Beatrice Harraden.

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might take it out of its frame poor, tortured spirit she
might take it out a thousand times but she would always
see it there always see it in its accustomed place."

And at that moment, as though in answer to his under-
standing pity, he heard the moaning of the sick woman.

"Always there always there," she cried.

He listened. He knew now that he had touched the
bedrock of her mental agony.

He replaced the clubs and the pictures in the golf-bag,
which he put back into the cupboard, and hastened to
her side. Peace had passed from her, and given way to
renewed and increased turmoil.

DR. NEWBOLD kept his own counsel until the next morning,
partly from a chivalrous loyalty to his patient, and partly
because he wanted to think things out, and determine
in which way the knowledge of this calamity might be
used for the benefit of both husband and wife. No scheme
presented itself to his puzzled mind, and when he arrived
at the Sirrells' house, he had nothing to express beyond
the bare statement of a painful fact.

" Mr. Sirrell," he began, " T ha,ve ma,de a distressing


discovery. I regret to tell you that I believe it was your
wife who removed the portraits."

He described to him briefly how he had found them
concealed in the golf -bag.

Andrew Sirrell turned deadly pale. He did not answer,
but rushed out of the room and locked himself in the spare
room. When he returned in about ten minutes, his face
was drawn and his manner ominously quiet.

" I can never forgive her," he said deliberately " never."

The doctor made no sign. He was standing at the
window staring at the plane trees, now in their sweetest
beauty. There was silence in the room, and outside in
the street there was an assenting suspension of the

" An outrage, a sacrilege, an act of incredible debase-
ment," Andrew said.

The doctor still remained speechless.

" I can never forgive her," Andrew repeated " never."

Dr. Newbold stood staring at the plane trees.

" And you take her part you defend her," Andrew
said angrily.

" No, I don't defend her," the doctor answered, turning
round at last. " But I do say that the portrait is not a
portrait. It is a living person, haunting one with an
irresistible tryanny."

" Your words are equivalent to a defence," Andrew
said bitterly.

" No, pardon me," Dr. Newbold returned. " They are
merely an attempt at explanation. I repeat it. The
portrait is not a portrait ; it is a living force. Your wife
ought never have been expected to bear the strain of its

" Nevertheless, she has committed an outrage, a sacri-
lege," Andrew replied. " I can never forgive her."

" I don't believe you will be called upon to forgive her,"
Dr. Newbold said quietly. " In a grave case like this,
one can only surmise, but I think she is quickly losing
ground. The turmoil of her spirit is wearing out the
strength of her body. If we knew how to stop the turmoil,
we might save her reason and her life. As it is, we have


only secured her short spells of partial peace poor,
tortured spirit."

The gravity of his words and his deep-felt pity for the
sufferer awakened in Andrew the sense of his own unworthi-

" Dr. Newbold," he said, " this discovery has been a
great shock to me, but I am behaving like a cur. I take
back all my words. I will put all my own feelings on one
side. I will do anything and everything to help her back
to peace. I entreat of you to tell me what I can do."

Dr. Newbold laid his hand kindly on the man's shoulder.

" Of course, it was a shock to you," he said. "It was
a shock to me, a stranger. And to you with your memories
it must, indeed, seem a sacrilege. All that I can under-
stand. But we have to bear in mind that this portrait
has become burnt into her brain. She has a gallant face,
Mr. Sirrell. It is not the face of a mean-spirited, paltry
person. I have no doubt that for a long time she made
a brave struggle to live side by side with it and banish
its haunting effects from her mind. Well, we know she
failed. And she has failed in a double sense. This to
me, as a psychologist, 'is the most tragic part of the story,
viewed from her side. She has committed this pitiful
deed, and yet she has not succeeded in banishing the
picture from her mind's eye. It is always before her
to use her own words ' always there.' And it will
always be there, unless death releases her from its spell,
or unless we are able to release her."

" Unless we are able to release her," Andrew repeated
to himself.

" Yes," said Dr. Newbold.

" How ? " asked Andrew, after a silence.

" I don't know," Dr. Newbold answered.

" Doesn't a great shock sometimes work a miracle ? "
Andrew asked.

" Yes," Dr. Newbold said. " But one never takes
the risk until one is fairly sure that nothing else can help.
You see, a shock may cure, or make matters worse, or
kill. But when one judges that the right moment has
come, one has to face those chances."


" And you think the right moment has not come yet ? "
Andrew asked.

" No," the doctor replied. " Her physical strength
is failing, I should say ; but, all the same, it must be
allowed its full innings."

Andrew paced restlessly up and down the room, and
his face bore signs of intense mental agitation. He knew
that the doctor was right, and that Gweneth had nothing
mean-spirited or paltry about her, and that she had
probably fought her fight gallantly up to the limit of her

" I will do anything and everything to help her back
to peace," he exclaimed.

" I am sure you will," the doctor said. " I rely on
your pitifulness yes, and on your sense of justice. We
have the right to trust each other fellow-blunderers,
you remember, belonging to a large company."

" If only she'd left me," Andrew groaned. " If only
she'd forsaken me and said as your wife said : ' / leave
you to your memories and your pictures.' That would have
been far more just to herself and merciful to me."

His anger and indignation swept over him again in a
great wave.

" She has not been fair to me," he cried, in great bitter-
ness of heart.

Then he remembered that he had not been fair to her,
and he passed once more through an agony of remorse.
When he was able to speak, he asked almost inaudibly :

" What kind of shock might have the chance of restor-
ing her, if everything else had failed ? "

" I have not thought that out," Dr. Newbold answered.
" I only know vaguely that it should bear direct on the
very thing which tortures her on the portrait."

Andrew made no comment on the doctor's words,
but roused himself sufficiently to communicate with the
detectives, and to bid them suspend operations for a few
days ; and after this effort he drew his chair near to the
fire, for it was a bitterly cold and rainy afternoon, and
he became immersed in thought.

Finally he slept.


And he had a curious dream. He dreamed that he
restored the portrait to its frame, and carried it in the
middle of the night to his wife's bedroom. When she
saw it, she cried out in her distress : " Always there
always there." Then he heard himself saying, in a voice
which did not falter :

" No, Gweneth, not always there. Because, you see,
I don't want it to be always there. And I'm going to
take it out of the frame myself, so that you may under-
stand that I do not want it to be always there. Watch
me now carefully."

He was beginning to cut it out of its frame with the
utmost physical pain and mental reluctance when he

" Thank Heaven it was only a dream," he cried
" a dream, impossible of realisation a sacrilege."

He shuddered over the remembrance of it.


DURING the next days Gweneth became worse. Her
physical strength was not holding out against the tumult
of her mind. Dr. Newbold looked graver, and called in
two other brain doctors in consultation. They decided
that her only chance was a shock to her nervous system ;
and when Andrew heard their verdict, he knew that the
moment had come when he must fulfil the dictates of
his dream, dictates against which he had been appealing
with passionate though silent persistence. For his dream
had been haunting him, even as the portrait of his first
wife was haunting Gweneth. In vain he tried to banish
it from his remembrance ; in vain he said to himself that
it would be impossible for him to do such a deed, even
to save Gweneth's life or brain : impossible for him to
put that indignity on his dead wife's memory and on his
homage to her memory. To all his reasoning and com-
bating came the invariable answer that his form of homage
to the dead had wrought an injury to the living, and


that he would not be desecrating his true homage, but
expiating a wrong and selfish method of expression.

That same afternoon he went to a picture-framer's and
bought some cardboard and various other necessary appli-
ances ; and that same night, without taking anyone into
his confidence, or giving Dr. Newbold the barest hint
of what he intended to do, he carried out the first part
of his dream. He stole, as a thief, into the spare room,
brought the roll of pictures downstairs, locked himself
in the library, lifted the empty frame down from the
wall, and replaced the portrait of his dead wife as well
as he could. When the portrait was once more in its
frame, he passed through another tempest of doubt and

" It will be sacrilege," the false prompter said to him,
" sacrilege and desecration."

" It will be a finer homage," the true prompter said
to him.

" An outrage on your natural feelings," the false prompter

" An expiation of your blind selfishness," the true
prompter whispered.

Suddenly, as he stood, torn with conflicting feelings,
his face haggard, his body tense with the emotional and
mental strain, he heard a terrible noise outside in the
hall, and the ominous sound of a struggle. The handle
of the door was violently tried. Several people seemed
to be dashing themselves against the door. He rushed
to unfasten it, and there, to his horror, stood Gweneth,
with her hair streaming over her shoulders, wild and
strong with a sudden and fearful violence, which the two
nurses were vainly trying to stem.

" Always there, always there," she cried, and her eyes
sought the portrait and found it.

" Always there. I knew it," she cried, pointing to it
with increased excitement.

Andrew glanced at her, and threw all his hesitation,
his selfishness, to the winds.

" Not always there, Gweneth," he said quickly and
with infinite kindness, " because I don't wish it to be


always there. I don't want it to be there at all. Watch
carefully what I am going to do."

His words appeared to arrest her attention, and, as
one fascinated, she watched him take a knife and loosen
the portrait from the frame.

She watched it fall to his feet.

She watched him lift it up and place it on one side
indifferently, as if it were of no value to him.

A light came over her face. She turned to him, muttered
some incoherent words, and with a deep sigh fell back
unconscious into the arms of her attendants.

" He has killed her," they said to each other with
unspoken words.

But they were wrong.

He had saved her.


THE last sounds of the violin died away. For
a moment there was silence in the Queen's Hall,
followed by that deafening applause to which the
famous artist had been accustomed for many years. He
bowed repeatedly to the audience, shook hands with the
conductor, and greeted the orchestra. But as he greeted
it, his quick eye noticed that his old friend, Fritz Griin-
feld, one of the second fiddles, was not clapping him.
He stood arrested by this astounding fact. He nearly
called out: "Fritz what are you thinking of? You
surely know that I cannot get along without your approval.
The shouts of the audience cannot make up for the silence
of Fritz."

Suddenly he recollected what he had to do. And once
more acknowledging the enthusiastic appreciation of his
thousands of admirers, Rudolph Riemer went off the
platform. Five times he was recalled. Five times he
glanced toward the second fiddles, and saw that Fritz
leaned back, indifferent and sullen.

What could it mean ? Riemer knew that he had not
disgraced himself. He knew well that he had handled
the cadenza of the Bach Double Concerto in D Minor
in masterly fashion, and had carried out faithfully some
of the very effects over which Fritz and he had conferred
and agreed in their earlier years of comradeship and
friendship. What could be wrong, then ? He was
puzzled and troubled. He felt as if he had been unex-
pectedly deserted by someone on whose faithfulness he
had placed absolute reliance. It is not too much to say



that he sulked in the artists' room ; and the conductor,
who came out during the interval and did not succeed in
extracting a single genial word from him, thought :

" Riemer is in one of his black moods. Yet surely he
ought to have been contented with his wonderful recep-
tion. These people are never satisfied. They always
want something more."

The conductor was right in idea, though wrong in inter-
pretation. Riemer wanted that hitherto unfailing sign of
fellowship, that treasured link with the old student days,
that message from distant time, when Fritz and he stood
side by side on equal terms with each other in honourable
and happy emulation. Fate had willed it that the laurels
should come to Riemer ; and Fritz had accepted this
decree with a generous-hearted finality which betrayed no
faintest feeling of rebellious envy.

" Riemer has the secret ' something,' " he had always said.
" There is no appeal against that living truth."

Riemer, therefore, had never realised the cost of bitter
suffering with which failure pays its tribute to success.

He was to realise it at last to-night.

He left the Queen's Hall before the concert was over,
and made his way, as usual, to Fritz's home in the Bor-
ough. It was a time-honoured custom that after a Lon-
don Symphony concert, he should take his supper in
homely German fashion with the little family which he
had ever dearly loved. Sometimes he brought with him
a bit of leberwurst, cooked afresh, as Mrs. Fritz always
laughingly said, in the oven of his great-coat ; and he
always was able to produce from his fiddle-case a carnation
or two for Mrs. Fritz, a fine cigar for young Friedrich,
and marzipan for Triidchen. He was armed with these
bounties now ; but there was no gladness in his heart as
he mounted the stairs leading up to the Griinf elds' flat, nor
any buoyancy of joyful anticipation always associated
with his visits to the Borough.

Something struck chill at his soul. What was it ?
What had gone wrong with Fritz ? Was there trouble
in the home illness added money anxiety disappoint-
ment, perhaps, about the careers of the two children ?


Well, well, he would soon know. One more flight, a
pressing of the bell, a stepping over the dear threshold,
and then he would learn and understand all.

Trudchen opened the door to him.

" Why, it's Onkel Rudolph ! " she said joyously. " How
perfectly jolly that you've come early ! You can make
the coffee instead of me, can't you ? No one makes
it better. And where's the leberuwrst ? Ah, here, Miit-
terli, quick quick ! Here's the leberwurst twice cooked
as usual. And Onkel Rudolph in time to make the coffee.
I'll take the Strad. But why are you looking so serious ?
Wasn't the concert a good one ? Didn't the horrid
audience pet you enough ? Never mind. I'll pet and
spoil you. We all will. Come along now, and get things
ready for father. You'll be able to cheer him up. He
has been rather down in the dumps lately."

"Yes, Rudolph," Mrs. Fritz said earnestly. " We've
been longing for you to come to cheer him. No one
else in the world can do it."

" He did not seem quite himself at the concert to-night,"
Riemer said. " Do you know, Mrs. Fritz, he didn't
well, he didn't clap me."

It was evident that Riemer could scarcely get the words

" Didn't clap you ? " Fritz's wife and daughter cried
together. " Impossible."

Riemer shook his head and turned aside for a mo-

" Did you play badly, Onkel Rudolph ? " Triidchen
asked fearlessly.

"No, Triidchen," the great man answered with the
simplicity of a child. " I played my best."

" Well, never mind," the girl said, putting her arm
through his. :c You'll soon be able to find out what is
the matter with him. We don't know, do we, mother ? "

" No," Mrs. Fritz said sadly. " If he has any trouble,
he is keeping it secret from us. It will be an unspeak-
able relief to me if he can open his heart to you to-night,
Rudolph. Do try and get him to talk to you. We will
leave you alone after a time. Promise me you'll try."


" Of course I will," Riemer reassured her. " And now
for the coffee."

Then off he went to the kitchen with Triidchen. But
Mrs. Fritz stood for a moment lost in thought.

" Didn't clap him'' she said aloud. She repeated the
words : " Didn't clap him"

She was searching her memory for a remark which
Fritz had made only a few days ago about the ridiculous
homage paid to mere virtuosity. Yes, she had found it.

" I'm sick and tired of the solo instrumentalists," he
had said. " Sick and tired of the whole tribe with their
airs and graces. I would not raise my little finger to
applaud any one of them."

" Except Riemer, of course," she had put in.

She remembered now that Fritz had not answered.
Other things came to her mind as she sat down and took
out her work. She recalled that her husband had expressed
no pleasure at the prospect of Riemer 's approaching
visit to England.

" Riemer will be here next week," she had said.

" I believe so," he had replied. But in the old days
he would have said : " Hurrah for Onkel Rudolph and
all of us. And blessings on his bow ! "

She knew only too well that her husband's life as an
artist had been full of grievous disappointments and
real chagrins ; but he had borne them bravely and pressed
on his way uncomplainingly with a true courage which had
something noble in it. The years had come and gone
and brought him no honours : nothing, in fact, except a
bare recognition of dependable usefulness : no thrill of
the artist's career : no realisation of young and buoyant

Very often she had marvelled at him. Constantly she
had wondered whether his weakness or his sweetness of
character had protected his heart from envy, hatred, and
all uncharitableness. She had never dared to probe
those secret recesses. But to make up to him for the
unattained joy of fulfilment, she wrapped her weakling
round with a mantle of sheltering love through which she
hoped the wounds of frustrated expression could never


penetrate. She had given to him a home atmosphere
which many envied and deemed a rich fortune falling to
the share of only the few. Did not Onkel Rudolph always
say that she allowed him to come there " to gather crumbs
from the rich man's table " ? This tender tribute of Onkel
Rudolph's had always been her secret consolation and
encouragement through many years of struggle and diffi-
culty. She would hear the words to-night. She heard
them now ringing in her ears : " Well, good-bye, good-bye,
all of you. And I thank you, Mrs. Fritz, for allowing me to
come and gather crumbs from the rich man's table."

She was still held by these thoughts when Fritz came
into the living-room.

" Well, dear," she said, " and did the music go all
right ? "

" Yes," he answered, putting down his fiddle.

" Riemer came early," she said. "He is making the
coffee with Triidchen."

" Oh, is he ? " Fritz said in a vague way, as if the matter
did not concern him.

It was on her lips to ask him whether Riemer had played
well, but a wise instinct restrained her. She sat silent
while Fritz took his fiddle out of its case, according to
his wont, and warmed it a little before the fire.

"A damp night for the Bergonzi," he said. "I don't
know why I took it."

" You always use it when Riemer plays, don't you ? "
she said unthinkingly. " His own dear gift to you."

" Well, you need not remind me of that," Fritz returned

" Fritz," his wife said, putting her hands on his shoulders
as he knelt before the fire, " what has happened to you ?
What is the matter with you ? "

" Nothing, nothing," he said more gently. " I'm tired
that's all."

At that moment there was a sound of merry laughter,
and in came Triidchen, beating time with the leberwwst
and followed by Riemer carrying the coffee.

" You observe I'm conducting the great and famous
violinist," she cried dramatically, " Be careful, Onkel.


You'll spill the coffee. Non troppo agitato. Lento in
fact, lentissimo."

"Ah, Riemer," Fritz said with the ghost of a smile on
his face, " and so there you are."

" Yes, here I am once more," Riemer said genially.
" Frightfully glad to escape from the concert to my palace
of delight."

" Not much palace of delight here," Fritz remarked
gruffly, but not unkindly.

" I beg your very much pardon, father," Triidchen
said, with mock injuredness. " There never has been such
a palace of delight as ours not even in ' The Arabian
Nights.' '

And still grasping the sausage, she danced a saraband
round the table and finally sat down near her father amid
laughter and applause.

But the mirth did not last. There was an impending
trouble in the air which weighed heavily on the little
company. And soon Mrs. Fritz went out of the room.
Triidchen followed her.

The two men were left alone. They smoked their long
German pipes in a tense silence which was at length broken
by Riemer.

" Fritz," Riemer said without any preliminaries. " All
is not well with you. Tell me your troubles that I may
help you."

" Help, always help," Fritz said with sudden fierceness.
" I hate the very sound of the word. I'm sick of being

Riemer glanced at his old comrade in astonishment.
He could scarcely believe that he had heard rightly. But
he made no comment ; and his mind wandered back to
his old and merry student days when he and Fritz used
to fall out, arrange for an immediate duel, and then settle
down to the Bach Double Concerto in D Minor from which
there was no disturbing them. So vivid was one of the
scenes which rose before him that he could not restrain
himself from speaking of it.

" Fritz," he said, " do you remember that wonderful
occasion when we ended by attacking our seconds who had


come to fetch us to our own duel ? We were playing the
Bach in D Minor, weren't we ? And very well it was
going when those confounded fellows interrupted us."

No answer came from Fritz. The rigid expression on
his face did not relax.

There was a long pause, and at last Riemer spoke again :

" Fritz," he said, " did I play badly to-night did you
think I bungled over the cadenza ? "

" No," Fritz answered slowly. " You played splen-

" But you didn't clap me," Riemer said reproachfully.

" No," Fritz said in a low voice. " Why should I ? "

" Why should you ? " Riemer repeated. " But you have
always done so."

" Yes, precisely," Fritz replied. " And more fool I.
I've spent all my life clapping other people for what I
could have done just as well myself if I'd had the chance.
And now I've finished with it."

" Good God ! " Riemer said almost in a whisper. " Is this
how you have been feeling ? And I've never thought of it."

" No, of course you haven't," Fritz said bitterly. " You
people who go about with halos round your heads what
do you know or care about the disappointments and
sufferings of the failures of the world ? It may not strike
you but you can take it from me, that we have some
feelings left. Some faint spark survives out of the ashes
of our old ambitions."

The flood-gates were open now, and he went on with
increasing excitement :

" Yes to be helped that's what falls to our lot. And
we have to pretend to be grateful, while ail the time we're
hating those who are giving us loose odds and ends of
money, influence, sympathy, and pity. Hate is the
word. And pray, what would all you laurel-crowned
successes do for us derelicts if we interfered with your
regal state or trespassed on your private territory of fame ?
Why. it's only because you know yourselves to be safe

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Online LibraryBeatrice HarradenThirteen all told → online text (page 11 of 23)