All around, and above and below, she felt, without hearing it, the activity of the opulent, complex life of the mansions. Her mind dwelt with satisfaction on long carpeted corridors noiselessly paraded by flunkeys, mahogany lifts continually ascending and descending like the angels of the ladder, the great entrance hall with its fire always burning and its doors always swinging, the salle a manger sown with rose-shaded candles, and all the splendid privacies rising stage upon stage to the attics, where the flunkeys philosophized together. She confessed the beauty and distinction achieved by this extravagant organization for gratifying earthly desires. Often, in the pinching days of her servitude, she had murmured against the injustice of things, and had called wealth a crime while poverty starved. But now she perceived that society was what it was inevitably, and could not be altered. She accepted it in profound peace of mind, gaily fraternal towards the fortunate, compassionate towards those in adversity.
In the next flat someone began to play very brilliantly a Hungarian Rhapsody of Liszt’s. And even the faint sound of that riotous torrent of melody, so arrogantly gorgeous, intoxicated her soul. She shivered under the sudden vision of the splendid joy of being alive. And how she envied the player! French she had learned from ‘Madame,’ but she had no skill on the piano; it was her one regret.
She touched the bell.
‘Has your master come in yet?’ she inquired of the maid.
‘No, madam, not yet.’
She knew he had not come in, but she could not resist the impulse to ask.
Ten minutes later, when the piano had ceased, she jumped up, and, creeping to the front-door of the flat, gazed foolishly across the corridor at the grille of the lift. She heard the lift in travail. It appeared and passed out of sight above. No, he had not come! Glancing aside, she saw the tall slender figure of a girl in a green tea-gown—a mere girl: it was the player of the Hungarian Rhapsody. And this girl, too, she thought, was expectant and disappointed! They shut their doors simultaneously, she and May, who also had her girlish moments. Then the rhapsody recommenced.
‘Oh, madam!’ screamed the maid, almost tumbling into the boudoir.
‘What is it?’ May demanded with false calm.
The maid lifted the corner of her black apron to her eyes, as though she had been a stage soubrette in trouble.
’The master, madam! He’s fell out of his cab—just in front of the mansions—and they’re bringing him in—such blood I never did see!’
The maid finished with hysterics.
‘And them just off their honeymoon!’
The inconsolable tones of the lady’s-maid came from the kitchen to the open door of the bedroom, where May was giving instructions to the elderly cook.