Part 1 out of 4
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BY ARTHUR SCHNITZLER
She was walking slowly down the hill; not by the broad high road which
wound its way towards the town, but by the narrow footpath between the
trellises of the vines. Her little boy was with her, hanging on to her
hand and walking all the time a pace in front of her, because there was
not room on the footpath for them to walk side by side.
The afternoon was well advanced, but the sun still poured down upon her
with sufficient power to cause her to pull her dark straw hat a little
further down over her forehead and to keep her eyes lowered. The slopes,
at the foot of which the little town lay nestling, glimmered as though
seen through a golden mist; the roofs of the houses below glistened, and
the river, emerging yonder amongst the meadows outside the town,
stretched, shimmering, into the distance. Not a quiver stirred the air,
and it seemed as if the cool of the evening was yet far remote.
Bertha stooped for a moment and glanced about her. Save for her boy, she
was all alone on the hillside, and around her brooded a curious
stillness. At the cemetery, too, on the hilltop, she had not met anybody
that day, not even the old woman who usually watered the flowers and kept
the graves tidy, and with whom Bertha used often to have a chat. Bertha
felt that somehow a considerable time had elapsed since she had started
on her walk, and that it was long since she had spoken to anyone.
The church clock struck--six. So, then, scarcely an hour had passed since
she had left the house, and an even shorter time since she had stopped in
the street to chat with the beautiful Frau Rupius. Yet even the few
minutes which had slipped away since she had stood by her husband's grave
now seemed to be long past.
Suddenly she heard her boy call. He had slipped his hand out of hers and
had run on ahead.
"I can walk quicker than you, mamma!"
"Wait, though! Wait, Fritz!" exclaimed Bertha. "You're not going to leave
your mother alone, are you?"
She followed him and again took him by the hand.
"Are we going home already?" asked Fritz.
"Yes; we will sit by the open window until it grows quite dark."
Before long they had reached the foot of the hill and they began to walk
towards the town in the shade of the chestnut trees which bordered the
high-road, now white with dust. Here again they met but few people. Along
the road a couple of wagons came towards them, the drivers, whip in
hand, trudging along beside the horses. Then two cyclists rode by from
the town towards the country, leaving clouds of dust behind them. Bertha
stopped mechanically and gazed after them until they had almost
disappeared from view.
In the meantime Fritz had clambered up onto the bench beside the road.
"Look, mamma! See what I can do!"
He made ready to jump, but his mother took hold of him by the arms and
lifted him carefully to the ground. Then she sat down on the bench.
"Are you tired?" asked Fritz.
"Yes," she answered, surprised to find that she was indeed feeling
It was only then that she realized that the sultry air had wearied her to
the point of sleepiness. She could not, moreover, remember having
experienced such warm weather in the middle of May.
From the bench on which she was sitting she could trace back the course
of the path down which she had come. In the sunlight it ran between the
vine-trellises, up and up, until it reached the brightly gleaming wall of
the cemetery. She was in the habit of taking a walk along that path two
or three times a week. She had long since ceased to regard such visits to
the cemetery as anything other than a mere walk. When she wandered about
the well-kept gravel paths amongst the crosses and the tombstones, or
stood offering up a silent prayer beside her husband's grave, or, maybe,
laying upon it a few wild flowers which she had plucked on her way up,
her heart was scarcely any longer stirred by the slightest throb of pain.
Three years had, indeed, passed since her husband had died, which was
just as long as their married life had lasted.
Her eyes closed and her mind went back to the time when she had first
come to the town, only a few days after their marriage--which had taken
place in Vienna. They had only indulged in a modest honeymoon trip, such
as a man in humble circumstances, who had married a woman without any
dowry, could treat himself to. They had taken the boat from Vienna, up
the river, to a little village in Wachau, not far from their future home,
and had spent a few days there. Bertha could still remember clearly the
little inn at which they had stayed, the riverside garden in which they
used to sit after sunset, and those quiet, rather tedious, evenings which
were so completely different from those her girlish imagination had
previously pictured to her as the evenings which a newly-married couple
would spend. Of course, she had had to be content.
She was twenty-six years old and quite alone in the world when Victor
Mathias Garlan had proposed to her. Her parents had recently died. A long
time before, one of her brothers had gone to America to seek his fortune
as a merchant. Her younger brother was on the stage; he had married an
actress, and was playing comedy parts in third-rate German theatres. She
was almost out of touch with her relations and the only one whom she
visited occasionally was a cousin who had married a lawyer. But even that
friendship had grown cool as years had passed, because the cousin had
become wrapped up in her husband and children exclusively, and had almost
ceased to take any interest in the doings of her unmarried friend.
Herr Garlan was a distant relation of Bertha's mother. When Bertha was
quite a young girl he had often visited the house and made love to her in
a rather awkward way. In those days she had no reasons to encourage him,
because it was in another guise that her fancy pictured life and
happiness to her. She was young and pretty; her parents, though not
actually wealthy people, were comfortably off, and her hope was rather to
wander about the world as a great pianiste, perhaps, as the wife of an
artist, than to lead a modest existence in the placid routine of the home
circle. But that hope soon faded. One day her father, in a transport of
domestic fervour, forbade her further attendance at the conservatoire of
music, which put an end to her prospects of an artistic career and at the
same time to her friendship with the young violinist who had since made
such a name for himself.
The next few years were singularly dull. At first, it is true, she felt
some slight disappointment, or even pain, but these emotions were
certainly of short duration. Later on she had received offers of
marriage from a young doctor and a merchant. She refused both of them;
the doctor because he was too ugly, and the merchant because he lived in
a country town. Her parents, too, were by no means enthusiastic about
When, however, Bertha's twenty-sixth birthday passed and her father lost
his modest competency through a bankruptcy, it had been her lot to put up
with belated reproaches on the score of all sorts of things which she
herself had begun to forget--her youthful artistic ambitions, her love
affair of long ago with the violinist, which had seemed likely to lead to
nothing, and the lack of encouragement which the ugly doctor and the
merchant from the country received at her hands.
At that time Victor Mathias Garlan was no longer resident in Vienna. Two
years before, the insurance company, in which he had been employed since
he had reached the age of twenty, had, at his own request, transferred
him, in the capacity of manager, to the recently-established branch in
the little town on the Danube where his married brother carried on
business as a wine merchant. In the course of a somewhat lengthy
conversation which took place on the occasion of his farewell visit to
Bertha's parents, and which created a certain impression upon her, he had
mentioned that the principal reasons for his asking to be transferred to
the little town were that he felt himself to be getting on in years, that
he had no longer any idea of seeking a wife, and that he desired to have
some sort of a home amongst people who were closely connected with him.
At that time Bertha's parents had made fun of his notion, which seemed to
them somewhat hypochondriacal, for Garlan was then scarcely forty years
old. Bertha herself, however, had found a good deal of common sense in
Garlan's reason, inasmuch as he had never appeared to her as, properly
speaking, a young man.
In the course of the following years Garlan used often to come to Vienna
on business, and never omitted to visit Bertha's family on such
occasions. After supper it was Bertha's custom to play the piano for
Garlan's entertainment, and he used to listen to her with an almost
reverent attention, and would, perhaps, go on to talk of his little
nephew and niece--who were both very musical--and to whom he would often
speak of Fraulein Bertha as the finest pianiste he had ever heard.
It seemed strange, and Bertha's mother could not refrain from commenting
now and again upon it, that, since his diffident wooing in the old days,
Herr Garlan had not once ventured so much as to make the slightest
further allusion to the past, or even to a possible future. And thus
Bertha, in addition to the other reproaches to which she had to listen,
incurred the blame for treating Herr Garlan with too great indifference,
if not, indeed, with actual coldness. Bertha, however, only shook her
head, for at that time she had not so much as contemplated the
possibility of marrying this somewhat awkward man, who had grown old
before his time.
After the sudden death of her mother, which happened at a time when her
father had been lying ill for many months, Garlan reappeared upon the
scene with the announcement that he had obtained a month's holiday--the
only one for which he had ever applied. It was clearly evident to Bertha
that his sole purpose in coming to Vienna was to be of help to her in
that time of trouble and distress. And when Bertha's father died a week
after the funeral of her mother, Garlan proved himself to be a true
friend, and one, moreover, blessed with an amount of energy for which she
had never given him credit. He prevailed on his sister-in-law to come to
Vienna, so that she could help Bertha to tide over the first few weeks of
her bereavement, besides, in some slight degree, distracting her
thoughts. He settled the business affairs capably and quickly. His
kindness of heart did much to cheer Bertha during those sad days, and
when, on the expiration of his leave, he asked her whether she would be
his wife she acquiesced with a feeling of the most profound gratitude.
She was, of course, aware of the fact that if she did not marry him she
would in a few months' time have to earn her own living, probably as a
teacher, and, besides, she had come to appreciate Garlan and had become
so used to his company that she was able, in all sincerity, to answer
"Yes," both when he led her to the altar and subsequently when, as they
set off for their honeymoon, he asked her, for the first time, if she
It was true that at the very outset of their married life she
discovered that she felt no love for him. She just let him love her and
put up with the fact, at first with a certain surprise at her own
disillusionment and afterwards with indifference. It was not until she
found that she was about to become a mother that she could bring
herself to reciprocate his affection. She very soon grew accustomed to
the quiet life of the little town, all the more easily because even in
Vienna she had led a somewhat secluded existence. With her husband's
family she felt quite happy and comfortable; her brother-in-law
appeared to be a most genial and amiable person, if not altogether
innocent of an occasional display of coarseness; his wife was
good-natured, and inclined at times to be melancholy. Garlan's nephew,
who was thirteen years old at the time of Bertha's arrival at the
little town, was a pert, good-looking boy; and his niece, a very sedate
child of nine, with large, astonished eyes, conceived a strong
attachment for Bertha from the very first moment that they met.
When Bertha's child was born, he was hailed by the children as a welcome
plaything, and, for the next two years, Bertha felt completely happy. She
even believed at times that it was impossible that her fate could have
taken a more favourable shape. The noise and bustle of the great city
came back to her memory as something unpleasant, almost hazardous; and
on one occasion when she had accompanied her husband to Vienna, in order
to make a few purchases and it so chanced, to her annoyance, that the
streets were wet and muddy with the rain, she vowed never again to
undertake that tedious and wholly unnecessary journey of three hours'
duration. Her husband died suddenly one spring morning three years after
their marriage. Bertha's consternation was extreme. She felt that she had
never taken into consideration the mere possibility of such an event. She
was left in very straitened circumstances. Soon, however, her
sister-in-law, with thoughtful kindness, devised a means by which the
widow could support herself without appearing to accept anything in the
nature of charity. She asked Bertha to take over the musical education of
her children, and also procured for her an engagement as music teacher to
other families in the town. It was tacitly understood amongst the ladies
who engaged her that they should always make it appear as if Bertha had
undertaken these lessons only for the sake of a little distraction, and
that they paid her for them only because they could not possibly allow
her to devote so much time and trouble in that way without some return.
What she earned from this source was quite sufficient to supplement her
income to an amount adequate to meet the demands of her mode of living,
and so, when time had deadened the first keen pangs and the subsequent
sorrow occasioned by her husband's death, she was again quite contented
and cheerful. Her life up to then had not been spent in such a way as to
cause her now to feel the lack of anything. Such thoughts as she gave to
the future were occupied by scarcely any other theme than her son in the
successive stages of his growth, and it was only on rare occasions that
the likelihood of marrying a second time crossed her mind, and then the
idea was always a mere fleeting fancy, for as yet she had met no one whom
she was able seriously to regard in the light of a possible second
husband. The stirrings of youthful desires, which she sometimes felt
within her in her waking morning hours, always vanished as the day
pursued its even course. It was only since the advent of the spring that
she had felt a certain disturbance of her previous sensation of
well-being; no longer were her nights passed in the tranquil and
dreamless sleep of heretofore, and at times she was oppressed by a
sensation of tedium, such as she had never experienced before. Strangest
of all, however, was the sudden access of lassitude which would often
come over her even in the daytime, under the influence of which she
fancied that she could trace the course of her blood as it circled
through her body. She remembered that she had experienced a similar
sensation in the days when she was emerging from childhood. At first this
feeling, in spite of its familiarity, was yet so strange to her that it
seemed as though one of her friends must have told her about it. It was
only when it recurred with ever-increasing frequency that she realized
that she herself had experienced it before.
She shuddered, with a feeling as though she were waking from sleep. She
opened her eyes.
It seemed to her that the air was all a-whirl; the shadows had crept
halfway across the road; away up on the hilltop the cemetery wall no
longer gleamed in the sunlight. Bertha rapidly shook her head to and fro
a few times as though to waken herself thoroughly. It seemed to her as if
a whole day and a whole night had elapsed since she had sat down on the
bench. How was it, then, that in her consciousness time passed in so
disjointed a fashion? She looked around her. Where could Fritz have gone
to? Oh, there he was behind her, playing with Doctor Friedrich's
children. The nursemaid was on her knees beside them, helping them to
build a castle with the sand.
The avenue was now less deserted than it had been earlier in the evening.
Bertha knew almost all the people who passed; she saw them every day. As,
however, most of them were not people to whom she was in the habit of
talking, they flitted by like shadows. Yonder came the saddler, Peter
Nowak, and his wife; Doctor Rellinger drove by in his little country trap
and bowed to her as he passed; he was followed by the two daughters of
Herr Wendelein, the landowner; presently Lieutenant Baier and his
_fiancée_ cycled slowly down the road on their way to the country. Then,
again, there seemed to be a short lull in the movement before her and
Bertha heard nothing but the laughter of the children as they played.
Then, again, she saw that some one was slowly approaching from the town,
and she recognized who it was while he was still a long way off. It was
Herr Klingemann, to whom of late she had been in the habit of talking
more frequently than had previously been her custom. Some twelve years
ago or more he had moved from Vienna to the little town. Gossip had it
that he had at one time been a doctor, and had been obliged to give up
his practice on account of some professional error, or even of some more
serious lapse. Some, however, asserted that he had never qualified as a
doctor at all, but, failing to pass his examinations, had finally given
up the study of medicine. Herr Klingemann, for his own part, gave
himself out to be a philosopher, who had grown weary of life in the
great city after having enjoyed it to satiety, and for that reason had
moved to the little town, where he could live comfortably on what
remained of his fortune.
He was now but little more than five-and-forty. There were still times
when he was of a genial enough aspect, but, for the most part, he had an
extremely dilapidated and disagreeable appearance.
While yet some distance away he smiled at the young widow, but did not
hasten his steps. Finally he stopped before her and gave her an ironical
nod, which was his habitual manner of greeting people.
"Good evening, my pretty lady!" he said.
Bertha returned his salutation. It was one of those days on which Herr
Klingemann appeared to make some claim to elegance and youthfulness. He
was attired in a dark grey frock coat, so tightly fitting that he might
almost have been wearing stays. On his head was a narrow brimmed brown
straw hat with a black band. About his throat, moreover, there was a very
tiny red cravat, set rather askew.
For a time he remained silent, tugging his slightly grizzled fair
moustache upwards and downwards.
"I presume you have come from up there, my dear lady?" he said.
Without turning his head or even his eyes, he pointed his finger over his
shoulder, in a somewhat contemptuous manner, in the direction of the
cemetery behind him.
Throughout the town Herr Klingemann was known as a man to whom nothing
was sacred, and as he stood before her, Bertha could not help thinking of
the various bits of gossip that she had heard about him. It was well
known that his relations with his cook, whom he always referred to as his
housekeeper, were of a somewhat more intimate nature than that merely of
master and servant, and his name was also mentioned in connexion with the
wife of a tobacconist, who, as he had himself told Bertha with proud
regret, deceived him with a captain of the regiment stationed in the
town. Moreover, there were several eligible girls in the neighbourhood
who cherished a certain tender interest in him.
Whenever these things were hinted at Herr Klingemann always made some
sneering remark on the subject of marriage in general, which shocked the
susceptibilities of many, but, on the whole, actually increased the
amount of respect in which he was held.
"I have been out for a short walk," said Bertha.
"Oh, no; with my boy."
"Yes--yes--of course, there he is! Good evening, my little mortal!"--he
gazed away over Fritz's head as he said this--"may I sit down for a
moment beside you, Frau Bertha?"
He pronounced her name with an ironic inflection and, without waiting for
her to reply, he sat down on the bench.
"I heard you playing the piano this morning," he continued. "Do you know
what kind of an impression it made upon me? This: that with you music
must take the place of everything."
He repeated the word "everything" and, at the same time, looked at Bertha
in a manner which caused her to blush.
"What a pity I so seldom have the opportunity of hearing you play!" he
went on. "If I don't happen to be passing your open window when you are
at the piano--"
Bertha noticed that he kept on edging nearer to her, and that his arm was
touching hers. Involuntarily she moved away. Suddenly she felt herself
seized from behind, her head pulled back over the bench and a hand
clasped over her eyes.
For a moment she thought that it was Klingemann's hand, which she felt
upon her lids.
"Why, you must be mad, sir," she cried.
"How funny it is to hear you call me 'Sir,' Aunt Bertha!" replied the
laughing voice of a boy at her back.
"Well, do let me at least open my eyes, Richard," said Bertha, trying to
remove the boy's hands from her face. "Have you come from home!" she
added, turning round towards him.
"Yes, Aunt, and here's the newspaper which I have brought you."
Bertha took the paper which he handed to her and began to read it.
Klingemann, meanwhile, rose to his feet and turned to Richard.
"Have you done your exercises already?" he asked.
"We have no exercises at all now, Herr Klingemann, because our final
examination is to take place in July."
"So you will actually be a student by this time next year?"
"This time next year! It'll be in the autumn!"
As he said this Richard drummed his fingers along the newspaper.
"What do you want, then, you ill-mannered fellow?" asked Bertha.
"I say, Aunt, will you come and visit me when I am in Vienna?"
"Yes, I should like to catch myself! I shall be glad to be rid of you!"
"Here comes Herr Rupius!" said Richard.
Bertha lowered the paper and looked in the direction indicated by her
nephew's glance. Along the avenue leading from the town a maidservant
came, pushing an invalid's chair, in which a man was sitting. His head
was uncovered and his soft felt hat was lying upon his knees, from which
a plaid rug reached down to his feet. His forehead was lofty; his hair
smooth and fair and slightly grizzled at the temples; his feet were
peculiarly large. As he passed the bench on which Bertha was seated he
only inclined his head slightly, without smiling. Bertha knew that, had
she been alone, he would certainly have stopped; moreover, he looked only
at her as he passed by, and his greeting seemed to apply to her alone. It
seemed to Bertha that she had never before seen such a grave look in his
eyes as on this occasion, and she was exceedingly sorry, for she felt a
profound compassion for the paralysed man.
When Herr Rupius had passed by, Klingemann said:
"Poor devil! And wifie is away as usual on one of her visits to
"No," answered Bertha, almost angrily. "I was speaking to her only an
Klingemann was silent, for he felt that further remarks on the subject of
the mysterious visits of Frau Rupius to Vienna might not have been in
keeping with his own reputation as a freethinker.
"Won't he really ever be able to walk again?" asked Richard.
"No," said Bertha.
She knew this for a fact because Herr Rupius had told her so himself on
one occasion when she had called on him and his wife was in Vienna.
At that moment Herr Rupius seemed to her to be a particularly pitiful
figure, for, as he was being wheeled past her in his invalid's chair, she
had, in reading the paper, lighted upon the name of one whom she regarded
as a happy man.
Mechanically she read the paragraph again.
"Our celebrated compatriot Emil Lindbach returned to Vienna a few days
ago after his professional tour through France and Spain, in the course
of which he met with many a triumphant reception. In Madrid this
distinguished artist had the honour of playing before the Queen of Spain.
On the 24th of this month Herr Lindbach will take part in the charity
concert which has been organized for the relief of the inhabitants of
Vorarlberg, who have suffered such severe losses as a result of the
recent floods. A keen interest in the concert is being shown by the
public in spite of the fact that the season is so far advanced."
Emil Lindbach! It required a certain effort on Bertha's part to realize
that this was the same man whom she had loved--how many?--twelve years
ago. Twelve years! She could feel the hot blood mount up into her brow.
It seemed to her as though she ought to be ashamed of having gradually
The sun had set. Bertha took Fritz by the hand, bade the others good
evening, and walked slowly homewards.
She lived on the first floor of a house in a new street. From her windows
she had a view of the hill, and opposite were only vacant sites.
Bertha handed Fritz over to the care of the maid, sat down by the window,
took up the paper and began to read again. She had kept the custom of
glancing through the art news first of all. This habit had been formed in
the days of her early childhood, when she and her brother, who was now an
actor, used to go to the top gallery of the Burg-Theater together. Her
interest in art naturally grew when she attended the conservatoire of
music; in those days she had been acquainted with the names of even the
minor actors, singers and pianists. Later on, when her frequent visits to
the theatres, the studies at the conservatoire and her own artistic
aspirations came to an end, there still lingered within her a kind of
sympathy, which was not free from the touch of homesickness, towards that
joyous world of art. But during the latter portion of her life in Vienna
all these things had retained scarcely any of their former significance
for her; just as little, indeed, as they had possessed since she had come
to reside in the little town, where occasional amateur concerts were the
best that was offered in the way of artistic enjoyment. One evening
during the first year of her married life, she had taken part in one of
these concerts at the "Red Apple" Hotel. She had played two marches by
Schubert as a duet with another young lady in the town. On that occasion
her agitation had been so great that she had vowed to herself never again
to appear in public, and was more than glad that she had given up her
hopes of an artistic career.
For such a career a very different temperament from hers was
necessary--for example, one like Emil Lindbach's. Yes, he was born to it!
She had recognized that by his demeanour the very moment when she had
first seen him step on to the daďs at a school concert. He had smoothed
back his hair in an unaffected manner, gazed at the people below with
sardonic superiority, and had acknowledged the first applause which he
had ever received in the calm, indifferent manner of one long accustomed
to such things.
It was strange, but whenever she thought of Emil Lindbach she still saw
him in her mind's eye as youthful, even boyish, just as he had been in
the days when they had known and loved each other. Yet not so long
before, when she had spent the evening with her brother-in-law and his
wife in a restaurant, she had seen a photograph of him in an illustrated
paper, and he appeared to have changed greatly. He no longer wore his
hair long; his black moustache was curled downwards; his collar was
conspicuously tall, and his cravat twisted in accordance with the fashion
of the day. Her sister-in-law had given her opinion that he looked like a
Bertha took up the newspaper again and was about to read on, but by that
time it was too dark. She rose to her feet and called the maid. The lamp
was brought in and the table laid for supper. Bertha ate her meal with
Fritz, the window remaining open. That evening she felt an even greater
tenderness for her child than usual; she recalled once more to memory the
times when her husband was still alive, and all manner of reminiscences
passed rapidly through her mind. While she was putting Fritz to bed, her
glance lingered for quite a long time on her husband's portrait, which
hung over the bed in an oval frame of dark brown wood. It was a
full-length portrait; he was wearing a morning coat and a white cravat,
and was holding his tall hat in his hand. It was all in memory of their
Bertha knew for a certainty, at that moment, that Herr Klingemann would
have smiled sarcastically had he seen that portrait.
Later in the evening she sat down at the piano, as was a not infrequent
custom of hers before going to bed, not so much because of her enthusiasm
for music, but because she did not want to retire to rest too early. On
such occasions she played, for the most part, the few pieces which she
still knew by heart--mazurkas by Chopin, some passages from one of
Beethoven's sonatas, or the Kreisleriana. Sometimes she improvised as
well, but never pursued the theme beyond a succession of chords, which,
indeed, were always the same.
On that evening she began at once by striking those chords, somewhat more
softly than usual; then she essayed various modulations and, as she made
the last triad resound for a long time by means of the pedal--her hands
were now lying in her lap--she felt a gentle joy in the melodies which
were hovering, as it were, about her. Then Klingemann's observation
recurred to her.
"With you music must take the place of everything!"
Indeed he had not been far from the truth. Music certainly had to take
the place of much.
But everything--? Oh, no!
What was that? Footsteps over the way....
Well, there was nothing remarkable in that. But they were slow, regular
footsteps, as though somebody was passing up and down. She stood up and
went to the window. It was quite dark, and at first she could not
recognize the man who was walking outside. But she knew that it was
Klingemann. How absurd! Was he going to haunt the vicinity like a
"Good evening, Frau Bertha," he said from across the road, and she could
see in the darkness that he raised his hat.
"Good evening," she answered, almost confusedly.
"You were playing most beautifully."
Her only answer was to murmur "really?" and that perhaps did not
reach his ears.
He remained standing for a moment, then said:
"Good night, sleep soundly, Frau Bertha."
He pronounced the word "sleep" with an emphasis which was almost
"Now he is going home to his cook!" thought Bertha to herself.
Then suddenly she called to mind something which she had known for quite
a long time, but to which she had not given a thought since it had come
to her knowledge. It was rumoured that in his room there hung a picture
which was always covered with a little curtain because its subject was of
a somewhat questionable nature.
Who was it had told her about that picture? Oh, yes, Frau Rupius had told
her when they were taking a walk along the bank of the Danube one day
last autumn, and she in her turn had heard of it from some one
else--Bertha could not remember from whom.
What an odious man! Bertha felt that somehow she was guilty of a slight
depravity in thinking of him and all these things. She continued to stand
by the window. It seemed to her as though it had been an unpleasant day.
She went over the actual events in her mind, and was astonished to find
that, after all, the day had just been like many hundreds before it and
many, many more that were yet to come.
They stood up from the table. It had been one of those little Sunday
dinner parties which the wine merchant Garlan was in the habit of
occasionally giving his acquaintances. The host came up to his
sister-in-law and caught her round the waist, which was one of his
customs on an afternoon.
She knew beforehand what he wanted. Whenever he had company Bertha had to
play the piano after dinner, and often duets with Richard. The music
served as a pleasant introduction to a game of cards, or, indeed, chimed
in pleasantly with the game.
She sat down at the piano. In the meantime the door of the smoking-room
was opened; Garlan, Doctor Friedrich and Herr Martin took their seats at
a small baize-covered table and began to play. The wives of the three
gentlemen remained in the drawing-room, and Frau Martin lit a cigarette,
sat down on the sofa and crossed her legs--on Sundays she always wore
dress shoes and black silk stockings. Doctor Friedrich's wife looked at
Frau Martin's feet as though fixed to the spot by enchantment. Richard
had followed the gentlemen--he already took an interest in a game of
taroc. Elly stood with her elbows leaning on the piano waiting for Bertha
to begin to play. The hostess went in and out of the room; she was
perpetually giving orders in the kitchen, and rattling the bunch of keys
which she carried in her hand. Once as she came into the room Doctor
Friedrich's wife threw her a glance which seemed to say: "Just look how
Frau Martin is sitting there!"
Bertha noticed all those things that day more clearly, as it were, than
usual, somewhat after the manner in which things are seen by a person
suffering from fever. She had not as yet struck a note. Then her
brother-in-law turned towards her and threw her a glance, which was
intended to remind her of her duty. She began to play a march by
Schubert, with a very heavy touch.
"Softer," said her brother-in-law, turning round again.
"Taroc with a musical accompaniment is a speciality of this house," said
"Songs without words, so to speak," added Herr Martin.
The others laughed. Garlan turned round towards Bertha again, for she had
suddenly left off playing.
"I have a slight headache," she said, as if it were necessary to
make some excuse; immediately, however, she felt as though it were
beneath her dignity to say that, and she added: "I don't feel any
inclination to play."
Everybody looked at her, feeling that something rather out of the common
"Won't you come and sit by us, Bertha?" said Frau Garlan.
Elly had a vague idea that she ought to show her affection for her aunt,
and hung on her arm; and the two of them stood side by side, leaning
against the piano.
"Are you going with us to the 'Red Apple' this evening?" Frau Martin
asked of her hostess.
"No, I don't think so."
"Ah," broke in Herr Garlan, "if we must forgo our concert this afternoon
we will have one in the evening instead--your lead, Doctor."
"The military concert?" asked Doctor Friedrich's wife.
Frau Garlan rose to her feet.
"Do you really mean to go to the 'Red Apple' this evening?" she asked
"Very well," she answered, somewhat flustered, and at once went off to
the kitchen again to make fresh arrangements.
"Richard," said Garlan to his son; "you might make haste and run over and
tell the manager to have a table reserved for us in the garden."
Richard hurried off, colliding in the doorway with his mother, who was
just coming into the room. She sank down on the sofa as though exhausted.
"You can't believe," she said to Doctor Friedrich's wife; "how difficult
it is to make Brigitta understand the simplest thing."
Frau Martin had gone and sat down beside her husband, at the same time
throwing a glance towards Bertha, who was still standing silently with
Elly beside the piano. Frau Martin stroked her husband's hair, laid her
hand on his knee and seemed to feel that she was under the necessity of
showing the company how happy she was.
"I'll tell you what. Aunt," said Elly suddenly to Bertha; "let's go into
the garden for a while. The fresh air will drive your headache away."
They went down the steps into the courtyard, in the centre of which a
small lawn had been laid out. At the back, it was shut off by a wall,
against which stood a few shrubs and a couple of young trees, which still
had to be propped up by stakes. Away over the wall only the blue sky was
to be seen; in boisterous weather the rush of the river which flowed
close by could be heard. Two wicker garden chairs stood with their backs
against the wall, and in front of them was a small table. Bertha and Elly
sat down, Elly still keeping her arm linked in her aunt's.
"Tell you what, Elly?"
"See, I am quite a big girl now; do tell me about him."
Bertha was somewhat alarmed, for it struck her at once that her niece's
question did not refer to her dead husband, but to some one else. And
suddenly she saw before her mind's eye the picture of Emil Lindbach,
just as she had seen it in the illustrated paper; but immediately both
the vision and her slight alarm vanished, and she felt a kind of emotion
at the shy question of the young girl who believed that she still grieved
for her dead husband, and that it would comfort her to have an
opportunity for talking about him.
"May I come down and join you, or are you telling each other secrets?"
Richard's voice came at that moment from a window overlooking the
courtyard. For the first time Bertha was struck by the resemblance he
bore to Emil Lindbach. She realized, however, that it might perhaps only
be the youthfulness of his manner and his rather long hair that put her
in mind of Emil. Richard was now nearly as old as Emil had been in the
days of her studies at the conservatoire.
"I've reserved a table," he said as he came into the courtyard. "Are you
coming with us, Aunt Bertha?"
He sat down on the back of her chair, stroked her cheeks, and said in his
fresh, yet rather affected, way:
"You will come, won't you, pretty Aunt, for my sake?"
Mechanically Bertha closed her eyes. A feeling of comfort stole over her,
as if some childish hand, as if the little fingers of her own Fritz, were
caressing her cheeks. Soon, however, she felt that some other memory as
well rose up in her mind. She could not help thinking of a walk in the
town park which she had taken one evening with Emil after her lesson at
the conservatoire. On that occasion he had sat down to rest beside her on
a seat, and had touched her cheeks with tender fingers. Was it only once
that that had happened? No--much oftener! Indeed, they had sat on that
seat ten or twenty times, and he had stroked her cheeks. How strange it
was that all these things should come back to her thoughts now!
She would certainly never have thought of those walks again had not
Richard by chance--but how long was she going to put up with his stroking
"Richard!" she exclaimed, opening her eyes.
She saw that he was smiling in such a way that she thought that he must
have divined what was passing through her mind. Of course, it was quite
impossible, because, as a matter of fact, scarcely anybody in the town
was aware that she was acquainted with Emil Lindbach, the great
violinist. If it came to that, was she really acquainted with him still?
It was indeed a very different person from Emil as he must now be that
she had in mind--a handsome youth whom she had loved in the days of her
Thus her thoughts strayed further and further back into the past, and it
seemed altogether impossible for her to return to the present and
chatter with the two children.
She bade them good-bye and went away.
The afternoon sun lay brooding heavily upon the streets of the little
town. The shops were shut, the pavements almost deserted. A few officers
were sitting at a little table in front of the restaurant in the market
square. Bertha glanced up at the windows of the first story of the house
in which Herr and Frau Rupius lived. It was quite a long time since she
had been to see them. She clearly remembered the last occasion--it was
the day after Christmas. It was then that she had found Herr Rupius alone
and that he had told her that his affliction was incurable. She also
remembered distinctly why she had not called upon him since that day:
although she did not admit it to herself, she had a kind of fear of
entering that house which she had then left with her mind in a state of
On the present occasion, however, she felt that she must go up; it seemed
as though in the course of the last few days a kind of bond had been
established between her and the paralysed man, and as though even the
glance with which he had silently greeted her on the previous day, when
she was out walking, had had some significance.
When she entered the room her eyes had, first of all, to become
accustomed to the dimness of the light; the blinds were drawn and a
sunbeam poured in only through the chink at the top, and fell in front
of the white stove. Herr Rupius was sitting in an armchair at the table
in the centre of the room. Before him lay stacks of prints, and he was
just in the act of picking up one in order to look at the one beneath it.
Bertha could see that they were engravings.
"Thank you for coming to see me once again," he said, stretching out his
hand to her. "You see what it is I am busy on just now? Well, it is a
collection of engravings after the old Dutch masters. Believe me, my dear
lady, it is a great pleasure to examine old engravings."
"Oh, it is, indeed."
"See, there are six volumes, or rather six portfolios, each containing
twenty prints. It will probably take me the whole summer to become
thoroughly acquainted with them."
Bertha stood by his side and looked at the engraving immediately before
him. It was a market scene by Teniers.
"The whole summer," she said absent-mindedly.
Rupius turned towards her.
"Yes, indeed," he said, his jaw slightly set, as though it was a matter
of vindicating his point of view; "what I call being thoroughly
acquainted with a picture. By that I mean: being able, so to speak, to
reproduce it in my mind, line for line. This one here is a Teniers--the
original is in one of the galleries at The Hague. Why don't you go to
The Hague, where so many splendid examples of the art of Teniers and so
many other styles of painting are to be seen, my dear lady?"
"How can I think of making such a journey as that?"
"Yes, yes, of course, that's so," said Herr Rupius; "The Hague is a very
beautiful town. I was there fourteen years ago. At that time I was
twenty-eight, I am now forty-two--or, I might say, eighty-four"--he
picked up the print and laid it aside--"here we have an Ostade--'The Pipe
Smoker.' Quite so, you can see easily enough that he is smoking a pipe.
'Original in Vienna.'"
"I think I remember that picture."
"Won't you come and sit opposite to me, Frau Bertha, or here beside me,
if you would care to look at the pictures with me? Now we come to a
Falkenborg--wonderful, isn't it? In the extreme foreground, though, it
seems so void, so cramped. Yes, nothing but a peasant lad dancing with a
girl, and there's an old woman who is cross about it, and here is a house
out of the door of which someone is coming with a pail of water. Yes,
that is all--a mere nothing of course, but there in the background you
see, is the whole world, blue mountains, green towns, the clouded sky
above, and near it a tourney--ha! ha!--in a certain sense perhaps it is
out of place, but, on the other hand, in a certain sense it may be said
to be appropriate. Since everything has a background and it is therefore
perfectly right that here, directly behind the peasant's house, the world
should begin with its tourneys, and its mountains, its rivers, its
fortresses, its vineyards and its forests."
He pointed out the various parts of the picture to which he was referring
with a little ivory paper-knife.
"Do you like it?" he continued. "The original also hangs in the Gallery
in Vienna. You must have seen it."
"Oh, but it is now six years since I lived in Vienna, and for many years
before that I had not paid a visit to the museum."
"Indeed? I have often walked round the galleries there, and stood before
this picture, too. Yes, in those earlier days I _walked_."
He was almost laughing as he looked at her, and; her embarrassment was
such that she could not make any reply.
"I fear I am boring you with the pictures," Herr Rupius went on abruptly.
"Wait a little; my wife will be home soon. You know, I suppose, that she
always goes for a two hours walk after dinner now. She is afraid of
becoming too stout."
"Your wife looks as young and slender as ... well, I don't think she has
altered in the very least since I have come to live here."
Bertha felt as though Rupius' countenance had grown quite rigid. Then
suddenly he said, in a gentle tone of voice which was not by any means
in keeping with the expression of his face:
"A quiet life in a little town such as this keeps me young, of course. It
was a clever idea of mine and hers, for it occurred simultaneously to
both of us, to move here. Who can say whether, had we stayed in Vienna,
it might not have been all over already?"
Bertha could not guess what he meant by the expression "all over";
whether he was referring to his own life, to his wife's
youthfulness, or to something else. In any case, she was sorry that
she had called that day; a feeling of shame at being so strong and
well herself came over her.
"Did I tell you," continued Rupius, "that it was Anna who got these
portfolios for me? It was a chance bargain, for the work is usually very
expensive. A bookseller had advertised it and Anna telegraphed at once
to her brother to procure it for us. You know, of course, that we have
many relations in Vienna, both Anna and myself. Sometimes, too, she goes
there to visit them. Soon after they pay us a return visit. I should be
very glad indeed to see them again, especially Anna's brother and his
wife, I owe them a great deal of gratitude. When Anna is in Vienna, she
dines and sleeps at their house--but, of course, you already know all
that, Frau Bertha."
He spoke rapidly and, at the same time, in a cool, businesslike tone. It
sounded as though he had made up his mind to tell the same things to
every one who should enter the room that day. It was the first time that
he had as much as spoken to Bertha of the journeys of his wife to Vienna.
"She is going again to-morrow," he continued; "I believe the matter in
hand this time is her summer costume."
"I think that is a very clever notion of your wife," said Bertha, glad to
have found an opening for conversation.
"It is cheaper, at the same time," added Herr Rupius. "Yes, I assure you
it is cheaper even if you throw in the cost of the journey. Why don't you
follow my wife's example?"
"In that way, Herr Rupius?"
"Why, in regard to your frocks and hats! You are young and pretty, too!"
"Heavens above! On whose account should I dress smartly?"
"On whose account! On whose account is it that my wife dresses so
The door opened and Frau Rupius entered in a bright spring costume, a red
sunshade in her hand and a white straw hat, trimmed with red ribbon, on
her dark hair, which was dressed high. A pleasant smile was hovering
around her lips, as usual, and she greeted Bertha with a quiet
"Are you making an appearance in our house once more?" she said, handing
her sunshade and hat to the maid, who had followed her into the room.
"Are you also interested in pictures, Frau Garlan?"
She went up close behind her husband and softly passed her hand over his
forehead and hair.
"I was just telling Frau Garlan," said Rupius, "how surprised I am that
she never goes to Vienna."
"Indeed," Frau Rupius put in; "why don't you do so? Moreover, you must
certainly have some acquaintances there, too. Come with me one
day--to-morrow, for example. Yes, to-morrow."
Rupius gazed straight before him while his wife said this, as though he
did not dare to look at her.
"You are really very kind, Frau Rupius," said Bertha, feeling as though a
perfect stream of joy was coursing through her being.
She wondered, too, how it was that all this time the possibility of
making such a journey had not once entered her mind, the more so as it
could be accomplished with so little trouble. It appeared to her at
that moment that such a journey might be a remedy for the strange
sense of dissatisfaction under which she had been suffering during the
past few days.
"Well, do you agree, Frau Garlan?"
"I don't really know--I daresay I could spare the time, for I have only
one lesson to give tomorrow at my sister-in-law's, and she, of course,
won't be too exacting; but wouldn't I be putting you to some
A slight shadow flitted across Frau Rupius' brow.
"Putting me to inconvenience! Whatever are you dreaming of! I shall be
very glad to have pleasant company during the few hours of the journey
there and back. And in Vienna--oh, we shall be sure to have much to do
together in Vienna."
"Your husband," said Bertha, blushing like a girl who is speaking of her
first ball, "has told me ... has advised me ..."
"Surely, he has been raving to you about my dressmaker," said Frau
Rupius still sat motionless in his chair and looked at neither of them.
"Yes, I should really like to ask you about her, Frau Rupius. When
I see you I feel as if I should like to be well dressed again, just
as you are."
"That is easily arranged," said Frau Rupius. "I will take you to my
dressmaker, and by so doing I hope also to have the pleasure of your
company on my subsequent visits. I am glad for your sake as well," she
said to her husband, touching his hand which was lying on the table. Then
she turned to Bertha and added: "and for yours. You will see how much
good it will do you. Wandering about the streets without being known to a
soul has a wonderful effect on one's spirits. I do it from time to time,
and I always come back quite refreshed and--" in saying this she threw a
sidelong glance, full of anxiety and tenderness, in the direction of her
husband--"and then I am as happy here as ever it is possible to be;
happier, I believe, than any other woman in the world."
She drew near her husband and kissed him on the temple. Bertha heard her
say in a soft voice, as she did so:
Rupius, however, continued to stare before him as though he shrank from
meeting his wife's glance.
Both were silent and seemed to be absorbed in themselves, as though
Bertha was not in the room. Bertha comprehended vaguely that there was
some mysterious factor in the relations of these two people, but what
that factor was she was not clever, or not experienced, or not good
enough to understand. For a whole minute the silence continued, and
Bertha was so embarrassed that she would gladly have gone away had it
not been necessary to arrange with Frau Rupius the details of the
Anna was the first to speak.
"So then it is agreed that we are to meet at the railway station in time
for the morning train--isn't it? And I will arrange matters so that we
return home by the seven o'clock train in the evening. In eight hours,
you see, it is possible to get through a good deal."
"Certainly," said Bertha; "provided, of course, that you are not
inconveniencing yourself on my account in the slightest degree."
Anna interrupted her, almost angrily.
"I have already told you how glad I am that you will be travelling
with me, the more so as there is not a woman in the town so congenial
to me as you."
"Yes," said Herr Rupius, "I can corroborate that. You know, of course,
that my wife is on visiting terms with hardly anybody here--and as it has
been such a long time since you came to see us I was beginning to fear
that she was going to lose you as well."
"However could you have thought such a thing? My dear Herr Rupius! And
you, Frau Rupius, surely you haven't believed--"
At that moment Bertha felt an overwhelming love for both of them. Her
emotion was such that she detected her voice to be assuming an almost
Frau Rupius smiled, a strange, deliberate smile.
"I haven't believed anything. As a matter of fact there are some things
over which I do not generally ponder for long. I have no great need of
friends, but you, Frau Bertha, I really and truly love."
She stretched out her hand to her. Bertha cast a glance at Rupius. It
seemed to her that an expression of contentment should now be observable
on his features. To her amazement, however, she saw that he was gazing
into the corner of the room with an almost terrified look in his eyes.
The parlourmaid came in with some coffee. Further particulars as to their
plans for the morrow were discussed, and finally they drew up a tolerably
exact time-table which, to Frau Rupius' slight amusement, Bertha entered
in a little notebook.
When Bertha reached the street again, the sky had become overcast, and
the increasing sultriness foretold the approach of a thunderstorm. The
first large drops were falling before she reached home, and she was
somewhat alarmed when, on going upstairs, she failed to find the servant
and little Fritz. As she went up to the window, however, in order to shut
it, she saw the two come running along. The first thunderclap crashed
out, and she started back in terror. Then immediately came a brilliant
flash of lightning.
The storm was brief, but unusually violent. Bertha went and sat on her
bed, held Fritz on her lap, and told him a story, so that he should not
be frightened. But, at the same time, she felt as though there was a
certain connexion between her experiences of the past two days and the
In half an hour all was over. Bertha opened the window; the air was now
fresh, the darkening sky was clear and distant. Bertha drew a deep
breath, and a feeling of peace and hope seemed to permeate her being.
It was time to get ready for the concert in the gardens. On her
arrival she found her friends already gathered at a large table
beneath a tree. It was Bertha's intention to tell her sister-in-law at
once about her proposed visit to Vienna on the morrow, but a sense of
shyness, as though there was something underhand in the journey,
caused her to refrain.
Herr Klingemann went by with his housekeeper towards their table. The
housekeeper was getting on towards middle-age; she was a very voluptuous
looking woman, taller than Klingemann, and, when she walked, always
appeared to be asleep. Klingemann bowed towards them with exaggerated
politeness. The gentlemen scarcely acknowledged the salutation, and the
ladies pretended not to have noticed it. Only Bertha nodded slightly and
gazed after the couple.
"That is his sweetheart--yes, I know it for a positive fact," whispered
Richard, who was sitting near his aunt.
Herr Garlan's party ate, drank and applauded. At times various
acquaintances came over from other tables, sat down with them for awhile,
and then went away again to their places. The music murmured around
Bertha without making any impression on her. Her mind was continuously
occupied with the question as to how to inform them of her project.
Suddenly, while the music was playing very loudly, she said to Richard:
"I say, I won't be able to give you a music lesson to-morrow. I am going
"To Vienna!" exclaimed Richard; then he called across to his mother; "I
say, Aunt Bertha is going to Vienna to-morrow!"
"Who's going to Vienna?" asked Garlan, who was sitting furthest away.
"I am," answered Bertha.
"What's this! What's this!" said Garlan, playfully threatening her with
So, then, it was accomplished. Bertha was glad. Richard made jokes
about the people who were sitting in the garden, also about the fat
bandmaster who was always skipping about while he was conducting, and
then about the trumpet-player whose cheeks bulged out and who seemed to
be shedding tears when he blew into his instrument. Bertha could not
help laughing very heartily. Jests were bandied about her high spirits
and Doctor Friedrich remarked that she must surely be going to some
rendezvous at Vienna.
"I should like to put a stop to that, though!" exclaimed Richard, so
angrily that the hilarity became general.
Only Elly remained serious, and gazed at her aunt in downright
Bertha looked out through the open carriage window upon the landscape:
Frau Rupius read a book, which she had taken out of her little
traveling-bag very soon after the train had started. It almost appeared
as though she wished to avoid any lengthy conversation with Bertha, and
the latter felt somewhat hurt. For a long time past she had been
cherishing a wish to be a friend of Frau Rupius, but since the previous
day this desire of hers had become almost a yearning, which recalled to
her mind the whole-hearted devotion of the friendships of the days of her
At first, therefore, she had felt quite unhappy, and had a sensation of
having been abandoned, but soon the changing panorama to be seen through
the window began to distract her thoughts in an agreeable manner. As she
looked at the rails which seemed to run to meet her, at the hedges and
telegraph poles which glided and leaped past her, she recalled to mind
the few short journeys to the Salzkammergut, where she had been taken,
when a child, by her parents, and the indescribable pleasure of having
been allowed to occupy a corner seat on those occasions. Then she looked
into the distance and exulted in the gleaming of the river, in the
pleasant windings of the hills and meadows, in the azure of the sky and
in the white clouds.
After a time Anna laid down the book, and began to chat to Bertha and
smiled at her, as though at a child.
"Who would have foretold this of us?" said Frau Rupius.
"That we should be going to Vienna together?"
"No, no, I mean that we shall both--how shall I express it?--pass or end
our lives yonder"--she gave a slight nod in the direction of the place
from which they came.
"Very true, indeed!" answered Bertha, who had not yet considered whether
there was anything really strange in the fact or not.
"Well, you, of course, knew it the moment you were married, but I--"
Frau Rupius gazed straight before her.
"So then your move to the little town," said Bertha, "did not take place
She broke off in confusion.
"Yes, you know that, of course."
In saying this Frau Rupius looked Bertha full in the face as if
reproaching her for her question. But when she continued to speak
she smiled gently, as though her thoughts were not occupied by
anything so sad.
"Yes, I never imagined that I should leave Vienna; my husband had his
position as a government official, and indeed he would certainly have
been able to remain longer there, in spite of his infirmity, had he not
wanted to go away at once."
"He thought, perhaps, that the fresh air, the quiet--" began Bertha, and
she at once perceived that she was not saying anything very sensible.
Nevertheless Anna answered her quite affably.
"Oh, no, neither rest nor climate could do him any good, but he thought
that it would be better for both of us in every way. He was right,
too--what should we have been able to do if we had remained in the city?"
Bertha felt that Anna was not telling her the whole story and she would
have liked to beg her not to hesitate, but to open her whole heart to
her. She knew, however, that she was not clever enough to express such a
request in the right words. Then, as though Frau Rupius had guessed that
Bertha was anxious to learn more, she quickly changed the subject of
their conversation. She asked Bertha about her brother-in-law, the
musical talent of her pupils, and her method of teaching; then she took
up the novel again and left Bertha to herself.
Once she looked up from the book and said:
"You haven't brought anything with you to read, then?"
"Oh, yes," answered Bertha.
She suddenly remembered that she had bought a newspaper; she took it up
and turned over the pages assiduously. The train drew near to Vienna.
Frau Rupius closed her book and put it in the travelling-bag. She looked
at Bertha with a certain tenderness, as at a child who must soon be sent
away alone to meet an uncertain destiny.
"Another quarter of an hour," she remarked; "and we shall be--well, I
very nearly said, home."
Before them lay the town. On the far side of the river chimneys towered
up aloft, rows of tall yellow painted houses stretched away into the
distance, and steeples ascended skywards. Everything lay basking in the
gentle sunlight of May.
Bertha's heart throbbed. She experienced a sensation such as might come
over a traveller returning after a long absence to a longed-for home,
which had probably altered greatly in the meantime, and where surprises
and mysteries of all kinds awaited him. At the moment when the train
rolled into the station she seemed almost courageous in her own eyes.
Frau Rupius took a carriage, and they drove into the town. As they passed
the Ring, Bertha suddenly leaned out of the window and gazed after a
young man whose figure and walk reminded her of Emil Lindbach. She wished
that the young man would turn round, but she lost sight of him without
his having done so.
The carriage stopped before a house in the Kohlmarkt. The two ladies got
out and made their way to the third floor, where the dressmaker's
workroom was situated. While Frau Rupius tried on her new costume,
Bertha had various materials displayed to her from which she made a
choice. The assistant took her measure, and it was arranged that Bertha
should call in a week's time to be fitted. Frau Rupius came out from the
adjoining room and recommended that particular care should be given to
her friend's order.
It seemed to Bertha that everybody was looking at her in a rather
disparaging, almost compassionate manner, and, on looking at herself in
the large pier glass she suddenly perceived that she was very tastelessly
dressed. What on earth had put it into her head to attire herself on this
occasion in the provincial Sunday-best, instead of in one of the simple
plain dresses she usually wore? She grew crimson with shame. She had on a
black and white striped foulard costume, which was three years out of
date, so far as its cut was concerned, and a bright-coloured hat, trimmed
with roses and turned up at an extravagant angle in front, which seemed
to weigh heavily upon her dainty figure and made her appear almost
Then, as if her own conviction needed further confirmation by some word
of consolation, Frau Rupius said, as they went down the stairs:
"You are looking lovely!"
They stood in the doorway.
"What shall be done now?" asked Frau Rupius. "What do you propose?"
"Will you then ... I ... I mean ..."
Bertha was quite frightened; she felt as though she was being
Frau Rupius looked at her with kindly commiseration.
"I think," she said, "that you are going to pay a visit to your cousin
now, are you not? I suppose that you will be asked to stay to dinner."
"Agatha will be sure to invite me to dine with her."
"I will accompany you as far as your cousin's, if you would like me to;
then I will go to my brother and, if possible, I will call for you at
three in the afternoon."
Together they walked through the most crowded streets of the central part
of the town and looked at the shop windows. At first Bertha found the din
somewhat confusing; afterwards, however, she found it more pleasant than
otherwise. She gazed at the passers-by and took great pleasure in
watching the well-groomed men and smartly-attired ladies. Almost all the
people seemed to be wearing new clothes, and it seemed to her they all
looked much happier than the people at home.
Presently she stopped before the window of a picture-dealer's shop and
immediately her eyes fell on a familiar portrait; it was the same one of
Emil Lindbach as had appeared in the illustrated paper, Bertha was as
delighted as if she had met an acquaintance.
"I know that man," she said to Frau Rupius.
"That man there"--she pointed with her finger at the photograph--"what do
you think? I used to attend the conservatoire at the same time he did!"
"Really?" said Frau Rupius.
Bertha looked at her and observed that she had not paid the slightest
attention to the portrait, but was thinking of something else. Bertha,
however, was glad of that, for it seemed to her that there had been too
much warmth lurking in her voice.
All at once a gentle thrill of pride stirred within her at the thought
that the man whose portrait hung there in the shop window had been in
love with her in the days of his youth, and had kissed her. She walked on
with a sensation of inward contentment. After a short time they reached
her cousin's house on the Riemerstrasse.
"So it's settled then," she said; "you will call for me at three o'clock,
"Yes," replied Frau Rupius; "that is to say--but if I should be a little
late, do not on any account wait for me at your cousin's any longer than
you want to. In any case, this much is settled: we will both be at the
railway station at seven o'clock this evening. Good-bye for the present."
She shook hands with Bertha and hurried away.
Bertha gazed after her in surprise. Once more she felt forlorn, just as
she had done in the train when Frau Rupius had read the novel.
Then she went up the two flights of stairs. She had not sent her cousin
word as to her visit, and she was a little afraid that her arrival might
be somewhat inopportune. She had not seen Agatha for many years, and they
had exchanged letters only at very rare intervals.
Agatha received her without either surprise or cordiality, as though it
was only the day before that they had seen each other for the last time.
A smile had been playing around Bertha's lips--the smile of those who
think that they are about to give some one else a surprise--she repressed
"Well, you are not a very frequent visitor, I must say!" said Agatha,
"and you never let us have a word from you."
"But, Agatha, you know it was your turn to write; you have been owing me
a letter these last three months."
"Really!" replied Agatha. "Well, you'll have to excuse me; you can
imagine what a lot of work three children mean. Did I write and tell you
that Georg goes to school now?"
Agatha took her cousin into the nursery, where Georg and his two little
sisters were just having their dinner given them by the
nursery-governess. Bertha asked them a few questions, but the children
were very shy, and the younger girl actually began to cry.
"Do beg Aunt Bertha to bring Fritz with her next time she comes," said
Agatha to Georg at length.
It struck Bertha how greatly her cousin had aged during the last few
years. Indeed, when she bent down to the children Agatha appeared almost
like an old woman; and yet she was only a year older than Bertha, as the
By the time they had returned to the dining-room they had already told
each other all that they had to say, and when Agatha invited Bertha to
stay to dinner, it seemed that she spoke only for the mere sake of making
some remark. Bertha accepted the invitation, nevertheless, and her cousin
went into the kitchen to give some orders.
Bertha gazed around the room, which was furnished economically and in bad
taste. It was very dark, for the street was extremely narrow. She took up
an album which was lying on the table. She found hardly any but familiar
faces in it. At the very beginning were the portraits of Agatha's
parents, who had died long ago; then came those of her own parents and of
her brothers, of whom she scarcely ever heard; portraits of friends whom
they both had known in earlier days, and of whom she now knew hardly
anything; and, finally, there was a photograph, the existence of which
she had long forgotten. It was one of herself and Agatha together, and
had been taken when they were quite young girls. In those days they had
been very much alike in appearance, and had been great friends. Bertha
could remember many of the confidential chats which they had had
together in the days of their girlhood.
And that lovely creature there with the looped plaits was now almost an
old woman! And what of herself? What reason had she, then, for still
looking upon herself as a young woman? Did she not, perhaps, appear to
others as old as Agatha had seemed to her? She resolved that, in the
afternoon, she would take notice of the glances which passers-by bestowed
upon her. It would be terrible if she really did look as old as her
cousin! No, the idea was utterly ridiculous! She called to mind how her
nephew, Richard always called her his "pretty aunt," how Klingemann had
walked to and fro outside her window the other evening--and even the
recollection of her brother-in-law's attentions reassured her. And, when
she looked in the mirror which was hanging opposite to her, she saw two
bright eyes gazing at her from a smooth, fresh face--they were her face
and her eyes.
When Agatha came into the room again Bertha began to talk of the far-away
years of their childhood, but it seemed that Agatha had forgotten all
about those early days, as though marriage, motherhood and week-day cares
had obliterated both youth and its memories. When Bertha went on to speak
of a students' dance they had both attended, of the young men who had
courted Agatha, and of a bouquet which some unknown lover had once sent
her, Agatha at first smiled rather absent-mindedly, then she looked at
Bertha and said:
"Just fancy you still remembering all those foolish things!"
Agatha's husband came home from his Government office. He had grown very
grey since Bertha had last seen him. At first sight he did not appear to
recognize Bertha, then he mistook her for another lady, and excused
himself by remarking that he had a very bad memory for faces. At dinner
he affected to be smart, he inquired in a certain superior way about the
affairs of the little town, and wondered, jestingly, whether Bertha was
not thinking of marrying again. Agatha also took part in this bantering,
although, at the same time, she occasionally glanced reprovingly at her
husband, who was trying to give the conversation a frivolous turn.
Bertha felt ill at ease. Later on she gathered from some words of
Agatha's husband that they were expecting another addition to their
family. Usually Bertha felt sympathy for women in such circumstances, but
in this case the news created an almost unpleasant impression upon her.
Moreover there was not a trace of love to be discerned in the tone of the
husband's voice when he referred to it, but rather a kind of foolish
pride on the score of an accomplished duty. He spoke of the matter as
though it was a special act of kindness on his part that, in spite of the
fact that he was a busy man, and Agatha was no longer beautiful, he
condescended to spend his time at home. Bertha had an impression that
she was being mixed up in some sordid affair which did not concern her in
the least. She was glad when, as soon as he had finished his dinner, the
husband went off--it was his custom, "his only vice," as he said with a
smile, to play billiards at the restaurant for an hour after dinner.
Bertha and Agatha were left together.
"Yes," said Agatha, "I've got that to look forward to again."
Thereupon she began, in a cold, businesslike way, to talk about her
previous confinements, with a candour and lack of modesty which seemed
all the more remarkable because they had become such strangers. While
Agatha was continuing the relation of her experiences, however, the
thought suddenly passed through Bertha's mind that it must be glorious to
have a child by a husband whom one loved.
She ceased to pay attention to her cousin's unpleasant talk; and her
thoughts were only occupied by the infinite yearning for motherhood
which had often come over her when she was quite a young girl, and she
called to mind an occasion when that yearning had been more keen than it
had ever been, either before or after. This had happened one evening
when Emil Lindbach had accompanied her home from the conservatoire, her
hand clasped in his. She still remembered how her head had begun to
swim, and that at one moment she had understood what the phrase meant
which she had sometimes read in novels: "He could have done with her
just as he liked."
Then she noticed that it had grown quite silent in the room, and that
Agatha was leaning back in the corner of the sofa, apparently asleep. It
was three by the clock. How tiresome it was that Frau Rupius had not yet
arrived! Bertha went to the window and looked out into the street. Then
she turned towards Agatha, who had again opened her eyes. Bertha quickly
tried to begin a fresh conversation, and told her about the new costume
which she had ordered in the forenoon, but Agatha was too sleepy even to
answer. Bertha had no wish to put her cousin out, and took her departure.
She decided to wait for Frau Rupius in the street. Agatha seemed very
pleased when Bertha got ready to go. She became more cordial than she had
been at any time during her cousin's visit, and said at the door, as if
struck by some brilliant idea:
"How the time does pass! I do hope you'll come and see us again soon."
Bertha, as she stood before the door of the house, realized that she was
waiting for Frau Rupius in vain. There was no doubt that it had been the
latter's intention from the beginning to spend the afternoon without her.
Of course, it did not necessarily follow that there was anything wicked
in it; as a matter of fact there was nothing wicked in it, but it hurt
Bertha to think that Anna had so little trust in her.
She walked along with no fixed purpose. She had still more than three
hours to while away before she was to be at the station. At first, she
took a walk in the inner town, which she had passed through in the
morning. It was really a pleasant thing to wander about unobserved like
this, as a stranger in the crowd. It was long since she had experienced
that pleasure. Some of the men who passed her glanced at her with
interest, and more than one, indeed, stopped to gaze after her. She
regretted that she was dressed to so little advantage, and rejoiced at
the prospect of obtaining soon the beautiful costume she had ordered
from the Viennese dressmaker. She would have liked to find some one
Suddenly the thought passed through her mind: would Emil Lindbach
recognize her if she were to meet him? What a question! Such things never
happened, of course. No, she was quite sure that she could wander about
Vienna the whole day long without ever meeting him. How long was it since
she had seen him? Seven--eight years.... Yes, the last time she had met
him was two years before her marriage. She had been with her parents one
warm summer evening in the Schweitzerhaus on the Prater; he had gone by
with a friend and had stopped a few minutes at their table. Ah, and now
she remembered also that amongst the company at their table there had
been the young doctor who was courting her. She had forgotten what Emil
had said on that occasion, but she remembered that he had held his hat
in his hand during the whole time he was standing before her, which had
afforded her inexpressible delight. Would he do the same now, she thought
to herself, if she were to meet him?
Where was he living now, she wondered. In the old days he had a room on
the Weiden, near St. Paul's Church.... Yes, he had pointed out the window
as they passed one day, and had ventured, as they did so, to make a
certain remark--she had forgotten the exact words, but there was no doubt
that they had been to the effect that he and she ought to be in that room
together. She had rebuked him very severely for saying such a thing; she
had even gone the length of telling him that if that was the sort of girl
he thought she was, all was over between them. And, in fact, he had never
spoken another word on the subject.
Would she recognize the window again? Would she find it? It was all the
same to her, of course, whether she went for a walk in this direction or
that. She hurried towards the Weiden as though she had suddenly found an
object for her walk. She was amazed at the complete change which had come
over the neighbourhood. When she looked down from the Elizabeth Bridge
she saw walls that rose from the bed of the Wien, half finished tracks,
little trucks moving to and fro, and busy workmen. Soon she reached St.
Paul's Church by the same road as she had so often followed in the old
days. But then she came to a standstill; she was absolutely at a loss to
remember where Emil had lived--whether she had to turn to the right or to
the left. It was strange how completely it had escaped her memory. She
walked slowly back as far as the Conservatoire, then she stood still.
Above her were the windows from which she had so often gazed upon the
dome of St. Charles' Church, and longingly awaited the end of the lesson
so that she might meet Emil. How great had been her love for him, indeed;
and how strange it was that it should have died so completely!
And now, when she had returned to these scenes, she was a widow, had
been so for years, and had a child at home who was growing up. If she
had died, Emil would never have heard of it, or perhaps not until years
afterwards. Her eyes fell on a large placard fixed on the entrance,
gates of the Conservatoire. It was an announcement of the concert at
which he was going to play, and there was his name appearing among a
number of other great ones, many of which she had long since admired
with gentle awe.
"BRAHMS VIOLIN CONCERTO--EMIL LINDBACH, VIOLINIST TO THE COURT OF
"Violinist to the Court of Bavaria!"--she had never heard anything about
Gazing up at his name, which stood out in glittering letters, it seemed
to her as though the next moment Emil himself might come out through the
gate, his violin case in his hand, a cigarette between his lips. Of a
sudden it all seemed so near, and nearer still when all at once from the
windows above came floating down the long-drawn notes of a violin, just
as she had so often heard in the old days.
She thought she would like to come to Vienna for that concert--yes, even
if she should be obliged to spend the night at an hotel! And she would
take a seat right in front and see him quite close at hand. She wondered
whether he, in his turn, would see her, and, if so, whether he would
recognize her. She remained standing before the yellow placard, wholly
absorbed in thought, until she felt that some young people coming out of
the Conservatoire were staring at her and then she realized that she had
been smiling to herself the whole time, as if lost in a pleasant dream.
She proceeded to walk on. The district around the town-park had also
changed, and, when she sought the places where she and Emil had often
been for walks together, she found that they had quite' disappeared.
Trees had been felled, boardings barred the way, the ground had been dug
up, and in vain she tried to find the seat where she and Emil had
exchanged words of love, the tone of which she remembered so well without
being able to recall the actual phrases.
Presently she reached the trim well-kept part of the park, which was
full of people. But she had a sensation that many were looking at her,
and that some ladies were laughing at her. And once more she felt that
she was looking very countrified. She was vexed at being embarrassed, and
thought of the time when, as a pretty young girl, she had walked, proud
and unconcerned, along these very avenues. It seemed to her that she had
fallen off so much since then, and become so pitiable. Her idea of
sitting in the front row of the concert hall appeared presumptuous,
almost unfeasible. It seemed also highly improbable now that Emil
Lindbach would recognize her; indeed, it struck her as almost impossible
that he should remember her existence. What a number of experiences he
must have had! How many women and girls might well have loved him--and in
a manner quite different from her own!
And whilst she continued her way, walking, now along the less frequented
avenues and at length out of the park upon the Ringstrasse again, she
drew a mental picture of the beloved of her youth figuring in all manner
of adventures, in which confused recollections of events depicted in the
novels she had read and indistinctly formed ideas of his professional
tours were strangely intermingled. She imagined him in Venice with a
Russian princess in a gondola; then in her mind's eye she saw him at the
court of the King of Bavaria, where duchesses listened to his playing,
and fell in love with him; then in the boudoir of an opera singer; then
at a fancy-dress ball in Spain, with crowds of alluring masqueraders
about him. The further he seemed to soar away, unapproachable and
enviable, the more miserable she felt herself to be, and all at once it
seemed utterly inconceivable that she had so lightly surrendered her own
hopes of an artistic career and given up her lover, in order to lead a
sunless existence, and to be lost in the crowd. A shudder seemed to seize
her as she recalled that she was nothing but the widow of an
insignificant man, that she lived in a provincial town, that she earned
her living by means of music lessons, and that she saw old age slowly
approaching. Never had there fallen upon her way so much as a single ray
of the brilliance which shone upon the road his footsteps would tread so
long as he lived. And again the same shudder ran through her at the
thought that she had always been content with her lot, and that, without
hope and indeed, without yearning, she had passed her whole existence in
a gloom, which, at that moment, seemed inexplicable.
She reached the Aspernbrüke without in the least giving heed to where her
footsteps were taking her. She wished to cross the street at this point,
but had to wait while a great number of carriages drove by. Most of them
were occupied by gentlemen, many of whom carried field-glasses. She knew
that they were returning from the races at the Prater.
There came an elegant equipage in which were seated a young man and a
girl, the latter dressed in a white spring costume. Immediately behind
was a carriage containing two strikingly dressed ladies. Bertha gazed
long after them, and noticed that one of the ladies turned round, and
that the object of her attention was the carriage which followed
immediately behind, and in which sat a young and very handsome man in a
long grey overcoat. Bertha was conscious of something very
painful--uneasiness and annoyance at one and the same time. She would
have liked to be the lady whom the young man followed; she would have
liked to be beautiful, young, independent, and, Heaven knows, she would
have liked to be any woman who could do as she wanted, and could turn
round after men who pleased her.
And at that moment she realized, quite distinctly, that Frau Rupius was
now in the company of somebody whom she loved. Indeed why shouldn't she?
Of course, so long as she stayed in Vienna, she was free and mistress of
her own time--besides, she was a very pretty woman, and was wearing a
fragrant violet costume. On her lips there hovered a smile such as only
comes to those who are happy--and Frau Rupius was unhappy at home. All at
once, Bertha had a vision of Herr Rupius sitting in his room, looking at
the engravings. But on that day, surely, he was not doing so; no, he was
trembling for his wife, consumed with an immense fear that some one
yonder in the great city would take her away from him, that she would
never return, and that he would be left all alone with his sorrow. And
Bertha suddenly felt a thrill of compassion for him, such as she had
never experienced before. Indeed, she would have liked to be with him, to
comfort and to reassure him.
She felt a touch on her arm. She started and looked up. A young man
was standing beside her and gazing at her with an impudent leer. She
stared at him, full in the face, still quite absentmindedly; then he
said with a laugh:
She was frightened, and almost ran across the street, quickly passing in
front of a carriage. She was ashamed of her previous desire to be the
lady in the carriage she had seen coming from the Prater. It seemed as
though the man's insolence had been her punishment. No, no, she was a
respectable woman; in the depth of her soul she had an aversion to
everything that savoured of the insolent.... No, she could no longer
stay in Vienna, where women were exposed to such things! A longing for
the peace of her home came over her, and she rejoiced in the prospect of
meeting her little boy again, as in something extraordinarily beautiful.
What time was it, though? Heavens, a quarter of seven! She would have to
take a carriage; there was no question about that now, indeed! Frau
Rupius had, of course, paid for the carriage in the morning, and so the
one which she was now going to take would only cost her half, so to
speak. She took her seat in an open cab, leaned back in the corner, in
almost the same aristocratic manner as that of the lady she had seen in
the white frock. People gazed after her. She knew that she was now
looking young and pretty. Moreover, she was feeling quite safe, nothing
could happen to her. She took an indescribable pleasure in the swift
motion of the cab with its rubber-tyred wheels. She thought how splendid
it would be if on the occasion of her next visit she were to drive
through the town, wearing her new costume and the small straw hat which
made her look so young.
She was glad that Frau Rupius was standing in the entrance to the
station and saw her arrive. But she betrayed no sign of pride, and acted
as though it was quite the usual thing for her to drive up to the
station in a cab.
"We have still ten minutes to spare," said Frau Rupius. "Are you very
angry with me for having kept you waiting? Just fancy, my brother was
giving a grand children's party to-day, and the little ones simply
wouldn't let me go. It occurred to me too late that I might really have
called for you; the children would have amused you so much. I have told
my brother that, next time, I will bring you and your boy with me."
Bertha felt heartily ashamed of herself. How she had wronged this woman
again! She could only press her hand and say:
"Thank you, you are very kind!"
They went on to the platform and entered an empty compartment. Frau
Rupius had a small bag of cherries in her hand, and she ate them slowly,
one after another, throwing the stones out of the window. When the train
began to move out of the station she leaned back and closed her eyes.
Bertha looked out of the window; she felt very tired after so much
walking, and a slight uneasiness arose within her; she might have spent
the day differently, more quietly and enjoyably. Her chilly reception and
the tedious dinner at her cousin's came to her mind. After all, it was a
great pity that she no longer had any acquaintances in Vienna. She had
wandered like a stranger about the town in which she had lived twenty-six
years. Why? And why had she not made the carriage pull up in the morning,
when she saw the figure that seemed to have a resemblance to Emil
Lindbach? True, she would not have been able to run or call after
him--but if it had been really he, if he had recognized her and been
pleased to see her again? They might have walked about together, might
have told each other all that had happened during the long time that had
passed since they had last known anything about one another; they might
have gone to a fashionable restaurant and had dinner; some would
naturally have recognized him, and she would have heard quite distinctly
people discussing the question as to who "she" might really be. She was
looking beautiful, too; the new costume was already finished; and the
waiters served her with great politeness, especially a small youth who
brought the wine--but he was really her nephew, who had, of course,
become a waiter in that restaurant instead of a student. Suddenly Herr
and Frau Martin entered the dining-hall; they were holding one another in
such a tender embrace as if they were the only people there. Then Emil
rose to his feet, took up the violin bow which was lying beside him, and
raised it with a commanding gesture, whereupon the waiter turned Herr and
Frau Martin out of the room. Bertha could not help laughing at the
incident, laughing much too loudly indeed, for by this time she had quite
forgotten how to behave in a fashionable restaurant. But then it was not
a fashionable restaurant at all; it was only the coffee room at the "Red
Apple," and the military band was playing somewhere out of sight. That,
be it known, was a clever invention on the part of Herr Rupius, that
military bands could play without being seen. Now, however, it was her
turn that was immediately to follow. Yonder was the piano--but, of
course, she had long since completely forgotten how to play; she would
run away rather than be forced to play. And all at once she was at the
railway station, where Frau Rupius was already waiting for her. "It is
high time you came," she said. She placed in Bertha's hand a large book,
which, by the way, was her ticket. Frau Rupius, however, was not going
to take the train; she sat down, ate cherries and spat out the stones at
the stationmaster, who took a huge delight in the proceedings. Bertha
entered the compartment. Thank God, Herr Klingemann was already there! He
made a sign to her with his screwed-up eyes, and asked her if she knew
whose funeral it was. She saw that a hearse was standing on the other
line. Then she remembered that the captain with whom the tobacconist's
wife had deceived Herr Klingemann was dead--of course, it was the day of
the concert at the "Red Apple." Suddenly Herr Klingemann blew on her
eyes, and laughed in a rumbling way.
Bertha opened her eyes--at that moment a train was rushing past the
window. She shook herself. What a confused dream! And hadn't it begun
quite nicely? She tried to remember. Yes, Emil played a part in it ...
but she could not recollect what part.
The dusk of evening slowly fell. The train sped on its way along by the
Danube. Frau Rupius slept and smiled. Perhaps she was only pretending to
be asleep. Bertha was again seized with a slight suspicion, and she felt
rising within her a sensation of envy at the unknown and mysterious
experiences which Frau Rupius had had. She, too, would gladly have
experienced something. She wished that someone was sitting beside her
now, his arm pressed against hers--she would fain have felt once more
that sensation that had thrilled her on that occasion when she had stood
with Emil on the bank of the Wien, and when she had almost been on the
point of losing her senses and had yearned for a child.... Ah, why was
she so poor, so lonely, so much in obscurity? Gladly would she have
implored the lover of her youth:
"Kiss me but once again just as you used to do, I want to be happy!"
It was dark; Bertha looked out into the night.
She determined that very night before she went to bed to fetch from the
attic the little case in which she kept the letters of her parents and of
Emil. She longed to be home again. She felt as though a question had been
wakened within her soul, and that the answer awaited her at home.
When, late in the evening, Bertha entered her room, the idea which she
had taken into her head of going up to the attic at once and fetching
down the case with the letters seemed to her to be almost venturesome.
She was afraid that some one in the house might observe her on her
nocturnal pilgrimage, and might take her for mad. She could, of course,
go up the next morning quite conveniently and without causing any stir;
and so she fell asleep, feeling like a child who has been promised an
outing into the country on the following day.
She had much to do the next forenoon; her domestic duties and piano
lessons occupied the whole of the time. She had to give her sister-in-law
an account of her visit to Vienna. Her story was that in the afternoon
she had gone for a walk with her cousin, and the impression was conveyed
that she had made an excuse to Frau Rupius at the request of Agatha.
It was not until the afternoon that she went up to the attic and brought
down the dusty travelling-case, which was lying beside a trunk and a
couple of boxes--the whole collection covered with an old and torn piece
of red-flowered coffee-cloth. She remembered that her object on the last
occasion on which she had opened the case had been to put away the
papers which her parents had left behind. On her return to her room she
opened the case and perceived lying on top of the other contents a number
of letters from her brothers and other letters, with the handwriting of
which she was not familiar; then she found a neat little bundle
containing the few letters which her parents had addressed to her: these
were followed by two books of her mother's household accounts, a little
copybook dating back to her own schooldays and containing entries of
timetables and exercises, a few programmes of the dances which she had
attended when a young girl, and, finally, Emil Lindbach's letters, which
were wrapped up in blue tissue paper, torn here and there. And now she
was able to fix the very day on which she had last held those letters in
her hand, although she had not read them on that occasion. It was when
her father had been lying ill for some time and, for whole days, she had
not once gone outside the door.
She laid the bundle aside. She wanted, first of all, to see all the other
things which had been stored in the case, and concerning which she was
consumed with curiosity. A number of letters lay in a loose heap at the
bottom of the case, some with their envelopes and others without. She
cast her eye over them at random. There were letters from old friends, a
few from her cousin, and here was one from the doctor who had courted her
in the old days. In it he asked her to reserve for him the first waltz
at the medical students' dance. Here--what was it? Why, it was that
anonymous letter which some one had addressed to her at the
Conservatoire. She picked it up and read:
"My Dear Fraulein,
"Yesterday I again had the good fortune to have an opportunity of
admiring you on your daily walk; I do not know whether I had also the
good fortune to be observed by you."
No, he had not had that good fortune. Then followed three pages of
enthusiastic admiration, and not a single wish, not a single bold word.
She had, moreover, never heard anything more of the writer.
Here was a letter signed by two initials, "M.G." That was the impudent
fellow who had once spoken to her in the street, and who in this
letter made proposals--wait a minute, what were they? Ah, here was the
passage which had sent the hot blood mounting to her brow when she had
first read it:
"Since I have seen you, and since you have looked on me with a glance so
stern and yet seemingly so full of promise, I have had but one dream, but
one yearning--that I might kiss those eyes!"
Of course, she had not answered the letter; she was in love with Emil at
the time. Indeed, she had even thought of showing him the letter, but was
restrained by the fear of rousing his jealousy. Emil had never learned
anything of "M. G."
And that piece of soft ribbon that now fell into her hands?... A
cravat ... but she had quite forgotten whose it was, and why she had kept
Here again was a little dance album in which she had written the names of
her partners. She tried to call the young men to mind, but in vain.
Though, by the way, it was at that very dance that she had met that man
who had said such passionate words to her as she had never heard from any
other. It seemed as though he suddenly emerged a victor from among the
many shadows that hovered around her. It must have happened during the
time when she and Emil had been meeting each other less frequently. How
strange it was ... or had it only been a dream? This passionate admirer
had clasped her closely in his arms during the dance--and she had not
offered the slightest resistance. She had felt his lips in her hair, and
it had been incredibly pleasant ... Well, and then?--she had never seen
It suddenly seemed to her that, after all, in those days she had had
many and strange experiences, and she was lost in amazement at the way
in which all these memories had slumbered so long in the travelling case
and in her soul.... But no, they had not slumbered; she had thought of
all these things many a time: of the men who had courted her, of the
anonymous letter, of her passionate partner at the dance, of the walks
with Emil--but only as if they had been merely such things as go to
constitute the past, the youth which is allotted to every young girl,
and from which she emerges to lead the placid life of a woman. On the
present occasion, however, it seemed to Bertha as if these recollections
were, so to speak, unredeemed promises, as if in those experiences of
distant days there lay destinies which had not been fulfilled; nay,
more, as if a kind of deception had long been practised upon her, from
the very day on which she had been married until the present moment; as
if she had discovered it all too late; and here she was, unable to lift
a finger to alter her destiny.
Yet why should it seem so?... She thought of all these futile things, and
there beside her, wrapped up in tissue paper, still lay the treasure, for
the sake of which alone she had rummaged in the case--the letters of the
only man she had loved, the letters written in the days when she had been
happy. How many women might there be now who envied her because that very
man had once loved her--loved her with a different, better, chaster love
than that which he had given any of the women who had followed her in his
affections. She felt herself most bitterly deceived that she, who could
have been his wife if ... if ... her thoughts broke off.
Hurriedly, as though seeking to rid her mind of doubt, or rather,
indeed, of fear, she tore off the tissue paper and seized the letters.
And she read--read them one after another. Long letters, short letters;
brief, hasty notes, like: "To-morrow evening, darling, at seven o'clock!"
or "Dearest, just one kiss ere I go to sleep!" letters that covered many
pages, written during the walking tours which he and his fellow students
had taken in the summer; letters written in the evening, in which he had
felt constrained to impart to her his impressions of a concert
immediately on returning home; endless pages in which he unfolded his
plans for the future; how they would travel together through Spain and
America, famous and happy ... she read them all, one after another, as
though tortured by a quenchless thirst. She read from the very first,
which had accompanied a few pieces of music, to the last, which was dated
two and a half years later, and contained nothing more than a greeting
When she came to an end she let her hands fall into her lap and gazed
fixedly at the sheets lying about. Why had that been the last letter? How
had their friendship come to an end? How could it have come to an end?
How had it been possible that that great love had died away? There had
never been any actual rupture between Emil and herself; they had never
come to any definite understanding that all was over between them, and
yet their acquaintanceship had ended at some time or other--when?... She
could not tell, because at the time when he had written that card to her
from Salzburg she had still been in love with him. She had, as a matter
of fact, met him in the autumn--indeed, during the winter of the same
year everything had seemed once more to blossom forth. She remembered
certain walks they had taken over the crunching snow, arm in arm, beside
St. Charles' Church--but when was it that they had taken the last of
these walks? They had, to be sure, never taken farewell of each
other.... She could not understand it.
How was it that she had been able so easily to renounce a happiness which
it might yet have been within her power to retain? How had it come about
that she had ceased to love him? Had the dullness of the daily routine of
her home life, which weighed so heavily upon her spirits ever since she
had left the Conservatoire, lulled her feelings to sleep just as it had
blunted the edge of her ambitions? Had the querulous remarks of her
parents on the subject of her friendship with the youthful
violinist--which had seemed likely to lead to nothing--acted on her with
such sobering effect?
Then she recalled to mind that even at a later date, when some months had
elapsed since she had last seen him, he had called at her parents' house,
and had kissed her in the back room. Yes, that had been the last time of
all. And then she remembered further that on that occasion she had
noticed that his relation towards women had changed; that he must have
had experiences of which she could know nothing--but the discovery had
not caused her any pain.
She asked herself how it all would have turned out if in those days she
had not been so virtuous, if she had taken life as easily as some of the
other girls? She called to mind a girl at the Conservatoire with whom she
had ceased to associate on finding that her friend had an intrigue with a
dramatic student. She remembered again the suggestive words which Emil
had spoken as they were walking together past his window, and the
yearning that had come over her as they stood by the bank of the Wien. It
seemed inconceivable that those words had not affected her more keenly at
the moment, that that yearning had been awakened within her only once,
and then only for so short a time. With a kind of perplexed amazement she
thought of that period of placid purity and then, with a sudden agonized
feeling of shame which drove the blood to her temples, of the cold
readiness with which she had given herself afterwards to a man whom she
had never loved. The consciousness that whatever happiness she had tasted
in the course of her married life had been gained in the arms of the
husband she had not loved made her shudder with horror, for the first
time, in its utter wretchedness. Had that, then, been life such as her
thoughts had depicted to her, had that been the mystic happiness such as
she had yearned for?... And a dull feeling of resentment against
everything and everybody, against the living and the dead, began to
smoulder within her bosom. She was angry with her dead husband and with
her dead father and mother; she was indignant with the people amongst
whom she was now living, whose eyes were always upon her so that she
dared not allow herself any freedom; she was hurt with Frau Rupius, who
had not turned out to be such a friend that Bertha could rely on her for
support; she hated Klingemann because, ugly and repulsive as he was, he
desired to make her his wife; and finally she was violently enraged with
the man she had loved in the days of her girlhood, because he had not
been bolder, because he had withheld from her the ultimate happiness, and
because he had bequeathed her nothing but memories full of fragrance, yet
full of torment. And there she was, sitting in her lonely room amongst
the faded mementoes of a youth that had passed unprofitably and
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