"Nor can I. But that was the last thing Rene played on it, the night before he went away, after his last leave." She began again, and David followed. Madame Fleury sat with half-closed eyes, looking into the fire. Claude, his lips compressed, his hands on his knees, was watching his friend's back. The music was a part of his own confused emotions. He was torn between generous admiration, and bitter, bitter envy. What would it mean to be able to do anything as well as that, to have a hand capable of delicacy and precision and power? If he had been taught to do anything at all, he would not be sitting here tonight a wooden thing amongst living people. He felt that a man might have been made of him, but nobody had taken the trouble to do it; tongue-tied, foot-tied, hand-tied. If one were born into this world like a bear cub or a bull calf, one could only paw and upset things, break and destroy, all one's life.
Gerhardt wrapped the violin up in its cloth. The little boy thanked him and carried it away. Madame Fleury and her daughter wished their guests goodnight.
David said he was warm, and suggested going into the garden to smoke before they went to bed. He opened one of the long windows and they stepped out on the terrace. Dry leaves were rustling down on the walks; the yew trees made a solid wall, blacker than the darkness. The fountain must have caught the starlight; it was the only shining thing,--a little clear column of twinkling silver. The boys strolled in silence to the end of the walk.
"I guess you'll go back to your profession, all right," Claude remarked, in the unnatural tone in which people sometimes speak of things they know nothing about.
"Not I. Of course, I had to play for them. Music has always been like a religion in this house. Listen," he put up his hand; far away the regular pulsation of the big guns sounded through the still night. "That's all that matters now. It has killed everything else."
"I don't believe it." Claude stopped for a moment by the edge of the fountain, trying to collect his thoughts. "I don't believe it has killed anything. It has only scattered things." He glanced about hurriedly at the sleeping house, the sleeping garden, the clear, starry sky not very far overhead. "It's men like you that get the worst of it," he broke out. "But as for me, I never knew there was anything worth living for, till this war came on. Before that, the world seemed like a business proposition."
"You'll admit it's a costly way of providing adventure for the young," said David drily.
Claude pursued the argument to himself long after they were in their luxurious beds and David was asleep. No battlefield or shattered country he had seen was as ugly as this world would be if men like his brother Bayliss controlled it altogether. Until the war broke out, he had supposed they did control it; his boyhood had been clouded and enervated by that belief. The Prussians had believed it, too, apparently. But the event had shown that there were a great many people left who cared about something else.