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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Lion's Share - Chapter 42. Interval
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The Lion's Share - Chapter 42. Interval Post by :Askasalesrep Category :Long Stories Author :Arnold Bennett Date :May 2012 Read :1967

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The Lion's Share - Chapter 42. Interval

CHAPTER XLII. INTERVAL

The most sinister feature of entertainments organised by Xavier was the intervals. Xavier laid stress on intervals; they gave repose, and in many cases they saved money. All Paris managers are inclined to give to the interval the importance of a star turn, and Xavier in this respect surpassed his rivals, though he perhaps regarded his cloak-rooms, which were organised to cause the largest possible amount of inconvenience to the largest possible number of people, as his surest financial buttress. Xavier could or would never see the close resemblance of intervals to wet blankets, extinguishers, palls and hostile critics. The Allegro movement of the Concerto was a real success, and the audience as a whole would have applauded even more if the gallery in particular had not applauded so much. The second or Larghetto movement was also a success, but to a less degree. As for the third and last movement, it put the gallery into an ecstasy while leaving the floor in possession of full critical faculties. Musa retired and had to return, and when he returned the floor good-humouredly joined the vociferous gallery in laudations, and he had to return again. Then the interminable interval. Silence! Murmurings! Silence! Creepings towards exits! And in many, very many hearts the secret trouble question: "Why are we here? What have we come for? What is all this pother about art and genius? Honestly, shall we not be glad and relieved when the solemn old thing is over?"... And the desolating, cynical indifference of the conductor and the orchestra! Often there is a clearer vision of the truth during the intervals of a classical concert than on a deathbed.

Audrey was extremely depressed in the interval after the Beethoven Concerto and before the Lalo. But she was not depressed by the news of the accident to the Zacatecas Oil Corporation in which was the major part of her wealth. The tidings had stunned rather than injured that part of her which was capable of being affected by finance. She had not felt the blow. Moreover she was protected by the knowledge that she had thousands of pounds in hand and also the Moze property intact, and further she was already reconsidering her newly-acquired respect for money. No! What depressed her was a doubt as to the genius of Musa. In the long dreadful pause it seemed impossible that he should have genius. The entire concert presented itself as a grotesque farce, of which she as its creator ought to be ashamed. She was ready to kill Xavier or his responsible representative.

Then she saw the tall and calm Rosamund, with her grey hair and black attire and her subduing self-complacency, making a way between the rows of stalls towards her.

"I wanted to see you," said Rosamund, after the formal greetings. "Very much." Her voice was as kind and as unrelenting as the grave.

At this point Miss Ingate ought to have yielded her seat to the terrific Rosamund, but she failed to do so, doubtless by inadvertence.

"Will you come into the foyer for a moment?" Rosamund inflexibly suggested.

"Isn't the interval nearly over?" said Audrey.

"Oh, no!"

And as a fact there was not the slightest sign of the interval being nearly over. Audrey obediently rose. But the invitation had been so conspicuously addressed to herself that Miss Ingate, gathering her wits, remained in her chair.

The foyer--decorated in the Cracovian taste--was dotted with cigarette smokers and with those who had fled from the interval. Rosamund did not sit down; she did not try for seclusion in a corner. She stepped well into the foyer, and then stood still, and absently lighted a cigarette, omitting to offer a cigarette to Audrey. Rosamund's air of a deaconess made the cigarette extremely remarkable.

"I wanted to tell you about Jane Foley," began Rosamund quietly. "Have you heard?"

"No! What?"

"Of course you haven't. I alone knew. She has run away to England."

"Run away! But she'll be caught!"

"She may be. But that is not all. She has run away to get married. She dared not tell me. She wrote me. She put the letter in the manuscript of the last chapter but one of her book, which I am revising for her. She will almost certainly be caught if she tries to get married in her own name. Therefore she will get married in a false name. All this, however, is not what I wanted to tell you about."

"Then you shouldn't have begun to talk about it," said Audrey suddenly. "Did you expect me to let you leave it in the middle! Jane getting married! I do think she might have told me.... What next, I wonder! I suppose you've--er--lost her now?"

"Not entirely, I believe," said Rosamund. "Certainly not entirely. But of course I could never trust her again. This is the worst blow I have ever had. She says--but why go into that? Well, she does say she will work as hard as ever, nearly; and that her future husband strongly supports us--and so on." Rosamund smiled with complete detachment.

"And who's he?" Audrey demanded.

"His name is Aguilar," said Rosamund. "So she says."

"Aguilar?"

"Yes. I gather--I say I gather--that he belongs to the industrial class. But of course that is precisely the class that Jane springs from. Odd! Is it not? Heredity, I presume." She raised her shoulders.

Audrey said nothing. She was too shocked to speak--not pained or outraged, but simply shaken. What in the name of Juno could Jane see in Aguilar? Jane, to whom every man was the hereditary enemy! Aguilar, who had no use for either man or woman! Aguilar, a man without a Christian name, one of those men in connection with whom a Christian name is impossibly ridiculous. How should she, Audrey, address Aguilar in future? Would he have to be asked to tea? These vital questions naturally transcended all others in Audrey's mind.... Still (she veered round), it was perhaps after all just the union that might have been expected.

"And now," said Rosamund at length, "I have a question to put to you."

"Well?"

"I don't want a definite answer here and now." She looked round disdainfully at the foyer. "But I do want to set your mind on the right track at the earliest possible moment--before any accidents occur." She smiled satirically. "You see how frank I am with you. I'll be more frank still, and tell you that I came to this concert to-night specially to see you."

"Did you?" Audrey murmured. "Well!"

The older woman looked down upon her from a superior height. Her eyes were those of an autocrat. It was quite possible to see in them the born leader who had dominated thousands of women and played a drawn game with the British Government itself. But Audrey, at the very moment when she was feeling the overbearing magic of that gaze, happened to remember the scene in Madame Piriac's automobile on the night of her first arrival in Paris, when she herself was asleep and Rosamund, not knowing that she was asleep, had been solemnly addressing her. Miss Ingate's often repeated account of the scene always made her laugh, and the memory of it now caused her to smile faintly.

"I want to suggest to you," Rosamund proceeded, "that you begin to work for me."

"For the suffrage--or for you?"

"It is the same thing," said Rosamund coldly. "I am the suffrage. Without me the cause would not have existed to-day."

"Well," said Audrey, "of course I will. I have done a bit already, you know."

"Yes, I know," Rosamund admitted. "You did very well at the Blue City. That's why I'm approaching you. That's why I've chosen you."

"Chosen me for what?"

"You know that a new great campaign will soon begin. It is all arranged. It will necessitate my returning to England and challenging the police. You know also that Jane Foley was to have been my lieutenant-in-chief--for the active part of the operation. You will admit that I can no longer count on her completely. Will you take her place?"

"I'll help," said Audrey. "I'll do what I can. I dare say I shan't have much money, because one of those 'accidents' you mentioned has happened to me already."

"That need not trouble you," replied Rosamund imperturbable. "I have always been able to get all the money that was needed."

"Well, I'll help all I can."

"That's not what I ask," said Rosamund inflexibly. "Will you take Jane Foley's place? Will you give yourself utterly?"

Audrey answered with sudden vehemence:

"No, I won't. You didn't want a definite answer, but there it is."

"But surely you believe in the cause?"

"Yes."

"It's the greatest of all causes."

"I'm rather inclined to think it is."

"Why not give yourself, then? You are free. I have given myself, my child."

"Yes," said Audrey, who resented the appellation of "child." "But, you see, it's your hobby."

"My hobby, Mrs. Moncreiff!" exclaimed Rosamund.

"Certainly, your hobby," Audrey persisted.

"I have sacrificed everything to it," said Rosamund.

"Pardon me," said Audrey. "I don't think you've sacrificed anything to it. You just enjoy bossing other people above everything, and it gives you every chance to boss. And you enjoy plots too, and look at the chances you get for that'. Mind you, I like you for it. I think you're splendid. Only _I don't want to be a monomaniac, and I won't be." Her convictions seemed to have become suddenly clear and absolutely decided.

"Do you mean to infer that I am a monomaniac?" asked Rosamund, raising her eyebrows--but only a little.

"Well," said Audrey, "as you mentioned frankness--what else would you call yourself but a monomaniac? You only live for one thing--don't you, now?"

"It is the greatest thing."

"I don't say it isn't," Audrey admitted. "But I've been thinking a good deal about all this, and at last I've come to the conclusion that one thing-isn't enough for me, not nearly enough. And I'm not going to be peculiar at any price. Neither a fanatic nor a monomaniac, nor anything like that."

"You are in love," asserted Rosamund.

"And what if I am? If you ask me, I think a girl who isn't in love ought to be somewhat ashamed of herself, or at least sorry for herself. And I am sorry for myself, because I am not in love. I wish I was. Why shouldn't I be? It must be lovely to be in love. If I was in love I shouldn't be _only in love. You think you understand what girls are nowadays, but you don't. I didn't myself until just lately. But I'm beginning to. Girls were supposed to be only interested in one thing--in your time. Monomaniacs, that's what they had to be. You changed all that, or you're trying to change it, but you only mean women to be monomaniacs about something else. It isn't good enough. I want everything, and I'm going to get it--or have a good try for it. I'll never be a martyr if I can help it. And I believe I can help it. I believe I've got just enough common sense to save me from being a martyr --either to a husband or a house or family--or a cause. I want to have a husband and a house and a family, and a cause too. That'll be just about everything, won't it? And if you imagine I can't look after all of them at once, all I can say is I don't agree with you. Because I've got an idea I can. Supposing I had all these things, I fancy I could have a tiff with my husband and make it up, play with my children, alter a dress, change the furniture, tackle the servants, and go out to a meeting and perhaps have a difficulty with the police--all in one day. Only if I did get into trouble with the police I should pay the fine--you see. The police aren't going to have me altogether. Nobody is. Nobody, man or woman, is going to be able to boast that he's got me altogether. You think you're independent. But you aren't. We girls will show you what independence is."

"You're a rather surprising young creature," observed Rosamund with a casual air, unmoved. "You're quite excited."

"Yes. I surprise myself. But these things do come in bursts. I've noticed that before. They weren't clear when you began to talk. They're clear now."

"Let me tell you this," said Rosamund. "A cause must have martyrs."

"I don't see it," Audrey protested. "I should have thought common sense would be lots more useful than martyrs. And monomaniacs never do have common sense."

"You're very young."

"Is that meant for an insult, or is it just a statement?" Audrey laughed pleasantly.

And Rosamund laughed too.

"It's just a statement," said she.

"Well, here's another statement," said Audrey. "You're very old. That's where I have the advantage of you. Still, tell me what I can do in your new campaign, and I'll do it if I can. But there isn't going to be any utterly--that's all."

"I think the interval is over," said Rosamund with finality. "Perhaps we'd better adjourn."

The foyer had nearly emptied. The distant sound of music could be heard.

As she was re-entering the hall, Audrey met Mr. Cowl, who was coming out.

"I have decided I can't stand any more," Mr. Cowl remarked in a loud whisper. "I hope you didn't mind me telling you about the Zacatecas. As I said, I thought you might be interested. Good-bye. So pleasant to have met you again, dear lady." His face had the same enigmatic smile which had made him so formidable at Moze.

Musa had already begun to play the Spanish Symphony of Lalo, without which no genius is permitted to make his formal debut on the violin in France.

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