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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Lion's Share - Chapter 43. Entr'acte
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The Lion's Share - Chapter 43. Entr'acte Post by :nceea Category :Long Stories Author :Arnold Bennett Date :May 2012 Read :1895

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The Lion's Share - Chapter 43. Entr'acte


After the Spanish Symphony not only the conductor but the entire orchestra followed Musa from the platform, and Audrey understood that the previous interval had not really been an interval and that the first genuine interval was about to begin. The audience seemed to understand this too, for practically the whole of it stood up and moved towards the doors. Audrey would have stayed in her seat, but Miss Ingate expressed a desire to go out and "see the fun" in the foyer, and, moreover, she asserted that the Foas from their box had been signalling to her and Audrey an intention to meet them in the foyer. Miss Ingate was in excellent spirits. She said it beat her how Musa's fingers could get through so many notes in so short a time, and also that it made her feel tired even to watch the fingers. She was convinced that nobody had ever handled the violin so marvellously before. As for success, Musa had been recalled, and the applause from the gallery, fired by its religious belief, was obstinate and extremely vociferous. Audrey, however, was aware of terrible sick qualms, for she knew that Musa was not so far dominating his public. Much of the applause had obviously the worst quality that applause can have--it was good-natured. Yet she could not accept failure for Musa. Failure would be too monstrous an injustice, and therefore it could not happen.

The emptiness of the Foas' box indicated that Miss Ingate might be correct in her interpretation of signals, and Audrey allowed herself to be led away from the now forlorn auditorium. As they filed along the gangways she had to listen to the indifferent remarks of utterly unprejudiced and uninterested persons about the performance of genius, and further she had to learn that a fair proportion of them were departing with no intention to return. In the thronged foyer they saw Mr. Gilman, alone, before he saw them. He was carrying a box of chocolates--doubtless one of the little things that Mr. Price had had instructions to provide for the evening, Mr. Gilman perhaps would not have caught sight of them had it not been for the stridency of Miss Ingate's voice, which caused him to turn round.

Audrey experienced once again the sensation--which latterly was apt to recur in her--of having too many matters on her mind simultaneously; in a phrase, the sensation of the exceeding complexity of existence. And she resented it. The interview with Rosamund was quite enough for one night. It had been a triumph for her; she had surprised herself in that interview; it had left her with a conviction of freedom; it had uplifted her. She ought to have been in a state of exaltation after that interview, and she was. Only, while in a state of exaltation, she was still in the old state of depression--about the tendency of the concert, of her concert, and about the rumoured disappearance of her fortune. Also she was preoccupied by the very strange affair of Jane Foley and Aguilar.

And now--a further intricacy of mood--came a whole new set of emotions due to the mere spectacle of Mr. Gilman's august back! She was intimidated by Mr. Gilman's back. She knew horribly that in the afternoon she had treated Mr. Gilman as Mr. Gilman ought never to have been treated. And, quite apart from intimidation, she had another feeling, a feeling which was ghastly and of which she was ashamed.... Assuming the disappearance of her fortune, would Mr. Gilman's attitude towards her be thereby changed? ... She admitted that young girls ought not to have such suspicions against respectable and mature men of established position in the world. Nevertheless, she could not blow the suspicion away.

But the instant Mr. Gilman's eye met hers the suspicion vanished, and not the suspicion only, but all her intimidation. The miracle was produced by something in the gaze of Mr. Gilman as it rested on her, something wistful--not more definable than that, something which she had noticed in Mr. Gilman's gaze on other occasions. It perfectly restored her. It gave her the positive assurance of a fact which marvellously enheartens young girls of about Audrey's years--to wit, that they have a mysterious power surpassing the power of age, knowledge, wisdom, or wealth, that they influence and decide the course of history, and are the sole true mistresses of the world. Whence the mysterious power sprang she did not exactly know, but she surmised--rightly--that it was connected with her youth, with a dimple, with the incredibly soft down on her cheek, with the arch softness of her glance, with a gesture of the hand, with a turn of the shoulder, with a pleat of the skirt.... Anyhow, she possessed it, and to possess it was to wield it. It transformed her into a delicious tyrant, but a tyrant; it inspired her with exquisite cruelty, but cruelty. Her thoughts might have been summed up in eight words:

"Pooh! He has suffered. Well, he must suffer."

Ah! But she meant to be very kind to him. He was so reliable, so adorable, and so dependent. She had genuine affection for him. And he was at once a rock and a cushion.

"Isn't it going splendidly--splendidly, Mr. Gilman?" exclaimed Miss Ingate in her enthusiasm.

"Apparently," said Mr. Gilman, with comfort in his voice.

At that moment the musical critic with large, dark Eastern eyes, whom Audrey had met at the Foas', strolled nonchalantly by, and, perceiving Miss Ingate, described a huge and perfect curve in the air with his glossy silk hat, which had been tipped at the back of his head. Mr. Gilman had come close to Audrey.

"The Foas started down with me," said Mr. Gilman mildly. "But they always meet such crowds of acquaintances at these affairs that they seldom get anywhere. Hortense would not leave the box. She never will."

"Oh! I'm so glad I've seen you," Audrey began excitedly, but with simplicity and compelling sweetness. "You've no idea how sorry I am about this afternoon! I'm frightfully sorry, really! But I was so upset. I didn't know what to do. You know how anxious everybody was about Musa for to-night. He's the pet of the Quarter, and, of course, I belong to the Quarter. At least--I did. I thought he might be ill, or something. However, it was all right in the end. I was looking forward tremendously to that drive. Are you going to forgive me?"

"Please, please!" he eagerly entreated, with a faint blush. "Of course, I quite understand. There's nothing whatever to forgive."

"Oh! but there is," she insisted. "Only you're so good-natured."

She was being magnanimous. She was pretending that she had no mysterious power. But her motive was quite pure. If he was good-natured, so was she. She honestly wanted to recompense him, and to recompense him richly. And she did. Her demeanour was enchanting in its ingenuous flattery. She felt happy despite all her anxieties, for he was living up to her ideal of him. She felt happy, and her resolve to make him happy to the very limit of his dreams was intense. She had a vision of her future existence stretching out in front of her, and there was not a shadow on it. She thought he was going to offer her the box of chocolates, but he did not.

"I rather wanted to ask your advice," she said.

"I wish you would," he replied.

Just then the Foas arrived, and with them Dauphin, the great and fashionable painter and the original discoverer of Musa. And as they all began to speak at once Audrey heard the Oriental musical critic say slowly to an inquiring Miss Ingate:

"It is not a concert talent that he has."

"You hear! You hear!" exclaimed Monsieur Foa to Monsieur Dauphin and Madame Foa, with an impressed air. "You hear what Miquette says. He has not a concert talent. He has everything that you like, but not a concert talent."

Foa seemed to be exhibiting the majestic Oriental, nicknamed Miquette, as the final arbiter, whose word settled problems like a sword, and Miquette seemed to be trying to bear the high role with negligent modesty.

"But, yes, he has! But, yes, he has!" Dauphin protested, sweeping all Miquettes politely away. And then there was an urbane riot of greetings, salutes, bowings, smilings, cooings and compliments.

Dauphin was magnificent, playing the part of the opulent painter _a la mode with the most finished skill, the most splendid richness of detail. It was notorious that in the evenings he wore the finest silk shirts in Paris, and his waistcoat was designed to give scope to these shirts. He might have come--he probably had come--straight from the bower of archduchesses; but he produced in Audrey the illusion that archduchesses were a trifle compared to herself. He had not seen her for a long time. Gazing at her, he breathed relief; all his features indicated the sudden, unexpected assuaging of eternal and intense desires. He might have been travelling through the desert for many days and she might have been the oasis--the pool of living water and the palm.

"Now--like that! Just like that!" he said, holding her hand and, as it were, hypnotising her in the pose in which she happened to be. He looked hard at her. "It is unique. Madame, where did you find that dress?"

"Callot," answered Audrey submissively.

"I thought so. Well, Madame, I can wait no more. I will wait no more. It is Dauphin who implores you to come to his studio. To come--it is your duty. Madame Foa, you will bring her. I count on you absolutely to bring her. Even if it is only to be a sketch--the merest hint. But I must do it."

"Oh, yes, Madame," said Madame Foa with all the Italian charm. "Dauphin must paint you. The contrary is unthinkable. My husband and I have often said so."

"To-morrow?" Dauphin suggested.

"Ah! To-morrow, my little Dauphin, I cannot," said Madame Foa.

"Nor I," said Audrey.

"The day after to-morrow, then. I will send my auto. What address? Half-past eleven. That goes? In any case, I insist. Be kind! Be kind!"

Audrey blushed. Half the foyer was staring at the group. She was flattered. She saw herself remarkable. She thought she would look more particularly, with perfect detachment, at the mirror that night, in order to decide whether her appearance was as striking, as original, as distinguished, as Dauphin's attitude implied. There must surely be something in it.

"About that advice--may I call to-morrow?" It was Mr. Gilman's voice at her elbow.

"Advice?" She had forgotten her announced intention of asking his advice. (The subject was to be Zacatecas.) "Oh, yes. How nice of you! Please do call. Come for tea." She was delightful to him, but at the same time there was in her tone a little of the condescending casualness proper to the tone of a girl openly admired by the confidant and painter of princesses and archduchesses, the man who treated all plain women and women past the prime with a desolating indifference.

She thought:

"I am a rotten little snob."

Mr. Gilman gave thanksgivings and departed, explaining that he must return to Madame Piriac.

Foa and Dauphin and the Oriental resumed the argument about Musa's talent and the concert. Miquette would say nothing as to the success of the concert. Foa asserted that the concert was not and would not be a success. Dauphin pooh-poohed and insisted vehemently that the success was unmistakable and increasing. Moreover, he criticised the hall, the choice of programme, the orchestra, the conductor. "I discovered Musa," said he. "I have always said that he is a great concert player, and that he is destined for a great world-success, and to-night I am more sure of it than ever." Whereupon Madame Foa said with much sympathy that she hoped it was so, and Foa said: "You create illusions for yourself, on purpose." Dauphin bore him down with wavy gestures and warm cries of "No! No! No!" And he appealed to Audrey as-a woman incapable of illusions. And Audrey agreed with Dauphin. And while she was agreeing she kept saying to herself: "Why do I pretend to agree with him? He is not sincere. He knows he is not sincere. We all know--except perhaps Winnie Ingate. The concert is a failure. If it were not a failure, Madame Foa would not be so sympathetic. She is more subtle even than Madame Piriac. I shall never be subtle like that. I wish I could be. I wish I was at Moze. I am too Essex for all this. And Winnie here is too comic for words."

An aged and repellent Jew came into sight. He raised Madame Foa's hand to his odious lips and kissed it, and Audrey wondered how Madame Foa could tolerate the formality.

"Well, Monsieur Xavier?"

Xavier shrugged his round shoulders.

"Do not say," said he, in a hoarse voice to the company, "do not say that I have not done my best on this occasion." He lifted his eyes heavenward, and as he did so his passing glance embraced Audrey, and she violently hated him.

"Winnie," said she, "I think we ought to be getting back to our seats."

"But," cried Madame Foa, "we are going round with Dauphin to the artists' room. You do not come with us, Madame Moncreiff?"

"In your place ..." muttered Xavier discouragingly, with a look at Dauphin, and another shrug of the shoulders. "I have been ..."

"Ah!" said Dauphin, in a strange new tone. And then very brightly to Audrey: "Now, as to Saturday, dear lady----"

Xavier engaged in private converse with Foa, and his demeanour to Foa was extremely deferential, whereas he almost ignored the Oriental critic. And Audrey puzzled her head once again to discover why the Foas should exert such influence upon the fate of music in Paris. The enigma was only one among many.

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