SHIPS THAT PASS IN THE NIGHT.
I. A NEW-COMER II. WHICH CONTAINS A FEW DETAILS III. MRS. REFFOLD LEARNS HER LESSON IV. CONCERNING WARLI AND MARIE V. THE DISAGREEABLE MAN VI. THE TRAVELLER AND THE TEMPLE OF KNOWLEDGE VII. BERNARDINE VIII. THE STORY MOVES ON AT LAST IX. BERNARDINE PREACHES X. THE DISAGREEABLE MAN IS SEEN IN A NEW LIGHT XI. "IF ONE HAS MADE THE ONE GREAT SACRIFICE" XII. THE DISAGREEABLE MAN MAKES A LOAN XIII. A DOMESTIC SCENE XIV. CONCERNING THE CARETAKERS XV. WHICH CONTAINS NOTHING XVI. WHEN THE SOUL KNOWS ITS OWN REMORSE XVII. A RETURN TO OLD PASTURES XVIII. A BETROTHAL XIX. SHIPS THAT SPEAK EACH OTHER IN PASSING XX. A LOVE-LETTER
I. THE DUSTING OF THE BOOKS II. BERNARDINE BEGINS HER BOOK III. FAILURE AND SUCCESS: A PROLOGUE IV. THE DISAGREEABLE MAN GIVES UP HIS FREEDOM V. THE BUILDING OF THE BRIDGE
SHIPS THAT PASS IN THE NIGHT.
"YES, indeed," remarked one of the guests at the English table, "yes, indeed, we start life thinking that we shall build a great cathedral, a crowning glory to architecture, and we end by contriving a mud hut!"
"I am glad you think so well of human nature," said the Disagreeable Man, suddenly looking up from the newspaper which he always read during meal- time. "I should be more inclined to say that we end by being content to dig a hole, and get into it, like the earth men."
A silence followed these words; the English community at that end of the table was struck with astonishment at hearing the Disagreeable Man speak. The few sentences he had spoken during the last four years at Petershof were on record; this was decidedly the longest of them all.
"He is going to speak again," whispered beautiful Mrs. Reffold to her neighbour.
The Disagreeable Man once more looked up from his newspaper.
"Please, pass me the Yorkshire relish," he said in his rough way to a sitting next to him.
The spell was broken, and the conversation started afresh. But the girl who had passed the Yorkshire relish sat silent and listless, her food untouched, and her wine untasted. She was small and thin; her face looked haggard. She was a new-comer, and had, indeed, arrived at Petershof only two hours before the table-d'hote bell rang. But there did not seem to be any nervous shrinking in her manner, nor any shyness at having to face the two hundred and fifty guests of the Kurhaus. She seemed rather to be unaware of their presence; or, if aware of, certainly indifferent to the scrutiny under which she was being placed. She was recalled to reality by the voice of the Disagreeable Man. She did not hear what he said, but she mechanically stretched out her hand and passed him the mustard-pot.
"Is that what you asked for?" she said half dreamily; "or was it the water-bottle?"
"You are rather deaf, I should think," said the Disagreeable Man placidly. "I only remarked that it was a pity you were not eating your dinner. Perhaps the scrutiny of the two hundred and fifty guests in this civilized place is a vexation to you."
"I did not know they were scrutinizing," she answered; "and even if they are, what does it matter to me? I am sure I am quite too tired to care."
"Why have you come here?" asked the Disagreeable Man suddenly.
"Probably for the same reason as yourself," she said; "to get better or well."
"You won't get better," he answered cruelly; "I know your type well; you burn yourselves out quickly. And—my God—how I envy you!"
"So you have pronounced my doom," she said, looking at him intently. Then she laughed but there was no merriment in the laughter.
"Listen," she said, as she bent nearer to him; "because you are hopeless, it does not follow that you should try to make others hopeless too. You have drunk deep of the cup of poison; I can see that. To hand the cup on to others is the part of a coward."
She walked past the English table, and the Polish table, and so out of the Kurhaus dining-hall.
CONTAINS A FEW DETAILS.
IN an old second-hand bookshop in London, an old man sat reading Gibbon's History of Rome. He did not put down his book when the postman brought him a letter. He just glanced indifferently at the letter, and impatiently at the postman. Zerviah Holme did not like to be interrupted when he was reading Gibbon; and as he was always reading Gibbon, an interruption was always regarded by him as an insult.
About two hours afterwards, he opened the letter, and learnt that his niece, Bernardine, had arrived safely in Petershof, and that she intended to get better and come home strong. He tore up the letter, and instinctively turned to the photograph on the mantelpiece. It was the picture of a face young and yet old, sad and yet with possibilities of merriment, thin and drawn and almost wrinkled, and with piercing eyes which, even in the dull lifelessness of the photograph, seemed to be burning themselves away. Not a pleasing nor a good face; yet intensely pathetic because of its undisguised harassment.
Zerviah looked at it for a moment.
"She has never been much to either of us," he said to himself. "And yet, when Malvina was alive, I used to think that she was hard on Bernardine. I believe I said so once or twice. But Malvina had her own way of looking at things. Well, that is over now."
He then, with characteristic speed, dismissed all thoughts which did not relate to Roman History; and the remembrance of Malvina, his wife, and Bernardine, his niece, took up an accustomed position in the background of his mind.
Bernardine had suffered a cheerless childhood in which dolls and toys took no leading part. She had no affection to bestow on any doll, nor any woolly lamb, nor apparently on any human person; unless, perhaps, there was the possibility of a friendly inclination towards Uncle Zerviah, who would not have understood the value of any deeper feeling, and did not therefore call the child cold-hearted and unresponsive, as he might well have done.
This she certainly was, judged by the standard of other children; but then no softening influences had been at work during her tenderest years. Aunt Malvina knew as much about sympathy as she did about the properties of an ellipse; and even the fairies had failed to win little Bernardine. At first they tried with loving patience what they might do for her; they came out of their books, and danced and sang to her, and whispered sweet stories to her, at twilight, the fairies' own time. But she would have none of them, for all their gentle persuasion. So they gave up trying to please her, and left her as they had found her, loveless. What can be said of a childhood which even the fairies have failed to touch with the warm glow of affection?
Such a little restless spirit, striving to express itself now in this direction, now in that; yet always actuated by the same constant force, the desire for work. Bernardine seemed to have no special wish to be useful to others; she seemed just to have a natural tendency to work, even as others have a natural tendency to play. She was always in earnest; life for little Bernardine meant something serious.
Then the years went by. She grew up and filled her life with many interests and ambitions. She was at least a worker, if nothing else; she had always been a diligent scholar, and now she took her place as an able teacher. She was self-reliant, and, perhaps, somewhat conceited. But, at least, Bernardine the young woman had learnt something which Bernardine the young child had not been able to learn: she learnt how to smile. It took her, about six and twenty years to learn; still, some people take longer than that; in fact, many never learn. This is a brief summary of Bernardine Holme's past.
Then, one day, when she was in the full swing of her many engrossing occupations: teaching, writing articles for newspapers, attending socialistic meetings, and taking part in political discussions—she was essentially a modern product, this Bernardine—one day she fell ill. She lingered in London for some time, and then she went to Petershof.
MRS. REFFOLD LEARNS A LESSON.
PETERSHOF was a winter resort for consumptive patients, though, indeed, many people simply needed the change of a bracing climate went there to spend a few months; and came, away wonderfully better for the mountain air. This was what Bernardine Holme hoped to do; she was broken down in every way, but it was thought that a prolonged stay in Petershof might help her back to a reasonable amount of health, or, at least, prevent her from slipping into further decline. She had come alone, because she had no relations except that old uncle, and no money to pay any friend who might have been willing to come with her. But she probably cared very little, and the morning after her arrival, she strolled out by herself, investigating the place where she was about to spend six months. She was dragging herself along, when she met the Disagreeable Man. She stopped him. He was not accustomed to be stopped by any one, and he looked rather astonished.
"You were not very cheering last night," she said to him.
"I believe I am not generally considered to be lively," he answered, as he knocked the snow of his boot.
"Still, I am sorry I spoke to you as I did," she went on frankly. "It was foolish of me to mind what you said."
He made no reference to his own remark, and passing on his way again, when he turned back and walked with her.
"I have been here nearly seven years," he said and there was a ring of sadness in his voice as he spoke, which he immediately corrected. "If you want to know anything about the place, I can tell you. If you are able to walk, I can show you some lovely spots, where you will not be bothered with people. I can take you to a snow fairy-land. If you are sad and disappointed, you will find shining comfort there. It is not all sadness in Petershof. In the silent snow forests, if you dig the snow away, you will find the tiny buds nestling in their white nursery. If the sun does not dazzle your eyes, you may always see the great mountains piercing the sky. These wonders have been a happiness to me. You are not too ill but that they may be a happiness to you also."
"Nothing can be much of a happiness to me," she said, half to herself, and her lips quivered. "I have had to give up so much: all my work, all my ambitions."
"You are not the only one who has had to do that," he said sharply. "Why make a fuss? Things arrange themselves, and eventually we adjust ourselves to the new arrangement. A great deal of caring and grieving, phase one; still more caring and grieving, phase two; less caring and grieving, phase three; no further feeling whatsoever, phase four. Mercifully I am at phase four. You are at phase one. Make a quick journey over the stages."
He turned and left her, and she strolled along, thinking of his words, wondering how long it would take her to arrive at his indifference. She had always looked upon indifference as paralysis of the soul, and paralysis meant death, nay, was worse than death. And here was this man, who had obviously suffered both mentally and physically, telling her that the only sensible course was to learn not to care. How could she learn not to care? All her life long she had studied and worked and cultivated herself in every direction in the hope of being able to take a high place in literature, or, in any case, to do something in life distinctly better than what other people did. When everything was coming near to her grasp, when there seemed a fair chance of realizing her ambitions, she had suddenly fallen ill, broken up so entirely in every way, that those who knew her when she was well, could scarcely recognize her now that she was ill. The doctors spoke of an overstrained nervous system: the pestilence of these modern days; they spoke of rest, change of work and scene, bracing air. She might regain her vitality; she might not. Those who had played themselves out must pay the penalty. She was thinking of her whole history, pitying herself profoundly, coming to the conclusion, after true human fashion, that she was the worst-used person on earth, and that no one but herself knew what disappointed ambitions were; she was thinking of all this, and looking profoundly miserable and martyr-like, when some one called her by her name. She looked round and saw one of the English ladies belonging to the Kurhaus; Bernardine had noticed her the previous night. She seemed in capital spirits, and had three or four admirers waiting on her very words. She was a tall, handsome woman, dressed in a superb fur-trimmed cloak, a woman of splendid bearing and address. Bernardine looked a contemptible little piece of humanity beside her. Some such impression conveyed itself to the two men who were walking with Mrs. Reffold. They looked at the one woman, and then at the other, and smiled at each other, as men do smile on such occasions.
"I am going to speak to this little thing," Mrs. Reffold had said to her two companions before they came near Bernardine. "I must find out who she is, and where she comes from. And, fancy, she has come quite alone. I have inquired. How hopelessly out of fashion she dresses. And what a hat!"
"I should not take the trouble to speak to her," said one of the men. "She may fasten herself on to you. You know what a bore that is."
"Oh, I can easily snub any one if I wish," replied Mrs. Reffold, rather disdainfully.
So she hastened up to Bernardine, and held out her well-gloved hand.
"I had not a chance of speaking to you last night, Miss Holme," she said. "You retired so early. I hope you have rested after your journey. You seemed quite worn out."
"Thank you," said Bernardine, looking admiringly at the beautiful woman, and envying her, just as all plain women envy their handsome sisters.
"You are not alone, I suppose?" continued Mrs. Reffold.
"Yes, quite alone," answered Bernardine.
"But you are evidently acquainted with Mr. Allitsen, your neighbour at table," said Mrs. Reffold; "so you will not feel quite lonely here. It is a great advantage to have a friend at a place like this."
"I never saw him before last night," said Bernardine.
"Is it possible?" said Mrs. Reffold, in her pleasantest voice. "Then you have made a triumph of the Disagreeable Man. He very rarely deigns to talk with any of us. He does not even appear to see us. He sits quietly and reads. It would be interesting to hear what his conversation is like. I should be quite amused to know what you did talk about."
"I dare say you would," said Bernardine quietly.
Then Mrs. Behold, wishing to screen her inquisitiveness, plunged into a description of Petershof life, speaking enthusiastically about everything, except the scenery, which she did not mention. After a time she ventured to begin once more taking soundings. But some how or other, those bright eyes of Bernardine, which looked at her so searchingly, made her a little nervous, and, perhaps, a little indiscreet.
"Your father will miss you," she said tentatively.
"I should think probably not," answered Bernardine. "One is not easily missed, you know." There was a twinkle in Bernardine's eye as she added, "He is probably occupied with other things!"
"What is your father?" asked Mrs. Reffold, in her most coaxing tones.
"I don't know what he is now," answered Bernardine placidly. "But he was a genius. He is dead."
Mrs. Reffold gave a slight start, for she began to feel that this insignificant little person was making fun of her. This would never do, and before witnesses too. So she gathered together her best resources and said:
"Dear me, how very unfortunate: a genius too. Death is indeed cruel. And here one sees so much of it, that unless one learns to steel one's heart, one becomes melancholy. Ah, it is indeed sad to see all this suffering!" (Mrs Reffold herself had quite succeeded in steeling her heart against her own invalid husband.) She then gave an account of several bad cases of consumption, not forgetting to mention two instances of suicide which had lately taken place in Petershof.
"One gentleman was a Russian," she said. "Fancy coming all the way, from Russia to this little out-of-the-world place! But people come from the uttermost ends of the earth, though of course there are many Londoners here. I suppose you are from London?"
"I am not living in London now," said Bernardine cautiously.
"But you know it, without doubt," continued Mrs. Reffold. "There are several Kensington people here. You may meet some friends: indeed in our hotel there are two or three families from Lexham Gardens."
Bernardine smiled a little viciously; looked first at Mrs. Reffold's two companions with an amused sort of indulgence, and then at the lady herself She paused a moment, and then said:
"Have you asked all the questions you wish to ask? And, if so, may I ask one of you. Where does one get the best tea?"
Mrs. Reffold gave an inward gasp, but pointed gracefully to a small confectionery shop on the other side of the road. Mrs. Reffold did everything gracefully.
Bernardine thanked her, crossed the road, and passed into the shop.
"Now I have taught her a lesson not to interfere with me," said Bernardine to herself. "How beautiful she is."
Mrs. Reffold and her two companions went silently on their way. At last the silence was broken.
"Well, I'm blessed!" said the taller of the two, lighting a cigar.
"So am I," said the other, lighting his cigar too.
"Those are precisely my own feelings," remarked Mrs. Reffold.
But she had learnt her lesson.
CONCERNING WAeRLI AND MARIE.
WAeRLI, the little hunchback postman, a cheery soul, came whistling up the Kurhaus stairs, carrying with him that precious parcel of registered letters, which gave him the position of being the most important person in Petershof. He was a linguist, too, was Waerli, and could speak broken English in a most fascinating way, agreeable to every one, but intelligible only to himself. Well, he came whistling up the stairs when he heard Marie's blithe voice humming her favourite spinning-song.
"Ei, Ei!" he said to himself; "Marie is in a good temper to-day. I will give her a call as I pass."
He arranged his neckerchief and smoothed his curls; and when he reached the end of the landing, he paused outside a little glass-door, and, all unobserved, watched Marie in her pantry cleaning the candlesticks and lamps.
Marie heard a knock, and, looking up from her work, saw Waerli.
"Good day, Waerli," she said, glancing hurriedly at a tiny broken mirror suspended on the wall. "I suppose you have a letter for me. How delightful!"
"Never mind about the letter just now," he said, waving his hand as though wishing to dismiss the subject. "How nice to hear you singing so sweetly, Marie! Dear me, in the old days at Gruesch, how often I have heard that song of the spinning-wheels. You have forgotten the old days, Marie, though you remember the song."
"Give me my letter, Waerli, and go about your work," said Marie, pretending to be impatient. But all the same her eyes looked extremely friendly. There was something very winning about the hunchback's face.
"Ah, ah! Marie," he said, shaking his curly head; "I know how it is with you: you only like people in fine binding. They have not always fine hearts."
"What nonsense you talk Waerli!" said Marie "There, just hand me the oil-can. You can fill this lamp for me. Not too full, you goose! And this one also, ah, you're letting the oil trickle down! Why, you're not fit for anything except carrying letters! Here, give me my letter."
"What pretty flowers," said Waerli. "Now if there is one thing I do like, it is a flower. Can you spare me one, Marie? Put one in my button-hole, do!"
"You are a nuisance this afternoon," said Marie, smiling and pinning a flower on Waerli's blue coat. Just then a bell rang violently.
"Those Portuguese ladies will drive me quite mad," said Marie. "They always ring just when I am enjoying myself?"
"When you, an enjoying yourself!" said Waerli triumphantly.
"Of course," returned Marie; "I always do enjoy cleaning the oil-lamps; I always did!"
"Ah, I'd forgotten the oil-lamps!" said Waerli.
"And so had I!" laughed Marie. "Na, na, there goes that bell again! Won't they be angry! Won't they scold at me! Here, Waerli, give me my letter, and I'll be off."
"I never told you I had any letter for you," remarked Waerli. "It was entirely your own idea. Good afternoon, Fraeulein Marie."
The Portuguese ladies' bell rang again, still more passionately this time; but Marie did not seem to hear nor care. She wished to be revenged on that impudent postman. She went to the top of the stairs and called after Waerli in her most coaxing tones:
"Do step down one moment; I want to show you something!"
"I must deliver the registered letters," said Waerli, with official haughtiness. "I have already wasted too much of my time."
"Won't you waste a few more minutes on me?" pleaded Marie pathetically. "It is not often I see you now."
Waerli came down again, looking very happy.
"I want to show you such a beautiful photograph I've had taken," said Marie. "Ach, it is beautiful!"
"You must give one to me," said Waerli eagerly.
"Oh, I can't do that," replied Marie, as she opened the drawer and took out a small packet. "It was a present to me from the Polish gentleman himself. He saw me the other day here in the pantry. I was so tired, and I had fallen asleep with my broom, just as you see me here. So he made a photograph of me. He admires me very much. Isn't it nice? and isn't the Polish gentleman clever? and isn't it nice to have so much attention paid to one? Oh, there's that horrid bell again! Good afternoon, Herr Waerli. That is all I have to say to you, thank you."
Waerli's feelings towards the Polish gentleman were not of the friendliest that day.
THE DISAGREEABLE MAN.
ROBERT ALLITSEN told Bernardine that she was not likely to be on friendly terms with the English people in the Kurhaus.
"They will not care about you, and you will not care about the foreigners. So you will thus be thrown on your own resources, just as I was when I came."
"I cannot say that I have any resources," Bernardine answered. "I don't feel well enough to try to do any writing, or else it would be delightful to have the uninterrupted leisure."
So she had probably told him a little about her life and occupation; although it was not likely that she would have given him any serious confidences. Still, people are often surprisingly frank about themselves, even those who pride themselves upon being the most reticent mortals in the world.
"But now, having the leisure," she continued, "I have not the brains!"
"I never knew any writer who had," said the Disagreeable Man grimly.
"Perhaps your experience has been limited," she suggested.
"Why don't you read?" he said. "There is a good library here. It contains all the books we don't want to read."
"I am tired of reading," Bernardine said. "I seem to have been reading all my life. My uncle, with whom I live, keeps, a second-hand book-shop, and ever since I can remember, I have been surrounded by books. They have not done me much good, nor any one else either."
"No, probably not," he said. "But now that you have left off reading, you will have a chance of learning something, if you live long enough. It is wonderful how much one does learn when one does not read. It is almost awful. If you don't care about reading now, why do you not occupy yourself with cheese-mites?"
"I do not feel drawn towards cheese-mites."
"Perhaps not, at first; but all the same they form a subject which is very engaging. Or any branch of bacteriology."
"Well, if you were to lend me your microscope, perhaps I might begin."
"I could not do that," he answered quickly. "I never lend my things."
"No, I did not suppose you would," she said. "I knew I was safe in making the suggestion."
"You are rather quick of perception in spite of all your book reading," he said. "Yes, you are quite right. I am selfish. I dislike lending my things, and I dislike spending my money except on myself. If you have the misfortune to linger on as I do you will know that it is perfectly legitimate to be selfish in small things, if one has made the one great sacrifice."
"And what may that be?"
She asked so eagerly that he looked at her, and then saw how worn and tired, her face was; and the words which he was intending to speak, died on his lips.
"Look at those asses of people on toboggans," he said brusquely. "Could you manage to enjoy yourself in that way? That might do you good."
"Yes," she said; "but it would not be any pleasure to me."
She stopped to watch the toboggans flying down the road. And the Disagreeable Man went his own solitary way, a forlorn figure, with a face almost expressionless, and a manner wholly impenetrable.
He had lived nearly seven years at Petershof, and, like many others was obliged to continue staying there if he wished to continue staying in this planet. It was not probable that he had any wish to prolong his frail existence, but he did his duty to his mother by conserving his life; and this feeble flame of duty and affection was the only lingering bit of warmth in a heart frozen almost by ill health and disappointed ambitions. The moralists tell us that suffering ennobles, and that a right acceptation of hindrances goes towards forming a beautiful character. But this result must largely depend on the original character: certainly, in the case of Robert Allitsen, suffering had not ennobled his mind, nor disappointment sweetened his disposition. His title of "Disagreeable Man" had been fairly earned, and he hugged it to himself with a triumphant secret satisfaction.
There were some people in Petershof who were inclined to believe certain absurd rumours about his alleged kindness. It was said that on more than one occasion he had nursed the suffering and the dying in sad Petershof, and, with all the sorrowful tenderness worthy of a loving mother, had helped them to take their leave of life. But these were only rumours, and there was nothing in Robert Allitsen's ordinary bearing to justify such talk. So the foolish people who, for the sake of making themselves peculiar, revived these unlikely fictions, were speedily ridiculed and reduced to silence. And the Disagreeable Man remained the Disagreeable Man, with a clean record for unamiability.
He lived a life apart from others. Most of his time was occupied in photography, or in the use and study of the microscope, or in chemistry. His photographs were considered to be most beautiful. Not that he showed them specially to any one; but he generally sent a specimen of his work to the Monthly Photograph Portfolio, and hence it was that people learned to know of his skill. He might be seen any fine day trudging along in company with his photographic apparatus, and a desolate dog, who looked almost as cheerless as his chosen comrade. Neither the one took any notice of the other; Allitsen was no more genial to the dog than he was to the Kurhaus guests; the dog was no more demonstrative to Robert Allitsen than he was to any one in Petershof.
Still, they were "something" to each other, that unexplainable "something" which has to explain almost every kind of attachment.
He had no friends in Petershof, and apparently had no friends anywhere. No one wrote to him, except his old mother; the papers which were sent to him came from a stationer's.
He read all during meal-time. But now and again he spoke a few words with Bernardine Holme, whose place was next to him. It never occurred to him to say good morning, nor to give a greeting of any kind, nor to show a courtesy. One day during lunch, however, he did take the trouble to stoop and pick up Bernardine Holme's shawl, which had fallen for the third time to the ground.
"I never saw a female wear a shawl more carelessly than you," he said. "You don't seem to know anything about it."
His manner was always gruff. Every one complained of him. Every one always had complained of him. He had never been heard to laugh. Once or twice he had been seen to smile on occasions when people talked confidently of recovering their health. It was a beautiful smile worthy of a better cause. It was a smile which made one pause to wonder what could have been the original disposition of the Disagreeable Man before ill-health had cut him off from the affairs of active life. Was he happy or unhappy? It was not known. He gave no sign of either the one state or the other. He always looked very ill, but he did not seem to get worse. He had never been known to make the faintest allusion to his own health. He never "smoked" his thermometer in public; and this was the more remarkable in an hotel where people would even leave off a conversation and say: "Excuse me, Sir or Madam, I must now take my temperature. We will resume the topic in a few minutes."
He never lent any papers or books, and he never borrowed any.
He had a room at the top of the hotel, and he lived his life, amongst his chemistry bottles, his scientific books, his microscope, and his camera. He never sat in any of the hotel drawing-rooms. There was nothing striking nor eccentric about his appearance. He was neither ugly nor good-looking, neither tall nor short, neither fair nor dark. He was thin and frail, and rather bent. But that might be the description of any one in Petershof. There was nothing pathetic about him, no suggestion even of poetry, which gives a reverence to suffering, whether mental or physical. As there was no expression on his face, so also there was no expression in his eyes: no distant longing, no far-off fixedness; nothing, indeed, to awaken sad sympathy.
The only positive thing about him was his rudeness. Was it natural or cultivated? No one in Petershof could say. He had always been as he was; and there was no reason to suppose that he would ever be different.
He was, in fact, like the glacier of which he had such a fine view from his room; like the glacier, an unchanging feature of the neighbourhood.
No one loved it better than the Disagreeable Man did; he watched the sunlight on it, now pale golden, now fiery red. He loved the sky, the dull grey, or the bright blue. He loved the snow forests, and the snow-girt streams, and the ice cathedrals, and the great firs patient beneath their snow-burden. He loved the frozen waterfalls, and the costly diamonds in the snow. He knew, too, where the flowers nestled in their white nursery. He was, indeed, an authority on Alpine botany. The same tender hands which plucked the flowers in the spring-time, dissected them and laid them bare beneath the microscope. But he did not love them the less for that.
Were these pursuits a comfort to him? Did they help him to forget that there was a time when he, too, was burning with ambition to distinguish himself, and be one of the marked men of the age?
Who could say?
THE TRAVELLER AND THE TEMPLE OF KNOWLEDGE.
COUNTLESS ages ago a Traveller, much worn with journeying, climbed up the last bit of rough road which led to the summit of a high mountain. There was a temple on that mountain. And the Traveller had vowed that he would reach it before death prevented him. He knew the journey was long, and the road rough. He knew that the mountain was the most difficult of ascent of that mountain chain, called "The Ideals." But he had a strongly-hoping heart and a sure foot. He lost all sense of time, but he never lost the feeling of hope.
"Even if I faint by the way-side," he said to himself, "and am not able to reach the summit, still it is something to be on the road which leads to the High Ideals."
That was how he comforted himself when he was weary. He never lost more hope than that; and surely that was little enough.
And now he had reached the temple.
He rang the bell, and an old white-haired man opened the gate. He smiled sadly when he saw the Traveller.
"And yet another one," he murmured. "What does it all mean?"
The Traveller did not hear what he murmured.
"Old white-haired man," he said, "tell me; and so I have come at last to the wonderful Temple of Knowledge. I have been journeying hither all my life. Ah, but it is hard work climbing up to the Ideals."
The old man touched the Traveller on the arm. "Listen," he said gently. "This is not the Temple of Knowledge. And the Ideals are not a chain of mountains; they are a stretch of plains, and the Temple of Knowledge is in their centre. You have come the wrong road. Alas, poor Traveller!"
The light in the Traveller's eyes had faded. The hope in his heart died. And he became old and withered. He leaned heavily on his staff.
"Can one rest here?" he asked wearily.
"Is there a way down the other side of these mountains?"
"What are these mountains called?"
"They have no name."
"And the temple—how do you call the temple?"
"It has no name!"
"Then I call it the Temple of Broken Hearts," said the Traveller.
And he turned and went. But the old white-haired man followed him.
"Brother," he said, "you are not the first to come here, but you may be the last. Go back to the plains, and tell the dwellers in the plains that the Temple of True Knowledge is in their very midst; any one may enter it who chooses, the gate is not even closed. The Temple has always been in the plains, in the very heart of life, and work, and daily effort. The philosopher may enter, the stone-breaker may enter. You must have passed it every day of your life; a plain, venerable building, unlike your glorious cathedrals."
"I have seen the children playing near it," said the Traveller. "When I was a, child I used to play there. Ah, if I had only known! Well, the past is the past."
He would have rested against a huge stone, but that the old white-haired man prevented him.
"Do not rest," he said. "If you once rest there, you will not rise again. When you once rest, you will know how weary you are."
"I have no wish to go farther," said the Traveller. "My journey is done; it may have been in the wrong direction, but still it is done."
"Nay, do not linger here," urged the old man. "Retrace your steps. Though you are broken-hearted yourself, you may save others from breaking their hearts. Those whom you meet on this road, you can turn back. Those who are but starting in this direction you can bid pause and consider how mad it is to suppose that the Temple of True Knowledge should have been built on an isolated and dangerous mountain. Tell them that although God seems hard, He is not as hard as all that. Tell them that the Ideals are not a mountain range, but their own plains, where their great cities are built, and where the corn grows, and where men and women are toiling, sometimes in sorrow and sometimes in joy."
"I will go," said the Traveller.
And he started.
But he had grown old and weary. And the journey was long; and the retracing of one's steps is more toilsome than the tracing of them. The ascent, with all the vigour and hope of life to help him, had been difficult enough; the descent, with no vigour and no hope to help him, was almost impossible.
So that it was not probable that the Traveller lived to reach the plains. But whether he reached them or not, still he had started And not many Travellers do that.
THE crisp mountain air and the warm sunshine began slowly to have their effect on Bernardine, in spite of the Disagreeable Man's verdict. She still looked singularly lifeless, and appeared to drag herself about with painful effort; but the place suited her, and she enjoyed sitting in the sun listening to the music which was played by a scratchy string band. Some of the Kurhaus guests, seeing that she was alone and ailing, made some attempts to be kindly to her. She always seemed astonished that people should concern themselves about her; whatever her faults were, it never struck her that she might be of any importance to others, however important she might be to herself. She was grateful for any little kindness which was shewn her; but at first she kept very much to herself, talking chiefly with the Disagreeable Man, who, by the way, had surprised every one—but no one more than himself—by his unwonted behaviour in bestowing even a fraction of his companionship on a Petershof human being.
There was a great deal of curiosity about her, but no one ventured to question her since Mrs. Reffold's defeat. Mrs. Reffold herself rather avoided her, having always a vague suspicion that Bernardine tried to make fun of her. But whether out of perversity or not, Bernardine never would be avoided by her, never let her pass by without a: few words of conversation, and always went to her for information, much to the amusement of Mrs. Reffold's faithful attendants. There was always a twinkle in Bernardine's eye when she spoke with Mrs. Reffold. She never fastened herself on to any one; no one could say she intruded. As time went, on there was a vague sort of feeling that she did not intrude enough. She was ready to speak if any one cared to speak with her, but she never began a conversation except with Mrs. Reffold. When people did talk to her, they found her genial. Then the sad face would smile kindly, and the sad eyes speak kind sympathy. Or some bit of fun would flash forth, and a peal of young laughter ring out. It seemed strange that such fun could come from her.
Those who noticed her, said she appeared always to be thinking.
She was thinking and learning.
Some few remarks roughly made by the Disagreeable Man had impressed her deeply.
"You have come to a new world," he said, "the world of suffering. You are in a fury because your career has been checked, and because you have been put on the shelf; you, of all people. Now you will learn how many quite as able as yourself, and abler, have been put on the shelf too, and have to stay there. You are only a pupil in suffering. What about the professors? If your wonderful wisdom has left you with any sense at all, look about you and learn."
So she was looking, and thinking, and learning. And as the days went by, perhaps a softer light came into her eyes.
All her life long, her standard of judging people had been an intellectual standard, or an artistic standard: what people had done with outward and visible signs; how far they had contributed to thought; how far they had influenced any great movement, or originated it; how much of a benefit they had been to their century or their country; how much social or political activity, how much educational energy they had devoted to the pressing need of the times.
She was undoubtedly a clever, cultured young woman; the great work of her life had been self-culture. To know and understand, she had spared neither herself nor any one else. To know, and to use her acquired knowledge intellectually as teacher and, perhaps, too, as writer, had been the great aim of her life. Everything that furthered this aim won her instant attention. It never struck her that she was selfish. One does not think of that until the great check comes. One goes on, and would go on. But a barrier rises up. Then, finding one can advance no further, one turns round; and what does one see?
Bernardine saw that she had come a long journey. She saw what the Traveller saw. That was all she saw at first. Then she remembered that she had done the journey entirely for her own sake. Perhaps it might not have looked so dreary if it had been undertaken for some one else.
She had claimed nothing of any one; she had given nothing to any one. She had simply taken her life in her own hands and made what she could of it. What had she made of it?
Many women asked for riches, for position, for influence and authority and admiration. She had only asked to be able to work. It seemed little enough to ask. That she asked so little placed her, so she thought, apart from the common herd of eager askers. To be cut off from active life and earnest work was a possibility which never occurred to her.
It never crossed her mind that in asking for the one thing for which she longed, she was really asking for the greatest thing. Now, in the hour of her enfeeblement, and in the hour of the bitterness of her heart, she still prided herself upon wanting so little.
"It seems so little to ask," she cried to herself time after time. "I only want to be able to do a few strokes of work. I would be content now to do so little, if only I might do some. The laziest day-labourer on the road would laugh at the small amount of work which would content me now."
She told the Disagreeable Man that one day.
"So you think you are moderate in your demands," he said to her. "You are a most amusing young woman. You are so perfectly unconscious how exacting you really are. For, after all, what is it you want? You want to have that wonderful brain of yours restored, so that you may begin to teach, and, perhaps, write a book. Well, to repeat my former words: you are still at phase one, and you are longing to be strong enough to fulfil your ambitions and write a book. When you arrive at I phase four, you will be quite content to dust one of your uncle's books instead: far more useful work and far more worthy of encouragement. If every one who wrote books now would be satisfied to dust books already written, what a regenerated world it would become!"
She laughed good-temperedly. His remarks did not vex her; or, at least, she showed no vexation. He seemed to have constituted himself as her critic, and she made no objections. She had given him little bits of stray confidence about herself, and she received everything he had to say with that kind of forbearance which chivalry bids us show to the weak and ailing. She made allowances for him; but she did more than that for him: she did not let him see that she made allowances. Moreover, she recognized amidst all his roughness a certain kind of sympathy which she could not resent, because it was not aggressive. For to some natures the expression of sympathy is an irritation; to be sympathized with means to be pitied, and to be pitied means to be looked down upon. She was sorry for him, but she would not have told him so for worlds; he would have shrunk from pity as much as she did. And yet the sympathy which she thought she did not want for herself, she was silently giving to those around her, like herself, thwarted, each in a different way perhaps, still thwarted all the same.
She found more than once that she was learning to measure people by a standard different from her former one; not by what they had done or been, but by what they had suffered. But such a change as this does not come suddenly, though, in a place like Petershof, it comes quickly, almost unconsciously.
She became immensely interested in some of the guests; and there were curious types in the Kurhaus. The foreigners attracted her chiefly; a little Parisian danseuse, none too quiet in her manner, won Bernardine's fancy.
"I so want to get better, cherie," she said to Bernardine. "Life is so bright. Death: ah, how the very thought makes one shiver! That horrid doctor says I must not skate; it is not wise. When was I wise? Wise people don't enjoy themselves. And I have enjoyed myself, and will still."
"How can you go about with that little danseuse?" the Disagreeable Man said to Bernardine one day. "Do you know who she is?"
"Yes," said Bernardine; "she is the lady who thinks you must be a very ill-bred person because you stalk into meals, with your hands in your pockets. She wondered how I could bring myself to speak to you."
"I dare say many people wonder at that," said Robert Allitsen rather peevishly.
"Oh no," replied Bernardine; "they wonder that you talk to me. They think I must either be very clever or else very disagreeable."
"I should not call you clever," said Robert Allitsen grimly.
"No," answered Bernardine pensively. "But I always did think myself clever until I came here. Now I am beginning to know better. But it is rather a shock, isn't it?"
"I have never experienced the shock," he said.
"Then you still think you are clever?" she asked.
"There is only one man my intellectual equal in Petershof, and he is not here any more," he said gravely. "Now I come to remember, he died. That is the worst of making friendships here; people die."
"Still, it is something to be left king of the intellectual world," said Bernardine. "I never thought of you in that light."
There was a sly smile about, her lips as she spoke, and there was the ghost of a smile on the Disagreeable Man's face.
"Why do you talk with that horrid Swede?" he said suddenly. "He is a wretched low foreigner. Have you heard some of his views?"
"Some of them," answered Bernardine cheerfully. "One of his views is really amusing: that it is very rude of you to read the newspaper during meal-time; and he asks if it is an English custom. I tell him it depends entirely on the Englishman, and the Englishman's neighbour!"
So she too had her raps at him, but always in the kindest way.
He had a curious effect on her. His very bitterness seemed to check in its growth her own bitterness. The cup of poison of which he himself had drunk deep, he passed on to her. She drank of it, and it did not poison her. She was morbid, and she needed cheerful companionship. His dismal companionship and his hard way of looking at life ought by rights to have oppressed her. Instead of which she became less sorrowful.
Was the Disagreeable Man, perhaps, a reader of character? Did he know how to help her in his own grim gruff way? He himself had suffered so much; perhaps he did know.
THE STORY MOVES ON AT LAST.
BERNARDINE was playing chess one day with the Swedish Professor. On the Kurhaus terrace the guests were sunning themselves, warmly wrapped up to protect themselves from the cold, and well-provided with parasols to protect themselves from the glare. Some were reading, some were playing cards or Russian dominoes, and others were doing nothing. There was a good deal of fun, and a great deal of screaming amongst the Portuguese colony. The little danseuse and three gentlemen acquaintances were drinking coffee, and not behaving too quietly. Pretty Fraulein Muller was leaning over her balcony carrying on a conversation with a picturesque Spanish youth below. Most of the English party had gone sledging and tobogganing. Mrs. Reffold had asked Bernardine to join them, but she had refused. Mrs. Reffold's friends were anything but attractive to Bernardine, although she liked Mrs. Reffold herself immensely. There was no special reason why she should like her; she certainly had no cause to admire her every-day behaviour, nor her neglect of her invalid husband, who was passing away, uncared for in the present, and not likely to be mourned for in the future. Mrs. Reffold was gay, careless, and beautiful. She understood nothing about nursing, and cared less. So a trained nurse looked after Mr. Reffold, and Mrs. Reffold went sledging.
"Dear Wilfrid is so unselfish," she said. "He will not have me stay at home. But I feel very selfish." That was her stock remark. Most people answered her by saying: "Oh no, Mrs. Reffold, don't say that." But when she made the remark to Bernardine, and expected the usual reply, Bernardine said instead: "Mr. Reffold seems lonely."
"Oh, he has a trained nurse, and she can read to him," said Mrs. Reffold hurriedly. She seemed ruffled.
"I had a trained nurse once," replied Bernardine; "and she could read; but she would not. She said it hurt her throat."
"Dear me, how very unfortunate for you," said Mrs. Reffold. "Ah, there is Captain Graham calling. I must not keep the sledges waiting."
That was a few days ago, but to-day, when Bernardine was playing chess with the Swedish Professor, Mrs. Reffold came to her. There was a curious mixture of shyness and abandon in Mrs. Reffold's manner.
"Miss Holme," she said, "I have thought of such a splendid idea. Will you go and see Mr. Reffold this afternoon? That would be a nice little change for him."
"If you wish it," she answered.
Mrs. Reffold nodded and hastened away, and Bernardine continued her game, and, having finished it, rose to go.
The Reffolds were rich, and lived in a suite of apartments in the more luxurious part of the Kurhaus.
Bernardine knocked at the door, and the nurse came to open it.
"Mrs. Reffold asks me to visit Mr. Reffold," Bernardine said; and the nurse showed her into the pleasant sitting-room.
Mr. Reffold was lying on the sofa. He looked up as Bernardine came in, and a smile of pleasure spread over his wan face.
"I don't know whether I intrude," said Bernardine; "but Mrs. Reffold said I might come to see you."
Mr. Reffold signed to the nurse to withdraw.
She had never before spoken to him. She had often seen him lying by himself in the sunshine.
"Are you paid for coming to me he?" asked eagerly.
The words seemed rude enough, but there was no rudeness in the manner.
"No, I am not paid," she said gently; and then she took a chair and sat near him.
"Ah, that's well!" he said, with a sigh of relief "I'm so tired of paid service. To know that things are done for me because a certain amount of francs are given so that those things may be done—well, one gets weary of it; that's all!"
There was bitterness in every word he spoke. "I lie here," he said, "and the loneliness of it—the loneliness of it!"
"Shall I read to you?" she asked kindly. She did not know what to say to him.
"I want to talk first," he replied. "I want to talk first to some one who is not paid for talking to me. I have often watched you, and wondered who you were. Why do you look so sad? No one is waiting for you to die?"
"Don't talk like that!" she said; and she bent over him and arranged the cushions for him more comfortably. He looked just like a great lank tired child.
"Are you one of my wife's friends?" he asked.
"I don't suppose I am," she answered gently; "but I like her, all the same. Indeed, I like her very much. And I think her beautiful!"
"Ah, she is beautiful!" he said eagerly. "Doesn't she look splendid in her furs? By Jove, you are right! She is a beautiful woman. I am proud of her!"
Then the smile faded from his face.
"Beautiful," he said half to himself, "but hard."
"Come now," said Bernardine; "you are surrounded with books and newspapers. What shall I read to you?"
"No one reads what I want," he answered peevishly. "My tastes are not their tastes. I don't suppose you would care to read what I want to hear!"
"Well," she said cheerily, "try me. Make your choice."
"Very well, the Sporting and Dramatic," he said. "Read every word of that. And about that theatrical divorce case. And every word of that too. Don't you skip, and cheat me."
She laughed and settled herself down to amuse him. And he listened contentedly.
"That is something like literature," he said once or twice. "I can understand papers of that sort going like wild-fire."
When he was tired of being read to, she talked to him in a manner that would have astonished the Disagreeable Man: not of books, nor learning, but of people she had met and of Places she had seen; and there was fun in everything she said. She knew London well, and she could tell him about the Jewish and the Chinese quarters, and about her adventures in company with a man who took her here, there, and everywhere.
She made him some tea, and she cheered the poor fellow as he had not been cheered for months.
"You're just a little brick," he said, when she was leaving. Then once more he added eagerly:
"And you're not to be paid, are you?"
"Not a single sou!" she laughed. "What a strange idea of yours!"
"You are not offended?" he said anxiously. "But you can't think what a difference it makes to me. You are not offended?"
"Not in the least!" she answered. "I know quite well how you mean it. You want a little kindness with nothing at the back of it. Now, good-bye!"
He called her when she was outside the door.
"I say, will you come again soon?"
"Yes, I will come to-morrow."
"Do you know you've been a little brick. I hope I haven't tired you. You are only a bit of a thing yourself. But, by Jove, you know how to put a fellow in a good temper!"
When Mrs. Reffold went down to table-d'hote that night, she met Bernardine on the stairs, and stopped to speak with her.
"We've had a splendid afternoon," she said; "and we've arranged to go again to-morrow at the same time. Such a pity you don't come! Oh, by the way, thank you for going to see my husband. I hope he did not tire you. He is a little querulous, I think. He so enjoyed your visit. Poor fellow! it is sad to see him so ill, isn't it?"
AFTER this, scarcely a day passed but Bernardine went to see Mr. Reffold. The most inexperienced eye could have known that he was becoming rapidly worse. Marie, the chambermaid, knew it, and spoke of it frequently to Bernardine.
"The poor lonely fellow!" she said, time after time.
Every one, except Mrs. Reffold, seemed to recognize that Mr. Reffold's days were numbered. Either she did not or would not understand. She made no alteration in the disposal of her time: sledging parties and skating picnics were the order of the day; she was thoroughly pleased with herself, and received the attentions of her admirers as a matter of course. The Petershof climate had got into her head; and it is a well-known fact that this glorious air has the effect on some people of banishing from their minds all inconvenient notions of duty and devotion, and all memory of the special object of their sojourn in Petershof. The coolness and calmness with which such people ignore their responsibilities, or allow strangers to assume them, would be an occasion for humour, if it were not an opportunity for indignation: though indeed it would take a very exceptionally sober-minded spectator not to get some fun out of the blissful self-satisfaction and unconsciousness which characterize the most negligent of 'caretakers.'
Mrs. Reffold was not the only sinner in this respect. It would have been interesting to get together a tea-party of invalids alone, and set the ball rolling about the respective behaviours of their respective friends. Not a pleasing chronicle: no very choice pages to add to the book of real life; still, valuable items in their way, representative of the actual as opposed to the ideal. In most instances there would have been ample testimony to that cruel monster, known as Neglect.
Bernardine spoke once to the Disagreeable Man on this subject. She spoke with indignation, and he answered with indifference, shrugging his shoulders.
"These things occur," he said "It is not that they are worse here than everywhere else; it is simply that they are together in an accumulated mass, and, as such, strike us with tremendous force. I myself am accustomed to these exhibitions of selfishness and neglect. I should be astonished if they did not take place. Don't mix yourself up with anything. If people are neglected, they are neglected, and there is the end of it. To imagine that you or I are going to do any good by filling up the breach, is simply an insanity leading to unnecessarily disagreeable consequences. I know you go to see Mr. Reffold. Take my advice, and keep away."
"You speak like a Calvinist," she answered, rather ruffled, "with the quintessence of self-protectiveness; and I don't believe you mean a word you say."
"My dear young woman," he said, "we are not living in a poetry book bound with gilt edges. We are living in a paper-backed volume of prose. Be sensible. Don't ruffle yourself on account of other people. Don't even trouble to criticize them; it is only a nuisance to yourself. All this simply points back to my first suggestion: fill up your time with some hobby, cheese-mites or the influenza bacillus, and then you will be quite content to let people be neglected, lonely, and to die. You will look upon it as an ordinary and natural process."
She waved her hand as though to stop him.
"There are days," she said, "when I can't bear to talk with you. And this is one of them."
"I am sorry," he answered, quite gently for him. And he moved away from her, and started for his usual lonely walk.
Bernardine turned home, intending to go to see Mr. Reffold. He had become quite attached to her, and looked forward eagerly to her visits. He said her voice was gentle and her manner quiet; there was no bustling vitality about het to irritate his worn nerves. He was probably an empty-headed, stupid fellow; but it was none the less sad to see him passing away.
He called her 'Little Brick.' He said that no other epithet suited her so exactly. He was quite satisfied now that she was not paid for coming to see him. As for the reading, no one could read the Sporting and Dramatic News and the Era so well as Little Brick. Sometimes he spoke with her about his wife, but only in general terms of bitterness, and not always complainingly. She listened and said nothing.
"I'm a chap that wants very little," he said once. "Those who want little, get nothing."
That was all he said, but Bernardine knew to whom he referred.
To-day, as Bernardine was on her way back to the Kurhaus, she was thinking constantly of Mrs. Reffold, and wondering whether she ought to be made to realize that her husband was becoming rapidly worse. Whilst engrossed with this thought, a long train of sledges and toboggans passed her. The sound of the bells and the noisy merriment made her look up, and she saw beautiful Mrs. Reffold amongst the pleasure-seekers.
"If only I dared tell her now," said Bernardine to herself, "loudly and before them all!"
Then a more sensible mood came over her. "After all, it is not my affair," she said.
And the sledges passed away out of hearing.
When Bernardine sat with Mr. Reffold that afternoon she did not mention that she had seen his wife. He coughed a great deal, and seemed to be worse than usual, and complained of fever. But he liked to have her, and would not hear of her going.
"Stay," he said. "It is not much of a pleasure to you, but it is a great pleasure to me."
There was an anxious look on his face, such a look as people wear when they wish to ask some question of great moment, but dare not begin.
At last he seemed to summon up courage.
"Little Brick," he said, in a weak low voice, "I have something on my mind. You won't laugh, I know. You're not the sort. I know you're clever and thoughtful, and all that; you could tell me more than all the parsons put together. I know you're clever; my wife says so. She says only a very clever woman would wear such boots and hats!"
"Well," she said kindly, "tell me."
"You must have thought a good deal, I suppose," he continued, "about life and death, and that sort of thing. I've never thought at all. Does it matter, Little Brick? It's too late now. I can't begin to think. But speak to me; tell me what you think. Do you believe we get another chance, and are glad to behave less like curs and brutes? Or is it all ended in that lonely little churchyard here? I've never troubled about these things before, but now I know I am so near that gloomy little churchyard—well, it makes me wonder. As for the Bible, I never cared to read it, I was never much of a reader, though I've got through two or three firework novels and sporting stories. Does it matter, Little Brick?"
"How do I know?" she said gently. "How does any one know? People say they know; but it is all a great mystery—nothing but a mystery. Everything that we say, can be but a guess. People have gone mad over their guessing, or they have broken their hearts. But still the mystery remains, and we cannot solve it."
"If you don't know anything, Little Brick," he said, "at least tell me what you think: and don't be too learned; remember I'm only a brainless fellow."
He seemed to be waiting eagerly for her answer.
"If I were you," she said, "I should not worry. Just make up your mind to do better when you get another chance. One can't do more than that. That is what I shall think of: that God will give each one of us another chance, and that each one of us will take it and do better—I and you and every one. So there is no need to fret over failure, when one hopes one may be allowed to redeem that failure later on. Besides which, life is very hard. Why, we ourselves recognize that. If there be a God, some Intelligence greater than human intelligence, he will understand better than ourselves that life is very hard and difficult, and he will be astonished not because we are not better, but because we are not worse. At least, that would be my notion of a God. I should not worry, if I were you. Just make up your mind to do better if you get the chance, and be content with that."
"If that is what you think, Little Brick," he answered, "it is quite good enough for me. And it does not matter about prayers and the Bible, and all that sort of thing?"
"I don't think it matters," she said. "I never have thought such things mattered. What does matter, is to judge gently, and not to come down like a sledge-hammer on other people's failings. Who are we, any of us, that we should be hard on others?"
"And not come down like a sledge-hammer on other people's failings," he repeated slowly. "I wonder if I have ever judged gently."
"I believe you have," she answered.
He shook his head.
"No," he said; "I have been a paltry fellow. I have been lying here, and elsewhere too, eating my heart away with bitterness, until you came. Since then I have sometimes forgotten to feel bitter. A little kindness does away with a great deal of bitterness."
He turned wearily on his side.
"I think I could sleep, Little Brick," he said, almost in a whisper. "I want to dream about your sermon. And I'm not to worry, am I?"
"No," she answered, as she stepped noiselessly across the room; "you are not to worry."
THE DISAGREEABLE MAN IS SEEN IN A NEW LIGHT.
ONE specially fine morning a knock came at Bernardine's door. She opened it, and found Robert Allitsen standing there, trying to recover his breath.
"I am going to Loschwitz, a village about twelve miles off," he said. "And I have ordered a sledge. Do you care to come too?"
"If I may pay my share," she said.
"Of course," he answered; "I did not suppose you would like to be paid for any better than I should like to pay for you."
"When do we start?" she asked.
"Now," he answered. "Bring a rug, and also that shawl of yours which is always falling down, and come at once without any fuss. We shall be out for the whole day. What about Mrs. Grundy? We could manage to take her if you wished, but she would not be comfortable sitting amongst the photographic apparatus, and I certainly should not give up my seat to her."
"Then leave her at home," said Bernardine cheerily.
And so they settled it.
In less than a quarter of an hour they had started; and Bernardine leaned luxuriously back to enjoy to the full her first sledge-drive.
It was all new to her: the swift passing through the crisp air without any sensation of motion; the sleepy tinkling of the bells on the horses' heads; the noiseless cutting through of the snow-path.
All these weeks she had known nothing of the country, and now she found herself in the snow fairy-land of which the Disagreeable Man had often spoken to her. Around, vast plains of untouched snow, whiter than any dream of whiteness, jewelled by the sunshine with priceless diamonds, numberless as the sands of the sea. The great pines bearing their burden of snow patiently; others, less patient, having shaken themselves free from what the heavens had sent them to bear. And now the streams, flowing on reluctantly over ice-coated rocks, and the ice cathedrals formed by the icicles between the rocks.
And always the same silence, save for the tinkling of the horses' bells.
On the heights the quaint chalets, some merely huts for storing wood; on others, farms, or the homes of peasants; some dark brown, almost black, betraying their age; others of a paler hue, showing that the sun had not yet mellowed them into a deep rich colour. And on all alike, the fringe of icicles. A wonderful white world.
It was a long time before Bernardine even wished to speak. This beautiful whiteness may become monotonous after a time, but there is something very awe-inspiring about it, something which catches the soul and holds it.
The Disagreeable Man sat quietly by her side. Once or twice he bent forward to protect the camera when the sledge gave a lurch.
After some time they met a procession of sledges laden with timber; and August, the driver, and Robert Allitsen exchanged some fun and merriment with the drivers in their quaint blue smocks. The noise of the conversation, and the excitement of getting past the sledges, brought Bernardine back to speech again.
"I have never before enjoyed anything so much," she said.
"So you have found your tongue," he said. "Do you mind talking a little now? I feel rather lonely."
This was said in such a pathetic, aggrieved tone, that Bernardine laughed and looked at her companion. His face wore an unusually bright expression. He was evidently out to enjoy himself.
"You talk," she said; "and tell me all about the country."
And he told her what he knew, and, amongst other things, about the avalanches. He was able to point out where some had fallen the previous year. He stopped in the middle of his conversation to tell her to put up her umbrella.
"I can't trouble to hold it for you," he said; "but I don't mind opening it. The sun is blazing to-day, and you will get your eyes bad if you are not careful. That would be a pity, for you seem to me rather better lately."
"What a confession for you to make of any one!" said she.
"Oh, I don't mean to say that you will ever get well," he added grimly. "You seem to have pulled yourself in too many directions for that. You have tried to be too alive; and, now you are obliged to join the genus cabbage."
"I am certainly less ill than I was when I first came," she said; "and I feel in a better frame of mind altogether. I am learning a good deal in sad Petershof."
"That is more than I have done," he answered.
"Well, perhaps you teach instead," she said. "You have taught me several things. Now, go on telling me about the country people. You like them?"
"I love them," he said simply. "I know them well, and they know me. You see I have been in this district so long now, and have walked about so much, that the very wood cutters know me; and the drivers give me lifts on their piles of timber."
"You are not surly with the poor people, then?" said Bernardine; "though I must say I cannot imagine you being genial. Were you ever genial, I wonder?"
"I don't think that has ever been laid to my charge," he answered.
The time passed away pleasantly. The Disagreeable Man was scarcely himself to-day; or was it that he was more like himself? He seemed in a boyish mood; he made fun out of nothing, and laughed with such young fresh laughter, that even August, the grave blue-spectacled driver, was moved to mirth. As for Bernardine, she had to look at Robert Allitsen several times to be sure that he was the same Robert Allitsen she had known two hours ago in Petershof. But she made no remark, and showed no surprise, but met his merriness half way. No one could be a cheerier companion than herself when she chose.
At last they arrived at Loschwitz. The sledge wound its way through the sloshy streets of the queer little village, and finally drew up in front of the Gasthaus. It was a black sunburnt chalet, with green shutters, and steps leading up to a green balcony. A fringe of sausages hung from the roof; red bedding was scorching in the sunshine; three cats were sunning themselves on the steps; a young woman sat in the green balcony knitting. There were some curious inscriptions on the walls of the chalet, and the date was distinctly marked, "1670."
An old woman over the way sat in her doorway spinning. She looked up as the sledge stopped before the Gasthaus; but the young woman in the green balcony went on knitting, and saw nothing.
A buxom elderly Hausfrau, came out to greet the guests. She wore a naturally kind expression on her old face, but when she saw who the gentleman was, the kindness positive increased to kindness superlative.
She first retired and called out:
"Liza, Fritz, Liza, Truedchen, come quickly!"
Then she came back, and cried:
"Herr Allitsen, what a surprise!"
She shook his hand times without number, greeted Bernardine with motherly tenderness, and interspersed all her remarks with frantic cries of "Liza, Fritz, Truedchen, make haste!"
She became very hot and excited, and gesticulated violently.
All this time the young woman sat knitting, but not looking up. She had been beautiful, but her face was worn now, and her eyes had that vacant stare which betokened the vacant mind.
The mother whispered to Robert Allitsen:
"She notices no one now; she sits there always waiting."
Tears came into the kind old eyes.
Robert Allitsen went and bent down to the young woman, and held out his hand.
"Catharina," he said gently.
She looked up then, and saw him, and recognized him.
Then the sad face smiled a welcome.
He sat near her, and took her knitting in his hand, pretending to examine what she had done, chatting to her quietly all the time. He asked her what she had been doing with herself since he had last seen her, and she said:
"Waiting. I am always waiting."
He knew that she referred to her lover, who had been lost in an avalanche the eve before their wedding morning. That was four years ago, but Catharina was still waiting. Allitsen remembered her as a bright young girl, singing in the Gasthaus, waiting cheerfully on the guests: a bright gracious presence. No one could cook trout as she could; many a dish of trout had she served up for him. And now she sat in the sunshine, knitting and waiting, scarcely ever looking up. That was her life.
"Catharina," he said, as he gave her back her knitting, "do you remember how you used to cook me the trout?"
Another smile passed over her face. Yes, she remembered.
"Will you cook me some to-day?"
She shook her head, and returned to her knitting.
Bernardine watched the Disagreeable Man with amazement. She could not have believed that his manner could be so tender and kindly. The old mother standing near her whispered:
"He was always so good to us all; we love him, every one of us. When poor Catharina was betrothed five years ago, it was to Herr Allitsen we first told the good news. He has a wonderful way about him—just look at him with Catharina now. She has not noticed any one for months, but she knows him, you see."
At that moment the other members of the household came: Liza, Fritz, and Truedchen; Liza, a maiden of nineteen, of the homely Swiss type; Fritz, a handsome lad of fourteen; and Truedchen, just free from school, with her school-satchel swung on her back. There was no shyness in their greeting; the Disagreeable Man was evidently an old and much-loved friend, and inspired confidence, not awe. Truedchen fumbled in his coat pocket, and found what she expected to find there, some sweets, which she immediately began to eat, perfectly contented and self-satisfied. She smiled and nodded at Robert Allitsen, as though to reassure him that the sweets were not bad, and that she was enjoying them.
"Liza will see to lunch," said the old mother. "You shall have some mutton cutlets and some forellen. But before she goes, she has something to tell you."
"I am betrothed to Hans," Liza said, blushing.
"I always knew you were fond of Hans," said the Disagreeable Man. "He is a good fellow, Liza, and I'm glad you love him. But haven't you just teased him!"
"That was good for him," Liza said brightly.
"Is he here to-day?" Robert Allitsen asked.
"Then I shall take your photographs," he said.
While they had been speaking, Catharina rose from her seat, and passed into the house.
Her mother followed her, and watched her go into the kitchen.
"I should like to cook the forellen," she said very quietly.
It was months since she had done anything in the house. The old mother's heart beat with pleasure.
"Catharina, my best loved child!" she whispered; and she gathered the poor suffering soul near to her.
In about half an hour the Disagreeable Man and Bernardine sat down to their meal. Robert Allitsen had ordered a bottle of Sassella, and he was just pouring it out when Catharina brought in the forellen.
"Why, Catharina," he said, "you don't mean you've cooked them? Then they will be good!" She smiled, and seemed pleased, and then went out of the room.
Then he told Bernardine her history, and spoke with such kindness and sympathy that Bernardine was again amazed at him. But she made no remark.
"Catharina was always sorry that I was ill," he said. "When I stayed here, as I have done, for weeks together, she used to take every care of me. And it was a kindly sympathy which I could not resent. In those days I was suffering more than I have done for a long time now, and she was very pitiful. She could not bear to hear me cough. I used to tell her that she must learn not to feel. But you see she did not learn her lesson, for when this trouble came on her, she felt too much. And you see what she is."
They had a cheery meal together, and then Bernardine talked with the old mother, whilst the Disagreeable Man busied himself with his camera. Liza was for putting on her best dress, and doing her hair in some wonderful way. But he would not hear of such a thing. But seeing that she looked disappointed, he gave in, and said she should be photographed just as she wished; and off she ran to change her attire. She went up to her room a picturesque, homely working girl, and she came down a tidy, awkward-looking young woman, with all her finery on, and all her charm off.
The Disagreeable Man grunted, but said nothing.
Then Hans arrived, and then came the posing, which caused much amusement. They both stood perfectly straight, just as a soldier stands before presenting arms. Both faces were perfectly expressionless. The Disagreeable Man was in despair.
"Look happy!" he entreated.
They tried to smile, but the anxiety to do so produced an expression of melancholy which was too much for the gravity of the photographer. He laughed heartily.
"Look as though you weren't going to be photographed," he suggested. "Liza, for goodness' sake look as though you were baking the bread; and Hans, try and believe that you are doing some of your beautiful carving."
The patience of the photographer was something wonderful. At last he succeeded in making them appear at their ease. And then he told Liza that she must go and change her dress, and be photographed now in the way he wished. She came down again, looking fifty times prettier in her working clothes.
Now he was in his element. He arranged Liza and Hans on the sledge of timber, which had then driven up, and made a picturesque group of them all: Hans and Liza sitting side by side on the timber, the horses standing there so patiently after their long journey through the forests, the driver leaning against his sledge smoking his long china pipe.
"That will be something like a picture," he said to Bernardine, when the performance was over. "Now I am going for about a mile's walk. Will you come with me and see what I am going to photograph, or will you rest here till I come back?"
She chose the latter, and during his absence was shown the treasures and possessions of a Swiss peasant's home.
She was taken to see the cows in the stalls, and had a lecture given her on the respective merits of Schneewitchen, a white cow, Kartoffelkuehen, a dark brown one, and Roeslein, the beauty of them all. Then she looked at the spinning-wheel, and watched the old Hausfrau turn the treadle. And so the time passed, Bernardine making, good friends of them all. Catharina had returned to her knitting, and began working, and, as before, not noticing any one. But Bernardine sat by her side, playing with the cat, and after a time Catharina looked up at Bernardine's little thin face, and, after some hesitation, stroked it gently with her hand.
"Fraeulein is not strong," she said tenderly. "If Fraeulein lived here, I should take care of her."
That was a remnant of Catharina's past. She had always loved everything that was ailing and weakly.
Her hand rested on Bernardine's hand. Bernardine pressed it in kindly sympathy, thinking the while of the girl's past happiness and resent bereavement.
"Liza is betrothed," she said, as though to herself. "They don't tell me; but I know. I was betrothed once."
She went on knitting. And that was all she said of herself.
Then after a pause she said:
"Fraeulein is betrothed?"
Bernardine smiled, and shook her head, and Catharina made no further inquiries. But she looked up from her work from time to time, and seemed pleased that Bernardine still stayed with her. At last the old mother came to say that the coffee was ready, and Bernardine followed her into the parlour.
She watched Bernardine drinking the coffee, and finally poured herself out a cup too.
"This is the first time Herr Allitsen has ever brought a friend," she said. "He has always been alone. Fraeulein is betrothed to Herr Allitsen— is that so? Ah, I am glad. He is so good and, so kind."
Bernardine stopped drinking her coffee.
"No, I am not betrothed," she said cheerily. "We are just friends; and not always that either. We quarrel."
"All lovers do that," persisted Frau Steinhart triumphantly.
"Well, you ask him yourself," said Bernardine, much amused. She had never looked upon Robert Allitsen in that light before. "See, there he comes!"
Bernardine was not present at the court martial, but this was what occurred. Whilst the Disagreeable Man was paying the reckoning, Frau Steinhart said in her most motherly tones:
"Fraeulein is a very dear young lady: Herr Allitsen has made a wise choice. He is betrothed at last!"
The Disagreeable Man stopped counting out the money.
"Stupid old Frau Steinhart!" he said good-naturedly. "People like myself don't get betrothed. We get buried instead!"
"Na, na!" she answered. "What a thing to say—and so unlike you too! No, but tell me!"
"Well, I am telling you the truth," he replied. "If you won't believe me, ask Fraeulein herself."
"I have asked her," said Frau Steinhart, "and she told me to ask you."
The Disagreeable Man was much amused. He had never thought of Bernardine in that way.
He paid the bill, and then did something which rather astonished Frau Steinhart, and half convinced her.
He took the bill to Bernardine, told her the amount of her share, and she repaid him then and there.
There was a twinkle in her eye as she looked up at him. Then the composure of her features relaxed, and she laughed.
He laughed too, but no comment was made upon the episode. Then began the goodbyes, and the preparations for the return journey.
Bernardine bent over Catharina, and kissed her sad face.
"Fraeulein will come again?" she whispered eagerly.
And Bernardine promised. There was something in Bernardine's manner which had won the poor girl's fancy: some unspoken sympathy, some quiet geniality.
Just as they were starting, Frau Steinhart whispered to Robert Allitsen:
"It is a little disappointing to me, Herr Allitsen. I did so hope you were betrothed."
August, the blue-spectacled driver, cracked his whip, and of the horses started homewards.
For some time there was no conversation between the two occupants of the sledge. Bernardine, was busy thinking about the experiences of the day, and the Disagreeable Man seemed in a brown study. At last he broke the silence by asking her how she liked his friends, and what she thought of Swiss home life; and so the time passed pleasantly.
He looked at her once, and said she seemed cold.
"You are not warmly clothed," he said. "I have an extra coat. Put it on; don't make a fuss but do so at once. I know the climate and you don't."
She obeyed, and said she was all the cosier for it. As they were nearing Petershof, he said half-nervously:
"So my friends took you for my betrothed. I hope you are not offended."
"Why should I be?" she said frankly. "I was only amused, because there never were two people less lover-like than you and I are."
"No, that's quite true," he replied, in a tone of voice which betokened relief.
"So that I really don't see that we need concern ourselves further in the matter," she added wishing to put him quite at his ease. "I'm not offended, and you are not offended, and there's an end of it."
"You seem to me to be a very sensible young woman in some respects," the Disagreeable Man remarked after a pause. He was now quite cheerful again, and felt he could really praise his companion. "Although you have read so much, you seem to me sometimes to take a sensible view of things. Now, I don't want to be betrothed to you, any more than I suppose you want to be betrothed to me. And yet we can talk quietly about the matter without a scene. That would be impossible with most women."
Bernardine laughed. "Well, I only know," she said cheerily, "that I have enjoyed my day very much, and I'm much obliged to you for your companionship. The fresh air, and the change of surroundings, will have done me good."
His reply was characteristic of him.
"It is the least disagreeable day I have spent for many months," he said quietly.
"Let me settle with you for the sledge now," she said, drawing out her purse, just as they came in sight of the Kurhaus.
They settled money matters, and were quits.
Then he helped her out of the sledge, and he stooped to pick up the shawl she dropped.
"Here is the shawl you are always dropping," he said. "You're rather cold, aren't you? Here, come to the restaurant and have some brandy. Don't make a fuss. I know what's the right thing for you!"
She followed him to the restaurant, touched by his rough kindness. He himself took nothing, but he paid for her brandy.
That evening after table-d'hote, or rather after he had finished his dinner, he rose to go to his room as usual. He generally went off without a remark. But to-night he said:
"Good-night, and thank you for your companionship. It has been my birthday to-day, and I've quite enjoyed it."
"IF ONE HAS MADE THE ONE GREAT SACRIFICE."
THERE was a suicide in the Kurhaus one afternoon. A Dutchman, Vandervelt, had received rather a bad account of himself from the doctor a few days previously, and in a fit of depression, so it was thought, he had put a bullet through his head. It had occurred through Marie's unconscious agency. She found him lying on his sofa when she went as usual to take him his afternoon glass of milk. He asked her to give him a packet which was on the top shelf of his cupboard.
"Willingly," she said, and she jumped nimbly on the chair, and gave him the case.
"Anything more?" she asked kindly, as she watched him draw himself up from the sofa. She thought at the time that he looked wild and strange; but then, as she pathetically said afterwards, who did not look wild and strange in the Kurhaus?
"Yes," he said. "Here are five francs for you."
She thought that rather unusual too; but five francs, especially coming unexpectedly like that, were not to be despised, and Marie determined to send them off to that Mutterli at home in the nut-brown chalet at Gruesch.
So she thanked Mynheer van Vandervelt, and went off to her pantry to drink some cold tea which the English people had left, and to clean the lamps. Having done that, and knowing that the matron was busily engaged carrying on a flirtation with a young Frenchman, Marie took out her writing materials, and began a letter to her old mother. These peasants know how to love each other, and some of them know how to tell each other too. Marie knew. And she told her mother of the gifts she was bringing home, the little nothings given her by the guests.
She was very happy writing this letter: the little nut-brown home rose before her.
"Ach!" she said, "how I long to be home!"
And then she put down her pen, and sighed.
"Ach!" she said, "and when I'm there, I shall long to be here. Da wo ich nicht bin, da ist das Gluck."
Marie was something of a philosopher.
Suddenly she heard the report of a pistol, followed by a second report. She dashed out of her little pantry, and ran in the direction of the sound. She saw Waerli in the passage. He was looking scared, and his letters had fallen to the ground. He pointed to No. 54.
It was the Dutchman's room.
Help arrived. The door was forced open, and Vandervelt was found dead. The case from which he had taken the pistol was lying on the sofa. When Marie saw that, she knew that she had been an unconscious accomplice. Her tender heart overflowed with grief.
Whilst others were lifting him up, she leaned her head against the wall, and sobbed.
"It was my fault, it was my fault!" she cried. "I gave him the case. But how was I to know?"
They took her away, and tried to comfort her, but it was all in vain.
"And he gave me five francs," she sobbed. "I shudder to think of them."
It was all in vain that Waerli gave her a letter for which she had been longing for many days.
"It is from your Mutterli," he said, as he put it into her hands. "I give it willingly. I don't like the look of one or two of the letters I have to give you, Mariechen. That Hans writes to you. Confound him!"
But nothing could cheer her. Waerli went away shaking his curly head sadly, shocked at the death of the Dutchman, and shocked at Marie's sorrow. And the cheery little postman did not do much whistling that evening.
Bernardine heard of Marie's trouble, and rang for her to come. Marie answered the bell, looking the picture of misery. Her kind face was tear-stained, and her only voice was a sob.
Bernardine drew the girl to her.
"Poor old Marie," she whispered. "Come and cry your kind heart out, and then you will feel better. Sit by me here, and don't try to speak. And I will make you some tea in true English fashion, and you must take it hot, and it will do you good."
The simple sisterly kindness and silent sympathy soothed Marie after a time. The sobs ceased, and the tears also. And Marie put her hand in her pocket and gave Bernardine the five francs.
"Fraeulein Holme, I hate them." she said. "I could never keep them. How could I send them now to my old mother? They would bring her ill luck— indeed they would."
The matter was solved by Bernardine in a masterly fashion. She suggested that Marie should buy flowers with the money, and put them on the Dutchman's coffin. This idea comforted Marie beyond Bernardine's most sanguine expectations.
"A beautiful tin wreath," she said several times. "I know the exact kind. When my father died, we put one on his grave."
That same evening, during table-d'hote, Bernardine told the Disagreeable Man the history of the afternoon. He had been developing photographs, and had heard nothing. He seemed very little interested in her relation of the suicide, and merely remarked:
"Well, there's one person less in the world."
"I think you make these remarks from habit," Bernardine said quietly, and she went on with her dinner, attempting no further conversation with him. She herself had been much moved by the sad occurrence; every one in the Kurhaus was more or less upset; and there was a thoughtful, anxious expression on more than one ordinarily thoughtless face. The little French danseuse was quiet: the Portuguese ladies were decidedly tearful, the vulgar German Baroness was quite depressed: the comedian at the Belgian table ate his dinner in silence. In fact, there was a weight pressing down on all. Was it really possible, thought Bernardine, that Robert Allitsen was the only one there unconcerned and unmoved? She had seen him in a different light amongst his friends, the country folk, but it was just a glimpse which had not lasted long. The young- heartedness, the geniality, the sympathy which had so astonished her during their day's outing, astonished her still more by their total disappearance. The gruffness had returned: or had it never been absent? The lovelessness and leadenness of his temperament had once more asserted themselves: or was it that they had never for one single day been in the background?
These thoughts passed through her mind as he sat next to her reading his paper—that paper which he never passed on to any one. She hardened her heart against him; there was no need for ill-health and disappointment to have brought any one to a miserable state of indifference like that. Then she looked at his wan face and frail form, and her heart softened at once. At the moment when her heart softened to him, he astonished her by handing her his paper.
"Here is something to interest you," he said, "an article on Realism in Fiction, or some nonsense like that. You needn't read it now. I don't want the paper again.''
"I thought you never lent anything," she said, as she glanced at the article, "much less gave it."
"Giving and lending are not usually in my line," he replied. "I think I told you once that I thought selfishness perfectly desirable and legitimate, if one had made the one great sacrifice."
"Yes," she said eagerly, "I have often wondered what you considered the one great sacrifice."
"Come out into the air," he answered, "and I will tell you."
She went to put on her cloak and, hat, and found him waiting for her at the top of the staircase. They passed out into the beautiful night: the sky was radiantly bejewelled, the air crisp and cold, and harmless to do ill. In the distance, the jodelling of some peasants. In the hotels, the fun and merriment, side by side with the suffering and hopelessness. In the deaconess's house, the body of the Dutchman. In God's heavens, God's stars.
Robert Allitsen and Bernardine walked silently for some time.
"Well," she said, "now tell me."
"The one great sacrifice," he said half to himself, "is the going on living one's life for the sake of another, when everything that would seem to make life acceptable has been wrenched away, not the pleasures, but the duties, and the possibilities of expressing one's energies, either in one direction or another: when, in fact, living is only a long tedious dying. If one has made this sacrifice, everything else may be forgiven."
He paused a moment, and then continued:
"I have made this sacrifice, therefore I consider I have done my part without flinching. The greatest thing I had to give up, I gave up: my death. More could not be required of any one!"
He paused again, and Bernardine was silent from mere awe.
"But freedom comes at last," he said, "and some day I shall be free. When my mother dies, I shall be free. She is old. If I were to die, I should break her heart, or, rather she would fancy that her heart was broken. (And it comes to the same thing). And I should not like to give her more grief than she has had. So I am just waiting, it may be months, or weeks, or years. But I know how to wait: if I have not learnt anything else, I have learnt how to wait. And then" . . .
Bernardine had unconsciously put her hand on his arm; her face was full of suffering.
"And then?" she asked, with almost painful eagerness.
"And then I shall follow your Dutchman's example," he said deliberately.
Bernardine's hand fell from the Disagreeable Man's arm.
"You are cold, you little thing," he said, almost tenderly for him. "You are shivering."
"Was I?" she said, with a short laugh. "I was wondering when you would get your freedom, and whether you would use it in the fashion you now intend!"