by James Huneker
Kennst du der Mutter Künste nicht?
TRISTAN UND ISOLDE.
I'd rather see her in her grave than as Isolde! Mrs. Fridolin
tightly closed her large, soft eyes, adding intensity to a declaration
made for the enlightenment of her companion in a German railway
carriage. The young woman laughed disagreeably.
I mean what I say, Miss Bredd; and when you know as much about the
profession as I dowhen you are an older womanyou will see I am
right. MegI should say Margaretshall never sing Isolde with my
permission. Apart from the dreadfully immoral situation, just think of
the costume in the garden scene, that chiton of cheese-cloth! And these
Wagnerites pretend to turn up their nose at 'Faust'! I once told dear,
old M. Gounod, when Meg was in Paris with Parchesi, his music was
positively decent compared
The train, which had been travelling at a dangerous pace for
Germany, slackened speed, and the clatter in the compartment ahead
caused the two women to crane their heads out of the window.
Bayreuth! cried the younger theatrically, Bayreuth, the Mecca of
the true Wagnerite. Mrs. Fridolin gazed at her, at the neat American
belted serge suit, the straw sailor hat, the demure mouse colored hair,
the calm, insolent eyeseyes that bored like a gimlet. Oh, you love
Wagner? The girl hesitated, then answered in the broadest burr of the
Middle West, Well, you see, I haven't heard much of him, except when
the Thomas Orchestra came over to our place from Chicago. So I ain't
going to say whether I like him or not till I hear him. But I've
written lots about the 'Ring' Without hearing it? How very
American!And I'm a warm admirer of your daughter. Madame Fridolina
always seemed to me to be a great Wagner singer. Now she can
sing the Liebestod better than any of the German women
Thank you, my dear; one never goes to Bayreuth for the singing.
I know that; but as it's my first trip over here I mean to make the
most of it. I am a journalist, you know, and I'll write lots home about
Wagner and Fridolina.
Thanks again, my dear young lady. I'm sure you will tell the truth.
Margaret was refused the Brünnhilde at the last moment by Madame
Cosimathat's Mrs. Wagner, you knowand she had to content herself
with Fricka in 'Rheingold,' and Gutrune in 'Götterdämmerung,' two
odious parts. But what can she do? The Brünnhilde is Gulbranson. She is
a great favorite in Bayreuth, and has kept her figure, while poor
Megwait till you see her!
The train rounded the curve and, leaving behind the strange looking
theatre, surely a hieratic symbol of Wagner's power, entered the
station full of gabbling, curious peopleBayreuth at last.
The atelier was on the ground floor at the end of a German garden
full of angular desolations. It was a large, bare, dusty apartment, the
glare of the August sun tempered by green shades nearly obscuring the
big window facing the north. A young woman sat high on a revolving
platform. She was very fat. As the sculptor fixed her with his slow
glance he saw that her head, a pretty head, was too small for her
monstrous bulk; her profile, pure Greek, the eyes ox-like, the cups
full of feeling, with heavy accents beneath them. Her face, almost
slim, had planes eloquent with surface meanings upon the cheeks and
chin, while the mouth, sweet for a large woman, revealed amiability
quite in accord with the expression of the eyes. These were the glory
of her countenance, these and her resonant black hair. Isolate this
head from the shoulders, from all the gross connotations of the frame,
and the trick would be done. So thought the sculptor, as the problem
posed itself clearly; then he saw her figure and doubted.
I am hopeless, am I not, Herr Arthmann? Her voice was so
frankly appealing, so rich in comic intention, that he sat down and
laughed. She eagerly joined in: And yet my waist is not so large as
Mitwindt's. We always call her Bagpipes. She is absurd. And such a
chest! Why, I'm a mere child. Anyhow, all Germans like big singers,
and all the German Wagner singers are big women, are they not, Herr
Arthmann? There was Alboni and Parepa-RosaI know they were not Wagner
singers; but they were awful all the sameand just look at the
Schnorrs, Materna, Rosa Sucher, poor Klafsky and
My dear young friend, interrupted the sculptor as he took up a
pointer and approached a miniature head in clay which stood upon a
stand, my dearhe did not say friend the second timeI remarked
nothing about your figure being too large for the stage. I was trying
to get it into harmony with your magnificent shoulders and antique
head. That's all. His intonation was caressing, the speech of a
cultivated man, and his accent slightly Scandinavian; at times his
voice seemed to her as sweetly staccato as a mandolin. He gazed with
all his vibrating artistic soul into the girl's humid blue eyes; half
frightened she looked down at her pretty, dimpled handsthe hands of a
baby despite their gladiatorial size.
How you do flatter! All foreigners flatter American girls, don't
they? Now you know you don't think my shoulders magnificent, do you?
And my waistO! Herr Arthmann, what shall I do with my waist? As
Brünnhilde, I'm all right to move about in loose draperies, but as
Fricka, as GutruneGutrune who falls fainting beside Siegfried's bier!
How must I look on my back? Oh, dear! and I diet, never drink water at
meals, walk half the day and seldom touch a potato. And you know what
that means in Germany! There are times when to see a potato, merely
hearing the word mentioned, brings tears to my eyes. And yet I get no
thinnerjust look at me!
He did. Her figure was gigantic. She weighed much over two hundred
pounds, though the mighty trussing to which she subjected herself, and
a discreet manner of dressing made her seem smaller. Arthmann was
critical, and did not disguise the impossibility of the task. He had
determined on a head and bust, something heroic after the manner of a
sturdy Brünnhilde. The preparations were made, the skeleton, framework
of lead pipe for the clay, with crossbar for shoulders and wooden
butterflies in position. On the floor were water-buckets, wet cloths
and a vast amount of wet clayclay to catch the fleshly exterior, clay
to imprison the soulperhaps, of Fridolina. But nothing had been done
except a tiny wax model, a likeness full of spirit, slightly
encouraging to the perplexed artist. The girl was beautiful; eyes,
hair, teeth, coloringall enticed him as man. As sculptor the
shapeless, hopeless figure was a thing for sack-like garments, not for
candid clay or the illuminating commentary of marble. She drew a silk
shawl closer about her bare shoulders.
And Isoldewhat shall I do? Frau Cosima says that I may sing it
two summers from now; but then she promised me Brünnhilde two years ago
after I had successfully sung Elsa. I know every note of 'Tristan,' for
I've had over a thousand piano rehearsals, and Herr Siegfried and
Caspar Dennett both say that in time it will be my great rôle. Who
was it you mentioned besides the Prince Imperial?they always call
Siegfried Wagner the Prince Imperial or the Heir Apparent in
BayreuthMr. Dennett. He is the celebrated young American
conductorthe only American that ever conducted in Bayreuth. You saw
him the other night at Sammett's garden. Don't you remember the smooth
faced, very good-looking young man?you ought to model him. He was
with Siegfried when he spoke to me. And you say that he admires your
Isolde? persisted Arthmann, pulling at his short reddish beard. Why,
of course! Didn't he play the piano accompaniments? Was his wife
always with you? Now, Herr Arthmann, you are a regular gossipy
German. Certainly she wasn't. We in America don't need chaperons like
your Ibsen womenare you really Norwegian or Polish? Is your name,
Wenceslaus, Bohemian or Polish? Besides, here I am alone in your studio
in Bayreuth, the most scandal-mongering town I ever heard of. My mother
would object very much to this sort of thing, and I'm sure we are very
proper. Oh, very, replied the sculptor; when do you expect your
mother? To-morrow, is it not?
The girl nodded. Tired of talking, she watched with cool nervousness
the movements of the young man; watched his graceful figure, admirable
poses; his long, brown fingers smoothing and puttering in the clay; his
sharply etched profile, so melancholy, insincere. And this Dennett?
he resumed. She opened her little mouth. Please don't yawn,
Fridolina, he begged. I wasn't yawning, only trying to laugh. Dennett
is on your mind. He seems to worry you. Don't be jealousWenceslaus;
he is an awful flirt and once frightened me to death by chasing me
around the dressing-room at the opera till I was out of breath and
black and blue from pushing the chairs and tables in his way. And what
do you suppose he gave as an excuse? Why, he just said he was
exercising me to reduce my figure, and hadn't the remotest notion of
kissing me. Oh, no, he hadn't, had he? She pealed with laughter, her
companion regarding her with tense lips. No one but a Yankee girl
would have thought of telling such a story. Why, is it improper? She
was all anxiety. No, not improper, but heartless, simply heartless.
You have never loved, Margaret Fridolina, he said, harshly. Call me
Meg, Wenceslaus, but not when mamma is present, was her simple answer.
He threw down his wooden modelling spatula.
Oh, this is too much, he angrily exclaimed: you tell me of men
who chase youa man Wenceslaus, she corrected him earnestlyyou
tell me all this and you know I love you; without your love I shall
throw up sculpture and go to sea as a sailor. Meg, Meg, have you no
heart? Why, you little boy, what have I said to offend you? Why are
you so cynical when I know you to be so sentimental? Her voice was
arch, an intimate voice with liquid inflections. He began pacing the
chilly floor of the studio.
Let us be frank. I've only known you two months, since the day we
accidentally met, leaving Paris for Bayreuth. You have written your
mother nothing of our engagementwell, provisional engagement, if you
willand you insist on sticking to the operatic stage. I loathe it,
and I confess to you that I am sick with jealousy when I see you near
that lanky, ill-favored German tenor Burgmann. What, poor, big me!
she interjected, in teasing accents. Yes, you, Fridolina. I can quite
sympathize with what you tell me of your mother's dislike for the rôle
of Isolde. You are not temperamentally suited to it; it is horrible to
think of you in that second act. How horrible? My figure, you mean?
Yes, your figure, too, would be absurd. He was brutal now. And you
haven't the passion to make anything of the music. You've never loved,
never will, passionately But I'll sing Isolde all the same, she
cried. Not with my permission. Then without you and your
permission. She hastily arose and was about to step down from her
pedestal when the door opened.
Mother! Why, mamma, you said you weren't coming until Sunday. Mrs.
Fridolin could not see very well in the heavy shadows after the
blinding sunlight without. What are you doing here, Margaret, and of
all things alone up there on a throne! Is this a rehearsal for the
opera? I'm not alone, mother. This is WenceslausMr. Wenceslaus
Arthmann, the sculptor, mamma, and he is doing me in clay. Look at it;
isn't it sweet? Mr. Arthmann, this is my motherand who is the young
lady, mamma? Oh, I forgot. I was so confused and put out not finding
you at the station I drove at once to Villa Wahnfried Villa
Wahnfried! echoed two voices in dismayed unison. Yes, to Frau Cosima,
and she directed me here. She directed you here? Yes, why shouldn't
she? Is there anything wrong in that? asked the stately, high-nosed
lady with the gray pompadour, beginning to peer about suspiciously.
Oh, no, mamma, but how did Frau Cosima know that I was here? I don't
know, child, was the testy answer. Come, get down and let me
introduce you to my charming travelling friend, Miss Bredd. Miss Saïs
Bredd, put in the Western girl; I was named Saïs after my father
visited Egypt, but my friends call me Louie.And Miss Bredd, this is
Mister Arthmann, madame, said the sculptor. They all shook hands
after the singer had released her mother from a huge, cavernous hug.
But Meg, Meg, where is your chaperon? Fridolina looked at the young
man: Why, mamma, it was the Hausfrau who let you in, of
course. Miss Bredd smiled cynically.
Up the Via Dolorosa toiled a Sunday mob from many nations. The long,
nebulous avenue, framed on either side by dull trees, was dusty with
the heels of the faithful ones; and the murmur of voices in divers
tongues recalled the cluttering sea on a misty beach. Never swerving,
without haste or rest, went the intrepid band of melomaniacs speaking
of the singers, the weather and prices until the summit was reached.
There the first division broke ranks and charged upon the caravansary
which still stood the attacks of thirsty multitudes after two decades.
Lucky ones grasped Schoppen of beer and Rhine wine hemmed in by an army
of expectant throats, for the time was at hand when would sound
Donner's motive from the balcony: music made by brass instruments
warning the elect that Rheingold was about to unfold its lovely fable
of water, wood and wind.
Mrs. Fridolin went to the theatre and longed with mother's eyes for
the curtains to part and discover Fricka. She took her seat
unconcernedly; she was not an admirer of Wagner, educated as she had
been in the florid garden of Italian song. The darkness at first
oppressed her. When from mystic space welled those elemental sounds,
not mere music, but the sighing, droning, rhythmic swish of the waters,
this woman knew that something strange and terrible was about to enter
into her consciousness. The river Rhine calmly, majestically stole over
her senses; she forgot Bellini, Donizetti, even Gounod and soon she was
with the Rhine Daughters, with Alberich.... Her heart seemed to stop.
All sense of identity vanished at a wave of Wagner's wand, as is
absorbed the ego by the shining mirror of the hypnotist. This,
then, was the real Wagnera Wagner who attacked simultaneously the
senses, vanquished the strongest brain; a Wagner who wept, wooed, sang
and surged, ravished the soul until it was brought lacerated and
captive to the feet of the victorious master magician. The eye was
promise-crammed, the ears sealed with bliss, and she felt the wet of
the waters. She breathed hard as Alberich scaled the slimy steeps; and
the curves described by the three swimming mermaids filled her with the
joy of the dance, the free ecstatic movements of free things in the
waves. The filching of the Rheingold, the hoarse shout of laughter from
Alberich's love-foresworn lips, and the terrified cries of the luckless
watchers were as real as life. Walhall did not confuse her, for now she
caught clues to the meaning of the mighty epic. Wotan and Frickaah,
Meg did not look so stout, and how lovely her voice sounded!Loki,
mischief-making, diplomatic Loki; the giants, Fafner and Fasolt; Freia,
and foolish, maimed, malicious Mimethese were not mere papier-maché,
but fascinating deities. She saw the gnomes' underworld, saw the ring,
the snake and the tarnhelm; she heard the Nibelungs' anvil chorusso
different from Verdi'ssaw the giants quarrelling over their booty;
and the sonorous rainbow seemed to bridge the way to a fairer land. As
the Walhall march died in her ears she found herself outside on the
dusky, picturesque esplanade and forgot all about Meg, remembering her
only as Fricka. With the others she slowly trod the path that had been
pressed by the feet of art's martyrs. Mrs. Fridolin then gave tongue to
her whirring brain:
Oh! the magic of it all, she gasped.
I'm afraid I rather agree with Nordau, Mrs. Fridolinthe whole
affair reminds me of a tank-drama I once saw in Chicago. It was the
cool voice of Miss Bredd that sounded in the hot, humming lane
punctuated by vague, tall trees....
Mrs. Fridolin and her party went to Sammett's for dinner that
evening. This garden, once Angermann's and made famous by Wagner, is
still a magnet. The Americans listened calmly to furious disputes, in a
half-dozen tongues, over the performance to the crashing of dishes and
the huddling of glasses always full, always empty. Arthmann ordered the
entire menu, knowing well that it would reach them after much delay in
the inevitable guise of veal and potatoes. The women were in no hurry,
but the sculptor was. He drummed on the table, he made angry faces at
his neighborscontented looking Germans who whistled themes from
Rheingoldand when Herr Sammett saluted his guests with a crazy
trombone and crazier perversion of the Donner motive, Arthmann jumped
up and excused himself. The two hours and a half in the theatre had
made him nervous, restless, and he went away saying that he would be
back presently. Mrs. Fridolin was annoyed. It did not seem proper for
three ladies to remain unaccompanied in a public garden, even if that
garden was in Bayreuth. Suppose some of her New York friends should
happen by!... I wonder where he has gone? I don't admire your new
friend, Margaret. He seems very careless, she grumbled.
Wenceslaus!Mrs. Fridolin looked narrowly at her daughterMr.
Arthmann, then, will be back soon. Like all sculptors he hates to be
cooped up long. I guess he's gone to get a drink at the bar,
suggested the practical Miss Bredd. How did you like my Frickaoh,
here's Mr. DennettCaspar, Caspar come over here, here! The big girl
stood up in elephantine eagerness, and a jaunty, handsome young man,
with a shaven face and an important chin, slowly made his way through
the press of people to the Fridolin table. It was Caspar Dennett, the
conductor. After a formal presentation to the tall, thin Mrs. Fridolin,
the young American musician settled himself for a talk and began by
asking how they liked his conducting. He had been praised by the Prince
Imperial himselfpraise sufficient for any self-doubting soul! Thank
heaven, he had no doubt of his vocation! It was Miss Bredd who
I enjoyed your conducting immensely, Mr. Dennett, simply because I
couldn't see you work those long arms of yours.... I wrote lots about
you when you visited the West with your band. I never cared for your
Wagner readings. He stared at her reproachfully and she stared in
return. Then he murmured, I'm really very sorry I didn't please you,
Miss Bredd. I didn't know that you were a newspaper woman.
Journalist, if you please! I beg your pardon, journalist. I'm so
sorry that Mrs. Dennett is visiting relations in England. She would
have been delighted to call on you;Miss Bredd's expression became
disagreeableand now, Mrs. Fridolin, what do you think of your
daughter, your daughter Fricka Fridolina, as we call her? Won't she be
a superb Isolde some day? I hope not, Mr. Dennett, austerely replied
the mother. Margaret grasped his hands gratefully, crying aloud, You
dear! Isn't he a dear, mamma? Only think of your daughter as Isolde.
Ah! there comes the deserter. You thoughtless man!
The sculptor bowed stiffly when presented, and the two men sat on
either side of Miss Fridolin, far away from each other.
Mr. Arthmann, fluted the singershe was all dignity nowMr.
Dennett thinks I'm quite ready for Isolde. You said that to me this
afternoon, he answered in a rude manner. The conductor glanced at him
and then at Margaret. She was blushing. What I meant, said Dennett,
quickly turning the stream his way, What I meant was that Miss
Fridolina knows the score, and being temperamentally suited to the
rôle Temperamentally, sneered Arthmann. Yes, that's what I said,
snapped the other man, who had become surprisingly
pugnaciousFridolina was pressing his foot with heavy
approvaltemperamentally. You know Casparthe brows of the mother
and sculptor were thunderousyou know that Mr. Arthmann is a very
clever sculptor, and is a great reader of faces and character. Now he
says, that I have no dramatic talent, no temperament, and ought to
Get married, boomed in Arthmann with his most Norwegian accent. The
bomb exploded. I'd rather see herin her grave, Mrs.
FridolinOh, you wicked, sarcastic Louie Bredd. No, not in her
grave, but even as Isolde. Yes, I admit that I am converted to
Wagnerism. Wagner's music is better for some singers than marriage.
Prima donnas have no business to be married. If their husbands are not
wholly worthlessand there are few exceptionsthey are apt to be
ninnies and spongers on their wives' salaries. Then she related the
story of Wilski, who was a Miss Willies from Rochester. She married a
novelist, a young man with the brightest possible prospects imaginable.
What happened? He never wrote a story after his marriage in which he
didn't make his wife the heroine, so much so that all the magazine
editors and publishers refused his stuff, sending it back with the
polite comment, Too much Wilski!
That's nothing, interrupted Louie. She ought to have been happy
with such a worshipping husband. I know of a great singer, the greatest
singer aliveFruttothey all groanedthe greatest, I say.
Well, she married a lazy French count. Not once, but a hundred times
she has returned home after a concert only to find her husband playing
cards with her maid. She raised a row, but what was the use? She told
me that she'd rather have him at home with the servant playing poker
than at the opera where he was once seen to bet on the cards turned up
by Calvé in the third act of 'Carmen.' I've written the thing for my
paper and I mean to turn it into a short story some day. Every one had
tales to relate of the meanness, rapacity, dissipation and extravagance
of the prima donna's husband from Adelina Patti to Mitwindt, the German
singer who regularly committed her husband to jail at the beginning of
her season, only releasing him when September came, for then her money
was earned and banked.
But what has this to do with me? peevishly asked Fridolina, who
was tired and sleepy. If ever I marry it must be a man who will let me
sing Isolde. Most foreign husbands hide their wives away like a dog its
bone. She beamed on Wenceslaus. Then you will never marry a foreign
husband, returned the sculptor, irritably.
You must know, Mr. Arthmann, that my girl is a spoilt child, as
innocent as a baby, and has everything to learn about the ways of the
world. Remember, too, that I first posed her voice, taught her all she
knew of her art before she went to Parchesi. What you asktaking into
consideration that we, that I, hardly know youis rather
premature, is it not? They were walking in the cool morning down the
green alleys of the Hofgarten, where the sculptor had asked Mrs.
Fridolin for her daughter. He was mortified as he pushed his crisp
beard from side to side. He felt that he had been far from proposing
marriage to this large young woman's mother; something must have driven
him to such a crazy action. Was it Caspar Dennett and his classic
profile that had angered him into the confession? Nonsense! The
conductor was a married man with a family. Despite her easy, unaffected
manner, Margaret Fridolin was no fool; she ever observed the ultimate
proprieties, and being dangerously unromantic would be the last woman
in the world to throw herself away. But this foolish mania about
Isolde. What of that? It was absurd to consider such a thing.... Her
mother would never tolerate the attempt
Don't you think my judgment in this matter is just, Mr. Arthmann?
Mrs. Fridolin was blandly observing him. He asked her pardon for his
inattention; he had been dreaming of a possible happiness! She was very
amiable. And you know, of course, that Margaret has prospectshe did
not, and was all earsif she will only leave the operatic stage. Her
career will be a brilliant one despite her figure, Mr. Arthmann; but
there is a more brilliant social career awaiting her if she follows her
uncle's advice and marries. My brother is a rich man, and my daughter
may be his heiress. Never as a singerJob is prejudiced against the
stageand never if she marries a foreigner. But I shall become a
citizen of the United States, madame. Where were you born? Bergen;
my mother was from Warsaw, he moodily replied. It might as well be
Asia Minor. We are a stubborn family, sir, from the hills of New
Hampshire. We never give in. Come, let us go back to the Hotel Sonne,
and do you forget this foolish dream. Margaret may never leave the
stage, but I'm certain that she will never marry you. She
smiled at him, the thousand little wrinkles in her face making a sort
of reticulated map from which stared two large, blue eyesMargaret's
eyes, grown wiser and colder.... Now after that news I'll marry her if
I have to run away with her!resolved the sculptor when he reached
his bleak claustral atelier, and studied the model of her head. And how
to keep that man Dennett from spoiling the broth, he wondered....
In the afternoon Arthmann wrote Margaret a letter. Margaret, my
darling Margaret, what is the matter? Have I offended you by asking
your mother for you? Why did you not see me this morning? The atelier
is wintry without youthe cold clay, corpse-like, is waiting to revive
in your presence. Oh! how lovely is the garden, how sad my soul! I sit
and think of Verlaine's 'It rains in my heart as it rains in the town.'
Why won't you see me? You are mineyou swore it. My sweet girl, whose
heart is as fragrant as new-mown haythe artist pondered well this
comparison before he put it on paper; it evoked visions of hay bales.
Darling, you must see me to-morrow. To the studio you must come. You
know that we have planned to go to America in October. Only think,
sweetheart, what joy then! The sky is aflame with love. We walk slowly
under the few soft, autumn, prairie stars; your hand is in mine, we are
married! You see I am a poet for your sake. I beg for a reply hot from
your heart. Wenceslaus. ...
He despatched this declaration containing several minor
inaccuracies. It was late when he received a reply. All right,
Wenceslaus. But have I now the temperament to sing Isolde? It
was unsigned. Arthmann cursed in a tongue that sounded singularly like
That night, much against his desire, he dressed and went to a
reception at the Villa Wahnfried. As this worker in silent clay
disliked musical people, the buzz and fuss made him miserable. He did
not meet Fridolina, though he saw Miss Bredd arm-in-arm with Cosima,
Queen Regent of Bayreuth. The American girl was eloquently exposing her
theories of how Wagner should be sung and Arthmann, disgusted, moved
away. He only remembered Caspar Dennett when in the street. That
gentleman was not present either; and as the unhappy lover walked down
the moonlit Lisztstrasse he fancied he recognized the couple he sought.
Could it be! He rushed after the pair to be mocked by the slamming of a
gate, he knew not on what lonely street....
The next afternoon the duel began. Fridolina did not return for a
sitting as he had hoped; instead came an invitation for a drive to the
Hermitage. It was Mrs. Fridolin who sent it. Strange! Arthmann was
surprised at this renewal of friendly ties after his gentle dismissal
in the Hofgarten. But he dressed in his most effective clothes and,
shining with hope, reached the Hotel Sonne; two open carriages stood
before its arched doorway. Presently the others came downstairs and the
day became gray for the sculptor. Caspar Dennett, looking like a trim
Antinous with a fashionable tailor, smiled upon all, especially Miss
Bredd. Mrs. Fridolin alone did not seem at ease. She was very friendly
with Arthmann, but would not allow him in her carriage. No, she
protested, you two men must keep Margaret company. I'll ride with my
bright little Louie and listen to her anti-Wagner blasphemies. She
spoke as if she had fought under the Wagner banner from the beginning.
Margaret sat alone on the back seat. Although she grimaced at her
mother's suggestion, she was in high spirits, exploding over every
trivial incident of the journey. Arthmann, as he faced her, told
himself that he had never seen her so giggling and commonplace, so
unlike an artist, so bourgeois, so fat. He noticed, too, that her
lovely eyes expanded with the same expression, whether art or eating
was mentioned. He hardly uttered a word, for the others discussed
Tristan und Isolde until he hated Wagner's name. She was through with
her work at Bayreuth and Frau Cosima had promised her
Isoldepositively. She meant to undergo a severe Kur at
Marienbad and then return to the United States. Mr. Grau had also
promised her Isolde; while Jean de Reszkédear, wonderful Jean vowed
that he would sing Tristan to no other Isolde during his American
tournée! So it was settled. All she needed was her mother's
consentand that would not be a difficult matter to compass. Had she
not always wheedled the mater into her schemes, even when Uncle Job
opposed her? She would never marry, neveranyhow not until she had
sung Isoldeand then only a Wagner-loving husband.
And the temperament, the missing linkhow about that? asked
Arthmann sourly; he imagined that Dennett was exchanging secret signals
with her. She bubbled over with wrath. Temperament! I have temperament
enough despite my size. If I haven't any I know where to find it. There
is no sacrifice I'd not make to get it. Art for art is my theory. First
art and thenthe other things. She shrugged her massive shoulders in
high bad humor. Arthmann gloomily reflected that Dennett's phrases at
the Sammett Garden were being echoed. Mrs. Fridolin continually urged
her driver to keep his carriage abreast of the other. It made the party
more sociable, she declared, although to the sculptor it seemed as if
she wished to watch Margaret closely. She had never seemed so
suspicious. They reached the Hermitage.
Going home a fine rain set in; the hoods of the carriage were
raised, and the excursion ended flatly. At the hotel, Arthmann did not
attempt to go in. Mrs. Fridolin said she had a headache, Miss Bredd
must write articles about Villa Wahnfried, while Dennett disappeared
with Margaret. The drizzle turned into a downpour, and the artist,
savage with the world and himself, sought a neighboring café and drank
He called at the hotel the following afternoon. The ladies had gone
away. How gone away? The portier could not tell. Enraged as he saw his
rich dream vanishing, Arthmann moved about the streets with lagging,
desperate steps. He returned to the hotel several times during the
afternoonat no time was he very far from itbut the window-blinds
were always drawn in the Fridolin apartment and he began to despair. It
was near sunset when his Hausfrau, the disappearing chaperon,
ran to him red-faced. A letter for Herr Arthmann! It was from her:
I've gone in search of that temperament. Auf Wiedersehen.
Isolde. Nothing more. In puzzled fury he went back to the hotel. Yes,
Madame Fridolin and the young lady were now at home. He went to the
second landing and without knocking pushed open the door. It was a
house storm-riven. Trunks bulged, though only half-packed, their
contents straggling over the sides. The beds were not made, and a
strong odor of valerian and camphor flooded the air. On a couch lay
Mrs. Fridolin, her face covered with a handkerchief, while near hovered
Miss Bredd in her most brilliant and oracular attitude. She was
speaking too loudly as he entered: There is no use of worrying
yourself sick about Meg, Mrs. Fridolin. She's gone for a timethat's
all. When she finds out what an idiotically useless sacrifice she has
made for art and is a failure as Isoldeshe can no more sing the part
than a sick catshe will run home to her mammy quick enough.
Oh, this terrible artistic temperament! groaned the mother
apologetically. The girl made a cautious movement and waved Arthmann
out of the room. Into the hall she followed, soft-footed, but resolute.
He was gaunt with chagrin. Where is she?he began, but was sternly
If you had only flattered her more, and married her before her
mother arrived, this thing wouldn't have happened.
What thing? he thundered.
There! don't be an ox and make a stupid noise, she admonished.
Why, Megshe is so dead set on getting that artistic temperament,
that artistic thrill you raved about, that she has eloped.
Eloped! he feebly repeated, and sat down on a trunk in the
hallway. To her keen, unbiassed vision Arthmann seemed more shocked
than sorrowful. Then, returning to Isolde's mother, she was not
surprised to find her up and in capital humor, studying the railway
He believes the fibjust as Dennett did! Miss Bredd exclaimed,
triumphantly; and for the first time that day Mrs. Fridolin smiled.