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Title: Early Sorrow & Mario and the Magician

Date of first publication: 1930

Author: Thomas Mann (1875-1955)

Date first posted: May 4, 2020

Date last updated: May 4, 2020

Faded Page eBook #20200516

This eBook was produced by: Delphine Lettau, Al Haines, Chuck Greif & the online Distributed Proofreaders Canada team at https://www.pgdpcanada.net


Early Sorrow
Mario and the Magician

Thomas Mann


London: Martin Secker



This translation by H. T. Lowe-Porter

Early Sorrow first published 1929
Mario and the Magician first published 1930
Included together in New Adelphi Library 1934










THE principal dish at dinner had been croquettes made of turnip greens. So there follows a trifle, concocted out of one of those dessert powders we use nowadays, that taste like almond soap. Xaver, the youthful manservant, in his outgrown striped jacket, white woollen gloves, and yellow sandals, hands it round, and the “big folk” take this opportunity to remind their father, tactfully, that company is coming to-day.

The “big-folk” are two, Ingrid and Bert. Ingrid is brown-eyed, eighteen and perfectly delightful. She is on the eve of her exams; and will probably pass them, if only because she knows how to wind masters, and even headmasters, round her finger. She does not, however, mean to use {10}her certificate once she gets it; having leanings towards the stage, on the ground of her ingratiating smile, her equally ingratiating voice, and a marked and irresistible talent for burlesque. Bert is blond and seventeen. He intends to get done with school somehow, anyhow, and fling himself into the arms of life. He will be a dancer, or a cabaret actor, possibly even a waiter—but not a waiter anywhere else save at “Cairo,” the night club, whither he has once already taken flight, at five in the morning, and been brought back crestfallen. Bert bears a strong resemblance to the youthful manservant, Xaver Kleinsgutl, of about the same age as himself; not because he looks common—in features he is strikingly like his father, Professor Cornelius—but by reason of an approximation of types, due in its turn to far-reaching compromises in matters of dress and bearing generally. Both lads wear their heavy hair {11}very long on top, with a cursory parting in the middle; and give their heads the same characteristic toss to throw it off the forehead. When one of them leaves the house, by the garden gate, bareheaded in all weathers, in a blouse coquettishly girt with a leather strap, and sheers off bent well over with his head on one side; or else mounts his push-bike—Xaver makes free with his employers’, of both sexes, or even, in acutely irresponsible mood, with the professor’s own—Dr. Cornelius from his bedroom window cannot, for the life of him, tell whether he is looking at his son or his servant. Both, he thinks, look like young moujiks. And both are impassioned cigarette-smokers; though Bert has not the means to compete with Xaver, who smokes as many as thirty a day, of a brand named after a popular cinema star. The big folk call their father and mother the “old folk”—not behind their backs, but as a form {12}of address and in all affection: “Hullo, old folks,” they will say; though Cornelius is only forty-seven years old and his wife eight years younger. And the professor’s parents, who lead in his household the humble and hesitant life of the veritably old, are on the big folk’s lips the “ancients.” As for the “little folk,” Ellie and Snapper, who take their meals upstairs with blue-faced Ann—so-called because of her prevailing facial hue—Ellie and Snapper follow their mother’s example and address their father by his first name, Abel. Unutterably comic it sounds, in its pert, confiding familiarity; particularly on the lips, in the sweet accents, of five-year-old Eleanor, who is the image of Frau Cornelius’ baby pictures, and whom the professor loves above everything else in the world.

“Darling old thing,” says Ingrid affably, laying her large but shapely hand on his, as he presides in proper middle-class style over the family {13}table, with her on his left and the mother opposite: “Parent mine, may I ever so gently jog your memory, for you have probably forgotten: this is the afternoon we were to have our little jollification, our turkey-trot with eats to match. You haven’t a thing to do but just bear up and not funk it; everything will be over by nine o’clock.”

“Oh—ah!” says Cornelius, his face falling. “Good!” he goes on, and nods his head to show himself in harmony with the inevitable. “I only meant—is this really the day? Thursday, yes. How time flies! Well, what time are they coming?”

“Half-past four they’ll be dropping in, I should say,” answers Ingrid, to whom her brother leaves the major rôle in all dealings with the father. Upstairs, while he is resting, he will hear scarcely anything, and from seven to eight he takes his walk. He can slip out by the terrace if he likes.{14}

“Tut!” says Cornelius deprecatingly, as who should say, “You exaggerate.” But Bert puts in: “It’s the one evening in the week Wanja doesn’t have to play. Any other night he’d have to leave by half-past six, which would be painful for all concerned.”

Wanja is Ivan Herzl, the celebrated young leading man at the Stadttheater. Bert and Ingrid are on intimate terms with him, they often visit him in his dressing-room and have tea. He is an artist of the modern school, who stands on the stage in strange and, to the Professor’s mind, utterly affected dancing attitudes, and shrieks lamentably. To a professor of history, all highly repugnant; but Bert has entirely succumbed to Herzl’s influence, blackens the lower rim of his eyelids—despite painful but fruitless scenes with the father—and with youthful carelessness of the ancestral anguish declares that not only will he{15} take Herzl for his model if he becomes a dancer, but in case he turns out to be a waiter at “Cairo” he means to walk precisely thus.

Cornelius slightly raises his brows and makes his son a little bow—indicative of the unassumingness and self-abnegation befitting his age. You could not call it a mocking bow, or suggestive in any special sense. Bert may refer it to himself, or equally to his so talented friend.

“Who else is coming?” next inquires the master of the house. They mention various people, names all more or less familiar, from the city, from the suburban colony, from Ingrid’s school. They still have some telephoning to do, they say. They have to phone Max. This is Max Hergesell, an engineering student; Ingrid utters his name in the nasal drawl which according to her is the traditional intonation of all the Hergesells. She goes on to parody it in the most{16} abandonedly funny and life-like way, and the parents laugh until they nearly choke over the wretched trifle. For even in these times when something funny happens people have to laugh.

From time to time the telephone bell rings in the Professor’s study, and the big folk run across knowing it is their affair. Many people had to give up their telephones, the last time the price rose; but so far the Corneliuses have been able to keep theirs, just as they have kept their villa, which was built before the war, by dint of the salary Cornelius draws as Professor of History—a million marks, and more or less adapted to the chances and changes of post-war life. The house is comfortable, even elegant, though sadly in need of repairs that cannot be made for lack of materials, and at present disfigured by iron stoves with long pipes. Even so, it is still the proper setting of the upper middle class,{17} though they themselves look odd enough in it, with their worn and turned clothing and altered way of life. The children, of course, know nothing else; to them it is normal and regular, they belong by birth to the “villa proletariat.” The problem of clothing troubles them not at all. They and their like have evolved a costume to fit the time, by poverty out of taste for innovation: in summer it consists of scarcely more than a belted linen smock and sandals. The middle-class parents find things rather more difficult.

The big folk’s table napkins hang over their chair-backs, they talk with their friends over the telephone. These friends are the invited guests who have rung up to accept or decline or arrange: and the conversation is carried on in the jargon of the clan, full of slang and high spirits, of which the old folk understand hardly a word. These consult together{18} meantime about the hospitality to be offered to the impending guests. The Professor displays a middle-class ambitiousness: he wants to serve a sweet—or something that looks like a sweet—after the Italian salad and brown bread sandwiches. But Frau Cornelius says that would be going too far. The guests would not expect it, she is sure—and the big folk, returning once more to their trifle, agree with her.

The mother of the family is of the same general type as Ingrid, though not so tall. She is languid, the fantastic difficulties of the housekeeping have broken and worn her. She really ought to go and take a cure, but feels incapable; the floor is always swaying under her feet, and everything seems upside down. She speaks of what is uppermost in her mind: the eggs, they simply must be bought to-day. Six thousand marks apiece they are, and just so many are to{19} be had on this one day of the week at one single shop fifteen minutes’ journey away. Whatever else they do, the big folk must go and fetch them immediately after luncheon, with Danny, their neighbour’s son, who will soon be calling for them; and Xaver Kleinsgutl will don civilian garb and attend his young master and mistress. For no single household is allowed more than five eggs a week; therefore the young people will enter the shop singly, one after another, under assumed names, and thus wring twenty eggs from the shopkeeper for the Cornelius family. This enterprise is the sporting event of the week for all participants, not excepting the moujik Kleinsgutl, and most of all for Ingrid and Bert, who delight in misleading and mystifying their fellow-men, and would revel in the performance even if it did not achieve one single egg. They adore impersonating fictitious characters; they love to sit in{20} a bus and carry on long life-like conversations in a dialect which they otherwise never speak, the most commonplace dialogue about politics and people and the price of food, while the whole bus listens open-mouthed to this incredibly ordinary prattle, though with a dark suspicion all the while that something is wrong somewhere. The conversation waxes ever more shameless, it enters into revolting detail about these people who do not exist. Ingrid can make her voice sound ever so common and twittering and shrill as she impersonates a shop girl with an illegitimate child, said child being a son with sadistic tendencies, who lately out in the country treated a cow with such unnatural cruelty that no Christian could have borne to see it. Bert nearly explodes at her twittering, but restrains himself and displays a grisly sympathy; he and the unhappy shop girl entering into a long{21} stupid, depraved and shuddery conversation over the particular morbid cruelty involved; until an old gentleman opposite, sitting with his ticket folded between his index finger and his seal ring, can bear it no more and makes public protest against the nature of the themes these young folk are discussing with such particularity. He uses the Greek plural: “themata.” Whereat Ingrid pretends to be dissolving in tears, and Bert behaves as though his wrath against the old gentleman was with difficulty being held in check and would probably burst out before long. He clenches his fists, he gnashes his teeth, he shakes from head to foot; and the unhappy old gentleman, whose intentions had been of the best, hastily leaves the bus at the next stop.

Such are the diversions of the big folk. The telephone plays a prominent part in them: they ring up any and everybody{22}—members of government, opera singers, dignitaries of the Church—in the character of shop assistants, or perhaps as Lord or Lady Doolittle. They are only with difficulty persuaded that they have the wrong number. Once they emptied their parents’ card-tray and distributed its contents among the neighbours’ letter-boxes, wantonly, yet not without enough impish sense of the fitness of things to make it highly upsetting, God only knowing why certain people should have called where they did.

Xaver comes in to clear away, tossing the hair out of his eyes. Now that he has taken off his gloves you can see the yellow chain-ring on his left hand. And as the Professor finishes his watery eight-thousand-mark beer and lights a cigarette, the little folk can be heard scrambling down the stair, coming, by established custom, for their after-dinner call on Father and Mother. They storm the{23} dining-room, after a struggle with the latch, clutched by both pairs of little hands at once; their clumsy small feet twinkle over the carpet, in red felt slippers with the socks falling down on them. With prattle and shoutings each makes for his own place: Snapper to Mother, to climb on her lap, boast of all he has eaten, and thump his fat little turn; Ellie to her Abel, so much hers because she is so very much his; because she consciously luxuriates in the deep tenderness—like all deep feeling, concealing a melancholy strain—with which he holds her small form embraced; in the love in his eyes as he kisses her little fairy hand or the sweet brow with its delicate tracery of tiny blue veins.

The little folk look like each other, with the strong undefined likeness of brother and sister. In clothing and hair-cut they are twins. Yet they are sharply distinguished after all, and quite on sex{24} lines. It is a little Adam and a little Eve. Not only is Snapper the sturdier and more compact, he appears consciously to emphasise his four-year-old masculinity in speech, manner and carriage, lifting his shoulders and letting the little arms hang down quite like a young American athlete, drawing down his mouth when he talks and seeking to give his voice a gruff and forthright ring. But all this masculinity is the result of effort rather than natively his. Born and brought up in these desolate, distracted times, he has been endowed by them with an unstable and hypersensitive nervous system, and suffers greatly under life’s disharmonies. He is prone to sudden anger and outbursts of bitter tears, stamping his feet at every trifle; for this reason he is his mother’s special nursling and care. His round, round eyes are chestnut brown, and already inclined to squint, so that he will need{25} glasses in the near future. His little nose is long, the mouth small—the father’s nose and mouth they are, more plainly than ever since the Professor shaved his pointed beard and goes smooth-faced. The pointed beard had become impossible—even professors must make some concession to the changing times.

But the little daughter sits on her father’s knee, his Eleonorchen, his little Eve, so much more gracious a little being, so much sweeter-faced than her brother—and he holds his cigarette away from her while she fingers his glasses with her minute and dainty hands. The lenses are divided for reading and distance, and each day they tease her curiosity afresh.

At bottom he suspects that his wife’s partiality may have a firmer basis than his own: that Snapper’s refractory masculinity perhaps is solider stuff than his own little girl’s more explicit charm and{26} grace. But the heart will not be commanded, that he knows; and once and for all his heart belongs to the little one, as it has since the day she came, since the first time he saw her. Almost always, when he holds her in his arms, he remembers that first time: remembers the sunny room in the Women’s Hospital, where Ellie first saw the light, twelve years after Bert was born. He remembers how he drew near, the mother smiling the while, and cautiously put aside the canopy of the diminutive bed that stood beside the large one. There lay the little miracle among the pillows: so well-formed, so encompassed, as it were, with the harmony of sweet proportions, with little hands that even then, though so much tinier, were beautiful as now; with wide-open eyes blue as the sky and brighter than the sunshine—and almost in that very second he felt himself captured and held fast. This was love{27} at first sight, love everlasting: a feeling unknown, unhoped for, unexpected—in so far as it could be a matter of conscious awareness; it took entire possession of him, and he understood, with joyous amazement, that this was for life.

But he understood more. He knows, does Dr. Cornelius, that there is something not quite right about this feeling, so unaware, so undreamed of, so involuntary. He has a shrewd suspicion that it is not by accident it has so utterly mastered him and bound itself up with his existence; that he had—even subconsciously—been preparing for it, or, more precisely, been prepared for it. There is, in short, something in him which at a given moment was ready to issue in such a feeling; and this something, highly extraordinarily to relate, is his essence and quality as a professor of history. Dr. Cornelius, however, does not actually{28} say this, even to himself; he merely realises it, at odd times, and smiles a private smile. He knows that history professors do not love history because it is something that comes to pass, but only because; it is something that has come to pass; that they hate a revolution like the present one, because they feel it is lawless, incoherent, irrelevant, in a word unhistoric; that their hearts belong to the coherent, disciplined, historic past. For the temper of timelessness, the temper of eternity—thus the scholar communes with himself, when he takes his walk by the river, before supper—that tempers brood over the past; and it is a temper much better suited to the nervous system of a history professor than are the excesses of the present. The past is immortalised, that is to say it is dead; and death is the root of all godliness and all abiding significance. Dr. Cornelius, walking alone in the dark,{29} has a profound insight into this truth. It is this conservative instinct of his, his sense of the eternal, that has found in his love for his little daughter a way to save itself from the wounding inflicted by the times. For father love, and a little child on its mother’s breast—are not these timeless, and so very, very holy and beautiful? Yet Cornelius, pondering there in the dark, descries something not perfectly right and good in his love. Theoretically, in the interests of science, he admits it to himself. There is something ulterior about it, in the nature of it: that something is hostility, hostility against the history of to-day, which is still in the making and thus not history at all, in behalf of the genuine history that has already happened, that is to say, death. Yes, passing strange though all this is, yet it is true; true in a sense, that is. His devotion to this priceless little morsel of{30} life and new growth has something to do with death, it clings to death as against life; and that is neither right nor beautiful—in a sense. Though only the most fanatical ascetism could be capable, on no other ground than such casual scientific perception, of tearing this purest and most precious of feelings out of his heart.

He holds his darling on his lap and her slim rosy legs hang down. He raises his brows as he talks to her, tenderly, with a half-teasing note of respect, and listens enchanted to her high, sweet little voice calling him Abel. He exchanges a look with the mother, who is caressing her Snapper and reading him a gentle lecture. He must be more reasonable, he must learn self-control; to-day again, under the manifold exasperations of life, he has given way to rage and behaved like a howling dervish. Cornelius casts a mistrustful glance at the big folk now and then,{31} too; he thinks it not unlikely they are not unaware of those scientific preoccupations of his evening walks. If such be the case they do not show it. They stand there, leaning their arms on their chair-backs, and, with a benevolence not untinctured with irony, look on at the parental happiness.

The children’s frocks are of a heavy, brick-red stuff, embroidered in modern “arty” style. They once belonged to Ingrid and Bert and are precisely alike, save that little knickers come out beneath Snapper’s smock. And both have their hair bobbed. Snapper’s is a streaky blond, inclined to turn dark. It is bristly and sticky, and looks for all the world like a droll, badly-fitting wig. But Ellie’s is chestnut brown, glossy and fine as silk, as pleasing as her whole little personality. It covers her ears—and these ears are not a pair, one of them being the right size, the other distinctly{32} too large. Her father will sometimes uncover this little abnormality and exclaim over it as though he had never noticed it before, which both makes Ellie giggle and covers her with shame. Her eyes are now golden-brown, set far apart and with sweet gleams in them—such a clear and lovely look! The brows above are blond; the nose still unformed, with thick nostrils and almost circular holes; the mouth large and expressive, with a beautifully arching and mobile upper lip. When she laughs, dimples come in her cheeks, and she shows her teeth like loosely strung pearls. So far she has lost but one tooth, which her father gently twisted out with his handkerchief after it had grown very wobbling. During this small operation she had paled and trembled very much. Her cheeks have the softness proper to her years; but they are not chubby; indeed they are rather concave, due to her facial structure,{33} with its somewhat prominent jaw. On one, close to the soft fall of her hair, is a downy freckle.

Ellie is not too well pleased with her looks—a sign that already she troubles about such things. Sadly she thinks it is best to admit it once for all, her face is “homely”; though the rest of her, “on the other hand,” is not bad at all. She loves expressions like “on the other hand”; they sound choice and grownup to her, and she likes to string them together, one after the other: “very likely,” “probably,” “after all.” Snapper is self-critical too, though more in the moral sphere: he suffers from remorse for his attacks of rage, and considers himself a tremendous sinner. He is quite certain that heaven is not for such as he; he is sure to go to “the bad place” when he dies, and no persuasions will convince him to the contrary—as that God sees the heart and gladly makes allowances.{34} Obstinately he shakes his head, with the comic, crooked little peruke, and vows there is no place for him in heaven. When he has a cold he is immediately quite choked with mucus; rattles and rumbles from top to toe if you even look at him; his temperature flies up at once and he simply puffs. Nursey is pessimistic on the score of his constitution: such fat-blooded children as he might get a stroke any minute. Once she even thought she saw the moment at hand: Snapper had been in one of his berserker rages, and in the ensuing fit of penitence stood himself in the corner with his back to the room. Suddenly Nurse noticed that his face had gone all blue, far bluer, even, than her own. She raised the alarm, crying out that the child’s all-too-rich blood had at length brought him to his final hour; and Snapper to his vast astonishment, found himself, so far from being rebuked for{35} evil-doing, encompassed in tenderness and anxiety—until it turned out that his colour was not caused by apoplexy but by the distempering on the nursery wall, which had come off on his tear-wet face.

Nursey has come downstairs too, and stands by the door, sleek-haired, owl-eyed, with her hands folded over her white apron, and a severely dignified manner born of her limited intelligence. She is very proud of the care and training she gives her nurslings and declares that they are “enveloping wonderfully.” She has had seventeen suppurated teeth lately removed from her jaws, and been measured for a full set of symmetrical yellow ones in dark rubber gums; these now embellish her peasant face. She is obsessed with the strange conviction that these teeth of hers are the subject of general conversation, that, as it were, the sparrows{36} on the house-tops chatter of them. “Everybody knows I’ve had a false set put in,” she will say; “there has been a great deal of foolish talk about them.” She is much given to dark hints and veiled innuendo: speaks for instance of a certain Dr. Bleifuss, whom every child knows, and “there are even some in the house who pretend to be him.” All one can do with talk like this is charitably to pass it over in silence. But she teaches the children nursery rhymes: gems like

“Puff, puff, here comes the train!
Puff, puff, toot, toot,
Away it goes again.”

or that gastronomical jingle, so suited, in its sparseness, to the times, and yet seemingly with a blitheness of its own:

“Monday we begin the week,{37}
Tuesday there’s a bone to pick.
Wednesday we’re halfway through,
Thursday what a great to-do!
Friday we eat what fish we’re able,
Saturday we dance round the table.
Sunday brings us pork and greens—
Here’s a feast for kings and queens!”

Also a certain four-line stanza with a romantic appeal, unutterable and unuttered:

“Open the gate, open the gate
And let the carriage drive in.
Who is it in the carriage sits?
A lordly sir with golden hair.”

Or, finally, that ballad about golden-haired Marianne who sat on a, sat on a, sat on a stone, and combed out her, combed out her, combed out her hair; and about bloodthirsty Rudolph, who pulled out a, pulled out a, pulled out a{38} knife—and his ensuing direful end. Ellie enunciates all these ballads charmingly, with her mobile little lips, and sings them in her sweet little voice—much better than Snapper. She does everything better than he does, and he pays her honest admiration and homage, and obeys her in all things except when visited by one of his attacks. Sometimes she teaches him, instructs him upon the birds in the picture-book and tells him their proper names: “This is a chaffinch, Buddy, this is a bullfinch, this is a cowfinch.” He has to repeat them after her. She gives him medical instruction too, teaches him the names of diseases, such as infammation of the lungs, infammation of the blood, infammation of the air. If he does not pay attention and cannot say the words after her, she stands him in the corner. Once she even boxed his ears, but was so ashamed that she stood herself in the corner for a long time. Yes, they{39} are fast friends, two souls with but a single thought, and have all their adventures in common. They come home from a walk and relate as with one voice that they have seen two moollies and a teenty-weenty baby calf. They are on familiar terms with the kitchen, which consists of Xaver and the ladies Hinterhofer, two sisters once of the lower middle class, who, in these evil days, are reduced to living “au pair” as the phrase goes and officiating as cook and housemaid for their board and keep. The little ones have a feeling that Xaver and the Hinterhofers are on much the same footing with their father and mother as they are themselves. At least sometimes, when they have been scolded, they go downstairs and announce that the master and mistress are cross. But playing with the servants lacks charm, compared with the joys of playing upstairs. The kitchen could never rise to the height of the games their father can{40} invent. For instance there is “four gentlemen taking a walk.” When they play it Abel will crook his knees until he is the same height with themselves, and go walking with them, hand in hand. They never get enough of this sport; they could walk round and round the dining-room a whole day on end, five gentlemen in all, counting the diminished Abel.

Then there is the thrilling cushion game. One of the children, usually Ellie, seats herself, unbeknownst to Abel, in his seat at table. Still as a mouse she awaits his coming. He draws near with his head in the air, descanting, in loud, clear tones, upon the surpassing comfort of his chair; and sits down on top of Ellie. “What’s this, what’s this?” says he. And bounces about, deaf to the smothered giggles exploding behind him. “Why have they put a cushion in my chair? And what a queer, hard, awk{41}ward-shaped cushion it is!” he goes on. “Frightfully uncomfortable to sit on!” And keeps pushing and bouncing about more and more on the astonishing cushion, and clutching behind him into the rapturous giggling and squeaking, until at last he turns round, and the game ends with a magnificent climax of discovery and recognition. They might go through all this a hundred times without diminishing by an iota its power to thrill.

To-day is no time for such joys. The imminent festivity disturbs the atmosphere, and besides there is work to be done, and, above all, the eggs to be got. Ellie has just time to recite “Puff, puff,” and Cornelius to discover that her ears are not mates, when they are interrupted by the arrival of Danny, come to fetch Bert and Ingrid. Xaver, meantime, has exchanged his striped livery for an ordinary coat, in which he looks rather{42} rough-and-ready, though as brisk and attractive as ever. So then Nursey and the children ascend to the upper regions, the Professor withdraws to his study to read, as always after dinner, and his wife bends her energies upon the sandwiches and salad that must be prepared. And she has another errand as well. Before the young people arrive she has to take her shopping basket and dash into town on her bicycle, to turn into provisions a sum of money she has in hand, which she dares not keep lest it lose all value.

Cornelius reads, leaning back in his chair, with his cigar between his middle and index fingers. First he reads Macaulay on the origin of the English public debt at the end of the seventeenth century: then an article in a French periodical on the rapid increase in the Spanish debt towards the end of the sixteenth. Both these for his lecture on{43} the morrow. He intends to compare the astonishing prosperity which accompanied the phenomenon in England with its fatal effects a hundred years earlier in Spain, and to analyse the ethical and psychological grounds of the difference in results. For that will give him a chance to refer back from the England of William III, which is the actual subject in hand, to the time of Philip II and the counter-Reformation, which is his own special field. He has already written a valuable work on this period; it is much cited and got him his professorship. While his cigar burns out and gets strong, he excogitates a few pensive sentences in a key of gentle melancholy, to be delivered before his class next day: about the practically hopeless struggle carried on by the belated Philip against the whole trend of history: against the new, the kingdom-disrupting power of the Germanic ideal{44} of freedom and individual liberty. And about the persistent, futile struggle of the aristocracy, condemned by God and rejected of man, against the forces of progress and change. He savours his sentences; keeps on polishing them while he puts back the books he has been using; then goes upstairs for the usual pause in his day’s work, the hour with drawn blinds and closed eyes, which he so imperatively needs. But to-day, he recalls, he will rest under disturbed conditions, amid the bustle of preparations for the feast. He smiles to find his heart giving a mild flutter at the thought. Disjointed phrases on the theme of black-clad Philip and his times mingle with a confused consciousness that they will soon be dancing down below. For five minutes or so he falls asleep.

As he lies and rests he can hear the sound of the garden gate and the repeated{45} ringing at the bell. Each time a little pang goes through him, of excitement and suspense, at the thought that the young people have begun to fill the floor below. And each time he smiles at himself again—though even his smile is slightly nervous, is tinged with the pleasurable anticipations people always feel before a party. At half-past four—it is already dark—he gets up and washes at the wash-hand stand. The basin has been out of repair for two years. It is supposed to tip, but has broken away from its socket on one side, and cannot be mended because there is nobody to mend it, neither replaced because no shop can supply another. So it has to be hung up above the vent and emptied by lifting in both hands and pouring out the water. Cornelius shakes his head over this basin, as he does several times a day—whenever, in fact, he has occasion to use it. He finishes his toilet with{46} care, standing under the ceiling light to polish his glasses till they shine. Then he goes downstairs.

On his way to the dining-room he hears the gramophone already going, and the sound of voices. He puts on a polite, society air; at his tongue’s end is the phrase he means to utter: “Pray don’t let me disturb you,” as he passes directly into the dining-room for his tea. “Pray don’t let me disturb you”—it seems to him precisely the mot juste: towards the guests cordial and considerate, for himself a very bulwark.

The lower floor is lighted up, all the bulbs in the chandelier are burning save one that has burned out. Cornelius pauses on a lower step and surveys the entrance hall. It looks pleasant and cosy in the bright light, with its copy of Marée over the brick chimney-piece, its wainscoted walls—wainscoted in soft wood—and red-carpeted floor, where the{47} guests stand in groups, chatting, each with his tea-cup and slice of bread-and-butter spread with anchovy paste. There is a festal haze, faint scents of hair and clothing and human breath come to him across the room, it is all characteristic, and familiar, and highly evocative. The door into the dressing-room is open, guests are still arriving.

A large group of people is rather bewildering at first sight. The Professor takes in only the general scene. He does not see Ingrid, who is standing just at the foot of the steps, in a dark silk frock with a pleated collar falling softly over the shoulders, and bare arms. She smiles up at him, nodding and showing her lovely teeth.

“Rested?” she asks, for his private ear. With a quite unwarranted start he recognizes her, and she presents some of her friends.

“May I introduce Herr Zuber?” she{48} says. “And this is Fräulein Plaichinger.”

Herr Zuber is insignificant. But Fräulein Plaichinger is a perfect Germania, blonde and voluptuous, arrayed in floating draperies. She has a snub nose, and answers the Professor’s salutation in the high, shrill pipe so many stout women have.

“Delighted to meet you,” he says. “How nice of you to come! A classmate of Ingrid’s, I suppose?”

And Herr Zuber is a golfing partner of Ingrid’s. He is in business; he works in his uncle’s brewery. Cornelius makes a few jokes about the thinness of the beer and professes to believe that Herr Zuber could easily do something about the quality if he would. “But pray don’t let me disturb you,” he goes on, and turns toward the dining-room.

“There comes Max,” says Ingrid. “Max, you sweep, what do you mean by rolling up at this time of day?{49}” For such is the way they talk to each other, offensively to an older ear: of social forms, of hospitable warmth, there is no faintest trace. They all call each other by their first names.

A young man comes up to them out of the dressing-room, and makes his bow: he has an expanse of white shirt-front and a little black string tie. He is as pretty as a picture, dark, with rosy cheeks, clean-shaven of course, but with just a sketch of side-whisker. Not a ridiculous or flashy beauty, not like a gypsy fiddler, but just charming to look at, in a winning, well-bred way, with kind dark eyes. He even wears his dinner-jacket a little awkwardly.

“Please don’t scold me, Cornelia,” he says; “it’s the idiotic lectures.” And Ingrid presents him to her father as Herr Hergesell.

Well, and so this is Herr Hergesell.{50} He knows his manners, does Herr Hergesell, and thanks the master of the house quite ingratiatingly for his invitation, as they shake hands. “I certainly seem to have missed the bus,” says he, jocosely. “Of course I have lectures to-day up to four o’clock; I would have; and after that I had to go home to change.” Then he talks about his pumps, with which he has just been struggling in the dressing-room.

“I brought them with me in a bag,” he goes on. “Mustn’t tramp all over the carpet in our brogues—it’s not done. Well, I was ass enough not to fetch along a shoe-horn, and I find I simply can’t get in! What a sell! They are the tightest I’ve ever had, the numbers don’t tell you a thing, and all the leather to-day is just cast iron. It’s not leather at all. My poor finger”—he confidingly displays a reddened digit and once more characterises the whole thing as a{51} “sell,” and a putrid sell into the bargain. He really does talk just as Ingrid said he did, with a peculiar nasal drawl, not affectedly in the least, but merely because that is the way of all the Hergesells.

Dr. Cornelius says it is very careless of them not to keep a shoe-horn in the dressing-room, and displays proper sympathy with the mangled finger. “But now you really must not let me disturb you any longer,” he goes on. “Auf wiedersehen!” And he crosses the hall into the dining-room.

There are guests there too, drinking tea, the family table is pulled out. But the Professor goes at once to his own little upholstered corner with the electric light bulb above it: the nook where he usually drinks his tea. His wife is sitting there talking with Bert and two other young men, one of them Herzl, whom Cornelius knows and greets; the{52} other a typical “Wandervogel” named Möller, a youth who obviously neither owns nor cares to own the correct evening dress of the middle classes (in fact there is no such thing any more), nor to ape the manners of a gentleman (and, in fact, there is no such thing any more either). He has a wilderness of hair, horn spectacles, and a long neck, and wears golf stockings and a belted blouse. His regular occupation, the Professor learns, is banking, but he is by way of being an amateur folk-lorist, and collects folk songs from all localities and in all languages. He sings them, too, and at Ingrid’s command has brought his guitar; it is hanging in the dressing-room in an oiled-cloth case. Herzl the actor is small and slight, but he has a strong growth of black beard, as you can tell by the thick coat of powder on his cheeks. His eyes are larger than life, with a deep and melancholy glow. He{53} has put on rouge besides the powder—those dull carmine high-lights on the cheeks can be nothing but a cosmetic. “Queer,” thinks the Professor. “You would think a man would be one thing or the other—not melancholic and use face paint at the same time. It’s a psychological contradiction. How can a melancholy man rouge? But here we have a perfect illustration of the abnormality of the artist soul-form. It can make possible a contradiction like this—perhaps it even consists in the contradiction. All very interesting—and no reason whatever for not being polite to him. Politeness is a primitive convention—and legitimate.... Do take some lemon, Herr Hofschauspieler!”

Court actors and court theatres—there are no such things any more, really. But Herzl relishes the sound of the title, notwithstanding he is a revolutionary artist. This must be another{54} contradiction inherent in his soul-form; so, at least, the Professor assumes, and he is probably right. The flattery he is guilty of is a sort of atonement for his previous hard thoughts about the rouge.

“Thank you so much—it’s really too good of you, sir,” says Herzl, quite embarrassed. He is so overcome that he almost stammers; only his perfect enunciation saves him. His whole bearing towards his hostess and the master of the house is exaggeratedly polite. It is almost as though he has a bad conscience in respect of his rouge; as though an inward compulsion had driven him to put it on, but now, seeing it through the Professor’s eyes, he disapproves of it himself, and thinks, by an air of humility toward the whole of unrouged society, to mitigate its effect.

They drink their tea and chat: about Möller’s folk-songs, about Basque folk-songs and Spanish folk-songs; from which{55} they pass to the new production of “Don Carlos” at the Stadttheater, in which Herzl plays the title-rôle. He talks about his own rendering of the part, and says he hopes his conception of the character has unity. They go on to criticise the rest of the cast, the setting and the production as a whole; and Cornelius is struck, rather painfully, to find the conversation trending towards his own special province, back to Spain and the counter-Reformation. He has done nothing at all to give it this turn, he is perfectly innocent; and hopes it does not look as though he had sought an occasion to play the professor. He wonders, and falls silent, feeling relieved when the little folk come up to the table. Ellie and Snapper have on their blue velvet Sunday frocks; they are permitted to partake in the festivities up to bedtime. They look shy and large-eyed as they say how-do-you-do to the{56} strangers, and, under pressure, repeat their names and ages. Herr Möller does nothing but gaze at them solemnly, but Herzl is simply ravished. He rolls his eyes up to heaven and puts his hands over his mouth, he positively blesses them. It all, no doubt, comes from his heart; but he is so addicted to theatrical methods of making an impression and getting an effect, that both words and behaviour ring frightfully false. And even his enthusiasm for the little folk looks too much like part of his general craving to make up for the rouge on his cheeks.

The tea-table has meanwhile emptied of guests, and dancing is going on in the hall. The children run off, the Professor prepares to retire. “Go and enjoy yourselves,” he says to Möller and Herzl, who have sprung from their chairs as he rises from his. They shake hands and he withdraws into his study, his{57} peaceful kingdom, where he lets down the blinds, turns on the desk lamp, and sits down to his work.

It is work which can be done, if necessary, under disturbed conditions: nothing but a few letters and a few notes. Of course, Cornelius’ mind wanders. Vague impressions float through it: Herr Hergesell’s refractory pumps, the high pipe in that plump body of the Plaichinger female. As he writes, or leans back in his chair and stares into space, his thoughts go back to Herr Möller’s collection of Basque folk-songs, to Herzl’s posings and humility; to “his” Carlos and the court of Philip II. There is something strange, he thinks, about conversations. They are so ductile, they will go of their own accord in the direction of one’s dominating interest. Often and often he has seen this happen. And while he is thinking, he is listening to the sounds next door—rather subdued,{58} he finds them. He hears only voices, no sound of footsteps. The dancers do not glide or circle round the room; they merely walk about over the carpet, which does not hamper their movements in the least. Their way of holding each other is quite different and strange, and they move to the strains of the gramophone, to the weird music of the new world. He concentrates on the music and makes out that it is a jazz-band record, with various percussion instruments and the clack and clatter of castanets, which, however, are not even faintly suggestive of Spain, but merely jazz with the rest. No, not Spain.... His thoughts are back at their old round.

Half an hour goes by. It occurs to him it would be no more than friendly to go and contribute a box of cigarettes to the festivities next door. Too bad to ask the young people to smoke their own—though they have probably never{59} thought of it. He goes into the empty dining-room and takes a box from his supply in the cupboard: not the best ones, nor yet the brand he himself prefers, but a certain long, thin kind he is not averse to getting rid of—after all, they are nothing but youngsters. He takes the box into the hall, holds it up with a smile, and deposits it on the mantel-shelf. After which he gives a look round and returns to his own room.

There comes a lull in dance and music. The guests stand about the room in groups, or round the table at the window, or seated in a circle by the fireplace. Even the built-in stairs, with their worn velvet carpet, are crowded with young folk as in an amphitheatre: Max Hergesell is there, leaning back with one elbow on the step above and gesticulating with his free hand as he talks to the shrill, voluptuous Plaichinger. The floor of the hall is nearly empty, save just{60} in the centre: there, directly beneath the chandelier, the two little ones in their blue velvet frocks clutch each other in an awkward embrace, and twirl silently round and round, oblivious of all else. Cornelius, as he passes, strokes their hair, with a friendly word; it does not distract them from their small solemn preoccupation. But at his own door he turns to glance round and sees young Hergesell push himself off the stair by his elbow—probably because he noticed the Professor. He comes down into the arena, takes Ellie out of her brother’s arms, and dances with her himself. It looks very comic, without the music, and he crouches down just as Cornelius does when he goes walking with the four gentlemen, holding the fluttered Ellie as though she were grown up, and taking little “shimmying” steps. Everybody watches with huge enjoyment, the gramophone is put on again, dancing becomes{61} general. The Professor stands and looks, with his hand on the door-knob. He nods and laughs; when he finally shuts himself into his study the mechanical smile still lingers on his lips.

Again he turns over pages by his desk lamp; takes notes, attends to a few simple matters. After a while he notices that the guests have forsaken the entrance hall for his wife’s drawing-room, into which there is a door from his own study as well. He hears their voices, and the sounds of a guitar being tuned. Herr Möller, it seems, is to sing—and does so. He twangs the strings of his instrument, and sings in a powerful bass a ballad in a strange tongue, possibly Swedish. The Professor does not succeed in identifying it, though he listens attentively to the end, after which there is great applause. The sound is deadened by the portière that hangs over the dividing door. The{62} young bank clerk begins another song. Cornelius goes softly in.

It is half-dark in the drawing-room; the only light is from the shaded standard lamp, beneath which Möller sits, on the divan, with his legs crossed, picking his strings. His audience is grouped easily about; as there are not enough seats, some stand, and more, among them many young ladies, are simply sitting on the floor with their hands clasped round their knees, or even with their legs stretched out before them. Hergesell sits thus, in his dinner jacket, next the piano, with Fräulein Plaichinger beside him. Frau Cornelius is holding both children on her lap, as she sits in her easy-chair opposite the singer. Snapper, the Bœotian, begins to talk loud and clear in the middle of the song, and has to be intimidated with hushings and fingershakings. Never, never would Ellie allow herself to be guilty of such conduct.{63} She sits there daintily erect and still on her mother’s knee. The Professor tries to catch her eye and exchange a private signal with his little girl; but she does not see him. Neither does she seem to be looking at the singer. Her gaze is directed lower down.

Möller sings the “joli tambour”:

“Sire, mon roi, donnez-moi votre fille,—”

They are all enchanted. “How good,” Hergesell is heard to say, in the odd, nasally-condescending Hergesell tone. The next one is a beggar ballad, to a tune composed by young Möller himself; it elicits a storm of applause:

“Gypsy lassie a-going to the fair
Gypsy laddie a-goin’ to be there—
Huzza, diddlety umpty dido!”

Laughter and high spirits, sheer reckless hilarity, reigns after this jovial ballad. “Frightfully good!” Hergesell comments again, as before. Follows another popular song, this time a Hungarian one; Möller sings it in its own outlandish tongue, and most effectively. The Professor applauds with ostentation. It warms his heart, and does him good, this outcropping of artistic, historic, and cultural elements all amongst the shimmying. He goes up to young Möller and congratulates him, talks about the songs and their sources, and Möller promises to lend him a certain annotated book of folk-songs. Cornelius is the more cordial because all the time, as fathers do, he has been comparing the parts and achievements of this young stranger with those of his own son, and being gnawed by envy and mortification. This young Möller, he is thinking, is a capable bank clerk (though about Möller’s capacity he{65} knows nothing whatever) and has this special gift besides, which must have taken talent and energy to cultivate. “And here is my poor Bert, who knows nothing and can do nothing, and thinks of nothing except playing the clown, without even talent for that!” He tries to be just; he tells himself that after all Bert has innate refinement; that probably there is a good deal more to him than there is to the successful Möller; that perhaps he has even something of the poet in him, and his dancing and table-waiting are due to mere boyish folly and the distraught times. But paternal envy and pessimism win the upper hand; when Möller begins another song, Dr. Cornelius goes back to his room.

He works as before, with divided attention, at this and that, while it gets on for seven o’clock. Then he remembers a letter he may just as well{66} write, a short letter and not very important, but letter-writing is wonderful for the way it takes up the time, and it is almost half-past when he has finished. At half-past eight the Italian salad will be served; so now is the prescribed moment for the Professor to go out into the wintry darkness to post his letters, and take his daily quantum of fresh air and exercise. They are dancing again, and he will have to pass through the hall to get his hat and coat; but they are used to him now, he need not stop and beg them not to be disturbed. He lays away his papers, takes up the letters he has written, and goes out. But he sees his wife sitting near the door of his room, and pauses a little by her easy-chair.

She is watching the dancing. Now and then the big folk or some of their guests stop to speak to her; the party is at its height, and there are more onlookers{67} than these two: blue-faced Ann is standing at the bottom of the stairs, in all the dignity of her limitations. She is waiting for the children, who simply cannot get their fill of these unwonted festivities, and watching over Snapper, lest his all-too-rich blood be churned to the danger point by too much twirling round. And not only the nursery but the kitchen takes an interest: Xaver and the two ladies Hinterhofer are standing by the pantry door looking on with relish. Fräulein Walburga, the elder of the two sunken sisters (the culinary section—she objects to being called a cook) is a whimsical, good-natured sort, brown-eyed, wearing glasses with thick circular lenses; the nosepiece is wound with a bit of rag to keep it from pressing on her nose. Fräulein Cecilia is younger, though not so precisely young either. Her bearing is as self-assertive as usual: this being{68} her way of sustaining her dignity as a former member of the middle class. For Fräulein Cecilia feels acutely her descent into the ranks of domestic service. She positively declines to wear a cap or other badge of servitude; and her hardest trial is on the Wednesday evening when she has to serve the dinner while Xaver has his afternoon out. She hands the dishes with averted face and elevated nose—a fallen queen; and so distressing is it to behold her degradation that one evening when the little folk happened to be at table and saw her they both with one accord burst into tears. Such anguish is unknown to young Xaver. He enjoys serving, and does it with an ease born of practice as well as talent, for he was once a “piccolo.” But otherwise he is a thorough-paced good-for-nothing and wind-bag—with quite distinct traits of character of his own, as his long-suffering employers are always{69} ready to concede, but perfectly impossible and a bag of wind for all that. One must just take him as he is, they think, and not expect figs from thistles. He is the child and product of the disrupted times, a perfect specimen of his generation, follower of the revolution, bolshevist sympathiser. The Professor’s name for him is the “minute-man,” because he is always to be counted on in any sudden crisis, if only it address his sense of humour or love of novelty; and will display therein amazing readiness and resource. But he utterly lacks a sense of duty, and can as little be trained to the performance of the daily round and common task as some kinds of dog can be taught to jump over a stick. It goes so plainly against the grain that criticism is disarmed. One becomes resigned. On grounds that appealed to him as unusual and amusing he would be ready to turn out of his bed at any{70} hour of the night. But he simply cannot get up before eight in the morning, he cannot do it, he will not jump over the stick. Yet all day long the evidence of this free and untrammelled existence, the sound of his mouth-organ, his joyous whistle, or his raucous but expressive voice lifted in song, rises to the hearing of the world above-stairs; and the smoke of his cigarettes fills the pantry. While the Hinterhofer ladies work he stands and looks on. Of a morning while the Professor is breakfasting, he tears the leaf off the study calendar—but does not lift a finger to dust the room. Dr. Cornelius has often told him to leave the calendar alone, for he tends to tear off two leaves at a time, and thus to add to the general confusion. But young Xaver appears to find joy in this activity, and will not be deprived of it.

Again, he is fond of children, a winning trait. He will throw himself into games{71} with the little folk in the garden, make and mend their toys with great ingenuity, even read aloud from their books—and very droll it sounds in his thick-lipped pronunciation. With his whole soul he loves the cinema; after an evening spent there he inclines to melancholy and yearning and talking to himself. Vague hopes stir in him that some day he may make his fortune in that gay world and belong to it by rights: hopes based on his shock of hair and his physical agility and daring. He likes to climb the ash tree in the front garden, mounting branch by branch to the very tip, and frightening everybody to death who sees him. Once there he lights a cigarette and smokes it as he sways to and fro, keeping a look out for a cinema director who might chance to come along and engage him.

If he changed his striped jacket for mufti, he might easily dance with the others, and no one would notice the{72} difference. For the big folk’s friends are rather anomalous in their clothing: evening dress is worn by a few, but it is by no means the rule. There is quite a sprinkling of guests, both male and female, in the same general style as Möller the ballad singer. The Professor is familiar with the circumstances of most of this young generation he is watching as he stands beside his wife’s chair; he has heard them spoken of by name. They are students at the High School, or at the School of Applied Art; they lead, at least the masculine portion, that precarious and scrambling existence which is purely the product of the time. There is a tall, pale, spindling youth, the son of a dentist, who lives by speculation. From all the Professor hears, he is a perfect Aladdin. He keeps a car, treats his friends to champagne suppers, and showers presents upon them on every occasion, costly little trifles{73} in mother-of-pearl and gold. So to-day he has brought gifts to the young givers of the feast: for Bert a gold lead-pencil, and for Ingrid a pair of earrings of barbaric size, great gold circlets that fortunately do not have to go through the little ear-lobe, but are fastened over it by means of a clip. The big folk come laughing to their parents to display these trophies; and the parents shake their heads even while they admire—Aladdin bowing over and over from afar.

The young people appear to be absorbed in their dancing—if the performance they are carrying out with so much still concentration can be called dancing. They stride across the carpet, slowly, according to some unfathomable prescript, strangely embraced; in the newest attitude, tummy advanced and shoulders high, waggling the hips. They do not get tired, because nobody could. There{74} is no such thing as heightened colour, or heaving bosoms. Two girls may dance together, or two young men—it is all the same. They move to the exotic strains of the gramophone, played with the loudest needles to procure the maximum of sound: shimmeys, foxtrots, one-steps, double foxes, African shimmeys, Java dances and Creole polkas, the wild musky melodies follow one another, now furious, now languishing, a monotonous negro programme in unfamiliar rhythm, to a clacking, clashing and strumming orchestral accompaniment.

“What is that record?” Cornelius inquires of Ingrid, as she passes him by in the arms of the pale young speculator, with reference to the piece then playing, whose alternate languors and furies he finds comparatively pleasing and showing a certain resourcefulness in detail.

Prince of Pappenheim: Console{75} thee, dearest child,’ she answers and smiles pleasantly back at him with her white teeth.

The cigarette smoke wreathes beneath the chandelier. The air is blue with a festal haze compact of sweet and thrilling ingredients, that stir the blood with memories of green-sick pains, and are particularly poignant to those whose youth—like the Professor’s own—has been over-sensitive.... The little folk are still on the floor. They are allowed to stop up until eight—so great is their delight in the party. The guests have got used to their presence; in their own way, they have their place in the doings of the evening. They have separated, anyhow: Snapper revolves all alone in the middle of the carpet, in his little blue velvet smock; while Ellie is running after one of the dancing couples, trying to hold the man fast by his coat. It is Max Hergesell and{76} Fräulein Plaichinger. They dance well, it is a pleasure to watch them. One has to admit that these mad modern dances, when the right people dance them, are not so bad after all—they have something quite taking. Young Hergesell is a capital leader, dances according to rule, yet with individuality. So it looks. With what aplomb can he walk backwards—when space permits! And he knows how to be graceful standing still in a crowd. And his partner supports him well, being unsuspectedly lithe and buoyant, as fat people often are. They look at each other, they are talking, paying no heed to Ellie, though others are smiling to see the child’s persistence. Dr. Cornelius tries to catch up his little sweetheart, as she passes, and draw her to him. But Ellie eludes him, almost peevishly, her dear Abel is nothing to her now. She braces her little arms against his chest, and turns her face{77} away with a persecuted look. Then escapes to follow her fancy once more.

The Professor feels an involuntary twinge. Uppermost in his heart is hatred for this party, with its power to intoxicate and estrange his darling child. His love for her—that not quite disinterested, not quite unexceptionable love of his—is easily wounded. He wears a mechanical smile, but his eyes have clouded, and he stares fixedly at a point in the carpet, between the dancers’ feet.

“The children ought to go to bed,” he tells his wife. But she pleads for another quarter of an hour; she has promised already, and they do love it so! He smiles again and shakes his head, stands so a moment and then goes across to the dressing-room, which is full of coats and hats and scarves and overshoes. He has trouble in rummaging out his own coat, and Max Hergesell comes out of the hall, wiping his brow.{78}

“Going out, sir?” he asks, in Hergesellian accents, dutifully helping the older man on with his coat. “Silly business this, with my pumps,” he says. “They pinch like hell. The brutes are simply too tight for me, quite apart from the bad leather. They press just here on the ball of my great toe”—he stands on one foot and holds the other in his hand—“it’s simply unbearable. There’s nothing for it but to take them off; my brogues will have to do the business.... Oh, let me help you, sir.”

“Thanks,” says Cornelius. “Don’t trouble. Get rid of your own tormentors.... Oh, thanks very much!” For Hergesell has gone on one knee to snap the fasteners of his snow boots.

Once more the Professor expresses his gratitude; he is pleased and touched by so much sincere respect and youthful readiness to serve. “Go and enjoy yourself,” he counsels. “Change your shoes,{79} and make up for what you have been suffering. Nobody can dance in shoes that pinch. Good-bye, I must be off to get a breath of fresh air.”

“I’m going to dance with Ellie now,” calls Hergesell after him. “She’ll be a first-rate dancer when she grows up, and that I’ll swear to.”

“Think so?” Cornelius answers, already half out. “Well, you are a connoisseur, I’m sure. Don’t get curvature of the spine with stooping.”

He nods again and goes. “Fine lad,” he thinks as he shuts the door. “Student of engineering. Knows what he’s bound for, got a good clear head, and so well set up and pleasant too.” And again paternal envy rises, as he compares his poor Bert’s status with this young man’s, which he puts in the rosiest light that his son’s may look the darker. Thus he sets out on his evening walk.

He goes up the avenue, crosses the{80} bridge and walks along the bank on the other side as far as the next bridge but one. The air is wet and cold, with a little snow now and then. He turns up his coat collar and slips the crook of his cane over the arm behind his back. Now and then he ventilates his lungs with a long deep breath of the night air. As usual when he walks, his mind reverts to his professional preoccupations, he thinks about his lectures and the things he means to say to-morrow about Philip’s struggle against the Germanic revolution, things steeped in melancholy and penetratingly just. Above all just, he thinks. For in one’s dealings with the young, it behoves one to display the scientific spirit, to exhibit the principles of enlightenment—not only for purposes of mental discipline but on the human and individual side, in order not to wound them or indirectly offend their political sensibilities; particularly in these days,{81} when there is so much tinder in the air, opinions are so frightfully split up and chaotic, and you may so easily incur attacks from one party or the other, or even give rise to scandal, by taking sides on a point of history.” And taking sides is unhistoric anyhow,” so he muses. “Only justice, only impartiality is historic.” And could not, properly considered, be otherwise.... For justice can have nothing of youthful fire, and blithe, fresh, loyal conviction. It is by nature melancholy. And being so, has secret affinity with the lost cause and the forlorn hope rather than with the fresh and blithe and loyal—perhaps this affinity is its very essence and without it it would not exist at all!... “And is there then no such thing as justice?” the Professor asks himself; and ponders the question so deeply that he absently posts his letters in the next box and turns round to go home. This thought of his is{82} unsettling and disturbing to the scientific mind—but is it not after all itself scientific, psychological, conscientious, and therefore to be accepted without prejudice, no matter how upsetting? In the midst of which musings Dr. Cornelius finds himself back at his own door.

On the outer threshold stands Xaver, and seems to be looking for him.

“Herr Professor,” says Xaver, tossing back his hair, “go upstairs to Ellie at once. She’s in a bad way.”

“What’s the matter?” asks Cornelius in alarm. “Is she ill?”

“No-o, not to say ill,” answers Xaver. “She’s just in a bad way and crying fit to bust her little heart. It’s along o’ that chap with the shirt-front that danced with her—Herr Hergesell. She couldn’t be got to go upstairs peaceably, not at no price at all, and she’s b’en crying bucketfuls.{83}

“Nonsense,” says the Professor, who has entered and is tossing off his things in the dressing-room. He says no more; opens the glass door and without a glance at the guests turns swiftly to the stairs. Takes them two at a time, crosses the upper hall and the small room leading into the nursery. Xaver follows at his heels, but stops at the nursery door.

A bright light still burns within, showing the gay frieze that runs all round the room, the large row of shelves heaped with a confusion of toys, the rocking-horse on his swaying platform, with red varnished nostrils and raised hoofs. On the linoleum lie other toys—building blocks, railway trains, a little trumpet. The two white cribs stand not far apart, Ellie’s in the window corner, Snapper’s out in the room.

Snapper is asleep. He has said his prayers in loud, ringing tones, prompted by Nurse, and gone off at once into{84} vehement, profound and rosy slumber—from which a cannon-ball fired at close range could not rouse him. He lies with both fists flung back on the pillows on either side of the tousled head with its funny crooked little slumber-tossed wig.

A circle of females surrounds Ellie’s bed: not only blue-faced Ann is there but the Hinterhofer ladies too, talking to each other and to her. They make way as the Professor comes up, and reveal the child sitting all pale among her pillows, sobbing and weeping more bitterly than he has ever seen her sob and weep in her life. Her lovely little hands lie on the coverlet in front of her, the nightgown with its narrow lace border has slipped down from her shoulder—such a thin, bird-like little shoulder—and the sweet head Cornelius loves so well, set on the neck like a flower on its stalk, her head is on one side, with the{85} eyes rolled up to the corner between wall and ceiling above her head. For there she seems to envisage the anguish of her heart, and even to nod to it—either on purpose or because her head wobbles as her body is shaken with the violence of her sobs. Her eyes rain down tears. The bow-shaped lips are parted, like a little mater dolorosa’s, and from them issue long, low wails that in nothing resemble the unnecessary and exasperating shrieks of a naughty child, but rise from the deep extremity of her heart and wake in the Professor’s own a sympathy that is well-nigh intolerable. He has never seen his darling so before. His feelings find immediate vent in an attack on the ladies Hinterhofer.

“What about the supper?” he asks sharply. “There must be a great deal to do. Is my wife being left to do it alone?”

For the acute sensibilities of the former{86} middle class, this is quite enough. The ladies withdraw in righteous indignation, and Xaver Kleingutl jeers at them as they pass out. Having been born to low life instead of achieving it, he never loses a chance to mock at their fallen state.

“Childie, childie,” murmurs Cornelius, and sitting down by the crib enfolds the anguished Ellie in his arms. “What is the trouble with my darling?”

She bedews his face with her tears.

“Abel.... Abel ...” she stammers between sobs. “Why—isn’t Max—my brother? Max ought to be—my brother!”

Alas, alas! What mischance is this? Is this what the party has wrought, with its fatal atmosphere? Cornelius glances helplessly up at blue-faced Ann standing there in all the dignity of her limitations with her hands before her on her apron. She purses up her mouth and makes a{87} long face. “It’s pretty young,” she says, “for the female instincts to be showing up.”

“Hold your tongue,” snaps Cornelius, in his agony. He has this much to be thankful for, that Ellie does not turn from him now; she does not push him away as she did downstairs, but clings to him in her need, while she reiterates her absurd, bewildered prayer that Max might be her brother, or with a fresh burst of desire demands to be taken downstairs so that he can dance with her again. But Max, of course, is dancing with Fräulein Plaichinger, that behemoth who is his rightful partner and has every claim upon him; whereas Ellie—never, thinks the Professor, his heart torn with the violence of his pity, never has she looked so tiny and birdlike as now, when she nestles to him shaken with sobs and all unaware of what is happening in her little soul. No, she does not know.{88} She does not comprehend that her suffering is on account of Fräulein Plaichinger, fat, overgrown and utterly within her rights in dancing with Max Hergesell, whereas Ellie may only do it once, by way of a joke, although she is incomparably the more charming of the two. Yet it would be quite mad to reproach young Hergesell with the state of affairs, or to make fantastic demands upon him. No, Ellie’s suffering is without help or healing and must be covered up. Yet just as it is without understanding, so it is also without restraint—and that is what makes it so horribly painful. Xaver and blue-faced Ann do not feel this pain, it does not affect them—either because of native callousness or because they accept it as the way of nature. But the Professor’s fatherly heart is quite torn by it, and by a mortifying horror of this passion, so hopeless and so absurd.{89}

Of no avail to hold forth to poor Ellie on the subject of the perfectly good little brother she already has. She only casts a distraught and scornful glance over at the other crib where Snapper lies vehemently slumbering, and with fresh tears calls again for Max. Of no avail either the promise of a long, long walk to-morrow, all five gentlemen, round and round the dining-room table; or a dramatic description of the thrilling cushion games they will play. No, she will listen to none of all this, nor to lying down and going to sleep. She will not sleep, she will sit bolt upright and suffer.... But on a sudden they stop and listen, Abel and Ellie; listen to something miraculous, that is coming to pass, that is approaching by strides, two strides, to the nursery door, that now overwhelmingly appears....

It is Xaver’s work, not a doubt of that. He has not remained by the door where{90} he stood to gloat over the ejection of the Hinterhofers. No, he has bestirred himself, taken a notion, likewise steps to carry it out. Downstairs he has gone, twitched Herr Hergesell’s sleeve and made a thick-lipped request. So here they both are. Xaver, having done his part, remains by the door; but Max Hergesell comes up to Ellie’s crib: in his dinner-jacket, with his sketchy side-whisker and charming black eyes; obviously quite pleased with his rôle of swan knight and fairy prince, as one who should say: “See, here am I, now all losses are restored and sorrows end.”

Cornelius is almost as much overcome as Ellie herself.

“Just look,” he says feebly, “look who’s here. This is uncommonly good of you, Herr Hergesell.”

“Not a bit of it,” says Hergesell. “Why shouldn’t I come to say good-night to my fair partner?{91}

And he approaches the bars of the crib, behind which Ellie sits struck mute. She smiles blissfully through her tears. A funny, high little note that is half a sigh of relief comes from her lips, then she looks dumbly up at her swan knight with her golden-brown eyes—tear-swollen though they are, so much more beautiful than the fat Plaichinger’s. She does not put up her arms. Her joy, like her grief, is without understanding; but she does not do that. The lovely little hands lie quiet on the coverlet, and Max Hergesell stands with his arms leaning over the rail as on a balcony.

“And now,” he says smartly, “she need not ‘sit the livelong night and weep upon her bed!’ He looks at the Professor to make sure he is receiving due credit for the quotation. “Ha, ha!” he laughs, “she’s beginning young. ‘Console thee, dearest child!{92}’ Never mind, you’re all right! Just as you are you’ll be wonderful! You’ve only got to grow up.... And you’ll lie down and go to sleep like a good girl, now I’ve come to say good-night? And not cry any more, little Lorelei?”

Ellie looks up at him, transfigured. One birdlike shoulder is bare, the Professor draws the lace-trimmed nightie over it. There comes into his mind a sentimental story he once read about a dying child who longs to see a clown he had once, with unforgettable ecstacy, beheld in a circus. And they bring the clown to the bedside marvellously arrayed, embroidered before and behind with silver butterflies; and the child dies happy. Max Hergesell is not embroidered, and Ellie, thank God, is not going to die, she has only “been in a bad way.” But after all, the effect is the same. Young Hergesell leans over{93} the bars of the crib and rattles on, more for the father’s ear than the child’s, but Ellie does not know that—and the father’s feelings toward him are a most singular mixture of thankfulness, embarrassment, and hatred.

“Good-night, little Lorelei,” says Hergesell, and gives her his hand through the bars. Her pretty, soft, white little hand is swallowed up in the grasp of his big, strong, red one. “Sleep well,” he says, “and sweet dreams! But don’t dream about me—God forbid! Not at your age—ha, ha!” And then the fairy clown’s visit is at an end. Cornelius accompanies him to the door. “No, no, positively, no thanks called for, don’t mention it,” he large-heartedly protests; and Xaver goes downstairs with him, to help serve the Italian salad.

But Dr. Cornelius returns to Ellie, who is now lying down, with{94} her cheek pressed into her flat little pillow.

“Well, wasn’t that lovely?” he says, as he smooths the covers. She nods, with one last little sob. For a quarter of an hour he sits beside her and watches while she falls asleep in her turn, beside the little brother who found the right way so much earlier than she. Her silky brown hair takes the enchanting fall it always does when she sleeps; deep, deep lie the lashes over the eyes that late so abundantly poured forth their sorrow; the angelic mouth with its bowed upper lip is peacefully relaxed and a little open. Only now and then comes a belated catch in her slow breathing.

And her small hands, like pink and white flowers, lie so quietly, one on the coverlet, the other on the pillow by her face—Dr. Cornelius, gazing, feels his heart melt with tenderness as with strong wine.{95}

“How good,” he thinks, “that she breathes in oblivion with every breath she draws! That in childhood each night is a deep, wide gulf between one day and the next. To-morrow, beyond all doubt, young Hergesell will be a pale shadow, powerless to darken her little heart. To-morrow, forgetful of all but present joy, she will walk with Abel and Snapper, all five gentlemen, round and round the table, will play the ever-thrilling cushion game.”

Heaven be praised for that!






THE atmosphere of Torre di Venere remains unpleasant in the memory. From the first moment the air of the place made us uneasy, we felt irritable, on edge; then at the end came the shocking business of Cipolla, that dreadful being who seemed to incorporate, in so fateful and so humanly impressive a way, all the peculiar evilness of the situation as a whole. Looking back, we had the feeling that the horrible end of the affair had been preordained and lay in the nature of things; that the children had to be present at it was an added impropriety, due to the false colours in which the weird creature presented himself. Luckily for them, they did not know where the comedy left off and the tragedy began; and we let them remain in their happy belief that the{100} whole thing had been a play up till the end.

Torre di Venere lies some fifteen kilometres from Portoclemente, one of the most popular summer resorts on the Tyrrhenian Sea. Portoclemente is urban and elegant and full to overflowing for months on end. Its gay and busy main street of shops and hotels runs down to a wide sandy beach covered with tents and pennanted sand-castles and sunburnt humanity; where at all times a lively social bustle reigns, and much noise. But this same spacious and inviting fine-sanded beach, this same border of pine grove and near, presiding mountains, continues all the way along the coast. No wonder then that some competition of a quiet kind should have sprung up further on. Torre di Venere—the tower that gave the town its name is gone long since, one looks for it in vain—is an offshoot of the larger resort, and for some{101} years remained an idyll for the few, a refuge for more unworldly spirits. But the usual history of such places repeated itself: peace has had to retire further along the coast, to Marina Petriera and dear knows where else. We all know how the world at once seeks peace and puts her to flight: rushing upon her in the fond idea that they two will wed, and where she is there it can be at home. It will even set up its Vanity Fair in a spot and be capable of thinking that peace is still by its side. Thus Torre—though its atmosphere so far is more modest and contemplative than that of Portoclemente—has been quite taken up, by both Italians and foreigners. It is no longer the thing to go to Portoclemente—though still so much the thing that it is as noisy and crowded as ever. One goes next door, so to speak: to Torre. So much more refined, even, and cheaper to boot. And the attractiveness of these{102} qualities persists, though the qualities themselves long ago ceased to be evident. Torre has got a Grand Hotel. Numerous pensions have sprung up, some modest, some pretentious. The people who own or rent the villas and pinetas overlooking the sea no longer have it all their own way on the beach. In July and August it looks just like the beach at Portoclemente: it swarms with a screaming, squabbling, merrymaking crowd, and the sun, blazing down like mad, peels the skin off their necks. Garish little flat-bottomed boats rock on the glittering blue, manned by children, whose mothers hover afar and fill the air with anxious cries of Nino! and Sandro! and Bice! and Maria! Peddlers step across the legs of recumbent sun-bathers, selling flowers and corals, oysters, lemonade and cornetti al burro, and crying their wares in the breathy, full-throated Southern voice.

Such was the scene that greeted our{103} arrival in Torre: pleasant enough, but after all, we thought, we had come too soon. It was the middle of August, the Italian season was still at its height, scarcely the moment for strangers to learn to love the special charms of the place. What an afternoon crowd, in the cafés on the front! For instance, in “Esquisito,” where we sometimes sat, and were served by Mario, that very Mario of whom I shall have presently to tell. It is well-nigh impossible to find a table; and the various orchestras contend together in the midst of one’s conversation with bewildering effect. Of course, it is in the afternoon that people come over from Portoclemente. The excursion is a favourite one for the restless denizens of that pleasure resort, and a Fiat motor-bus plies to and fro, coating inch-thick with dust the oleander and laurel hedges along the high road—a notable if repulsive sight.{104}

Yes, decidedly one should go to Torre in September, when the great public has left. Or else in May, before the water is warm enough to tempt the Southerner to bathe. Even in the before and after seasons Torre is not empty; but life is less national and more subdued. English, French and German prevail under the tent-awnings and in the pension dining-rooms; whereas in August—in the Grand Hotel, at least, where, in default of private addresses we had engaged rooms—the stranger finds the field so occupied by Florentine and Roman society that he feels quite isolated and even temporarily déclassé.

We had, rather to our annoyance, this experience on the evening we arrived, when we went in to dinner and were shown to our table by the waiter in charge. As a table, it had nothing against it; save that we had already fixed our eyes upon those on the verandah beyond,{105} built out over the water, where little red-shaded lamps glowed—and there were still some tables empty, though it was as full as the dining-room within. The children went into raptures at the festive sight, and without more ado we announced our intention to take our meals by preference in the verandah. Our words, it appeared, were prompted by ignorance; for we were informed, with somewhat embarrassed politeness, that the cosy nook outside was reserved for the clients of the hotel: ai nostri clienti. Their clients? But we were their clients. We were not tourists or trippers, but boarders for a stay of some three or four weeks. However, we forebore to press for an explanation of the difference between the likes of us and that clientèle to whom it was vouchsafed to eat out there in the glow of the red lamps; and took our dinner by the prosaic common light of the dining-room chandelier—a{106} thoroughly ordinary and monotonous hotel bill of fare, be it said. In Pensione Eleonora, a few steps landward, the table was much better as we were to discover.

And thither it was that we moved, three or four days later, before we had time to settle in properly at the Grand Hotel. Not on account of the verandah and the lamps. The children, straightway on the best of terms with waiters and pages, absorbed in the joys of life on the beach, promptly forgot those colourful seductions. But now there arose, between ourselves and the verandah clientèle—or perhaps more correctly with the compliant management—one of those little unpleasantnesses which can quite spoil the pleasure of a holiday. Among the guests were some high Roman aristocracy, a Principe X and his family. These grand folk occupied rooms close to our own, and the Principessa, a great and a passionately{107} maternal lady, was thrown into a panic by the vestiges of a whooping-cough which our little ones had lately got over, but which now and then still faintly troubled the unshatterable slumbers of our youngest born. The nature of this illness is not clear, leaving some play for the imagination. So we took no offence at our elegant neighbour for clinging to the widely-held view that whooping-cough is acoustically contagious, and quite simply fearing lest her children yield to the bad example set by ours. In the fulness of her feminine self-confidence she protested to the management, which then, in the person of the proverbial frock-coated manager, hastened to represent to us, with many expressions of regret, that under the circumstances they were obliged to transfer us to the annexe. We did our best to assure him that the disease was in its very last stages, that it was actually{108} over, and presented no danger of infection to anybody. All that we gained was permission to bring the case before the hotel physician—not one chosen by us—by whose verdict we must then abide. We agreed; convinced that thus we should at once pacify the Princess and escape the trouble of moving. The doctor appeared, and behaved like a faithful and honest servant of science. He examined the child, and gave his opinion: the disease was quite over, no danger of contagion was present. We drew a long breath and considered the incident closed—until the manager announced that despite the doctor’s verdict it would still be necessary for us to give up our rooms and retire to the dependance. Byzantinism like this outraged us. It is not likely that the Principessa was responsible for the wilful breach of faith. Very likely the fawning management had not even dared to tell her what the physician said. Anyhow,{109} we made it clear to his understanding that we preferred to leave the hotel altogether and at once—and packed our trunks. We could do so with a light heart, having already set up casual friendly relations with Casa Eleonora. We had noticed its pleasant exterior, and formed the acquaintance of its proprietor, Signora Angiolieri, and her husband: she slender and black-haired, Tuscan in type, probably at the beginning of the thirties, with the dead ivory complexion of the Southern woman, he quiet and bald and painstakingly dressed. They owned a larger establishment in Florence, and presided only in summer and early autumn over the branch in Torre di Venere. But earlier, before her marriage, our new landlady had been companion, fellow-traveller, wardrobe mistress, yes, friend, of Eleonora Duse, and manifestly regarded that period as the crown of her career. Even{110} at our first visit she spoke of it with animation. Numerous photographs of the great actress, with affectionate inscriptions, were displayed about the drawing-room, and other souvenirs of their life together adorned the little tables and étagères. This cult of a so interesting past was calculated, of course, to heighten the advantages of the Signora’s present business. Nevertheless our pleasure and interest was quite genuine as we were conducted through the house by its owner and listened to her sonorous and staccato Tuscan voice relating anecdotes of that immortal mistress, depicting her suffering saintliness, her genius, her profound delicacy of feeling.

Thither, then, we moved our effects, to the dismay of the staff of the Grand Hotel, who, like all Italians, were very good to children. Our new quarters were retired and pleasant, we were{111} within easy reach of the sea through the avenue of young plane trees that ran down to the esplanade. In the clean, cool dining-room Signora Angiolieri daily served the soup with her own hands, the service was attentive and good, the table capital. We even discovered some Viennese acquaintances, and enjoyed chatting with them after luncheon, in front of the house. They, in their turn, were the means of our finding others—in short, all seemed for the best, and we were heartily glad of the change we had made. Nothing was now wanting to a holiday of the most gratifying kind.

And yet no proper gratification ensued. Perhaps the stupid occasion of our change of quarters pursued us to the new ones we had found. Personally, I admit that I do not easily forget these collisions with ordinary humanity, the naïve misuse of power, the injustice, the sycophantic{112} corruption. I dwelt upon the incident too much, it irritated me in retrospect—quite futilely, of course, since such phenomena are only all too natural and all too much the rule. And we had not broken off relations with the Grand Hotel. The children were as friendly as ever there, the porter mended their toys, and we sometimes took tea in the garden. We even saw the Principessa. She would come out, with her firm and delicate tread, her lips emphatically corallined, to look after her children, playing under the supervision of their English governess. She did not dream that we were anywhere near, for so soon as she appeared in the offing we sternly forbade our little one even to clear his throat.

The heat—if I may bring it in evidence—was extreme. It was African. The power of the sun, directly one left the border of the indigo-blue wave, was so{113} frightful, so relentless, that the mere thought of the few steps between the beach and luncheon was a burden, clad though one might be only in pyjamas. Do you care for that sort of thing? Weeks on end? Yes, of course, it is proper to the South, it is classic weather, the sun of Homer, the climate wherein human culture came to flower—and all the rest of it. But after a while it is too much for me, I reach a point where I begin to find it dull. The burning void of the sky, day after day, weighs one down; the high coloration, the enormous naïveté of the unrefracted light—they do, I dare say, induce lightheartedness, a carefree mood born of immunity from downpours and other meteorological caprices. But slowly, slowly, there makes itself felt a lack: the deeper, more complex needs of the northern soul remain unsatisfied. You are left barren—even, it may be, in time,{114} a little contemptuous. True, without that stupid business with the whooping-cough, I might not have been feeling these things. I was annoyed, very likely I wanted to feel them and so half-unconsciously seized upon an idea lying ready to hand to induce, or if not to induce, at least to justify and strengthen my attitude. Up to this point, then, if you like, let us grant some ill-will on our part. But the sea; and the mornings spent extended upon the fine sand in face of its eternal splendours—no, the sea could not conceivably induce such feelings. Yet it was none the less true that despite all previous experience, we were not at home on the beach, we were not happy.

It was too soon, too soon. The beach, as I have said, was still in the hands of the middle-class native. It is a pleasing breed to look at, and among the young we saw much shapeliness and charm. Still,{115} we were necessarily surrounded by a great deal of very average humanity; a middle-class mob which, you will admit, is not more charming under this sun than under one’s own native sky. The voices these women have! It was sometimes hard to believe that we were in the land which is the western cradle of the art of song. “Fuggièro!” I can still hear that cry, as for twenty mornings long I heard it close behind me, breathy, full-throated, hideously stressed, with a harsh open e, uttered in accents of mechanical despair. “Fuggièro! Rispondi almeno!” Answer when I call you! The sp in rispondi was pronounced like shp, as Germans pronounce it; and this, on top of what I felt already, vexed my sensitive soul. The cry was addressed to a repulsive youngster whose sunburn had made disgusting raw sores on his shoulders. He outdid anything I have ever seen for ill-breeding, refractoriness and temper, and was a great{116} coward to boot, putting the whole beach in an uproar, one day, because of his outrageous sensitiveness to the slightest pain. A sand-crab had pinched his toe in the water, and the minute injury made him set up a cry of heroic proportions—the shout of an antique hero in his agony-that pierced one to the marrow and called up visions of some frightful tragedy. Evidently he considered himself not only wounded, but poisoned as well; he crawled out on the sand and lay in apparently intolerable anguish, groaning Ohi! and Ohime! and threshing about with arms and legs to ward off his mother’s tragic appeals and the questions of the bystanders. An audience gathered round. A doctor was fetched—the same who had pronounced objective judgment on our whooping-cough—and here again acquitted himself like a man of science. Goodnaturedly he reassured the boy, telling him that he was not hurt at all,{117} he should simply go into the water again to relieve the smart. Instead of which, Fuggièro was borne off the beach, followed by a concourse of people. But he did not fail to appear next morning, nor did he leave off spoiling our children’s sand-castles. Of course, always by accident. In short, a perfect terror.

And this twelve-year-old lad was prominent among the influences that, imperceptibly at first, combined to spoil our holiday and render it unwholesome. Somehow or other, there was a stiffness, a lack of innocent enjoyment. These people stood on their dignity—just why, and in what spirit, it was not easy at first to tell. They displayed much self-respectingness; toward each other, and toward the foreigner, their bearing was that of a person newly conscious of a sense of honour. And wherefore? Gradually we realised the political implications, and understood that we were{118} in the presence of a national ideal. The beach, in fact, was alive with patriotic children—a phenomenon as unnatural as it was depressing. Children are a human species and a society apart, a nation of their own, so to speak. On the basis of their common form of life, they find each other out with the greatest ease, no matter how different their small vocabularies. Ours soon played with natives and foreigners alike. Yet they were plainly both puzzled and disappointed at times. There were wounded sensibilities, displays of assertiveness—or rather hardly assertiveness, for it was too self-conscious and too didactic to deserve the name. There were quarrels over flags, disputes about authority and precedence. Grown-ups joined in, not so much to pacify as to render judgment and enunciate principles. Phrases were dropped about the greatness and dignity of Italy, solemn phrases that spoilt the{119} fun. We saw our two little ones retreat, puzzled and hurt, and were put to it to explain the situation. These people, we told them, were just passing through a certain stage, something rather like an illness, perhaps; not very pleasant, but probably unavoidable.

We had only our own carelessness to thank that we came to blows in the end with this “stage”—which after all, we had seen and sized up long before now. Yes, it came to another “cross-purposes,” so evidently the earlier ones had not been sheer accident. In a word, we became an offence to the public morals. Our small daughter—eight years old, but in physical development a good year younger and thin as a chicken—had had a good long bathe, and gone playing in the warm sun in her wet costume. We told her that she might take off her bathing-suit, which was stiff with sand, rinse it in the sea and put it on again,{120} after which she must take care to keep it cleaner. Off goes the costume and she runs down naked to the sea, rinses her little jersey and comes back. Ought we to have foreseen the outburst of anger and resentment which her conduct and thus our conduct called forth? Without delivering a homily on the subject, I may say that in the last decade our attitude toward the nude body and our feelings regarding it have undergone, all over the world, a fundamental change. There are things we “never think about” any more, and among them is the freedom we had permitted to this by no means provocative little childish body. But in these parts it was taken as a challenge. The patriotic children hooted. Fuggièro whistled on his fingers. The sudden buzz of conversation among the grown people in our neighbourhood boded no good. A gentleman in city togs, with a not very apropos bowler hat{121} on the back of his head, was assuring his outraged women folk that he proposed to take punitive measures; he stepped up to us, and a philippic descended on our unworthy heads, in which all the emotionalism of the sense-loving south spoke in the service of morality and discipline. The offence against decency of which we had been guilty was, he said, the more to be condemned because it was also a gross ingratitude and an insulting breach of his country’s hospitality. We had criminally injured not only the letter and spirit of the public bathing regulations but also the honour of Italy; he, the gentleman in the city togs, knew how to defend that honour and proposed to see to it that our offence against the national dignity should not go unpunished.

We did our best, bowing respectfully, to give ear to this eloquence. To contradict the man, overheated as he was,{122} would probably be to fall from one error into another. On the tips of our tongues we had various answers: as, that the word hospitality, in its strictest sense, was not quite the right one, taking all the circumstances into consideration. We were not literally the guests of Italy, but of Signora Angiolieri, who had assumed the rôle of dispenser of hospitality some years ago on laying down that of familiar friend to Eleonora Duse. We longed to say that surely this beautiful country had not sunk so low as to be reduced to a state of hypersensitive prudishness. But we confined ourselves to assuring the gentleman that any lack of respect, any provocation on our parts, had been the furthest from our thoughts. And as a mitigating circumstance we pointed out the tender age and physical slightness of the little culprit. In vain. Our protests were waved away, he did not believe in them; our defence would not hold{123} water. We must be made an example of. The authorities were notified, by telephone, I believe, and their representative appeared on the beach. He said the case was “molto grave.” We had to go with him to the Municipio up in the Piazza, where a higher official confirmed the previous verdict of “molto grave,” launched into a stream of the usual didactic phrases—the self-same tune and words as the man in the bowler hat—and levied a fine and ransom of fifty lire. We felt that the adventure must willy-nilly be worth to us this much of a contribution to the economy of the Italian Government; paid, and left. Ought we not at this point, to have left Torre as well?

If we only had! We should thus have escaped that fatal Cipolla. But circumstances combined to prevent us from making up our minds to a change. A certain poet says that it is indolence{124} which makes us endure uncomfortable situations. The aperçu may serve as an explanation for our inaction. Anyhow, one dislikes voiding the field immediately upon such an event. Especially if sympathy from other quarters encourages one to defy it. And in the Villa Eleonora they pronounced as with one voice upon the injustice of our punishment. Some Italian after-dinner acquaintances found that the episode put their country in a very bad light, and proposed taking the man in the bowler hat to task, as one fellow-citizen to another. But the next day, he and his party had vanished from the beach. Not on our account, of course. Though it might be that the consciousness of his impending departure had added energy to his rebuke; in any case his going was a relief to us. And furthermore, we stayed because our stay had by now become remarkable in our own eyes, which is worth something in{125} itself, quite apart from the comfort or discomfort involved. Shall we strike sail, avoid a certain experience so soon as it seems not expressly calculated to increase our enjoyment or our self-esteem? Shall we go away whenever life looks like turning in the slightest uncanny, or not quite normal, or even rather painful and mortifying? No, surely not. Rather stay and look matters in the face, brave them out, perhaps precisely in so doing lies a lesson for us to learn. We stayed on; and reaped as the awful reward of our constancy the unholy and staggering experience with Cipolla.

I have not mentioned that the after season had begun, almost on the very day we were disciplined by the city authorities. The worshipful gentleman in the bowler hat, our denouncer, was not the only person to leave the resort. There was a regular exodus, on every hand you{126} saw luggage carts on their way to the station. The beach denationalised itself. Life in Torre, in the cafés and the pinetas, became more homelike and more European. Very likely we might even have eaten at a table in the glass verandah, but we refrained, being content at Signora Angiolieri’s—as content, that is, as our evil star would let us be. But at the same time with this turn for the better came a change in the weather: almost to an hour it showed itself in harmony with the holiday calendar of the general public. The sky was overcast; not that it grew any cooler, but the unclouded heat of the entire eighteen days since our arrival, and probably long before that, gave place to a stifling sirocco air, while from time to time a little ineffectual rain sprinkled the velvety surface of the beach. Add to which, that two-thirds of our intended stay at Torre had passed. The colourless, lazy sea,{127} with sluggish jellyfish floating in its shallows, was at least a change. And it would have been silly to feel retrospective longings after a sun that had caused us so many sighs when it burned down in all its arrogant power.

At this juncture, then, it was, that Cipolla announced himself. Cavaliere Cipolla, he was called on the posters that appeared one day stuck up everywhere, even in the dining-room of Pensione Eleonora. A travelling virtuoso, an entertainer, “forzatore, illusionista, prestidigatore,” as he called himself, who proposed to wait upon the highly respectable population of Torre di Venere with a display of extraordinary phenomena of a mysterious and staggering kind. A conjuror! The bare announcement was enough to turn our children’s heads. They had never seen anything of the sort, and now our present holiday was to afford them this new excitement.{128} From that moment on they besieged us with prayers to take tickets for the performance. We had doubts, from the first, on the score of the lateness of the hour, nine o’clock; but gave way, in the idea that we might see a little of what Cipolla had to offer, probably no great matter, and then go home. Besides, of course, the children could sleep late next day. We bought four tickets of Signora Angiolieri herself, she having taken a number of the stalls on commission to sell them to her guests. She could not vouch for the man’s performance, and we had no great expectations. But we were conscious of a need for diversion, and the children’s violent curiosity proved catching.

The Cavaliere’s performance was to take place in a hall where during the season there had been a cinema with a weekly programme. We had never been there. You reached it by following the{129} main street under the wall of the “palazzo,” a ruin with a “for sale” sign, that suggested a castle and was obviously built in lordlier days. In the same street were the chemist, the hairdresser and all the better shops; it led, so to speak, from the feudal past the bourgeois into the proletarian, for it ended off between two rows of poor fishing huts, where old women sat mending nets before the doors. And here, among the proletariat, was the hall, not much more, actually, than a wooden shed, though a large one, with a turreted entrance, plastered on either side with layers of gay placards. Some while after dinner, then, on the appointed evening, we wended our way thither in the dark, the children dressed in their best and blissful with the sense of so much irregularity. It was sultry, as it had been for days; there was heat lightning now and then, and a little rain, we proceeded{130} under umbrellas. It took us a quarter of an hour.

Our tickets were collected at the entrance, our places we had to find ourselves. They were in the third row left, and as we sat down we saw that late though the hour was for the performance, it was to be interpreted with even more laxity. Only very slowly did an audience—who seemed to be relied upon to come late—begin to fill the stalls. These comprised the whole auditorium, there were no boxes. This tardiness gave us some concern. The children’s cheeks were already flushed as much with fatigue as with excitement. But even when we entered, the standing-room at the back and in the side-aisles was already well occupied. There stood the manhood of Torre di Venere, all and sundry, fisherfolk, ready-and-rough youths with bare forearms crossed over their striped jerseys. We were well pleased with the presence{131} of this native assemblage, which always adds colour and animation to occasions like the present; and the children were frankly delighted. For they had friends among these people—acquaintances picked up on afternoon strolls to the further ends of the beach. We would be turning homeward, at the hour when the sun drooped into the sea, spent with the huge effort it had made and gilding with reddish gold the oncoming surf; and we would come upon bare-legged fisherfolk standing in rows, bracing and hauling with long-drawn cries, as they drew in the nets and harvested in dripping baskets their catch, often so scanty, of frutta di mare. The children looked on, helped to pull, brought out their little stock of Italian words, made friends. So now they exchanged nods with the “standing-room” clientèle: there was Guiscardo, there Antonio, they knew them by name and waved and called{132} across in half-whispers, getting answering nods and smiles that displayed rows of healthy white teeth. Look, there is even Mario, Mario from “Esquisito,” who brings us the chocolate. He wants to see the conjuror, too, and he must have come early, for he is almost in front; but he does not see us, he is not paying attention, that is a way he has, even though he is a waiter. So we wave instead to the man who lets out the little boats on the beach, he there too, standing at the back.

It had got to a quarter past nine, it got to almost half past. It was natural that we should be nervous. When would the children get to bed? It had been a mistake to bring them, for now it would be very hard to suggest breaking off their enjoyment before it had got well under way. The stalls had filled in time; all Torre, apparently, was there: the guests of the Grand{133} Hotel, the guests of Villa Eleonora, familiar faces from the beach. We heard English and German, and the sort of French that Rumanians speak with Italians. Madame Angiolieri herself sat two rows behind us, with her quiet, bald-headed spouse, who kept stroking his moustache with the two middle fingers of his right hand. Everybody had come late, but nobody too late. Cipolla made us wait for him.

He made us wait. That is probably the way to put it. He heightened the suspense by his delay in appearing. And we could see the point of this, too—only not when it was carried to extremes. Toward half past nine the audience began to clap—an amiable way of expressing justifiable impatience, evincing as it does an eagerness to applaud. For the little ones, this was a joy in itself—all children love to clap. From the popular sphere came loud cries of{134}Pronti!” “Cominciamo!” And lo, it seemed now as easy to begin as before it had been hard. A gong sounded, greeted by the standing rows with a many-voiced “Ah-h!” and the curtains parted. They revealed a platform furnished more like a schoolroom than like the theatre of a conjuring performance—largely because of the blackboard in the left foreground. There was a common yellow hat-stand, a few ordinary straw-bottomed chairs, and further back a little round table holding a water carafe and glass, also a tray with a liqueur glass and a flask of pale yellow fluid. We had still a few seconds of time to let these things sink in. Then, with no darkening of the house, Cavaliere Cipolla made his entry.

He came forward with a rapid step that expressed his eagerness to appear before his public and gave rise to the illusion that he had already come a long way to put himself at their service{135}—whereas, of course, he had only been standing in the wings. His costume supported the fiction. A man of an age hard to determine, but by no means young; with a sharp, ravaged face, piercing eyes, compressed lips, small black waxed moustache, and a so-called imperial in the curve between mouth and chin. He was dressed for the street with a sort of complicated evening elegance, in a wide black sleeveless pelerine with velvet collar and satin lining; which, in the hampered state of his arms, he held together in front with his white-gloved hands. He had a white scarf round his neck, a top hat with a curving brim sat far back on his head. Perhaps more than anywhere else, the eighteenth century is still alive in Italy, and with it the charlatan and mountebank type so characteristic of the period. Only there, at any rate, does one still encounter really well-preserved{136} specimens. Cipolla had in his whole appearance much of the historic type; his very clothes helped to conjure up the traditional figure with its blatantly, fantastically foppish air. His pretentious costume sat upon him, or rather hung upon him, most curiously, being in one place drawn too tight, in another a mass of awkward folds. There was something not quite in order about his figure, both front and back—that was plain later on. But I must emphasise the fact that there was not a trace of personal jocularity or clownishness in his pose, manner or behaviour. On the contrary, there was complete seriousness, an absence of any humorous appeal; occasionally even a cross-grained pride, along with that curious, self-satisfied air so characteristic of the deformed. None of all this, however, prevented his appearance from being greeted with laughter from more than one quarter of the hall.{137}

All the eagerness had left his manner. The swift entry had been merely an expression of energy, not of zeal. Standing at the footlights he negligently drew off his gloves, to display long yellow hands, one of them adorned with a seal ring with a lapis-lazuli in a high setting. As he stood there his small hard eyes, with flabby pouches beneath them, roved appraisingly about the hall, not quickly, rather in a considered examination, pausing here and there upon a face with his lips clipped together, not speaking a word. Then with a display of skill as surprising as it was casual, he rolled his gloves into a ball and tossed them across a considerable distance into the glass on the table. Next from an inner pocket he drew forth a packet of cigarettes, you could see by the wrapper that they were the cheapest sort the government sells. With his finger-tips he pulled out a cigarette and lighted it without looking{138} from a quick-firing benzine lighter. He drew the smoke deep into his lungs and let it out again, tapping his foot, with both lips drawn in an arrogant grimace and the grey smoke streaming out between broken and saw-edged teeth.

With a keenness equal to his own his audience eyed him. The youths at the rear scowled as they peered at this cocksure creature to search out his secret weaknesses. He betrayed none. In fetching out and putting back the cigarettes his clothes got in his way. He had to turn back his pelerine, and in so doing revealed a riding-whip with a silver claw-handle, that hung by a leather thong from his left forearm and looked decidedly out of place. You could see that he had on not evening clothes but a frock coat, and under this, as he lifted it to get at his pocket, could be seen a striped sash worn about the body. Somebody behind me whispered that this sash went with{139} his title of Cavaliere. I give the information for what it may be worth—personally, I never heard that the title carried such insignia with it. Perhaps the sash was sheer pose, like the way he stood there, without a word, casually and arrogantly puffing smoke into his audience’s face.

People laughed, as I said. The merriment had become almost general when somebody in the “standing seats,” in a loud, dry voice, remarked “Buona sera.

Cipolla cocked his head. “Who was that?” asked he, as though he had been dared. “Who was that just spoke? Well? First so bold and now so modest? Paura, eh?” He spoke with a rather high, asthmatic voice, which yet had a metallic quality. He waited.

“That was me,” a youth at the rear broke into the stillness, seeing himself thus challenged. He was not far from{140} us, a handsome fellow in a woollen shirt, with his coat hanging over one shoulder. He wore his curly, wiry hair in a high, dishevelled mop, the style affected by the youth of the awakened Fatherland; it gave him an African appearance that rather spoiled his looks. “Bè! That was me. It was your business to say it first, but I was trying to be friendly.”

More laughter. The chap had a tongue in his head. “Ha sciolto la scilinguágnolo,” I heard near me. After all, the retort was deserved.

“Ah, bravo!” answered Cipolla. “I like you, giovanotto. Trust me, I’ve had my eye on you for some time. People like you are just in my line. I can use them. And you are the pick of the lot, that’s plain to see. You do what you like. Or is it possible you have ever not done what you liked—or even, maybe, what you didn’t like? What somebody else liked,{141} in short? Hark ye, my friend, that might be a pleasant change for you, to divide up the willing and the doing, and stop tackling both jobs at once. Division of labour, sistema americana, sa’! For instance, suppose you were to show your tongue to this select and honourable audience here—your whole tongue, right down to the roots?”

“No, I won’t,” said the youth, hostilely. “Sticking out your tongue shows a bad bringing-up.”

“Nothing of the sort,” retorted Cipolla. “You would only be doing it. With all due respect to your bringing-up, I suggest that before I count ten, you will perform a right turn and stick out your tongue at the company here further than you knew yourself that you could stick it out.”

He gazed at the youth, and his piercing eyes seemed to sink deeper into their sockets, “Uno!” said he. He had let{142} his riding-whip slide down his arm, and made it whistle once through the air. The boy faced about and put out his tongue, so long, so extendedly, that you could see it was the very uttermost in tongue which he had to offer. Then turned back, stony-faced, to his former position.

“That was me,” mocked Cipolla, with a jerk of his head toward the youth. “Bè! That was me.” Leaving the audience to enjoy its sensations, he turned toward the little round table, lifted the bottle, poured out a small glass of what was obviously cognac and tipped it up with a practised hand.

The children laughed with all their hearts. They had understood practically nothing of what had been said. But it pleased them hugely that something so funny should happen, straightaway, between that queer man up there and somebody out of the audience. They{143} had no preconception of what an “evening” would be like, and were quite ready to find this a priceless beginning. As for us, we exchanged a glance and I remember that involuntarily I made with my lips the sound that Cipolla’s whip had made when it cut the air. For the rest, it was plain that people did not know what to make of a preposterous beginning like this to a sleight-of-hand performance. They could not see why the giovanotto, who after all in a way had been their spokesman, should suddenly have turned on them to vent his incivility. They felt that he had behaved like a silly ass, and withdrew their countenances from him in favour of the artist, who now came back from his refreshment table and addressed them as follows: “Ladies and gentlemen,” said he, in his wheezing, metallic voice, “you saw just now that I was rather sensitive on the score of the rebuke this{144} hopeful young linguist saw fit to give me”—questo linguista di belle speranze was what he said, and we all laughed at the pun. “I am a man who sets some store by himself, you may take it from me. And I see no point in being wished a good evening unless it is done courteously and in all seriousness. For anything else there is no occasion. When a man wishes me a good evening he wishes himself one, for the audience will have one only if I do. So this lady-killer of Torre di Venere” (another thrust) “did well to testify that I have one to-night, and that I can dispense with any wishes of his in the matter. I can boast of having good evenings, almost without exception. One not so good does come my way now and again, but very seldom. My calling is hard and my health not of the best. I have a little physical defect which prevented me from doing my bit in the war for the greater glory of the Father{145}land. It is perforce with my mental and spiritual parts that I conquer life—which after all only means conquering oneself. And I flatter myself that my achievements have aroused interest and respect among the educated public. The leading newspapers have lauded me, the Corriere della Sera did me the courtesy of calling me a phenomenon, and in Rome the brother of the Duce honoured me by his presence at one of my evenings. I should not have thought that in a relatively less important place” (laughter here, at the expense of poor little Torre) “I should have to give up the small personal habits which brilliant and elevated audiences had been ready to overlook. Nor did I think I had to stand being heckled by a person who seems to have been rather spoilt by the favours of the fair sex.” All this of course at the expense of the youth whom Cipolla never tired of presenting in the guise of donnaiuolo and{146} rustic Don Juan. His persistent thin-skinnedness and animosity were in striking contrast to the self-confidence and the worldly success he boasted of. One might have assumed that the giovanotto was merely the chosen butt of Cipolla’s customary professional sallies, had not the very pointed witticisms betrayed a genuine antagonism. No one looking at the physical parts of the two men need have been at a loss for the explanation, even if the deformed man had not constantly played on the other’s supposed success with the fair sex. “Well,” Cipolla went on, “before beginning our entertainment this evening, perhaps you will permit me to make myself comfortable.”

And he went toward the hat-stand to take off his things.

Parla benissimo,” asserted somebody in our neighbourhood. So far, the man had done nothing; but what he had said was accepted as an achievement, by{147} means of that he had made an impression. Among Southern peoples, speech is a constituent part of the pleasure of living, it enjoys far livelier social esteem than in the North. That national cement, the mother-tongue, is paid symbolic honours down here, and there is something blithely symbolical in the pleasure people take in their respect for its forms and phonetics. They enjoy speaking, they enjoy listening; and they listen with discrimination. For the way a man speaks serves as a measure of his personal rank; carelessness and clumsiness are greeted with scorn, elegance and mastery are rewarded with social eclat. Wherefore the small man too, where it is a question of getting his effect, chooses his phrase nicely and turns it with care. On this count, then, at least, Cipolla had won his audience; though he by no means belonged to the class of men which the Italian, in a singular mixture{148} of moral and aesthetic judgments, labels “simpatico.”

After removing his hat, scarf and mantle, he came to the front of the stage, settling his coat, pulling down his cuffs with their large cuff-buttons, adjusting his absurd sash. He had very ugly hair; the top of his head, that is, was almost bald, while a narrow, black-varnished frizz of curls ran from front to back as though stuck on; the side hair, likewise blackened, was brushed forward to the corners of the eyes—it was, in short, the hair-dressing of an old-fashioned circus-director, fantastic, but entirely suited to his outmoded personal type, and worn with so much assurance as to take the edge off the public’s sense of humour. The little physical defect of which he had warned us was now all too visible, though the nature of it was even now not very clear: the chest was too high, as is usual in{149} such cases; but the corresponding malformation of the back did not sit between the shoulders but took the form of a sort of hips or buttocks hump, which did not indeed hinder his movements but gave him a grotesque and dipping stride at every step he took. However, by mentioning his deformity beforehand he had broken the shock of it, and a delicate propriety of feeling appeared to reign throughout the hall.

“At your service,” said Cipolla. “With your kind permission, we will begin the evening with some arithmetical tests.”

Arithmetic? That did not sound much like sleight-of-hand. We began to have our suspicions that the man was sailing under a false flag, only we did not yet know which was the right one. I felt sorry on the children’s account; but for the moment they were content simply to be there.{150}

The numerical test which Cipolla now introduced was as simple as it was baffling. He began by fastening a piece of paper to the upper right-hand corner of the blackboard, then lifting it up wrote something underneath. He talked all the while, relieving the dryness of his offering by a constant flow of words; and showed himself a practised speaker, never at a loss for conversational turns of phrase. It was in keeping with the nature of his performance, and at the same time vastly entertained the children, that he went on to eliminate the gap between stage and audience, which had already been bridged over by the curious skirmish with the fisher lad: he had representatives from the audience mount the stage, and himself descended the wooden steps to seek personal contact with his public. And again, with individuals, he fell into his former taunting tone. I do not know how far that was a{151} deliberate feature of his system; he preserved a serious, even a peevish air, but his audience, at least the more popular section, seemed convinced that that was all part of the game. So then, after he had written something and covered the writing by the paper, he desired that two persons should come up on the platform and help to perform the calculations. They would not be difficult, even for people not clever at figures. As usual, nobody volunteered, and Cipolla took care not to molest the more select portion of his audience. He kept to the populace. Turning to two sturdy young louts standing behind us, he beckoned them to the front, encouraging and scolding by turns. They should not stand there gaping, he said, unwilling to oblige the company. Actually, he got them in motion; with clumsy tread they came down the middle aisle, climbed the steps and stood in front of the blackboard,{152} grinning sheepishly at their comrades’ shouts and applause. Cipolla joked with them for a few minutes, praised their heroic firmness of limb, and the size of their hands, so well calculated to do this service for the public. Then he handed one of them the chalk, and told him to write down the numbers as they were called out. But now the creature declared that he could not write! “Non so scrivere,” said he in his gruff voice, and his companion added that neither did he.

God knows whether they told the truth, or whether they wanted to make game of Cipolla. Anyhow, the latter was far from sharing the general merriment which their confession aroused. He was insulted and disgusted. He sat there on a straw-bottomed chair in the centre of the stage with his legs crossed, smoking a fresh cigarette out of his cheap packet; obviously it tasted the better for the cognac he had indulged in while the{153} yokels were stumping up the steps. Again he inhaled the smoke and let it stream out between curling lips. Swinging his leg, with his gaze sternly averted from the two shamelessly chuckling creatures and from the audience as well, he stared into space as one who withdraws himself and his dignity from the contemplation of an utterly despicable phenomenon.

“Scandalous,” said he, in a sort of icy snarl. “Go back to your places! In Italy everybody can write—in all her greatness there is no room for ignorance and unenlightenment. To accuse her of them, in the hearing of this international company, is a cheap joke, in which you yourselves cut a very poor figure and humiliate the government and the whole country as well. If it is true that Torre di Venere is indeed the last refuge of such ignorance, then I must blush to have visited the place—being, as I already was,{154} aware of its inferiority to Rome in more than one respect——”

Here Cipolla was interrupted by the youth with the Nubian coiffure and his jacket across his shoulder. His fighting spirit, as we now saw, had only abdicated temporarily, and he now flung himself into the breach in defence of his native heath. “That will do,” said he loudly. “That’s enough jokes about Torre. We all come from the place and we won’t stand strangers making fun of it. These two chaps are our friends. Maybe they are no scholars, but even so they may be straighter than some folks in the room who are so free with their boasts about Rome, though they did not build it either.”

That was capital. The young man had certainly cut his eye-teeth. And this sort of spectacle was good fun, even though it still further delayed the regular performance. It is always fascinating to listen{155} to an altercation. Some people it simply amuses, they take a sort of killjoy pleasure in not being principals. Others feel upset and uneasy, and my sympathies are with these latter, although on the present occasion I was under the impression that all this was part of the show—the analphabetic yokels no less than the giovanotto with the jacket. The children listened well pleased. They understood not at all, but the sound of the voices made them hold their breath. So this was a “magic evening”—at least it was the kind they have in Italy. They expressly found it “lovely.”

Cipolla had stood up, and with two of his scooping strides was at the footlights.

“Well, well, see who’s here!” said he with grim cordiality. “An old acquaintance! A young man with his heart at the end of his tongue” (he used the word linguaccia, which means a coated tongue, and gave rise to much hilarity). “That{156} will do, my friends,” he turned to the yokels. “I do not need you now, I have business with this deserving young man here, con questo torregiano di Venere, this tower of Venus, who no doubt expects the gratitude of the fair as a reward for his prowess——”

Ah, non scherziamo! We’re talking earnest,” cried out the youth. His eyes flashed, and he actually made as though to pull off his jacket and proceed to direct methods of settlement.

Cipolla did not take him too seriously. We had exchanged apprehensive glances; but he was dealing with a fellow-countryman, and had his native soil beneath his feet. He kept quite cool, and showed complete mastery of the situation. He looked at his audience, smiled, and made a sideways motion of the head towards the young cockerel as though calling the public to witness how the man’s bumptiousness only served to{157} betray the simplicity of his mind. And then, for the second time, something strange happened, which set Cipolla’s calm superiority in an uncanny light, and in some mysterious and mortifying way turned all the explosiveness latent in the air into matter for laughter.

Cipolla drew still nearer to the fellow, looking him in the eye with a peculiar gaze. He even came halfway down the steps that led into the auditorium on our left, so that he stood directly in front of the trouble-maker, on slightly higher ground. The riding-whip hung from his arm.

“My son, you do not feel much like joking,” he said. “It is only too natural, for anyone can see that you are not feeling too well. Even your tongue, which leaves something to be desired on the score of cleanliness, indicates acute disorder of the gastric system. An evening entertainment is no place for people{158} in your state; you yourself, I can tell, were of several minds whether you would not do better to put on a flannel bandage and go to bed. It was not good judgment to drink so much of that very sour white wine this afternoon. Now you have such a colic, you would like to double up with the pain. Go ahead, don’t be embarrassed. There is a distinct relief that comes from bending over, in cases of intestinal cramp.”

He spoke thus, word for word, with quiet impressiveness and a kind of stern sympathy, and his eyes, plunged the while deep in the young man’s, seemed to grow very tired and at the same time burning above their enlarged tear-ducts—they were the strangest eyes, you could tell that not manly pride alone was preventing the young adversary from withdrawing his gaze. And presently, indeed, all trace of its former arrogance was gone from the bronzed young face.{159} He looked open-mouthed at the Cavaliere and the open mouth was drawn in a rueful smile.

“Double over,” repeated Cipolla. “What else can you do? With a colic like that you must bend. Surely you will not struggle against the performance of a perfectly natural action just because somebody suggests it to you?”

Slowly the youth lifted his forearms, folded and squeezed them across his body; it turned a little sideways, then bent, lower and lower, the feet shifted, the knees turned inward, until he had become a picture of writhing pain, until he all but grovelled upon the ground. Cipolla let him stand for some seconds thus, then made a short cut through the air with his whip, and went with his scooping stride back to the little table, where he poured himself out a cognac.

Il boit beaucoup,” asserted a lady behind us. Was that the only thing that{160} struck her? We could not tell how far the audience grasped the situation. The fellow was standing upright again, with a sheepish grin—he looked as though he scarcely knew how it had all happened. The scene had been followed with tense interest and applauded at the end; there were shouts of “Bravo, Cipolla!” and “Bravo, giovanotto!” Apparently the issue of the duel was not looked upon as a personal defeat for the young man. Rather the audience encouraged him as one does an actor who succeeds in an unsympathetic rôle. Certainly his way of screwing himself up with cramp had been highly picturesque, its appeal was directly calculated to impress the gallery—in short, a fine dramatic performance. But I am not sure how far the audience were moved by that natural tactfulness in which the South excels; or how far it penetrated into the nature of what was going on.{161}

The Cavaliere, refreshed, had lighted another cigarette. The numerical tests might now proceed. A young man was easily found in the back row, who was willing to write down on the blackboard the numbers as they were dictated to him. Him too we knew; the whole entertainment had taken on an intimate character through our acquaintance with so many of the actors. This was the man who worked at the greengrocer’s in the main street; he had served us several times, with neatness and dispatch. He wielded the chalk with clerkly confidence, while Cipolla descended to our level and walked with his deformed gait through the audience, collecting numbers as they were given, in two, three and four places, and calling them out to the grocer’s assistant, who wrote them down in a column. In all this, everything on both sides was calculated to amuse, with its jokes and its oratorical asides. The{162} artist could not fail to hit on foreigners, who were not ready with their figures, and with them he was elaborately patient and chivalrous, to the great amusement of the natives, whom he reduced to confusion in their turn, by making them translate numbers that were given in English or French. Some people gave dates concerned with great events in Italian history. Cipolla took them up at once and made patriotic comments. Somebody shouted “Number one!” The Cavaliere, incensed at this as at every attempt to make game of him, retorted over his shoulder that he could not take less than two-place figures. Whereupon another joker cried out “Number two!” and was greeted with the applause and laughter which every reference to natural matters is sure to win among Southerners.

When fifteen numbers stood in a long straggling row on the board, Cipolla called for a general adding-match. Ready-{163}reckoners might add in their heads, but pencil and paper were not forbidden. Cipolla, while the work went on, sat on his chair near the blackboard, smoked and grimaced, with the complacent, pompous air cripples so often have. The five-place addition was soon done. Somebody announced the answer, somebody else confirmed it, a third had arrived at a slightly different result, but the fourth agreed with the first and second. Cipolla got up, tapped some ash from his coat, and lifted the paper at the upper right-hand corner of the board to display the writing. The correct answer, a sum close on a million, stood there; he had written it down beforehand.

Astonishment, and loud applause. The children were overwhelmed. How had he done that, they wanted to know. We told them it was a trick, not easily explainable offhand. In short, the man was a conjuror. This was what a{164} sleight-of-hand evening was like, so now they knew. First the fisherman had cramp, and then the right answer was written down beforehand—it was all simply glorious, and we saw with dismay that despite the hot eyes and the hand of the clock at almost half-past ten, it would be very hard to get them away. There would be tears. And yet it was plain that this magician did not “magick”—at least not in the accepted sense, of manual dexterity—and that the entertainment was not at all suitable for children. Again, I do not know, either, what the audience really thought. Obviously there was grave doubt whether its answers had been given of “free choice”; here and there an individual might have answered of his own motion, but on the whole Cipolla certainly selected his people and thus kept the whole procedure in his own hands and directed it toward the given result.{165} Even so, one had to admire the quickness of his calculations, however much one felt disinclined to admire anything else about the performance. Then his patriotism, his irritable sense of dignity—the Cavaliere’s own countrymen might feel in their element with all that, and continue in a laughing mood; but the combination certainly gave us outsiders food for thought.

Cipolla himself saw to it—though without giving them a name—that the nature of his powers should be clear beyond a doubt to even the least instructed person. He alluded to them, of course, in his talk—and he talked without stopping—but only in vague, boastful, self-advertising phrases. He went on a while with experiments on the same lines with the first, merely making them more complicated by introducing operations in multiplying, subtracting and dividing; then he simplified them{166} to the last degree in order to bring out the method. He simply had numbers “guessed” which were previously written under the paper; and the guess was nearly always right. One guesser admitted that he had had in mind to give a certain number, when Cipolla’s whip went whistling through the air, and a quite different one slipped out, which proved to be the “right” one. Cipolla’s shoulders shook. He pretended admiration for the powers of the people he questioned. But in all his compliments there was something fleering and derogatory; the victims could scarcely have relished them much, although they smiled, and although they might easily have set down some part of the applause to their own credit. Moreover, I had not the impression that the artist was popular with his public. A certain ill-will and reluctance were in the air, but courtesy kept such feelings in check, as{167} did Cipolla’s competency and his stern self-confidence. Even the riding-whip, I think, did much to keep rebellion from becoming overt.

From tricks with numbers he passed to tricks with cards. There were two packs, which he drew out of his pockets, and so much I still remember, that the basis of the tricks he played with them was as follows: from the first pack he drew three cards and thrust them without looking at them inside his coat. Another person then drew three out of the second pack, and these turned out to be the same as the first three—not invariably all the three, for it did happen that only two were the same. But in the majority of cases Cipolla triumphed, showing his three cards with a little bow in acknowledgment of the applause with which his audience conceded his possession of strange powers—strange whether for good or evil. A young man in the{168} front row, to our right, an Italian, with proud, finely chiselled features, rose up and said that he intended to assert his own will in his choice and consciously to resist any influence, of whatever sort. Under these circumstances, what did Cipolla think would be the result? “You will,” answered the Cavaliere, “make my task somewhat more difficult thereby. As for the result, your resistance will not alter it in the least. Freedom exists, and also the will exists; but freedom of the will does not exist, for a will that aims at its own freedom aims at the unknown. You are free to draw or not to draw. But if you draw, you will draw the right cards—the more certainly, the more wilfully obstinate your behaviour.”

One must admit that he could not have chosen his words better, to trouble the waters and confuse the mind. The refractory youth hesitated before drawing.{169} Then he pulled out a card and at once demanded to see if it was among the chosen three. “But why?” queried Cipolla. “Why do things by halves?” Then, as the other defiantly insisted, “E servito,” said the juggler, with a gesture of exaggerated servility; and held out the three cards fan-wise, without looking at them himself. The left-hand card was the one drawn.

Amid general applause, the apostle of freedom sat down. How far Cipolla employed small tricks and manual dexterity to help out his natural talents, the deuce only knew. But even without them, the result would have been the same: the curiosity of the entire audience was unbounded and universal, everybody both enjoyed the amazing character of the entertainment and unanimously conceded the professional skill of the performer. “Lavora bene,” we heard, here{170} and there in our neighbourhood; it signified the triumph of objective judgment over antipathy and repressed resentment.

After his last, incomplete yet so much the more telling success, Cipolla had at once fortified himself with another cognac. Truly he did “drink a lot,” and the fact made a bad impression. But obviously he needed the liquor and the cigarettes for the replenishment of his energy, upon which, as he himself said, heavy demands were made in all directions. Certainly in the intervals he looked very ill, exhausted and hollow-eyed. Then the little glassful would redress the balance, and the flow of lively, self-confident chatter run on, while the smoke he inhaled gushed out grey from his lungs. I clearly recall that he passed from the card-tricks to parlour-games; the kind based on certain powers which in human nature{171} arc higher or else lower than human reason: on intuition and “magnetic” transmission, in short upon a low type of manifestation. What I do not remember is the precise order things came in. And I will not bore you with a description of these experiments; everybody knows them, everybody has at one time or another taken part in this finding of hidden articles, this blind carrying out of a series of acts, directed by a force that proceeds from organism to organism by unexplored paths. Everybody has had his little glimpse into the equivocal, impure, inexplicable nature of the occult, has been conscious of both curiosity and contempt, has shaken his head over the human tendency of those who deal in it to help themselves out with humbuggery, though after all the humbuggery is no disproof whatever of the genuineness of the other elements in the dubious{172} amalgam. I can only say here that each single circumstance gains in weight and the whole greatly in impressiveness when it is a man like Cipolla who is the chief actor and guiding spirit in the sinister business. He sat smoking at the rear of the stage, his back to the audience while they conferred. The object passed from hand to hand which it was his task to find, with which he was to perform some action agreed upon beforehand. Then he would start to move zigzag through the hall, with his head thrown back and one hand outstretched, the other clasped in that of a guide who was in the secret but enjoined to keep himself perfectly passive, with his thoughts directed upon the agreed goal. Cipolla moved with the bearing typical in these experiments: now groping upon a false start, now with a sudden forward thrust, now pausing as though to listen and by sudden inspiration{173} correcting his course. The rôles seemed reversed, the stream of influence was moving in the contrary direction, as the artist himself pointed out, in his ceaseless flow of discourse. The suffering, receptive, performing part was now his, the will he had before imposed on others was shut out, he acted in obedience to a voiceless common will which was in the air. But he made it perfectly clear that it all came to the same thing. The capacity for self-surrender, he said, for becoming a tool, for the most unconditional and utter self-abnegation, was but the reverse side of that other power to will and to command. Commanding and obeying formed together one single principle, one indissoluble unity; he who knew how to obey knew also how to command, and conversely; the one idea was comprehended in the other, as people and leader were comprehended in one another. But that which was done,{174} the highly exacting and exhausting performance, was in every case his, the leader’s and mover’s, in whom the will became obedience, the obedience will, whose person was the cradle and womb of both, and who thus suffered enormous hardship. Repeatedly he emphasized the fact that his lot was a hard one—presumably to account for his need of stimulant and his frequent recourse to the little glass.

Thus he groped his way forward, like a blind seer, led and sustained by the mysterious common will. He drew a pin set with a stone out of its hiding-place in an Englishwoman’s shoe, carried it, halting and pressing on by turns, to another lady—Signora Angiolieri—and handed it to her on bended knee, with the words it had been agreed he was to utter. “I present you with this in token of my respect,” was the sentence. Their sense was obvious, but the words themselves not easy to hit upon, for{175} the reason that they had been agreed on in French; the language complication seemed to us a little malicious, implying as it did a conflict between the audience’s natural interest in the success of the miracle, and their desire to witness the humiliation of this presumptuous man. It was a strange sight: Cipolla on his knees before the Signora, wrestling, amid efforts at speech, after knowledge of the preordained words. “I must say something,” he said, “and I feel clearly what it is I must say. But I also feel that if it passed my lips it would be wrong. Be careful not to help me unintentionally!” he cried out, though very likely that was precisely what he was hoping for. “Pensez très fort,” he cries all at once, in bad French, and then burst out with the required words—in Italian, indeed, but with the final substantive pronounced in the sister tongue, in which he was probably far from fluent:{176} he said vénération instead of venerazione, with an impossible nasal. And this partial success, after the complete success before it, the finding of the pin, the presentation of it on his knees to the right person—was almost more impressive than if he had got the sentence exactly right, and evoked bursts of admiring applause.

Cipolla got up from his knees and wiped the perspiration from his brow. You understand that this experiment with the pin was a single case, which I describe because it sticks in my memory. But he changed his method several times, and improvised a number of variations suggested by his contact with his audience; a good deal of time thus went by. He seemed to get particular inspiration from the person of our landlady; she drew him on to the most extraordinary displays of clairvoyance. “It does not escape me, madame,” he said to her,{177} “that there is something unusual about you, some special and honourable distinction. He who has eyes to see descries about your lovely brow an aureola—if I mistake not, it once was stronger than now—a slowly paling radiance ... hush, not a word! Don’t help me. Beside you sits your husband—yes?” He turned toward the silent Signor Angiolieri. “You are the husband of this lady, and your happiness is complete. But in the midst of this happiness, memories rise ... the past, Signora, so it seems to me, plays an important part in your present. You knew a king ... has not a king crossed your path in bygone days?”

“No,” breathed the dispenser of our midday soup, her golden-brown eyes gleaming in the noble pallor of her face.

“No? No, not a king; I meant that generally, I did not mean literally a{178} king. Not a king, not a prince, and a prince after all, a king of a loftier realm; it was a great artist, at whose side you once—you would contradict me, and yet I am not wholly wrong. Well, then! It was a woman, a great, a world-renowned woman-artist, whose friendship you enjoyed in your tender years, whose sacred memory overshadows and transfigures your whole existence. Her name? Need I utter it, whose fame has long been bound up with the Fatherland’s, immortal as its own? Eleonora Duse,” he finished, softly, and with much solemnity.

The little woman bowed her head, overcome. The applause was like a patriotic demonstration. Nearly everyone there knew about Signora Angiolieri’s wonderful past; they were all able to confirm the Cavaliere’s intuition—not least the present guests of Casa Eleonora. But we wondered how much of the{179} truth he had learned as the result of professional inquiries made on his arrival. Yet I see no reason at all to cast doubt, on rational grounds, upon powers which, before our very eyes, became fatal to their possessor.

At this point there was an intermission. Our lord and master withdrew. Now I confess that almost ever since the beginning of my tale I have looked forward with dread to this moment in it. The thoughts of men are mostly not hard to read; in this case they are very easy. You are sure to ask why we did not choose this moment to go away—and I must continue to owe you an answer. I do not know why. I cannot defend myself. By this time it was certainly eleven, probably later. The children were asleep. The last series of tests had been too long, nature had had her way. They were sleeping in our laps, the little one on mine, the{180} boy on his mother’s. That was, in a way, a consolation; but at the same time it was also ground for compassion and a clear leading to take them home to bed. And I give you my word that we wanted to obey this touching admonition, we seriously wanted to. We roused the poor things and told them it was now high time to go. But they were no sooner conscious than they began to resist and implore—you know how horrified children are at the thought of leaving before the end of a thing. No cajoling has any effect, you have to use force. It was so lovely, they wailed. How did we know what was coming next? Surely we could not leave until after the intermission; they liked a little nap now and again—only not go home, only not go to bed, while the beautiful evening was still going on!

We yielded, but only for the moment, of course—so far as we knew—only for{181} a little while, just a few minutes longer. I cannot excuse our staying, scarcely can I even understand it. Did we think, having once said A, we had to say B—having once brought the children hither we had let them stay? No, it is not good enough. Were we ourselves so highly entertained? Yes, and no. Our feelings for Cavaliere Cipolla were of a very mixed kind, but so were the feelings of the whole audience, if I mistake not, and nobody left. Were we under the sway of a fascination which emanated from this man who took so strange a way to earn his bread; a fascination which he gave out independently of the programme and even between the tricks, and which paralysed our resolve? Again, sheer curiosity may account for something. One was curious to know how such an evening turned out; Cipolla in his remarks having all along hinted that he had tricks in his{182} bag stranger than any he had yet produced.

But all that is not it—or at least it is not all of it. More correct it would be to answer the first question with another. Why had we not left Torre di Venere itself before now? To me the two questions are one and the same, and in order to get out of the impasse I might simply say that I had answered it already. For, as things had been in Torre in general: queer, uncomfortable, troublesome, tense, oppressive, so precisely they were here in this hall to-night. Yes, more than precisely. For it seemed to be the fountain-head of all the uncanniness and all the strained feelings which had oppressed the atmosphere of our holiday. This man, whose return to the stage we were awaiting, was the personification of all that; and, as we had not gone away in general, so to speak, it would have been inconsistent{183} to do it in the particular case. You may call this an explanation, you may call it inertia, as you see fit. Any argument more to the purpose I simply do not know how to adduce.

Well, there was an interval of ten minutes, which grew into nearly twenty. The children remained awake. They were enchanted by our compliance, and filled the break to their own satisfaction by renewing relations with the popular sphere, with Antonio, Guiscardo and the canoe man. They put their hands to their mouths and called messages across, appealing to us for the Italian words. “Hope you have a good catch to-morrow, a whole netful!” They called to Mario, Esquisito Mario, “Mario, una cioccolata e biscotti!” And this time he heeded and answered with a smile, “Subito, signorini!” Later we had reason to recall this kindly, if rather absent and pensive smile.{184}

Thus the interval passed, the gong sounded. The audience, which had scattered in conversation, took their places again, the children sat up straight in their chairs with their hands in their laps. The curtain had not been dropped. Cipolla came forward again, with his dipping stride, and began to introduce the second half of the programme with a lecture.

Let me state once for all, that this self-confident cripple was the most powerful hypnotist I have ever seen in my life. It was pretty plain now that he threw dust in the public eye and advertised himself as a prestidigitator, on account of police regulations which would have prevented him from making his living by the exercise of his powers. Perhaps this eye-wash is the usual thing in Italy; it may be permitted or even connived at by the authorities. Certainly the man had from the beginning{185} made little concealment of the actual nature of his operations; and this second half of the programme was quite frankly and exclusively devoted to one sort of experiment. While he still practised some rhetorical circumlocutions, the tests themselves were one long series of attacks upon the will-power, the loss or compulsion of volition. Comic, exciting, amazing by turns, by midnight they were still in full swing; we ran the gamut of all the phenomena this natural-unnatural field has to show, from the unimpressive at one end of the scale to the monstrous at the other. The audience laughed and applauded as they followed the grotesque details; shook their heads, clapped their knees, fell very frankly under the spell of this stern, self-assured personality. At the same time I saw signs that they were not quite complacent, not quite unconscious of the peculiar ignomony which lay, for{186} the individual and for the general, in Cipolla’s triumphs.

Two main features were constant in all the experiments: the liquor glass and the claw-handled riding-whip. The first was always invoked to add fuel to his demoniac fires; without it, apparently they might have burned out. On this score we might even have felt pity for the man; but the whistle of his scourge, the insulting symbol of his domination, before which we all cowered, drowned out every sensation save a dazed and outbraved submission to his power. Did he then lay claim to our sympathy to boot? I was struck by a remark he made—it suggested no less. At the climax of his experiments, by stroking and breathing upon a certain young man who had offered himself as a subject and long since proved himself a particularly susceptible one, he had not only put him into the condition{187} known as deep trance and extended his insensible body by neck and feet across the backs of two chairs, but had actually sat down on the rigid form as on a bench, without making it yield. The sight of this unholy figure in a frock coat, squatted on the stiff body, was horrible and incredible; the audience, convinced that the victim of this scientific diversion must be suffering, expressed its sympathy: “Ah, poveretto!” Poor soul, poor soul! “Poor soul!” Cipolla mocked them, with some bitterness. “Ladies and gentlemen, you are barking up the wrong tree. Sono io il poveretto. I am the person who is suffering, I am the one to be pitied.” We pocketed the information. Very good. Maybe the experiment was at his expense, maybe it was he who had suffered the cramp when the giovanotto over there had made the faces. But appearances were all against it; and one does{188} not feel like saying poveretto to a man who is suffering to bring about the humiliation of others.

I have got ahead of my story, and lost sight of the sequence of events. To this day my mind is full of the Cavaliere’s feats of endurance; only I do not recall them in their order—which does not matter. So much I do know: that the longer and more circumstantial tests, which got the most applause, impressed me less than some of the small ones which passed quickly over. I remember the young man whose body Cipolla converted into a board, only because of the accompanying remarks which I have quoted. An elderly lady in a cane-seated chair was lulled by Cipolla in the delusion that she was on a voyage to India, and gave a voluble account of her adventures by land and sea. But I found this phenomenon less impressive than one which followed{189} immediately after the intermission. A tall well-built, soldierly man was unable to lift his arm, after the hunchback had told him that he could not, and given a cut through the air with his whip. I can still see the face of that stately, moustachioed colonel, smiling and clenching his teeth as he struggled to regain his lost freedom of action. A staggering performance! He seemed to be exerting his will, and in vain; the trouble, however, was probably simply that he could not will. There was involved here that recoil of the will upon itself which paralyses choice—as our tyrant had previously explained to the Roman gentleman.

Still less can I forget the touching scene, at once comic and horrible, with Signora Angiolieri. The Cavaliere, probably in his first bold survey of the room, had spied out her ethereal lack of resistance to his power. For actually{190} he bewitched her, literally drew her out of her seat, out of her row, and away with him whither he willed. And in order to enhance his effect, he bade Signor Angiolieri call upon his wife by her name, to throw, as it were all the weight of his existence and his rights in her into the scale, to rouse by the voice of her husband everything in his spouse’s soul which could shield her virtue against the evil assaults of magic. And how vain it all was! Cipolla was standing at some distance from the couple, when he made a single cut with his whip through the air. It caused our landlady to shudder violently and turn her face toward him. “Sofronia!” cried Signor Angiolieri—we had not known that Signora Angiolieri’s name was Sofronia. And he did well to call, everybody saw that there was no time to lose. His wife kept her face turned in the direction of the{191} diabolical Cavaliere, who with his ten long yellow fingers was making passes at his victim, moving backwards as he did so, step by step. Then Signora Angiolieri, her pale face gleaming, rose up from her seat, turned right round and began to glide after him. Fatal and forbidding sight! Her face as though moonstruck, stiff-armed, her lovely hands lifted a little at the wrists, the feet as it were together, she seemed to float slowly out of her row and after the tempter. “Call her, sir, keep on calling,” prompted the redoubtable man. And Signor Angiolieri, in a weak voice, called: “Sofronia!” Ah, again and again he called; as his wife went further off he even curved one hand round his lips and beckoned with the other as he called. But the poor voice of love and duty echoed unheard, in vain, behind the lost one’s back; the Signora swayed along, moonstruck, deaf,{192} enslaved; she glided into the middle aisle and down it toward the fingering hunchback, toward the door. We were convinced, we were driven to the conviction, that she would have followed her master, had he so willed it, to the ends of the earth.

Accidente!” cried out Signor Angiolieri, in genuine affright, springing up as the exit was reached. But at the same moment, the Cavaliere put aside, as it were, the triumphal crown, and broke off. “Enough, Signora, I thank you,” he said, and offered his arm to lead her back to her husband. “Signor,” he greeted the latter, “here is your wife. Unharmed, with my compliments, I give her into your hands. Cherish with all the strength of your manhood a treasure which is so wholly yours, and let your zeal be quickened by knowing that there are powers stronger than reason or virtue, and not always so{193} magnanimously ready to relinquish their prey!”

Poor Signor Angiolieri, so quiet, so bald! He did not look as though he would know how to defend his happiness, even against powers much less demoniac than these which were now adding mockery to frightfulness. Solemnly and pompously the Cavaliere retired to the stage, amid applause to which his eloquence gave double strength. It was this particular episode, I feel sure, that set the seal upon his ascendancy. For now he made them dance, yes, literally; and the dancing lent a dissolute, abandoned, topsy-turvy air to the scene, a drunken abdication of the critical spirit which had so long resisted the spell of this man. Yes, he had had to fight to get the upper hand—for instance against the animosity of the young Roman gentleman, whose rebellious spirit threatened to serve others as a rallying point.{194} But it was precisely upon the importance of example that the Cavaliere was so strong. He had the wit to make his attack at the weakest point, and to choose as his first victim that feeble, ecstatic youth whom he had previously made into a board. The master had but to look at him, when this young man would fling himself back as though struck by lightning, place his hands rigidly at his sides, and fall into a state of military somnambulism, in which it was plain to any eye that he was open to the most absurd suggestion that might be made to him. He seemed quite content in his abject state, quite pleased to be relieved of the burden of voluntary choice. Again and again he offered himself as a subject and glorified in the model facility he had in losing consciousness. So now he mounted the platform, and a single cut of the whip was enough to make him dance to the Cavalier{195}e’s orders, in a kind of complacent ecstasy, eyes closed, head nodding, lank limbs flying in all directions.

It looked unmistakably like enjoyment; and other recruits were not long in coming forward: two other young men, one humbly and one well-dressed, were soon jigging alongside the first. But now the gentleman from Rome bobbed up again, asking defiantly if the Cavaliere would engage to make him dance too, even against his will.

“Even against your will,” answered Cipolla, in unforgettable accents. That frightful “anche se non vuole” still rings in my ears. The struggle began. After Cipolla had taken another little glass and lighted a fresh cigarette he stationed the Roman at a point in the middle aisle and himself took up a position some distance behind him, making his whip whistle through the air as he gave the order “Balla!” His opponent did not{196} stir. “Balla!” repeated the Cavaliere incisively, and snapped his whip. You saw the young man move his neck round in his collar; at the same time one hand lifted slightly at the wrist, one ankle turned outward. But that was all, for the time at least; merely a tendency to twitch, now sternly repressed, now seeming about to get the upper hand. It escaped nobody that here a heroic obstinacy, a fixed resolve to resist, must needs be conquered; we were beholding a gallant effort to strike out and save the honour of the human race. He twitched but danced not; and the struggle was so prolonged that the Cavaliere had to divide his attention between it and the stage, turning now and then to make his riding whip whistle in the direction of the dancers, as it were to keep them in leash. At the same time he advised the audience that no fatigue was involved in such activities, however long they{197} went on, since it was not the automatons up there who danced, but himself. Then once more his eye would bore itself into the back of the Roman’s neck and lay siege to the strength of purpose which defied him.

One saw it waver, that strength of purpose, beneath the repeated summons and whip-crackings. Saw with an objective interest which yet was not quite free from traces of sympathetic emotion—from pity, even from a cruel kind of pleasure. If I understand what was going on, it was the negative character of the young man’s fighting position which was his undoing. It is likely that not willing is not a practicable state of mind; not to want to do something may be in the long run a mental content impossible to subsist on. Between not willing a certain thing and not willing at all, in other words yielding to another person’s will, there may lie too small a{198} space for the idea of freedom to squeeze into. Again, there were the Cavaliere’s persuasive words, woven in among the whip-crackings and commands, as he mingled effects that were his own secret with others of a bewilderingly psychological kind. “Balla!” said he. “Who wants to torture himself like that? Is forcing yourself your idea of freedom? Una ballatina! Why, your arms and legs are aching for it. What a relief to give way to them—there, you are dancing already! That is no struggle any more, it is a pleasure!” And so it was. The jerking and twitching of the refractory youth’s limbs had at last got the upper hand; he lifted his arms, then his knees, his joints quite suddenly relaxed, he flung his legs and danced, and amid bursts of applause the Cavaliere led him to join the row of puppets on the stage. Up there we could see his face as he “enjoyed” himself; it was clothed in a{199} broad grin and the eyes were half shut. In a way, it was consoling to see that he was having a better time than he had had in the hour of his pride.

His “fall” was, I may say, an epoch. The ice was completely broken, Cipolla’s triumph had reached its height. The Circe’s wand, that whistling leather whip with the claw handle, held absolute sway. At one time—it must have been well after midnight—not only were there eight or ten persons dancing on the little stage, but in the hall below a varied animation reigned, and a long-toothed Anglo-Saxoness in a pince-nez left her seat of her own motion to perform a tarantella in the centre aisle. Cipolla was lounging in a cane-seated chair at the left of the stage, gulping down the smoke of a cigarette and breathing it impudently out through his bad teeth. He tapped his foot and shrugged his shoulders, looking down{200} upon the abandoned scene in the hall; now and then he snapped his whip backwards at a laggard upon the stage. The children were awake at the moment. With shame I speak of them. For it was not good to be here, least of all for them; that we had not taken them away can only be explained by saying that we had caught the general devil-may-careness of the hour. By that time it was all one. Anyhow, thank goodness, they lacked understanding for the disreputable side of the entertainment; and in their innocence were perpetually charmed by the unheard-of indulgence which permitted them to be present at such a thing as a magician’s “evening.” Whole quarter-hours at a time they drowsed on our laps, waking refreshed and rosy-cheeked, with sleep-drunken eyes, to laugh to bursting at the leaps and jumps the magician made those people up there make. They had not thought{201} it would be so jolly; they joined with their clumsy little hands in every round of applause. And jumped for joy upon their chairs, as was their wont, when Cipolla beckoned to their friend Mario from Esquisito, beckoned to him just like a picture in a book, holding his hand in front of his nose and bending and straightening the forefinger by turns.

Mario obeyed. I can see him now going up the stairs to Cipolla, who continued to beckon him, in that droll, picture-book sort of way. He hesitated for a moment at first, that, too, I recall quite clearly. During the whole evening he had lounged against a wooden pillar at the side-entrance, with his arms folded, or else with his hands thrust into his jacket pockets. He was on our left, near the youth with the militant hair, and had followed the performance attentively, so far as we had seen, if with no{202} particular animation and God knows how much comprehension. He could not much relish being summoned thus, at the end of the evening. But it was only too easy to see why he obeyed. After all, obedience was his calling in life; and then, how should a simple lad like him find it within his human capacity to refuse compliance to a man so throned and crowned as Cipolla at that hour? Willy-nilly he left his column and with a word of thanks to those making way for him he mounted the steps with a doubtful smile on his full lips.

Picture a thick-set youth of twenty years, with clipt hair, a low forehead and heavy-lidded eyes of an indefinite grey, shot with green and yellow. These things I knew from having spoken with him, as we often had. There was a saddle of freckles on the flat nose, the whole upper half of the face retreated behind the lower, and that again was{203} dominated by thick lips that parted to show the salivated teeth. These thick lips and the veiled look of the eyes lent the whole face a primitive melancholy—it was that which had drawn us to him from the first. In it was not the faintest trace of brutality—indeed, his hands would have given the lie to such an idea, being unusually slender and delicate even for a Southerner. They were hands by which one liked being served.

We knew him humanly without knowing him personally, if I may make that distinction. We saw him nearly every day, and felt a certain kindness for his dreamy ways, which might at times be actual inattentiveness, suddenly transformed into a redeeming zeal to serve. His mien was serious, only the children could bring a smile to his face. It was not sulky, but uningratiating, without intentional effort to please—or rather, it seemed to give up being pleasant in the{204} conviction that it could not succeed. We should have remembered Mario in any case, as one of those homely recollections of travel which often stick in the mind better than more important ones. But of his circumstances we knew no more than that his father was a petty clerk in the Municipio and his mother took in washing.

His white waiter’s coat became him better than the faded white suit he wore, with a gay coloured scarf instead of a collar, the ends tucked into his jacket. He neared Cipolla, who however did not leave off that motion of his finger before his nose, so that Mario had to come still closer, right up to the chair-seat and the master’s legs. Whereupon the latter spread out his elbows and seized the lad, turning him so that we had a view of his face. Then gazed him briskly up and down, with a careless, commanding eye.{205}

“Well, ragazzo mio, how comes it we make acquaintance so late in the day? But believe me, I made yours long ago. Yes, yes, I’ve had you in my eye this long while, and known what good stuff you were made of. How could I go and forget you again? Well, I’ve had a good deal to think about.... Now tell me, what is your name? The first name, that’s all I want.”

“My name is Mario,” the young man answered, in a low voice.

“Ah, Mario. Very good. Yes, yes, there is such a name, quite a common name, a classic name too, one of those which preserve the heroic traditions of the Fatherland. Bravo! Salve!” And he flung up his arm slantingly above his crooked shoulder, palm outward, in the Roman salute. He may have been slightly tipsy by now, and no wonder; but he spoke as before, clearly, fluently, and with emphasis. Though about this{206} time there had crept into his voice a gross, autocratic note, and a kind of arrogance was in his sprawl.

“Well, now, Mario mio,” he went on, “it’s a good thing you came this evening and that’s a pretty scarf you’ve got on; it is becoming to your style of beauty. It must stand you in good stead with the girls, the pretty pretty girls of Torre——”

From the row of youths, close by the place where Mario had been standing, sounded a laugh. It came from the youth with the militant hair. He stood there, his jacket over his shoulder, and laughed outright, rudely and scornfully.

Mario gave a start. I think it was a shrug, but he may have started and then hastened to cover the movement by shrugging his shoulders, as much as to say that the neckerchief and the fair sex were matters of equal indifference to him.

The Cavaliere gave a downward glance.

“We needn’t trouble about him,” he{207} said. “He is jealous, because your scarf is so popular with the girls, maybe partly because you and I are so friendly up here. Perhaps he’d like me to put him in mind of his colic—I could do it free of charge. Tell me, Mario. You’ve come here this evening for a bit of fun—and in the daytime you work in an ironmonger’s shop?”

“In a café,” corrected the youth.

“Oh, in a café. That’s where Cipolla nearly came a cropper! What you are is a cup-bearer, a Ganymede—I like that, it is another classical allusion—Salvietta!” Again the Cavaliere saluted, to the huge gratification of his audience.

Mario smiled too. “But before that,” he interpolated, in the interest of accuracy, “I worked for a while in a shop in Portoclemente.” He seemed visited by a natural desire to assist the prophecy by dredging out its essential features.

“There, didn’t I say so? In an ironmonger’s shop?{208}

“They kept combs and brushes,” Mario got round it.

“Didn’t I say that you were not always a Ganymede? Not always at the sign of the serviette? Even when Cipolla makes a mistake, it is a kind that makes you believe in him. Now tell me: Do you believe in me?”

An indefinite gesture.

“A half-way answer,” commented the Cavaliere. “Probably it is not easy to win your confidence. Even for me, I can see, it is not so easy. I see in your features a reserve, a sadness, un tratto di malinconia ... tell me” (he seized Mario’s hand persuasively) “have you troubles?”

Nossignore,” answered Mario, promptly and decidedly.

“You have troubles,” insisted the Cavaliere, bearing down the denial by the weight of his authority. “Can’t I see? Trying to pull the wool over{209} Cipolla’s eyes, are you? Of course, about the girls—it is a girl, isn’t it? You have love troubles?”

Mario gave a vigorous headshake. And again the giovanotto’s brutal laugh rang out. The Cavaliere gave heed. His eyes were roving about somewhere in the air; but he cocked an ear to the sound, then swung his whip backwards, as he had once or twice before in his conversation with Mario, that none of his puppets might flag in their zeal. The gesture had nearly cost him his new prey: Mario gave a sudden start in the direction of the steps. But Cipolla had him in his clutch.

“Not so fast,” said he. “That would be fine, wouldn’t it? So you want to skip, do you, Ganymede, right in the middle of the fun, or rather, when it is just beginning? Stay with me, I’ll show you something nice. I’ll convince you. You have no reason to worry, I promise{210} you. This girl—you know her and others know her too—what’s her name? Wait! I read the name in your eyes, it is on the tip of my tongue and yours too——

“Silvestra!” shouted the giovanotto from below.

The Cavaliere’s face did not change.

“Aren’t there the forward people?” he asked, not looking down, more as in undisturbed converse with Mario. “Aren’t there the young fighting-cocks that crow in season and out? Takes the word out of your mouth, the conceited fool, and seems to think he has some special right to it. Let him be. But Silvestra, your Silvestra—ah, what a girl that is! What a prize! Brings your heart into your mouth to see her walk or laugh or breathe, she is so lovely. And her round arms when she washes, and tosses her head back to get the hair out of her eyes! An angel from Paradise!”

Mario stared at him, his head thrust{211} forward. He seemed to have forgotten the audience, forgotten where he was. The red rings round his eyes had got larger, they looked as though they were painted on. His thick lips parted.

“And she makes you suffer, this angel,” went on Cipolla, “or rather, you make yourself suffer for her—there is a difference, my lad, a most important difference, let me tell you. There are misunderstandings in love, maybe nowhere else in the world are there so many. I know what you are thinking: what does this Cipolla, with his little physical defect, know about love? Wrong, all wrong, he knows a lot. He has a wide and powerful understanding of its workings, and it pays to listen to his advice. But let’s leave Cipolla out, cut him out altogether and think only of Silvestra, your peerless Silvestra! What! Is she to give any young game-cock the preference, so that he can laugh while you cry? To prefer{212} him over a chap like you, so full of feeling and so sympathetic? Not very likely, is it? It is impossible—we know better, Cipolla and she. If I were to put myself in her place, and choose between the two of you, a tarry lout like that—a codfish, a sea-urchin—and a Mario, a knight of the serviette, who moves among gentlefolk and hands round refreshments with an air—my word, but my heart would speak in no uncertain tones—it knows to whom I gave it long ago. It is time that he should see and understand, my chosen one! It is time that you see me and recognise me, Mario, my beloved! Tell me, who am I?”

It was grisly, the way the betrayer made himself irresistible, wreathed and coquetted with his crooked shoulder, languished with the puffy eyes and showed his splintered teeth in a sickly smile. And alas, at his beguiling words, what was come of our Mario? It is hard{213} for me to tell, hard as it was for me to see; for here was nothing less than an utter abandonment of the inmost soul, a public exposure of timid and deluded passion and rapture. He put his hands across his mouth, his shoulders rose and fell with his pantings. He could not, it was plain, trust his eyes and ears for joy, and the one thing he forgot was precisely that he could not trust them. “Silvestra!” he breathed, from the very depths of his vanquished heart.

“Kiss me!” said the hunchback. “Trust me, I love thee. Kiss me here.” And with the tip of his index finger, hand, arm and little finger outspread, he pointed to his cheek, near the mouth. And Mario bent and kissed him.

It had grown very still in the room. That was a monstrous moment, grotesque and thrilling, the moment of Mario’s bliss. In that evil span of time, crowded{214} with a sense of the illusiveness of all joy, one sound became audible, and that not quite at once, but on the instant of the melancholy and ribald meeting between Mario’s lips and the repulsive flesh which thrust itself forward for his caress. It was the sound of a laugh, from the giovanotto on our left. It broke into the dramatic suspense of the moment, coarse, mocking, and yet—or I must have been grossly mistaken—with an undertone of compassion for the poor bewildered, victimised creature. It had a faint ring of that “Poveretto” which Cipolla had declared was wasted on the wrong person, when he claimed the pity for his own.

The laugh still rang in the air when the recipient of the caress gave his whip a little swish, low down, close to his chair-leg, and Mario started up and flung himself back. He stood in that posture, staring, his hands one over the other on those desecrated lips. Then he beat his{215} temples with his clenched fists, over and over; turned and staggered down the steps, while the audience applauded, and Cipolla sat there with his hands in his lap, his shoulders shaking. Once below, and even while in full retreat, Mario hurled himself round with legs flung wide apart; one arm flew up, and two flat shattering detonations crashed through applause and laughter.

There was instant silence. Even the dancers came to a full stop, and stared about, struck dumb. Cipolla bounded from his seat. He stood with his arms spread out, slanting as though to ward everybody off, as though next moment he would cry out: “Stop! Keep back! Silence! What was that?” Then, in that instant, he sank back in his seat, his head rolling on his chest; in the next he had fallen sideways to the floor, where he lay motionless, a huddled heap of clothing, with limbs awry.{216}

The hubbub was boundless. Ladies hid their faces, shuddering, on the breasts of their escorts. There were shouts for a doctor, for the police. People flung themselves on Mario in a mob, to disarm him, to take away the weapon that hung from his fingers—that small, dull metal, scarcely pistol-shaped tool with an almost non-existent barrel—in how strange and unexpected a direction had fate levelled it!

And now—now finally, at last—we took the children, and led them toward the exit, past the just entering pair of carabinieri. Was that the end, they wanted to know, that they might go in peace? Yes, we assured them, that was the end. An end of horror, a fatal end. And yet, a liberation—for I could not, and I cannot but find it so!

The Botolph Printing Works, Cranmer Road, Brixton, S.W.9

[The end of Early Sorrow & Mario and the Magician by Thomas Mann]