“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.
Just before daybreak he slipped out with a knapsack, taking the road towards Meran.
He had not quite passed through Gries when he overtook a man walking in the middle of the road and leaving a trail of cigar smoke behind him.
“Ah! my friend,” the smoker said, “you walk early; are you going my way?”
It was Count Sarelli. The raw light had imparted a grey tinge to his pale face, the growth of his beard showed black already beneath the skin; his thumbs were hooked in the pockets of a closely buttoned coat, he gesticulated with his fingers.
“You are making a journey?” he said, nodding at the knapsack. “You are early—I am late; our friend has admirable kummel—I have drunk too much. You have not been to bed, I think? If there is no sleep in one’s bed it is no good going to look for it. You find that? It is better to drink kummel...! Pardon! You are doing the right thing: get away! Get away as fast as possible! Don’t wait, and let it catch you!”
Harz stared at him amazed.
“Pardon!” Sarelli said again, raising his hat, “that girl—the white girl—I saw. You do well to get away!” he swayed a little as he walked. “That old fellow—what is his name-Trrreffr-ry! What ideas of honour!” He mumbled: “Honour is an abstraction! If a man is not true to an abstraction, he is a low type; but wait a minute!”
He put his hand to his side as though in pain.
The hedges were brightening with a faint pinky glow; there was no sound on the long, deserted road, but that of their footsteps; suddenly a bird commenced to chirp, another answered—the world seemed full of these little voices.
“That white girl,” he said, speaking with rapidity. “Yes! You do well! get away! Don’t let it catch you! I waited, it caught me—what happened? Everything horrible—and now—kummel!” Laughing a thick laugh, he gave a twirl to his moustache, and swaggered on.