THE WORKS OF LOUIS COUPERUS
Alexander Teixeira de Mattos
THE BOOKS OF THE SMALL SOULS
I. Small Souls
II. The Later Life
III. The Twilight of the Souls
IV. Dr. Adriaan
Old People and the Things that Pass
The Law Inevitable
ALEXANDER TEIXEIRA de MATTOS
THORNTON BUTTERWORTH, LIMITED
15 BEDFORD STREET, LONDON, W.C.2
First Published in Great Britain Nov., 192 1
Reprinted - - Dec ,1921
BY DODD, Mead and Company, Inc.
THE LAW INEVITABLE
CHAPTER I :;;;.Â«: \:
The Marchesa Belloni's boarding-hous^ .^As.\ sitn^
ated in one of the healthiest, if not one of the most
romantic quarters of Rome. One half of the house
had formed part of a villino of the old Ludovisi Gar-
dens, those beautiful old gardens regretted by every-
body who knew them before the new barrack-quarters
were built on the site of the old Roman park, with
its border of villas. The entrance to the pension
was in the Via Lombardia. The older or villino
portion of the house retained a certain antique charm
for the marchesa's boarders, while the new premises
built on to it offered the advantages of spacious rooms,
modem sanitation and electric light. The pension
boasted a certain reputation for comfort, cheapness
and a pleasant situation : it stood at a few minutes'
walk from the Pincio, on high ground, and there was no
need to fear malaria ; and the price charged for a long
stay, amounting to hardly more than eight lire a day,
was exceptionally low for Rome, which was known to
be more expensive than any other town in Italy.
The boarding-house therefore was generally full.
The visitors began to arrive as soon as October :
those who came earliest in the season paid least ;
and, with the exception of a few hurrying tourists,
they nearly all remained until Easter, going south-
ward to Naples after the great church festivals.
Some English travelling-acquaintances had strongly
recommended the pension to Corn^lie de Retz van
Loo, who was travelling in Italy by herself ; and
she had written to the Marchesa Belloni from Florence.
8 f THE LAW INEVITABLE
It was her first visit to Italy ; it was the first time
that she had aUghted at the great cavernous station
near the Baths of Diocletian ; and, standing in the
square, in the golden Roman sunlight, while the great
fountain of the Acqua Marcia gushed and rippled
and the jcabrdrivers clicked with their whips and their
tongues to attract her attention, she was conscious
of her "nice Italian sensation," as she called it, and
felt glad to be in Rome.
She saw a Httle old man limping towards her with
the instinct of a veteran porter who recognizes his
travellers at once ; and she read " Hotel Belloni "
on his cap and beckoned to him with a smile. He
saluted her with respectful familiarity, as though she
were an old acquaintance and he glad to see her ;
asked if she had had a pleasant journey, if she was
not over-tired ; led her to the victoria ; put in her rug
and her handbag ; asked for the tickets of her trunks ;
and said that she had better go on ahead : he would
follow in ten minutes with the luggage. She re-
ceived an impression of cosiness, of being well cared
for by the little old lame man ; and she gave him a
friendly nod as the coachman drove away. She felt
happy and careless, though she had just the faintest
foreboding of something unhappy and unknown that
was going to come to her ; and she looked to right
and left to take in the streets of Rome. But she
saw only houses upon houses, like so many barracks ;
then a great white palace, the new Palazzo Piom-
bino, which she knew to contain the Juno Ludovisi;
and then the vettura stopped and a boy in buttons
came out to meet her. He showed her into the
drawing-room, a gloomy apartment, in the middle
of which was a table covered with periodicals, ar-
ranged in a regular and unbroken circle. Two la-
THE LAW INEVITABLE 9
dies, obviously English and of the aesthetic type,
with loose-fitting blouses and grimy hair, sat in a
comer studying their Baedekers before going out.
Com^lie bowed slightly, but received no bow in re-
turn ; she did not take offence, being famihar with the
manners of the travelHng Briton. She sat down at
the table and took up the Roman Herald, the paper
which appears once a fortnight and tells you what
there is to do in Rome during the next two weeks.
Thereupon one of the ladies asked her, from the
comer, in an aggressive tone :
" I beg your pardon, but would you please not
take the Herald to your room V
Com^lie raised her head very haughtily and lan-
guidly in the direction where the ladies were sitting,
looked vaguely above their grimy heads, said no-
thing and glanced down at the Herald again ; and
she thought herself a very experienced traveller and
smiled inwardly because she knew how to deal with
that type of Enghsh woman.
The march esa entered and welcomed Cora^he in
Itahan and French. She was a large, fat matron,
vulgarly fat ; her ample bosom was contained in a
silk cuirass or spencer, shiny at the seams and bursting
under the arms ; her grey frizzled hair gave her a
somewhat leonine appearance ; her great yellow
and blue eyes, with bistre shadows beneath them,
wore a strained expression, the pupils unnaturally di-
lated by belladonna ; a pair of immense crystals spark-
led in her ears ; and her fat, greasy fingers were
covered with nameless jewels. She talked very fast ;
and ComeHe thought her sentences as pleasant and
homely as the welcome of the lame porter in the
square outside the station. The march esa led her
to the hydrauUc hft and stepped in with her ; the
10 THE LAW INEVITABLE
lift, a railed-in cage, running up the well of the stair-
case, rose solemnly and suddenly stopped, motion-
less, between the second and the third floor.
" Third floor I " cried the marchesa to some one
" Non c'e acqual'* the boy in buttons calmly called
back, meaning thereby to convey that â€” as seemed
natural â€” there was not enough water to move the lift.
The marchesa screamed out some orders in a shrill
voice ; two facchini came running up and hung on to
the cable of the lift, together with the ostensibly
zealous boy in buttons ; and by fits and starts the
cage rose higher and higher, until at last it almost
reached the third storey.
" A little higher ! " ordered the marchesa.
But the facchini strained their muscles in vain :
the lift refused to stir.
** We can manage 1 " said the marchesa. "Wait a bit."
Taking a great stride, which revealed the enorm-
ous white-stockinged calf of her leg, she stepped
on to the floor, smiled and gave her hand to Cor-
n^lie, who imitated her g3nnnastics.
** Here we are ! " sighed the marchesa, with a smile
of satisfaction. '* This is your room.'*
She opened a door and showed Corn61ie a bedroom.
Though the sun was shining brightly out of doors,
the room was as damp and chilly as a cellar.
" Marchesa," Cornelie said, without hesitation,
" I wrote to you for two rooms facing south."
'* Did you ?" asked the marchesa, plausibly and
ingeniously. *' I really didn't remember. Yes, that
is one of those foreigners' ideas : rooms facing south.
. . . This is really a beautiful room."
"I'm sorry, but I can't accept this room, mar-
THE LAW INEVITABLE ii
La Belloni grumbled a bit, went down the cor-
ridor and opened the door of another room :
'* And this one, signora ? . . , How do you like
"Is it south?"
" I want it full south."
" This looks west : you see the most splendid sun-
sets from your window."
'* I absolutely must have a south room, marâ€”
*' I also have the most charming little apartments
looking east : you get the most picturesque sunrises
'* No, marchesa."
" Don't you appreciate the beauties of nature ?"
" Just a little, but I put my health first."
** I sleep in a north room myself."
" You are an Italian, marchesa, and you're used to it."
" I'm very sorry, but I have no rooms facing south."
** Then I'm sorry too, marchesa, but I must look
out somewhere else."
Com^he turned as though to go away. The choice
of a room sometimes means the choice of a life.
The marchesa caught hold of her hand and smiled.
She had abandoned her cool tone and her voice was
all honey :
" Davvero, that's one of those foreigners' ideas :
rooms facing south ! But I have two little kennels
left. Here. . . ."
And she quickly opened two doors, two snug little
cupboards of rooms, displaying through the open
casements a lofty and spacious view of the sky, out-
spread above the streets and roofs below, with the
blue dome of St. Peter's in the distance.
12 THE LAW INEVITABLE
" These are the only rooms I have left facing south/'
said the marchesa, plaintively.
" I shall be glad to have these, marchesa."
" Sixteen Hre/' smiled la Belloni.
*' Ten, as you wrote/'
" I could put two persons in here/'
** I shall stay all the winter, if I am satisfied/'
'* You must have your way ! " the marchesa ex-
claimed, suddenly, in her sweetest voice, a voice of
graceful surrender. " You shall have the rooms
for twelve lire. Don't let us discuss it any more.
The rooms are yours. You are Dutch, are you not ?
We have a Dutch family staying here : a mother
with two daughters and a son. Would you like to
sit next to them at table ? "
" No, I'd rather you put me somewhere else; I don't
care for my fellow-countrymen when travelling."
The marchesa left Cornelie to herself. She looked
out of the window, absent-mindedly, glad to be in
Rome, yet faintly conscious of the something unhappy
and unknown that was about to come. There
was a tap at her door ; the men carried in her luggage.
She saw that it was eleven o'clock and began to un-
pack. One of her rooms was a small sitting-room,
like a bird-cage in the air, looking out over Rome.
She altered the position of the furniture, draped the
faded sofa with a shawl from the Abruzzi and fixed
a few portraits and photographs with drawing-pins
to the wall, whose white-washed surface was broken
up by rudely-painted arabesques. And she smiled at
the border of purple hearts transfixed with arrows,
which surrounded the decorated panels of the wall.
After an hour's work, her sitting-room was set-
tled : she had a home of her own, with a few of her
own shawls and rugs, a screen here, a little table
THE LAW INEVITABLE 13
there, cushions on the sofa, books within easy reach.
When she had finished and had sat down and looked
around her, she suddenly felt very lonely. She be-
gan to think of the Hague and of what she had left
behind her. But she did not want to think and
picked up her Baedeker and read about the Vatican.
She was unable to concentrate her thoughts and
turned to Hare's Walks in Rome. A bell sounded.
She was tired and her nerves were on edge. She
looked in the glass, saw that her hair was out of curl,
her blouse soiled with coal and dust, unlocked a second
trunk and changed her things. She cried and sobbed
while she was curling her hair. The second bell rang;
and, after powdering her face, she went downstairs.
She expected to be late, but there was no one in the
dining-room and she had to wait before she was served.
She resolved not to come down so very punctually
in future. A few boarders looked in through the
open door, saw that there was no one sitting at
table yet, except a new lady, and disappeared again.
Cornelie looked around her and waited.
The dining-room was the original dining-room of
the old villa, with a ceihng by Guercina. The waiters
loitered about. An old grey major-domo cast a
distant glance over the table, to see if everything
was in order. He grew impatient when nobody
came and told them to serve the macaroni to Cornehe.
It struck Corn^Ue that he too limped with one leg,
like the porter. But the waiters were very young,
hardly more than sixteen to eighteen, and lacked
the usual self-possession of the waiter.
A stout gentleman, vivacious, consequential, pock-
marked, ill-shaven, in a shabby black coat which
showed but little linen, entered, rubbing his hands,
and took his seat opposite Comdie.
14 THE LAW INEVITABLE
He bowed politely and began to eat his naacaroni.
And this seemed to be the signal for the others
to begin eating, for a number of boarders, mostly
ladies, now came in, sat down and helped themselves
to the macaroni, which was handed round by the
youthful waiters under the watchful eye of the grey-
haired major-domo. Com^He smiled at the oddity
of these travelUng types ; and, when she involuntarily
glanced at the pock-marked gentleman opposite,
she saw that he too was smiling.
He hurriedly mopped up his tomato-sauce with
his bread, bent a little way across the table and al-
most whispered, in French :
" It's amusing, isn't it ?"
ComeUe raised her eyebrows :
"What do you mean?"
" A cosmopolitan company like this."
"You are Dutch?"
" How do you know ?"
" I saw your name in the visitors' book, with * la
Haye* after it."
"I am Dutch, yes."
" There are some more Dutch ladies here, sitting
over there : they are charming."
Comelie asked the major-domo for some vin
" The wine is no good," said the stout gentleman,
vivaciously. "This is Genzano," pointing to his fiasco.
" I pay a small corkage and drink my own wine."
The major-domo put a pint bottle in front of Cor-
n^lie : it was included in her pension without extra
" If you like, I will give you the address where
I get my wine. Via della Croce, 67."
THE LAW INEVITABLE 15
Compile thanked him. The pock-marked gentle-
man's uncommon ease and vivacity diverted her.
" You're looking at the major-domo ?'* he asked.
" You are a keen observer," she smiled in reply.
*' He's a type, our major-domo, Giuseppe. He
used to be major-domo in the palace of an Austrian
archduke. He did I don't know what. Stole some-
thing, perhaps. Or was impertinent. Or dropped
a spoon on the floor. He has come down in the world.
Now you behold him in the Pension Belloni. But the
dignity of the man ! "
He leant forward :
"The marchesa is economical. All the servants
here are either old or very young. It's cheaper."
He bowed to two German ladies, a mother and
daughter, who had come in and sat down beside him :
'* I have the permit which I promised you, to see
the Palazzo Rospigliosi and Guido Reni's Aurora,**
he said, speaking in German.
** Is the prince back then ?"
" No, the prince is in Paris. The palace is not
open to visitors, except yourselves."
This was said with a gallant bow.
The German ladies exclaimed how kind he was,
how he was able to do anything, to find a way out
of every difficulty. They had taken endless trouble
to bribe the Rospighosi porter and they had not
A Uttle thin EngHshwoman had taken her seat be-
" And for you, Miss Taylor, I have a card for a
low mass in His Holiness' private chapel."
Miss Taylor was radiant with delight.
" Have you been sight-seeing again ?" the pock-
marked gentleman continued.
i6 THE LAW INEVITABLE
*' Yes, Museo Kircheriano/* said Miss Taylor.
*' But I am tired out. It was most exquisite."
" My prescription, Miss Taylor, is that you stay
at home this afternoon and rest."
" I have an engagement to go to the Aventino. . . .*'
" You mustn't. You're tired. You look worse
every day and you're losing flesh. You must rest,
or you sha'n't have the card for the low mass."
The German ladies laughed. Miss Taylor, flattered,
in an ecstasy of delight, gave her promise. She looked
at the pock-marked gentleman as though she expected
to hear the judgement of Solomon fall from his lips.
Lunch was over : the rump-steak, the pudding, the
dried figs. Comelie rose :
*' May I give you a glass out of my bottle ?" asked
the stout gentleman. '' Do taste my wine and tell
me if you like it. If so, I'll order a fiasco for you in
the Via della Croce."
ComeUe did not like to refuse. She sipped the
wine. It was deliciously pure. She reflected that
it would be a good thing to drink a pure wine in Rome ;
and, as she did so, the stout gentleman seemed to
read her quick thought :
*' It is a good thing," he said, *' to drink a strengthen-
ing wine while you are in Rome, where life is so tiring."
" This is Genzano, at two lire seventy-five the
fiasco. It will last you a long time : the wine keeps.
So I'll order you di fiasco.**
He bowed to the ladies around and left the room.
The German ladies bowed to Comelie:
'' Such an amiable man, that Mr. Rudyard ! "
** What can he be ?" Comdlie wondered. " French,
German, English, American ?"
She had hired a victoria after lunch and had driven
through Rome, to make her first acquaintance with
the city for which she had longed so eagerly. This
first impression was a great disappointment. Her
unspoiled imagination, her reading, even the photo-
graphs which she had bought in Florence and studied
with the affection of an inexperienced tourist had
given her the illusion of a city of an ideal antiquity,
an ideal Renascence ; and she had forgotten that,
especially in Rome, life has progressed pitilessly
and that the ages are not visible, in buildings and ruins,
as distinct periods, but that each period is closely
connected with the next by the passing days and
Thus she had thought the dome of St. Peter's small,
the Corso narrow and Trajan's Column a column like
any other ; she had not noticed the Forum as she
drove past it ; and she had been unable to think of
a single emperor when she was at the Palatine.
Now she was home again, tired, and was resting
a little and meditating ; she felt depressed, yet she
enjoyed her vague reflections and the silence about
her in the big house, to which most of the boarders
had not yet returned. She thought of the Hague,
of her big family, her father, mother, brothers and
sisters, of whom she had taken leave for a long
time to go abroad. Her father, a retired colonel
of hussars living on his pension, with no great pri-
vate means, had been unable to contribute anything
to the fulfilment of her caprice, as he called it ; and
i8 THE LAW INEVITABLE
she would not have been able to satisfy that caprice,
of beginning a new life, but for the small legacy which
she had inherited some years ago from a godmother.
She was glad to be more or less independent, though
she felt the selfishness of her independence.
But what could she have done for her family-circle,
after the scandal of her divorce ? She was weak
and selfish, she knew it ; but she had received a blow
under which she had at first expected to succumb.
And, when she found herself surviving it, she had
mustered such energy as she possessed and said to
herself that she could not go on existing in that same
narrow circle of her sisters and her girl friends ; and
she had forced her life into a different path. She had
always had the knack of creating an apparently new
frock out of an old dress, transforming a last year's
hat into one of the latest fashion. Even so she had
now done with her distraught and wretched life,
all battered and broken as it was ; she had gathered
together, as in a fit of economy, all that was left,
all that was still serviceable ; and out of those remnants
she had made herself a new existence. But this new
life was unable to breathe in the old atmosphere :
it felt aimless in it and estranged ; and she had managed
to force it into a different path, in spite of all the op-
position of her family and friends. Perhaps she would
not have succeeded so readily if she had not been so
completely shattered. Perhaps she would not have
felt this energy if she had suffered only a little. She
had her strength and she had her weakness ; she was
very simple and yet she was very variable ; and it
was perhaps just this complexity that had been the
saving of her youth.
Besides, she was actually very young, only twenty-
three ; and in youth one possesses an unconscious
THE LAW INEVITABLE 19
vitality, notwithstanding any apparent weakness.
And her contradictory qualities gave her equilibrium
and saved her from falHng over into the abyss. . . .
All this passed vaguely through her mind as clouds
pass before the eyes, not with the conciseness of words
but with the misty indefiniteness of a dreamy fatigue.
As she lay there, she did not look as if she had ever
exerted the strength to give a new path to her life :
a pale, delicate woman, slender, with drooping move-
ments, lying on a sofa in her not very fresh dressing-
gown, with its faded pink and its rumpled lace. And
yet there was a certain poetical fragrance about her
personality, despite her weary eyes and the limp
outlines of her attire, despite the boarding-house
room, with its air of quickly improvised comfort, a
comfort which was a matter of tact rather than reality
and could be packed away in a single trunk. Her
frail figure, her pale and delicate rather than beautiful
features were surrounded, as by an aura, by that
atmosphere of personal poetry which she unconsciously
radiated, which she shed from her eyes upon the things
which she beheld, from her fingers upon the things
which she touched. To those who did not like her,
this peculiar atmosphere, this unusualness, this ec-
centricity, this unHkeness to the typical young woman
of the Hague, was the very thing with which they
reproached her. To those who liked her, it was
partly talent, partly soul ; something peculiar to her
which seemed almost genius ; yet it was perturbing.
It invested her with a great charm ; it gave pause for
thought and it promised much : more, perhaps, than
could be realized. And this woman was the child of
her time but especially of her environment and there-
fore so unfinished, revealing disparity against dis-
parity, in an equilibrium of opposing forces, which
20 THE LAW INEVITABLE
might be her undoing or her salvation, but were in
either case her fate.
She felt lonely in Italy. She had stayed for weeks
at Florence, where she tried to lead a full life, en-
riched by art and history. There, it was true, she
forgot herself to a great extent, but she still felt
lonely. She had spent a fortnight at Siena, but
Siena had depressed her, with its somibre streets,
its dead palaces ; and she had yearned for Rome.
But she had not found Rome yet that afternoon.
And, though she felt tired, she felt above all things
lonely, terribly lonely and useless in a great world,
in a great town, a town in which one feels the great-
ness, uselessness and vast antiquity of things more
perhaps than anywhere else. She felt hke a little
atom of suffering, like an insect, an ant, half-trodden,
half-crushed, among the immense domes of Rome,
of whose presence out of doors she was subtly conscious.
And her hand wandered vacantly over her books,
which she had stacked punctiliously and conscien-
tiously on a little table : some translations of the
classics, Ovid, Tacitus, together with Dante, Pe-
trarch, Tasso. It was growing dusk in her room,
there was no light to read by, she was too much ener-
vated to ring for a lamp ; a chilliness hovered in her
little room, now that the sun had quite gone down,
and she had forgotten to ask for a fire on that first
day. Loneliness was all about her, her suffering
pained her ; her soul craved for a fellow-soul, but her
mouth craved for a kiss, her arms for him, once her
husband ; and, turning on her cushions and wringing
her hands, she prayed deep down in herself :
" O God, tell me what to do ! "
At dinner there was a buzz of voices ; the three or
four long tables were all full ; the marchesa sat at
the head of the centre table. Now and then she
beckoned impatiently to Giuseppe, the old major-
domo, who had dropped a spoon in an archducal
court ; and the unfledged little waiters rushed about
breathlessly. ComeHe found the obliging stout gentle-
man, whom the German ladies called Mr. Rudyard,
sitting opposite her and her fiasco of Genzano beside
her plate. She thanked Mr. Rudyard with a smile
and made the usual remarks : how she had been for
a drive that afternoon and had made her first acquaint-
ance with Rome, the Forum, the Pincio. She talked to
the German ladies and to the English one, who was
always so tired with her sight-seeing ; and the Germans,
a Baronin and the Baronesse her daughter, laughed
with her at the two aesthetes whom Comelie had come