Miriam was practising on the piano in the larger of the two English bedrooms. Two other pianos were sounding in the house, one across the landing and the other in the Saal where Herr Kapellmeister Bossenberger was giving a music lesson. The rest of the girls were gathered in the large schoolroom under the care of Mademoiselle for Saturday’s raccommodage. It was the last hour of the week’s work. Presently there would be a great gonging, the pianos would cease, Fräulein’s voice would sound up through the house “Anziehen zum Aus‑geh‑hen!”

There would be the walk, dinner, the Saturday afternoon home-letters to be written and then, until Monday, holiday, freedom to read and to talk English and idle. And there was a new arrival in the house. Ulrica Hesse had come. Miriam had seen her. There had been three large leather trunks in the hall and a girl with a smooth pure oval of pale face standing wrapped in dark furs, gazing about her with eyes for which Miriam had no word, liquid⁠—limpid⁠—great-saucers, no⁠—pools⁠ ⁠… great round deeps.⁠ ⁠… She had felt about for something to express them as she went upstairs with her roll of music. Fräulein Pfaff who had seemed to hover and smile about the girl as if half afraid to speak to her, had put out a hand for Miriam and said almost deprecatingly, “Ach, mm, dies’ ist unser Ulrica.

The girl’s thin fingers had come out of her furs and fastened convulsively⁠—like cold, throbbing claws on to the breadth of Miriam’s hand.

Unsere englische Lehrerin⁠—our teacher from England,” smiled Fräulein.

Lehrerin!” breathed the girl. Something flinched behind her great eyes. The fingers relaxed, and Miriam feeling within her a beginning of response, had gone upstairs.

As she reached the upper landing she began to distinguish against the clangour of chromatic passages assailing the house from the echoing Saal, the gentle tones of the nearer piano, the one in the larger German bedroom opposite the front room for which she was bound. She paused for a moment at the top of the stairs and listened. A little swaying melody came out to her, muted by the closed door. Her grasp on the roll of music slackened. A radiance came for a moment behind the gravity of her face. Then the careful unstumbling repetition of a difficult passage drew her attention to the performer, her arms dropped to her sides and she passed on. It was little Bergmann, the youngest girl in the school. Her playing, on the bad old piano in the dark dressing room in the basement, had prepared Miriam for the difference between the performance of these German girls and nearly all the piano-playing she had heard. It was the morning after her arrival. She had been unpacking and had taken, on the advice of Mademoiselle, her heavy boots and outdoor things down to the basement room. She had opened the door on Emma sitting at the piano in her blue and buff check ribbon-knotted stuff dress. Miriam had expected her to turn her head and stop playing. But as, arms full, she closed the door with her shoulders, the child’s profile remained unconcerned. She noticed the firmly-poised head, the thick creamy neck that seemed bare with its absence of collar-band and the soft frill of tucker stitched right on to the dress, the thick cable of string-coloured hair reaching just beyond the rim of the leather-covered music stool, the steel-beaded points of the little slippers gleaming as they worked the pedals, the serene eyes steadily following the music. She played on and Miriam recognised a quality she had only heard occasionally at concerts, and in the playing of one of the music teachers at school.

She had stood amazed, pretending to be fumbling for empty pegs as this round-faced child of fourteen went her way to the end of her page. Then Miriam had ventured to interrupt and to ask her about the hanging arrangements, and the child had risen and speaking soft South German had suggested and poked tiptoeing about amongst the thickly-hung garments and shown a motherly solicitude over the disposal of Miriam’s things. Miriam noted the easy range of the child’s voice, how smoothly it slid from birdlike queries and chirpings to the consoling tones of the lower register. It seemed to leave undisturbed the softly-rounded, faintly-mottled chin and cheeks and the full unpouting lips that lay quietly one upon the other before she spoke, and opened flexibly but somehow hardly moved to her speech and afterwards closed again gradually until they lay softly blossoming as before.

Emma had gathered up her music when the clothes were arranged, sighing and lamenting gently, “Wäre ich nur zu Hause”⁠—how happy one was at home⁠—her little voice filled with tears and her cheeks flushed, “haypie, haypie to home,” she complained as she slid her music into its case, “where all so good, so nice, so beautiful,” and they had gone, side by side, up the dark uncarpeted stone stairs leading from the basement to the hall. Halfway up, Emma had given Miriam a shy firm hug and then gone decorously up the remainder of the flight.

The sense of that sudden little embrace recurred often to Miriam during the course of the first day.

It was unlike any contact she had known⁠—more motherly than her mother’s. Neither of her sisters could have embraced her like that. She did not know that a human form could bring such a sense of warm nearness, that human contours could be eloquent⁠—or anyone so sweetly daring.

That first evening at Waldstraße there had been a performance that had completed the transformation of Miriam’s English ideas of “music.” She had caught the word Vorspielen being bandied about the long tea table, and had gathered that there was to be an informal playing of “pieces” before Fräulein Pfaff. She welcomed the event. It relieved her from the burden of being in high focus⁠—the relief had come as soon as she took her place at the gaslit table. No eye seemed to notice her. The English girls having sat out two mealtimes with her, had ceased the hard-eyed observation which had made the long silence of the earlier repasts only less embarrassing than Fräulein’s questions about England. The four Germans who had neither stared nor even appeared aware of her existence, talked cheerfully across the table in a general exchange that included tall Fräulein Pfaff smiling her horse smile⁠—Miriam provisionally called it⁠—behind the tea urn, as chairman. The six English-speaking girls, grouped as it were towards their chief, a dark-skinned, athletic looking Australian with hot, brown, slightly bloodshot eyes sitting as vice president opposite Fräulein, joined occasionally, in solo and chorus, and Miriam noted with relief a unanimous atrocity of accent in their enviable fluency. Rapid sotto voce commentary and half-suppressed wordless byplay located still more clearly the English quarter. Animation flowed and flowed. Miriam safely ignored, scarcely heeding, but warmed and almost happy, basked. She munched her black bread and butter, liberally smeared with the rich savoury paste of liver sausage, and drank her sweet weak tea and knew that she was very tired, sleepy and tired. She glanced, from her place next to Emma Bergmann and on Fräulein’s left hand, down the table to where Mademoiselle sat next the Martins in similar relation to the vice-president. Mademoiselle, preceding her up through the quiet house carrying the jugs of hot water, had been her first impression on her arrival the previous night. She had turned when they reached the candle-lit attic with its high uncurtained windows and red-covered box beds, and standing on the one strip of matting in her full-skirted grey wincey dress with its neat triple row of black ribbon velvet near the hem, had shown Miriam steel-blue eyes smiling from a little triangular spritelike face under a high-standing pouf of soft dark hair, and said, “Voilà!” Miriam had never imagined anything in the least like her. She had said, “Oh, thank you,” and taken the jug and had hurriedly and silently got to bed, weighed down by wonders. They had begun to talk in the dark. Miriam had reaped sweet comfort in learning that this seemingly unreal creature who was, she soon perceived, not educated⁠—as she understood education⁠—was the resident French governess, was seventeen years old and a Protestant. Such close quarters with a French girl was bewildering enough⁠—had she been a Roman Catholic, Miriam felt she could not have endured her proximity. She was evidently a special kind of French girl⁠—a Protestant from East France⁠—Besançon⁠—Besançon⁠—Miriam had tried the pretty word over until unexpectedly she had fallen asleep.

They had risen hurriedly in the cold March gloom and Miriam had not spoken to her since. There she sat, dainty and quiet and fresh. White frillings shone now at the neck and sleeves of her little grey dress. She looked a clean and clear miniature against the general dauby effect of the English girls⁠—poor though, Miriam was sure; perhaps as poor as she. She felt glad as she watched her gentle spritelike wistfulness that she would be upstairs in that great bare attic again tonight. In repose her face looked pinched. There was something about the nose and mouth⁠—Miriam mused⁠ ⁠… frugal⁠—John Gilpin’s wife⁠—how sleepy she was.

The conversation was growing boisterous. She took courage to raise her head towards the range of girls opposite to her. Those quite near to her she could not scrutinise. Some influence coming to her from these German girls prevented her risking with them any meeting of the eyes that was not brought about by direct speech. But she felt them. She felt Emma Bergmann’s warm plump presence close at her side and liked to take food handed by her. She was conscious of the pink bulb of Minna Blum’s nose shining just opposite to her, and of the way the light caught the blond sheen of her exquisitely coiled hair as she turned her always smiling face and responded to the louder remarks with, “Oh, thou dear God!” or “Is it possible!” “How charming, charming,” or “What in life dost thou say, rascal!”

Next to her was the faint glare of Elsa Speier’s silent sallowness. Her clear-threaded nimbus of pallid hair was the lowest point in the range of figures across the table. She darted quick glances at one and another without moving her head, and Miriam felt that her pale eyes fully met would be cunning and malicious.

After Elsa the “English” began with Judy. Miriam guessed when she heard her ask for Brötchen that she was Scotch. She sat slightly askew and ate eagerly, stooping over her plate with smiling mouth and downcast heavily-freckled face. Unless spoken to she did not speak, but she laughed often, a harsh involuntary laugh immediately followed by a drowning flush. When she was not flushed her eyelashes shone bright black against the unstained white above her cheekbones. She had coarse fuzzy red-brown hair.

Miriam decided that she was negligible.

Next to Judy were the Martins. They were as English as they could be. She felt she must have noticed them a good deal at breakfast and dinnertime without knowing it. Her eyes after one glance at the claret-coloured merino dresses with hard white collars and cuffs, came back to her plate as from a familiar picture. She still saw them sitting very upright, side by side, with the front strands of their hair strained smoothly back, tied just on the crest of the head with brown ribbon and going down in “rats’-tails” to join the rest of their hair which hung straight and flat halfway down their backs. The elder was dark with thick shoulders and heavy features. Her large expressionless rich brown eyes flashed slowly and reflected the light. They gave Miriam a slight feeling of nausea. She felt she knew what her hands were like without looking at them. The younger was thin and pale and slightly hollow-cheeked. She had pale eyes, cold, like a fish, thought Miriam. They both had deep hollow voices.

When she glanced again they were watching the Australian with their four strange eyes and laughing German phrases at her, “Go on, Gertrude!” “Are you sure, Gertrude?” “How do you know, Gertrude!”

Miriam had not yet dared to glance in the direction of the Australian. Her eyes at dinnertime had cut like sharp steel. Turning, however, towards the danger zone, without risking the coming of its presiding genius within the focus of her glasses she caught a glimpse of “Jimmie” sitting back in her chair tall and plump and neat, and shaking with wide-mouthed giggles. Miriam wondered at the high neat peak of hair on the top of her head and stared at her pearly little teeth. There was something funny about her mouth. Even when she strained it wide it was narrow and tiny⁠—rabbity. She raised a short arm and began patting her peak of hair with a tiny hand which showed a small onyx seal ring on the little finger. “Ask Judy!” she giggled, in a fruity squeak.

“Ask Judy!” they all chorused, laughing.

Judy cast an appealing flash of her eyes sideways at nothing, flushed furiously and mumbled, “Ik weiss nik⁠—I don’t know.”

In the outcries and laughter which followed, Miriam noticed only the hoarse hacking laugh of the Australian. Her eyes flew up the table and fixed her as she sat laughing, her chair drawn back, her knees crossed⁠—tea was drawing to an end. The detail of her terrifyingly stylish ruddy-brown frieze dress with its Norfolk jacket bodice and its shiny black leather belt was hardly distinguishable from the dark background made by the folding doors. But the dreadful outline of her shoulders was visible, the squarish oval of her face shone out⁠—the wide forehead from which the wiry black hair was combed to a high puff, the red eyes, black now, the long straight nose, the wide laughing mouth with the enormous teeth.

Her voice conquered easily.

Nein,” she tromboned, through the din.

Mademoiselle’s little finger stuck up sharply like a steeple, her mouth said, “Oh⁠—Oh⁠—”

Fräulein’s smile was at its widest, waiting the issue.

Nein,” triumphed the Australian, causing a lull.

Leise, Kinder, leise, doucement, gentlay,” chided Fräulein, still smiling.

“Hermann, yes,” proceeded the Australian, “aber Hugo⁠—!”

Miriam heard it agreed in the end that someone named Hugo did not wear a moustache, though someone named Hermann did. She was vaguely shocked and interested.

After tea the great doors were thrown open and the girls filed into the Saal. It was a large high room furnished like a drawing-room⁠—enough settees and easy chairs to accommodate more than all the girls. The polished floor was uncarpeted save for an archipelago of mats and rugs in the wide circle of light thrown by the four-armed chandelier. A grand piano was pushed against the wall in the far corner of the room, between the farthest of the three high French windows and the shining pillar of porcelain stove.

The high room, the bright light, the plentiful mirrors, the long sweep of lace curtains, the many faces⁠—the girls seemed so much more numerous scattered here than they had when collected in the schoolroom⁠—brought Miriam the sense of the misery of social occasions. She wondered whether the girls were nervous. She was glad that music lessons were no part of her remuneration. She thought of dreadful experiences of playing before people. The very first time, at home, when she had played a duet with Eve⁠—Eve playing a little running melody in the treble⁠—her own part a page of minims. The minims had swollen until she could not see whether they were lines or spaces, and her fingers had been so weak after the first unexpectedly loud note that she could hardly make any sound. Eve had said “louder” and her fingers had suddenly stiffened and she had worked them from her elbows like sticks at the end of her trembling wrists and hands. Eve had noticed her dreadful movements and resented being elbowed. She had heard nothing then but her hard loud minims till the end, and then as she stood dizzily up someone had said she had a nice firm touch, and she had pushed her angry way from the piano across the hearthrug. She should always remember the clear red-hot mass of the fire and the bottle of green Chartreuse warming on the blue and cream tiles. There were probably only two or three guests, but the room had seemed full of people, stupid people who had made her play. How angry she had been with Eve for noticing her discomfiture and with the forgotten guest for her silly remark. She knew she had simply poked the piano. Then there had been the annual school concert, all the girls almost unrecognisable with fear. She had learnt her pieces by heart for those occasions and played them through with trembling limbs and burning eyes⁠—alternately thumping with stiff fingers and feeling her whole hand faint from the wrist on to the notes which fumbled and slurred into each other almost soundlessly until the thumping began again. At the musical evenings, organised by Eve as a winter set-off to the tennis club, she had both played and sung, hoping each time afresh to be able to reproduce the effects which came so easily when she was alone or only with Eve. But she could not discover the secret of getting rid of her nervousness. Only twice had she succeeded⁠—at the last school concert when she had been too miserable to be nervous and Mr. Strood had told her she did him credit and, once she had sung “Chanson de Florian” in a way that had astonished her own listening ear⁠—the notes had laughed and thrilled out into the air and come back to her from the wall behind the piano.⁠ ⁠… The day before the tennis tournament.

The girls were all settling down to fancy work, the white-cuffed hands of the Martins were already jerking crochet needles, faces were bending over fine embroideries and Minna Blum had trundled a mounted lace pillow into the brighter light.

Miriam went to the schoolroom and fetched from her workbasket the piece of canvas partly covered with red and black wool in diamond pattern that was her utmost experience of fancy work.

As she returned she half saw Fräulein Pfaff, sitting as if enthroned on a high-backed chair in front of the centremost of the mirrors filling the wall spaces between the long French windows, signal to her, to come to that side of the room.

Timorously ignoring the signal she got herself into a little low chair in the shadow of the half-closed swing door and was spreading out her woolwork on her knee when the Vorspielen began.

Emma Bergmann was playing. The single notes of the opening motif of Chopin’s Fifteenth Nocturne fell pensively into the waiting room. Miriam, her fatigue forgotten, slid to a featureless freedom. It seemed to her that the light with which the room was filled grew brighter and clearer. She felt that she was looking at nothing and yet was aware of the whole room like a picture in a dream. Fear left her. The human forms all round her lost their power. They grew suffused and dim.⁠ ⁠… The pensive swing of the music changed to urgency and emphasis.⁠ ⁠… It came nearer and nearer. It did not come from the candle-lit corner where the piano was.⁠ ⁠… It came from everywhere. It carried her out of the house, out of the world.

It hastened with her, on and on towards great brightness.⁠ ⁠… Everything was growing brighter and brighter.⁠ ⁠…

Gertrude Goldring, the Australian, was making noises with her hands like inflated paper bags being popped. Miriam clutched her wool needle and threaded it. She drew the wool through her canvas, one, three, five, three, one and longed for the piano to begin again.

Clara Bergmann followed. Miriam watched her as she took her place at the piano⁠—how square and stout she looked and old, careworn, like a woman of forty. She had high square shoulders and high square hips⁠—her brow was low and her face thin broad and flat. Her eyes were like the eyes of a dog and her thin-lipped mouth long and straight until it went steadily down at the corners. She wore a large fringe like Harriett’s⁠—and a thin coil of hair filled the nape of her neck. She played, without music, her face lifted boldly. The notes rang out in a prelude of unfinished phrases⁠—the kind, Miriam noted, that had so annoyed her father in what he called newfangled music⁠—she felt it was going to be a brilliant piece⁠—fireworks⁠—execution⁠—style⁠—and sat up self-consciously and fixed her eyes on Clara’s hands. “Can you see the hands?” she remembered having heard someone say at a concert. How easily they moved. Clara still sat back, her face raised to the light. The notes rang out like trumpet calls as her hands dropped with an easy fling and sprang back and dropped again. What loose wrists she must have, thought Miriam. The clarion notes ceased. There was a pause. Clara threw back her head, a faint smile flickered over her face, her hands fell gently and the music came again, pianissimo, swinging in an even rhythm. It flowed from those clever hands, a half-indicated theme with a gentle, steady, throbbing undertow. Miriam dropped her eyes⁠—she seemed to have been listening long⁠—that wonderful light was coming again⁠—she had forgotten her sewing⁠—when presently she saw, slowly circling, fading and clearing, first its edge, and then, for a moment the whole thing, dripping, dripping as it circled, a weed-grown mill wheel.⁠ ⁠… She recognised it instantly. She had seen it somewhere as a child⁠—in Devonshire⁠—and never thought of it since⁠—and there it was. She heard the soft swish and drip of the water and the low humming of the wheel. How beautiful⁠ ⁠… it was fading.⁠ ⁠… She held it⁠—it returned⁠—clearer this time and she could feel the cool breeze it made, and sniff the fresh earthy scent of it, the scent of the moss and the weeds shining and dripping on its huge rim. Her heart filled. She felt a little tremor in her throat. All at once she knew that if she went on listening to that humming wheel and feeling the freshness of the air, she would cry. She pulled herself together, and for a while saw only a vague radiance in the room and the dim forms grouped about. She could not remember which was which. All seemed good and dear to her. The trumpet notes had come back, and in a few moments the music ceased.⁠ ⁠… Someone was closing the great doors from inside the schoolroom. As the side behind which she was sitting swung slowly to, she caught a glimpse, through the crack, of four boys with close-cropped heads, sitting at the long table. The gas was out and the room was dim, but a reading lamp in the centre of the table cast its light on their bowed heads.

The playing of the two Martins brought back the familiar feeling of English self-consciousness. Solomon, the elder one, sat at her Beethoven sonata, an adagio movement, with a patch of dull crimson on the pallor of the cheek she presented to the room, but she played with a heavy fervour, preserving throughout the characteristic marching staccato of the bass, and gave unstinted value to the shading of each phrase. She made Miriam feel nervous at first and then⁠—as she went triumphantly forward and let herself go so tremendously⁠—traction engine, thought Miriam⁠—in the heavy fortissimos⁠—a little ashamed of such expression coming from English hands. The feeling of shame lingered as the younger sister followed with a spirited vivace. Her hollow-cheeked pallor remained unstained, but her thin lips were set and her hard eyes were harder. She played with determined nonchalance and an extraordinarily facile rapidity, and Miriam’s uneasiness changed insensibly to the conviction that these girls were learning in Germany not to be ashamed of “playing with expression.” All the things she had heard Mr. Strood⁠—who had, as the school prospectus declared, been “educated in Leipzig”⁠—preach and implore, “style,” “expression,” “phrasing,” “light and shade,” these girls were learning, picking up from these wonderful Germans. They did not do it quite like them though. They did not think only about the music, they thought about themselves too. Miriam believed she could do it as the Germans did. She wanted to get her own music and play it as she had always dimly known it ought to be played and hardly ever dared. Perhaps that was how it was with the English. They knew, but they did not dare. No. The two she had just heard playing were, she felt sure, imitating something⁠—but hers would be no imitation. She would play as she wanted to one day in this German atmosphere. She wished now she were going to have lessons. She had in fact had a lesson. But she wanted to be alone and to play⁠—or perhaps with someone in the next room listening. Perhaps she would not have even the chance of practising.

Minna rippled through a Chopin valse that made Miriam think of an apple orchard in bloom against a blue sky, and was followed by Jimmie who played the Spring Song with slightly swaying body and little hands that rose and fell one against the other, and reminded Miriam of the finger game of her childhood⁠—“Fly away Jack, fly away Jill.” She played very sweetly and surely except that now and again it was as if the music caught its breath.

Jimmie’s lied brought the piano solos to an end, and Fräulein Pfaff after a little speech of criticism and general encouragement asked, to Miriam’s intense delight, for the singing. “Millie” was called for. Millie came out of a corner. She was out of Miriam’s range at mealtimes and appeared to her now for the first time as a tall child-girl in a high-waisted, blue serge frock, plainly made with long plain sleeves, at the end of which appeared two large hands shining red and shapeless with chilblains. She attracted Miriam at once with the shell-white and shell-pink of her complexion, her firm chubby baby mouth and her wide gaze. Her face shone in the room, even her hair⁠—done just like the Martins’, but fluffy where theirs was flat and shiny⁠—seemed to give out light, shadowy-dark though it was. Her figure was straight and flat, and she moved, thought Miriam, as though she had no feet.

She sang, with careful precision as to the accents of her German, in a high breathy effortless soprano, a little song about a child and a bouquet of garden flowers.

The younger Martin in a strong hard jolting voice sang of a lovesick linden tree, her pale thin cheeks pink-flushed.

“Herr Kapellmeister chooses well,” smiled Fräulein at the end of this performance.

The Vorspielen was brought to an end by Gertrude Goldring’s song. Clara Bergmann sat down to accompany her, and Miriam roused herself for a double listening. There would be Clara’s opening and Clara’s accompaniment and some wonderful song. The Australian stood well away from the piano, her shoulders thrown back and her eyes upon the wall opposite her. There was no prelude. Piano and voice rang out together⁠—single notes which the voice took and sustained with an expressive power which was beyond anything in Miriam’s experience. Not a note was quite true.⁠ ⁠… The unerring falseness of pitch was as startling as the quality of the voice. The great wavering shouts slurring now above, now below the mark amazed Miriam out of all shyness. She sat up, frankly gazing⁠—“How dare she? She hasn’t an atom of ear⁠—how ghastly”⁠—her thoughts exclaimed as the shouts went on. The longer sustained notes presently reminded her of something. It was like something she had heard⁠—in the interval between the verses⁠—while the sounds echoed in the mind she remembered the cry, hand to mouth, of a London dustman.

Then she lost everything in the story of the Sultan’s daughter and the young Asra, and when the fullest applause of the evening was going to Gertrude’s song, she did not withhold her share.

Anna, the only servant Miriam had seen so far⁠—an enormous woman whose face, apart from the small eyes, seemed all “bony structure,” Miriam noted in a phrase borrowed from some unremembered reading⁠—brought in a tray filled with cups of milk, a basket of white rolls and a pile of little plates. Gertrude took the tray and handed it about the room. As Miriam took her cup, chose a roll, deposited it on a plate and succeeded in abstracting the plate from the pile neatly, without fumbling, she felt that for the moment Gertrude was prepared to tolerate her. She did not desire this in the least, but when the deep harsh voice fell against her from the bending Australian, she responded to the “Wie gefällt’s Ihnen?” with an upturned smile and a warm “sehr gut!” It gratified her to discover that she could, at the end of this one day, understand or at the worst gather the drift of, all she heard, both of German and French. Mademoiselle had exclaimed at her French⁠—les mots si bien choisis⁠—un accent sans faute⁠—it must be ear. She must have a very good ear. And her English was all right⁠—at least, if she chose.⁠ ⁠… Pater had always been worrying about slang and careless pronunciation. None of them ever said “cut in half” or “very unique” or “ho’sale” or “phodygraff.” She was awfully slangy herself⁠—she and Harriett were, in their thoughts as well as their words⁠—but she had no provincialisms, no Londonisms⁠—she could be the purest Oxford English. There was something at any rate to give her German girls.⁠ ⁠… She could say, “There are no rules for English pronunciation, but what is usual at the University of Oxford is decisive for cultured people”⁠—“decisive for cultured people.” She must remember that for the class.

“Na, was sticken Sie da, Miss Henderson?”

It was Fräulein Pfaff.

Miriam who had as yet hardly spoken to her, did not know whether to stand or to remain seated. She half rose and then Fräulein Pfaff took the chair near her and Miriam sat down, stiff with fear. She could not remember the name of the thing she was making. She flushed and fumbled⁠—thought of dressing tables and the little objects of which she had made so many hanging to the mirror by ribbons; “toilet-tidies” haunted her⁠—but that was not it⁠—she smoothed out her work as if to show it to Fräulein⁠—“Na, na,” came the delicate caustic voice. “Was wird das wohl sein?” Then she remembered. “It’s for a pincushion,” she said. Surely she need not venture on German with Fräulein yet.

Ein Nadelkissen,” corrected Fräulein, “das wird niedlich aussehen,” she remarked quietly, and then in English, “You like music, Miss Henderson?”

“Oh, yes,” said Miriam, with a pounce in her voice.

“You play the piano?”

“A little.”

“You must keep up your practice then, while you are with us⁠—you must have time for practice.”

Fräulein Pfaff rose and moved away. The girls were arranging the chairs in two rows⁠—plates and cups were collected and carried away. It dawned on Miriam that they were going to have prayers. What a wet blanket on her evening. Everything had been so bright and exciting so far. Obviously they had prayers every night. She felt exceedingly uncomfortable. She had never seen prayers in a sitting room. It had been nothing at school⁠—all the girls standing in the drill room, rows of voices saying “adsum,” then a Collect and the Lord’s Prayer.

A huge Bible appeared on a table in front of Fräulein’s high-backed chair. Miriam found herself ranged with the girls, sitting in an attentive hush. There was a quiet, slow turning of pages, and then a long indrawn sigh and Fräulein’s clear, low, even voice, very gentle, not caustic now but with something childlike about it, “Und da kamen die Apostel zu Ihm.⁠ ⁠…” Miriam had a moment of revolt. She would not sit there and let a woman read the Bible at her⁠ ⁠… and in that “smarmy” way.⁠ ⁠… In spirit she rose and marched out of the room. As the English pupil-teacher bound to suffer all things or go home, she sat on. Presently her ear was charmed by Fräulein’s slow clear enunciation, her pure unaspirated North German. It seemed to suit the narrative⁠—and the narrative was new, vivid and real in this new tongue. She saw presently the little group of figures talking by the lake and was sorry when Fräulein’s voice ceased.

Solomon Martin was at the piano. Someone handed Miriam a shabby little paperbacked hymnbook. She fluttered the leaves. All the hymns appeared to have a little short-lined verse, under each ordinary verse, in small print. It was in English⁠—she read. She fumbled for the title page and then her cheeks flamed with shame, “Moody and Sankey.” She was incredulous, but there it was, clearly enough. What was such a thing doing here?⁠ ⁠… Finishing school for the daughters of gentlemen.⁠ ⁠… She had never had such a thing in her hands before.⁠ ⁠… Fräulein could not know.⁠ ⁠… She glanced at her, but Fräulein’s cavernous mouth was serenely open and the voices of the girls sang heartily, “Whenhy‑cometh. Whenhy‑cometh, to make-up his jewels⁠—” These girls, Germany, that piano.⁠ ⁠… What did the English girls think? Had anyone said anything? Were they chapel? Fearfully, she told them over. No. Judy might be, and the Martins perhaps, but not Gertrude, nor Jimmie, nor Millie. How did it happen? What was the German Church? Luther⁠—Lutheran.

She longed for the end.

She glanced through the book⁠—frightful, frightful words and choruses.

The girls were getting on to their knees.

Oh dear, every night. Her elbows sank into soft red plush.

She was to have time for practising⁠—and that English lesson⁠—the first⁠—Oxford, decisive for⁠—educated people.⁠ ⁠…

Fräulein’s calm voice came almost in a whisper, “Vater unser⁠ ⁠… der Du bist im Himmel,” and the murmuring voices of the girls followed her.

Miriam went to bed content, wrapped in music. The theme of Clara’s solo recurred again and again; and every time it brought something of the wonderful light⁠—the sense of going forward and forward through space. She fell asleep somewhere outside the world. No sooner was she asleep than a voice was saying, “Bonjour, Meece,” and her eyes opened on daylight and Mademoiselle’s little night-gowned form minuetting towards her down the single strip of matting. Her hair, hanging in short ringlets when released, fell forward round her neck as she bowed⁠—the slightest dainty inclination, from side to side against the swaying of her dance. She was smiling her down-glancing, little sprite smile. Miriam loved her.⁠ ⁠…

A great plaque of sunlight lay across the breakfast table. Miriam was too happy to trouble about her imminent trial. She reflected that it was quite possible today and tomorrow would be free. None of the visiting masters came, except, sometimes, Herr Bossenberger for music lessons⁠—that much she had learned from Mademoiselle. And, after all, the class she had so dreaded had dwindled to just these four girls, little Emma and the three grown-up girls. They probably knew all the rules and beginnings. It would be just reading and so on. It would not be so terrible⁠—four sensible girls; and besides they had accepted her. It did not seem anything extraordinary to them that she should teach them; and they did not dislike her. Of that she felt sure. She could not say this for even one of the English girls. But the German girls did not dislike her. She felt at ease sitting amongst them and was glad she was there and not at the English end of the table. Down here, hemmed in by the Bergmanns with Emma’s little form, her sounds, movements and warmth, her little quiet friendliness planted between herself and the English, with the apparently unobservant Minna and Elsa across the way she felt safe. She felt fairly sure those German eyes did not criticise her. Perhaps, she suggested to herself, they thought a good deal of English people in general; and then they were in the minority, only four of them; it was evidently a school for English girls as much as anything⁠ ⁠… strange⁠—what an adventure for all those English girls⁠—to be just boarders⁠—Miriam wondered how she would feel sitting there as an English boarder among the Martins and Gertrude, Millie, Jimmie and Judy? It would mean being friendly with them. Finally she ensconced herself amongst her Germans, feeling additionally secure.⁠ ⁠… Fräulein had spent many years in England. Perhaps that explained the breakfast of oatmeal porridge⁠—piled plates of thick stirabout thickly sprinkled with pale, very sweet powdery brown sugar⁠—and the eggs to follow with rolls and butter.

Miriam wondered how Fräulein felt towards the English girls.

She wondered whether Fräulein liked the English girls best.⁠ ⁠… She paid no attention to the little spurts of conversation that came at intervals as the table grew more and more dismantled. She was there, safely there⁠—what a perfectly stupendous thing⁠—“weird and stupendous” she told herself. The sunlight poured over her and her companions from the great windows behind Fräulein Pfaff.⁠ ⁠…

When breakfast was over and the girls were clearing the table, Fräulein went to one of the great windows and stood for a moment with her hands on the hasp of the innermost of the double frames. “Balde, balde,” Miriam heard her murmur, “werden wir öffnen können.” Soon, soon we may open. Obviously then they had had the windows shut all the winter. Miriam, standing in the corner near the companion window, wondering what she was supposed to do and watching the girls with an air⁠—as nearly as she could manage⁠—of indulgent condescension⁠—saw, without turning, the figure at the window, gracefully tall, with a curious dignified pannierlike effect about the skirt that swept from the small tightly-fitting pointed bodice, reminding her of illustrations of heroines of serials in old numbers of the Girls’ Own Paper. The dress was of dark blue velvet⁠—very much rubbed and faded. Miriam liked the effect, liked something about the clear profile, the sallow, hollow cheeks, the same heavy bonyness that Anna the servant had, but finer and redeemed by the wide eye that was so strange. She glanced fearfully, at its unconsciousness, and tried to find words for the quick youthfulness of those steady eyes.

Fräulein moved away into the little room opening from the schoolroom, and some of the girls joined her there. Miriam turned to the window. She looked down into a little square of high-walled garden. It was gravelled nearly all over. Not a blade of grass was to be seen. A narrow little border of bare brown mould joined the gravel to the high walls. In the centre was a little domed patch of earth and there a chestnut tree stood. Great bulging brown-varnished buds were shining whitely from each twig. The girls seemed to be gathering in the room behind her⁠—settling down round the table⁠—Mademoiselle’s voice sounded from the head of the table where Fräulein had lately been. It must be raccommodage thought Miriam⁠—the weekly mending Mademoiselle had told her of. Mademoiselle was superintending. Miriam listened. This was a sort of French lesson. They all sat round and did their mending together⁠—in French⁠—darning must be quite different done like that, she reflected.

Jimmie’s voice came, rounded and giggling, “Oh, Mademoiselle! j’ai une potato, pardong, pum de terre, je mean.” She poked three fingers through the toe of her stocking. “Veux dire, veux dire⁠—Qu’est-ce-que vous me racontez là?” scolded Mademoiselle. Miriam envied her air of authority.

“Ah‑ho! Là-là-Boum-Bong!” came Gertrude’s great voice from the door.

Taisez-vous, taisez-vous, Jair-trude,” rebuked Mademoiselle.

“How dare she?” thought Miriam, with a picture before her eyes of the little grey-gowned thing with the wistful, frugal mouth and nose.

Na⁠—Miss Henderson?”

It was Fräulein’s voice from within the little room. Minna was holding the door open.

At the end of twenty minutes, dismissed by Fräulein with a smiling recommendation to go and practise in the Saal, Miriam had run upstairs for her music.

“It’s all right. I’m all right. I shall be able to do it,” she said to herself as she ran. The ordeal was past. She was, she had learned, to talk English with the German girls, at table, during walks, whenever she found herself with them, excepting on Saturdays and Sundays⁠—and she was to read with the four⁠—for an hour, three times a week. There had been no mention of grammar or study in any sense she understood.

She had had a moment of tremor when Fräulein had said in her slow clear English, “I leave you to your pupils, Miss Henderson,” and with that had gone out and shut the door. The moment she had dreaded had come. This was Germany. There was no escape. Her desperate eyes caught sight of a solid-looking volume on the table, bound in brilliant blue cloth. She got it into her shaking hands. It was Misunderstood. She felt she could have shouted in her relief. A treatise on the Morse code would not have surprised her. She had heard that such things were studied at school abroad and that German children knew the names and, worse than that, the meaning of the names of the streets in the city of London. But this book that she and Harriett had banished and wanted to burn in their early teens together with Sandford and Merton.⁠ ⁠…

“You are reading Misunderstood?” she faltered, glancing at the four politely waiting girls.

It was Minna who answered her in her husky, eager voice.

D’ja, d’ja,” she responded, “na, ich meine, yace, yace we read⁠—so sweet and beautiful book⁠—not?”

“Oh,” said Miriam, “yes⁠ ⁠…” and then eagerly, “you all like it, do you?”

Clara and Elsa agreed unenthusiastically. Emma, at her elbow, made a little despairing gesture, “I can’t English,” she moaned gently, “too deeficult.”

Miriam tested their reading. The class had begun. Nothing had happened. It was all right. They each, dutifully and with extreme carefulness read a short passage. Miriam sat blissfully back. It was incredible. The class was going on. The chestnut tree budded approval from the garden. She gravely corrected their accents. The girls were respectful. They appeared to be interested. They vied with each other to get exact sounds; and they presently delighted Miriam by telling her they could understand her English much better than that of her predecessor. “So cleare, so cleare,” they chimed, “Voonderfoll.” And then they all five seemed to be talking at once. The little room was full of broken English, of Miriam’s interpolated corrections. It was going⁠—succeeding. This was her class. She hoped Fräulein was listening outside. She probably was. Heads of foreign schools did. She remembered Madame Beck in Villette. But if she was not, she hoped they would tell her about being able to understand the new English teacher so well. “Oh, I am haypie,” Emma was saying, with adoring eyes on Miriam and her two arms outflung on the table. Miriam recoiled. This would not do⁠—they must not all talk at once and go on like this. Minna’s whole face was aflame. She sat up stiffly⁠—adjusted her pince-nez⁠—and desperately ordered the reading to begin again⁠—at Minna. They all subsided and Minna’s careful husky voice came from her still blissfully-smiling face. The others sat back and attended. Miriam watched Minna judicially, and hoped she looked like a teacher. She knew her pince-nez disguised her and none of these girls knew she was only seventeen and a half. “Sorrowg,” Minna was saying, hesitating. Miriam had not heard the preceding word. “Once more the whole sentence,” she said, with quiet gravity, and then as Minna reached the word “thorough” she corrected and spent five minutes showing her how to get over the redoubtable th. They all experimented and exclaimed. They had never been shown that it was just a matter of getting the tongue between the teeth. Miriam herself had only just discovered it. She speculated as to how long it would take for her to deliver them up to Fräulein Pfaff with this notorious stumbling block removed. She was astonished herself at the mechanical simplicity of the cure. How stupid people must be not to discover these things. Minna’s voice went on. She would let her read a page. She began to wonder rather blankly what she was to do to fill up the hour after they had all read a page. She had just reached the conclusion that they must do some sort of writing when Fräulein Pfaff came, and still affable and smiling had ushered the girls to their mending and sent Miriam off to the Saal.

As she flew upstairs for her music, saying, “I’m all right. I can do it all right,” she was half-conscious that her provisional success with her class had very little to do with her bounding joy. That success had not so much given her anything to be glad about⁠—it had rather removed an obstacle of gladness which was waiting to break forth. She was going to stay on. That was the point. She would stay in this wonderful place.⁠ ⁠… She came singing down through the quiet house⁠—the sunlight poured from bedroom windows through open doors. She reached the quiet Saal. Here stood the great piano, its keyboard open under the light of the French window opposite the door through which she came. Behind the great closed swing doors the girls were talking over their raccommodage. Miriam paid no attention to them. She would ignore them all. She did not even need to try to ignore them. She felt strong and independent. She would play, to herself. She would play something she knew perfectly, a Grieg lyric or a movement from a Beethoven sonata⁠ ⁠… on this gorgeous piano⁠ ⁠… and let herself go, and listen. That was music⁠ ⁠… not playing things, but listening to Beethoven.⁠ ⁠… It must be Beethoven⁠ ⁠… Grieg was different⁠ ⁠… acquired⁠ ⁠… like those strange green figs Pater had brought from Tarring⁠ ⁠… Beethoven had always been real.

It was all growing clearer and clearer.⁠ ⁠… She chose the first part of the first movement of the Sonata Pathétique. That she knew she could play faultlessly. It was the last thing she had learned, and she had never grown weary of practising slowly through its long bars of chords. She had played it at her last music lesson⁠ ⁠… dear old Stroodie walking up and down the long drilling room.⁠ ⁠… “Steady the bass”; “grip the chords,” then standing at her side and saying in the thin light sneery part of his voice, “You can⁠ ⁠… you’ve got hands like umbrellas”⁠ ⁠… and showing her how easily she could stretch two notes beyond his own span. And then marching away as she played and crying out to her standing under the high windows at the far end of the room, “Let it go! Let it go!”

And she had almost forgotten her wretched self, almost heard the music.⁠ ⁠…

She felt for the pedals, lifted her hands a span above the piano as Clara had done and came down, true and clean, on to the opening chord. The full rich tones of the piano echoed from all over the room; and some metal object far away from her hummed the dominant. She held the chord for its full term.⁠ ⁠… Should she play any more?⁠ ⁠… She had confessed herself⁠ ⁠… just that minor chord⁠ ⁠… anyone hearing it would know more than she could ever tell them⁠ ⁠… her whole being beat out the rhythm as she waited for the end of the phrase to insist on what already had been said. As it came, she found herself sitting back, slackening the muscles of her arms and of her whole body, and ready to swing forward into the rising storm of her page. She did not need to follow the notes on the music stand. Her fingers knew them. Grave and happy she sat with unseeing eyes, listening, for the first time.

At the end of the page she was sitting with her eyes full of tears, aware of Fräulein standing between the open swing doors with Gertrude’s face showing over her shoulder⁠—its amazement changing to a large-toothed smile as Fräulein’s quietly repeated “Prachtvoll, prachtvoll” came across the room. Miriam, after a hasty smile, sat straining her eyes as widely as possible, so that the tears should not fall. She glared at the volume in front of her, turning the pages. She was glad that the heavy sunblinds cast a deep shadow over the room. She blinked. She thought they would not notice. Only one tear fell and that was from the left eye, towards the wall. “You are a real musician, Miss Henderson,” said Fräulein, advancing.

Every other day or so Miriam found she could get an hour on a bedroom piano; and always on a Saturday morning during raccommodage. She rediscovered all the pieces she had already learned. She went through them one by one, eagerly, slurring over difficulties, pressing on, getting their effect, listening and discovering. “It’s technique I want,” she told herself, when she had reached the end of her collection, beginning to attach a meaning to the familiar word. Then she set to work. She restricted herself to the Pathétique, always omitting the first page, which she knew so well and practised mechanically, slowly, meaninglessly, with neither pedalling nor expression, page by page until a movement was perfect. Then when the mood came, she played⁠ ⁠… and listened. She soon discovered she could not always “play”⁠—even the things she knew perfectly⁠—and she began to understand the fury that had seized her when her mother and a woman here and there had taken for granted one should “play when asked,” and coldly treated her refusal as showing lack of courtesy. “Ah!” she said aloud, as this realisation came, “Women.”

“Of course you can only ‘play when you can,’ ” said she to herself, “like a bird singing.”

She sang once or twice, very quietly, in those early weeks. But she gave that up. She had a whole sheaf of songs with her. But after that first Vorspielen they seemed to have lost their meaning. One by one she looked them through. Her dear old Venetian song, “Beauty’s Eyes,” “An Old Garden”⁠—she hesitated over that, and hummed it through⁠—“Best of All”⁠—“In Old Madrid”⁠—the vocal score of the “Mikado”⁠—her little “Chanson de Florian,” and a score of others. She blushed at her collection. The “Chanson de Florian” might perhaps hold its own at a Vorspielen⁠—sung by Bertha Martin⁠—perhaps.⁠ ⁠… The remainder of her songs, excepting a little bound volume of Sterndale Bennett, she put away at the bottom of her Saratoga trunk. Meanwhile, there were songs being learned by Herr Bossenberger’s pupils for which she listened hungrily; Schubert, Grieg, Brahms. She would always, during those early weeks, sacrifice her practising to listen from the schoolroom to a pupil singing in the Saal.

The morning of Ulrica Hesse’s arrival was one of the mornings when she could “play.” She was sitting, happy, in the large English bedroom, listening. It was late. She was beginning to wonder why the gonging did not come when the door opened. It was Millie in her dressing gown, with her hair loose and a towel over her arm.

“Oh, bitte, Miss Henderson, will you please go down to Frau Krause, Fräulein Pfaff says,” she said, her baby face full of responsibility.

Miriam rose uneasily. What might this be? “Frau Krause?” she asked.

“Oh yes, it’s Haarwaschen,” said Millie anxiously, evidently determined to wait until Miriam recognised her duty.

“Where?” said Miriam aghast.

“Oh, in the basement. I must go. Frau Krause’s waiting. Will you come?”

“Oh well, I suppose so,” mumbled Miriam, coming to the door as the child turned to go.

“All right,” said Millie, “I’m going down. Do make haste, Miss Henderson, will you?”

“All right,” said Miriam, going back into the room.

Collecting her music she went incredulously upstairs. This was school with a vengeance. This was boarding school. It was abominable. Fräulein Pfaff indeed! Ordering her, Miriam, to go downstairs and have her hair washed⁠ ⁠… by Frau Krause⁠ ⁠… offhand, without any warning⁠ ⁠… someone should have told her⁠—and let her choose. Her hair was clean. Sarah had always done it. Miriam’s throat contracted. She would not go down. Frau Krause should not touch her. She reached the attics. Their door was open and there was Mademoiselle in her little alpaca dressing jacket, towelling her head.

Her face came up, flushed and gay. Miriam was too angry to note till afterwards how pretty she had looked with her hair like that.

Ah!⁠ ⁠… c’est le grand lavage!” sang Mademoiselle.

Oui,” said Miriam surlily.

What could she do? She imagined the whole school waiting downstairs to see her come down to be done. Should she go down and decline, explain to Fräulein Pfaff. She hated her vindictively⁠—her “calm” message⁠—“treating me like a child.” She saw the horse smile and heard the caustic voice.

“It’s sickening,” she muttered, whisking her dressing gown from its nail and seizing a towel. Mademoiselle was piling up her damp hair before the little mirror.

Slowly Miriam made her journey to the basement.

Minna and Elsa were brushing out their long hair with their door open. A strong sweet perfume came from the room.

The basement hall was dark save for the patch of light coming from the open kitchen door. In the patch stood a low table and a kitchen chair. On the table which was shining wet and smeary with soap, stood a huge basin. Out over the basin flew a long tail of hair and Miriam’s anxious eyes found Millie standing in the further gloom twisting and wringing.

No one else was to be seen. Perhaps it was all over. She was too late. Then a second basin held in coarse red hands appeared round the kitchen door and in a moment a woman, large and coarse, with the sleeves of her large-checked blue and white cotton dress rolled back and a great “teapot” of pale nasturtium-coloured hair shining above the third of Miriam’s “bony” German faces had emerged and plumped her steaming basin down upon the table.

Soap? and horrid pudding basins of steaming water. Miriam’s hair had never been washed with anything but cantharides and rose water on a tiny special sponge.

In full horror, “Oh,” she said, in a low vague voice, “it doesn’t matter about me.”

Gun’ Tak’ Fr’n,” snapped the woman briskly.

Miriam gave herself up.

“Gooten Mawgen, Frau Krause,” said Millie’s polite departing voice.

Miriam’s outraged head hung over the steaming basin⁠—her hair spread round it like a tent frilling out over the table.

For a moment she thought that the nausea which had seized her as she surrendered would, the next instant, make flight imperative. Then her amazed ears caught the sharp bump⁠—crack⁠—of an eggshell against the rim of the basin, followed by a further brisk crackling just above her. She shuddered from head to foot as the egg descended with a cold slither upon her incredulous skull. Tears came to her eyes as she gave beneath the onslaught of two hugely enveloping, vigorously drubbing hands⁠—“sh‑ham‑poo” gasped her mind.

The drubbing went relentlessly on. Miriam steadied her head against it and gradually warmth and ease began to return to her shivering, clenched body. Her hair was gathered into the steaming basin⁠—dipped and rinsed and spread, a comforting compress, warm with the water, over her egg-sodden head. There was more drubbing, more dipping and rinsing. The second basin was refilled from the kitchen, and after a final rinse in its fresh warm water, Miriam found herself standing up⁠—with a twisted tail of wet hair hanging down over her cape of damp towel⁠—glowing and hungry.

“Thank you,” she said timidly to Frau Krause’s bustling presence.

Gun’ Tak’ Fr’n,” said Frau Krause, disappearing into the kitchen.

Miriam gave her hair a preliminary drying, gathered her dressing gown together and went upstairs. From the schoolroom came unmistakable sounds. They were evidently at dinner. She hurried to her attic. What was she to do with her hair? She rubbed it desperately⁠—fancy being landed with hair like that, in the middle of the day! She could not possibly go down.⁠ ⁠… She must. Fräulein Pfaff would expect her to⁠—and would be disgusted if she were not quick⁠—she towelled frantically at the short strands round her forehead, despairingly screwed them into Hinde’s and towelled at the rest. What had the other girls done? If only she could look into the schoolroom before going down⁠—it was awful⁠—what should she do?⁠ ⁠… She caught sight of a sodden-looking brush on Mademoiselle’s bed. Mademoiselle had put hers up⁠—she had seen her⁠ ⁠… of course⁠ ⁠… easy enough for her little fluffy clouds⁠—she could do nothing with her straight, wet lumps⁠—she began to brush it out⁠—it separated into thin tails which flipped tiny drops of moisture against her hands as she brushed. Her arms ached; her face flared with her exertions. She was ravenous⁠—she must manage somehow and go down. She braided the long strands and fastened their cold mass with extra hairpins. Then she unfastened the Hinde’s⁠—two tendrils flopped limply against her forehead. She combed them out. They fell in a curtain of streaks to her nose. Feverishly she divided them, draped them somehow back into the rest of her hair and fastened them.

“Oh,” she breathed, “my ghastly forehead.”

It was all she could do⁠—short of gas and curling tongs. Even the candle was taken away in the daytime.

It was cold and bleak upstairs. Her wet hair lay in a heavy mass against her burning head. She was painfully hungry. She went down.

The snarling rattle of the coffee mill sounded out into the hall. Several voices were speaking together as she entered. Fräulein Pfaff was not there. Gertrude Goldring was grinding the coffee. The girls were sitting round the table in easy attitudes and had the effect of holding a council. Emma, her elbows on the table, her little face bunched with scorn, put out a motherly arm and set a chair for Miriam. Jimmie had flung some friendly remark as she came in. Miriam did not hear what she said, but smiled responsively. She wanted to get quietly to her place and look round. There was evidently something in the air. They all seemed preoccupied. Perhaps no one would notice how awful she looked. “You’re not the only one, my dear,” she said to herself in her mother’s voice. “No,” she replied in person, “but no one will be looking so perfectly frightful as me.”

“I say, do they know you’re down?” said Gertrude hospitably, as the boiling water snored on to the coffee.

Emma rushed to the lift and rattled the panel.

“Anna!” she ordered, “Meece Hendshon! Suppe!

“Oh, thanks,” said Miriam, in general. She could not meet anyone’s eye. The coffee cups were being slid up to Gertrude’s end of the table and rapidly filled by her. Gertrude, of course, she noticed had contrived to look dashing and smart. Her hair, with the exception of some wild ends that hung round her face was screwed loosely on the top of her head and transfixed with a daggerlike tortoiseshell hair ornament⁠—like a Japanese⁠—Indian⁠—no, Maori⁠—that was it, she looked like a New Zealander. Clara and Minna had fastened up theirs with combs and ribbons and looked decent⁠—frauish though, thought Miriam. Judy wore a plait. Without her fuzzy cloud she looked exactly like a country servant, a farmhouse servant. She drank her coffee noisily and furtively⁠—she looked extraordinary, thought Miriam, and took comfort. The Martins’ brown bows appeared on their necks instead of cresting their heads⁠—it improved them, Miriam thought. What regular features they had. Bertha looked like a youth⁠—like a musician. Her hair was loosened a little at the sides, shading the corners of her forehead and adding to its height. It shone like marble, high and straight. Emma’s hair hung round her like a shawl. ’Lisbeth, Gretchen⁠ ⁠… what was that lovely German name⁠ ⁠… hild⁠ ⁠… Brunhilde.⁠ ⁠…

Talk had begun again. Miriam hoped they had not noticed her. Her Braten shot up the lift.

Lauter Unsinn!” announced Clara.

“We’ve all got to do our hair in clash⁠ ⁠… clashishsher Knoten, Hendy, all of us,” said Jimmie judicially, sitting forward with her plump hands clasped on the table. Her pinnacle of hair looked exactly as usual.

“Oh, really.” Miriam tried to make a picture of a classic knot in her mind.

“If one have classic head one can have classic knot,” scolded Clara.

“Who have classic head?”

“How many classic head in the school of Waldstraße?”

Elsa gave a little neighing laugh. “Klassisch head, klassisch Knote.”

“That is true what you say, Clarah.”

The table paused.

Dîtes-moi⁠—qu’est-ce-que ce terrible classique notte? Dîtes!

No one seemed prepared to answer Mademoiselle’s challenge.

Miriam’s mind groped⁠ ⁠… classic⁠—Greece and Rome⁠—Greek knot.⁠ ⁠… Grecian key⁠ ⁠… a Grecian key pattern on the dresses for the sixth form tableau⁠—reading Ruskin⁠ ⁠… the strip of glass all along the window space on the floor in the large room⁠—edged with mosses and grass⁠—the mirror of Venus.⁠ ⁠…

Eh bien? Eh bien!

… Only the eldest pretty girls⁠ ⁠… all on their hands and knees looking into the mirror.⁠ ⁠…

Klassische Form⁠—griechisch,” explained Clara.

“Like a statue, Mademoiselle.”

Comment! Une statue! Je dois arranger mes cheveux comme une statue? Oh, ciel!” mocked Mademoiselle, collapsing into tinkles of her sprite laughter.⁠ ⁠… “Oh-là-là! Et quelle statue par exemple?” she trilled, with ironic eyebrows, “la statue de votre Kaisère Wilhelm der Große peut-être?

The Martins’ guffaws led the laughter.

“Mademoisellekin with her hair done like the Kaiser Wilhelm,” pealed Jimmie.

Only Clara remained grave in wrath.

Einfach,” she quoted bitterly, “Simple⁠—says Lily, so simple!”


“I make no change, not at all,” smiled Minna from behind her nose. “For this Ulrica it is quite something other.⁠ ⁠… She has yes truly so charming a little head.”

She spoke quietly and unenviously.

“I too, indeed. Lily may go and play the flute.”

“Brave girls,” said Gertrude, getting up. “Come on, Kinder, clearing time. You’ll excuse us, Miss Henderson? There’s your pudding in the lift. Do you mind having your coffee mit?”

The girls began to clear up.

Leely, Leely, Leely Pfaff,” muttered Clara as she helped, “so einfach und niedlich,” she mimicked, “ach was! Schwärmerei⁠—das find’ ich abscheulich! I find it disgusting!”

So that was it. It was the new girl. Lily, was Fräulein Pfaff. So the new girl wore her hair in a classic knot. How lovely. Without her hat she had “a charming little head,” Minna had said. And that face. Minna had seen how lovely she was and had not minded. Clara was jealous. Her head with a classic knot and no fringe, her worn-looking sallow face.⁠ ⁠… She would look like a “prisoner at the bar” in some newspaper. How they hated Fräulein Pfaff. The Germans at least. Fancy calling her Lily⁠—Miriam did not like it, she had known at once. None of the teachers at school had been called by their Christian names⁠—there had been old Quagmire, the Elfkin, and dear Donnikin, Stroodie, and good old Kingie and all of them⁠—but no Christian names. Oh yes⁠—Sally⁠—so there had⁠—Sally⁠—but then Sally was⁠—couldn’t have been anything else⁠—never could have held a position of any sort. They ought not to call Fräulein Pfaff that. It was, somehow, nasty. Did the English girls do it? Ought she to have said anything? Mademoiselle did not seem at all shocked. Where was Fräulein Pfaff all this time? Perhaps somewhere hidden away, in her rooms, being “done” by Frau Krause. Fancy telling them all to alter the way they did their hair.

Everyone was writing Saturday letters⁠—Mademoiselle and the Germans with compressed lips and fine careful evenly moving pen points; the English scrawling and scraping and dashing, their pens at all angles and careless, eager faces. An almost unbroken silence seemed the order of the earlier part of a Saturday afternoon. Today the room was very still, save for the slight movements of the writers. At intervals nothing was to be heard but the little chorus of pens. Clara, still smouldering, sitting at the window end of the room looked now and again gloomily out into the garden. Miriam did not want to write letters. She sat, pen in hand, and notepaper in front of her, feeling that she loved the atmosphere of these Saturday afternoons. This was her second. She had been in the school a fortnight⁠—the first Saturday she had spent writing to her mother⁠—a long letter for everyone to read, full of first impressions and enclosing a slangy almost affectionate little note for Harriett. In her general letter she had said, “If you want to think of something jolly, think of me, here.” She had hesitated over that sentence when she considered mealtimes, especially the midday meal, but on the whole she had decided to let it stand⁠—this afternoon she felt it was truer. She was beginning to belong to the house⁠—she did not want to write letters⁠—but just to sit revelling in the sense of this room full of quietly occupied girls⁠—in the first hours of the weekly holiday. She thought of strange Ulrica somewhere upstairs and felt quite one of the old gang. “Ages” she had known all these girls. She was not afraid of them at all. She would not be afraid of them any more. Emma Bergmann across the table raised a careworn face from her two lines of large neat lettering and caught her eye. She put up her hands on either side of her mouth as if for shouting.

Hendchen,” she articulated silently, in her curious lipless way, “mein liebes, liebes, Hendchen.

Miriam smiled timidly and sternly began fumbling at her week’s letters⁠—one from Eve, full of congratulations and recommendations⁠—“Keep up your music, my dear,” said the conclusion, “and don’t mind that little German girl being fond of you. It is impossible to be too fond of people if you keep it all on a high level,” and a scrawl from Harriett, pure slang from beginning to end. Both these letters and an earlier one from her mother had moved her to tears and longing when they came. She reread them now unmoved and felt aloof from the things they suggested. It did not seem imperative to respond to them at once. She folded them together. If only she could bring them all for a minute into this room, the wonderful Germany that she had achieved. If they could even come to the door and look in. She did not in the least want to go back. She wanted them to come to her and taste Germany⁠—to see all that went on in this wonderful house, to see pretty, German Emma, adoring her⁠—to hear the music that was everywhere all the week, that went, like a garland, in and out of everything, to hear her play, by accident, and acknowledge the difference in her playing. Oh yes, besides seeing them all she wanted them to hear her play.⁠ ⁠… She must stay⁠ ⁠… she glanced round the room. It was here, somehow, somewhere, in this roomful of girls, centring in the Germans at her end of the table, reflected on to the English group, something of that influence that had made her play. It was in the sheen on Minna’s hair, in Emma’s long-plaited schoolgirlishness, somehow in Clara’s anger. It was here, here, and she was in it.⁠ ⁠… She must pretend to be writing letters or someone might speak to her. She would hate anyone who challenged her at this moment. Jimmie might. It was just the kind of thing Jimmie would do. Her eyes were always roving round.⁠ ⁠… There were a lot of people like that.⁠ ⁠… It was all right when you wanted anything or to⁠—to⁠—“create a diversion” when everybody was quarrelling. But at the wrong times it was awful.⁠ ⁠… The Radnors and Pooles were like that. She could have killed them often. “Hullo, Mim,” they would say, “Wake up!” or “What’s the row!” and if you asked why, they would laugh and tell you you looked like a dying duck in a thunderstorm.⁠ ⁠… It was all right. No one had noticed her⁠—or if either of the Germans had they would not think like that⁠—they would understand⁠—she believed in a way, they would understand. At the worst they would look at you as if they were somehow with you and say something sentimental. “Sie hat Heimweh” or something like that. Minna would. Minna’s forget-me-not blue eyes behind her pink nose would be quite real and alive.⁠ ⁠… Ein Blatt⁠—she dipped her pen and wrote Ein Blatt⁠ ⁠… aus⁠ ⁠… Ein Blatt aus sommerlichen Tagen⁠ ⁠… that thing they had begun last Saturday afternoon and gone on and on with until she had hated the sound of the words. How did it go on? “Ein Blatt aus sommerlichen Tagen,” she breathed in a half whisper. Minna heard⁠—and without looking up from her writing quietly repeated the verse. Her voice rose and trembled slightly on the last line.

“Oh, chuck it, Minna,” groaned Bertha Martin.

“Tchookitt,” repeated Minna absently, and went on with her writing.

Miriam was scribbling down the words as quickly as she could⁠—

“Ein Blatt aus sommerlichen Tagen
Ich nahm es so im Wandern mit
Auf dass es einst mir möge sagen
Wie laut die Nachtigall geschlagen
Wie grün der Wald den ich⁠—durchtritt⁠—”

durchtritt⁠—durchschritt⁠—she was not sure. It was perfectly lovely⁠—she read it through translating stumblingly⁠—

“A leaf from summery days
I took it with me on my way,
So that it might remind me
How loud the nightingale had sung,
How green the wood I had passed through.”

With a pang she felt it was true that summer ended in dead leaves.

But she had no leaf, nothing to remind her of her summer days. They were all past and she had nothing⁠—not the smallest thing. The two little bunches of flowers she had put away in her desk had all crumbled together, and she could not tell which was which.⁠ ⁠… There was nothing else⁠—but the things she had told Eve⁠—and perhaps Eve had forgotten⁠ ⁠… there was nothing. There were the names in her birthday book! She had forgotten them. She would look at them. She flushed. She would look at them tomorrow, sometime when Mademoiselle was not there.⁠ ⁠… The room was waking up from its letter-writing. People were moving about. She would not write today. It was not worthwhile beginning. She took a fresh sheet of notepaper and copied her verse, spacing it carefully with a wide margin all round so that it came exactly in the middle of the page. It would soon be teatime. “Wie grün der Wald.” She remembered one wood⁠—the only one she could remember⁠—there were no woods at Barnes or at the seaside⁠—only that wood, at the very beginning, someone carrying Harriett⁠—and green green, the brightest she had ever seen, and anemones everywhere, she could see them distinctly at this moment⁠—she wanted to put her face down into the green among the anemones. She could not remember how she got there or the going home, but just standing there⁠—the green and the flowers and something in her ear buzzing and frightening her and making her cry, and somebody poking a large finger into the buzzing ear and making it very hot and sore.

The afternoon sitting had broken up. The table was empty.

Emma, in raptures⁠—near the window, was calling to the other Germans. Minna came and chirruped too⁠—there was a sound of dull scratching on the window⁠—then a little burst of admiration from Emma and Minna together. Miriam looked round⁠—in Emma’s hand shone a small antique watch encrusted with jewels; at her side was the new girl. Miriam saw a filmy black dress, and above it a pallid face. What was it like? It was like⁠—like⁠—like jasmine⁠—that was it⁠—jasmine⁠—and out of the jasmine face the great gaze she had met in the morning turned half-puzzled, half-disappointed upon the growing group of girls examining the watch.