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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Lion's Share - Chapter 44. End Of The Concert
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The Lion's Share - Chapter 44. End Of The Concert Post by :infinet Category :Long Stories Author :Arnold Bennett Date :May 2012 Read :3163

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The Lion's Share - Chapter 44. End Of The Concert

CHAPTER XLIV. END OF THE CONCERT

The first item after the true interval was the Chaconne of Bach, which Musa had played upon a memorable occasion in Frinton. He stood upon the platform utterly alone, against a background of empty chairs, double-basses and drums. He seemed to be unfriended and forlorn. It appeared to Audrey that he was playing with despair. She wished, as she looked from Musa to the deserted places in the body of the hall, that the piece was over, and that the entire concert was over. How could anyone enjoy such an arid maze of sounds? The whole theory of classical composition and its vogue was hollow and ridiculous. People did not like the classics; they could not and they never would. Now a waltz ... after a jolly dinner and wine! ... But the Chaconne! But Bach! But culture! The audience was visibly and audibly restless. For about two hundred years the attempt to force this Chaconne upon the public had been continuous, and it was still boring them. Of course it was! The thing was unnatural.

And she herself was a fool; she was a ninny. And the alleged power of money was an immense fraud. She had thought to perform miracles by means of a banking account. For a moment she had imagined that the miracles had come to pass. But they had not come to pass. The public was too old, too tired, and too wary. It could not thus be tricked into making a reputation. The forces that made reputations were far less amenable than she had fancied. The world was too clever and too experienced for her ingenuous self. Geniuses were not lying about and waiting to be picked up. Musa was not a genius. She had been a simpleton, and the sacred Quarter had been a simpleton. She was rather angry with Musa for not being a genius. And the confidence which he had displayed a few hours earlier was just grotesque conceit! And men and women who were supposed to be friendly human hearts were not so in truth. They were merely indifferent and callous spectators. The Foas, for example, were chattering in their box, apparently oblivious of the tragedy that was enacting under their eyes. But then, it was perhaps not a tragedy; it was perhaps a farce.

And what would these self-absorbed spectators of existence say and do, if and when it was known that she was no longer a young woman of enormous wealth? Would Dauphin have sought to compel her to enter his studio had he been aware that her fortune had gone tip in smoke? She was not in a real world. She was in a world of shams. And she was a sham in the world of shams. She wanted to be back again in the honest realities of Moze, where in the churchyard she could see the tombs of her great-great-grandfathers. Only one extraneous interest drew her thoughts away from Moze. That interest was Mr. Gilman. Mr. Gilman was her conquest and her slave. She adored him because he was so wistful and so reliable and so adoring. Mr. Gilman sat intent and straight upright in Madame Piriac's box and behaved just as though Bach himself was present. He understood nothing of Bach, but he could be trusted to behave with benevolence.

The music suddenly ceased. The Chaconne was finished. The gallery of enthusiasts still applauded with vociferation, with mystic faith, with sublime obstinacy. It was carrying on a sort of religious war against the base apathy of the rest of the audience. It was determined to force its belief down the throats of the unintelligent mob. It had made up its mind that until it had had its way the world should stand still. No encore had yet been obtained, and the gallery was set on an encore. The clapping fainted, expired, and then broke into new life, only to expire again and recommence. A few irritated persons hissed. The gallery responded with vigour. Musa, having retired, reappeared, very white, and bowed. The applause was feverish and unconvincing. Musa vanished. But the gallery had thick soles and hard hands and stout sticks, even serviceable umbrellas. It could not be appeased by bows alone. And after about three minutes of tedious manoeuvring, Musa had at last to yield an encore that in fact nobody wanted. He played a foolish pyrotechnical affair of De Beriot, which resembled nothing so much as a joke at a funeral. After that the fate of the concert could not be disputed even by the gallery. At the finish of the evening there was, in the terrible idiom of the theatre, "not a hand."

Whether Musa had played well or ill, Audrey had not the least idea. Nor did that point seem to matter. Naught but the attitude of the public seemed to matter. This was strange, because for a year Audrey had been learning steadily in the Quarter that the attitude of the public had no importance whatever. She suffered from the delusion that the public was staring at her and saying to her: "You, you silly little thing, are responsible for this fiasco. We condescended to come--and this is what you have offered us. Go home, and let your hair down and shorten your skirts, for you are no better than a schoolgirl, after all." She was really self-conscious. She despised Musa, or rather she threw to him a little condescending pity. And yet at the same time she was furious against that group in the foyer for being so easily dissuaded from going to see Musa in the artists' room.... Rats deserting a sinking ship!... People, even the nicest, would drop a failure like a match that was burning out.... Yes, and they would drop her.... No, they would not, because of Mr. Gilman. Mr. Gilman was calling-to see her to-morrow. He was the rock and the cushion. She would send Miss Ingate out for the afternoon. As the audience hurried eagerly forth she spoke sharply to Miss Ingate. She was indeed very rude to Miss Ingate. She was exasperated, and Miss Ingate happened to be handy.

In the foyer not a trace of the Foa clan nor of Madame Piriac and her husband, nor of Mr. Gilman! But Tommy and Nick were there, putting on their cloaks, and with them, but not helping them, was Mr. Ziegler. The blond Mr. Ziegler greeted Audrey as though the occasion of their previous meeting had been a triumph for him. His self-satisfaction, if ever it had been damaged, was repaired to perfection. The girls were silent; Miss Ingate was silent; but Mr. Ziegler was not silent.

"He played better than I did anticipate," said Mr. Ziegler, lighting a cigarette, after he had nonchalantly acknowledged the presentation to him of Miss Ingate. "But of what use is this French public? None. Even had he succeeded here it would have meant nothing. Nothing. In music Paris does not exist. There are six towns in Germany where success means vorldt-reputation. Not that he would succeed in Germany. He has not studied in Germany. And outside Germany there are no schools. However, we have the intention to impose our culture upon all European nations, including France. In one year our army will be here--in Paris. I should wait for that, but probably I shall be called up. In any case, I shall be present."

"But whatever do you mean?" cried Miss Ingate, aghast.

"What do I mean? I mean our army will be here. All know it in Germany. They know it in Paris! But what can they do? How can they stop us?... Decadent!..." He laughed easily.

"Oh, my chocolates!" exclaimed Miss Thompkins. "I've left them in the hall!"

"No, here they are," said Nick, handing the box.

To Audrey it seemed to be the identical box that Mr. Gilman had been carrying. But of course it might not be. Thousands of chocolate boxes resemble each other exactly.

Carefully ignoring Mr. Ziegler, Audrey remarked to Tommy with a light-heartedness which she did not feel:

"Well, what did you think of Jane this afternoon?"

"Jane?"

"Jane Foley. Nick was taking you to see her, wasn't she?"

"Oh, yes!" said Tommy with a bright smile. "But I didn't go. I went for a motor drive with Mr. Gilman."

There was a short pause. At length Tommy said:

"So he's got the goods on you at last!"

"Who?" Audrey sharply questioned.

"Dauphin. I knew he would. Remember my words. That portrait will cost you forty thousand francs, not counting the frame."

This was the end of the concert.

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