Dorothea, a story of the pure in heart
The train started at about eight that evening, a Riviera
train de luxe. Sleeping-cars and restaurant-cars were newer in
those days than now; Dorothea had never seen them, nor had
she come in contact with the class of people who patronized
that superlatively expensive and uncomfortable modem mode of
travelling. A babel of nationalities filled the wide platform,
yet none of these presented any pleasing originality; rather
they all appeared parodies of one another. All of them were
self-conscious, and scornful (with reason) of their neighbors;
all of them gave themselves airs, probably because they had lost
the air of their ancestors; many were titled (with coronets on
their boxes) and most were too rich. Loud men and louder
women, carefully, and manifestly, made up to look younger
than they were, clothed in the eccentricities of checks, capes,
caps, covert-coats, etc., the whole extravaganza of horsiness dear
to the sporting taste of the day, which revels in a general aspect
and odor of leather and stable-cloths. Pyramids of trunks were
being carted right and left round Dorothea, but what astonished
her most were the torrents of superfine hand-baggage, dressing
bags, despatch-boxes, bouquets, lap-dogs, canaries, rugs, overalls,
furs, air-cushions, tennis-rackets, hot-water bottles, pouring
down on all available spaces in what seemed a hopeless pell-mell.
Without these things you and I know our daughters cannot
travel ; let us be thankful that there still exists backwoods even
in Europe, where a girl may grow up quite simple, yet refined.
” ‘Now, here’s your sleeper,” said Colonel Sandring, turning
up, perfectly cool, in the hubbub, his interminable cigarette
between his lips. “There’s an awful crush, at this season. I
was very lucky in being able to effect an exchange.”
” And yourself ? ” asked Dorothea.
” Oh, I’m an old stager. I shall go on, by another train,
with your maid. There’s no danger, Dolly.” He laughed to her,
but she hadn’t understood.
” Here’s a couple of napoleons for the journey. Don’t speak
to any one, especially not your companion in this hole for the
night. Drive straight to the Grand Hotel at Nice on arriving.
My train comes in an hour or two later. It couldn’t be helped.
I tried hard enough to get a third — a second berth yesterday.”
” It’s your discomfort I was thinking of,” replied Dorothea.
** Please father, I must just speak to my maid.”
” I don’t mind,” replied Rebecca tartly. ” It’s you, Freule,
that’s going to be killed in that little box. Good-night.” She
went and established herself on a trunkful of luggage, from
which she had first carefully removed a black poodle, right under
the gold glasses and Wellington nose of its painted and pow-
” Marquise, it is a peasant ! ” explained a sickly little male
creature in a pink and white collar. “I can see that, mon
cher,” retorted the harridan, “but my father would have shot
the impudent dead ! ” The unconscious Rebecca sat grimly
confronting the poodle, which was a marvellous ” First Prize,”
curled, tasselled and trimmed.
” Satan ! ” she exploded, like a thunderbolt. The poodle
showed his teeth, not because she likened him to an angel, but
because she had thrust him from his high estate. Rebecca
smiled fearlessly back, and, as she gazed across her surround-
ings, the rugged smile broadened. She approved of the Devil,
and his doings. He fitted into her system. A sort of moral
shower-bath to the righteous. Bracing.
In front of Dorothea’s cabin a female voice, that was authori-
tatively summoning the conductor, stopped, in a loud rustle of
silk underskirts. A strong smell of violets filled the little
chamber. A big, florid lady, in black feathers and the fashion-
able hair-dye, obstructed the door.
” Ah, c’est ici,” she said. ” Bien I Bonjour, madame.”
Dorothea started to her feet, her heart full of a nameless
terror which she was doing her best to keep back from her eyes.
Stammering some incoherent apology, she pushed past the new-
comer, who was leisurely examining her quarters, and, breath-
less, caught the Colonel by the arm, where he calmly stood
buying a Figaro.
” Father I ” she stuttered, ” I can’t travel in that compart-
ment. There’s a person come in that — ^the woman with the
” Calm yourself, for goodness sake — people are looking,” said
the Colonel angrily. ” Good gracious, how pale you are ! ” —
all the anger had died out of his voice. ” Don’t be a fool, Dolly.
Of course there’s another passenger. She won’t speak to you.
And if she does, just reply, yes or no.” Thus far the Colonel,
who considered he had admirably solved a rather awkward
dilemma at no slight inconvenience to himself. He had been
very anxious that Dorothea should come away to him at once,
for fear of never getting her at all.
” But you don’t understand,” she cried in anguish. ” It’s
the woman we saw at the hotel. I can’t spend a night with that
woman ! ”
” Well, she was at the hotel last night, and she’s going on,
probably, to Nice. What more natural ? Are you afraid ? ”
Dorothea drew back a step. ” Afraid ? ” she said. ” Of her
hitting me? No.”
” Of her hurting you ? ” He smiled.
” En voiture, s’il vous plait ! ” said a passing conductor.
” Come, Dorothy, you’re behaving like a baby. Look here,
I got this for you ! ” He ran after her, as she turned, feeling the
hopelessness of all argument, and pushed into her hand a dainty
parcel of chocolates. ” Sleep well ! Bon voyage ! Meet me at
Nice with a smile ! ”
Long after the train had started, Dorothea sat, squeezed as
tight as she could squeeze into the far corner by the window,
quite still, shrinking away. ‘She looked out a good deal into the
night, but you soon get tired of that. The cabin was full of the
heavy odor of violets; the neighbor, less immovable, rustled all
the time. Once, in turning to get something out of her bag,
which she was constantly opening and shutting, she put down
her white-gloved hand on a fold of Dorothy’s skirt. The girPs
heart gave a horrible leap, and went on bumping. As her
thoughts grew a little calmer, she felt ashamed of herself, yet
she knew there was no other impulse at work in her bosom than
grief and compassion, grief above all. Through the long, long
hours, when the light had been veiled and the train went crash-
ing through the darkness, Dorothea lay on her narrow top-shelf,
not undressed — she could not have undressed — ^lay with troubled
eyes she hardly dared to close. Yet, from time to time she
closed them, for long periods, praying with all her innocent
heart and soul, in passionate strainings of the lips, for the
woman tranquilly snoring beneath her.
And for herself she prayed, in deep humility, with tender
liftings of the heart to God, who had kept her from- great
temptation. She hid away her watch under her pillow, and also
the diamond star. !N’ot that she distinctly doubted the person’s
honesty, but she vaguely knew, from the Book of Proverbs, that
such women lived by plunder. She knew nothing, except that all
we like sheep have gone astray, yet that between this sort of
sinners and all others a great gulf lay fixed, into which her
flock could never wander, but from which, in all their strayings,
they shudderingly turned away. Sleep would have been im-
possible in any case. The train banged and rattled on with
frequent stops, loud bumpings, a blowing of horns that might
wake the dead: the air in the tiny compartment was stifling,
the cramping boards caused every limb to ache. And she lay,
through the lengthening hours of persistent creaking and heav-
ing, lay praying, praying, praying for the woman who snored
She climbed down from her perch in ,the morning, stiff and
soiled, feeling as if she would never be clean again. Early light
did not suit the French lady’s complexion, but, being an ex-
perienced traveller, she got herself far more easily into some
sort of trim. She seemed to ignore the presence of anyone else
in the crowded car : she said ” Pardon, madame,” a good many
times, but otherwise acted exactly as she liked.
She rushed away for lengthy meals, and ate fruit and sweet-
meats and other thmgs promiscuously in between. She also
drank something out of a bottle. In the early morning Doro-
thea profited by a moment of solitude to read her usual chapter
in the Bible, and, having finished it, turned with pardonable
curiosity to that same Book of Proverbs, which gives so graphic
a description both of the wisest woman and also of the wickedest
that philosopher can realize, exx>erience, or invent. She looked
up presently from the volume on her knees, to meet the French-
woman’s gaze fixed coolly upon her, and she gave a sharp start
of surprise, for it seemed to her, in her first alarm and embar-
rassment, as if her companion must have been perusing the
sacred passage upside down, or even now could read its meaning
in her face. As if Madame Blanche would have understood a
single word of it, even had it not been in Dutch I
” Pardon, madame,” said the Frenchwoman. Dorothea’s tell-
tale eyes glanced hastily away to the strange clear southern
landscape that had gradually revealed itself in the growing
morning light, the landscape of silver-grey olives and aloes, the
long grey stretches of rock and of clouded Mediterranean, the
whiteness and brightness of the houses under the strong grey
sky. She hid away her shabby little book and took out a
Tauchnitz volume. In those days the train de luxe — ^was there
ever name invented more appropriately vulgar? — did not reach
Nice till after noon; Dorothea, going to lunch, found herself
seated opposite a table at which two men were laughing loudly.
ITear her sat Madame, serenely pensive, behind a cup of coffee
and a glass of Chartreuse. Dorothea ate hastily off the dim-blue
plates : it was not till she rose to attract the waiter’s attention
that she found her purse was gone I
” Oui, madame,” said the waiter, standing expectant. ” Trois
francs cinquante et un seltz, qa fait quatre francs ving:t-cinq.”
” I have lost my purse I ” gasped Dorothea. She remembered
having put it in her pocket as she passed up the corrider. The
men stopped talking. Madame did not turn her head.
The waiter looked intelligent interest, without any personal
bias. ” Perhaps Madame had dropped it ? ” he pretended to L>ok
under the table. ” Perhaps she was sitting on it ? ‘No ? ”
” Well, there were always pickpockets at Marseilles. It was
written up everywhere. ‘ Beware ‘ ”
” I haven’t left the train since Paris I ” exclaimed Dorothea.
And then, to her amazement, the man turned nasty, with the
swift insolence of all these employes when once they see their
chance. ” Do you think that the company’s servants have taken
it? Or one of the passengers, the aristocracy of Europe? If
you haven’t the money to pay ^”
” Can I be of service? ” asked one of the men from the side-
table, bending forward — oh, he was manifestly a gentleman, and
plainly “no better than he should be” — a curious phrase, by
the bye, which shows with how exceedingly little the world is
agreed to be content. ” Don’t, pray, look so distressed, although
it suits you admirably. Pray iet me pay this man : it will be too
cheap a pleasure ^^
“Take your money and be gone,” said the Frenchwoman,
turning suddenly with a five-franc piece to the waiter. ” This
young lady travels in my compartment : we shall doubtless find
the purse there. Shall we go and look for it ? ” And she led the
way. Dorothea followed dumbly. Terrible visions had risen
up before her of magistrates and policemen. What fearful fate
was reserved for strangers who made debts of four francs
twenty-five and had no money to pay?
“It is no use looking: it is stolen,” she cried as she sank
back on the seat, her hands before her eyes. ” Oh, how shall I
ever thank you for your kindness, your very great kindness ? ”
She was humbled to the dust.
” Pooh, it is nothing I You will want a few francs on arriv-
ing: shall I put them down here, in your lap. Will you smell
these salts? I am going on to Monte Carlo. No doubt your
pocket was picked by one of these fine gentlemen in the corridor.
You must realize, mademoiselle, that you are now on the coast
where the cream and the scum of the world float uppermost.
You will find the worst editions of humanity here — ^hil hi I —
black letter inside, bound in gold.”
“I can never repay you,” said Dorothea, struggling with
her repugnance, “but still, you must give me an address to
which I can send these few francs.”
And now it was the other lady’s turn to look embarrassed,
under her powder. ” For ten francs I ” she said. ” Pooh ; it is
not worth while. You will give them to the poor ! ”
Dorothea drew herself up. “I cannot remain indebted to
you for more than your kindness,” she said.
The Frenchwoman paused, then, with an extra rustle she
wrote down a few words on a scrap of her ” Gil Bias ” and
handed them to Dorothea, who read:
“Madame de Barvielle,
” Poste Restante,