Some Old World superstition held him captive as he gazed. Death is the grand revealer, he thought; death alone stamps upon the crumbling canvas of mortality the truth. Rhoda was dead. Yet her face was alive for the first time. He saw its truth; and he shuddered, for he also discerned the hate that had lurked a life long in its devious and smiling expressions—expressions like a set of scenery pushed on and off as the order of the play demanded. Oh, the misery of it all! He, Monross, poet, lover, egoist, husband, to be confronted by this damnable defiance, this early-born hate! What had he done! And in the brain cells of the man there awakened a processional fleet of pictures: Rhoda wooed; Rhoda dazzled; Rhoda won; Rhoda smiling before the altar; Rhoda resigned upon that other altar; Rhoda, wife, mother; and Rhoda—dead!
But Rhoda loved—again he looked at the face. The brow was virginally placid, the drooping, bitter mouth alone telling the unhappy husband a story he had never before suspected. Rhoda! Was it possible this tiny exquisite creature had harboured rancour in her soul for the man who had adored her because she had adored him? Rhoda! The shell of his egoism fell away from him. He saw the implacable resentment of this tender girl who, her married life long, had loathed the captain that had invaded the citadel of her soul, and conqueror-like had filched her virgin zone. The woman seemingly stared at the man through lids closed in death—the woman, the sex that ages ago had feared the barbarian who dragged her to his cave, where he subdued her, making her bake his bread and bear his children.
In a wide heaven of surmise Monross read the confirmation of his suspicions—of the eternal duel between the man and the woman; knew that Rhoda hated him most when most she trembled at his master bidding. And now Rhoda lay dead in her lyre-shaped coffin, saying these ironic things to her husband, when it was too late for repentance, too early for eternity.
THE ENCHANTED YODLER
A MARIENBAD ELEGY
The remorseless rain had washed anew the face of the dark blue sky that domed Marienbad and its curved chain of hills. Hugh Krayne threw open his window and, leaning out, exclaimed, as he eagerly inhaled the soft air of an early May morning:—
“At last! And high time!” For nine days he had waded through the wet streets, heavily leaping the raging gutters and stopping before the door of every optician to scrutinize the barometer. And there are many in this pretty Bohemian health resort, where bad weather means bad temper, with enforced confinement in dismal lodgings or stuffy restaurations, or—last resort of the bored—the promenade under the colonnade, while the band plays as human beings shuffle ponderously over the cold stones and stare at each other in sullen desperation.