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Full text of "Ecstasy : a study of happiness : [a novel]"

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Ex Ubris 
C. K. OGDEN 



Ecstasy 

tA Study of Happiness 



"By 

Louis Qouperus 

Translated by ^A. Teixeira de OAattos l^ John Qray 




A New ^^X. Edition 



London H. Henry & Co. Ltd. 
93 Saint Martin's Lane W.C. 

MDCCCXCVII 




-p^ 







LIBRARY 
PT UNIVEKSTTY OF CALIFORNIA 

C-Op c-- SANTA BARBARA 

I 89V 



TRANSLATORS' NOTE. 



How strangely conscious we are these few years 
over our translations ! And for no special reason 
as far as one can see ; unless it be that the work 
of tricking out in English the mass of foreign 
literature which has lately come to us has fallen 
mostly into the hands of young people : people 
literally too young to remember the days before 
the hateful period when translation was looked 
upon as hack-work for governesses ; people essen- 
tially too young to care. 

Blatant evidence of this consciousness is found 
in the " introduction," without which it is sup- 
posed, seemingly, that no foreign novel or drama 



TRAFSLATORS' NOTE. 



can make a perfect bow from an English railway 
bookstall ; less too in the fact of such introduc- 
tions than in their peculiar tone ; an unasked 
apology which begins by saying that no apology 
is needed, and concludes with the comfortable 
assurance that writer and reader are both ex- 
ceedingly intelligent persons. 

It is perfectly right and good that the trans- 
lator of French and Dutch and Norwegian work 
should take up his task as a task of high 
literature. Eegard to a tithe of the pious 
maxims which have been uttered on this subject 
spreads an ample field for more conscientious- 
ness than is ordinarily found in a translator. 
But let not the flattering sense of a worthy and 
perhaps self-sacrificing aim encourage in any the 
notion that such a view of such work dates only 
from the day when the ages decreed that so 
exotic a writer as Mr. Ibsen should be given to 



TRANSLATORS' NOTE. 



the English working classes in a paper wrapi)er. 
In all living literatures translations stand on the 
shelf of honour : Gerard de Nerval translated 
Heine ; of Luther's bible the astounding assertion 
has been made that it is greater even than King 
James' ; in English letters, add to this latter 
only our Chapman's Homer, Urquhart's Rabelais, 
Thornley's Daphnis and Chloe, Eossetti's 
Italian Poets, Burton's Arabian Nights, and 
my point is not far from gained. 

Or perhaps the true explanation of the renais- 
sance of right feeling about translation is that 
editors and publishers nowaday caress themselves 
that it is the Qiovel they are recognising as an 
important form of artistic expression, to be given 
the importance and deference which would be 
due to a work of physical science. 

From the point of view of those who seek 
subtle and gracious expression, or observation 



TRANSLATORS' NOTE. 



even approaching relevancy, the pulpit has ceased 
to exist. The wordy, stumping opposition, the 
stage, is but little better off. It might well 
forego its naive condescensions towards its elder. 
Some say. it is only sleeping ; and point trium- 
phantly to an occasional spasm. 

Even the gentle lady Poetry is not seldom 
seen soiling her white hands and straining her 
tender muscles, dragging logs to make kennels 
for unheard-of monsters. 

So now, and for a long time to come, it would 
seem, the novel is the preferred form of artistic 
utterance. In the novel this century has found 
that for which it passionately yearned. Among 
modes of art it is by far the most mobile and 
variable. The fewness of its restrictions places 
it with the greatest. It is alike capable of 
intense complexity and as great simplicity. 
Here it is wide-armed, embracing a world of 



TRANSLATORS' NOTE. 



men, in all their relations with one another, 
and all worldly things. There it is preoccupied, 
glass in hand, with one tiny aspect of one tiny 
soul. Thought and fancy, intellect and sense, 
are blended in almost any })roportions, to an 
infinite variety of results. 

France with her great ones : Balzac, Flaubert, 
GrONCOURT, MAUPASSANT. Russia has set up a 
monument against which many a quibble has 
dashed itself and been broken to pieces. Where 
in the world is a work so noble, so simple, so 
austere, as Dostoiewski's Grime and Punish- 
ment ? 

Holland, with her great vitality, has sprung 
tardily into activity with a great company of 
novel writers. These, for the major part, are some- 
what restricted in their scope ; and for this reason 
cannot fairly be compared with the masters 
of their art. They have very properly turned 



TRANSLATORS' NOTE. 



their attention to a field scarcely broken. On that 
they are working patiently, persistently, and it 
is against probability that they will not find some 
of the precious metal. The circle of intellect 
in Holland is geographically small ; and, though 
dissensions are not wanting either in number or 
violence, there is a fairly well-defined " school." 
A " school " in almost all" the ideas the word 
conveys. With the strong impulses of their age, 
these young men are for beginning all over 
again ; for finding out the principle, and applying 
it hot, as it were. Naturally, the passion to 
discover the magic principle, the touchstone, 
tends to keep them awake, and results in work at 
all events warm and vibrant. With them there 
is a good deal of the attitude of the French 
symbolist poets, the claim to throw over, in the 
matter of expression, a considerable portion of 
the tyranny of the grammar book ; to use the 



TRANSLATORS' NOTE. 



XI 



word that best conveys the impression desired, 
although such use have not the sanction of 
custom. New-found freedom is apt to realise 
itself a little too vividly, and first experiments 
with a language loosed from the moorings of its 
tradition are like to be carried out with more 
impulse than balance. But the temerity of these 
forerunners has its immediate reward (for, in the 
end, the language they play tricks with thanks 
them) in the inevitable youth and cleanness of 
their language ; every word they write is with 
intention ; the phrase toute faite is abolished at 
one stroke, and is no longer present to hamper 
and choke and sodden. The Dutch school I spoke 
of is called by itself Sensitivist, the word being 
understood to apply to the method of their 
literary art, to their manner of seeing and 
making seen. Of the matter to be treated there 
is very little left now to fight over. Koughly 



TRANSLATORS' NOTE. 



speaking, sensiiivism consists, in perhaps its 
chief element, in exact observation. A person, 
say, gets a visual impression ; a Sensitivist would 
describe what he exactly saw, and not what his 
intellect, going upon his past experience, would 
tell him he saw. Or a person hears a sound ; the 
Sensitivist tells the impression the sound gave, 
and later, perhaps, whence the sound proceeded. 
VosMEER DE Spie in Eeji Passie, in other 
respects too an admirable novel, has carried this 
principle to a point that gives a shock of surprise 
at every turn. And to give impressions of 
sounds, this writer adopts the artifice of using 
terms of colour. Keflection will show at once 
the intelligence of this distinction of sense and 
intellect, and a novel of a Sensitivist will show 
its utility. Most people, knowing that water is 
transparent, look through it : they see water, 
green, brown, or whatever it may be in its 



TRANSLATORS' NOTE. xiii 

density. Some, with a quicker visual sense, 
look at its surface, and almost always see beau- 
tiful colour. 

Mr. Couperus, the writer of this book Ecstasy, 
is classed as a member of the school I have 
described. His faith to the tenets of the Sensi- 
tivists does not soil qualities which would have 
their delight under any circumstances. Mr. 
Couperus is still a young man. This is his third 
novel ; the other two being Noodlot and Eline 
Vere, both of which have been translated into 
English. He has also written a volume of 
poems : Orchid^een. 

JOHN GRAY. 



ECSTASY: 
A STUDY OF HAPPINNESS. 



CHAPTER I. 

I. 

DoLF Van Attema, for an after-dinner walk, had 
taken the opportunity of calling on his wife's 
sister, Cecile Van Even, in the Scheveningen 
Road. He was waiting in her little boudoir, 
walking to and fro among the rosewood furni- 
ture and the old moire settees, over and over 
again, with three or four long steps, measuring 
the width of the tiny room. On an onyx pedestal, 

at the head of a chaise-longue, burned an onyx 
1 1 



ECSTASY : 



lamp, glowing sweetly within its lace shade, a 
great six-petaled flower of light. 

Mevrouw was still with the children, putting 
them to bed, the maid had told him ; so he 
could not see his godson, little Dolf, that even- 
ing. He was sorry. He would have liked to go 
upstairs and romp with Dolf as he lay in his 
little bed ; but he remembered Cecile's request, 
and his promise of an earlier occasion, when a 
romp of this sort with his uncle had kept the 
boy lying awake for hours. So he waited, smiling 
at his obedience, measuring the little boudoir 
with his steps — the steps of a firmly-built man, 
broad and squat, no longer in his first youth, 
showing symptoms of baldness under his short 
brown hair, with small blue-grey eyes, kindly and 
pleasant of glance, and a mouth which was firm 
and determined, in spite of the smile, in the midst 
of the ruddy giowth ot his short Teutonic beard. 



A STUDY OF HAPPIN-ESS. 



A log smouldered on the little hearth of nickel 
and gilt, and two little flames flickered discreetly, 
— a fire of peaceful intimacy in that twilight 
atmosphere of lace-shielded lamplight. Intimacy 
and discreetness shed over the whole little room 
an aroma as of violets ; a suggestion of the 
scent of violets nestled, too, in the soft tints of 
the draperies and furniture — rosewood and rose 
moire — and hung about the corners of the little 
rosewood writing-table, with its silver appoint- 
ments, and photographs under smooth glass 
frames. Above the writing-table hung a small 
white Venetian mirror. The gentle air of 
modest refinement, the subdued, almost prudish, 
tenderness floating about the little hearth, the 
writing-table, and the chaise-longue, gliding 
between the quiet folds of the fading hangings, 
had something soothing, something to quiet the 
nerves ; so that Dolf presently ceased his work 



ECSTASY . 



of measurement, sat down, looked around him, 
and finally remained staring at the portrait of 
Cecile's husband, the Minister of State, dead 
eighteen months back. 

After that he had not to wait long before 
Cecile came in. She advanced towards him 
smiling as he rose from his seat, pressed his 
hand, excused herself that the children had 
detained her. She always put them to sleep 
herself, her two boys, Dolf and Christie, and then 
they said their prayers, one beside the other 
in their little beds. The scene came back to 
Dolf as she spoke of the children ; he had often 
seen it, 

Christie was not well, he was so listless ; she 
hoped it might not turn out to be measles. 

There was motherliness in her voice, but she 
did not seem a mother as she reclined, girlishly 
slight, on the chaise-longue, the soft glow be- 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 



hind her of the lamp on its stem of onyx. She 
was still in the black of her mourning. Here 
and there the light behind her touched her 
jflaxen hair with a frail golden halo ; the loose 
gown of crape she wore accentuated the girlish 
slenderness of her figure with the gently curving 
lines of her long neck and somewhat narrow 
shoulders ; her arms hung with a certain weari- 
ness as her hands lay in her lap ; gently curving, 
too, were the lines of her girlish youth of bust 
and slender waist, slender as a vase is slender ; 
so that she seemed a still expectant flower of 
maidenhood, scarcely more than adolescent, not 
nearly old enough to be the mother of her 
children, her two boys of six and seven. 

Her features were lost in the shadow — the 
lamplight touching her hair with gold — and Dolf 
could not at first see into her eyes ; but presently, 
as he grew accustomed to the shadow, these 



ECSTASY. 



shone softly out from the dusk of her features. 
She spoke in her low-toned voice, a little faint 
and soft, like a subdued whisper; she spoke 
again of Christie, of his godchild Dolf, and. then 
asked news of Amelie, her sister. 

" We are all well, thank you ! You may well 
ask how we are, we hardly ever see you." 

" I so seldom go out," she said as an excuse. 

" That is just where you make a mistake ; you 
do not get enough air, enough society. Amelie 
was only saying so at dinner to-day, and so I 
came round to ask you to join us to-morrow 
evening." 

" Is it a party ? " 

" No ; nobody." 

" Very well, I will come. I shall be very 
pleased." 

" Yes, but why do you never come of your own 
accord ? " 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 



" I can't summon up the energy." 

" How do you spend your evenings ? " 

" I read, I write, or I do nothing at all. The 
last is really the most delightful ; I only feel 
myself alive when I do nothing." 

He shook his head. " You are a funny girl. 
You really don't deserve that we should like you 
as much as we do." 

" How ? " she asked, archly. 

" Of course it makes no difference to you, you 
are just as well without us ! " 

" You mustn't say that ; it's not true. Your 
sympathy is very necessary to me, but it takes so 
much to get me to go out. When I am once in 
my chair I sit thinking, or not thinking, and I 
find it difficult to stir." 

" What a horribly lazy life ! " 

" There it is ! . . . . You like me so nmch : 
can't you forgive me my laziness ? especially 



8 ECSTASY. 



when I have promised you to come round to- 
morrow." 

" Very well," he said, laughing. " Of course 
you are free to live as you choose. We like you 
just the same, in spite of your neglect." 

She laughed, reproached him with using ugly 
words, and rose slowly to pour out a cup of tea for 
him. He felt a caressive softness creeping over 
him, as if he would have liked to stay there a long 
time, talking and sipping tea in that violet- 
scented atmosphere of subdued refinement ; he, 
the man of action, the politician, member of the 
Second Chamber, every hour of whose day was 
filled up with committees here and committees 
there. 

" You were saying that you read and wrote a 
good deal : what do you write ? " he asked. 

" Letters." 

" Nothing but letters ? '' 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 



" I like writing letters. I correspond with my 
brother and sister in India." 

" But that is not the only thing ? " 

" Oh, no." 

" What else do you write then ? " 

" You are growing indiscreet, are you not ? " 

'' What nonsense ! " he laughed back, as if he 
were quite within his right. " What is it ? 
Literature ? " 

" No. My diary." 

He laughed loudly and joyously. '" You keep 
a diary ! What do you want with a diary ? Your 
days are all exactly alike." 

" Indeed they are not." 

He shrugged his shoulders, quite nonplussed ; 
she had always been a riddle to him. She knew 
this, and loved to mystify him. 

" Sometimes my days are very nice, and some- 
times very horrid." 



10 ECSTASY: 



" Keally !" he said, smiling, looking at her out of 
his kind little eyes ; but he did not understand. 

" And so sometimes I have a great deal to write 
in my diary," she continued. 

" Let me see some of it." 

" When I am dead." 

A mock shiver ran through his broad shoulders. 
" Brrr ! how gloomy ! " 

" Dead ! What is there gloomy about that ? " 
she asked, almost gaily ; but he rose to go. 

" You frighten me," he said, jestingly. " I 
must be returning home ; I have a great deal of 
work to do still. So we see you to-morrow ? " 

" Thanks, yes, to-morrow." 

He took her hand, and she struck a little 
silver gong for him to be let out. He stood 
looking at her a moment, with a smile in his 
beard. 

" Yes, you are a funny girl, and yet .... and 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. U 

yet we all like you ! " he repeated, as if he 
wished to excuse himself in his own eyes for 
this sympathy. He bent down and kissed 
her on the forehead : he was so much older 
than she. 

" I am very glad you all like me," she said, 
" Till to-morrow, then, goodbye.'' 

He went, and she was alone. The words of 
their conversation seemed still to be flouting in 
the silence, like vanishing atoms. Then the 
silence became complete, and Cecile sat motion- 
less, leaning back in the three little cushions of 
the chaise-longue, black in her crape against the 
light of the lamp, gazing out before her. All 
around her descended a vague dream as of little 
clouds, in which faces shone for an instant, from 
out of which came low voices without logical 
sequence of words, an aimless confusion of recol- 
lection. It was the dreaming of one on whose 



1 2 ECSTASY . 



brain lay no obsession, either of happiness or 
of grief, the dreaming of a mind filled with 
peaceful light ; a wide, still, grey Nirvana, in 
which all the trouble of thinking flows away, and 
the thought merely wanders back over former 
impressions, taking them here and there, without 
selection. For Cecile's future appeared to her 
as a monotonous sweetness of unruffled peace, 
where Dolf and Christie grew up into boys, 
students, men, while she herself remained nothing 
but the mother, for in the unconsciousness of her 
spiritual life she did not know herself. She did 
not know that she was more wife than mother, 
however fond she might be of her children. 
Swathed in the clouds of her dreaming, she did 
not feel there was something missing, by reason 
of her widowhood ; she did not feel loneliness nor 
a need of some one beside her, nor regret that 
yielding air alone flowed about her, in which her 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 13 

arms might shape themselves and grope in vain 
for something to embrace. The capacity for 
these needs was there, but so deep hidden in her 
soul's unconsciousness that she did not know of 
its existence, that one day it might assert itself 
and rise up slowly, up and up, an apparition of 
clearer melancholy. For such melancholy as was 
in her dreaming seemed to her to belong to the 
past, to the memory of the kind husband she 
had lost, and never, never, to the present, to an 
unrealised sense of her loneliness. 

Whoever had told her now that something was 
wanting in her life would have roused her indig- 
nation ; she herself imagined that she had all 
she wanted ; and highly she valued the calm 
contentment of the innocent egoism in which she 
and her children breathed, a contentment she 
thought complete. When she dreamed, as now, 
about nothing in particular — little dream-clouds 



U ECSTASY. 



fleeing across the field of her imagination, with 
other cloudlets in the wake — sometimes great 
tears would well in her eyes, and trickle slowly 
down her cheek ; but to her these were only 
tears of an unspeakably vague melancholy, a 
light load upon her heart, barely oppressive, and 
there for some reason she did not know, for she 
had ceased to mourn the loss of her husband. 
In this manner she could pass whole evenings, 
simply sitting dreaming, never oppressed with 
herself, nor reflecting how the people outside 
hurried and tired themselves, aimlessly, without 
being happy, while she was happy ; happy in the 
cloudland of her dreams. 

The hours sped, and her hand was too heavy 
to reach for the book upon the table beside her ; 
heaviness at last permeated her so thoroughly 
that one o'clock arrived, and she could not yet 
decide to get up and go to her bed. 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 15 

II. 

Next evening, when Cecile entered the Van 
Attemas' drawing-room, slowly, with languorous 
steps, in the sinuous black of her crape, Dolf 
advanced towards her and took her hand : 

" I hope you will not feel annoyed. Quaerts 
called, and Dina had told the servants we were at 
home. I am sorry . . . ." 

" It does not matter ! " she whispered back, a 
little irritated nevertheless, in her sensitiveness, 
at unexpectedly meeting this stranger, whom she 
did not remember ever to have seen at Dolf's, 
who now rose from where he had been sitting 
with old Mrs. Hoze, Polf's great-aunt, Amelie, 
and the two daughters, Anna and Suzette. Cecile 
kissed the old lady, and greeted the rest of the 
circle in turn, welcomed with a smile by all of 
them. Dolf introduced : 



16 ECSTASY. 



" My friend Taco Quaerts. . . . Mrs. Van Even, 
my sister-in-law." 

They sat a little scattered round the great fire 
on the open hearth, the piano close to them in 
the comer, its draped back turned to them, and 
Jules, the youngest boy, sitting behind it, playing 
Rubinstein's Romance in Es, and so absorbed that 
he had not heard his aunt come in. 

" Jules " Dolf cried. 

" Leave him alone," said Cecile. 

The boy did not reply, and went on playing. 
Cecile, across the piano, saw his tangled hair and 
his eyes abstracted in the music. A suspicion 
of melancholy slowly rose within her; like a 
weight it climbed up her breast and stifled her 
breathing. From time to time forte notes fall- 
ing suddenly from Jules' fingers gave her little 
shocks in her throat, and a strange feeling of 
uncertainty seemed winding her about as with 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 17 



vague meshes ; a feeling not new to her, in 

which she seemed no longer to possess herself, 

to be lost and wandering in search of herself, in 

which she did not know what she was thinking, 

nor what at this very moment she might say. 

Something dropped into her brain, a momentary 

suggestion. Her head sank a little, and, without 

hearing distinctly, it seemed to her that once 

before she had heard this romance played so, 

exactly so, as Jules now played it, very, very long 

ago, in some former existence ages agone, in just 

the same circumstances, in this very circle of 

people, before this very fire ; the tongues of the 

flame shot up with the same flickerings as from 

the logs of ages back, and Suzette blinked with 

the same expression she had worn then on that 

former. . . . 

Why was it ? that she should be sitting here 

again now, in the midst of them all? Why 

2 



18 ECSTASY: 

should it be ? sitting like this round a fire, listen- 
ing to music ? How strange it was, and what 
strange things there were in this world ! . . . . Still, 
it was pleasant to be in this company, sweetly 
sociable, quiet, without many words, the music 
behind the piano dying plaintively away — until 
it suddenly stopped. Mrs. Hoze's voice had a 
ring of sympathy as she murmured in Cecile's 

ear : 

" So we are getting you back my child ? 

You are coming out from your solitude again ? " 
Cecile pressed her hand with a little laugh : 
"But have I ever hidden myself? I have 

always been at home." 

" Yes, but we had to come to you. You have 

always remained at home, have you not ? " 
" You are not angry with me, are you ? " 
"No, dear, of course not; you have had so 

much sorrow." 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 19 

" Yes ; I seem to have lost everything." 

How was it she suddenly realised this ? She 
never had had any feeling but of contentment 
in her own home, among the clouds of her day- 
dreams, but outside, among other people, she 
immediately felt that she had lost everything, 
everything, 

" But you have your children . . . ." 

" Yes " 

She answered faintly, wearily, with a sense of 
loneliness, oh ! terrible loneliness, like one float- 
ing aimlessly in space, borne upon thinnest air, 
in which yearning arms grope in vain. 

Mrs. Hoze stood up. Dolf came to take her 
into the other room to play whist. 

" And you too, Cecile ? " he asked. 

" No ; you know I don't . . . ." 

He did not press her ; there were Quaeits and 
the girls who would play. 



20 ECSTASY : 



" What are you doing there, Jules ? " he asked, 
glancing over the piano. 

The boy had remained sitting there, for- 
gotten. He now rose and appeared, tall, grown 
out of his strength, with strange eyes. 

" What were you doing ? " 

" I . , . . I was looking for something .... a 
piece of music." 

" Don't sit moping in that style, my 
boy ! " growled Dolf kindly, with his deep 
voice. " What's become of those cards again, 
Amelie ? " 

" I don't know," said his wife, looking about 
vaguely. " Where are the cards, Anna ? " 

" Aren't they in the box with the counters ? " 

" No," Dolf grumbled, " nothing is ever where 
it should be." 

Anna got up, looked, found the cards in the 
drawer of a buhl cabinet. Amelie too had risen ; 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 21 



she stood arranging the music on the piano. 
She was for ever ordering things in her rooms, 
and immediately forgetting where she had put 
them, tidying with her fingers, and perfectly 
absent in her mind. 

"Anna, draw a card too. You can come in 
later ! " cried Dolf from the other room. 

The two sisters remained alone with Jules. 

The boy sat down on a footstool near Cecile. 

" Mamma, do leave my music alone." 

Am61ie sat down near Cecile. 

" Is Christie better ? " 

" He is a little livelier to-day." 

" I am glad. Have you never met Quaerts 
before ? " 

" No." 

" Eeally ? He comes here so often." 

Cecile looked through the open folding-doors nt 
the card table. Two candles stood upon it. Mrs. 



22 ECSTASY . 



Hoze's pink face was lit up clearly, smooth and 
stately ; her coiffure gleamed silver-grey. . Quaerts 
sat opposite her ; Cecile noticed the round, 
vanishing silhouette of his head, the hair cut very 
close, thick and black above the glittering white 
streak of his collar. His arms made little move- 
ments as he threw down a card, or gathered up 
a trick. His person had something about it 
of great power, something energetic and sturdy, 
something of e very-day life, which Cecile dis- 
liked. 

" Are the girls fond of cards ? " 

" Suzette is, Anna not so much ; she is not 
quite so ' brisk.' " 

Cecile saw that Anna sat behind her father, 
staring with eyes which did not understand. 

" Do you go out much with them now ? " 
Cecile asked again. 

" Yes, T am obliged to : Suzette likes going 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 23 

out, but not Anna. Suzette will be a pretty girl, 
don't you think so ? " 

" Suzette is a nasty coquettish thing," said 
Jules. " At our last dinner-party . . . ." 

He suddenly stopped. 

" No, I can't tell you. It's not right to te 
tales, is it, auntie ? " 

Cecile smiled. 

" No, certainly it's not." 

" I want always to do what is right." 

" That is very good." 

" No, no ! " he said deprecatingly. " Everything 
seems to me so bad, do you know. Why is 
everything so bad, auntie ? " 

" But there is much that is good too, Jules." 

He shook his head. 

" No, no ! " he repeated. " Everything is bad. 
Everything is very bad. Everything is selfishness. 
Just mention something that is not selfish ! " 



24 ECSTASY . 



" Parental love ! " 

Bat Jules shook his head again. 

"Parental love is ordinary selfishness. Children 
are a part of their parents, who only love them- 
selves when they love their children." 

" Jules ! " cried Am^lie, " you talk far too 
rashly. You know I don't like it : you are 
much too young to talk like that. One would 
think you knew everything." 

The boy was silent. 

" And I always say that we never know any- 
thing. We never know anything, don't you think 
so too, Cecile ? I, at least, never know anything, 
never . . . ." 

She looked round the room absently. Her 
fingers smoothed the fringe of her chair, tidying 
up. Cecile put her arm softly round Jules' 
neck. 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 25 



III. 

It was Quaerts' turn to sit out from the card- 
table, and although Dolf pressed him to continue 
playing he rose. 

" I want to go and talk to Mrs, Van Even," 
Cecile heard him say. 

She saw him coming towards the room where 
she still sat with Amelie — Jules sitting at her 
feet — -engaged in desultory talk, for Amelie could 
never maintain a conversation, always wandering 
and losing the threads. She did not know 
why, but Cecile suddenly wore a most serious ex- 
pression, as if she were discussing very important 
matters with her sister ; though all she said 
was: 

"Jules should really take lessons in harmony, 
when he composes so nicely . . . ." 

Quaerts had approached her ; he sat down next 



26 ECSTASY. 



tliem, with a scarcely perceptible shyness in his 
manner, a gentle hesitation in the brusque force 
of his movements. 

But Jules fired up. 

" No, auntie ; I want to be taught as little as 
possible. I don't want to learn names and 
principles and classifications. I could not do 
it. I only compose like this, like this . . . . " 
suiting his phrase with a vague movement of 
his fingers. 

" Jules can hardly read, it's a shame ! " said 
Am^lie. 

" And he plays so sweetly," said Cecile. 

" Yes, auntie ; I remember things, I pick them 
out on the piano. Ah ! it's not very clever ; it 
just comes out of myself, you know." 

" That is just what is fine." 

" No, no ! You have to know the names and 
principles and classifications. You must have 



A STUDY OF HAPPIKESS. 27 

that in everything. I shall never learn technique ; 
I can't do anything." 

He closed his eyes a moment ; a look of 
sadness flitted across his restless face. 

" You know a piano is so .... so big, such a 
piece of furniture, isn't it? But a violin, oh, how- 
delightful ! You hold it to you like this, against 
your neck, almost against your heart ; it is 
almost part of you, and you caress it, like this, 
you could almost kiss it ! You feel the soul of 
the violin throbbing inside the wood. And then 
you only have a string or two, which sing every- 
thing. Oh, a violin, a violin ! " 

" Jules . . . ." Amelie began. 

" And, oh, auntie, a harp ! A harp, like this, 
between your legs, a harp which you embrace 
with both your arms : a harp is just like an angel, 
with long golden hair. Ah, I have never yet 
played on a harp ! " 



28 ECSTASY: 



" Jul«s, leav« off ! " cried Amelie, angrily. 
" You drive me silly with that nonsense ! I 
wonder you are not ashamed, before Mr. 
Quaerts." 

Jules looked up in surprise. 

" Before Taco ? Do you think I have anything 
to be ashamed of, Taco ? " 

" Of course not, my boy." 

The sound of his voice was like a caress. 
Cecile looked at him, astonished ; she would 
have expected him to make fun of Jules. She 
did not understand him, but she disliked him 
very much, so healthy and strong, with his 
energetic face and his fine expressive mouth, so 
different from Amelie and Jules and herself. 

" Of course not, my boy." 

Jules looked up at his mother contemptuously, 
as if he knew better. 

" You see! Taco is a good chap." He twisted 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 29 

his footstool round towards Qiiaerts, and laid his 
head against his knee. 

" Jules ! " 

" Pray let him be, mevrouw." 

" Every one spoils that boy . . . ." 

" Except yourself," said Jules. 

" I ! I ! " cried Amelie, indignantly. " I spoil 
you out and out ! I wish I knew how not to 
give way to you ! I wish I could send you 
to the Indies ! Then you would be more of a 
man ! But I can't do it ; and your father spoils 
you too. I don't know what will become of 
you!" 

" What is to become of you, Jules ? " asked 
Quaerts. 

" I don't know. I mustn't go to college, I am 
too weak a doll to do much work." 

'' Would you like to go to the Indies some- 
day?" 



30 ECSTASY 



" Yes, with you .... Not alone ; oh, to be 
alone, always alone ! You will see : I shall always 
be alone, and it is so terrible to be alone ! " 

" But, Jules, you are not alone now," said 
Cecile, reproachfully. 

" Oh, yes, yes, in myself I am alone, always 
alone . . . ." He pressed himself against Quaerts' 
knee. 

" Jules, don't talk so stupidly," cried Amelie, 
nervously. 

"Yes, yes!" said Jules, with a sudden half 
sob. " I will hold my tongue ! But don't talk 
about me any more ; oh, I beg you, don't talk 
about me ! " He locked his hands and implored 
them, with dread in his face. They all stared 
at him, but he buried his face in Quaerts' knees, 
as though deadly frightened of something .... 



A STUDY OF HAPFINESS. 31 

IV. 

Anna had played execrably, to Suzette's despair: 
she could not even remember the trumps ! and 
Dolf called to his wife : 

" Amelie, do come in for a rubber ; at least if 
Quaerts does not wish to. You can't give your 
daughter very many points, but you are not 
quite so bad ! " 

" I would rather stay and talk to Mrs. Van 
Even," said Quaerts. 

" Go and play without minding me, if you 
prefer, Mr. Quaerts," said Cecile, in a cold voice, 
as towards some one she utterly disliked. 

Amelie dragged herself away with an unhappy 
face. She, too, did not play a brilliant game, and 
Suzette always lost her temper when she made 
mistakes. 

" I have so long been hoping to make your 



32 ECSTASY : 

acquaintaiice, toevrouw, that I should not like 
to miss the opportunity to-night," answered 
Quaerts. 

She looked at him : it troubled her that she 
could not understand him. She knew him to be 
somewhat of a gallant. There were stories in 
which the name of a married woman was coupled 
with his. Did he wish to try his blandishments 
upon her ? She had no particular hankering for 
that sort of pastime ; she had never cared for 
flirtations. 

" Why ? " she asked, calmly, immediately re- 
gretting the word ; for her question sounded 
like coquetry, and she intended anything but 
that. 

" Why ? " he repeated. He looked at her in 
slight embarrassment as he sat near her, with 
Jules on the ground between them, against his 
knee, his eyes closed. 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 33 

" Because .... because," he stammered, " be- 
cause you are my friend's sister, I suppose, and 
I used never to see you here. . . ." 

She made no answer : in her seclusion she had 
forgotten how to talk, and she did not take the 
least trouble about it. 

"I used often to see you formerly at the 
theatre," said Quaerts, " when Mr. Van Even was 
still alive." 

" At the opera ? " she said. 

" Yes." 

" Ah ! I did not know you then." 

" No." 

" I have not been out in the evening for a 
long time, on account of my mourning." 

" And I always choose the evening to pay my 
visits here." 

"So it is easily explained that we have never 
met." 



34 ECSTASY . 



They were silent for a moment. It seemed to 
him she spoke very coldly. 

" I should like to go to the opera ! " murmured 
Jules with closed eyes. " Ah no, after all, I 
think I would rather not." 

" Dolf told me that you read a great deal," 
Quaerts continued. " Do you keep up with 
modern literature?" 

" A little. I do not read so very much." 

" No ? " 

" Oh, no. I have two children, and conse- 
quently not much time for it. Besides, it has 
no particular fascination for me ; life is so much 
more romantic than any novel." 

" So you are a philosopher ? " 

" I ? Oh, no, I assure you, Mr. Quaerts. I 
am the most commonplace woman in the world." 

She spoke with her wicked little laugh and 
her cold voice : the voice and the laugli she 



A STUDY OF JIAPPINESS. 35 

employed when she feared lest she should be 
wounded in her secret sensitiveness, and when 
therefore she hid herself deep within herself, 
offering to the outside world something very 
different from what she really was. Jules opened 
his eyes and sat looking at her, and his steady 
glance troubled her. 

" You live in a charming place, on the Sche- 
veningen Koad." 

" Yes." 

She realised suddenly that her coldness 
amounted to rudeness, and she did not wish 
this, even if she did dislike him. She threw 
herself back negligently ; she asked at random, 
quite without concern, merely for the sake of 
conversation : 

" Have you many relations in the Hague ? " 

" No ; my father and mother live at Velp, and 
the rest of my family at Arnhem chiefly. I 



36 ECSTASY. 



never fix myself anywhere ; I cannot remain long 
in one place. I have lived for a considerable 
time in Brussels." 

" You have no occupation, I believe ? " 

" No ; as a boy my longing was to enter the 
Navy, but I was rejected on account of my eyes." 

Involuntarily she looked into his eyes : small 
deep-set eyes, the colour of which she could not 
determine. She thought they looked sly and 
cunning. 

" I have always regretted it," he continued. 
" I am a man of action. There is always within 
me the desire of movement. I console myself 
as best I can with sport." 

" Sport ? " she repeated coldly. 

" Yes." 

" Oh." 

" Quaerts is a Nimrod and a Centaur and 
a Hercules, are you not ? " said Jules. 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 37 

" Ah, Jules," said Quaerts, with a laugh, " names 
and theories and classifications. Which class do 
you really place me in ? " 

"Among the very, very few people I really 
love ! " the boy answered, ardently, and without 
hesitation. " Taco, when are you going to give 
me my riding-lessons ? " 

'^ Whenever you like, my son." 

" Yes, but you must fix the day for us to go 
to the riding-school. I won't fix a day, I hate 
fixing days." 

" Well, to-morrow ? To-morrow is Wednesday." 

" Very well." 

Cecile noticed that Jules was still staring at 
her. She looked at him back. How was it 
possible that the boy could like this man ? 
How was it possible that it irritated her and not 
him — all that healthiness, that strength, that 
power of muscle and rage of sport ? She could 



38 ECSTASY. 



make nothing of it ; she understood neither 
Quaerts nor Jules, and she herself drifted away 
again into that mood of half-consciousness, in 
which she did not know what she thought, nor 
what at that very moment she might say ; in 
which she seemed to be lost, and wandering in 
search of herself. 

She rose, tall, frail, in her crape, like a queen 
who mourns ; touches of gold in her flaxen hair, 
where a little jet aigrette glittered like a black 
mirror. 

" I am going to see who is winning," she said, 
and went to the card-table in the other room. 
She stood behind Mrs. Hoze, seeming to be 
interested in the game, but across the light of 
the candles she peered at Quaerts and Jules. She 
saw them talking together, softly, confidentially, 
Jules with his arm on Quaerts' knee. She saw 
Jules looking up, as if in adoration, into the face 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 39 

of this man, and then the boy suddenly threw his 
arms around his friend in a wild embrace, while 
this latter kept him off with a patient gesture. 



The next evening Cecile revelled even more 
than usual in the luxury of being able to stay at 
home. It was after dinner ; she sat on the chaise- 
longue in her little boudoir with Dolf and 
Christie, an arm thrown round each of them, 
sitting between them, so young, like an elder 
sister. In her low voice she was telling them : 

" Judah came up to him, and said, my 
lord, let me stay as a bondsman instead of 
Benjamin. For our father, who is such an old 
man, said to us when we went away with 
Benjamin : My son Joseph I have already lost ; 
surely he has been torn in pieces by the wild 
beasts. And if you take this one also from me, 



40 ECSTASY. 



and any harm befall him, I shall become gray 
with sorrow, and die. Then (Jiidah said) I said 
to our father that I would be responsible for his 
safety, and that I should be very naughty if we 
did not bring Benjamin home again. And there- 
fore I pray you, my lord, let me be your 
bondsman, and let the lad go back with his 
brethren. For how can I go back to my father 
if the lad be not with me. . . ." 

" And Joseph, mamma, what did Joseph say ? " 
asked Christie. He nestled closely against his 
mother, this poor slender little fellow of six, with 
his fine golden hair, and his eyes of pale forget- 
me-not blue, his little fingers hooking themselves 
nervously into Cecile's gown, rumpling the crape. 

" Then Joseph could no longer restrain him- 
self, and ordered his servants to leave him ; 
then he burst into tears, crying, Do you not 
know me ? I am Joseph." 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 41 

But Cecile could not continue, for Christie had 
thrown himself on her neck in a frenzy of 
despair, and she heard him sobbing against her. 

" Christie ! My darling ! " 

She was greatly distressed ; she had grown 
interested in her own recital and had not noticed 
Christie's excitement, and now he was sobbing 
against her in such violent grief that she could 
find no word to quiet him, to comfort him, to 
tell him that it ended happily. 

" But, Christie, don't cry, don't cry ! It ends 
happily." 

" And Benjamin, what about Benjamin ? " 

" Benjamin returned to his father, and Jacob 
came down to Egypt to live with Joseph." 

The child raised his still wet face from her 
shoulder and looked at her deliberately. 

" Was it really like that ? Or are you only 
making it up ? " 



42 ECSTASY . 



" No, really, my darling. Don't, don't cry 
any more." 

Christie grew calmer, but he was evidently 
disappointed. He was not satisfied with the end 
of the story ; and yet it was very pretty like 
that, much prettier than if Joseph had been 
angry, and put Benjamin in prison. 

" What a baby, to cry ! " said Dolf. " It was 
only a story," 

Cecile did not reply that the story had really 
happened, because it was in the Bible. She had 
suddenly become very sad, in doubt of herself. 
She fondly dried the child's eyes with her pocket- 
handkerchief. 

" And now, children, bed. It's late ! " she said, 
faintly. 

She put them to bed, a ceremony which 
lasted a long time ; a ceremony with an elaborate 
ritual of undressing, washing, saying of prayers. 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 43 



tucking in, and kissing. When after an hour 
she was sitting downstairs again alone, she first 
realised how sad she felt. 

Ah no, she did not know ! Amelie was quite 
right : one never knew anything, never ! She 
had been so happy that day ; she had found 
herself again, deep in the recesses of her most 
secret self, in the essence of her soul ; all day 
she had seen her dreams hovering about her as 
an apotheosis ; all day she had felt within her 
consuming love of her children. She had told 
them stories out of the Bible after dinner, and 
suddenly, when Christie began to cry, a doubt 
had arisen within her. Was she really good to 
her little boys ? Did she not, in her love, in the 
tenderness of her affection for them, spoil and 
weaken them? Would she not end by utterly 
unfitting them for a practical life, with which 
she did not come into contact, but in which the 



44 ECSTASY . 



children, wheo they grew up, would have to 
move ? It flashed through her mind : parting, 
boarding-schools, her children estranged from 
her, coming home big, rough boys, smoking and 
swearing, cynicism on their lips and in their 
hearts ; lips which would no longer kiss her, 
hearts in which she would no longer have a place. 
She pictured them already with the swagger of 
their seventeen or eighteen years, tramping 
across her rooms in their cadet's and midship- 
man's uniforms, with broad shoulders and a hard 
laugh, flicking the ash from their cigars upon 
the carpet. Why did Quaerts' image suddenly 
rise up in the midst of this cruelty ? Was it 
chance or a consequence ? She could not analyse 
it ; she could not explain the presence of this 
man, rising up through her grief in the atmo- 
sphere of her antipathy. But she felt sad, sad, 
sad, as she had not felt sad since Van Even's 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 45 

death ; not vaguely melancholy, as she so often 
felt, but sad, undoubtedly sorrowful at the 
thought of what must come. Oh ! to have to part 
with her children ! And then, to be alone. . . . 
Loneliness, everlasting loneliness ! Loneliness 
within herself; that feeling of which Jules had 
such dread; withdrawn from the world which 
had no charm for her, sunk away alone into all 
emptiness ! She was thirty, she was old, an old 
woman. Her house would be empty, her heart 
empty ! Dreams, clouds of dreaming, which fly 
away, which rise like smoke, revealing only 
emptiness. Emptiness, emptiness, emptiness ! 
The word each time fell hollowly, with hammer 
strokes, upon her breast. Emptiness, empti- 
ness. . . . 

" Why am I like this ? " she asked herself. 
" What ails me ? What has altered ? " 

Never had she felt that word emptiness throb 



4G ECSTASY 



within her in this way : that very afternoon she 
had been gently happy, as ordinarily. And now ! 
She saw nothing before her, no future, no life, 
nothing but broad darkness. Estranged from her 
children, alone within herself. . . . 

She rose up with a half moan of pain, and 
walked across the boudoir. The discreet half 
light troubled her, oppressed her. She turned the 
key of the lace-covered lamp : a golden gleam 
crept over the rose folds of the silk curtains like 
glistening water. A strange freshness wafted 
away something of that scent of violets which 
hung about everything. A fire burned on the 
hearth, but she felt cold. 

She stood by the little table ; she took up a 
card, with one corner turned down, and read : 
" T. H. Quaerts." A coronet with five balls was 
engraved above the name. " Quaerts ! " How 
short it sounded ! A name like the smack of a 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 47 

hard hand. There was something bad, something 
cruel in the name : " Quaerts, Quaerts. . . ." 

She threw down the bit of card, angry with 
herself. She felt cold, and not herself, just as she 
had felt at the Van Attemas' the evening before. 

" I will not go out again. Never again, 
never ! " she said, almost aloud. " I am so con- 
tented in my own house, so contented with my 
life, so beautifully happy. . . . That card ! Why 
should he leave a card ? What do I want with 
his card ? . . . " 

She sat down at her writing-table and opened 
her blotting-book. She wished to finish a half- 
written letter to India; but she was in quite a 
different mood from when she had begun it. So 
she took from a drawer a thick book, her diary. 
She wrote the date, then reflected a moment, 
tapping her teeth nervously with the silver 
penholder. 



48 ECSTASY 



But then, with a little ill-tempered gesture, 
she threw down the pen, pushed the book aside, 
and, letting her head fall into her hands on the 
blotting-book, sobbed aloud. 

VI. 

Ceeile was astonished at this unusually long fit 
of abstraction, that it should continue for days 
before she could again enter into her usual 
condition of serenity, the dehghtful abode from 
which, without wishing it, she had wandered. 
But she compelled herself, with gentle compul- 
sion, to recover the treasures of her loneliness. 
She argued with herself that it would be some 
years before she would have to part from Dolf 
and Christie : there was time enough to grow 
accnetAjmed to the idea of separation. Besides, 
nothing had altered either about her or within 



A STUDY OF HAP PI NESS. 49 

her, and so she let the days glide slowly over her, 
like gently flowing water. 

In this way, gently flowing by, a fortnight had 
elapsed since the evening she spent at Dolf's. 
It was a Saturday afternoon ; she had been work- 
ing with the children — she still taught them 
herself — and she had walked out with them ; and 
now she sat again in her favourite room awaiting 
the Van Attemas, who came every Saturday at 
half-past four to afternoon tea. She rang for the 
servant, who lighted the blue flame of methylated 
spirit. Dolf and Christie were with her ; they 
sat upon the floor on footstools, cutting the pages 
of a children's magazine to which Cecile sub- 
scribed for them. They were sitting quietly and 
well-bred, like children who grow up in a feeble 
surrounding, in the midst of too much refine- 
ment, too pale, with hair too long and too blonde, 

Christie especially, whose little temples were 

4 



50 ECSTASY. 



veined as if with lilac blood. Cecile stepped by 
them as she went to glance over the tea-table, 
and the look she cast upon them wrapped the 
children in a warm embrace of devotion. She 
was in her calmly happy mood ; it was so pleasant 
that she would soon see the Van Attemas coming 
in. She liked these hours of the afternoon when 
her silver teakettle hissed over the blue flame. 
An exquisite intimacy filled the room ; she had 
in her long shapely feminine fingers that special 
power of witchery, that gentle art of handling 
by which everything, over which they glided 
merely, acquired a look of herself; an indefinable 
something, of tint, of position, of light, which 
the things had not until the touch of those 
fingers came across them. 

There came a ring. She thought it rather 
early for the Van Attemas, but she rarely saw 
•d,ny one else in her seclusion from the outer world 



A STUDY OF ITAPPINESS. 51 



— therefore it must be they. A few moments, 
however, and Grreta came in, with a card. Was 
mevrouw at home, and could the gentleman see 
her? 

Cecile recognised the card from a distance : 
she had seen one Uke it quite recently. Yet she 
took it up, glanced at it discontentedly, with 
drawn eyebrows. 

What an idea ! Why did he do it? What did 
it mean ? But slie thought it unnecessary to be 
impolite and refuse to see him. After all he was 
a friend of Dolf's. But such persistence .... 

" Show meneer up," she said. 

Greta went, and it seemed to Cecile as though 
something trembled in the intimacy which filled 
the room ; as if the objects over which her fingers 
had just passed took another aspect, a look of 
fright. But Dolf and Christie had not changed ; 
they were still sitting looking at the pictures, 



52 ECSTASY. 



with occasional remarks falling softly from their 
lips. 

The door opened, and Quaerts entered the 
room. He had in still greater measure than 
before his air of shyness as he bowed to Cecile. 
To her this air was incomprehensible in him, 
who seemed so strong, so determined. 

" I hope you will not think me indiscreet, 
mevrouw, taking the liberty to visit you." 

" On the contrary, Mr. Quaerts," she said 
coldly. " Pray sit down." 

He sat down and placed his hat on the floor. 
" I am not disturbing you, mevrouw ? " 

" Not in the least ; I am expecting Mrs. Van 
Attema and her daughters. You were so polite 
as to leave a card on me ; but you know, I see 
nobody," 

" I knew it, mevrouw. Perhaps it is to that 
knowledge the indiscretion of my visit is due." 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 53 

She looked at him coldly, politely, smilingly. 
There was a feeling of irritation in her. She felt 
a desire to ask him frankly why he had come. 

" How is that ? " she asked, her mannerly smile 
converting her face into a veritable mask. 

" I feared I should not see you for a long time, 
and I should consider it a great privilege to be 
allowed to know you more intimately." 

His tone was in the highest degree respectful. 
She raised her eyebrows, as if she did not under- 
stand, but the accent of his voice was so very 
courteous that she could not find a cold word 
with which to answer him. 

"Are those your two children?" he asked, 
with a glance towards Dolf and Christie. 

" Yes," she replied. " Gret up, boys, and shake 
hands with meneer." 

The children approached timidly, and put out 
their little hands. He smiled, looked at them 



54 ECSTASY : 



penetratingly with his small deep-set eyes, and 
drew them to him. 

" Am I mistaken, or is not the little one very 
like you ? " 

" They both resemble their father," she replied. 

It seemed to her she had set a shield of 
mistrust about herself, from which the children 
were excluded, within which she found it impos- 
sible to draw them. It troubled her that he held 
them, that he looked at them as he did. 

But he set them free, and they went back to 
their little stools, gentle, quiet, well-behaved. 

" Yet they both have something of you," he 
insisted. 

" Possibly," she said. 

" Mevrouw," he resumed, as if he had something 
important to say to her, " I wish to ask you a 
direct question : tell me honestly, quite honestly, 
do you think me indiscreet ? " 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 55 



•' Because you pay me a visit ? No, I assure 
you, Mr. Quaerts, It is very polite of you. Only 
.... if I may be candid . . . ." 

She gave a little laugh. 

" Of course," he said. 

■' Then I will confess to you that I fear you will 
find little in my house to amuse you. I see 
nobody . . . ." 

" I have not called on you for the sake of the 
people I might meet at your house." 

She bowed, smiling, as if he had paid her a 
compliment. 

" Of course I am very pleased to see you. 
You are a great friend of Dolf's, are you 
not ? " 

She tried continually to speak differently to 
him, more coldly, defiantly ; but he was too 
com'teous, and she could not do it. 

" Yes," he replied, " Dolf and I have known 



56 ECSTASY . 



each other a long time. We have always 
been great friends, though we are so entirely 
different." 

" I like him very much ; he is always very 
kind to us." 

She saw him look smilingly at the little table. 
Some reviews were scattered upon it, and a book 
or two ; among these a little volume of Emerson's 
essays, with a paper-cutter inside. 

" You told me you did not read much," he 
said, mischievously. " I should think . . . ." 

And he pointed to the books. 

" Oh," said she, carelessly, with a slight shrug 
of her shoulders, "a little . . . ." 

She thought him tiresome ; why should he 
remark that she had hidden herself from him ? 
why, indeed, had she hidden herself from 
him ? 

"Emerson," he read, bending forward a little. 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 57 

" Forgive me," he added quickly. " I have no 
right to spy upon your pursuits. But the print 
is so large ; I read it from here." 

" You are far-sighted ? " she asked, laughing. 

"Yes." 

His politeness, a certain respectfulness, as if 
he would not venture to touch the tips of her 
fingers, placed her more at her ease. She still 
felt antipathy towards him, but there was no 
harm in his knowing what she read. 

" Are you fond of reading ? " asked Cecile. 

" I do not read much: it is too great a pleasure 
to me for that ; nor do 1 read all that appears, 
I am too eclectic." 

" Do you know Emerson ? " 

"No . . . ." 

" I like his essays very much. They look so 
far into the future. They place one upon such 
a delightfully exalted level . . . ." 



58 ECSTASY. 



She suited her phrase with an expansive 
gesture, and her eyes lighted up. 

Then she observed that he was following her 
attentively, with his respectfulness. And she 
recovered herself; she no longer wished to talk 
with him about Emerson. 

" It is very fine," was all she said, in a most 
uninterested voice, to close the conversation. 
" May I give you some tea ? " 

" No, thank you, mevrouw ; I never take tea 
at this time." 

" Do you look upon it with so much scorn ? " 
she asked, jestingly. 

He was about to answer, when there was a 
ring at the bell, and she cried : 

" Ah, here they are ! " 

Amelie entered, with Suzette and Anna. They 
were a little surprised to see Quaerts. He said 
he had wanted to call on Mrs. Van Even. The 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 59 

conversation became general. Suzette was very 
merry, full of a fancy fair, at which she was going 
to assist, in a Spanish costume. 

" And you, Anna ? " 

" Oh, no, auntie," said Anna, shrinking to- 
gether with fright. " Imagine me at a 
fancy fair ! I should never sell anybody any- 
thing." 

" It is a gift," said Amelie, with a far-away look. 

Quaerts rose : he bowed with a single word to 
Cecile, when the door opened. Jules came in 
with books under his arm, on his road home 
from school. 

" How do you do, auntie ? Hallo, Taco, are 
you going away just as I arrive ? " 

" You drive me away," said Quaerts, laughing. 

" Ah, Taco, do stay a little longer ! " begged 
Jules, enraptured to see him, in despair that he 
had chosen this moment to leave. 



60 ECSTASY. 



" Jules, Jules ! " cried Amelie, thinking it was 
the proper thing to do. 

Jules pressed Quaerts, took his two hands, 
forced him, like the spoilt child that he was. 
Quaerts laughed the more. Jules in his excite- 
ment knocked some books from the table. 

" Jules, be quiet ! " cried Amelie. 

Quaerts picked up the books, while Jules 
persisted in his bad behaviour. As Quaerts 
replaced the last book he hesitated ; he held 
it in his hand, he looked at the gold lettering : 
" Emerson. . . ." 

Cecile watched him. 

" If he thinks I am going to lend it him he is 
mistaken," she thought. 

But Quaerts asked nothing : he had released 
himself from Jules and said good-bye. With a 
quip at Jules he left. 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 61 

VII. 

" Is this the first time he has been to see 
you ? " asked Amelie. 

" Yes," replied Cecile. " A superfluous polite- 
ness, was it not ? " 

" Taco Quaerts is always very correct in matters 
of etiquette," said Anna, defending him. 

" But this visit was hardly a matter of 
etiquette," Cecile said, laughing merrily. " Taco 
Quaerts seems to be quite infallible in your 
eyes." 

" He waltzes delightfully ! " cried Suzette. 
" The other day at the Eekhof s dance . . ." 

Suzette chattered on ; there was no restrain- 
ing Suzette that afternoon ; she seemed to hear 
already the rattling of her castanets. 

Jules had a fit of crossness coming on, but he 
stood still at a window, with the boys. 



62 ECSTASY: 



" You don't much care about Quaerts, do you, 
auntie ? " asked Anna. 

" I do not find him very sympathetic," said 
Cecile. " You know, I am easily influenced by 
my first impressions. I can't help it, but I do 
not like those very healthy, strong jieople, 
who look so sturdy and manly, as if they 
walked straight through life, clearing away 
everything that stands in their way. It may be 
a morbid antipathy in me, but I can't help it, 
that I always dislike a superabundance of ro- 
bustness. Those strong people look upon others 
who are not so strong as themselves much as 
the Spartans used to look upon their deformed 
children." 

Jules could restrain himself no longer. 

" If you think that Taco is no better than a 
Spartan you know nothing at all about him," he 
said fiercely. 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. G3 

Cecile looked at him, but before Amelie could 
interpose he continued : 

" Taco is the only person with whom I can talk 
about music, and who understands every word I 
say. And I don't believe I could talk with a 
Spartan." 

" Jules, how rude you are ! " cried Suzette. 

" I don't care ! " he exclaimed furiously, rising 
suddenly, and stamping his foot. " I don't care ! 
I won't hear Taco abused, and Aunt Cecile knows 
it, and only does it to tease me. I think it is 
very mean to tease a child, very mean. ..." 

His mother and his sisters tried to calm 
him with their authority. But he seized liis 
books. 

" I don't care ! I won't have it ! " 

He was gone in a moment, furious, slamming 
the door, which muttered at the shock. Amelie 
shook with nervousness. 



64 ECSTASY: 



" Oh, that boy ! " she hissed out, shivering. 
" That Jules, that Jules. ..." 

" It is nothing," said Cecile, gently, excusing 
him. " He is excitable. ..." 

She had grown a little paler, and glanced 
towards her boys; Dolf and Christie, who looked 
up in dismay, their mouths wide open with 
astonishment. 

" Is Jules naughty, mamma ? " asked Christie. 

She shook her head, srniling. She felt 
strangely weary, indefinably so. She did not 
know what it meant ; but it seemed to her as 
if distant perspectives opened up before her eyes, 
fading away into the horizon, pale, in a great 
light. Nor did she know what this meant ; but 
she was not angry with Jules, and it seemed to 
her as if he had not lost his temper with her, but 
with somebody else. A sense of the enigmatical 
deepness of life, the unknown of the soul's 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 65 

mystery, like to a fair, bright endlessness, a far- 
away silvery light, shot through her in a still 
rapture. 

Then she laughed. 

"Jules," she said, "is so nice when he gets 
excited." 

Anna and Suzette broke up the circle, and 
played with the boj^s, looking at their picture 
books. Cecile spoke only to her sister. Amelie's 
nerves were still quivering. 

" How can you defend those tricks of Jules ? " 
she asked, in a relenting voice. 

" I think it so noble of him to stand up for 
those he likes. Don't you think so, too ? " 

Amelie grew calmer. Why should she be 
disturbed if Cecile was not ? 

" Oh yes, yes. ..." she replied. " I don't know. 
He has a good heai't I believe, but he is so un- 
manageable. But, who knows ? . . . perhaps the 

5 



66 ECSTASY: 



fault is mine ; if I understood better, if I had 
more tact . . . . " 

She grew confused ; she sought for something 
more to say, found nothing, wandering like a 
stranger through her own thoughts. Then, sud- 
denly, as if struck by a ray of certain knowledge, 
she said .... 

" But Jules is not stupid. He has a good eye 
for all sorts of things, and for persons too. For 
my part, I believe you judge Taco Quaerts 
wrongly. He is a very interesting man, and a 
great deal more than a mere sportsman. I don't 
know what it is, but there is something about 
him different from other people, I couldn't say 
precisely what . . . . " 

She was silent, seeking, groping. 

" I wish Jules got on better at school. He 
is not stupid, but he learns nothing. He has 
been two years now in the third class. The boy 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 67 



has no application. He makes me despair of 
him." 

She was silent again, and Cecile too remained 
silent. 

" Ah," said Amelie, " I daresay it is not his 
fault. Perhaps it is my fault. Perhaps he takes 
after me. ..." 

She looked straight before her : sudden i]-re- 
pressible tears filled both her eyes, and fell into 
her lap. 

" Amy, what is the matter ? " asked Cecile, 
kindly. 

But Amelie had risen, so that the girls, who 
were still playing with the children, might not 
see her tears. She could not restrain them, they 
streamed down, and she hurried away into the 
adjacent drawing-room, a big room, where Cecile 
never sat. 

" What is the matter, Amy ? " repeated Cecile. 



68 ECSTASY. 



She threw her arms about her sister, made 
her sit down, pressed her head against her 
shoulder. 

" How do I know what it is ? " sobbed Amelie. 
" I do not know, I do not know .... I am wretched 
because of that feeling in my head. After all, I 
am not mad, am I ? Eeally, I don't feel mad, 
or as if I were going mad ! But I feel sometimes 
as if everything had gone wrong in my head, as 
if I couldn't think. Everything runs through 
my brain. It is a terrible feeling ! " 

" Why don't you see a doctor ? " asked Cecile. 

" No, no, he might tell me I was mad, and 
I am not. He might try to send me into an 
asylum. No, I won't see a doctor. I have 
every reason to be happy otherwise, have I not ? 
I have a kind husband and dear children ; I 
have never had any great sorrow. And yet I 
sometimes feel deeply miserable, unreasonably 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 69 



miserable ! It is always as if I wanted to reach 
some place and could not succeed. It is always 
as if I were hemmed in. ... " 

She sobbed violently ; a storm of tears rained 
down her face. Cecile's eyes, too, were moist ; 
she liked her sister, she felt for her. Amelie was 
only ten years her senior, and already she had 
something of an old woman about her, withered, 
mean, her hair growing grey at the temples, 
under her veil. 

" Cecile, tell me, Cecile," she said suddenly, 
through her sob;^, " do you believe in God ? " 

" Of course. Amy." 

" I used to go to church, but it was no use. . . , 
I don't go any more. . . . Oh, I am so unhappy ! 
It is very ungrateful of me. I have so much to 
be grateful for. ... Do you know, sometimes I 
feel as if I would like to go at once to God, all at 
once ! " 



70 ECSTASY: 



" Pray, Amy, do not excite yourself so." 

" Ah, I wish I were like you, so calm. Do you 
feel happy ? " 

Cecile nodded, smiling. Amelie sighed ; she 
remained lying a moment with her head against 
her sister's shoulder. Cecile kissed her, but sud- 
denly Amelie started : 

"Be careful," she whispered, " the girls might 
come in here. They .... they need not see that 
I have been crying." 

Kising, she arranged herself before the looking- 
glass, carefully dried her veil with her handker- 
chief, smoothed the strings of her bonnet. 

" There, now they won't know," she said. 
" Let us go in again. I am quite calm. You 
are a dear girl. ..." 

They went into the little room. 

" Come, girls, we must go home," said Amelie, 
in a voice which was still unsettled. 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 71 

" Have you been crying, mamma ? " asked 
Suzette immediately. 

" Mamma was a little upset about Jules," said 
Cecile quickly. 

viii! 

Cecile was alone ; the children had gone up 
stairs to get ready for dinner. She tried to get 
back her distant perspectives, fading into the 
pale horizon ; she tried to get back the silvery 
endlessness which had shot through her as a 
vision of light. But it confused her too much : 
a kaleidoscope of recent petty memories : the 
children, Quaerts, Emerson, Jules, Suzette, Amelie. 
How strange, how strange was life ! . . . . The 
outer life ; the coming and going of people about 
us; the sounds of words which they utter in 
accents of strangeness ; the endless changing of 
phenomena; the concatenation of those pheno- 



72 ECSTASY: 



mena, one with the other ; strange, too, the 
presence of u soul somewhere, like a god within 
us, never in its essence to be kuown, save by 
itself. Often, as now, it seemed to Cecile that 
all things, even the most commonplace, were 
strange, very strange ; as if nothing in the world 
were absolutely commonplace ; as if everything 
were strange together ; the strange form and 
exterior expression of a deeper life, that lies 
hidden behind everything, even the meanest 
objects ; as if everything displayed itself under 
an appearance, a transitory mask, while under- 
neath lay the reality, the very truth. How 
strange, how strange was life .... For it 
seemed to her as if she, under all the ordinariness 
of that afternoon tea-party, had seen something 
very extraordinary; slie did not know what, she 
could not express nor even think it ; it seemed 
to her as if beneath the coming and going of 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 73 



those people there had glittered something : 
reality, ultimate truth beneath the appearance 
of their happening to come to take tea with 
her. 

" What is it ? What is it ? " she asked. " Am 
I deluding myself, or is it so ? I feel it so. . . ." 

It was very vague, and yet so very clear. . . . 
It seemed to her as if there was an apparition, 
a haze of light behind all that had happened 
there. Behind Amelie, and Jules, and Quaerts, 
and that book he had just held in his hand. . . . 
Did those apparitions of light mean anything, 
or. . . . 

But she shook her head. 

" I am dreaming, I am giving way to fancy," 
she laughed within herself. " It was all very 
simple ; I only make it complicated because I 
take pleasure in doing so." 

But so soon as she thought this, there was 



74 ECSTASY: 



something that denied the thought absolutely ; 
an intuition which should have made her guess 
the essence of the truth, but which did not 
succeed in doing so. For sure there was some- 
thing, something behind all that, hiding away, 
lurking as the shadow lurks behind the thing. . . . 

Her thought still wandered over the company 
she had had, then halted finally at Taeo Quaerts. 
She saw him sitting there again, bending slightly 
forward towards her, his hands locked together 
hanging between his knees, as he looked up to 
hei-. A barrier of aversion had stood between 
them like an iron bar. She saw him sitting 
there again, though he was gone. That again 
was past ; how quickly everything moved ; how 
small was the speck of the present ! 

She rose, sat down at her writing-table, and 
wrote : 

" Beneath me flows the sea of the past, above 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 75 

me drifts the ether of the future, and I stand 
midway upon the one speck of reality ; so small 
that I must press my feet firmly together not 
to lose ray hold. And from the speck of my 
present my sorrow looks down upon the sea, and 
my longing up to the sky. 

" It is scarcely life to stand upon this ledge, so 
small that I hardly appreciate it, hardly feel it 
beneath my feet ; and yet to me it is the one 
reality. I am not greatly occupied about it : my 
eyes only follow the rippling of those waves 
towards the distant haven, the gliding of those 
clouds towards the distant spheres : vague mani- 
festations of endless mutability, translucent 
ephemeras, visible incorporeities. The present is 
the only thing that is, or rather that seems to 
be ; but not the sea below nor the sky above ; 
for the sea is but memory, and the air but an 
illusion. Yet memory and illusion are every- 



76 ECSTASY. 



thing : they are the wide inheritance of the soul, 
which alone can escape from the speck of the 
moment to float away upon the sea towards the 
haven which for ever retreats, to rock upon 
the clouds towards the spheres which retreat and 
retreat. ..." 

Then she reflected. How was it she had 
written so, and why ? How had she come to 
do it ? She went liack upon her thoughts : the 
present, the speck of the present, which was so 
small .... Quaerts, Quaerts' very attitude, rising 
up before her just now. Was it in any way 
owing to him that she had written down those 
sentences ? The past a sorrow ; the future an 
illusion. . . . Why, why illusion ? 

" And Jules, who likes him. . . ." she thought, 
"And Amelie, who spoke of him .... but she 
knows nothing. . . . What is there in him, what 
lurks behind him, what is he himself? Why did 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 77 



he come here ? Why do I dislike him so ? 
Do I dislike him? I cannot see into his 
eyes. . . ." 

She would have liked to do this once ; she 
would have liked to make sure that she 
disliked him, or that she did not — whichever it 
might be. She was curious to see him once 
more, to know what she would think and feel 
about him then. . . . 

She had risen from her writing-table, and now 
lay at full length on the chaise-longue, her arms 
folded behind her head. She no longer knew 
what she dreamt, but she felt peacefully happy. 
Dolf and Christie were coming down the stairs. 
They came in, it was dinner-time. 

" Jules was naughty just now, really, was he 
not, mamma ? " asked Christie again , with a 
doubtful face. 

She drew the frail little fellow softly to her. 



78 ECSTASY. 



took him tightly in her arms, and gently kissed 
his moist, pale mouth. 

" No, really not, my darling ! " she said. " He 
was not naughty, really. . . ." 



CHAPTER II. 

I. 

Cecile passed through the long hall, which was 

almost a gallery : servants stood by the doorway, 

a hum of voices came from behind it. The train 

of her dress rustled against the leaves of a palm 

fern, and this sound gave a sudden jar to the 

strung cords of her sensitiveness. She was a 

little nervous ; her eyelids quivered slightly, and 

her mouth had a very earnest fold. 

She walked in ; there was much light, but 

very subdued, the light of candles. Two officers 

stepped aside for her as she hesitated. Her eyes 

glanced quickly round in search of Mrs. Hoze. 

She observed her standing with two or three of 
79 



80 ECSTASY: 

her guests, with her grey hair, with her kindly 
and yet haughty expression, rosy and smooth, 
with scarcely a wrinkle. Mrs. Hoze advanced 
towards her. 

" How charming of you not to have dis- 
appointed me ! " she said, pressing Cecile's hand, 
effuse in the urbane amiability of her hospitality. 

She introduced Cecile here and there ; Cecile 
heard names, which immediately afterwards es- 
caped her. 

"Greneral, allow me .... Mrs. Van Even," 
Mrs. Hoze whispered, and left her, to speak to 
some one else. Cecile answered the general 
cursorily. She was very pale, and her eyelids 
quivered more and more. She ventured to throw 
a glance round the room. 

She stood next to the general, forcing herself 
to listen, in order not to give strikingly silly 
replies ; she was tall, slender, and straight, her 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 81 



shoulders, blonde as marble in sunlight, blos- 
soming out of a sombre vase of black : fine black 
training tulle, sprinkled over with small jet 
spangles : glittering black upon dull transparent 
black. A girdle with tassels of jet, hanging low, 
was wound about her waist. So she stood, blonde ; 
blonde and black, a little sombre amid the warmth 
and light of other toilettes ; and, for unique relief, 
two diamonds in her ears, like dewdrops. 

Her thin suede-covered fingers trembled as 
she manipulated her fan, a black tulle trans- 
parency, on which the same jet spangles glittered 
with black lustre. Her breath came short be- 
hind the strokes of the translucent fan as she 
talked with the general, a s]:)are, bald, distin- 
guished man, not in unifori". but wearing his 
decorations. 

Mrs. Hoze's guests walked about, greeting one 

another here and there, a continuous humming 

6 



82 ECSTASY: 



of voices. Cecile saw Taco Quaerts come up to 
her ; he bowed before her ; she bowed coldly in 
return, not offering him her hand. He lingered 
a moment by her, exchanged a single word, then 
passed on, greeting other acquaintances. 

Mrs. Hoze had taken the arm of an old gentle- 
man ; a procession formed itself slowly. The 
servants threw back the doors ; a table glittered 
beyond. The general offered Cecile his arm, and 
she looked behind her with a slow movement of 
her neck. She closed her eyelids a moment, to 
prevent the quivering which oppressed them. 
Her eyebrows contracted slightly with a disap- 
pointment, but smilingly she laid the tips of 
her fingers on the general's arm, and with her 
closed fan smoothed away a crease from the tulle 
of her train. 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 83 

II. 

When Cecile was seated she found Quaerts 
sitting on her right. Her disappointment vanished, 
the disappointment she had felt at not being 
taken in to dinner by him; but when she addressed 
him her look remained cold, as usual. She had 
what she wished ; the expectation with which 
she had accepted this invitation was now fulfilled. 
Mrs. Hoze had seen Cecile at the Van Attemas, 
and had gladly undertaken to restore the young 
widow to society. Cecile knew that Quaerts was 
one of Mrs. Hoze's visitors ; she had heard from 
Amelie that he was among the invited, and she 
had accepted. That Mrs. Hoze, remembering 
Cecile had met Quaerts before, had placed him 
next to her, was easy to understand. 

Cecile was very inquisitive about herself. How 
would she feel ? At least interested : she could 



84 ECSTASY: 



not disguise that from herself. She was cer- 
tainly interested in him, remembering what Jules 
had said, what Amelie had said. She now felt 
that behind the mere .sportsman there lurked 
another, whom she longed to know. Why? 
What concern was it of hers? She did not know; 
but in any case, as a matter of simple curiosity, 
it awoke her interest. At the same time she 
remained on her guard ; she did not think his 
visit had been strictly in order, and there were 
stories in which the name of a married woman 
was coupled with his. 

She succeeded in freeing herself from her con- 
versation with the general, who seemed to feel 
himself called upon to entertain her, and it was 
she who first spoke to Quaerts. 

" Have you begun to give Jules his riding- 
lessons?" she asked with a smile. 

He looked at her, evidently a little surprised 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 85 



at her voice and her smile, which were both new 
to him. He returned a hare answer : 

"Yes, mevrouw, we were at the riding-school 
yesterday. . . ." 

She thought him clumsy to let the conver- 
sation drop like that, but he inquired with that 
slight shyness which became a charm in him 
who was so manly : 

"So you are going oat again, mevrouw?" 

She thought — she had thought so before also^ 
that his questions were such as were never asked. 
There was alwa3^s something strange about them. 

" Yes," she replied simply, not knowing in- 
deed what else to say. 

"Pardon me. . . ." he said seeing that his 
words embarrassed her. " I asked, because. . . ." 

" Because ? " she repeated, surprised. 

He took courage, and ex})lained : " When Dolf 
spoke of you he used always to say that you 



86 ECSTASY: 



lived quietly. . . . Now I could never picture 
you to myself returned among society ; I had 
formed an idea of you, and now it seems to me 
that idea was a mistaken one." 

" An idea ? " she asked. " What idea ? " 

" Perhaps you will not be pleased when I tell 
you. Perhaps even as it is you are displeased 
with me ! " 

" I have not the slightest reason to be either 
pleased or displeased with you. But tell me 
what was your idea. . . ." 

" You are interested in it ? " 

" If you will tell me candidly, yes. But you 
must be candid ! " and she threatened him with 
her finger. 

" Then. . . ." he began, " I thought of you as 
a woman of culture, desirable as an acquaint- 
ance — I still think all that— a??^/ as a woman 
who cared nothing for the world beyond her own 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 87 

sphere ; — and that .... I can now think no 
longer. I should like to say, and risk your 
thinking me very strange, that I am sorry no 
longer to be able to think of you in that way. I 
would almost have preferred not to meet you 
here. . . ." 

He laughed, perhaps to soften what was strange 
in his words. She looked at him with amazement, 
her lips half-opened, and suddenly it struck her 
that for the first time she was looking into his 
eyes. She looked into his eyes, and she saw that 
they were a dark, dark grey around the black of 
the pupil. There was something in his eyes, she 
could not say what, but something magnetic, as 
if she could never again take away her own from 
them. 

" How strange you can be sometimes ! " she 
said, the words coming intuitively. 

" Oh, I beg you, do not be angry," he almost 



ECSTASY: 



implored her. " I was so glad when you spoke 
kindly to me. You were a little distant to me 
when last I saw you, and I should be so sorry if I 
angered you. Perhaps I am strange, but how 
could I possibly be commonplace with you ? 
How could I possibly, even if you were to take 
offence ? . . . . Have you taken offence ? " 

" I ought to, but I suppose I must forgive you, 
if only for your candour ! " she said, laughing. 
" Otherwise your remarks are anything but 
gallant." 

" And yet I intended no unmannerliness." 

" I suppose not." 

She remembered that she was at a big dinner- 
party. The guests ranged before and around her ; 
the footmen waiting behind; the light of tlie 
candles sparkling on the silver and touching the 
glass with all the hues of the rainbow; on the 
table prone mirrors like sheets of water, sur- 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 89 



rounded by flowers, little lakes amidst moss- 
roses and lilies of the valley. She -at silent a 
moment, still smiling, looking at her hand, a 
pretty hand, like a white precious thing upon 
the tulle of her gown ; one of the fingers bore 
several rings, scintillating sparks of blue and 
white. 

The general turned to her again ; they ex- 
changed a few words ; the general was delighted 
that Mrs. Van Even's right-hand neighbour kept 
her entertained, and so enabled him to get on 
quietly with his diniier. Quaerts turned to the 
lady on his right. 

Both were pleased when they were able to 
resume their con vernation. 

" What were we talking about just now ? " she 
asked. 

" I know ! " he replied mischievously. 

" The general interrupted us. . . ." 



90 ECSTASY: 



" You were not angry with me ! " 

" Oh yes," she replied, laughing softly. " It 
was about your idea of me, was it not ? Why 
could you no longer conceive me returned to 
society ? " 

" I thought you had grown a person apart." 

" But why ? " 

" From what Dolf said, from what I thought 
myself, when I saw you." 

" And why are you sorry now that I am not ' a 
person apart ' ? " she asked, still laughing. 

" From vanity : because I have made a mistake. 
And yet, perhaps I have not made a mistake. . . ." 

They looked at one another, and both, whatever 
else they might have been thinking, now thought 
the same thing : namely, that they must be 
careful with their words, because they were 
speaking of something very delicate and tender, 
something as frail as a soap-bubble, which could 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 91 

easily break if they spoke of it too loudly, the 
mere breath of their words might be sufficient. 
Yet she ventured to ask : 

" And why .... do you believe .... that per- 
haps .... you are not mistaken ? *' 

" I don't quite know. Perhaps because I wish 
it so. Perhaps, too, because it is so true as to 
leave no room for doubt. Ah, yes, I am almost 
sure that I had judged rightly. Do you know 
why? Because otherwise I should have hidden 
myself and been matter-of-fact, and I find this 
impossible with you. I have given you more of 
my very self in this short moment than I have 
given people whom I have known for years in the 
course of all those years. Therefore, surely you 
must be a person apart." 

" What do you mean by ' a person apart ' ? ' 

He smiled, he opened his eyes, she looked into 
them again, deeply into them. 



92 ECSTASY: 



" You understand quite well what I mean," he 
said. 

PVar for the delicate thing that might break 
came between them again. They understood one 
another as with a freemasonry of comprehension. 
Her eyes were magnetically held upon his. 

" You are very strange ! " she said again, auto- 
matically. 

" No," he said, calmlj', shaking his head, his 
eyes upon hers. " I am certain that I am not 
strange to you, although at this moment you may 
think so." 

She was silent. 

" I am so glad to be able to talk to you like 
this !" he whispered. " It makes me very happy. 
And see, no one knows anything of it. We are 
at a big dinner : the people next to us catch 
our words : yet there is no one among them 
understands us, or grasps the subject of our 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 93 

conversation. Do you know the reason of 
this ? " 

" No," she murmured. 

" I will tell you ; at least I think it is this : 
perhaps you know better, for you must know 
things better than I, you so much subtler. I 
personally believe that each person has an en- 
vironment about him, an atmosphere, and that 
he meets other people who have environments 
or atmospheres about them, sympathetic or 
antipathetic to his own." 

" That is pure mysticism ! " she said. 

" No," he replied ; " it is very simple. When 
the two circles are antipathetic, each repels the 
other ; but when they are sympathetic, then they 
glide one over the other with smaller or larger 
folds of sympathy. In rarer cases the circles 
almost coincide, but they always remain separate 
.... Do you really think this so mystical ? " 



94 ECSTASY. 



" One might call it the mysticism of sentiment. 
But I have thought something of the sort 
myself. ..." 

" Yes, yes, I can understand that," he con- 
tinued, calmly, as if he expected it. " 1 believe 
those around us could not understand what we 
are saying, because we two alone have sympa- 
thetic environments. But my atmosphere is of 
grosser texture than your own, which is very 
delicate." 

She was silent again, remembering her aversion 
to him — did she still feel that ? 

" What do you think of my theory ? " he 
asked. 

She looked up ; her white fingers trembled in 
the tulle of her gown. She made a poor effort 
to smile. 

" I think you go too far ! " she stammered. 

" You think I rush into hyperbole ? " 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 95 

She would have liked to say yes, bat could not. 
" No," she said ; " not that." 

" Am I wearying you ? , . . ." 

She looked at him ; deep into his eyes. She 
made a gesture to say no. She would have 
liked to say that he was too unconventional ; but 
she could not find words. A drowsiness oppressed 
her whole being. The table, the people, the 
whole dinner seemed to her as through a haze 
of light. When she recovered she saw that a 
pretty woman sitting opposite, who now looked 
another way out of politeness, was gazing at 
her steadfastly. She did not know why this 
interested her, but she asked Quaerts : " Who 
is that lady over there, in pale blue, with dark 
hair ? " 

She saw that he started. 

" That is young Mrs. Hijdrecht ! " he said 
calmly, his voice a little raised. 



96 ECSTASY: 



She turned pale ; her fan flapped nervously to 
and fro. 

He had named the woman rumour said to be 
his mistress. 

III. 

It seemed to Cecile as though that delicate, 
frail thing, that soap-bubble, had bm'st. She 
wondered if he had spoken to that dark-haired 
woman also of circles of sympathy. So soon as 
she was able, Cecile observed Mrs. Hijdrecht. 
She had a warm, dull-gold complexion, fiery dark 
eyes, a mouth as of fresh blood. Her dress was 
cut very low ; her throat and the slope of her 
breast came out insolently handsome, brutally 
luscious. A row of diamonds encircled her neck 
with a narrow line of white brilliancy. 

Cecile felt ill at ease. She looked away from 
the young woman, and turned to Quaerts, drawn 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 97 

magnetically towards him. She saw a cloud of 
melancholy stealing over the upper half of his 
face ; over his forehead and his eyes, in which 
appeared a slight look of age. And she heard 
him say : 

" What do you care about that lady's name ; 
we were just in the middle of such a charming 
conversation, ..." 

She too felt sad now ; sad for the soap-bubble 
that had burst. She did not know why, but she 
felt pity for him ; sudden, deep, spontaneous 
pity. 

" We can resume our conversation," she said 
softly. 

" Ah no, do not let us take it up where we 
left it," he rejoined with feigned airiness. " I 
had become too serious." 

He spoke of other things : she answered little, 

and their conversation languished. They each 

7 



98 ECSTASY: 



occupied themselves with their neighbours. The 
dinner came to an end. Mrs. Hoze rose, took the 
arm of the gentleman next her. The general 
escorted Cecile to the drawing-room, in the slow 
procession of the others. 

The ladies remained alone, the men went to 
the smoking-room with young Hoze. Cecile 
saw Mrs. Hoze coming towards her. She asked 
her if she had not been wearied at dinner ; they 
sat down by one another, in a confidential tete-a- 
tete. 

Cecile compelled herself to reply to Mrs. Hoze, 
but she would gladly have gone elsewhere, to weep 
quietly, because everything passed so quickly, 
because the speck of the present was so small. 
Past, again, was the sweet charm of their con- 
versation at dinner about sympathy, a fragile 
intimacy amid the worldly splendours about them. 
Past that moment, never, never to return : life 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 99 

sped over it with its onflowing, a flood of all- 
obliterating water. Oh, the sorrow of it ; to think 
how quickly, like an intangible perfume, every- 
thing speeds away, everything that is dear to 
us. . . . 

Mrs. Hoze left her ; Suzette Van Attema came 
to talk to Cecile. She was in pink, and shining 
in all her aspect as if gold dust had rained over her, 
upon her movements, her eyes, her words. She 
spoke volubly to Cecile, telling interminable tales, 
to which Cecile did not always listen. Suddenly, 
through Suzette's prattling, Cecile heard the 
voices of two women whispering behind her ; she 
only caught a word here and there : 

" Emilie Hijdrecht, you know. . . ." 

"Only gossip, I think 5 Mrs. Hoze does not 
seem to heed it. . . ." 

" Ah ! I am afraid I know better." 

The voices were lost in the hum of others. 



100 ECSTASY. 



Cecile just caught a sound like Quaerts' name. 
Suzette asked suddenly : 

" Do you know young Mrs. Hijdrecht, auntie ? " 

" No." 

" Over there, with the diamonds. You know, 
they talk about her and Quaerts. Mamma does 
not believe it. He is a great flirt in any case. 
You sat next to him, did you not ? " 

Cecile suffered severely in the secrecy of her 
sensitiveness. She shrank entirely within her- 
self, doing all she could to appear different from 
what she was. Suzette saw nothing of her 
discomfiture. 

The men returned. Cecile looked to see 
whether Quaerts would speak to Mrs. Hijdrecht. 
But he wholly ignored her presence, and even, 
when he saw Suzette sitting with Cecile, came 
over to them to pay a compliment to Suzette, to 
whom he had not yet spoken. 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 101 



It was a relief for Cecile when she was able to 
go. She longed for solitude, to recover herself, 
to return from her abstraction. In her brougham 
she scarcely dared breathe, fearful of something 
she could not say what. When she reached home 
she felt a stifling heaviness which seemed to 
paralyse her, and with difficulty she passed up 
the stairway to her dressing-room. 

And yet, as she stepped, there fell over her, as 
from the roof of her house, a haze of protecting 
safety. Slowly she went up, her hand, holding 
a long glove, pressing the velvet banister of the 
stairway. She felt as if she were about to swoon. 

" But, my God .... I am fond of him, I love 
him, I love him ! " she whispered between her 
trembling lips, with sudden amazement. 

It was as in a rhythm of astonishment that she 
wearily mounted the stairway, higher and higher, 
in a still surprise of sudden light. 



LIBRARY 

UNIVERSITY OF CATJFORNIA 

SANTA BARBARA 



102 ECSTASY: 



" But I am fond of him, I love him, I love 
him ! " 

It sounded like a melody through her weari- 
ness. 

She reached her dressing-room, where Greta 
had lighted the gas ; she dragged herself inside. 
The door of the nursery stood half open ; she 
entered it, threw up the curtain of Christie's 
little bed, fell on her knees, and looked at 
the child. The boy partly awoke, still in the 
warmth of deep sleep ; he crept a little from 
between the sheets, laughed, threw his arms 
about Cecile's bare neck. 

" Mamma dear ! " 

She pressed him tightly in the embrace of her 
slender white arms ; she kissed his raspberry 
mouth, his drowsed eyes. Meantime the refrain 
sang on in her heart, right across the weariness, 
which broke, as it were, by the cot of her child : 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 103 



" I am fond of him, 1 love him, I love liim, I love 
him ! " 

IV. 

The mystery ! Suddenly, on the (Staircase, it had 
beamed open before her in her soul, like a great 
flower of light, a mystic rose with glistening 
leaves, into whose golden heart she now looked 
for the first time. The analj^sis of which she was 
so fond was no longer possible : this was the 
Enigma of Love, the eternal Enigma, that had 
beamed open within her, transfixing with its rays 
the width and breadth of her soul, in the midst 
of which it had burst forth like a sun in the 
universe ; it was no longer of use to ask, Why, 
why; it was no longer of use to ponder and 
dream on it ; it could only be accepted as the 
inexplicable phenomenon of the soul ; it was a 
creation of sentiment, of which the god who 



104 ECSTASY. 



created it would be as impossible to find in the 
essence of his reality as the God who had 
created the world out of chaos. It was the 
light breaking forth from the darkness ; it was, 
heaven disclosed above the earth. It existed, it 
was reality and no chimera ; for it was wholly 
and entirely within her; a sudden, incontestable, 
everlasting truth, a felt fact, so real in its 
ethereal incorporeity that it seemed to her as if 
before that moment she had never known, never 
thought, never felt. It was the beginning : the 
opening out of herself, the dawn of her soul's 
life, the joyful miracle, the miraculous inception 
of love, Love in the midst of her soul a centre 
sun. 

She passed the days which followed in self- 
contemplation, wandering through her dreams 
as through a new country, rich with great light, 
where distant landscapes paled into light, fan- 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 105 

tastic, like meteors in the night, quivering in in- 
candescence upon the horizon. It seemed to her 
as though she, a blithe, pious pilgrim, progressed 
along paradisial oases towards those distant 
scenes, there to find still more : the Goal. . . . 
Only a little while ago her prospect had been 
but narrow and forlorn — her children gone from 
her, her loneliness wrapping her about like a 
night — and now, now she saw before her a long 
road, a wide horizon, glittering the whole way 
in light ; nothing but light. . . . 

That was, all that ivas ! It was no fine poet's 
dream; it existed, it gleamed in her heart like 
a sacred jewel, like a mystic rose with stamina 
of light ! A freshness as of dew fell over her, 
over her whole life : over the life of her senses : 
over the life of outward appearances : over the 
life of her soul : over the life of the truth 
indwelling. The world was new, fresh with 



106 ECSTASY: 

young dew, the very Eden of Genesis, and her 
soul was a soul of newness, born anew in a 
metempsychosis of greater perfection, of closer 
approach to the ideal, that distant Goal — there, 
far away, hidden like a god in the sanctity of 
its ecstasy of light, in the radiance of its own 
being. 



Cecile did not go out for a few days ; she saw 
nobody. One morning she received a note ; it 
ran : 

" Mevrouw, 

" I do not know if you were offended at my 
mystical utterances. I cannot recall distinctly 
what I said, but I remember that you told me 
that I was going too for. I hope you have not 
taken my indiscretion amiss. It would be a 
great pleasure to me to come to see you. May 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 107 



I hope that you will permit me to call on you 
this afternoon ? 

•' With most respectful regards, 

" QUAEETS." 

As the bearer was waiting for a reply, she wrote 
back in answer : 

" Dear Sir, 

" I shall be pleased to see you this after- 
noon. 

" Cecile Van Even." 

When she was left alone she read the note 
over and over again ; she looked at the paper 
with a smile, looked at the handwriting. 

" How strange," she thought. " This note, 
and everything that happens. How strange 
everything is, everything, everything ! " 

She remained dreaming a long time, with the 



108 ECSTASY: 



note in her hand. Then she carefully folded it up, 
rose, walked up and down the room, sought in a 
bowl full of visiting cards, taking out two which 
she looked at for a long time. " Quaerts. ..." 
The name sounded differently from before. . . . 
How strange it all was ! And finally she locked 
away the letter and the two cards in a little 
empty drawer of her writing-table. 

She stayed at home, and sent the children 
out with the nurse. She hoped no one else 
would call, neither Mrs. Hoze nor the Van 
Attemas. And staring before her she reflected 
a long, long time. There was so much she did 
not understand : properly speaking she under- 
stood nothing. As far as she was concerned, 
she had fallen in love ; there was no analysing 
that, it must simply be accepted. But he, 
what did he feel, what were his emotions ? 

Her earlier antipathy ? Sport .... he was fond 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 109 

of sport slie remembered. . . . His visit, which 
was an impertinence. . . . He seemed to wish now 
to atone, not to call again without her permis- 
sion. His mystical conversation at the dinner- 
party. . . . And Mrs. Hijdrecht. . . . 

" How strange he is," she reflected. " I cannot 
understand him ; but I love him, I cannot help 
it. Love, love .... how strange that it should 
exist ! I never realised that it existed ! I am 
no longer myself : I am becoming some one else ! 
Why does he wish to see me ? . . . . And how sin- 
gular : I have been married, I have two children ! 
How singular, that I should have two children ! 
I feel just as if I had none. And yet, I am so 
fond of my little boys ! But the other thing 
is so beautiful, so bright, so transparent, as if 
that alone were truth. Perhaps love is the 
only truth. ... It is as if everything in and about 
me were turning to crystal ! " 



no ECSTASY. 



She looked around her, surprised and troubled 
that her surroundings should have remained the 
same : the rosewood furniture, the folds of the 
curtains, the withered landscape of the Scheve- 
ningen Eoad outside. But it snowed, still and 
softly, with great slow flakes which fell heavily, 
as if they would purify the world. The snow 
was fresh and new, but yet the snow was not 
real nature to her, who always saw her distant 
landscape, like a fata "morgana^ quivering in pure 
incandescence of light. 

At four o'clock he came. She saw him for the 
first time since the self-revelation which had 
flashed upon her astounded sense. And when he 
came she felt the singularly rapturous feeling 
that in her eyes he was a demi-god, that he 
perfected himself in her imagination, that every- 
thing in him was good. Now that he sat there 
before her, she saw him for the first time, and 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. Ill 

she saw that he was physically beautiful. The 
strength of his body was exalted into the strength 
of a young god, broad, and yet slender, sinewed 
as with the marble sinews of a statue; all this 
seeming so strange beneath the modernness of 
his frock coat. She saw his face completely for 
the first time. The cut of it was Eoman, the 
head that of a Roman emperor, with its sensual 
profile, its small full mouth, living red under the 
brown gold of his curled mustachios. The fore- 
head was low, the hair cut very close, like an 
enveloping black casque, and over that forehead, 
with its one line, hovered sadness, like a mist of 
age, strangely contradicting the wanton youthful- 
ness of mouth and chin. And then his eyes, 
which she already knew, his eyes of mystery, 
small and deep set, with the deeper depth of their 
pupils, which seemed now to veil themselves and 
then again to look out. 



112 ECSTASY: 



But strangest was, that from all his beauty, 
from all his being, from all his attitude, with his 
hands folded between his knees, there came out 
to her a magnetism which dominated her, draw- 
ing her irresistibly towards him ; as if she had 
suddenly, from the first moment of her self- 
revelation, become his, to serve him in all things. 
She felt this magnetism attracting her so violently 
that every power in her melted into heaviness 
and weakness. A weakness as if he might take 
her and carry her away, anywhere, wherever he 
wished ; a weakness as if she no longer possessed 
her own thoughts, as if she had become nothing 
— apart from him. 

She felt this intensely ; and then, then came 
the very strangest of all, when he continued 
to sit there, at a respectful distance, his eyes 
bearing a respectful look, his voice falling in 
respectful accents. That was the very strangest 



A STIWY OF TTAPPINESS. 113 

of all, that she saw him beneath her, while she 
felt him above her ; that she wished to be his 
inferior, and he seemed to consider her higher 
than himself. She did not know how suddenly 
she so intensely realised this, but she did realise 
it, and it was the first pain love gave her. 

" You are kind not to be angry with me," 
he began. 

There was often something caressing in his 
voice ; it was not clear, and now and then even 
a little broken, but this just gave it a certain 
charm of quality. 

" Why ? " she asked. 

" In the first place I did wrong to pay you 
that visit. Secondly, I was ill-mannered at Mrs. 
Hoze's dinner." 

" A whole catalogue of sins ! " she laughed. 

" Surely ! " he continued, " and you are very 
good to bear me no malice." 



114 ECSTASY: 



" Perhaps that is because I always hear so 
much that is good about you at Dolf s." 

" Have you never noticed anything odd in 
Dolf?" he asked. 

" No ; what do you mean ? " 

•'' Has it never struck you that he has more of 
an eye for the great combinations of political 
questions than for the details of his own sur- 
roundings ? " 

She looked at him, smiling, astonished. 

" Yes," she said. " You are right. You know 
him well." 

" Oh, we have known one another from boy- 
hood. It is carious ; he never sees the things 
that lie close to his hand ; he does not penetrate 
them. He is intellectually far-sighted." 

" Yes," she assented. 

" He does not know his wife, nor his daughters, 
nor Jules. He does not see what they have in 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 115 



them. He identifies each of them by means of 
a cypher fixed in his mind, which he forms out 
of the two most prominent traits of character, 
generally a little opposed, Mrs. van Attema 
seems to him to have a heart of gold, but to be 
not very practical : so much for her. Jules : a 
musical genius, but an untractable boy : settled." 

" Yes, he does not go very deeply into cha- 
racter," she said. " For there is a great deal 
more in Am(ilie. . . ." 

" And he is quite at sea about Jules," said 
Quaerts. " Jules is thoroughly tractable, and 
anything but a genius. Jules is nothing more 
than an exceedingly receptive boy, with a little 
rudimentary talent. And you .... he miscon- 
ceives you, too ! " 

" Me ? " 

" Entirely ! Do you know what he thinks of 

you?" 



116 ECSTASY: 



" No." 

" He thinks you — let me begin by telling you 
this — very, very sympathetic, and a dear little 
mother to your boys. But he thinks also that 
you are incapable of growing very fond of any 
one ; he thinks you a woman without passion, 
and melancholy for no reason, except for weari- 
ness. He thinks you weary yourself ! " 

She looked at him quite alarmed, and saw him 
laughing mischievously. 

" Never in my life am I weary ! " she said, 
and laughed, too, with full conviction. 

" Of course not ! " he replied. 

" How can you know ? '' she asked. 

" I feel it ! " he answered. " And, what is 
more, I know that the base of your character is 
not melancholy, not dark, but enthusiasm and 
light." 

" 1 am not so sure of that myself," she scarcely 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 117 

murmured, heavy, with that weakness within 
her; happy, that he should estimate her so 
exactly. ■' And do you, too," she continued, very 
airily, " think I am incapable of loving any one 
very much ? " 

" Now that is a matter of which I am not 
competent to judge," he said, with such frank- 
ness that his whole countenance suddenly grew 
younger, and the crease disappeared from his 
forehead. " I cannot tell that ! " 

" You seem to know a great deal about me 
otherwise," she laughed. 

" I have seen you so often already." 

" Barely four times." 

" That is often." 

She laughed brightly. 

" Is that a compliment ? " 

" It is meant for one," he replied. " You do 
not know how much it means to me to see you." 



118 ECSTASY. 



How much it meant to him to see her ! And 
she felt herself so small, so weak, and him so 
great, so perfect. With what decision he spoke, 
how certain he seemed of it all ! It almost 
saddened her that it meant so much to him to 
see her a single time. He placed her too high ; 
she did not wish to be placed so high. 

And that delicate fragile something hung 
between them again, as it had hung between 
them at the dinner. Then it had been broken 
by one ill-chosen word. Oh, that it might not 
be broken now ! " 

" And now let us talk about you ! '" she said, 
with affected frivolousness. " Do you know that 
you take all sorts of pains to penetrate me, and that 
I know nothing of you ? That cannot be fair." 

" If you knew how much I have given you 
already ! I give myself to you entirely ; from 
others I always conceal myself." 



,1 STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 119 

" Why ? " 

" Because I am afraid of the others ! " 

" Fott afraid?" 

" Yes. You think that I do not look as if I 
could feel afraid ? I have something. . . ." 

He hesitated. 

" Well ? " she asked. 

" I have something that is very dear to me, 
and about which I am very anxious, lest any 
should touch it.'' 

" And that is ? " 

" My soul. I am not afraid of your touching 
it, for you would not hurt it. On the contrary, 
I know that it is very safe with you." 

She would have liked once more, mechanically, 
to reproach him with his strangeness : she could 
not. But he guessed her thoughts. 

" You think me a very odd person, do you not ? 
But' how can I be otherwise with you ? " 



120 ECSTASY. 



She felt her love expanding within her heart, 
widening it to its full capacity within her. Her 
love was as a domain, in which he wandered. 

" I do not understand you yet ; I do not know 
you yet ! " she said softly. " I do not see you 
yet. ..." 

" Would you be in any way interested to know 
me, to see me ? '' 

" Surely." 

" Let me tell you then ; I should like to do so, 
it would be a great joy to me." 

" I am listening to you most attentively." 

" One question beforehand : You cannot endure 
an athlete ? " 

" On the contrary, I do not mind the display 
and development of strength so long as it is not 
too near me. Just as I like to hear a storm, when 
1 am safely within doors. And I can look at 
acrobats with great pleasure." 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 121 

He laughed quietly. 

"Nevertheless you held my particular pre- 
dilection in great aversion ? " 

" Why should you think that ? '' 

" I felt it." 

" You feel everything," she said, almost in 
alarm. "You are a dangerous person." 

" So many think that. Shall I tell you why 
you took a special aversion in my case ? " 

•■' Yes." 

" Because you did not understand it in me ; 
even though you may perhaps have observed that 
physical exercise is one of my strong passions." 

" I do not understand you at all." 

" I think you are right .... But do not let me 
talk so much of myself; I prefer to talk of you." 

" And I of you. So be gallant to me for the 
first time in our acquaintance, and speak .... of 
3'ourself." 



122 ECSTASY. 



He bowed, with a smile. 

" You will not think me tiresome ? " 

" Not at all. You were telling me of yourself. 
You were speaking of your love of exercise . . . . " 

"Ah! yes .... Can you understand that there 
are in me two distinct individuals ? " 

" Two distinct . . . . " 

'•Yes. My soul, my real self; and then .... 
there remains the other." 

" And what is that other ? " 

" Something ugly, something common, some- 
thing grossly primitive. In one word, the brute." 

She shrugged her shoulders lightly. 

" How dark you paint yourself. The same 
thing is more or less true of everybody." 

" Yes, but it troubles me more than I can tell 
you. 1 suffer ; the lower hurts my soul, the 
higher, more than the whole world hurts it. 
Now do you know why I feel such a sense of 



A STUDY OF UAPPINESS. 123 



security when I am with you ? It is because I 

do not feel the brute that is in me. . . . Let me 

go on a little longer, let rae shrive myself; it does 

me good to tell you all this. You thought I had 

only seen you four times? But I saw you so 

often formerly, in the theatre, in the street, 

everywhere. There was always something strange 

for me when I saw you in the midst of accidental 

surroundings. And always, when I looked at you, 

I felt as if I were lifted to something more 

beautiful. I cannot express myself more clearly. 

There is something in your face, in your eyes, 

in your movements, I do not know what, but 

something better than in other people, something 

that addressed itself, most eloquently, to my soul 

only. All this is so subtle and so strange .... 

But you are no doubt thinking again that I am 

going too far, are you not ? Or that I am 

raving ? "' 



124 ECSTASY. 



" Certainly, I never should have thought you 
such an idealist, such a sensitivist" said Cecile 
softly. 

" Have I leave to speak to you like this ? " 

" Why not ? " she asked, to escape the necessity 
of replying directly. 

" You might possibly fear lest I should com- 
promise you. ..." 

"I do not fear that for an instant ! " she re- 
plied, haughtily, as in utter contempt of the world. 

They were silent a moment. That delicate 
fragile thing, that might so easily break, still 
hung between them, thin, like a gossamer, lightly 
joining them together. An atmosphere of 
embarrassment hovered about them. They felt 
that the words which had passed between them 
were full of significance. Cecile waited for him 
to continue ; but as he was silent she boldly took 
up the conversation : 



A STUDY OF ITAPPIKESS. 125 



"On the contrary, I value it highly that you 
have spoken to me like this. You were right ; 
you have indeed given me much of yourself. I 
wish to assure you of my sympathy. I believe I 
understand you better how that I see you better." 

" I want very much to ask you something," he 
said, " but I dare not." 

She smiled to encourage him. 

" No, really I dare not," he repeated. 

" Shall I guess ? " Cecile asked, jestingly. 

" Yes ; what do you think it is ? " 

She glanced round the room until her eye 
rested on the little table covered with books. 

" The loan of Emerson's Essays ? " she 
hazarded. 

But Quaerts shook his head and laughed. 

" No, thank you," he said. " I have bought 
the volume long ago. No, no ; it is a much 
greater favour than the loan of a book." 



126 ECSTASY. 



" Be bold then, and ask it," Cecile went on, 
still jestingly. 

" I dare not," he said again. " I should not 
know how to put my request into words." 

She looked at him earnestly, into his eyes, 
gazing steadily upon her, and then she said : 

" I know what you want to ask me, but I will 
not say it. You must do that : so seek your 
words." 

" If you know, will you permit me then to say 
it?" 

" Yes, for if my surmise is correct, it is nothing 
that you may not ask." 

" And yet it would be a great favour .... But 
let me warn you beforehand that I look upon m}'^- 
self as some one of a much lower order than you." 

A shadow passed across her face, her mouth 
had a little contraction of pain, and she pressed 
him, a little unnerved : 



A STUDY OF IIAPPIN'ESS. 127 



" I beg you, ask. Just ask me simply." 

" It is a wish, then, that sympathy were sealed 
between you and me. Would you allow me to 
come to you when I am unhappy ? I always 
feel so happy in your presence, so soothed, so 
different from the state of ordinary life, for with 
you I live only my better, my true self — you 
know what I mean." 

Everything melted again within her into weal<- 
ness and heaviness ; he placed her upon too high a 
pedestal ; she was happy, because of what he asked 
her, but sad, that he felt himself less than she. 

" Very well," she said, nevertheless, with a clear 
voice. " It is as you wish." 

And she gave him her hand, her beautiful, long, 
white hand, where on one white finger gleamed 
the sparks of jewels, white and blue. A moment, 
very reverently, he pressed her finger-tips between 
his own. 



128 ECSTASY: 



" Thank you," he said in a hushed voice, a 
voice that was a little broken. 

" Are you often unhappy ? " asked Cecile. 

" Always . . . ." he replied, almost humbly, and 
as though embaiTassed at having to confess it. 
" I do not know what it means, only that it has 
always been so. And yet from my childhood I 
have enjoyed much that people call happiness. 
But yet, yet .... I suffer through myself. It is 
I who do myself the most hurt. And after that 
the world .... and I must always hide myself. 
To the world I only show the individual who 
rides and fences and hunts, who goes into 
society and is dangerous for young married 
women . . . ." 

He laughed with his bad low laugh, looking 
aslant into her eyes ; she remained calmly gazing 
at him. 

" Beyond that I give them nothing. I hate 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 129 



them ; I have nothing in common with them, 
thank God!" 

" You are too proud," said Cecile. " Each of 
those people has his own sorrow, just as you have ; 
the one suffers a little more subtly, the other 
a little more coarsely ; but they all suffer. And 
in that they all resemble yourself." 

'• Each taken by himself, perhaps ! But that 
is not how I take them ; I take them in the lump, 
and I hate them. Do not you ? " 

" No," she said calmly. " I do not believe I 
am capable of hating." 

" You are strong within yourself. You suffice 
to yourself." 

" No, no, not that, really not ; but you .... you 
are unjust towards the world." 

" Possibly : why does it always give me pain ? 
Alone with you I forget that it exists, the out- 
side world. Do you understand now why I was 

9 



130 ECSTASY: 



so sorry to see you at Mrs. Hoze's ? You seemed 
to me to have lowered yourself. And it was 
because .... because of this peculiarity I saw in 
you that I did not seek your acquaintance earlier. 
This acquaintance was fatally bound to come, and 
so I waited . . . ." 

Fate, what would it bring her ? thought Cecile. 
But she could not think deeply ; she seemed to 
herself to be dreaming of beautiful and subtle 
things which did not exist for other people, 
which only floated between them two. There 
was no longer need to look upon them as illu- 
sions, it was as if she had overtaken the future ! 
One short moment only did this endure as 
happiness ; then again she felt pain, on account 
of his reverence. 

VI. 

He was gone and she was alone, waiting for 
the children. She neglected to ring for the 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 131 



lamp to he lighted, and the twilight of the late 
afternoon darkened in the room. She sat motion- 
less, and looked out before her at the withered 
trees. 

" Why should I not be happy ? " she thought. 
" He is happy with me ; he is himself with me 
only ; he cannot be so among other people. Why 
then can / not be happy ? " 

She felt pain ; her soul suffered, it seemed to 
her for the first time. This, perhaps, was because 
now for the first time her soul had not been 
itself but another. It seemed to her that another 
woman must have spoken to him, to Quaerts, 
just now. An exalted woman : a woman of 
illusions — the woman, in fact, he saw in her, and 
not the woman she was : lowly, a woman of love. 
Ah, she had had to restrain herself not to ask 
him : " Why do you speak to me like that ? 
Why do you raise up your beautiful thoughts to 



132 ECSTASY: 



me? Why do you not rather let them drip 
down upon me ? For see, I do not stand so 
high as you think ; and see, I am at your feet, 
and my eyes seek you above me." 

Should she have told him that she deceived 
him ? Should she have asked him : " How is it 
that I lower myself when I mix with other 
people ? What then do you see in me ? I am 
only a woman, a woman of feebleness and dreams. 
I have come to love you, I do not know why." 
Should she have opened his eyes and said to him : 
" Look upon your own soul in a mirror ; look 
upon yourself and see how you are a god walking 
upon the earth : a god who knows everything 
because he feels it, feels it because he knows 
it. . . ." Everything ? . . . . No .... not every- 
thing : for he deceived himself, this god, and 
thought to find an equal in her, who was but his 
creature. Should she have declared all this, at 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 133 

the cost of her modesty and his happiness ? 
For his happiness — she felt perfectly assured 
— -lay in seeing her in the way that he saw 
her. 

" With me he is happy ! " she thought. " And 
sympathy is sealed between us. . . . It was not 
friendship, nor did he speak of love ; he called 
it simply sympathy. . . . With me he feels only 
his real self, and not that other .... the brute 
that is in him .... the brute. ..." 

Then there came drifting over her a gloom as 
of gathering clouds, and she shuddered before 
that which suddenly rolled through her : a 
broad stream of blackness, as though its waters 
were filled with mud, which bubbled up in 
troubled rings, growing larger and larger. She 
took fear before this stream, and tried not to 
see it ; but it sullied all her landscapes — so 
bright before, with their horizons of light — 



134 ECSTASY: 



now with a sky of ink smeared above, like filthy 
night. 

" How high he thinks, how noble his thoughts 
are ! " Cecile still forced herself to imagine, in 
spite of ... . 

But the magic was gone : her admiration of 
his lofty thoughts tumbled away into an abyss ; 
then suddenly, by a lightning flash through the 
night of that inken sky, she saw clearly that 
his exalted intellect was a supreme sorrow to 
her. 

It had become quite dark in the room. Cecile, 
afraid of the lightning which revealed her to 
herself, fell back upon the cushions of the settee. 
She hid her face in her hands, pressing her eyes, 
as though she wished, after this moment of self- 
revelation, to be blind for ever. 

But demoniacally it raged through her, a 
hurricane of hell, a storm of pash^ion, which blew 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 135 



up out of the durkness of the landscape, lashing 
up the tossed waves of the foul stream toward 
the sky of ink. 

" Oh ! " she moaned. " I am unworthy of 
him .... unworthy. . . ." 



CHAPTER III. 

I. 

QuAERTS lived on the Plein, above a tailor, where 
he occupied two small rooms, furnished in the 
most ordinary style. He might have lived far 
better, but he was indifferent to comfort; he 
never gave it a thought in his own place ; when 
he came across it elsewhere it did not attract 
him. But it troubled Jules that Quaerts should 
live in this fashion, and the boy had long wished 
to embellish his rooms. He was busy at this 
moment hanging some trophies on an armour- 
rack, standing on a pair of steps, humming a tune 
he remembered from an opera. Quaerts gave no 

heed to what Jules was doing ; he lay immobile 
136 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 137 

on the sofa, at full length, in his flannel, unshorn, 
his eyes fixed upon the florid decoration of the 
Palace of Justice, tracing a background of archi- 
tecture behind the withered trees of the Plein. 

" Look, Taco, will this do ? " asked Jules, 
after hanging an Algerian sabre between two 
creeses, and draping the folds of a Javanese sarong 
between. 

" Beautifully," answered Quaerts. But he did 
not look at the trophies, and continued gazing at 
the Palace. He lay motionless. There was no 
thought in him ; only listless dissatisfaction with 
himself, and consequent sadness. P^or three weeks 
he had led a life of debauch, to deaden conscious- 
ness, or perhaps he did not know precisely what : 
something that was in him, something that was 
fine, but tiresome in ordinary life. He had begun 
with shooting, in North Brabant, over a friend's 
land. It lasted a week ; there were eight of 



138 ECSTASY: 



them ; sport in the open air, followed by sporting 
dinners, with not only a great deal of wine, 
certainly the best, but still more geneva, also very 
fine, like a liqueur. Turbulent excursions on 
horseback in the neighbourhood; madnesses perpe- 
trated at a farm — the peasant-woman carried round 
in a barrel, and locked up in the cowhouse — 
mischievous exploits worthy only of unruly boys 
and savages ; at the end of it all, in a police-court, 
a summons, with a fine and damages. Wound up 
to a pitch of excitement with too much sport, too 
much oxygen, and too much wine, five of the 
pack, among whom was Quaerts, had gone on to 
Brussels. There they had stayed almost a fort- 
night, leading a life of continual excess — cham- 
pagne and larking ; a wild joy of living, which, 
natural enough at first, has in the end to be 
screwed up and screwed up higher still, to make 
it last a couple of days longer; the last nights 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 139 



spent weariedly over ecartc, with none but the 
fixed idea of winning, the exhaustion of all their 
violence already pulsing through their bodies, like 
nervous relaxation, their eyes gazing without 
expression upon the cards of the game. 

During that time Quaerts had only once 
thought of Cecile ; and he had not followed up 
the thought. She had no doubt arisen three or 
four times in his brain, a vague image, white and 
transparent ; an apparition which had vanished 
again immediately, leaving no trace of its 
passage. All this time too he had not written 
to her, and it had only once struck him that 
a silence of three weeks, after their last conver- 
sation, must at least seem strange to her. There 
it had remained. He was back now ; he had 
lain three days long at home on his bed, on his 
sofa, tired, feverish, dissatisfied, disgusted with 
everything, everything ; then one morning, re- 



140 ECSTASY. 



membering that it was Wednesday, he had 
thought of Jules and his riding-lesson. 

He sent for Jules, but too lazy to shave or dress, 
he remained lying where he was. And he still 
lay there, realising nothing. There before him 
was the Palace. Next to it the Privy Council, 
At the side he could see the White Club, and 
William the Silent standing on his pedestal in 
the middle of the Plein : that was all exceedingly 
interesting. And Jules was hanging up trophies : 
also interesting. And the most interesting of 
all was the stupid life he had been leading. 
What tension to give the lie to his ennui ! Had 
he really amused himself during that time ? 
No ; he had made a pretence of being amused : 
the peasant-woman episode and the ecart6 ; the 
sport had been bad ; the wine good, but he had 
drauk too much of it. And then that particu- 
larly filthy chamjDagne .... at Brussels. . . . And 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 141 

what then? He had absolute need of it, of a 
life like that, of sport and wild enjoyment ; it 
served to balance the other thing that was in 
him, that was tiresome for him in ordinary life. 
But why was it not possible to preserve some 
mean, in one as well as in the other ? He was 
well equipped for ordinary life, and with that 
he possessed something in addition; why could 
he not remain balanced between those two 
spheres of disposition ? Why was he always 
tossed from one to the other, as a thing be- 
longing to neither ? How fine he could have 
made his life with only the least tact, the least 
self-restraint ! How he might have lived in a 
healthy joy of purified animal existence, tem- 
pered by a higher joyousness of soul ! But tact, 
self-restraint — he had none of these ; he lived 
according to his impulses, always in extremes ; 
he was incapable of half indulgences. And in 



142 ECSTASY. 



this lay his pride as well as his regret ; his pride 
that he felt " wholly " whatever he felt, that he 
was unable to make terms with his emotions ; 
and his regret, that he could not make terms 
and bring into harmony the elements which 
warred for ever within him. 

When he had met Cecile, and had seen her 
again, and yet once more, he had felt himself 
carried wholly to the one extremity, the summit 
of exaltation, of pure crystal sympathy, in which 
the circle of his atmosphere — as he had said — 
glided over hers, a caress of pure chastity and 
spirituality, as two stars, spinning closer to- 
gether, might mingle their atmospheres for a 
moment, like breaths. What smiling happiness 
had been within his reach, as a grace from 
Heaven ! 

Then, then, he had felt himself toppling down, 
as if he had rocked over the balancing-point ; and 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 143 



he had longed for the earthly, for great sim- 
plicity of emotion, for primitive enjoyment of 
life, for flesh and blood. He remembered now 
how, two days after his last conversation with 
Cecile, he had seen Emilie Hijdrecht, here in his 
rooms, where at length, stung by his neglect, she 
had ventured to come to see him one evening, 
heedless of all caution. With a line of cruelty 
round his mouth he recalled how she had wept 
at his knees, how in her jealousy she had com- 
plained against Cecile, how he had bidden her 
be silent, and not pronounce Cecile's name. 
Then, their mad embrace, an embrace of cruelty : 
cruelty on her part against the man whom time 
after time she lost when she thought him secured 
for good and all, whom she could not understand, 
to whom she clung with all the violence of her 
brutal passion, a purely animal passion of primi- 
tive times ; cruelty on his part against the woman 



144 ECSTASY: 



he despised, while in his passion he almost stifled 
her in his embrace. 

II. 
And what then? How to find the mean between 
the two poles of his nature. He shrugged his 
shoulders. He knew he could never find it. He 
lacked some quality, or a certain power, necessary 
to find it. He could do nothing but allow 
himself to swing to and fro. Very well then : he 
would let himself swing. There was nothing else 
to do. For now, in the lassitude following his 
outburst of savagery, he began to experience 
again an ardent longing, like some one who, after 
a long evening passed in a ball-room, heavy with 
foul air of gaslight and a stifling crush and 
oppression of human breath, craves a high heaven 
and width of atmosphere ; a passionate longing 
towards Cecile. And he smiled, glad that he 
knew her, that he was able to go to her, that 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 145 



it was his privilege to enter into the chaste 

inclosure of her sanctity, as into a temple ; he 

smiled, glad that he felt this longing, and proud, 

exalting himself above all other men. Already 

he tasted the pleasure of confessing to her how 

he had lived during the last three weeks ; and 

already he heard her voice, although he could 

not distinguish the words .... 

Jules descended from the ladder. He was 

disappointed that Quaerts had not followed his 

arrangement of the weapons upon the rack, and 

his drapery of the stuffs around them. But he 

had quietly continued his work, and now that it 

was finished, he came down and went quietly to 

sit upon the floor, with his head against the 

foot of the sofa where his friend lay thinking. 

Jules said never a word ; he looked straight 

before him, a little sulkily, knowing that Quaerts 

was looking at him. 

10 



146 ECSTASY: 



" Jules ! " said Quaerts. 

But Jules did not answer, still staring. 

" Tell me, Jules ! Why do you like me so 
much ? " 

" How should I know ? " answered Jules, with 
thin lips. 

" Don't you know ? " 

"No. How can you know why you are fond 
of any one ? " 

" You ought not to be so fond of me, Jules. 
It's not good." 

" Very well, I will be less so in the future." 

Jules rose suddenly, and took his hat. He 
held out his hand, but, laughing, Quaerts held 
him. 

" You see, scarcely any one is fond of me, 
save .... you and your father. Now I know why 
your father is fond of me, but not why you are." 

" You are always wanting to know something." 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 147 

" Is that so very wrong ? " 

" Certainly. You will never be satisfied . 
Mamma always says that no one knows any- 
thing." 

" And you ? " 

" I . . . . nothing . . . ." 

" What do you mean .... nothing ? " 

" I know nothing at all ... . Let me go." 

" Are you cross, Jules ? " 

" No ; but I have an engagement." 

" Can't you wait until I have dressed, then we 
can go together ? I am going to Aunt Cecile's." 

Jules objected. 

" Very well, only hurry." 

Quaerts rose up. He now saw the arrange- 
ment of the weapons, about which he had quite 
forgotten : " You have done it very prettriy, 
Jules," he said, admiringly. " Thank you very 
much." 



148 ECSTASY. 



Jules did not answer, and Quaerts went 
through into his dressing-room. The lad sat 
down on the sofa, bolt upright, looking out upon 
the Palace, across the bareness of the withered 
trees. His eyes filled with great round tears, 
which fell down. Stitf and motionless, he 
wept. 

III. 

Cecile had passed those same three weeks in 
a state of ignorance which had filled her with 
pain. Through Dolf she had indeed heard that 
Quaerts was away shooting, but beyond that 
nothing. A thrill of joy electrified her when 
the door behind the screen opened, and she 
saw him enter the room. He stood before her 
before she could recover herself, and as she was 
trembling she did not rise up, but still sitting, 
reached out her hand to him, her fingers 
quivering imperceptibly. 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 149 

" I have been out of tovra," he begfin. 

" So I heard " 

" Have you been well all this time ? " 

" Quite well, thank you." 

He noticed she was somewhat pale, that she 
had a light blue shadow under her eyes, and 
that there was lassitude in all her movements. 
But he thought there was nothing extraordinary 
in that, or that perhaps she seemed pale in the 
cream colour of her soft white dress, like silken 
wool, even as her form was yet slighter in the 
constraint of the scarf about her waist, witli its 
long white fringe falling to her feet. She sat 
alone with Christie, the child upon his footstool 
with his head in her lap, a picture-book upon his 
knees. 

" You two are a perfect Madonna and Child," 
said Quaerts. 

" Little Dolf is gone out to walk with his 



150 ECSTASY: 



godfather," she said, looking fondly upon her 
child, and gently motioning to him. 

At which bidding the little boy stood up and 
shyly approached Quaerts, offering him a tiny 
hand. Quaerts took him up and set him upon 
his knee. 

" How light he is ! " 

" He is not strong," said Cecile. 

" You codle him too much." 

She laughed. 

" Pedagogue ! " she said, bantering. " How do 
I codle him ? " 

" I always find him nestling against your skirts. 
He must come with me one of these days. You 
should let him try some gymnastics." 

" Jules horse-riding and Christie gymnastics ! " 
she exclaimed. 

" Yes .... sport in fact," he answered, with a 
look of malice. 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 151 



She looked back at him, and sympathy smiled 
from the depths of her gold-grey eyes. He felt 
thoroughly happy, and with the child still upon 
his knees he said : 

" I come to confess to you .... Lady ! " 

Then, as though startled, he put the child 
away from him. 

'^ To confess ? " 

*' Yes .... Christie, go back to mamma ; I 
must not keep you by me any longer." 

" Very well," said Christie, with great wonder- 
ing eyes. 

" The child would forgive too easily," said 
Quaerts. 

" And I, have I anything to forgive you ? " she 
asked. 

" I shall be only too happy if you will see 
it in that light." 

" Begin then." 



152 ECSTASY: 

" Le 'petit Jesus . . . ." he hesitated. 

Cecile stood up ; she took the child, Idssed 
him, and sat him on a stool by the window with 
his picture-book. Then she came back to the 
chaise-longue. 

" He will not hear . . . ." 

And Quaerts began the story, choosing his 
words ; he spoke of the shooting, the esca- 
pades, the peasant-woman, and of Brussels. She 
listened attentively, with dread in her eyes at 
the violence of such a life, the echo of which 
reverberated in his words, even though the 
echo was softened by his reverence. 

" And is all this a sinfulness needing absolu- 
tion ? " she asked, when it was finished. 

"Is it not?" 

" I am no madonna, but .... a woman whose 
ideas have been somewhat emancipated. If you 
were happy in what you did it was no sin, for 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 153 



happiness is good .... Were you happy then, 
I ask you ? For in that case wliat you did 
was .... good.'' 

" Happy ? " he asked. 

" Yes." 

" No .... therefore I have sinned, sinned 
against myself, have I not ? Forgive me .... 
Lady." 

She was troubled at the sound of his voice, 
which, caressively broken, wrapped her about in a 
charm ; she was troubled to see him sitting 
there, filling with his personality a place in her 
room beside her. In one second she lived 
whole hours, feeling her calm love heavy within 
her, a not oppressive weight, feeling a longing 
to throw her arms about him and tell him 
that she worshipped him ; feeling also fervent 
sorrow at what he had confessed : that again 
he had been unhappy. Hardly able to 



154 ECi^iTASY: 



control herself in her compassion, she stood up, 
stepped towards him, and laid her hand upon his 
shoulder : 

" Tell me, do you mean all this ? Is it all 
true ? Is it true that you have lived as you say, 
and yet have not been happy ? " 

" Perfectly true, on my soul." 

" Then why did you do it ? " 

" I CO aid not do otherwise." 

" You were unable to force yourself to moder- 
ation ? " 

" Absolutely." 

" Then I should like to teach you." 

" And I should not like to learn, from you. 
For it is and always will be my best happiness 
to be immoderate also where you are concerned ; 
excessive in the emotion of my secret self, my 
soul, just as I have now been excessive in the 
grossness of my evident self." 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 155 



Her eyes grew dim, she shook her head, her 
hand still upon his shoulder. 

" That is not right," she said, deeply dis- 
tressed. 

" It is a joy . . . . for both those beings. I must 
be so .... I cannot but be immoderate .... both 
demand it." 

" But that is not right," she insisted. " Pure 
enjoyment. ..." 

" The lowest, but also the highest. . . ." 

A shiver passed through her, a deadly fear for 
him. 

" No, no," she persisted. " Do not think that. 
Do not do it. Neither the one nor the other. 
Really, it is all wrong. Pure joy, unbridled joy, 
even the highest, is not good. In that way you 
force your life. When you speak so I am afraid 
for your sake. Try to recover some balance. 
You have so many possibilities of being happy." 



156 ECSTASY: 



" Oh, yes " 

" Yes ; but what I mean is, do not be fanatical. 
And .... and also, for the love of God, do not 
again run so madly after pleasure." 

He looked up at her, he saw her beseeching 
him with her eyes, with the expression of her 
face, with her whole attitude as she stood bending 
slightly forward. He saw her beseeching him, 
as he heard her, and then he knew that she 
loved him. A feeling of bright rapture came 
upon him, as if something high descended upon 
him to guide him. He did not stir — he felt her 
hand thrilling at his shoulder — afraid, lest with 
the smallest movement he should drive that 
rapture away. It did not occur to him for a 
moment to speak a word of tenderness to her, or 
to take her in his arms and press her to him ; 
she was so transfigured in his eyes that any 
such profane desire remained far away from him. 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 157 

Yet he felt at that moment that he loved her ; 
but as he had never yet loved any before ; ho 
completely and exclusively, with the noblest that 
is hidden away in the soul, often unknown even 
to itself. He felt that he loved her with new- 
born feelings of frank youth and fresh vigour", 
and pure unselfishness. And it seemed to him 
that it was all a dream of something which did 
not exist, a dream lightly woven about him, a 
web of sunbeams. 

" Lady ! " he whispered. " Forgive me. . . ." 

" Promise then. . . ." 

" Willingly, but I shall not be able to keep my 
promise. I am weak. . . .' 

" No." 

" Ah, I am. But I give my promise, and 1 
promise also to try my utmost to keep it. Will 
you forgive me now ? " 

She nodded to him : her smile fell on him like 



158 ECSTASY: 

a burst of sunlight. Then she went to the child, 
took him in her arms, and brought him to 
Quaerts : 

" Put your arms round his neck, Christie, and 
give him a kiss." 

He took the child from her ; he threw his little 
arms about his neck, and kissed him on the 
forehead. 

" Le 'petit Jesus ! " he whispered. 

IV. 
They stayed long talking to one another, and 
no one came to disturb them. The child had 
gone back to sit by the window. Twilight began 
to strew pale ashes in the room. He saw Cecile 
sitting there, sweetly white; the melody of her 
half-breathed words came rippling towards him 
benignly. They talked of many things : of 
Emerson ; Van Eeden's new poem in the Nieuwe 
Gids ; views of life. He accepted a cup of tea 



A STUDY OF II Am NESS. 159 

only for the pleasure of seeing her move with the 
febrile lines of her graciousness, standing before 
the tea table in the corner. In her white dress 
there was something about her of marble grown 
lissom with inspiration and warm life. He sat 
motionless, listening reverentl}^, swathed in a still 
rapture of delight ; a mood which defied analysis, 
without a visible origin, springing from their 
sympathetic fellowship as a flower springs from 
an invisible seed after a drop of rain and a kiss 
of the sunshine. She too was happy ; she no 
longer felt the pain his reverence had caused her. ' 
True she was a little sad by reason of what he 
had told her, but she was happy for the sake of 
the speck of the present. Nor longer did she see 
that dark stream, that inken sky, that night 
landscape ; everything now was light and calm, 
and happiness breathed about her, tangible, 
a living caress. Sometimes they ceased speaking 



160 ECSTASY. 



and looked towards the child, reading ; or he 
would ask them something and they would 
answer. Then they smiled one to another, 
because the child was so good and did not disturb 
them. 

" If only this could continue for ever," he 
ventured to say, though still fearing lest a word 
might break the crystalline transparency of their 
happiness. " If you could only see into me now, 
how all in me is peace. I do not know why, but 
so it is. Perhaps because of your forgiveness. 
Forgiveness is a thing so dear to people of weak 
character. 

" But I cannot think your character weak. It 
is not. You tell me you know sometimes how 
to place yourself above ordinary life, whence you 
can look down upon its griefs as on a comedy 
which makes one laugh sadly for a minute, but 
which is not true. I too believe that life as we 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 161 

see it is only a symbol of a true life concealed be- 
neath it, which we do not see. But I cannot, for 
my part, rise beyond the symbol, while you can. 
Therefore you are strong and know yourself great." 

" How strange, when I just think myself weak, 
and you great and powerful. You dare to be 
what you are, in all your harmony ; I always hide, 
and am afraid of people individually, though, 
sometimes I am able to rise above life in the 
mass. But these are riddles which it is vain for 
me to attempt to solve, and though I have not 
the power to solve them, at this moment I feel 
nothing but happiness. Surely I may say that 
once, audibly, may I not — audibly ? " 

She smiled to him in the blessedness of making 
him happy. 

" It is the first time I have felt happy in this 

way," he continued. " Indeed it is the first time 

1 have felt happy at all. . . ." 

11 



162 ECSTASY: 



" Then do not analyse it." 

" There is no need. It is standing before me 
in all its simplicity. Do you know why I am 
happy ? " 

" Do not analyse it. . . ." she repeated, 
frightened. 

" No," he said, " but may I tell you, without 
analysis ? " 

" No, do not," she stammered, " because .... 
because I know. . . ." 

She besought him, very pale, with folded 
trembhng hands. The child looked at them ; he 
had closed his book, and come to sit down on 
his stool by his mother, with a look of merry 
sagacity in his pale blue eyes. 

" Then I obey you," said Quaerts, with some 
difficulty. 

And they were both silent, their eyes expanded 
as with the lustre of a vision. It seemed to be 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 163 

gently beaming about them, through the pale 
ashen twilight. 

V. 
This evening Cecile had written a great deal 
into her diary, and now she paced up and down 
in her room, with locked hands hanging down^ 
her head slightly bowed, and with a fixed look. 
There was anxiety about her mouth. Before her 
was the vision, as she had conceived it. He 
loved her with his soul alone, not as a woman 
who is pretty and good ; with a higher love than 
that, with the finest fibre of his being — his real 
being — with supreme emotion of the very essence 
of his deepest soul. Thus she felt that he had 
loved her and no other way, with contemplation, 
with adoration. Thus she felt it in truth through 
that identity of sympathy by which each of them 
knew what passed within the other. And that 
was his happiness — his first, as he said — thus 



164 ECSTASY: 



to love her, and no other wise. Oh, she well 

understood him. She understood his illusion, 

what he saw in her ; and now she knew that, if 

she really wished to love him for his, and not for 

her own sake, she must seem no other before 

him, she must preserve his illusion of a woman 

not of flesh, who desired nothing of the earth, 

as other women were to him ; who should be soul 

alone ; a sister soul to his. But while she saw 

before her this vision of her love, calm and 

radiant, she saw also the struggle which awaited 

her ; the struggle with herself, with her own 

distress : distress that he thought upon her so 

highly, and named her madonna, the while she 

longed only to be lowly and his slave. She would 

have to seem the woman he saw in her, for the 

sake of his happiness, and the part would be a 

heavy one for her to support, for she loved him, 

ah ! with such simplicity, with all her woman's 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 1G5 

heart, wishing to give herself to him entirely, 
as only once in her life a woman gives herself, 
whatever the sacrifice might cost her, the sacrifice 
made in ignorance of herself, and perhaps later to 
be made in bitterness and sorrow. The outward 
appearance of her conduct and her inward con- 
sciousness of herself; the conflict of these would 
fall heavily upon her, but she thought upon the 
struggle with a smile, with joy beaming through 
her heart, for this bitterness would be endured for 
him^ deliberately for him, alone for him. Oh, 
the luxury to suffer for one loved as she loved 
him ; to be tortured with longing within oneself, 
that he might not come to her with the embrace 
of his arms and the kiss of his mouth ; and to 
feel that the torture was for the sake of his 
happiness, his ! To feel that she loved him 
sufficiently to go to him with wide arms and beg 
for alms of his caresses ; but also to feel that she 



166 ECSTASY: 



had more love for him than that, and higher, 
and that — not out of pride or bashfulness, which 
are really egoism, but solely from sacrifice of 
herself to his happiness — she never would, never 
could, be a suppliant in that sense. 

To suffer, to suffer for him ! To wear a sword 
through her soul for him ! To be a martyr for 
her god, for whom there was no happiness save 
through her martyrdom ! And she had passed 
her life, long, long years, without having felt 
until this day that such luxury could exist, not 
as fantasy in rhymes, but as reality in her heart. 
She had been a young girl, and had read the 
poets and what they rhyme of love, and she had 
thought she understood it all, with a subtle com- 
prehension ; yet without ever having had the 
least acquaintance with the emotion itself She 
had been a young woman, had been married, had 
borne children. Her married life dashed through 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 107 

her mind in a lightning-flash of memory, and she 
stopped still before the portrait of her dead 
husband, standing there on its easel, draped in 
sombre plush. The mask it wore was of am- 
bition : an austere, refined face, with features 
sharp, as if engraved in fine steel ; coldly intelli- 
gent eyes with a fixed portrait look ; thin, clean- 
shaven lips, closed firmly like a lock. Her 
husband ! And she still lived in the same house 
where she had lived with him, where she had had 
to receive her many guests when he was Foreign 
Minister. Her receptions and dinners flickered 
up in lier mind, scenes of worldliness, and she 
clearly recalled her husband's eye taking in 
everything with a quick glance of approval or 
condemnation : the arrangement of her rooms, 
her dress, the ordering of her parties. Her 
man-iage had not been an unhappy one; her 
husband was a little cold and unexpansive. 



168 ECSTASY: 



wrapped wholly in his ambition, but he was 
attached to her after his fashion, even with 
tenderness ; she too had been fond of him ; she 
thought at the tinie that she was marrying him 
for love : her dependent womanliness loving the 
male, the master. Of a delicate constitution, 
probably undermined by excessive brain-work, he 
had died after a short illness. Cecile remem- 
bered her sorrow, her loneliness with the two 
children, about whom he had already feared lest 
she should spoil them. And her loneliness had 
been sweet to her, among the clouds of her 
dreaming. . . . 

This portrait — a costly life-size photograph ; a 
carbon impression dark with a Rembrandt shadow 
— why had she never had it copied in oils, as she 
had at first intended ? The intention had died 
down of itself; for months she had not thought 
of the matter, now suddenly it recurred to her. . . . 



A ST LTD Y OF HAPPINESS. 169 

And she felt no self-reproach or remorse. She 
would not now have it done. It was well enough 
as it was. She thought of the dead man without 
sorrow. She had never had cause to complain 
of him ; he had never had anything with which 
to reproach her. And now she was free ; she 
became conscious of the fact with exultation. 
Free to feel what she would. Her freedom 
arched above her as a blue firmament in which 
new love ascended with a dove's immaculate 
flight. Freedom, air, light ! She turned away 
from the portrait with a smile of rapture ; she 
thrust her arms above her head as if she would 
measure her freedom, the width of the air, as 
if she would go to meet the light. Love, she 
was in love ! There was nothing but love ; 
nothing but the harmony of their souls, the 
harmony of her handmaiden's soul with the soul of 
her god, an exile upon the earth. Oh, how blessed 



170 ECSTASY: 



that this harmony couhl exist between him so 
exalted and her so lowly ! But he must not see 
her lowliness ; she must remain the madonna, 
for his sake, in the martyrdom of his reverence, 
in the dizziness of the high place to which he 
raised her, beside himself. She felt this dizziness 
shuddering about her like rings of light. She 
threw herself upon her sofa, and locked her 
lingers; her eyelids quivered, and then she 
remained staring towards some very distant 
point. 

VI. 
Jules had been away from school for a day or 
two with a 'bad headache, which had made him 
look pale, and given him an air of sadness ; but 
he was a little better now, and growing weary 
of his own room he went downstairs to the empty 
drawing-room, and sat at the piano. Papa was 
at work in his study, but it would not interfere 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 171 



with papa if he played. Dolf spoilt him, seeing 
something in his son that was wanting in himself 
and that therefore attracted him, as this had 
possibly formerly attracted him in his wife also ; 
Jules could do no wrong in his eyes, and if the 
boy had only been willing, Dolf would have 
spared no expense to give him a careful musical 
education. But Jules opposed himself violently 
to anything in any way resembling lessons, and 
maintained besides that it was not worth while. 
He had no ambition ; his vanity was not tickled 
by his father's hopes in him and appreciation of 
his playing ; he played for himself only, to express 
himself in the vague language of musical sounds. 
At this moment he felt himself alone, abandoned 
in the great house, though he knew that papa 
was at work two rooms off, and that when he 
pleased he could take refuge on papa's great 
couch ; he felt within himself an almost physical 



172 ECSTASY: 



feeling of dread at his loneliness, which caused 
something to reel about him, an inward sense of 
inner desolation. 

He was fourteen years old, but he felt himself 
neither child nor boy : a certain feebleness, a 
need almost feminine of dependency, of devotion 
to some one who would be everything to him, 
had already, in his earliest childhood, struck into 
his virility, and it shivered through him in his 
dread of this inner loneliness, as if he were afraid 
of himself. He suffered greatly from the vague 
moods in which that strange something oppressed 
him ; then, not knowing where to hide his inner 
being, he would go to play, so that he might lose 
himself in the great sound-soul of music. His 
thin, nervous fingers would grope querulously 
over the keys, and false chords would be struck 
in his search ; then he would let himself go, find 
some single motive, very short, of plaintive minor 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 173 

melancholy, and caress that motive in his joy 
at having found it, caress it until it returned 
each moment as a monotony of sorrow, thinking 
it so beautiful that he could not leave it. So 
well did they sing all that he felt, those four or 
five notes, that he would play them over and 
over again, until Suzette would burst into the 
room and make him stop lest she should be 
driven mad. 

Thus he played now. It was pitiful at first ; 
he barely recognised the notes ; harsh discords 
wailed up and cut into his poor brain, still 
smarting from his headache. He moaned as if 
he were in pain afresh ; but his fingers were 
hypnotised, they could not desist, they still 
sought on, and the notes became purer; a short 
phrase released itself with a cry, a cry which 
continually returned on the same note, suddenly 
high after the bass of the prelude. This note 



174 ECSTASY: 



came as a surprise to Jules ; that fair cry of 
sorrow frightened him, and he was glad to have 
found it, glad to have so sweet a sorrow. Then 
he was no longer himself; he played on until he 
felt it was not himself who was playing, but 
another within him who compelled him ; he 
found the full pure chords as by intuition ; 
through the sobbing of the sounds ran the same 
musical figure, higher and higher, with silver 
feet of purity, following the curve of crystal 
rainbows lightly spanned on high ; reaching the 
topmost point of the crystal arch it struck a cry, 
this time in very drunkenness, out into the 
major, throwing up wide arms in gladness to 
heavens of intangible blue. Then it was like 
souls of men, which first live and suffer and utter 
their complaint, and then die, to glitter in forms 
of light whose long wings spring from their pure 
shoulders in sheets of silver light ; they trip one 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 175 

behind the other over the rainbows, over the 
bridges of glass, blue, and rose, and yellow ; and 
there come more and more, kindreds and nations 
of souls ; they hurry their silver feet, they press 
across the rainbows, they laugh and sing and 
push one another; in their jostling their wings 
clash together, scattering silver down. Now 
they stand all on the top of the arc, and look 
up, with the great wondering of their laughing 
child-eyes ; and they dare not, they dare not, but 
others press on behind them, innumerable, more 
and more, and yet more; they crowd upwards 
to the topmost height, their wings straight 
in the air, close together. Now, now they must ; 
they may hesitate no longer. One of them, taking 
deep breath, spreads his flight, and with one 
shock springs out of the thick throng into the 
ether. Soon many follow, and one after another, 
till their shapes swoon in the blue ; all is gleam 



176 ECSTASY. 



about them. Now, fur below, thin as a thin 
thread, the rainbow arches itself, but they do 
not look at it ; rays fall towards them — these are 
souls, which they embrace — they go with them 
in locked embraces. And then the light. Light 
beaming over all ; all things liquid in everlasting 
light ; nothing but light, the sounds sing the 
light, the sounds are the light, there is nothing 
now but the Light, everlasting. . . . 

" Jules ! " 

He looked up vacantly. 

"Jules! Jules!" 

He smiled now, as if awaked from a dream- 
sleep; he rose, went to her, to Cecile. She 
stood in the doorway ; she had remained standing 
there while he played ; it had seemed to her 
that he was playing a part of herself. 

" What were you playing, Jules ? " she asked. 

He was quite awake now, and distressed, fear- 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 177 

ing he must have made a terrible noise in the 
house. ..." 

'^ I don't know, auntie," he said. 

She hugged him, suddenly, violently, in grati- 
tude. ... To him she owed It, the great Mystery, 
since the day when he had broken out in anger 
against her. . . . 



12 



CHAPTER IV. 

I. 

" Oh, for that which cannot be told, because 
words are so few, always the same, varying com- 
binations of a few letters and sounds ; oh, for 
that which cannot be thought of in the narrow 
limits of comprehension ; that which at best can 
only be groped for with the antennae of the soul ; 
essence of the essences of the ultimate elements 
of our being. ..." 

She wrote no more, she knew no more : why 
write that she had no words, and still seek them ? 

She was waiting for him, and she looked out 

of the open window to see if he came. She 

remained looking a long time ; then she felt that 
178 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 179 

he would come immediately, and so he did ; she 
saw him approaching along the Scheveningen 
Eoad ; he pushed open the iron gate of the villa, 
and smiled to her as he raised his hat. 

" Wait ! " she cried. " Stay where you are ! " 

She ran down the steps, into the garden, where 
he stood. She came towards him, beaming with 
happiness, and so lovely, so delicately frail : her 
blonde head so seemly in the fresh green of May ; 
her figure — a young girl's — in the palest grey 
gown, with black velvet ribbon, and silver lace 
here and there. 

"I am glad you have come. You have not 
been to see me for so long ! " she said, giving 
her hand. 

He did not answer at once. 

" Let us sit in the garden, behind, the weather 
is so fine." 

" Let us," he said. 



180 ECSTASY. 



They walked into the garden, by the mesh of 
the garden paths, the jasmine vines starring 
white as they passed. In an adjoining villa a 
piano was playing ; the sounds came to them of 
Eubinstein's Eomance in Es. 

'• Listen ! " said Cecile, starting up. " What 
is that ? " 

" What ? " he asked. 

" What they are playing." 

"Something of Rubinstein's, I believe," he 
replied. 

" Rubinstein. . . . ? " she repeated, emptily. 
" Yes " 

And she relapsed into the wealth of memories 
of ... . what ? Once before, in this way, she 
had walked along these same paths, past these 
jasmine \ines, so long, so long ago ; had walked 
with him, with him. . . . Why ? Was the past 
repeating itself after centuries. . . . ? 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 181 

" It is three weeks since you came to see me," 
she said, simply, recovering herself. 

" Forgive me," he replied. 

" What was the reason ? " 

He hesitated, seeking an excuse. 

" I don't know," he answered, softly. " You for- 
give me, do you not ? One day it was this, 
another day that. And then .... I don't know. 
Many reasons together. It is not good that I 
should see you often. Not good for you, nor 
for me." 

" Let us begin with the second. Why is it 
not good for you ? " 

" No, let us begin with the first : with what 
concerns you. People. . . ." 

" People ? " 

" People are talking about us. I am looked 
upon as an irretrievable rake. 1 will uoL have 
your name linked profanely with mine." 



182 ECSTASY: 



" And is it ? " 

" Yes " 

She smiled. 

" I do not mind." 

" But you must mind ; if not for your own 
sake. . . ." 

He stopped. She knew he was thinking of 
her boys ; she shrugged her shoulders. 

" And now, why is it not good for you ? " 

"One should not be happy too often." 

" What a sophism ! Why not ? " 

" I do not know ; but I feel I am right. It 
spoils one ; it blunts the appetite." 

" Are you happy here, then ? " 

He smiled, and nodded yes. 

They were silent a long time. They were 
sitting at the end of the garden, upon a seat that 
stood in a semi-circle of rhododendrons in flower ; 
the great blossoms of purple satin shut them in 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 183 

with a high wall of closely clustered bouquets, 
rising from the paths and overtopping their 
heads; clambering roses flung their incense before 
them. They sat still, happy together, happy in 
the sympathy of their atmospheres mingling 
together ; yet in their happiness there was the 
invincible melancholy which is an integral part 
of all life, even in happiness. 

" I do not know how I am to tell you," he 
resumed ; " but suppose I were to see you every 
day, every moment that I thought of you. . . . 
That would not do. For then I should become 
so refined, so subtle, that from pure happiness 
I should not be able to live ; my other being 
would receive nothing, and suffer hunger like a 
beast. I am bad, I am egotistical to be able to 
speak like this, but I must tell you the truth, 
that you may not think too well of me. So I 
only seek your society as something beautiful 



184 ECSTASY: 



above all things, with which I indulge myself 
only on rare occasions." 

She was silent. 

" Sometimes .... sometimes, too, I think that 
in doing this I am not doing right so far as you 
are concerned ; that in some way or other 1 
offend or hurt you. Then I sit thinking about 
it, until I feel sure it would be best to take leave 
of you for ever." 

She was silent still ; motionless she sat, with 
her hands listlessly in her lap, her head slightly 
bowed, a smile about her mouth. 

" Speak to me. . . ." he begged. 

" You do not offend me, nor hurt me," she 
said. "Come to me whenever you feel the need. 
Do always as you think best, and I shall think 
that best too ; you must not doubt that." 

" I should so much like to know in what way 
you like me ? " 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 185 

" In what way ? Surely, as a madonna a sinner 
who repents and gives her his soul," she said, 
archly. " Am I not a madonna ? " 

" Are you content to be so ? " 

" Can you be so ignorant about women not to 
know how in each one of us there is a longing 
to solace and relieve, to play, in fact, at being a 
madonna ? " 

" Do not speak so," he said, with pain in his 
voice. 

" I am speaking seriously. . . ." 

He looked at her ; a doubt rose within him, 
but she smiled to him ; a calm glory was about 
her; she sat amidst the bouquets of the rhodo- 
dendrons as in the blossom-bosom of one great 
mystic flower. The wound of his doubt was 
soothed with balsam. He gave himself up wholly 
to his happiness ; an atmosphere wafted about 
them of the sweet calm of life, an atmosphere 



186 ECSTASY: 



in which life becomes dispassionate and restful 
and smiling, like the air which is rare about the 
gods. It began to grow dark ; a violet gloom 
fell from the sky like crape falling upon crape; 
quietly the stars lighted out. The shadows in 
the garden, between the shrubs among which 
they sat, flowed into one another ; the piano in 
the adjacent villa had stopped. And Happiness 
drew a veil between his soul and the outside 
world : the garden with its design of plots and 
paths ; the villa with curtains at its windows, and 
its iron gate ; the road behind, with the rattle 
of carriages and trams. All this withdrew itself 
far back ; all ordinary life retreated far from him ; 
vanishing behind the veil, it died away. It was 
no dream nor conceit : reality to him was the 
Happiness that had come while the world died 
away ; the Happiness that was rare, invisible, 
intangible, coming from the Love which alone 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 187 

is sympathy, calm and without passion, the Love 
which exists purely of itself, without further 
thought either of taking anything, or even of 
giving anything, the love of the gods, that is 
the soul of Love itself. High he felt himself : 
the like of the illusion he had of her, which she 
wished to maintain for his sake, of which he was 
now absolutely certain, doubting nothing. P'or 
he could not understand that what had given him 
happiness — his illusion — so perfect, so crystal- 
line, could cause her any grief; he could not at 
this moment penetrate without sin into the 
truth of the law which insists on equilibrium, 
which takes away from one what it offers another, 
which gives Happiness and Grief together ; he 
could not understand that if Happiness was with 
him, with her there was anguish, anguish that 
she must make a pretence and deceive him for 
his own sake : anguish that she wanted above all 



188 ECSTASY: 



what was earthly, that she craved for what was 
earthly, panted for earthly pleasures. . . . ! Still 
less could he know that, through all this, there 
was voluptuousness in her anguish : that to suffer 
through him, to suffer for him, made of her 
anguish all voluptuousness. 
II. 

It was dark and late, and sLiU they sat 
there. 

" Shall we go for a walk ? " she asked. 

He hesitated, but she asked anew, " Why not, 
if you care to ? " 

And he could no longer refuse. 

They rose up, and went along by the back of 
the house ; Cecile said to the maid, whom she 
saw sitting sewing by the kitchen door : 

" Greta, fetch me my small black hat, my 
black lace shawl, and a pair of gloves." 

The servant rose and went into the house. 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 189 



Cecile noticed how a little shyness marked itself 
more strongly in Quaerts' hesitation now that 
they were waiting between the flower beds. She 
smiled, plucked a rose, and placed it in her 
waistband. 

" Have the boys gone to bed ? " he asked. 

" Yes," she replied, still smiling, " long ago." 

The servant returned ; Cecile put on the small 
black hat and the lace about her neck ; she 
refused the gloves Greta offered her. 

" No, not these ; get me a pair of grey 
ones. . . ." 

The servant went into the house again, and as 
Cecile looked at Quaerts her gaiety increased ; 
she gave a little laugh. 

" What is the matter ? " she asked, mis- 
chievously, knowing perfectly what it was. 

" Nothing, nothing ! " he said, vaguely, and 
waited patiently until Grreta returned. 



190 ECSTASY: 



Then they went through the garden gate into 
the woods. They walked slowly, without speak- 
ing ; Cecile played with her long gloves, not 
putting them on. 

" Really. ..." he began, hesitating. 

" Come, what is it ? " 

" You know ; I told you the other day ; it is 
not right. . . ." 

"What?" 

" What we are doing now. You risk too 
much." 

" Too much, with you ? " 

" If any one were to see us. . . ." 

" And what then ? " 

He shook his head. 

" You are wilful ; you know very well." 

She clinched her eyes ; her mouth grew 
serious ; she pretended to be a little angry. 

"Listen, you must not be anxious if I am not. 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 191 

I am doing no harm. Our walks are not secret ; 
Grreta at least knows about them. And, besides, 
I am free to do as I please." 

" It is my fault ; the first time we went for a 
walk in the evening it was at my request. . . ." 

" Then do penance and be good ; come now, 
without scruple, at my request. ..." she said, 
with mock emphasis. 

He yielded, too happy to wish to make any 
sacrifice to a convention which at that moment 
did not exist. 

They walked silently. Cecile's sensations 
came to her always in shocks of surprise. So it 
had been when Jules had grown suddenly angry 
with her ; so also, midway on the stair, after that 
conversation at dinner of circles of sympathy. 
And now, precisely in the same way, with the 
shock of sudden revelation, came this new sensa- 
tion — that after all she did not suffer so seriously 



192 ECSTASY. 



as she had at first thought ; that her agony, 
being voluptuousness, could not be a martyrdom ; 
that she was happy, that Happiness had come 
about her in the fine air of his atmosphere, be- 
cause they were together, together. . . . Oh, why 
wish for anything more, above all for things less 
pure ? Did he not love her, and was not his love 
already a fact, and was it not on a sufficiently 
low plane now that it was an absolute fact ? 
Did he not love her with a tenderness which 
feared for anything which might trouble her in 
the world, through her ignoring it and wandering 
with him alone in the dark? Did he not love 
her with tenderness, but also with the lustre of 
the divinity of his soul, calling her madonna, by 
this title making her — unconsciously, perhaps, in 
his simplicity — the equal of all that was divine 
in him ? Did he not love her, did he not ? 
Why did she want more? No, no, she wanted 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 193 

nothing more ; she was happy, she shared Happi- 
ness with him; he gave it her just as she gave 
it him ; it was a sphere that progressed with 
them, as they walked together, seeking their 
way along the darkling paths of the woods, she 
leaning on his arm, he leading her, for she could 
see nothing in the dark ; which yet was not dark, 
but pure light of their Happiness. And so it 
was as if it was not evening, but day, noon ; 
noon in the night, hour of bright light in the 
dusk ! 

III. 
And the darkness was light ; the night dawned 
into Light which beamed on every side. Calmly 
it beamed, the Light, like one solitary sunstar, 
beaming with the soft lustre of purity, bright in 
a heaven of still, white, silver air; a heaven where 
they walked along milky ways of light and music; 

it beamed and sounded beneath their feet ; it 

13 



194 ECSTASY: 



welled in seas of ether high above their heads, 
and beamed and sounded there, high and clear. 
And they were alone in their heaven, in their 
infinite heaven, which was all space, endless 
beneath them and above and around them, 
endless spaces of light and music, of light that 
was music. Their heaven measured itself on 
every side with blessed perspectives of white 
radiance, fading away in lustre and swooning 
landscape ; oases of flowers and plants by water- 
sides of light, still and clear and hush with peace. 
For its peace was the ether in which all desire is 
dissolved and becomes of crystal, and their life 
in it was the limpid existence in unruffled peace ; 
they walked on, in heavenly sympathy of fellow- 
ship, close together, hemmed in one narrow 
circle, one circle of radiance which embraced 
them. Barely was there a recollection in them 
of the world which had died out in the glitter of 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 195 

their heaven ; there was nothing in them but the 
ecstasy of their love, which had become their soul, 
as if they no longer had any soul, were only love ; 
and when they looked about them and upon the 
Light, they saw that their heaven, in which their 
Happiness was the Light, was nothing but their 
love ; and that the landscapes — the flowers and 
plants by watersides of light — were nothing but 
their love, and that the endless space, the eterni- 
ties of lustre and music, measuring themselves 
out on every hand, beneath them and above and 
around them, were nothing but their love, which 
had grown into heaven and happiness. 

And now they came into the very midst, to the 
very sun-centre, the very goal which Cecile had 
once foreseen, concealed in the distance, in the 
outbeaming of innate divinity. Up to the 
very goal they stepped, and all around it shot 
its endless rays into space unspanned, as if 



196 ECSTASY: 



their Love were becoming the centre of the 
universe, . . . 

IV. 
They sat on a bench, in the dark, not knowing 
that it was dark, for their eyes were full of the 
Light. They sat against one another, silently at 
first, till, remembering that he had a voice and 
could still speak words, he said : 

"I have never lived through such a moment 
as this. I forget where we are, and who we are, 
and that we are human. We have been so, have 
we not ; I remember that we were so ? " 

"Yes, but now we are no longer," she said, 
smiling ; and her eyes, grown big. looked into 
the darkness that was Light. 

" Once we were human, suffering and desiring, 
in a world where certainly much was beautiful, 
but much also was ugly." 

" Why speak of that now ? " she asked, and 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 197 

her voice sounded to herself as coming from very 
far and low beneath her. 

" I remembered it. . . ." 

" I wish to forget it." 

"■ Then I will also. But I may thank you in 
human speech that you have lifted me above 
humanity ? " 

" Have I done so ? " 

" Yes ; may I thank you for that .... on my 
knees ? " 

He knelt down and reverently took her hands. 
He could just distinguish the silhouette of her 
figure, still, seated motionless upon the bench ; 
above them was a pearl-grey twilight of stars, 
between the black boughs. She felt her hands 
in his, and his mouth, a kiss, upon her hand. 
Gently she released herself; and then, with a 
great soul of modesty, full of desireless happiness, 
she very gently bent her arms about his neck, 



198 ECSTASY: 



took his head against her, and kissed his 
forehead. 

" And I, I thank you too ! " she whispered, 
rapturously. 

He was still, and she held him fast in her 
embrace. 

" I thank you," she said, " that you have 
taught me this and how to be happy as we are, 
and not otherwise. You see, when I still lived, 
and was human, a woman, I thought I had 
already lived before I met you, for I had had a 
husband, and children of whom I was very fond. 
But from you I first learnt to live, to live 
without egoism and without desire ; I learnt that 
from you this evening or .... this day, which 
is it? You have given me life, and happiness, 
and everything. And I thank you, I thank you ! 
You see, you are so great and so strong and so 
clear, and you have borne me towards your own 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 199 

Happiness, which should also be mine, but it 
was so far above me that without you I should 
never have attained it ! For there was a barrier 
for me which did not exist for you. You see, 
when I was still human," — and she laughed, 
clasping him more tightly — " I had a sister, and 
she too felt there was a barrier between her 
happiness and herself; and she felt she could 
not surmount this barrier, and was so unhappy 
because of it that she feared lest she shovild go 
mad. But I, I do not know : I dreamed, I 
thought, I hoped, I waited, oh ! I waited, and 
then you came, and you made me understand 
at once that you could be no man, no husband 
for me, but that you could be more for me : 
my angel, my deliverer, who should take 
me in his arms and bear me up over the 
barrier into his own heaven, where he himself 
was master, and make me his queen. Oh, i 



200 ECSTASY: 



thank you, I thank you ! I do not know how 
to thank you; I can only say that I love you, 
that I adore you, that I lay myself at your 
feet. Remain so, and let me adore you, while 
you kneel where you are. I may adore you, 
may I not, while you yourself kneel ? You see 
I too must confess, as you used to do," she 
continued, for now she could not but confess. 
"I have not always been straightforward with 
you ; I have sometimes pretended to be the 
madonna, knowing all the time I was but an 
ordinary woman, a woman who frankly loved you. 
But I deceived you for your own happiness, did 
I not? You wished me so, you were happy 
when I was so and not otherwise. And now, now 
too you must forgive me, because now I need 
no longer pretend, because that is past and gone 
away, because I myself have died away from 
myself, because now I am no longer a woman, 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 201 



no longer human for myself, but only what you 
wish me to be : a madonna and your creature, 
an atom of your own essence and divinity. Do 
you then forgive me the past ? . . . . May I 
thank you for my happiness, for my heaven, my 
light, my master, for my joy, my great, my 
immeasurably great joy ? " 

He rose and sat beside her, taking her gently 
in his arms. 

" Are you happy ? " he asked. 

"Yes," she said, laying her head on his 
shoulder in a giddiness of light. " And you ? " 

" Yes," he answered, and he asked again : 
" And do you desire .... nothing more ? " 

" Nothing ! " she stammered. " I want nothing 
but this, nothing but what is mine, oh, nothing, 
nothing more ! " 

" Swear it to me then .... by something 
sacred ! " 



202 ECSTASY. 



" I swear it to you .... by yourself! " 

He pressed her head to his shoulder again. 
He smiled, and she did not see that there was 
melancholy in his laugh, for she was blind with 
light. 

V. 

They were long silent, sitting there. She 
knew she had said many things, she no longer 
knew what. About her she saw that it was 
dark, with only that pearl-grey twilight of stars 
above their heads, between the black boughs. 
She felt that she lay with her head on his 
shoulder; she heard his breath. A sort of chill 
ran down her shoulders, notwithstanding the 
warmth of his embrace ; she drew the lace closer 
about her throat, and felt that the bench on 
which they sat was moist with dew. 

" I thank you, I love you so, you make me so 
happy," she repeated. 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 203 



He was silent ; he pressed her to him very 
gently, with simple tenderness. Her last words 
still sounded in her ears after she had spoken 
them. Then she was bound to acknowledge to 
herself that they had not been spontaneous, like 
all that she had told him before, as he lay 
kneeling before her with his head at her breast. 
She had spoken them to break the silence : 
formerly that silence had never troubled her, 
why should it now ? 

" Come ! " he said gently, and even yet she 
did not hear the melancholy in his voice, in this 
single word. 

They rose, and walked on. It came to him 
that it was late, that they must return by the 
same path ; beyond that his thought was sad 
with things he could not have uttered ; a poor 
twilight had come about him after the l^linding 
Light of their heaven of just before. He had to 



204 ECSTASY: 



be cautious : it was very dark, and he could 
barely see the path, hesitating, very pale at 
their feet ; they brushed the trunks of the trees 
as they passed. 

" I can see nothing," said Cecile, laughing. 
"Can you see the way?" 

" Rely upon me ; I can see quite well in the 
dark," he replied. " I am lynx-eyed. . . ." 

Step by step they went on, and she felt a 
sweet joy in being guided by him ; she clasped 
his arm more closely, saying laughingly that she 
was afraid, and that she would be terrified if he 
were suddenly to leave hold of her. 

" And supposing I were suddenly to run away 
and leave you alone ? " said Quaerts. 

She laughed ; she besought him not to do so. 
Then she was silent, angry with herself for 
laughing ; a weight of melancholy bore her down 
because of her jesting and laughter. She felt as 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 205 

if she were unworthy of that to which, in radiant 
light, she had just been received. 

And in him, too, there was melancholy : the 
melancholy that he had to lead her through the 
darkness, by invisible paths, by rows of invisible 
tree-trunks which might graze and wound her ; 
that he had to lead her through a dark wood, 
through a black sea, through an inl^-dark sphere, 
returning from a heaven where all had been light 
and all happiness, without melancholy, or any 
darkness. 

And so they were silent in their melancholy 
until they reached the high road, the old 
Scheveningen Eoad. 

They approached the villa. A tram went by ; 
two or three people passed on foot; it was a 
fine evening. He brought her back and waited 
until the door opened to his ring. The door 
remained unopened ; meantime he pressed her 



206 ECSTASY. 



hand tightly, and involuntarily he hurt her a 
little. Greta had no doubt fallen asleep. 

" Ring again, would you ? " 

He rang again, louder ; after a moment the 
door opened. She gave him her hand a second 
time, with a smile, 

" Grood-night, mevrouw," he said, taking her 
fingers respectfully, and raising his hat. 

Now, now she could hear the sound of his 
voice, the note in it of melancholy. . . . 



CHAPTER V. 

I. 

She knew, the next day, when she sat alone 
in reflection, that the sphere of happiness, the 
highest and brightest, may not be trod ; that it 
may only beam upon us as a sun, and that we 
may not enter into it, into the holy sun-centre. 
They had done that. . . . 

Listless she sat, her children by her side, 
Christie looking pale and languid. Yes, she 
spoiled them, but how could she change herself ? 

Weeks passed, and Cecile heard nothing from 

Quaerts. It was always so : after he had been 

with her, weeks would drag by without her ever 

seeing him. He was much too happy with her, 
207 



208 ECSTASY 



it was too much for him. He looked upon her 
society as a rare pleasure to be very jealously 
indulged in. And she, she loved him simply, 
with the devoutest essence of her soul, loved 
him frankly, as a woman loves a man. . . . She 
always wanted him, every day, every hour, at 
every pulse of her life. 

Then she met him by chance at Scheveningen, 
one evening when she went down there with 
Amelie and Suzette. Then once again at a 
reception at Mrs. Hoze's. He seemed shy with 
her, and a certain pride in her forbade her asking 
him to call. Yes, some change had come over 
what had been woven between them. But she 
suffered sorely, because of that foolish pride, 
because she had not humbly begged him to come 
to her. But was he not her idol ? What he did 
was good. 

So she did not see him for weeks, weeks. 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 209 

Life went on ; each day she had her little 

occupations, in her household, with her children ; 

Mrs. Hoze reproached her for her sequestration 

from society, and she began to think more about 

her friends, to please Mrs. Hoze, who had asked 

this. There were vistas in her memory ; in 

those vistas she saw the dinner-party, their 

conversations and walks, all their love, all his 

aspiration to her he called madonna ; their last 

evening of light and ecstasy. Then she smiled, 

and the smile itself beamed over her anguish ; 

her anguish that she no longer saw him, that 

she felt proud and had bitterness within her. 

Yet all things must be well, as he wished 

them. 

Oh, the evenings, the summer evenings, 

cooling after the warm days, the evenings when 

she sat alone, peering out from her room, 

where the onyx lamp burnt with a half flame, 

14 



210 ECSTASY: 



peering out of the open windows at the trams 
which, tinkling their bells, came and went to 
Scheveningen, full, full of people. Waiting, the 
endless long waiting, evening after evening in 
solitude, after the children had gone to bed. 
Waiting, when she simply sat still, staring 
fixedly before her, looking at the trams, the 
tedious, everlasting trams. Where was her 
former evenness of dreaming happiness ? And 
where, where was her supreme happiness ? Where 
was her struggle within herself between what 
she was and what he thought she was ? This 
struggle no longer existed ; this had been 
overcome ; she no longer felt the force of 
passion; she only longed for him as he had 
always come, as he now no longer came. Why 
did he not come ? Happiness palled, people 
spoke about them. ... It was not right that 
they should see much of one another — he 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 211 

had said so the evening before that highest 
happiness — not good for him and not good for 
her. 

So she sat and thought, and great quiet 
tears fell from her eyes, for she knew that 
although he remained away partly on his own 
account, it was above all on hers that he did not 
come to her. What had she not said to him 
that evening on the bench in the woods, when 
her arms were about his neck ? Oh ! she should 
have been silent, she knew that now. She should 
not have uttered her rapture, but have enjoyed 
it secretly within herself; she should have let 
him utter himself; she herself should have 
remained his madonna. But she had been too 
full, too happy, and in that overbrimming of 
happiness she had been unable to be other 
than true and clear as a bright mirror. He 
had glanced into her and comprehended her 



212 ECSTASY: 



entirely: she knew that, she was certain of 
that. 

He knew now in what manner she loved 
him ; she herself had revealed it to him. But, 
at the same time, she had made known to 
him all that was past, that now she was what 
he wished her to be. And this had been true 
at that moment, clear at that moment, and 
true. . . . But now ? Does ecstasy endure only 
for one moment then, and did he know it ? 
Did he know that her soul's flight had reached 
its limit, and must now descend again to a 
commoner sphere ? Did he know that she loved 
him again now, quite ordinarily, with all her 
being, wholly and entirely, no longer as widely 
as the heavens, only as widely as her arms 
could stretch out and embrace ? And could 
he not return her this love, so petty, and was 
that why he did not come to her ? 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 213 

TI. 

Then she received his letter : 

" Forgive me that I put off from day to day 
coming to see you ; forgive me that even to-day 
I cannot decide to do so, and that I write to 
you instead. Forgive me if I even venture 
to ask you whether it may not be necessary 
that we see each other no more. If I hurt you 
and offend you, if I — God spare me — cause you 
to suffer, forgive me, forgive me. Perhaps I 
procrastinated a little from indecision, but much 
more because I thought I had no other choice. 

" There has been between our two lives, 
between our two souls, a rare moment of happi- 
ness which was a special blessedness, a special 
grace. Do you not think so too? Oh, if only 
I had words to tell you how thankful I am in my 
innermost soul for that happiness. If later I ever 
look back upon my life, I shall always continue 



214 ECSTASY: 



to see that happiness gleaming in between the 
ugliness and the blackness — a star of light. We 
received it as such — a gift of light. And I 
venture to ask you if that gift is not a thing to 
be kept sacred ? 

" Shall we be able to do so if I continue to see 
you ? You, yes, I have no doubt of you ; you 
will be strong to keep it sacred, our blessed 
happiness, especially as you have already done 
battle, as you confided to me, that holy evening. 
But I, shall I too be able to be strong, especially 
now that I know that you have gone through 
the struggle ? I doubt myself, I doubt my own 
force ; I am afraid of myself. There is cruelty 
in me, the love of destruction, something of the 
savage. As a boy I took pleasure in destroying 
beautiful things, in breaking and soiling them. 
The other day Jules brought me some roses to 
my room ; in the evening, as I sat alone, think- 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 215 

ing upon you and upon our happiness — yes, at 
that very moment — my fingers began to fumble 
with a rose whose petals were loose, and when I 
saw that one rose dispetaled there came a rage 
within me to tear and destroy them all, and I 
rumpled every one of them. I only give you 
small instances, I do not wish to give a larger 
instance, from vanity, lest you should know how 
bad T am. I am afraid of myself. If I saw you 
again, and again, and again, what should I begin 
to feel and think and wish, unconsciously ? 
Which would be the stronger within me, my soul 
or the beast that is in me ? Forgive me that I 
lay bare my dread before you, and do not despise 
me for it. Up to the present I have not done 
battle in the blessed world of our happiness. I 
saw you, I saw you often before I knew you ; I 
imagined you as you were ; I was allowed to 
speak to you ; it was given me to love you with 



216 ECSTASY: 



my soul alone : I beseech you let it remain so. 
Let me continue to guard my happiness like this, 
to keep it sacred, a thousand times sacred. I 
think it worth while to have lived now that I 
have known that : happiness, the highest. I am 
afraid of the battle which would probably come 
and pollute that sacred thing. 

" Will you believe me when I swear to you 
that I have reflected deeply on all this ? Will 
you believe me when I swear to you that I suffer 
at the thought of never being permitted to see 
you again ? Above all, will you forgive me when 
I swear to you that I am acting in this way 
because I think I am doing right ? Oh ! I am 
thankful to you, and I love you as a soul of light 
alone, only light ! 

" Perhaps I do wrong to send you this letter. 
I do not know. Perhaps I will presently destroy 
what I have written. . . ." 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 217 

Yet he had sent the letter. 

There was bitterness within her. She had 
done battle once, had conquered herself, and in 
a sacred moment had confessed both battle and 
conquest ; she knew that fate had compelled her 
to do so ; she now knew that through this 
confession she would lose him. For a short 
moment, a single evening perhaps, she had been 
worthy of her god, and his equal. Now she was 
so no longer ; for that reason too she felt letter ; 
and bitterest of all because the thought dared to 
rise within her: 

" A god ! Is he a god ? Is a god afraid of 
battle ? " 

Then her threefold bitterness changed to 
despair, black despair, a night which her eyes 
sought to penetrate in order to see where they 
saw nothing, nothing, and she moaned low, and 
wrung her hands, sunk into a heap before the 



218 ECSTASY: 



window, and peering at the trams which, with 
the tinkh'ng of their bells, ran pitilessly to and 
fro. 

III. 
She shut herself up ; she saw little of her 
children ; she told her friends that she was ill. 
She was at home to no visitors. She guessed 
intuitively that in their respective circles people 
spoke of Quaerts and herself. Life hung dull 
about her, a closely woven web of tiresome 
meshes, and she remained motionless in her 
corner, to avoid entangling herself in those 
meshes. Once Jules forced his way to her; he 
went up to her in spite of Greta's protests ; he 
sought her in the little boudoir, and, not finding 
her, went resolutely to her bedroom. He knocked 
without receiving any reply, but entered never- 
theless. The room was half in darkness, for she 
kept the blinds lowered; in the shadow of the 



A STUDY OF HAPPIjYESS. 219 

canopy which rose above the bedstead, with its 
hangings of old-blue brocade, Cecile lay sleeping. 
Her dressing-gown was open over her breast, the 
train fell from the bed and lay creased over 
the carpet ; her hair trailed over the pillows ; one 
of her hands clutched nervously at the tulle 
bed-curtain. 

" Auntie ! " cried Jules. " Auntie ! " 

He shook her by the arm, and she waked 
heavily, with heavy, blue-encircled eyes. She did 
not recognise him at first, and thought that he 
was little Dolf. 

" It is I, auntie ; Jules. . . ." 

She recognised him, asked him how he came 
there, what was the matter, whether he did not 
know that she was ill ? 

" I knew, but I wanted to speak to you. I 
came to speak to you about .... him. . . ." 

" Him ? " 



220 ECSTASY: 

" About Taco. He asked me to tell you. He 
could not write to you, he said. He is going on 
a long journey with his friend from Brussels ; he 
will be away a long time, and he would like .... 
he would like to take leave of you." 

" To take leave ? " 

" Yes, and he told me to ask you whether he 
might see you once more ? " 

She had half risen up, and looked at Jules 
stupidly. In an instant the memory ran through 
her brain of a long look which Jules directed on 
her so strangely when she saw Quaerts for the 
first time and spoke to him coolly and distantly : 
' Have you many relations in the Hague ? You 
have no occupation I believe ? vSport ? Oh !'.... 
The memory of Jules playing on the piano, of 
Rubinstein's Romance in Es, of the ecstasy of his 
fantasia : the glittering rainbows and the souls 
turning to angels. 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 221 

" To take leave ? " slie repeated. 

Jules nodded. " Yes, auntie, he is going away 
for a long, long time." 

He could have shed tears himself, and there 
were tears in his voice, but he would not, and 
his eyes were moist. 

" He told me to ask you," he repeated with 
difficulty. 

" Whether he can come and take leave ? " 

" Yes, auntie." 

She made no reply, but lay staring before her. 
An emptiness began to measure itself out before 
her, in endless perspective, a silhouette of their 
evening of rapture, but no light beamed out 
of the shadow. 

" Emptiness. . . ." she muttered through closed 
lips. 

" What, auntie ? " 

She would have liked to ask Jules whether he 



222 ECSTASY. 



was still, as formerly, afraid of the emptiness 
within himself; but a gentleness of pity, a soft 
feeling, a sweetening of the bitterness which so 
filled her being, stayed her. 

" To take leave ? " she repeated, with a smile 
of melancholy, and the big tears fell heavily 
drop by drop, upon her fingers wrung together. 

" Yes, auntie. . . ." 

He could no longer restrain himself : a single 
sob convulsed his throat, but he gave a cough 
to conceal it. Cecile threw her arm round his 
neck. 

" You are very fond of ... . Taco, are you 
not ? " she asked ; and it struck her that this was 
the first time she had pronounced the name, for 
she had never called Quaerts by it : she had never 
called him by any name. 

He did not answer at first, but nestled in her 
arm, in her embrace, and began to cry. 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 223 

" Yes ; I cannot tell you how much," he said. 

" I know," she said, and she thought of the 
rainbows and the angels ; he had played as out 
of her own soul. 

" May he come ? " asked Jules, faithfully 
thoughtful of his instructions. 

" Yes." 

"He asks whether he may come this evening?" 

" Very well." 

" Auntie, he is going away, because .... be- 
cause. . . ." 

" Because what, Jules ? " 

" Because of you ; because you do not like 
him, and will not marry him. Mamma says 
so " 

She made no reply ; she lay sobbing, her 
head on Jules' head. 

" Is it true, auntie ? No, it is not true, is 
it ? " 



224 ECSTASY: 

" No." 

" Why, then ? " 

She raised herself suddenly, conquering herself, 
and looked at him fixedly. 

" He is going away because he must, Jules. 
I cannot tell you why. But what he does is 
right. All that he does is right." 

The boy looked at her, motionless, with large 
wet eyes, full of astonishment. 

*' Is right ? " he repeated. 

" Yes. He is better than any of up. If you 
continue to love him, Jules, it will bring you 
happiness, even if .... if you never see him 
again." 

" Do you think so ? " he asked. " Does he 
bring happiness ? Even in that case. ..." 

" Even in that case. . . ." 

She listened to her words as she spoke them : 
it was to her as if another was speaking ; another 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 225 

who consoled not only Jules but herself as well, 
and who would perhaps give her strength to 
take leave from Taco as would be seemly— 
without despair. 

IV. 

" So you are going a long journey ? " she 
asked. 

He sat facing her, motionless, with anguish 
on his face. Outwardly she was very calm, 
only there was melancholy in her look and in 
her voice. In her white dress, with the girdle 
falling before her feet, she lay back among 
the three cushions of the rose-moire chaise- 
longue ; the points of her little slippers were 
lost in the sheepskin rug. On the little table 
before her lay a great bouquet of loose roses, 
pink, white, and yellow, bound together with 

a broad riband. He had brought them for her, 

15 



226 ECSTASY: 



and she had not yet placed them. There was 
great calm about her ; the " exquisite " atmos- 
phere of the boudoir seemed unchanged. 

" Tell me, do I not grieve you sorely ? " he 
asked, with the anguish in his eyes, the eyes 
she now knew so well. 

She smiled. 

" No. ..." she said. " I will be honest 
with you. I have suffered, but I suffer no 
longer. I have battled with myself for the 
second time, and I have conquered myself. 
Will you believe me ? " 

" If you knew the remorse that I feel. . . ." 

She rose and went to him. 

" Why ? " she asked in a clear voice. " Because 
you comprehended me, and gave me happi- 
ness ? " 

" Did I do so ? " 

" Have you forgotten, then ? " 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 227 



" No, but I thought. . . ." 

" What ? " 

" I do not know ; thought that you would — 
would suffer so, I .... I cursed myself. . . . ! " 

She shook her head gently, with smiling 
disapproval. 

" For shame ! " she said. " Do not blas- 
pheme, . . ." 

" Can you forgive me ? " 

" I have nothing to forgive. Listen to me. 
Swear to me that you believe me, that you 
believe that you have given me happiness and 
that I am not suffering," 

" I , . . . I swear." 

" I trust you do not swear this merely to 
comply with my wish," 

" You have been the highest in my life," 
he said, gently, 

A rapture shot through her soul. 



228 ECSTASY. 



" Tell me only. ..." she began. 

« What ? " 

" Tell me if you believe that I, I, I . . . . 
shall always remain the highest in your life." 

She stood before him, tall, in her clinging 
white. She seemed to shed radiance ; never 
yet had he seen her so beautiful. 

" I am certain of that," he said. " Certain, 
oh ! certain. . . . My God ! how can I convey 
the certainty of it to you ? " 

" But I believe you, I believe you," she 
exclaimed. 

She laughed a laugh of rapture. In her soul 
a sun seemed to be shooting out rays on every 
side. She placed her arm tenderly about his 
neck and kissed his forehead, a caress of 
chastity. 

For one moment he seemed to forget every- 
thing. He too rose, took her in his arms, 



A STUDY OF HxiPPINESS. 229 

almost savagely, and clasperl her suddenly to him, 
as if he were about to crush her against his 
breast. She just caught sight of his sad eyes, 
and then nothing more, blinded by the kisses of 
his mouth, which rained upon her whole face in 
sparks of fire. With the sun-rapture of her soul 
was mingled a bliss of earth, a yielding to the 
violence of his embrace. She released herself, 
put him away, and said : 

" And now .... go." 

It stunned him ; he understood that to be final. 

" Yes, yes, I am going," he said. " I may 
write to you, may I not ? " 

She nodded yes, with her smile. 

" Write to me, I will write to you too," she 
said. " Let me always hear from you. . . ." 

" Then these are not to be the last words 
between us? This .... this .... is not the 
end ? " 



230 ECSTASY: 



" No " 

"Thank you. Grood-bye, mevrouw, good-bye 
.... Cecile. Ah ! if you knew what this 
moment costs me ! " 

"It must be. It cannot be otherwise. Go, 
go. You must go. Do go. . . ." 

She gave her hand again, for the last time. 
A moment later he was gone. 

She looked strangely about her, with be- 
wildered eyes, with hands locked together. 
" Go, go .... " she repeated, like one raving. 
Then she noticed the roses. With a light 
scream she sank down before the little table and 
buried her face in his gift, until the thorns 
wounded her face. The pain — two drops of blood 
which fell from her forehead — brought her back 
to her senses. Standing before the little Vene- 
tian mirror hanging over her writing-table, she 



A STUDY OF HAPPINESS. 231 



wiped away the red spots with lier handker- 
chief. 

" Happiness ! " she stammered to herself. 
" His happiness ! The highest in his life ! So 
he knew happiness, though short it was. But 
now .... now he suffers, now he will suffer 
again as before. The remembrance of happiness 
cannot do everything. Ah ! if it could only do 
that, then everything would be well, everything 
.... I wish for nothing more, I have had my 
life, my own life, my own happiness ; I have now 
my children ; I belong to them now. To him I 
was not permitted to be anything more. . . ." 

She turned away from the mirror and sat 
down on the settee, as if tired with a great 
space traversed ; and she closed her eyes, as if 
stunned with too great a light. She folded her 
hands together like one in prayer ; her face 
beamed in its fatigue from smile to smile. 



232 ECSTASY. 



"■ Happiness ! " she repeated, falteringly, 
" The highest in his life ! my God, happi- 
ness ! I thank Thee, God, I thank Thee. . . ." 



THE END. 



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