Wächter des Zwielichts: Roman (Die Wächter-Serie 3) (German Edition)
But it wears off. So it was with Leonora—at least until she noticed me. Come and sit by these nice people! Quite extraordinary. But, of course, she was taking a line of her own in which I at any rate—and no one else in the room, for she too had taken the trouble to read through the list of guests—counted any more than so many clean, bull terriers.
And she sat down rather brilliantly at a vacant table, beside ours—one that was reserved for the Guggenheimers.
That poor chap was doing his steadfast duty too. He knew that the Guggenheimers of Chicago, after they had stayed there a month and had worried the poor life out of him, would give him two dollars fifty and grumble at the tipping system. And he knew that Teddy Ashburnham and his wife would give him no trouble whatever except what the smiles of Leonora might cause in his apparently unimpressionable bosom—though you never can tell what may go on behind even a not quite spotless plastron! Ford Madox Ford 25 Ashburnham would give him a solid, sound, golden English sovereign.
Yet this stout fellow was intent on saving that table for the Guggenheimers of Chicago.
- The Rich Boy.
But she put it at the fence all right, rising from the seat she had taken and sitting down opposite me, as it were, all in one motion. I never thought that Leonora looked her best in evening dress. She seemed to get it too clearly cut, there was no ruffling. She always affected black and her shoulders were too classical.
She seemed to stand out of her corsage as a white marble bust might out of a black Wedgwood vase. But I am sure I never had the beginnings of a trace of what is called the sex instinct towards her. And I suppose—no I am certain that she never had it towards me. As far as I am concerned I think it was those white shoulders that did it. I seemed to feel when I looked at them that, if ever I should press my lips upon them that they would be slightly cold—not icily, not without a touch of human heat, but, as they say of baths, with the chill off.
I seemed to feel chilled at the end of my lips when I looked at her No, Leonora always appeared to me at her best in a blue tailor-made. And the wrist was at its best in a black or a dog-skin glove and there was always a gold circlet with a little chain supporting a very small golden key to a dispatch box. Perhaps it was that in which she locked up her heart and her feelings.
Anyhow, she sat down opposite me and then, for the first time, she paid any attention to my existence. Her eyes too were blue and dark and the eyelids were so arched that they gave you the whole round of the irises. And it was a most remarkable, a most moving glance, as if for a moment a lighthouse had looked at me. I seemed to perceive the swift questions chasing each other through the brain that was behind them. I seemed to hear the brain ask and the eyes answer with all the simpleness of a woman who was a good hand at taking in qualities of a horse— as indeed she was.
Is he, above all, likely to babble about my affairs? It was the look of a mother to her son, of a sister to her brother. It implied trust; it implied the want of any necessity for barriers. By God, she looked at me as if I were an invalid—as any kind woman may look at a poor chap in a bath chair.
And, yes, from that day forward she always treated me and not Florence as if I were the invalid. Why, she would run after me with a rug upon chilly days.
I suppose, therefore, that her eyes had made a favourable answer. And I was passing her the nickelsilver basket of rolls. They were characterized by an extraordinary want of any communicativeness on the part of the Ashburnhams to which we, on our part, replied by leaving out quite as extraordinarily, and nearly as completely, the personal note. Indeed, you may take it that what characterized our relationship was an atmosphere of taking everything for granted.
It was also taken for granted that we were both sufficiently well off to afford anything that we could reasonably want in the way of amusements fitting to our station—that we could take motor cars and carriages by the day; that we could give each other dinners and dine our friends and we could indulge if we liked in economy. Thus, Florence was in the habit of having the Daily Telegraph sent to her every day from London. Similarly it was the habit of the Grand Duke of Nassau Schwerin, who came yearly to the baths, to German amusements: Unterhaltungen.
In return he would give a dinner of all the eighteen at once.
And so we did. At any rate, our joint dinner to the Royal Personage gradually assumed the aspect of a yearly function. Indeed, it grew larger and larger, until it became a sort of closing function for the season, at any rate as far as we were concerned. How is it possible to have achieved nine years and to have nothing whatever to show for it? Nothing whatever, you understand. Not so much as a bone penholder, carved to resemble a chessman and with a hole in the top through which you could see four views of Nauheim.
The instances of honesty that one comes across in this world are just as amazing as the instances of dishonesty. Ford Madox Ford 29 I think the modern civilized habit—the modern English habit of taking every one for granted—is a good deal to blame for this. I have observed this matter long enough to know the queer, subtle thing that it is; to know how the faculty, for what it is worth, never lets you down. And it is nasty to have to take a cold bath in the morning when what you want is really a hot one at night.
And it stirs a little of the faith of your fathers that is deep down within you to have to have it taken for granted that you are an Episcopalian when really you are an old-fashioned Philadelphia Quaker. And the odd, queer thing is that the whole collection of rules applies to anybody—to the anybodies that you meet in hotels, in railway trains, to a less degree, perhaps, in steamers, but even, in the end, upon steamers.
You know, this is to say, whether they will go rigidly through with the whole programme from the underdone beef to the Anglicanism. But the inconvenient—well, hang it all, I will say it—the damnable nuisance of the whole thing is, that with all the taking for granted, you never really get an inch deeper than the things I have catalogued. German anybodies: Irgendjemande. And that gives the measure at once of the extraordinariness of our discussion and of the swiftness with which intimacy had grown up between us.
On the one hand we seemed to start out on the expedition so naturally and with so little preparation, , that it was as if we must have made many such excursions before; and our intimacy seemed so deep Florence was singularly expert as a guide to archaeological expeditions and there was nothing she liked so much as taking people round ruins and showing you the window from which some one looked down upon the murder of some one else. She only did it once; but she did it quite magnificently.
She could find her way, with the sole help of Baedeker, as easily about any old monument as she could about any American city where the blocks are all square and the streets all numbered, so that you can go perfectly easily from Twenty-fourth to Thirtieth. Now it happens that fifty minutes away from Nauheim, by a good train, is the ancient city of M, upon a great pinnacle of basalt, girt with a triple road running sideways up its shoulder like a scarf. And at the top there is a castle— not a square castle like Windsor, but a castle all slate gables and high peaks with gilt weathercocks flashing bravely—the castle of St Elizabeth of Hungary.
It has the disadvantage of being in Prussia; and it is always disagreeable to go into that country; but it is very old and there are many double-spired churches and it stands up like a pyramid out of the green valley of the Lahn. But, you understand, there was no objection. It was part of the cure to make an excursion three or four times a week.
So that we were all quite unanimous in being grateful to Florence for providing the motive power. Florence, of course, had a motive of her own. Ford Madox Ford 31 educating Captain Ashburnham—oh, of course, quite pour le bon motif! At any rate, she knew beforehand all that Florence had to tell her. Perhaps she got it up out of Baedeker before Florence was up in the morning. It struck him, he said, that brainy Johnnies generally were rather muffs when they got on to four legs.
I reassured him as best I could. At that time the Captain was quite evidently enjoying being educated by Florence. She used to do it about three or four times a week under the approving eyes of Leonora and myself. It came in bursts. It was Florence clearing up one of the dark places of the earth, leaving the world a little lighter than she had found it. She would tell him the story of Hamlet; explain the form of a symphony, humming the first and second subjects to him, and so on; she would explain to him the difference between Arminians and Erastians; or she would give him a short lecture on the early history of the United States.
Did you ever read Mrs Markham? Well, it was like that You see, in the archives of the Schloss in that city there was a document which Florence thought would finally give her the chance to educate the whole lot of us together. And she gave, somehow, the impression of really knowing what poor Florence gave the impression of having only picked up.
It was almost something physical. Have you ever seen a retriever dashing in play after a greyhound?