Plot.htm posted August 15, 2006
BY ROLAND A GOODMAN
NEW HOME LIBRARY
GEORGE DU MAURIER
George du Maurier was born in Paris on March 6, 1834.
His father took his family to England when his son was quite young, but soon
returned to France where George was educated in science. In 1856 his father
died, and his scientific career came to an end. After that he studied art in
Paris and Antwerp and then went to England where he began to contribute drawings
to English magazines. He succeeded John Leech on Punch and also illustrated the
serializations of many famous novels of his day. His first novel was Peter
Ibbetson, which was followed by his greatest success, Trilby, the publication of
which began in 1894. He died in London of an inflammation of the heart on Oct.
Latin Quarter of Paris in the middle of the last century was the Mecca toward
which every aspiring artist sooner or later wended his way. One fine, showery
day in April, three Englishmen were enjoying the studio they had just furnished
on the Place St. Anatole des Arts. One of them was a tall, athletic Yorkshireman,
once a bearer of a commission in the Crimean campaign, but feeling within
himself an irresistible avocation for art, had left the army for Paris and was
now painting. He was called Taffy.
second was called the Laird of Cockpen—a Scotsman of respectable parentage
whose fondness for painting toreadors had taken him to Paris. The third was
small and slender, graceful and well-built, and the possessor of a real talent,
which could not be said for the other two. Little Billee had been brought up and
educated at home; his widowed mother and sister now lived in Devonshire. He was
the youngest of the three, and Taffy had an especially tender feeling for Little
Billee because of his innocence and charm.
afternoon the three Englishmen were visited by the musician Svengali and his
sole intimate, Gecko, a little nondescript who played the violin. Svengali was
a tall, bony individual, of Jewish aspect, well-featured but sinister. He was
shabbily dressed and dirty, spoke a fluent French with a heavy German accent,
had a sharp wit and enchanted his listeners with his playing of Chopin.
came a loud rapping at the door, and a voice of great volume uttered the British
milkman's cry, "Milk below!" In walked a young girl, clad in the
overcoat of a French soldier, below which showed a short, striped petticoat. She
had fine features, and the men saw at a glance that she was simple, humorous,
brave and kind, and accustomed to a genial welcome wherever she went.
introduced herself as Trilby O’Ferrall. And they soon learned that she modeled
in the Quarter and was famous for her beautiful feet. To amuse them she sang the
old song "Alice Ben Bolt." Though she sang off-key they were all
astonished at the quality of her voice. Svengali especially seemed impressed by
the voice, and he went on to tell them of his interest in singing and his long
but frustrated ambition to become a singer.
returned to the studio many times. They learned from her that her father and
mother were dead, and that she was taking care of her small brother. Her father
was an educated man of good family, who had slowly drunk himself to his
grave—her mother, a Scotch girl who had once been a barmaid in Paris. Trilby
was no innocent, yet her natural sweetness had not been altered in her knocking
about the Quarter.
Svengali met Trilby at the studio, he tried to persuade her to let him train her
voice. But she scoffed at him, despised his cleverness, and thought him
repulsive. As Trilby became better acquainted with the Englishmen, ties of
affection were more closely knit. Sometimes she cooked for them, darned socks,
and took care of the studio. Sometimes they all went on excursions to the
country. Svengali never lost an opportunity to talk to her—soon he was
pleading his love for her, frightened her with terrible stories. If it had not
been for Little Billee and Taffy, Svengali would have made her quite unhappy.
Billee was one of the prize students in the classes of the famous Carrel. One
morning he walked into the life class at Carrel's, and found Trilby posing in
the nude. Little Billee rushed out of the class quickly. Later his friends
caught him on his way to the station—all he would tell them was that he had decided
to go for a month to the Barbizon to paint landscapes. Trilby later told the
Laird what had happened and shortly gave up modeling and returned to her old
work as a laundress. Taffy and the Laird both knew that Little Billee was deeply
in love with Trilby. And Taffy knew that Trilby loved Little Billee with all her
heart, since Taffy already had asked Trilby at the picnic to marry him and had
Christmas day they rounded up all their friends and had a great dinner and
supper. The dinner started at 10 p.m. and the party lasted until the next
morning. It was a momentous occasion for Little Billee, because, "for the
nineteenth time" he proposed to Trilby—and this time was accepted. And
for the first time in his life he got drunk.
New Year's day Taffy and the Laird were at work in the studio when their
landlady announced visitors. Downstairs were Little Billee's mother and her
brother-in-law, a clergyman, the Rev. Thomas Bagot. Followed a painful interview
in which Taffy and the Laird were subjected to some searching questions about
Trilby. In the midst of all this, Trilby herself came in. Mrs. Bagot recognized
her at once. Trilby acknowledged her consent to marry Little Billee a terrible
mistake, and promised to give him up. After she had gone, Mrs. Bagot was quite
overcome by her discovery of the kind of girl Trilby actually was, but very
happy that her mission had been a success.
next morning Taffy received a letter from Trilby. It was a touching farewell:
she thought she had not made a mistake, told him she was leaving Paris with her
little brother—she did not say where she was going. When Little Billee
returned to Paris and heard what had happened, after a furious outburst, his
sensitive nature gave way under the shock, and he became violently ill. Months
later he went back to Devonshire with his mother and sister. Trilby had not been
heard from; indirectly Taffy learned that her brother had died from scarlet
years later the paintings of William Bagot, alias Little Billee, were well,
known throughout European art circles. But ever since his illness he had lost
his power to love—in his heart was a small spot which was deadened to all
affection. He had not married, and he had not fallen in love. At this time the
capitals of Europe were in ecstasies over a new singer known as La Svengali. And
Little Billee was soon in Paris again with the Laird and Taffy to attend her
forthcoming concert. That evening they entered their stalls early. When the
orchestra filed in, they saw that the first violinist was their old friend
Gecko. Then Svengali came out to conduct the overture. Time and prosperity had
wrought a wonderful alteration in the man.
the curtains parted a woman came out in a dress of classical design in cloth of
gold, her face thin and rather haggard, but tender, sweet and simple.
could not describe that performance. Her magical powers of evocation seemed
enhanced in the simple old songs that she sang. The next day Little Billee spied
Svengali at a table in the post office. On the way out Little Billee spoke to
him. In response Svengali called him an ugly name and spat in his face. At that
moment Taffy bounded up the steps and took a good pull at Svengali's nose and
gave him a resounding smack on the face. They exchanged cards, but they saw no
more of Svengali in Paris.
their return to London, they could think of nothing but Trilby. Her London
concert was awaited widi the greatest impatience. Before the concert, a bit of
sensational news came out. Svengali had been slashed with a penknife by Gecko
during a rehearsal. On the night of the performance the three friends noticed
that Svengali did not conduct the overture, and that the first stage box
remained unoccupied. Just before Trilby's appearance, Svengali entered that box.
Trilby could not sing for the substitute conductor. When she tried "Alice
Ben Bolt," it was only as she had sung it in the old days. A clamor broke
out. The poor girl did not seem to realize why all these people were aroused by
her inability to use her voice. Svengali had played a grim joke—and his last
one. As she was led from the stage, Svengali collapsed in his box, dead of heart
Billee and Taffy took Trilby under their care at once, but it was plain to the
doctors that nothing could be done to arrest her decline. Some considered her a
mental case since she had no knowledge of her international fame as a singer.
She spoke of Svengali as an old friend, but she said that she had only loved
Little Billee. Her death was a sad occasion for everyone who had known her, but
especially for Little Billee, since she died looking at a picture of Svengali.
And just before that she had once more sung with the golden voice while staring
at that portrait.
shock was too great for Little Billee. The sight of Trilby had restored his
powers of affection; her new loss was too cruel a blow. He died not long after
years later, Taffy, now wedded to Little Billee's sister, came across Gecko on a
trip to Paris. Gecko told him the story of how Svengali had trained Trilby's
voice. He had been the mind, she had provided the instrument. After long
training, he had been able to put a sort of spell on her and project his mind
into hers to control that marvelous instrument. But the arduous training, the
shock of the successive ordeals of singing had at last worn down her health. Her
love and kindness had been the one thing that had redeemed Gecko's life. And he
had tried to kill Svengali because he could not bear to see Trilby hurt during
their awful rehearsals.
GEORGE DU MAURIER
record of a man incarcerated in an asylum for the criminally insane may have
interest for the sensation-lover. But it was because of Peter Ibbetson's dying
request that his memoirs be published exactly as he had written them that Madge
Plunket, his only living relative, did not allow the story to die a natural
death. Madge Plunket recalled Peter Ibbetson, whom she had known only as a
child, as the most beautiful boy she had ever seen; his qualities of mind and
spirit were as great. In the manuscript left to her, Madge Plunket changed the
names of persons and places and omitted some unnecessary detail; otherwise all
was left as the author penned it.
Pasquier spent his early childhood in Passy, a suburb of Paris. These years were
blissfully happy. His handsome parents, their friendly neighbors, his own
playmates, were gay and lovable. Those sunlit years were with him all his life.
The thought of them evoked memories of lilting French songs, the adorable garden
where he romped, and the Mare d'Auteuil, the most beautiful silvery, secret pool
in the world.
Seraskiers were the favorite friends of the Pasquiers. Dr. Seraskier, his
extremely tall and divinely beautiful Irish wife, and their sickly but plucky
little daughter, Mimsey, were almost part of Pierre's family. The little boy was
nicknamed Gogo, and to frail Mimsey, Gogo was a god and the love of her life.
The Pasquiers and their circle were happy and beautiful and good.
ended abruptly for the little boy when his happy-go-lucky father was killed
experimenting with an invention which was to make their fortune. Mme. Pasquier
soon followed her husband to the grave, and Pierre was alone. He passed into the
protection of a cousin of his mother's, Colonel Roger Ibbetson, ,an Englishman
who had loved Mme. Pasquier and lost her to Gogo's father. Mimsey nearly died of
grief when Pierre left her. The boy was taken to England. His guardian insisted
that the lad take his name, and Gogo Pasquier became Peter Ibbetson.
was wretchedly unhappy in England. He hated his guardian, who was snobbish,
pompous, vicious and, as Peter learned as he grew older, utterly immoral. He
lied about supposed conquests of women and aspersed many an excellent
reputation. A Mrs. Deane, a handsome and respectable young widow, was led a
dance by this man who not only had not the slightest intention of marrying her,
but also had hinted falsely that she was not all she ought to be.
soon as he reached young manhood, Peter left Colonel Ibbetson to enlist for a
year in Her Majesty's Household Cavalry. When his term of enlistment had expired
he was apprenticed to Mr. Lintot, an architect, and studied and worked in the
dull little town of Pentonville.
had grown to be an extraordinarily handsome young man, nearly six feet four
inches in height with a slim, strong body and a perfectly proportioned face. But
his extreme shyness and sensitivity had made him friendless. He was bitterly
unhappy, despising England, his work, himself. He flung himself into an
appreciation of the arts but nothing could long still the pain of loneliness
was at a concert in an aristocratic house that he first saw the Duchess of
Towers. From the moment that this tall, slim, beautiful, unhappy woman walked
into the room Peter Ibbetson was irrevocably hers. He said no word to her and
never hoped to see her again, but she haunted his every waking moment.
at last was able to afford a trip to France. When he returned to Passy, the
scene of his childhood joy, no one recognized him save the senile Major who had
told him stories long ago. In Paris he saw his lovely Duchess of Towers drive
by, and he thought he saw recognition on her face.
night in a dream more real than reality Peter Ibbetson met and spoke with the
Duchess of Towers. She taught him how to "dream true," and he returned
to his childhood. When in his dream he touched his mother's skirt she faded away
and he awoke. But from that night on he could project himself into another world
when he wished, and return to the happy days he had loved.
in England he received another invitation to the house in which he had first
seen the Duchess of Towers. He learned here that Mary Towers had been a Miss
Seraskier—none other than his little Mimsey. At an interview with the Duchess
he unwillingly identified himself as Gogo grown up. But Mary was less
surprised than he—she had noticed the resemblance on first meeting. The two
were astounded to find that the dream he had had the night they had met in Paris
had been shared by Mary. Mary confessed to him that all her life she had
remembered and loved him and that during her unhappiness (she was the wife of a
drunken brute and the mother of an idiot child), the dream of her childhood love
had sustained her. She, too, was able to "dream true" and had found
escape that way for many years. But she forbade their meeting in further dreams
since she was bound to her husband.
returned to his wretched existence, haunted by thoughts of Mary but dreaming no
more. It was at this point that Mrs. Deane, now Mrs. Gregory, caught sight of
him walking alone, and showed him a letter that she felt he must see. The
letter, to Mrs. Deane, and signed by Colonel Ibbetson, conveyed the malicious
lie that Peter's mother had been his mistress and Peter was his illegitimate
child. Mad with rage at the slur cast on his good and beautiful mother and the
happy days so sacred to him, Peter confronted Colonel Ibbetson with the letter
and, upon being taunted by the man, felled him with his stick and accidentally
refused to repeat the slander that had induced him to strike Ibbetson, and was
condemned to death. But that night he dreamed again. In the dream Mary told him
that his sentence was to be commuted to life imprisonment, also that her husband
and little son were dead, and that now, though they were separated by prison
walls, they could be together by dreaming true.
Mary told him happened. For twenty-five years Peter lived quite happily in the
prison. Each night as soon as he fell asleep he and Mary were together in their
beautiful childhood home. In a cipher they invented while dreaming they
communicated in the everyday world. The years of joy flowed swiftly. They grew
so adept at dreaming true that they were able to project themselves centuries
back, and, always together, visit the people from whence they had sprung.
one day the door was closed. Mary had died. Insane with grief, Peter attacked
his keepers. They believed him mad, and he was removed to an asylum. He was ill
of a brain fever and wished only to die. But he lived, and one night dreamed
again. Now an old man—before, in his dreams, he was ever young—he wandered
desolate by the shore of Mare d'Auteuil. An old woman waited there for
him—Mary! She had returned from the beyond to bid him have hope. One day they
might be together again. So he lived the rest of his life in dreaming true. Each
night he returned to the scenes he had loved so well, and sometimes Mary
returned to him for a little while. He was happy and knew that all would one day