“I know I am overwrought. I should be thankful. But—but, isn’t it deception—I mean, will it be fair to conceal from Richard the real condition of affairs?” He took her hand.
“Spoken like a true wife,” he gayly exclaimed. “My dear friend, there will be no deception. Only encouragement, a little encouragement. As for deceiving a composer, telling him that he may not be so wonderful as he thinks—that’s impossible. I know these star-shouldering souls, these farmers of phantasms who exist in a world by themselves. It would be a pity to let in the cold air of reality—anyhow Van Kuyp has some talent.”
Like lifting mists revealing the treacherous borders of a masked pool, she felt this speech with its ironic innuendo. She flushed, her vanity irritated. Rentgen saw her eyes contract.
“Let us go when the symphony begins,” she begged, “I can’t talk to any one in my present bad humour; and to hear Beethoven would drive me mad—now.”
“I don’t wonder,” remarked her companion, consolingly. Alixe winced.
The silver-cold fire of an undecided moon was abroad in the sky and rumours of spring filled the air. They parted at a fiacre. He told her he would call the next afternoon, and she nodded an unforgiving head. It was her turn to be disagreeable.
In his music room, Van Kuyp read a volume of verse. He did not hear his wife enter. It pained her when she saw his serious face with its undistinguished features and dogged expression. No genius this, was her hasty verdict, as she quickly went to him and put a hand on his head. It was her hand now that was hot. He raised eyes, dolent with dreams.
“Well?” he queried.
“You are a curious man!” she said wonderingly. “Aren’t you interested in the news about your symphonic poem?” He smiled the smile of the fatuous elect. “I imagine it went all right,” he languidly replied. “I heard it at rehearsal yesterday—I suppose Theleme took the tempi too slow!”
She sighed and asked:—
“What are you reading a night like this?” His expression became animated.
“A volume of Celtic poetry—I’ve found a stunning idea for music. What a tone-poem it will make! Here it is. What colour, what rhythms. It is called The Shadowy Horses. ’I hear the shadowy horses, their long manes a-shake’—”
“Who gave you the poem?”
“Oh, Rentgen, of course. Did you see him to-night?”
“You dear boy! You must be tired to death. Better rest. The critics will get you up early enough.”
Through interminable hours the mind of Alixe revolved about a phrase she had picked up from Elvard Rentgen: “Music is a trap for weak souls; for the strong as the spinning of cobwebs....”