Par 1 [Politicians are said to have various vices.]
Par 2 Artists are a little luckier than politicians. It is taken for granted, by the great public, that they must be immoral, being artists, and their immoralities are not therefore discussed with the same relish. Instead, it is merely asserted that they p.157 are mad, a statement which does no harm to anybody.
Par 3 I wish I could meet these mad artists. Time and again I have been disappointed, and found, instead of straws in the hair, brilliantine, and instead of a foaming mouth, lips pursed in eminently sane and complacent judgment on mankind.
Par 4 Even when there is some apparent foundation for the stories, they are always grossly exaggerated. Pachmann, for example. The most astounding tales are constantly narrated about this great little man, how he crawls under the piano in a gibbering search for Chopin, how he is taken from a padded cell and led to the piano by a keeper. Nonsense — or so I judged when, not long before leaving London, I had the pleasure of meeting him.
Par 5 I had not seen Pachmann since, as a small and evil child, I had once untied his bootlaces under my aunt's piano, on which he used often to perform. His behaviour on that occasion might possibly have strengthened the mad legend, but on our second meeting, though one realized his behaviour was a little odd, nobody but a fool would have thought him mad. Nobody but a fool, indeed, would have failed to be absolutely charmed by his dainty little mannerisms. He danced round the room like some grey-haired Puck, waving his long white fingers on which glittered two beautiful diamond rings. He was always talking nineteen to the dozen, and never finished a sentence. Words seemed too clumsy for him and he would flick his fingers to convey the sense he wanted.
Par 6 How we laughed and talked! He turned everything to music, even his wine. He held up a glass of champagne to the light, pointing at it and saying p.158 — "Bubbles! Golden, sparkling bubbles! I show you." And before one could rise to stop him, he had rushed into the darkness of the next room, seated himself at the piano, and played, with magical perfection, a shimmering treble passage from Chopin's Third Scherzo. After which the champagne tasted quite flat.
Par 7 He told me, after dinner, about one of his early love-affairs, in Poland.
Par 8 "It was at —" (some unpronounceable place) he said. "There was, in the same house as myself, a plump and lovely maiden, oh so beautiful! I fell in love with her a great deal, and one day I arrange a rendezvous. But I forget all about the rendezvous, because I discover a cupboard in which the lady of the house keeps a beautiful collection of jams — I eat the jams and I forget my Louisa. Soon Louisa, she comes into the room and says — 'For why have you jilted me? Do you not love me any more?' I take out a plum, and I eat it, and I look at her, and I say, 'I love you, Louisa. But I love the jams still better.'"
Par 9 We went into the room which contained his piano, and after a lot more prancing about he suddenly turned to me and said:
Par 10 "Do you know why I like you?"
Par 11 I certainly had no idea.
Par 12 "Because", said Pachmann, "you do not ask me to play the piano."
Par 13 It would never have occurred to me to do so. But one has to observe that the criminal habit of asking artists out to dine and then expecting them to pay for half-cold entrées by playing or singing, is still quite common, even among otherwise civilized hostesses. Dame Nellie Melba told me that when p.159 she first went to New York it was almost unknown for any mere singer to be asked out to dine in any other than a professional capacity. She, of course, had become almost a royal personage in London, but in New York she was regarded merely as a "singing actress". And when, one night, she went to dine with one of the Four Hundred (whatever that absurd phrase means) all the guests whispered:
Par 14 "What's she going to sing?"
Par 15 "She isn't going to sing anything at all," said her host.
Par 16 "Not going to sing?"
Par 17 They simply could not understand that a prima donna could have any place in society other than that of a prima donna.
Par 18 All of which is a digression from Pachmann. As soon as he had made the remark about not being asked to play, he sat down at the piano and said:
Par 19 "As a reward I shall play you some Chopin. And I shall play it in two ways. First my old method. Secondly my new."
Par 20 He played one of the Chopin Études — not one of best, but still a very lovely thing. "That", he said, when he had finished, "is the old way. Now listen to the new."
Par 21 He played it again. I confess that I did not notice much difference. Both were exquisitely played, both had the Pachmann magic, which no other Chopin player has ever been able to find. But that there actually was an astounding difference of technique was demonstrated when, in detail, he played over the first dozen bars. The fingering had been entirely changed, not only in the right hand but in the left.
Par 22 p.160 "That", he cried triumphantly, "is the greatest effort of my life. Nobody but Pachmann could have done that."
Par 23 He certainly spoke the truth, for nobody but Pachmann could, at his advanced age, have sat down and unlearnt all they had previously learnt, and undertaken the colossal labour of refingering the works of Chopin. It is always more difficult to revise than to attack a thing for the first time, and after sixty, most men would have shuddered at the very thought of it.
Par 24 Dear Pachmann! I don't think he was very happy in London, although he adored English audiences. London fogs and London smoke stifled him. "I look out of the window in the morning", he said, as I bade him good-bye, "and I weep. And the sky weeps too. And we both weep together. And then, I go and play Chopin, and I weep no more, and the sun shines."