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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Music and Discord
By Maarten Maartens (J. M. W. van der Poorten Schwartz) (1858–1915)
 
From ‘God’s Fool’

“THE PRINCIPLE remains the same,” cried Lossell. “Keep out of expenses while you can.”  1
  “But don’t if you can’t,” interrupted Cornelia tartly.  2
  Till now her husband had resolutely fastened his eyes upon the orchestra director’s shining rotundity. He withdrew them for a moment—less than a moment—as Cornelia spoke; and their glances met. In that tenth of a second a big battle was fought and lost, far more decisive than the wordy dispute of the other night. For Hendrik read defiance in Cornelia’s look, and retreated before it. In that flash of recognition he resolved to give up all attempts to browbeat her. His must be a warfare not of the broadsword, but of the stiletto. There lay discomfiture in the swift admission; not defeat as yet, but repulse. Once more Cornelia’s eagle face had stood her in good stead. “After all, I can’t slap her,” muttered Lossell, as he scowled back towards Herr Pfuhl’s bald head.  3
  Indeed he could not.  4
  “‘Can’t’ is an ugly word,” he said to himself almost as much as to her, and he walked away in the direction of the breakfast-room. In the entry he turned round. “No concert this winter, Herr Pfuhl!” he cried; and then he shut the door quickly behind him.  5
  He was still sufficiently master of his own house to say what he chose in it. But he was not master enough to remain where he chose after having said it.  6
  He was far from sorry to think the door should be shut.  7
  The repose of the Sabbath—that blessed resting on the oars—had been broken by a sudden squall. He glowered discontentedly at the breakfast things; and as he lifted the teapot lid, he sneered down upon the innocent brown liquid inside. Yet Cornelia could make good tea. And he knew it. It is a beautiful thing in a woman.  8
  No man of nervous or artistic temperament should bind himself in wedlock before the partner of his choice has passed an examination in tea-making. And even in Koopstad there are nervous souls, though inartistic, in these days of ours when Time travels only by rail. Hendrik was of a highly nervous nature, irritable, and fifty miles an hour. He sat down to breakfast and drew the Sunday morning paper towards him. Cornelia might as well stop away as not. How unreasonable she was, and how inconsiderate! He would walk out presently and see Elias. The walk would do him good and brace him up a bit. Elias was his brother; a step-brother, but still a brother, a Lossell. Blood is thicker than water, and every now and then the old truth comes home to you. And Cornelia was fast deepening into a nuisance.  9
  She came in serene, as if nothing had happened. Her victory satisfied her for the moment, and she was too wise a woman not to relax her hold of the rope the moment she had drawn the boat into her current. She had shown Hendrik the limit of her endurance, and instead of leaping over it, he had shivered back. That was enough for to-day. She did not really want the concert very badly, especially not at that “scandalous” price.  10
  “I quite agree with you, Henk,” she said mildly, as she busied herself with her tray; “and I have told Herr Pfuhl so, and sent him away. It would be absurd to pay so much for his band; and we can in any case very well wait till next year.”  11
  Hendrik’s whole being melted away into notes of interrogation and admiration, as he stopped and stared at his wife,—the open print in one hand, his half-lifted teacup in the other.  12
  “We must give an extra dinner instead,” continued Mevrouw. “Why did you not wait for me to pour out your tea, Hendrik?”  13
  “I am in a hurry,” answered Lossell, still bewildered: “I want to walk out to Elias’s and see how the poor chap is getting on.”  14
  Mevrouw pulled a face. She did not like to think of the useless idiot who stood between her and the full glory of greatness. Elias was her permanent eclipse. “Oh, depend upon it, he is perfectly well and happy,” she snapped. She avoided as much as possible allowing her thoughts to dwell upon contingencies; but she could not keep down an undercurrent of exasperation at sight of the idiot’s unbroken health. “It is only the people whose existence has no raison d’être,” she said, “that go on living for ever.”  15
  “So-o,” muttered Herr Pfuhl to himself emphatically, in a long-drawn reminiscence of his native land. He hurried down the short avenue in fretful jumps, and as he went he struck his greasy wide-awake down flat on his speckled cabinet pudding of a head. “So is it in the great houses. They have the butters and the oils of life, and yet the wheels go creaking. The Mefrou, ah, she will have her concert when she wants it. Not so was my Lieschen. Never has she given me Blutwurst again, since I told her it was Leberwurst I loved better. And yet Blutwurst was her Leibgericht.”  16
  Whenever he was strongly moved, his German seemed to break forth again purer from some hidden spring of feeling, and to come surging up across the muddy ditch of broken Dutch.  17
  A film spread over his eyes, for Lieschen would never eat Blutwurst again. She had been dead for many years. She had died in this strange, straight-lined country, of a chill at the heart.  18
  Peace be to the old Director’s ashes. He too is dead. But his orchestra was heard in Mevrouw Lossell’s rooms before he laid down his baton. And on that memorable occasion Hendrik Lossell went up to him, with nervous, puckered face, and complimented him on the excellence of the performance; adding, with a palpable sneer, that there were some things so valuable you could never pay enough for them.  19
  And the sneer was at himself.  20
 
 
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