In the Quarter, by Robert W. Chambers

Sixteen

Fewer tourists and more hunters had been coming to the Lodge of late; the crack of the rifle sounded all day. There was great talk of a hunt which the duke would hold in September, and the colonel and Rex were invited. But though September was now only a few days off, the colonel was growing too restless to wait.

After Yvonne’s visit, he and Ruth were much together. It seemed to happen so. They took long walks into the woods, but Ruth seemed to share now her father’s aversion to climbing, and Gethryn stalked the deer with only the Jaegers for company.

Ruth and her father used to come home with their arms full of wild flowers — the fair, lovely wild blossoms of Bavaria which sprang up everywhere in their path. The colonel was great company on these expeditions, singing airs from obsolete operas of his youth, and telling stories of La Grange, Brignoli and Amodio, of the Strakosches and Maretzeks, with much liveliness. Sometimes there would be a silence, however, and then if Ruth looked up she often met his eyes. Then he would smile and say:

“Well, Daisy!” and she would smile and say:

“Well, dear!”

But this could not last. About a week after Yvonne’s visit, the colonel, after one of these walks, instead of joining Rex for a smoke, left him sitting with Ruth under the beech tree and mounted the stairs to Mrs Dene’s room.

It was an hour later when he rose and kissed his wife, who had been sitting at her window all the time of their quiet talk, with eyes fixed on the young people below.

“I never dreamed of it!” said he.

“I did, I wished it,” was her answer. “I thought he was — but they are all alike!” she ended sadly and bitterly. “To think of a boy as wellborn as Rex — “ But the colonel, who possibly knew more about wellborn boys than his wife did, interrupted her:

“Hang the boys! It’s Ruth I’m grieved for!”

“My daughter needs no one’s solicitude, not even ours!” said the old lady haughtily.

“Right! Thank God!” said the veteran, in a tone of relief. “Good night, my dear!”

Two days later they left for Paris.

Rex accompanied them as far as Schicksalsee, promising to follow them in a few days.

The handsome, soldierly-looking Herr Förster stood by their carriage and gave them a “Glück-liche Reise!” and a warm “Auf Wiedersehen!” as they drove away. Returning up the steps slowly and seriously, he caught the eye of Sepp and Federl, who had been looking after the carriage as it turned out of sight beyond the bridge:

“Schade!” said the Herr Förster, and went into the house.

“Schade!” said Federl.

“Jammer-schade!” growled Sepp.

On the platform at Schicksalsee, Rex and Ruth were walking while they waited for the train. “Ruth,” said Rex, “I hope you never will need a friend’s life to save yours from harm; but if you do, take mine.”

“Yes, Rex.” She raised her eyes and looked into the distance. Far on the horizon loomed the Red Peak.

The clumsy mail drew up beside the platform. It was the year when all the world was running after a very commonplace Operetta with one lovely stolen song: a Volks-song. One heard it everywhere, on both continents; and now as the postillion, in his shiny hat with the cockade, his light blue jacket and white small clothes, and his curly brass horn, came rattling down the street, he was playing the same melody:

Es ist im Leben häßlich eingerichtet —

The train drew into the station. When it panted forth again, Gethryn stood waving his hand, and watched it out of sight.

Turning at last to leave the platform, he found that the crowd had melted away; only a residue of crimson-capped officials remained. He inquired of one where he could find an expressman and was referred to a mild man absorbing a bad cigar. With him Gethryn arranged for having his traps brought from Trauerbach and consigned to the brothers Schnurr at the “Gasthof zur Post,” Schicksalsee, that inn being close to the station.

This settled, he lighted a cigarette and strolled across to his hotel, sitting down on a stone bench before the door, and looking off at the lake.

It was mid-afternoon. The little place was asleep. Nothing was stirring about the inn excepting a bandy Dachshund, which came wheezing up and thrust a cold nose into the young man’s hand. High in the air a hawk was wheeling; his faint, querulous cry struck Gethryn with an unwonted sense of loneliness. He noticed how yellow some of the trees were on the slopes across the lake. Autumn had come before summer was ended. He leaned over and patted the hound. A door opened, a voice cried, “Ei Dachl! du! Dachl!” and the dog made off at the top of his hobbyhorse gait.

The silence was unbroken except for the harsh cries of the hawk, sailing low now in great circles over the lake. The sun flashed on his broad, burnished wings as he stooped; Gethryn fancied he could see his evil little eyes; finally the bird rose and dwindled away, lost against the mountainside.

He was roused from his reverie by angry voices.

“Cochon! Kerl! Menteur!” cried someone.

The other voice remonstrated with a snarl.

“Bah!” cried the first, “you lie!”

“Alsatians,” thought Rex; “what horrible French!”

The snarling began again, but gradually lapsed into whining. Rex looked about him.

The quarreling seemed to come from a small room which opened out of the hotel restaurant. Windows gave from it over the front, but the blinds were down.

“No! No! I tell you! Not one sou! Starve? I hope you will!” cried the first voice, and a stamp set some bottles and glasses jingling.

“Alsatians and Jews!” thought Rex. One voice was unpleasantly familiar to him, and he wondered if Mr Blumenthal spoke French as he did English. Deciding with a careless smile that of course he did, Rex ceased to think of him, not feeling any curiosity to go and see with whom his late fellow-lodger might be quarreling. He sat and watched instead, as he lounged in the sunshine, some smart carriages whirling past, their horses stepping high, the lackeys muffled from the mountain air in winter furs, crests on the panels.

An adjutant in green, with a great flutter of white cock’s feathers from his chapeau, sitting up on the box of an equipage, accompanied by flunkies in the royal blue and white of Bavaria, was a more agreeable object to contemplate than Mr Blumenthal, and Gethryn felt as much personal connection with the Prince Regent hurrying home to Munich, from his little hunting visit to the emperor of Austria, as with the wrangling Jews behind the close-drawn blinds of the coffee-room at his back.

The sun was slowly declining. Rex rose and idled into the smoking-room. It was deserted but for the clerk at his desk, a railed enclosure, one side of which opened into the smoking-room, the other side into the hall. Across the hall was a door with “Café — Restaurant,” in gilt letters above it. Rex did not enter the café; he sat and dreamed in the empty smoking-room over his cigarette.

But it was lively in the café, in spite of the waning season. A good many of the tables were occupied. At one of them sat the three unchaperoned Miss Dashleighs, in company with three solemn, high-shouldered young officers, enjoying something in tall, slender tumblers which looked hot and smelled spicy. At another table Mr Everett Tweeler and Mrs Tweeler were alternately scolding and stuffing Master Irving Tweeler, who expressed in impassioned tones a desire for tarts.

“Ur — r — ving!” remonstrated Mr Tweeler.

“Dahling!” argued Mrs Tweeler. “If oo eats too many ‘ittle cakies then oo tant go home to Salem on the puffy, puffy choo-choo boat.”

Old Sir Griffin Damby overheard and snorted.

When Master Tweeler secured his tarts, Sir Griffin blessed the meal with a hearty “damn!”

He did not care for Master Tweeler’s nightly stomach aches, but their rooms adjoined. When “Ur — r — ving” reached unmolested for his fourth, Sir Griffin rose violently, and muttering, “Change me room, begad!” waddled down to the door, glaring aggressively at the occupants of the various tables. Near the exit a half suppressed squeal caused him to swing round. He had stepped squarely on the toe of a meager individual, who now sat nursing his foot in bitter dejection.

“Pardon — “ began Sir Griffin, then stopped and glared at the sallow-faced person.

Sir Griffin stared hard at the man he had stepped on, and at his female companion.

“Damn it!” he cried. “Keep your feet out of the way, do you hear?” puffed his cheeks, squared his shoulders and snorted himself out of the café.

The yellow-faced man was livid with rage.

“Don’t be a fool, Mannie,” whispered the woman; “don’t make a row — do you know who that is?”

“He’s an English hog,” spluttered the man with an oath; “he’s a cursed hog of an Englishman!”

“Yes, and he knows us. He was at Monaco a few summers ago. Don’t forget who turned us out of the Casino.”

Emanuel Pick turned a shade more sallow and sank back in his seat.

Neither spoke again for some moments. Presently the woman began to stir the bits of lemon and ice in her empty tumbler. Pick watched her sulkily.

“You always take the most expensive drinks. Why can’t you order coffee, as others do?” he snarled.

She glanced at him. “Jew,” she sneered.

“All right; only wait! I’ve come to the end of my rope. I’ve got just money enough left to get back to Paris — ”

“You lie, Mannie!”

He paid no attention to this compliment, but lighted a cigar and dropped the match on the floor, grinding it under his heel.

“You have ten thousand francs today! You lie if you say you have not.”

Mr Pick softly dropped his eyelids.

“That is for me, in case of need. I will need it too, very soon!”

His companion glared at him and bit her lip.

“If you and I are to remain dear friends,” continued Mr Pick, “we must manage to raise money, somehow. You know that as well as I do.”

Still she said nothing, but kept her eyes on his face. He glanced up and looked away uneasily.

“I have seen my uncle again. He knows all about your sister and the American. He says it is only because of him that she refuses the handsome offer.”

The woman’s face grew tigerish, and she nodded rapidly, muttering, “Ah! yes! Mais oui! the American. I do not forget him!”

“My dear uncle thinks it is our fault that your sister refuses to forget him, which is more to the purpose,” sneered Pick. “He says you did not press that offer he made Yvonne with any skill, else she would never have refused it again — that makes four times,” he added. “Four times she has refused an establishment and — ”

“Pst! what are you raising your voice for?” hissed the woman. “And how is it my fault?” she went on.

“I don’t say it is. I know better — who could wish more than we that your sister should become the mistress of my dear rich uncle? But when I tried to tell him just now that we had done our best, he raved at me. He has guessed somehow that they mean to marry. I did not tell him that we too had guessed it. But he said I knew it and was concealing it from him. I asked him for a little money to go on with. Curse him, he would not lend me a sou! Said he never would again — curse him!”

There was a silence while Pick smoked on. The woman did not smoke too because she had no cigarette, and Pick did not offer her any. Presently he spoke again.

“Yes, you certainly are an expensive luxury, under the circumstances. And since you have so mismanaged your fool of a sister’s affair, I don’t see how the circumstances can improve.”

She watched him. “And the ten thousand francs? You will throw me off and enjoy them at your ease?”

He cringed at her tone. “Not enjoy — without you — ”

“No,” she said coolly, “for I shall kill you.”

Mr Pick smiled uncomfortably. “That would please the American,” he said, trying to jest, but his hand trembled as he touched the stem of his cigar-holder to shake off the ashes.

A sudden thought leaped into her face. “Why not please — me — instead?” she whispered.

Their eyes met. Her face was hard and bold — his, cowardly and ghastly. She clenched her hands and leaned forward; her voice was scarcely audible. Mr Pick dropped his oily black head and listened.

“He turned me out of his box at the Opera; he struck you — do you hear? he kicked you!”

The Jew’s face grew chalky.

“Today he stands between you and your uncle, you and wealth, you and me! Do you understand? Cowards are stupid. You claim Spanish blood. But Spanish blood does not forget insults. Is yours only the blood of a Spanish Jew? Bah! Must I talk? You saw him? He is here. Alive. And he kicked you. And he stands between you and riches, you and me, you and — life!”

They sat silent, she holding him fascinated with her little black eyes. His jaw fallen, the expression of his loose mouth was horrible. Suddenly she thrust her face close to his. Her eyes burned and the blood surged through the distended veins under the cracking rouge. Her lips formed the word, “Tonight!”

Without a word he crept from his seat and followed her out of the room by a side door.

Gethryn, lounging in the smoking-room meanwhile, was listening with delight to the bellowing of Sir Griffin Damby, who stood at the clerk’s desk in the hall.

“Don’t contradict me!” he roared — the weak-eyed clerk had not dreamed of doing so — “Don’t you contradict me! I tell you it’s the same man!”

“But Excellence,” entreated the clerk, “we do not know — ”

“What! Don’t know! Don’t I tell you?”

“We will telegraph to Paris — ”

“Telegraph to hell! Where’s my man? Here! Dawson! Do you remember that infernal Jew at Monaco? He’s here. He’s in there!” jerking an angry thumb at the café door. “Keep him in sight till the police come for him. If he says anything, kick him into the lake.”

Dawson bowed.

The clerk tried to say that he would telegraph instantly, but Sir Griffin barked in his face and snorted his way down the hall, followed by the valet.

Rex, laughing, threw down his cigarette and sauntered over to the clerk.

“Whom does the Englishman want kicked out?”

The clerk made a polite gesture, asking Rex to wait until he had finished telegraphing. At that moment the postillion’s horn heralded the coming of the mail coach, and that meant the speedy arrival of the last western train. Rex forgot Sir Griffin and strolled over to the post office to watch the distribution of the letters and to get his own.

A great deal of flopping and pounding seemed to be required as a preliminary to postal distribution. First the mail bags seemed to be dragged all over the floor, then came a long series of thumps while the letters were stamped, finally the slide was raised and a face the color of underdone pie crust, with little angry eyes, appeared. The owner had a new and ingenious insult for each person who presented himself. The Tweelers were utterly routed and went away not knowing whether there were any letters for them or not. Several valets and ladies’ maids exchanged lively but ineffectual compliments with the face in the post office window. Then came Sir Griffin. Rex looked on with interest. What the ill-natured brute behind the grating said, Rex couldn’t hear, but Sir Griffin burst out with a roar, “Damnation!” that made everybody jump. Then he stuck his head as far as he could get it in at the little window and shouted — in fluent German, awfully pronounced — “Here! You! It’s enough that you’re so stupid you don’t know what you’re about. Don’t you try to be impudent too! Hand me those letters!” The official bully handed them over without a word.

Rex took advantage of the lull and stepped to the window. “Any letters for Mr Gethryn?”

“How you spell him?” Rex spelled him.

“Yet once again!” demanded the intelligent person. Rex wrote it in English and in German script.

“From Trauerbach — yes?”

“Yes.”

The man went away, looked through two ledgers, sent for another, made out several sets of blanks, and finally came back to the window, but said nothing.

“Well?” said Rex, pleasantly.

“Well,” said the man.

“Anything for me?”

“Nothing for you.”

“Kindly look again,” said Rex. “I know there are letters for me.”

In about ten minutes the man appeared again.

“Well?” said Gethryn.

“Well,” said the man.

“Nothing for me?”

“Something.” And with ostentatious delay he produced three letters and a newspaper, which Rex took, restraining an impulse to knock him down. After all, the temptation was not very great, presenting itself more as an act of justice than as a personal satisfaction. The truth was, all day long a great gentleness tinged with melancholy had rested on Gethryn’s spirit. Nothing seemed to matter very much. And whatever engaged his attention for a moment, it was only for a moment, and then his thoughts returned where they had been all day.

Yvonne, Yvonne! She had not been out of his thoughts since he rose that morning. In a few steps he reached his room and read his letters by the waning daylight.

The first began:

My Darling — in three more days I shall stand before a Paris audience. I am not one bit nervous. I am perfectly happy. Yesterday at rehearsal the orchestra applauded and Madame Bordier kissed me. Some very droll things happened. Achilles was intoxicated and chased Ajax the Less with a stick. Ajax fled into my dressing room, and although I was not there I told Achilles afterward that I would never forgive him. Then he wept.

The letter ran on for a page more of lively gossip and then, with a sudden change, ended:

But why do I write these foolish things to you? Ah! you know it is because I am too happy! too happy! and I cannot say what is in my heart. I dare not. It is too soon. I dare not!

If it is that I am happy, who but you knows the reason? And now listen to my little secret. I pray for you, yes, every morning and every evening. And for myself too — now.

God forgives. It is in my faith. Oh! my husband, we will be good!

Thy Yvonne

Gethryn’s eyes blurred on the page and he sat a long time, very still, not offering to open his remaining letters. Presently he raised his head and looked into the street. It was dusk, and the lamps along the lake side were lighted. He had to light his candles to read by.

The next was from Braith — a short note.

Everything is ready, Rex, your old studio cleaned and dusted until you would not know it.

I have kept the key always by me, and no one but myself has ever entered it since you left.

I will meet you at the station — and when you are really here I shall begin to live again.

Au revoir,

Braith

It seemed as if Gethryn would never get on with his correspondence. He sat and held this letter as he had done the other. A deep melancholy possessed him. He did not care to move. At last, impatiently, he tore the third envelope. It contained a long letter from Clifford.

“My blessed boy,” it said.

We learn from Papa Braith that you will be here before long, but the old chump won’t tell when. He intends to meet you all alone at the station, and wishes to dispense with a gang and a brass band. We think that’s deuced selfish. You are our prodigal as well as his, and we are considering several plans for getting even with Pa.

One is to tell you all the news before he has a chance. And I will begin at once.

Thaxton has gone home, and opened a studio in New York. The Colossus has grown two more inches and hates to hear me mention the freak museums in the Bowery. Carleton is a hubby, and wifey is English and captivating. Rowden told me one day he was going to get married too. When I asked her name he said he didn’t know. Someone with red hair.

When I remarked that he was a little in that way himself, he said yes, he knew it, and he intended to found a race of that kind, to be known as the Red Rowdens. Elliott’s brindle died, and we sold ours. We now keep two Russian bloodhounds. When you come to my room, knock first, for “Baby” doesn’t like to be startled.

Braith has kept your family together, in your old studio. The parrot and the raven are two old fiends and will live forever. Mrs Gummidge periodically sheds litters of kittens, to Braith’s indignation. He gives them to the concierge who sells them at a high price, I don’t know for what purpose; I have two of the Gummidge children. The bull pups are pups no longer, but they are beauties and no mistake. All the same, wait until you see “Baby.”

I met Yvonne in the Louvre last week. I’m glad you are all over that affair, for she’s going to be married, she told me. She looked prettier than ever, and as happy as she was pretty. She was with old Bordier of the Fauvette, and his wife, and — think of this! she’s coming out in Belle Hélène! Well! I’m glad she’s all right, for she was too nice to go the usual way.

Poor little Bulfinch shot himself in the Bois last June. He had delirium tremens. Poor little chap!

There’s a Miss Dene here, who knows you. Braith has met her. She’s a beauty, he says, and she’s also a stunning girl, possessing manners, and morals, and dignity, and character, and religion and all that you and I have not, my son. Braith says she isn’t too good for you when you are at your best; but we know better, Reggy; any good girl is too good for the likes of us.

Hasten to my arms, Reginald! You will find them at No. 640 Rue Notre Dame des Champs, chez,

Foxhall Clifford, Esq.

Leaving Clifford’s letter and the newspapers on the table, Rex took his hat, put out the light, and went down to the street. As he stood in the door, looking off at the dark lake, he folded Yvonne’s letter and placed it in his breast. He held Braith’s a moment more and then laid it beside hers.

The air was brisk; he buttoned his coat about him. Here and there a moonbeam touched the lapping edge of the water, or flashed out in the open stretch beyond the point of pines. High over the pines hung a cliff, blackening the water all around with fathomless shadow.

A waiter came lounging by, his hands tucked beneath his coattails. “What point is that? The one which overhangs the pines there?” asked Rex.

“Gracious sir!” said the waiter, “that is the Schicksalfels.”

“Why ‘Schicksal-fels’?”

“Has the gracious gentleman never heard the legend of the ‘Rock of Fate’?”

“No, and on second thoughts, I don’t care to hear it now. Another time. Good night!”

“Ah! the gentleman is too good! Thousand thanks! Gute Nacht, gnädiger Herr!”

Gethryn remained looking at the crags.

“They cannot be half a mile from here,” he thought. “I suppose the path is good enough; if not, I can turn back. The lake will look well from there by moonlight.” And he found himself moving up a little footpath which branched below the hotel.

It was pleasant, brisk walking. The air had a touch of early frost in it. Gethryn swung along at a good pace, pulling his cap down and fastening the last button of his coat. The trees threw long shadows across the path, hiding it from view, except where the moonlight fell white on the moist gravel. The moon herself was past the full and not very bright; a film of mist was drawing over the sky. Gethryn, looking up, thought of that gentle moon which once sailed ghostlike at high noon through the blue zenith among silver clouds while a boy lay beside the stream with rod and creel; and then he remembered the dear old yellow moon that used to flood the nursery with pools of light and pile strange moving shades about his bed. And then he saw, still looking up, the great white globe that hung above the frozen river, striking blue sparks from the ringing skates.

He felt lonely and a trifle homesick. For the first time in his life — he was still so young — he thought of his childhood and his boyhood as something gone beyond recall.

He had nearly reached his destination; just before him the path entered a patch of pine woods and emerged from it, shortly, upon the flat-topped rock which he was seeking. Under the first arching branches he stopped and looked back at the marred moon in the mist-covered sky.

“I am sick of this wandering,” he thought. “Wane quickly! Your successor shall shine on my home: Yvonne’s and mine.”

And, thinking of Yvonne, he passed into the shadows which the pines cast upon the Schicksalfels.

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 13:06