.
"You are mad," said Christophe. "What about your father's orders?"
Mannheim laughed:
"He will be furious!" he said.
He dried his eyes and went on:
"I shall tap him to-morrow morning as soon as he is up before he knows anything."
"I cannot accept," said Christophe, "knowing that he would not like it."
"It does not concern you: you know nothing about it."
Christophe had unfolded the ticket:
"And what would I do with a box for four?"
"Whatever you like. You can sleep in it, dance if you like. Take some women. You must know some? If need be we can lend you some."
Christophe held out the ticket to Mannheim:
"Certainly not. Take it back."
"Not I," said Mannheim, stepping back a pace. "I can't force you to go if it bores you, but I shan't take it back. You can throw it in the fire or even take it virtuously34 to the Grünebaums. I don't care. Good-night!"
He left Christophe in the middle of the street, ticket in hand, and went away.
Christophe was unhappy about it. He said to himself that he ought to take it to the Grünebaums: but he was not keen about the idea. He went home still pondering, and when later he looked at the clock he saw that he had only just time enough to dress for the theater. It would be too silly to waste the ticket. He asked his mother to go with him. But Louisa declared that she would rather go to bed. He went. At heart he was filled with childish glee at the thought of his evening. Only one thing worried him: the thought of having to be alone in such a pleasure. He had no remorse35 about Mannheim's father or the Grünebaums, whose box he was taking: but he was remorseful36 about those whom he might have taken with him. He thought of the joy it could give to other young people like himself: and it hurt him not to be able to give it them. He cast about but could find nobody to whom he could offer his ticket. Besides, it was late and he must hurry.
As he entered the theater he passed by the closed window on which a poster announced that there was not a single seat left in the office. Among the people who were turning away from it disappointedly he noticed a girl who could not make up her mind to leave and was enviously38 watching the people going in. She was dressed very simply in black; she was not very tall; her face was thin and she looked delicate; and at the moment he did not notice whether she were pretty or plain. He passed her: then he stopped, turned, and without stopping to think:
"You can't get a seat, Fräulein?" he asked point-blank.
She blushed and said with a foreign accent:
"No, sir."
"I have a box which I don't know what to do with. Will you make use of it with me?"
She blushed again and thanked him and said she could not accept. Christophe was embarrassed by her refusal, begged her pardon and tried to insist, but he could not persuade her, although it was obvious that she was dying to accept. He was very perplexed39. He made up his mind suddenly.
"There is a way out of the difficulty," he said. "You take the ticket. I don't want it. I have seen the play." (He was boasting). "It will give you more pleasure than me. Take it, please."
The girl was so touched by his proposal and the cordial manner in which it was made that tears all but came to her eyes. She murmured gratefully that she could not think of depriving him of it.
"Then, come," he said, smiling.
He looked so kind and honest that she was ashamed of having refused, and she said in some confusion:
"Thank you. I will come."
They went in. The Mannheims' box was wide, big, and faced the stage: it was impossible not to be seen in it if they had wished. It is useless to say that their entry passed unnoticed. Christophe made the girl sit at the front, while he stayed a little behind so as not to embarrass her. She sat stiffly upright, not daring to turn her head: she was horribly shy: she would have given much not to have accepted. To give her time to recover her composure and not knowing what to talk to her about, Christophe pretended to look the other way. Whichever way he looked it was easily seen that his presence with an unknown companion among the brilliant people of the boxes was exciting much curiosity and comment. He darted42 furious glances at those who were looking at him: he was angry that people should go on being interested in him when he took no interest in them. It did not occur to him that their indiscreet curiosity was more busied with his companion than with himself and that there was more offense43 in it. By way of showing his utter indifference to anything they might say or think he leaned towards the girl and began to talk to her. She looked so scared by his talking and so unhappy at having to reply, and it seemed to be so difficult for her to wrench44 out a "Yes" or a "No" without ever daring to look at him, that he took pity on her shyness, and drew back to a corner. Fortunately the play began.
Christophe had not seen the play bill and he hardly cared to know what part the great actress was playing: he was one of those simple people who go to the theater to see the play and not the actors. He had never wondered whether the famous player would be Ophelia or the Queen; if he had wondered about it he would have inclined towards the Queen, bearing in naiad the ages of the two ladies. But it could never have occurred to him that she would play Hamlet. When he saw Hamlet, and heard his mechanical dolly squeak45, it was some time before he could believe it; he wondered if he were not dreaming.
"But who? Who is it?" he asked half aloud. "It can't be…."
And when he had to accept that it was Hamlet, he rapped out an oath, which fortunately his companion did not hear, because she was a foreigner, though it was heard perfectly46 in the next box: for he was at once indignantly bidden to be silent. He withdrew to the back of the box to swear his fill. He could not recover his temper. If he had been just he would have given homage47 to the elegance48 of the travesty49 and the tour de force of nature and art, which made it possible for a woman of sixty to appear in a youth's costume and even to seem beautiful in it—at least to kindly50 eyes. But he hated all tours de force, everything which violates and falsifies Nature, He liked a woman to be a woman, and a man a man. (It does not often happen nowadays.) The childish and absurd travesty of the Leonora of Beethoven did not please him much. But this travesty of Hamlet was beyond all dreams of the preposterous51. To make of the robust52 Dane, fat and pale, choleric53, cunning, intellectual, subject to hallucinations, a woman,—not even a woman: for a woman playing the man can only be a monster,—to make of Hamlet a eunuch or an androgynous betwixt and between,—the times must be flabby indeed, criticism must be idiotic, to let such disgusting folly55 be tolerated for a single day and not hissed56 off the boards! The actress's voice infuriated Christophe. She had that singing, labored57 diction, that monotonous58 melopoeia which seems to have been dear to the least poetic59 people in the world since the days of the Champmeslé and the Hôtel de Bourgogne. Christophe was so exasperated60 by it that he wanted to go away. He turned his back on the scene, and he made hideous61 faces against the wall of the box like a child put in the corner. Fortunately his companion dared not look at him: for if she had seen him she would have thought him mad.
Suddenly Christophe stopped making faces. He stopped still and made no sound. A lovely musical voice, a young woman's voice, grave and sweet, was heard. Christophe pricked62 his ears. As she went on with her words he turned again, keenly interested to see what bird could warble so. He saw Ophelia. In truth she was nothing like the Ophelia of Shakespeare. She was a beautiful girl, tall, big and fine like a young fresh statue—Electra or Cassandra. She was brimming with life. In spite of her efforts to keep within her part, the force of youth and joy that was in her shone forth63 from her body, her movements, her gestures, her brown eyes that laughed in spite of herself. Such is the power of physical beauty that Christophe who a moment before had been merciless in judging the interpretation64 of Hamlet never for a moment thought of regretting that Ophelia was hardly at all like his image of her: and he sacrificed his image to the present vision of her remorselessly. With the unconscious faithlessness of people of passion he even found a profound truth in the youthful ardor65 brimming in the depths of the chaste66 and unhappy virgin67 heart. But the magic of the voice, pure, warm, and velvety68, worked the spell: every word sounded like a lovely chord: about every syllable69 there hovered70 like the scent71 of thyme or wild mint the laughing accent of the Midi with its full rhythm. Strange was this vision of an Ophelia from Arles! In it was something of that golden sun and its wild northwest wind, its mistral.
Christophe forgot his companion and came and sat by her side at the front of the box: he never took his eyes off the beautiful actress whose name he did not know. But the audience who had not come to see an unknown player paid no attention to her, and only applauded when the female Hamlet spoke72. That made Christophe growl73 and call them: "Idiots!" in a low voice which could be heard ten yards away.
It was not until the curtain was lowered upon the first act that he remembered the existence of his companion, and seeing that she was still shy he thought with a smile of how he must have scared her with his extravagances. He was not far wrong: the girl whom chance had thrown in his company for a few hours was almost morbidly75 shy; she must have been in an abnormal state of excitement to have accepted Christophe's invitation. She had hardly accepted it than she had wished at any cost to get out of it, to make some excuse and to escape. It had been much worse for her when she had seen that she was an object of general curiosity, and her unhappiness had been increased almost past endurance when she heard behind her back—(she dared not turn round)—her companion's low growls77 and imprecations. She expected anything now, and when he came and sat by her she was frozen with terror: what eccentricity78 would he commit next? She would gladly have sunk into the ground fathoms79 down. She drew back instinctively80: she was afraid of touching82 him.
But all her fears vanished when the interval83 came and she heard him say quite kindly:
"I am an unpleasant companion, eh? I beg your pardon."
Then she looked at him and saw his kind smile which had induced her to come with him.
He went on:
"I cannot hide what I think…. But you know it is too much!… That woman, that old woman!…"
He made a face of disgust.
She smiled and said in a low voice:
"It is fine in spite of everything."
He noticed her accent and asked:
"You are a foreigner?"
"Yes," said she.
He looked at her modest gown.
"A governess?" he said.
"What nationality?"
She said:
"I am French."
He made a gesture of surprise:
"French? I should not have thought it."
"Why?" she asked timidly.
"You are so … serious!" said he.
(She thought it was not altogether a compliment from him.)
"There are serious people also in France," said she confusedly. He looked at her honest little face, with its broad forehead, little straight nose, delicate chin, and thin cheeks framed in her chestnut84 hair. It was not she that he saw: he was thinking of the beautiful actress. He repeated:
"It is strange that you should be French!… Are you really of the same nationality as Ophelia? One would never think it"
After a moment's silence he went on:
"How beautiful she is!" without noticing that he seemed to be making a comparison between the actress and his companion that was not at all flattering to her. But she felt it: but she did not mind: for she was of the same opinion. He tried to find out about the actress from her: but she knew nothing: it was plain that she did not know much about the theater.
"You must be glad to hear French?" he asked. He meant it in jest, but he touched her.
"Ah!" she said with an accent of sincerity85 which struck him, "it does me so much good! I am stifled86 here."
He looked at her more closely: she clasped her hands, and seemed to be oppressed. But at once she thought of how her words might hurt him:
"Forgive me," she said. "I don't know what I am saying."
He laughed:
"Don't beg pardon! You are quite right. You don't need to be French to be stifled here. Ouf!"
He threw back his shoulders and took a long breath.
But she was ashamed of having been so free and relapsed into silence. Besides she had just seen that the people in the boxes next to them were listening to what they were saying: he noticed it too and was wrathful. They broke off: and until the end of the interval he went out into the corridor. The girl's words were ringing in his ears, but he was lost in dreams: the image of Ophelia filled his thoughts. During the succeeding acts she took hold of him completely, and when the beautiful actress came to the mad scene and the melancholy88 songs of love and death, her voice gave forth notes so moving that he was bowled over: he felt that he was going to burst into tears. Angry with himself for what he took to be a sign of weakness—(for he would not admit that a true artist can weep)—and not wishing to make an object of himself, he left the box abruptly89. The corridors and the foyer were empty. In his agitation90 he went down the stairs of the theater and went out without knowing it. He had to breathe the cold night air, and to go striding through the dark, half-empty streets. He came to himself by the edge of a canal, and leaned on the parapet of the bank and watched the silent water whereon the reflections of the street lamps danced in the darkness. His soul was like that: it was dark and heaving: he could see nothing in it but great joy dancing on the surface. The clocks rang the hour. It was impossible for him to go back to the theater and hear the end of the play. To see the triumph of Fortinbras? No, that did not tempt91 him. A fine triumph that! Who thinks of envying the conqueror92? Who would be he after being gorged93 with all the wild and absurd savagery94 of life? The whole play is a formidable indictment95 of life. But there is such a power of life in it that sadness becomes joy, and bitterness intoxicates….
Christophe went home without a thought for the unknown girl, whose name even he had not ascertained96.
Next morning he went to see the actress at the little third-rate hotel in which the impresario97 had quartered her with her comrades while the great actress had put up at the best hotel in the town. He was conducted to a very untidy room where the remains98 of breakfast were left on an open piano, together with hairpins99 and torn and dirty sheets of music. In the next room Ophelia was singing at the top of her voice, like a child, for the pleasure of making a noise. She stopped for a moment when her visitor was announced to ask merrily in a loud voice without ever caring whether she were heard through the wall:
"What does he want? What is his name? Christophe? Christophe what?
Christophe Krafft? What a name!"
(She repeated it two or three times, rolling her r's terribly.)
"It is like a swear—"
(She swore.)
"Is he young or old? Pleasant? Very well. I'll come."
She began to sing again:
"Nothing is sweeter than my love…." while she rushed about her room cursing a tortoise-shell pin which had got lost in all the rubbish. She lost patience, began to grumble100, and roared. Although he could not see her Christophe followed all her movements on the other side of the wall in imagination and laughed to himself. At last he heard steps approaching, the door was flung open, and Ophelia appeared.
She was half dressed, in a loose gown which she was holding about her waist: her bare arms showed in her wide sleeves: her hair was carelessly done, and locks of it fell down into her eyes and over her cheeks. Her fine brown eyes smiled, her lips smiled, her cheeks smiled, and a charming dimple in her chin smiled. In her beautiful grave melodious101 voice she asked him to excuse her appearance. She knew that there was nothing to excuse and that he could only be very grateful to her for it. She thought he was a journalist come to interview her. Instead of being annoyed when he told her that he had come to her entirely102 of his own accord and because he admired her, she was delighted. She was a good girl, affectionate, delighted to please, and making no effort to conceal103 her delight. Christophe's visit and his enthusiasm made her very happy—(she was not yet spoiled by flattery). She was so natural in all her movements and ways, even in her little vanities and her naïve delight in giving pleasure, that he was not embarrassed for a single moment. They became old friends at once. He could jabber104 a few words of French: and she could jabber a few words of German: after an hour they told each other all their secrets. She never thought of sending him away. The splendid gay southern creature, intelligent and warm-hearted, who would have been bored to tears with her stupid companions and in a country whose language she did not know, a country without the natural joy that was in herself, was glad to find some one to talk to. As for Christophe it was an untold105 blessing106 for him to meet the free-hearted girl of the Midi filled with the life of the people, in the midst of his narrow and insincere fellow citizens. He did not yet know the workings of such natures which, unlike the Germans, have no more in their minds and hearts than they show, and often not even as much. But at the least she was young, she was alive, she said frankly107, rawly, what she thought: she judged everything freely from a new and a fresh point of view: in her it was possible to breathe a little of the northwest wind that sweeps away mists. She was gifted. Uneducated and unthinking, she could at once feel with her whole heart and be sincerely moved by things which were beautiful and good; and then, a moment later, she would burst out laughing. She was a coquette and made eyes; she did not mind showing her bare arms and neck under her half open gown; she would have liked to turn Christophe's head, but it was all purely108 instinctive81. There was no thought of gaining her own ends in her, and she much preferred to laugh, and talk blithely109, to be a good fellow, a good chum, without ceremony or awkwardness. She told him about the underworld of the theater, her little sorrows, the silly susceptibilities of her comrades, the bickerings of Jezebel—(so she called the great actress)—who took good care not to let her shine. He confided111 his sufferings at the hands of the Germans: she clapped her hands and played chords to him. She was kind and would not speak ill of anybody; but that did not keep her from doing so, and while she blamed herself for her malice112, when she laughed at anybody, she had a fund of mocking humor and that realistic and witty113 gift of observation which belongs to the people of the South; she could not resist it and drew cuttingly satirical portraits. With her pale lips she laughed merrily to show her teeth, like those of a puppy, and dark eyes shone in her pale face, which was a little discolored by grease paint.
They noticed suddenly that they had been talking for more than an hour. Christophe proposed to come for Corinne—(that was her stage name)—in the afternoon and show her over the town. She was delighted with the idea, and they arranged to meet immediately after dinner.
At the appointed hour, he turned up. Corinne was sitting in the little drawing-room of the hotel, with a book in her hand, which she was reading aloud. She greeted him with smiling eyes but did not stop reading until she had finished her sentence. Then she signed to him to sit down on the sofa by her side:
"Sit there," she said, "and don't talk. I am going over my part. I shall have finished in a quarter of an hour."
She followed the script with her finger nail and read quickly and carelessly like a little girl in a hurry. He offered to hear her her words. She passed him the book and got up to repeat what she had learned. She floundered and would repeat the end of one sentence four times before going on to the next. She shook her head as she recited her part; her hair-pins fell down and all over the room. When she could not recollect114 sometimes some word she was as impatient as a naughty child; sometimes she swore comically or she would use big words;—one word with which she apostrophized herself was very big and very short. Christophe was astonished by the mixture of talent and childishness in her. She would produce moving tones of voice quite aptly, but in the middle of a speech into which she seemed to be throwing her whole heart she would say a whole string of words that had absolutely no meaning. She recited her lesson like a parrot, without troubling about its meaning, and then she produced burlesque115 nonsense. She did not worry about it. When she saw it she would shout with laughter. At last she said: "Zut!", snatched the book from him, flung it into a corner of the room, and said:
"Holidays! The hour has struck!… Now let us go out."
He was a little anxious about her part and asked:
"You think you will know it?"
She replied confidently:
"Certainly. What is the prompter for?" She went into her room to put on her hat. Christophe sat at the piano while he was waiting for her and struck a few chords. From the next room she called:
"Oh! What is that? Play some more! How pretty it is!"
She ran in, pinning on her hat. He went on. When he had finished she wanted him to play more. She went into ecstasies116 with all the little arch exclamations117 habitual118 to Frenchwomen which they make about Tristan and a cup of chocolate equally. It made Christophe laugh; it was a change from the tremendous affected119, clumsy exclamations of the Germans; they were both exaggerated in different directions; one made a mountain out of a mole-hill, the other made a mole-hill out of a mountain; the French was not less ridiculous than the German, but for the moment it seemed more pleasant because he loved the lips from which it came. Corinne wanted to know what he was playing, and when she learned that he had composed it she gave a shout. He had told her during their conversation in the morning that he was a composer, but she had hardly listened to him. She sat by him and insisted on his playing everything that he had composed. Their walk was forgotten. It was not mere120 politeness on her part; she adored music and had an admirable instinct for it which supplied the deficiencies of her education. At first he did not take her seriously and played his easiest melodies. But when he had played a passage by which he set more store and saw that she preferred it too, although he had not said anything about it, he was joyfully121 surprised. With the naïve astonishment122 of the Germans when they meet a Frenchman who is a good musician he said:
"Odd. How good your taste is! I should never have thought it…."
Corinne laughed in his face.
He amused himself then by selecting compositions more and more difficult to understand, to see how far she would go with him. But she did not seem to be put out by his boldness, and after a particularly new melody which Christophe himself had almost come to doubt because he had never succeeded in having it accepted in Germany, he was greatly astonished when Corinne begged him to play it again, and she got up and began to sing the notes from memory almost without a mistake! He turned towards her and took her hands warmly:
"But you are a musician!" he cried.
She began to laugh and explained that she had made her début as a singer in provincial124 opera houses, but that an impresario of touring companies had recognized her disposition125 towards the poetic theater and had enrolled126 her in its services. He exclaimed:
"What a pity!"
"Why?" said she. "Poetry also is a sort of music."
She made him explain to her the meaning of his Lieder; he told her the German words, and she repeated them with easy mimicry127, copying even the movements of his lips and eyes as he pronounced the words. When she had these to sing from memory, then she made grotesque128 mistakes, and when she forgot, she invented words, guttural and barbarously sonorous129, which made them both laugh. She did not tire of making him play, nor he of playing for her and hearing her pretty voice; she did not know the tricks of the trade and sang a little from the throat like little girls, and there was a curious fragile quality in her voice that was very touching. She told him frankly what she thought. Although she could not explain why she liked or disliked anything there was always some grain of sense hidden in her judgment130. The odd thing was that she found least pleasure in the most classical passages which were most appreciated in Germany; she paid him a few compliments out of politeness; but they obviously meant nothing. As she had no musical culture she had not the pleasure which amateurs and even artists find in what is already heard, a pleasure which often makes them unconsciously reproduce, or, in a new composition, like forms or formulæ which they have already used in old compositions. Nor did she have the German taste for melodious sentimentality (or, at least, her sentimentality was different; Christophe did not yet know its failings)—she did not go into ecstasies over the soft insipid132 music preferred in Germany; she did not single out the most melodious of his Lieder,—a melody which he would have liked to destroy because his friends, only too glad to be able to compliment him on something, were always talking about it. Corinne's dramatic instinct made her prefer the melodies which frankly reproduced a certain passion; he also set most store by them. And yet she did not hesitate to show her lack of sympathy with certain rude harmonies which seemed quite natural to Christophe; they gave her a sort of shock when she came upon them; she would stop then and ask "if it was really so." When he said "Yes," then she would rush at the difficulty; but she would make a little grimace133 which did not escape Christophe. Sometimes even she would prefer to skip the bar. Then he would play it again on the piano.
"You don't like that?" he would ask.
She would screw up her nose.
"It is wrong," she would say.
"Not at all," he would reply with a laugh. "It is quite right. Think of its meaning. It is rhythmic134, isn't it?"
(He pointed37 to her heart.)
But she would shake her head:
"May be; but it is wrong here." (She pulled her ear.)
And she would be a little shocked by the sudden outbursts of German declamation135.
"Why should he talk so loud?" she would ask. "He is all alone. Aren't you afraid of his neighbors overhearing him? It is as though—(Forgive me! You won't be angry?)—he were hailing a boat."
He was not angry; he laughed heartily136, he recognized that there was some truth in what she said. Her remarks amused him; nobody had ever said such things before. They agreed that declamation in singing generally deforms137 the natural word like a magnifying glass. Corinne asked Christophe to write music for a piece in which she would speak to the accompaniment of the orchestra, singing a few sentences every now and then. He was fired by the idea in spite of the difficulties of the stage setting which, he thought, Corinne's musical voice would easily overcome, and they made plans for the future. It was not far short of five o'clock when they thought of going out. Night fell early. They could not think of going for a walk. Corinne had a rehearsal138 at the theater in the evening; nobody was allowed to be present. She made him promise to come and fetch her during the next afternoon to take the walk they had planned.
Next day they did almost the same again. He found Corinne in front of her mirror, perched on a high stool, swinging her legs; she was trying on a wig139. Her dresser was there and a hair dresser of the town to whom she was giving instructions about a curl which she wished to have higher up. As she looked in the glass she saw Christophe smiling behind her back; she put out her tongue at him. The hair dresser went away with the wig and she turned gaily140 to Christophe:
"Good-day, my friend!" she said.
She held up her cheek to be kissed. He had not expected such intimacy141, but he took advantage of it all the same. She did not attach so much importance to the favor; it was to her a greeting like any other.
"Oh! I am happy!" said she. "It will do very well to-night." (She was talking of her wig.) "I was so wretched! If you had come this morning you would have found me absolutely miserable143."
He asked why.
It was because the Parisian hair dresser had made a mistake in packing and had sent a wig which was not suitable to the part.
"Quite flat," she said, "and falling straight down. When I saw it I wept like a Magdalen. Didn't I, Désirée?"
"When I came in," said Désirée, "I was afraid for Madame. Madame was quite white. Madame looked like death."
Christophe laughed. Corinne saw him in her mirror:
"Heartless wretch142; it makes you laugh," she said indignantly.
She began to laugh too.
He asked her how the rehearsal had gone. Everything had gone off well. She would have liked the other parts to be cut more and her own less. They talked so much that they wasted part of the afternoon. She dressed slowly; she amused herself by asking Christophe's opinion about her dresses. Christophe praised her elegance and told her naïvely in his Franco-German jargon144, that he had never seen anybody so "luxurious145." She looked at him for a moment and then burst out laughing.
"What have I said?" he asked. "Have I said anything wrong?"
"Yes, yes," she cried, rocking with laughter. "You have indeed."
At last they went out. Her striking costume and her exuberant146 chatter147 attracted attention. She looked at everything with her mocking eyes and made no effort to conceal her impressions. She chuckled at the dressmakers' shops, and at the picture post-card shops in which sentimental131 scenes, comic and obscene drawings, the town prostitutes, the imperial family, the Emperor as a sea-dog holding the wheel of the Germania and defying the heavens, were all thrown together higgledy-piggledy. She giggled149 at a dinner-service decoration with Wagner's cross-grained face, or at a hair dresser's shop-window in which there was the wax head of a man. She made no attempt to modify her hilarity150 over the patriotic152 monument representing the old Emperor in a traveling coat and a peaked cap, together with Prussia, the German States, and a nude153 Genius of War. She made remarks about anything in the faces of the people or their way of speaking that struck her as funny. Her victims were left in no doubt about it as she maliciously155 picked out their absurdities156. Her instinctive mimicry made her sometimes imitate with her mouth and nose their broad grimaces157 and frowns, without thinking; and she would blow out her cheeks as she repeated fragments of sentences and words that struck her as grotesque in sound as she caught them. He laughed heartily and was not at all embarrassed by her impertinence, for he was no longer easily embarrassed. Fortunately he had no great reputation to lose, or his walk would have ruined it for ever.
They visited the cathedral. Corinne wanted to go to the top of the spire158, in spite of her high heels, and long dress which swept the stairs or was caught in a corner of the staircase; she did not worry about it, but pulled the stuff which split, and went on climbing, holding it up. She wanted very much to ring the bells. From the top of the tower she declaimed Victor Hugo (he did not understand it), and sang a popular French song. After that she played the muezzin. Dusk was falling. They went down into the cathedral where the dark shadows were creeping along the gigantic walls in which the magic eyes of the windows were shining. Kneeling in one of the side chapels159, Christophe saw the girl who had shared his box at Hamlet. She was so absorbed in her prayers that she did not see him: he saw that she was looking sad and strained. He would have liked to speak to her, just to say, "How do you do?" but Corinne dragged him off like a whirlwind.
They parted soon afterwards. She had to get ready for the performance, which began early, as usual in Germany. He had hardly reached home when there was a ring at the door and a letter from Corinne was handed in:
"Luck! Jezebel ill! No performance! No school! Come! Let us dine together!
Your friend,
"P.S. Bring plenty of music!"
It was some time before he understood. When he did understand he was as happy as Corinne, and went to the hotel at once. He was afraid of finding the whole company assembled at dinner; but he saw nobody. Corinne herself was not there. At last he heard her laughing voice at the back of the house: he went to look for her and found her in the kitchen. She had taken it into her head to cook a dish in her own way, one of those southern dishes which fills the whole neighborhood with its aroma160 and would awaken161 a stone. She was on excellent terms with the large proprietress of the hotel, and they were jabbering162 in a horrible jargon that was a mixture of German, French, and negro, though there is no word to describe it in any language. They were laughing loudly and making each other taste their cooking. Christophe's appearance made them noisier than ever. They tried to push him out; but he struggled and succeeded in tasting the famous dish. He made a face. She said he was a barbarous Teuton and that it was no use putting herself out for him.
They went up to the little sitting-room163 when the table was laid; there were only two places, for himself and Corinne. He could not help asking her where her companions were. Corinne waved her hands carelessly:
"I don't know."
"Don't you sup together?"
"Never! We see enough of each other at the theater!… And it would be awful if we had to meet at meals!…"
It was so different from German custom that he was surprised and charmed by it.
"I thought," he said, "you were a sociable164 people!"
"Well," said she, "am I not sociable?"
"Sociable means living in society. We have to see each other! Men, women, children, we all belong to societies from birth to death. We are always making societies: we eat, sing, think in societies. When the societies sneeze, we sneeze too: we don't have a drink except with our societies."
"That must be amusing," said she. "Why not out of the same glass?"
"Brotherly, isn't it?"
"That for fraternity! I like being 'brotherly' with people I like: not with the others … Pooh! That's not society: that is an ant heap."
"Well, you can imagine how happy I am here, for I think as you do."
"Come to us, then!"
He asked nothing better. He questioned her about Paris and the French. She told him much that was not perfectly accurate. Her southern propensity165 for boasting was mixed with an instinctive desire to shine before him. According to her, everybody in Paris was free: and as everybody in Paris was intelligent, everybody made good use of their liberty, and no one abused it. Everybody did what they liked: thought, believed, loved or did not love, as they liked; nobody had anything to say about it. There nobody meddled166 with other people's beliefs, or spied on their consciences or tried to regulate their thoughts. There politicians never dabbled168 in literature or the arts, and never gave orders, jobs, and money to their friends or clients. There little cliques169 never disposed of reputation or success, journalists were never bought; there men of letters never entered into controversies170 with the church, that could lead to nothing. There criticism never stifled unknown talent, or exhausted171 its praises upon recognized talent. There success, success at all costs, did not justify172 the means, and command the adoration173 of the public. There were only gentle manners, kindly and sweet. There was never any bitterness, never any scandal. Everybody helped everybody else. Every worthy174 newcomer was certain to find hands held out to him and the way made smooth for him. Pure love, of beauty filled the chivalrous175 and disinterested176 souls of the French, and they were only absurd in their idealism, which, in spite of their acknowledged wit, made them the dupes of other nations. Christophe listened open-mouthed. It was certainly marvelous. Corinne marveled herself as she heard her words. She had forgotten what she had told Christophe the day before about the difficulties of her past life. He gave no more thought to it than she.
And yet Corinne was not only concerned with making the Germans love her country: she wanted to make herself loved, too. A whole evening without flirtation177 would have seemed austere179 and rather absurd to her. She made eyes at Christophe; but it was trouble wasted: he did not notice it. Christophe did not know what it was to flirt178. He loved or did not love. When he did not love he was miles from any thought of love. He liked Corinne enormously. He felt the attraction of her southern nature; it was so new to him. And her sweetness and good humor, her quick and lively intelligence: many more reasons than he needed for loving. But the spirit blows where it listeth. It did not blow in that direction, and as for playing at love, in love's absence, the idea had never occurred to him.
Corinne was amused by his coldness. She sat by his side at the piano while he played the music he had brought with him, and put her arm round his neck, and to follow the music she leaned towards the keyboard, almost pressing her cheek against his. He felt her hair touch his face, and quite close to him saw the corner of her mocking eye, her pretty little mouth, and the light down on her tip-tilted nose. She waited, smiling—she waited. Christophe did not understand the invitation. Corinne was in his way: that was all he thought of. Mechanically he broke free from her and moved his chair. And when, a moment later, he turned to speak to Corinne, he saw that she was choking with laughter: her cheeks were dimpled, her lips were pressed together, and she seemed to be holding herself in.
"What is the matter?" he said, in his astonishment.
She looked at him and laughed aloud.
He did not understand.
"Why are you laughing?" he asked. "Did I say anything funny?"
The more he insisted, the more she laughed. When she had almost finished she had only to look at his crestfallen180 appearance to break out again. She got up, ran to the sofa at the other end of the room, and buried her face in the cushions to laugh her fill; her whole body shook with it. He began to laugh too, came towards her, and slapped her on the back. When she had done laughing she raised her head, dried the tears in her eyes, and held out her hands to him.
"What a good boy you are!" she said.
"No worse than another."
She went on, shaking occasionally with laughter, still holding his hands.
"Frenchwomen are not serious?" she asked. (She pronounced it: "Françouése.")
"You are making fun of me," he said good-humoredly.
She looked at him kindly, shook his hands vigorously, and said:
"Friends!" said he, shaking her hand.
"You will think of Corinette when she is gone? You won't be angry with the
Frenchwoman for not being serious?"
"And Corinette won't be angry with the barbarous Teuton for being so stupid?"
"That is why she loves him … You will come and see her in Paris?"
"It is a promise … And she—she will write to him?"
"I swear it … You say: 'I swear.'"
"I swear."
"No, not like that. You must hold up your hand." She recited the oath of the Horatii. She made him promise to write a play for her, a melodrama181, which could be translated into French and played in Paris by her. She was going away next day with her company. He promised to go and see her again the day after at Frankfort, where they were giving a performance.
They stayed talking for some time. She presented Christophe with a photograph in which she was much décolletée, draped only in a garment fastening below her shoulders. They parted gaily, and kissed like brother and sister. And, indeed, once Corinne had seen that Christophe was fond of her, but not at all in love, she began to be fond of him, too, without love, as a good friend.
Their sleep was not troubled by it. He could not see her off next day, because he was occupied by a rehearsal. But on the day following he managed to go to Frankfort as he had promised. It was a few hours' journey by rail. Corinne hardly believed Christophe's promise. But he had taken it seriously, and when the performance began he was there. When he knocked at her dressing182-room door during the interval, she gave a cry of glad surprise and threw her arms round his neck with her usual exuberance183. She was sincerely grateful to him for having come. Unfortunately for Christophe, she was much more sought after in the city of rich, intelligent Jews, who could appreciate her actual beauty and her future success. Almost every minute there was a knock at the door, and it opened to reveal men with heavy faces and quick eyes, who said the conventional things with a thick accent. Corinne naturally made eyes, and then she would go on talking to Christophe in the same affected, provoking voice, and that irritated him. And he found no pleasure in the calm lack of modesty184 with which she went on dressing in his presence, and the paint and grease with which she larded her arms, throat, and face filled him with profound disgust. He was on the point of going away without seeing her again after the performance; but when he said good-bye and begged to be excused from going to the supper that was to be given to her after the play, she was so hurt by it and so affectionate, too, that he could not hold out against her. She had a time-table brought, so as to prove that he could and must stay an hour with her. He only needed to be convinced, and he was at the supper. He was even able to control his annoyance185 with the follies186 that were indulged in and his irritation187 at Corinne's coquetries with all and sundry188. It was impossible to be angry with her. She was an honest girl, without any moral principles, lazy, sensual, pleasure-loving, childishly coquettish; but at the same time so loyal, so kind, and all her faults were so spontaneous and so healthy that it was only possible to smile at them and even to love them. Christophe, who was sitting opposite her, watched her animation189, her radiant eyes, her sticky lips, with their Italian smile—that smile in which there is kindness, subtlety190, and a sort of heavy greediness. He saw her more clearly than he had yet done. Some of her features reminded him of Ada: certain gestures, certain looks, certain sensual and rather coarse tricks—the eternal feminine. But what he loved in her was her southern nature, that generous nature which is not niggardly191 with its gifts, which never troubles to fashion drawing-room beauties and literary cleverness, but harmonious192 creatures who are made body and mind to grow in the air and the sun. When he left she got up from the table to say good-bye to him away from the others. They kissed and renewed their promises to write and meet again.
He took the last train home. At a station the train coming from the opposite direction was waiting. In the carriage opposite his—a third-class compartment—Christophe saw the young Frenchwoman who had been with him to the performance of Hamlet. She saw Christophe and recognized him. They were both astonished. They bowed and did not move, and dared not look again. And yet he had seen at once that she was wearing a little traveling toque and had an old valise by her side. It did not occur to him that she was leaving the country. He thought she must be going away for a few days. He did not know whether he ought to speak to her. He stopped, turned over in his mind what to say, and was just about to lower the window of the carriage to address a few words to her, when the signal was given. He gave up the idea. A few seconds passed before the train moved. They looked straight at each other. Each was alone, and their faces were pressed against the windows and they looked into each other's eyes through the night. They were separated by two windows. If they had reached out their hands they could have touched each other. So near. So far. The carriages shook heavily. She was still looking at him, shy no longer, now that they were parting. They were so absorbed in looking at each other that they never even thought of bowing for the last time. She was slowly borne away. He saw her disappear, and the train which bore her plunged194 into the night. Like two circling worlds, they had passed close to each other in infinite space, and now they sped apart perhaps for eternity195.
When she had disappeared he felt the emptiness that her strange eyes had left in him, and he did not understand why; but the emptiness was there. Sleepy, with eyes half-closed, lying in a corner of the carriage, he felt her eyes looking into his, and all other thoughts ceased, to let him feel them more keenly. The image of Corinne fluttered outside his heart like an insect breaking its wings against a window; but he did not let it in.
He found it again when he got out of the train on his arrival, when the keen night air and his walk through the streets of the sleeping town had shaken off his drowsiness196. He scowled197 at the thought of the pretty actress, with a mixture of pleasure and irritation, according as he recalled her affectionate ways or her vulgar coquetries.
"Oh! these French people," he growled198, laughing softly, while he was undressing quietly, so as not to waken his mother, who was asleep in the next room.
A remark that he had heard the other evening in the box occurred to him:
"There are others also."
At his first encounter with France she laid before him the enigma199 of her double nature. But, like all Germans, he did not trouble to solve it, and as he thought of the girl in the train he said quietly:
"She does not look like a Frenchwoman."
As if a German could say what is French and what is not.
French or not, she filled his thoughts; for he woke in the middle of the night with a pang200: he had just remembered the valise on the seat by the girl's side; and suddenly the idea that she had gone forever crossed his mind. The idea must have come to him at the time, but he had not thought of it. It filled him with a strange sadness. He shrugged201 his shoulders.
"What does it matter to me?" he said. "It is not my affair."
He went to sleep.
But next day the first person he met when he went out was Mannheim, who called him "Blücher," and asked him if he had made up his mind to conquer all France. From the garrulous202 newsmonger he learned that the story of the box had had a success exceeding all Mannheim's expectations.
"Thanks to you! Thanks to you!" cried Mannheim. "You are a great man. I am nothing compared with you."
"What have I done?" said Christophe.
"You are wonderful!" Mannheim replied. "I am jealous of you. To shut the box in the Grünebaums' faces, and then to ask the French governess instead of them—no, that takes the cake! I should never have thought of that!"
"She was the Grünebaums' governess?" said Christophe in amazement203.
"Yes. Pretend you don't know, pretend to be innocent. You'd better!… My father is beside himself. The Grünebaums are in a rage!… It was not for long: they have sacked the girl."
"What!" cried Christophe. "They have dismissed her? Dismissed her because of me?"
"Didn't you know?" said Mannheim. "Didn't she tell you?"
Christophe was in despair.
"You mustn't be angry, old man," said Mannheim. "It does not matter.
Besides, one had only to expect that the Grünebaums would find out…"
"What?" cried Christophe. "Find out what?"
"That she was your mistress, of course!"
"But I do not even know her. I don't know who she is."
Mannheim smiled, as if to say:
"You take me for a fool."
Christophe lost his temper and bade Mannheim do him the honor of believing what he said. Mannheim said:
"Then it is even more humorous."
Christophe worried about it, and talked of going to the Grünebaums and telling them the facts and justifying204 the girl. Mannheim dissuaded205 him.
"My dear fellow," he said, "anything you may say will only convince them of the contrary. Besides, it is too late. The girl has gone away."
Christophe was utterly206 sick at heart and tried to trace the young Frenchwoman. He wanted to write to her to beg her pardon. But nothing was known of her. He applied207 to the Grünebaums, but they snubbed him. They did not know themselves where she had gone, and they did not care. The idea of the harm he had done in trying to do good tortured Christophe: he was remorseful. But added to his remorse was a mysterious attraction, which shone upon him from the eyes of the woman who was gone. Attraction and remorse both seemed to be blotted208 out, engulfed209 in the flood of the day's new thoughts. But they endured in the depths of his heart. Christophe did not forget the woman whom he called his victim. He had sworn to meet her again. He knew how small were the chances of his ever seeing her again: and he was sure that he would see her again.
As for Corinne, she never answered his letters. But three months later, when he had given up expecting to hear from her, he received a telegram of forty words of utter nonsense, in which she addressed him in little familiar terms, and asked "if they were still fond of each other." Then, after nearly a year's silence, there came a scrappy letter scrawled210 in her enormous childish zigzag211 writing, in which she tried to play the lady,—a few affectionate, droll212 words. And there she left it. She did not forget him, but she had no time to think of him.
Still under the spell of Corinne and full of the ideas they had exchanged about art, Christophe dreamed of writing the music for a play in which Corinne should act and sing a few airs—a sort of poetic melodrama. That form of art once so much in favor in Germany, passionately213 admired by Mozart, and practised by Beethoven, Weber, Mendelssohn and Schumann, and all the great classics, had fallen into discredit214 since the triumph of Wagnerism, which claimed to have realized the definite formula of the theater and music. The Wagnerian pedants215, not content with proscribing216 every new melodrama, busied themselves with dressing up the old melodramas217 and operas. They carefully effaced218 every trace of spoken dialogue and wrote for Mozart, Beethoven, or Weber, recitations in their own manner; they were convinced that they were doing a service to the fame of the masters and filling out their thoughts by the pious219 deposit of their dung upon masterpieces.
Christophe, who had been made more sensible of the heaviness, and often the ugliness, of Wagnerian declamation by Corinne, had for some time been debating whether it was not nonsense and an offense against nature to harness and yoke220 together the spoken word and the word sung in the theater: it was like harnessing a horse and a bird to a cart. Speech and singing each had its rhythm. It was comprehensible that an artist should sacrifice one of the two arts to the triumph of that which he preferred. But to try to find a compromise between them was to sacrifice both: it was to want speech no longer to be speech, and singing no longer to be singing; to want singing to let its vast flood be confined between the banks of monotonous canals, to want speech to cloak its lovely naked limbs with rich, heavy stuffs which must paralyze its gestures and movements. Why not leave both with their spontaneity and freedom of movement? Like a beautiful girl walking tranquilly221, lithely110 along a stream, dreaming as she goes: the gay murmur41 of the water lulls222 her dreams, and unconsciously she brings her steps and her thoughts in tune223 with the song of the stream. So being both free, music and poesy would go side by side, dreaming, their dreams mingling224. Assuredly all music was not good for such a union, nor all poetry. The opponents of melodrama had good ground for attack in the coarseness of the attempts which had been made in that form, and of the interpreters. Christophe had for long shared their dislike: the stupidity of the actors who delivered these recitations spoken to an instrumental accompaniment, without bothering about the accompaniment, without trying to merge225 their voices in it, rather, on the contrary, trying to prevent anything being heard but themselves, was calculated to revolt any musical ear. But since he had tasted the beauty of Corinne's harmonious voice—that liquid and pure voice which played upon music like a ray of light on water, which wedded226 every turn of a melody, which was like the most fluid and most free singing,—he had caught a glimpse of the beauty of a new art.
Perhaps he was right, but he was still too inexperienced to venture without peril227 upon a form which—if it is meant to be beautiful and really artistic—is the most difficult of all. That art especially demands one essential condition, the perfect harmony of the combined efforts of the poet, the musicians, and the actors. Christophe had no tremors228 about it: he hurled230 himself blindly at an unknown art of which the laws were only known to himself.
His first idea had been to clothe in music a fairy fantasy of Shakespeare or an act of the second part of Faust. But the theaters showed little disposition to make the experiment. It would be too costly231 and appeared absurd. They were quite willing to admit Christophe's efficiency in music, but that he should take upon himself to have ideas about poetry and the theater made them smile. They did not take him seriously. The world of music and the world of poesy were like two foreign and secretly hostile states. Christophe had to accept the collaboration232 of a poet to be able to set foot upon poetic territory, and he was not allowed to choose his own poet. He would not have dared to choose himself. He did not trust his taste in poetry. He had been told that he knew nothing about it; and, indeed, he could not understand the poetry which was admired by those about him. With his usual honesty and stubbornness, he had tried hard sometimes to feel the beauty of some of these works, but he had always been bewildered and a little ashamed of himself. No, decidedly he was not a poet. In truth, he loved passionately certain old poets, and that consoled him a little. But no doubt he did not love them as they should be loved. Had he not once expressed, the ridiculous idea that those poets only are great who remain great even when they are translated into prose, and even into the prose of a foreign language, and that words have no value apart from the soul which they express? His friends had laughed at him. Mannheim had called him a goose. He did not try to defend himself. As every day he saw, through the example of writers who talk of music, the absurdity234 of artists who attempt to image any art other than their own, he resigned himself—though a little incredulous at heart—to his incompetence235 in poetry, and he shut his eyes and accepted the judgments236 of those whom he thought were better informed than himself. So he let his friends of the Review impose one of their number on him, a great man of a decadent coterie237, Stephen von Hellmuth, who brought him an Iphigenia. It was at the time when German poets (like their colleagues in France) were recasting all the Greek tragedies. Stephen von Hellmuth's work was one of those astounding238 Græco-German plays in which Ibsen, Homer, and Oscar Wilde are compounded—and, of course, a few manuals of archeology. Agamemnon was neurasthenic and Achilles impotent: they lamented239 their condition at length, and naturally their outcries produced no change. The energy of the drama was concentrated in the rôle of Iphigenia—a nervous, hysterical240, and pedantic241 Iphigenia, who lectured the hero, declaimed furiously, laid bare for the audience her Nietzschian pessimism242 and, glutted243 with death, cut her throat, shrieking244 with laughter.
Nothing could be more contrary to Christophe's mind than such pretentious245, degenerate246, Ostrogothic stuff, in Greek dress. It was hailed as a masterpiece by everybody about him. He was cowardly and was overpersuaded. In truth, he was bursting with music and thinking much more of his music than of the text. The text was a new bed into which to let loose the flood of his passions. He was as far as possible from the state of abnegation and intelligent impersonality247 proper to musical translation of a poetic work. He was thinking only of himself and not at all of the work. He never thought of adapting himself to it. He was under an illusion: he saw in the poem something absolutely different from what was actually in it—just as when he was a child he used to compose in his mind a play entirely different from that which was upon the stage.
It was not until it came to rehearsal that he saw the real play. One day he was listening to a scene, and he thought it so stupid that he fancied the actors must be spoiling it, and went so far as to explain it to them in the poet's presence; but also to explain it to the poet himself, who was defending his interpretation. The author refused bluntly to hear him, and said with some asperity249 that he thought he knew what he had meant to write. Christophe would not give in, and maintained that Hellmuth knew nothing about it. The general merriment told him that he was making himself ridiculous. He said no more, agreeing that after all it was not he who had written the poem. Then he saw the appalling250 emptiness of the play and was overwhelmed by it: he wondered how he could ever have been persuaded to try it. He called himself an idiot and tore his hair. He tried in vain to reassure251 himself by saying: "You know nothing about it; it is not your business. Keep to your music." He was so much ashamed of certain idiotic things in it, of the pretentious pathos252, the crying falsity of the words, the gestures and attitudes, that sometimes, when he was conducting the orchestra, he hardly had the strength to raise his baton253. He wanted to go and hide in the prompter's box. He was too frank and too little politic167 to conceal what he thought. Every one noticed it: his friends, the actors, and the author. Hellmuth said to him with a frigid254 smile:
"Is it not fortunate enough to please you?"
Christophe replied honestly:
"Truth to tell, no. I don't understand it,"
"Then you did not read it when you set it to music?"
"Yes," said Christophe naïvely, "but I made a mistake. I understood it differently."
"It is a pity you did not write what you understood yourself."
"Oh! If only I could have done so!" said Christophe.
The poet was vexed255, and in his turn criticised the music. He complained that it was in the way and prevented his words being heard.
If the poet did not understand the musician, or the musician the poet, the actors understood neither the one nor the other, and did not care. They were only asking for sentences in their parts on which to bring in their usual effects. They had no idea of adapting their declamation to the formality of the piece and the musical rhythm. They went one way, the music another. It was as though they were constantly singing out of tune. Christophe ground his teeth and shouted the note at them until he was hoarse257. They let him shout and went on imperturbably258, not even understanding what he wanted them to do.
Christophe would have flung the whole thing up if the rehearsals260 had not been so far advanced, and he had not been bound to go on by fear of legal proceedings261. Mannheim, to whom he confided his discouragement, laughed at him:
"What is it?" he asked. "It is all going well. You don't understand each other? What does that matter? Who has ever understood his work but the author? It is a toss-up whether he understands it himself!"
Christophe was worried about the stupidity of the poem, which, he said, would ruin the music. Mannheim made no difficulty about admitting that there was no common sense in the poem and that Hellmuth was "a muff," but he would not worry about him: Hellmuth gave good dinners and had a pretty wife. What more did criticism want?
Christophe shrugged his shoulders and said that he had no time to listen to nonsense.
"It is not nonsense!" said Mannheim, laughing. "How serious people are!
They have no idea of what matters in life."
And he advised Christophe not to bother so much about Hellmuth's business, but to attend to his own. He wanted him to advertise a little. Christophe refused indignantly. To a reporter who came and asked for a history of his life, he replied furiously:
"It is not your affair!"
And when they asked for his photograph for a review, he stamped with rage and shouted that he was not, thank God! an emperor, to have his face passed from hand to hand. It was impossible to bring him into touch with influential262 people. He never replied to invitations, and when he had been forced by any chance to accept, he would forget to go or would go with such a bad grace that he seemed to have set himself to be disagreeable to everybody.
But the climax263 came when he quarreled with his review, two days before the performance.
The thing was bound to happen. Mannheim had gone on revising Christophe's articles, and he no longer scrupled264 about deleting whole lines of criticism and replacing them with compliments.
One day, out visiting, Christophe met a certain virtuoso265—a foppish266 pianist whom he had slaughtered267. The man came and thanked him with a smile that showed all his white teeth. He replied brutally269 that there was no reason for it. The other insisted and poured forth expressions of gratitude270. Christophe cut him short by saying, that if he was satisfied with the article that was his affair, but that the article had certainly not been written with a view to pleasing him. And he turned his back on him. The virtuoso thought him a kindly boor271 and went away laughing. But Christophe remembered having received a card of thanks from another of his victims, and a suspicion flashed upon him. He went out, bought the last number of the Review at a news-stand, turned to his article, and read… At first he wondered if he were going mad. Then he understood, and, mad with rage, he ran to the office of the Dionysos.
Waldhaus and Mannheim were there, talking to an actress whom they knew. They had no need to ask Christophe what brought him. Throwing a number of the Review on the table, Christophe let fly at them without stopping to take breath, with extraordinary violence, shouting, calling them rogues272, rascals274, forgers, thumping276 on the floor with a chair. Mannheim began to laugh. Christophe tried to kick him. Mannheim took refuge behind the table and rolled with laughter. But Waldhaus took it very loftily. With dignity, formally, he tried to make himself heard through the row, and said that he would not allow any one to talk to him in such a tone, that Christophe should hear from him, and he held out his card. Christophe flung it in his face.
"Mischief-maker!—I don't need your card to know what you are…. You are a rascal273 and a forger275!… And you think I would fight with you … a thrashing is all you deserve!…"
His voice could be heard in the street. People stopped to listen. Mannheim closed the windows. The actress tried to escape, but Christophe was blocking the way. Waldhaus was pale and choking. Mannheim was stuttering and stammering277 and trying to reply. Christophe did not let them speak. He let loose upon them every expression he could think of, and never stopped until he was out of breath and had come to an end of his insults. Waldhaus and Mannheim only found their tongues after he had gone. Mannheim quickly recovered himself: insults slipped from him like water from a duck's back. But Waldhaus was still sore: his dignity had been outraged278, and what made the affront279 more mortifying280 was that there had been witnesses. He would never forgive it. His colleagues joined chorus with him. Mannheim only of the staff of the Review was not angry with Christophe. He had had his fill of entertainment out of him: it did not seem to him a heavy price to pay for his pound of flesh, to suffer a few violent words. It had been a good joke. If he had been the butt281 of it he would have been the first to laugh. And so he was quite ready to shake hands with Christophe as though nothing had happened. But Christophe was more rancorous and rejected all advances. Mannheim did not care. Christophe was a toy from which he had extracted all the amusement possible. He was beginning to want a new puppet. From that very day all was over between them. But that did not prevent Mannheim still saying, whenever Christophe was mentioned in his presence, that they were intimate friends. And perhaps he thought they were.
Two days after the quarrel the first performance of Iphigenia took place. It was an utter failure. Waldhaus' review praised the poem and made no mention of the music. The other papers and reviews made merry over it. They laughed and hissed. The piece was withdrawn282 after the third performance, but the jokes at its expense did not disappear so quickly. People were only too glad of the opportunity of having a fling at Christophe, and for several weeks the Iphigenia remained an unfailing subject for joking. They knew that Christophe had no weapon of defense284, and they took advantage of it. The only thing which held them back a little was his position at the Court. Although his relation with the Grand Duke had become quite cold, for the Prince had several times made remarks to which he had paid no attention whatever, he still went to the Palace at intervals285, and still enjoyed, in the eye of the public, a sort of official protection, though it was more visionary than real. He took upon himself to destroy even that last support.
He suffered from the criticisms. They were concerned not only with his music, but also with his idea of a new form of art, which the writers did not take the trouble to understand. It was very easy to travesty it and make fun of it. Christophe was not yet wise enough to know that the best reply to dishonest critics is to make none and to go on working. For some months past he had fallen into the bad habit of not letting any unjust attack go unanswered. He wrote an article in which he did not spare certain of his adversaries286. The two papers to which he took it returned it with ironically polite excuses for being unable to publish it. Christophe stuck to his guns. He remembered that the socialist287 paper in the town had made advances to him. He knew one of the editors. They used to meet and talk occasionally. Christophe was glad to find some one who would talk freely about power, the army and oppression and archaic288 prejudices. But they could not go far with each other, for the socialist always came back to Karl Marx, about whom Christophe cared not a rap. Moreover, Christophe used to find in his speeches about the free man—besides a materialism289 which was not much to his taste—a pedantic severity and a despotism of thought, a secret cult40 of force, an inverse290 militarism, all of which did not sound very different from what he heard every day in German.
However, he thought of this man and his paper when he saw all other doors in journalism291 closed to him. He knew that his doing so would cause a scandal. The paper was violent, malignant292, and always being condemned293. But as Christophe never read it, he only thought of the boldness of its ideas, of which he was not afraid, and not of the baseness of its tone, which would have repelled294 him. Besides, he was so angry at seeing the other papers in alliance to suppress him that perhaps he would have gone on even if he had been warned. He wanted to show people that he was not so easily got rid of. So he took his article to the socialist paper, which received it with open arms. The next day the article appeared, and the paper announced in large letters that it had engaged the support of the young and talented maestro, Jean-Christophe Krafft, whose keen sympathy with the demands of the working classes was well known.
Christophe read neither the note nor the article, for he had gone out before dawn for a walk in the country, it being Sunday. He was in fine fettle. As he saw the sun rise he shouted, laughed, yodeled, leaped, and danced. No more review, no more criticisms to do! It was spring and there was once more the music of the heavens and the earth, the most beautiful of all. No more dark concert rooms, stuffy295 and smelly, unpleasant people, dull performers. Now the marvelous song of the murmuring forests was to be heard, and over the fields like waves there passed the intoxicating296 scents297 of life, breaking through the crust of the earth and issuing from the grave.
He went home with his head buzzing with light and music, and his mother gave him a letter which had been brought from the Palace while he was away. The letter was in an impersonal248 form, and told Herr Krafft that he was to go to the Palace that morning. The morning was past, it was nearly one o'clock. Christophe was not put about.
"It is too late now," he said. "It will do to-morrow."
But his mother said anxiously:
"No, no. You cannot put off an appointment with His Highness like that: you must go at once. Perhaps it is a matter of importance."
Christophe shrugged his shoulders.
"Important! As if those people could have anything important to say!… He wants to tell me his ideas about music. That will be funny!… If only he has not taken it into his head to rival Siegfried Meyer [Footnote: A nickname given by German pamphleteers to H.M. (His Majesty298) the Emperor.] and wants to show me a Hymn299 to Aegis300! I vow16 that I will not spare him. I shall say: 'Stick to politics. You are master there. You will always be right. But beware of art! In art you are seen without your plumes302, your helmet, your uniform, your money, your titles, your ancestors, your policemen—and just think for a moment what will be left of you then!'"
Poor Louisa took him quite seriously and raised her hands in horror.
"You won't say that!… You are mad! Mad!"
It amused him to make her uneasy by playing upon her credulity until he became so extravagant that Louisa began to see that he was making fun of her.
"You are stupid, my boy!"
He laughed and kissed her. He was in a wonderfully good humor. On his walk he had found a beautiful musical theme, and he felt it frolicking in him like a fish in water. He refused to go to the Palace until he had had something to eat. He was as hungry as an ape. Louisa then supervised his dressing, for he was beginning to tease her again, pretending that he was quite all right as he was with his old clothes and dusty boots. But he changed them all the same, and cleaned his boots, whistling like a blackbird and imitating all the instruments in an orchestra. When he had finished his mother inspected him and gravely tied his tie for him again. For once in a way he was very patient, because he was pleased with himself—which was not very usual. He went off saying that he was going to elope with Princess Adelaide—the Grand Duke's daughter, quite a pretty woman, who was married to a German princeling and had come to stay with her parents for a few weeks. She had shown sympathy for Christophe when he was a child, and he had a soft side for her. Louisa used to declare that he was in love with her, and he would pretend to be so in fun.
He did not hurry; he dawdled304 and looked into the shops, and stopped to pat some dog that he knew as it lay on its side and yawned in the sun. He jumped over the harmless railings which inclosed the Palace square—a great empty square, surrounded with houses, with two little fountains, two symmetrical bare flower-beds, divided, as by a parting, by a gravel303 path, carefully raked and bordered by orange trees in tubs. In the middle was the bronze statue of some unknown Grand Duke in the costume of Louis Philippe, on a pediment adorned at the four corners by allegorical figures representing the Virtues305. On a seat one solitary306 man was dozing307 over his paper. Behind the silly moat of the earthworks of the Palace two sleepy cannon308 yawned upon the sleepy town. Christophe laughed at the whole thing.
He entered the Palace without troubling to take on a more official manner. At most he stopped humming, but his thoughts went dancing on inside him. He threw his hat on the table in the hall and familiarly greeted the old usher309, whom he had known since he was a child. (The old man had been there on the day when Christophe had first entered the Palace, on the evening when he had seen Hassler.) But to-day the old man, who always used to reply good-humoredly to Christophe's disrespectful sallies, now seemed a little haughty310. Christophe paid no heed311 to it. A little farther on, in the ante-chamber, he met a clerk of the chancery, who was usually full of conversation and very friendly. He was surprised to see him hurry past him to avoid having to talk. However, he did not attach any significance to it, and went on and asked to be shown in.
He went in. They had just finished dinner. His Highness was in one of the drawing-rooms. He was leaning against the mantelpiece, smoking, and talking to his guests, among whom Christophe saw his princess, who was also smoking. She was lying back in an armchair and talkin............
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