“You poor fellow! You look worn out. Did you think we had run away from you? Did you get the wires, the telephone messages? Oh, why did you keep us expecting you, Richard! We have had a wonderful time and missed you so much! Such a talk with Rentgen! And all about you. Nicht wahr, Rentgen? He says you are the only man in the world with a musical future. Isn’t that so, Rentgen? Didn’t you say that Richard was the only man in whom you took any interest? Say what you said to me! I dare you!”
The musician, aroused by this wordy assault, looked from one to the other with his heavy eyes, the eyes of an owl rudely disturbed. Alixe almost danced her excitement. She hummed shrilly and grasped Van Kuyp’s arm in the gayest rebounding humour.
“Why don’t you speak, Maestro?”
“I didn’t join you because I was too busy at my score. Listen, children! I have sketched the beginning of The Shadowy Horses. You remember the Yeats poem, Rentgen? Listen!”
Furiously he attacked the instrument, from which escaped accents of veritable torture; a delirium of tone followed, meagre melodies fighting for existence in the boiling madness of it all; it was the parody of a parody, the music of yesterday masquerading as the music of to-morrow. Alixe nervously watched the critic. He stood at the end of the piano and morosely fumbled his beard. Again a wave of anxious hatred, followed by forebodings, crowded her alert brain. She desperately clutched her husband’s shoulder; he finished in a burst of sheer pounding and brutal roaring. Then she threw her arms about him in an ecstasy of pride—her confidence was her only anchorage.
“There, Elvard Rentgen! What did you tell me? I dare you to say that this music is not marvellous, not original!” Her victorious gaze, in which floated indomitable faith, challenged him, as she drew the head of her husband to her protecting bosom. The warring of exasperated eyes endured a moment; to Alixe it seemed eternity. Rentgen bowed and went away from this castle of cobwebs, deeply stirred by the wife’s tender untruths.... She was the last dawn illuminating his empty, sordid life,—now a burnt city of defaced dreams and blackened torches.
THE EIGHTH DEADLY SIN
Now the serpent was
more subtle than any beast of the field which
the Lord God had made.—Genesis.
“And the Seven Deadly Sins, beloved brethren, are: Pride, Covetousness, Lust, Anger, Gluttony, Envy, Sloth. To these our wise Mother, the Church, opposes the contrary virtues: Humility, Chastity, Meekness, Temperance, Brotherly Love, Diligence.” The voice of the preacher was clear and well modulated. It penetrated to the remotest corner of the church. Baldur, sitting near the pulpit, with its elaborate traceries of marble, idly wondered why the sins were, with few exceptions, words of one syllable, while those of the virtues were all longer. Perhaps because it was easier to sin than to repent! The voice of the speaker deepened as he continued:—