The Trespasser (Chapter 2, page 1 of 7)


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Chapter 2

Siegmund's violin, desired of Helena, lay in its case beside Siegmund's
lean portmanteau in the white dust of the lumber-room in Highgate. It
was worth twenty pounds, but Beatrice had not yet roused herself to sell
it; she kept the black case out of sight.

Siegmund's violin lay in the dark, folded up, as he had placed it for
the last time, with hasty, familiar hands, in its red silk shroud. After
two dead months the first string had snapped, sharply striking the
sensitive body of the instrument. The second string had broken near
Christmas, but no one had heard the faint moan of its going. The violin
lay mute in the dark, a faint odour of must creeping over the smooth,
soft wood. Its twisted, withered strings lay crisped from the anguish of
breaking, smothered under the silk folds. The fragrance of Siegmund
himself, with which the violin was steeped, slowly changed into an
odour of must.

Siegmund died out even from his violin. He had infused it with his life,
till its fibres had been as the tissue of his own flesh. Grasping his
violin, he seemed to have his fingers on the strings of his heart and of
the heart of Helena. It was his little beloved that drank his being and
turned it into music. And now Siegmund was dead; only an odour of must
remained of him in his violin.

It lay folded in silk in the dark, waiting. Six months before it had
longed for rest; during the last nights of the season, when Siegmund's
fingers had pressed too hard, when Siegmund's passion, and joy, and fear
had hurt, too, the soft body of his little beloved, the violin had
sickened for rest. On that last night of opera, without pity Siegmund
had struck the closing phrases from the fiddle, harsh in his impatience,
wild in anticipation.

The curtain came down, the great singers bowed, and Siegmund felt the
spattering roar of applause quicken his pulse. It was hoarse, and
savage, and startling on his inflamed soul, making him shiver with
anticipation, as if something had brushed his hot nakedness. Quickly,
with hands of habitual tenderness, he put his violin away.

The theatre-goers were tired, and life drained rapidly out of the
opera-house. The members of the orchestra rose, laughing, mingling their
weariness with good wishes for the holiday, with sly warning and
suggestive advice, pressing hands warmly ere they disbanded. Other years
Siegmund had lingered, unwilling to take the long farewell of his
associates of the orchestra. Other years he had left the opera-house
with a little pain of regret. Now he laughed, and took his comrades'
hands, and bade farewells, all distractedly, and with impatience. The
theatre, awesome now in its emptiness, he left gladly, hastening like a
flame stretched level on the wind.

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