Sarelli rose. “But your honour,” he said, “there is your honour!”
Mr. Treffry stared at him.
“Honour! If huntin’ women’s your idea of honour, well—it isn’t mine.”
“Then you’d forgive her, sir, whatever happened,” Dawney said.
“Forgiveness is another thing. I leave that to your sanctimonious beggars. But, hunt a woman! Hang it, sir, I’m not a cad!” and bringing his hand down with a rattle, he added: “This is a subject that don’t bear talking of.”
Sarelli fell back in his seat, twirling his moustaches fiercely. Harz, who had risen, looked at Christian’s empty place.
‘If I were married!’ he thought suddenly.
Herr Paul, with a somewhat vinous glare, still muttered, “But your duty to the family!”
Harz slipped through the window. The moon was like a wonderful white lantern in the purple sky; there was but a smoulder of stars. Beneath the softness of the air was the iciness of the snow; it made him want to run and leap. A sleepy beetle dropped on its back; he turned it over and watched it scurry across the grass.
Someone was playing Schumann’s Kinderscenen. Harz stood still to listen. The notes came twining, weaving round his thoughts; the whole night seemed full of girlish voices, of hopes and fancies, soaring away to mountain heights—invisible, yet present. Between the stems of the acacia-trees he could see the flicker of white dresses, where Christian and Greta were walking arm in arm. He went towards them; the blood flushed up in his face, he felt almost surfeited by some sweet emotion. Then, in sudden horror, he stood still. He was in love! With nothing done with everything before him! He was going to bow down to a face! The flicker of the dresses was no longer visible. He would not be fettered, he would stamp it out! He turned away; but with each step, something seemed to jab at his heart.
Round the corner of the house, in the shadow of the wall, Dominique, the Luganese, in embroidered slippers, was smoking a long cherry-wood pipe, leaning against a tree—Mephistopheles in evening clothes. Harz went up to him.
“Lend me a pencil, Dominique.”
Resting a card against the tree Harz wrote to Mrs. Decie: “Forgive me, I am obliged to go away. In a few days I shall hope to return, and finish the picture of your nieces.”
He sent Dominique for his hat. During the man’s absence he was on the point of tearing up the card and going back into the house.
When the Luganese returned he thrust the card into his hand, and walked out between the tall poplars, waiting, like ragged ghosts, silver with moonlight.
Harz walked away along the road. A dog was howling. The sound seemed too appropriate. He put his fingers to his ears, but the lugubrious noise passed those barriers, and made its way into his heart. Was there nothing that would put an end to this emotion? It was no better in the old house on the wall; he spent the night tramping up and down.