Part 2 out of 6
leaving the children of men alone to starve! Oh! How cruel, how cruel!
that life has not ptarmigans and strawberries to give to all men. How
cruel! How cruel!
Punctually at half past nine on a winter evening he appears at the
door leading to the glass-roofed verandah of the restaurant. While,
with mathematical precision, he takes off his gloves, he peers over
his dim spectacles, first to the right, then to the left, to find out
whether any of his acquaintances are present. Then he hangs up his
overcoat on its special hook, the one to the right of the fireplace.
Gustav, the waiter, an old pupil of his, flies to his table and,
without waiting for an order, brushes the crumbs off the tablecloth,
stirs up the mustard, smooths the salt in the salt-cellar and turns
over the dinner napkin. Then he fetches, still without any order, a
bottle of Medhamra, opens half a bottle of Union beer and, merely for
appearance sake, hands the schoolmaster the bill of fare.
"Crabs?" he asks, more as a matter of form than because there is any
need of the question.
"Female crabs," answers the schoolmaster.
"Large, female crabs," repeats Gustav, walks to the speaking tube
which communicates with the kitchen, and shouts: "Large female crabs
for Mr. Blom, and plenty of dill."
He fetches butter and cheese, cuts two very thin slices of rye-bread,
and places them on the schoolmaster's table. The latter has in the
meantime searched the verandah for the evening papers, but has only
found the official _Post_. To make up for this very poor success, he
takes the _Daily Journal_, which he had not had time to finish at
lunch, and after first opening and refolding the _Post_, and putting
it on the top of the bread basket on his left, sits down to read it.
He ornaments the rye-bread with geometrical butter hieroglyphics, cuts
off a piece of cheese in the shape of a rectangle, fills his liqueur
glass three quarters full and raises it to his lips, hesitates as if
the little glass contained physic, throws back his head and says: Ugh!
He has done this for twelve years and will continue doing it until the
day of his death.
As soon as the crabs, six of them, have been put before him, he
examines them as to their sex, and everything being as it should be,
makes ready to enjoy himself. He tucks a corner of his dinner napkin
into his collar, places two slices of thin bread and cheese by the
side of his plate and pours out a glass of beer and half a glass of
liqueur. Then he takes the little crab-knife and business begins. He
is the only man in Sweden who knows how to eat a crab, and whenever he
sees anybody else engaged in the same pursuit, he tells him that he
has no idea how to do it. He makes an incision all round the head, and
a hole against which he presses his lips and begins to suck.
"This," he says, "is the best part of the whole animal."
He severs the thorax from the lower part, puts his teeth to the body
and drinks deep draughts; he sucks the little legs as if they were
asparagus, eats a bit of dill, and takes a drink of beer and a mouthful
of rye-bread. When he has carefully taken the shell off the claws and
sucked even the tiniest tubes, he eats the flesh; last of all he attacks
the lower part of the body. When he has eaten three crabs, he drinks half
a glass of liqueur and reads the promotions in the _Post_.
He has done this for twelve years and will continue doing it until he
He was just twenty years old when he first began to patronise the
restaurant, now he is thirty-two, and Gustav has been a waiter for ten
years in the same place. Not one of its frequenters has known the
restaurant longer than the school-master, not even the proprietor who
took it over eight years ago. He has watched generations of diners
come and go; some came for a year, some for two, some for five years;
then they disappeared, went to another restaurant, left the town or
got married. He feels very old, although he is only thirty-two! The
restaurant is his home, for his furnished room is nothing but the
place where he sleeps.
It is ten o'clock. He leaves his table and goes to the back room where
his grog awaits him. This is the time when the bookseller arrives.
They play a game of chess or talk about books. At half-past ten the
second violin from the Dramatic Theatre drops in. He is an old Pole
who, after 1864, escaped to Sweden, and now makes a living by his
former hobby. Both the Pole and the bookseller are over fifty, but
they get on with the schoolmaster as if he were a contemporary.
The proprietor has his place behind the counter. He is an old sea
captain who fell in love with the proprietress and married her. She
rules in the kitchen, but the sliding panel is always open, so that
she can keep an eye on the old man, lest he should take a glass too
much before closing time. Not until the gas has been turned out, and
the old man is ready to go to bed, is he allowed a nightcap in the
shape of a stiff glass of rum and water.
At eleven o'clock the young bloods begin to arrive; they approach the
counter diffidently and ask the proprietor in a whisper whether any of
the private rooms upstairs are disengaged, and then there is a rustling
of skirts in the hall and cautious footsteps are creeping upstairs.
"Well," says the bookseller, who has suddenly found a topic of
conversation, "when are you going to be married, Blom, old man?"
"I haven't the means to get married," answered the school-master. "Why
don't you take a wife to your bosom yourself?"
"No woman would have me, now that my head looks like an old,
leather-covered trunk," says the bookseller. "And, moreover, there's
my old Stafva, you know."
Stafva was a legendary person in whom nobody believed. She was the
incarnation of the bookseller's unrealised dreams.
"But you, Mr. Potocki?" suggested the schoolmaster.
"He's been married once, that's enough," replies the bookseller.
The Pole nods his head like a metrometer.
"Yes, I was married very happily. Ugh!" he says and finishes his grog.
"Well," continues the schoolmaster, "if women weren't such fools, one
might consider the matter; but they are infernal fools."
The Pole nods again and smiles; being a Pole, he doesn't understand
what the word fool means.
"I have been married very happily, ugh!"
"And then there is the noise of the children, and children's clothes
always drying near the stove; and servants, and all day long the smells
from the kitchen. No, thank you! And, perhaps, sleepless nights into the
"Ugh!" added the Pole, completing the sentence.
"Mr. Potocki says 'ugh' with the malice of the bachelor who listens to
the complaints of the married man," remarked the bookseller.
"What did I say?" asks the astonished widower. "Ugh!" says the
bookseller, mimicking him, and the conversation degenerates into a
universal grinning and a cloud of tobacco smoke.
It is midnight. The piano upstairs, which has accompanied a mixed
choir of male and female voices, is silent. The waiter has finished
his countless journeys from the speaking tube to the verandah; the
proprietor enters into his daybook the last few bottles of champagne
which have been ordered upstairs. The three friends rise from their
chairs and go home, two to their "virgin couches," and the bookseller
to his Stafva.
When schoolmaster Blom had reached his twentieth year, he was compelled
to interrupt his studies at Upsala and accept a post as assistant teacher
at Stockholm. As he, in addition, gave private lessons, he made quite a
good income. He did not ask much of life. All he wanted was peace and
cleanliness. An elderly lady let him a furnished room and there he found
more than a bachelor finds as a rule. She looked after him and was kind
to him; she gave him all the tenderness which nature had intended her to
bestow on the new generation that was to spring from her. She mended his
clothes and looked after him generally. He had lost his mother when he
was a little boy and had never been accustomed to gratuitous kindness;
therefore he was inclined to look upon her services as an interference
with his liberty, but he accepted them nevertheless. But all the same
the public house was his real home. There he paid for everything and
ran up no bills.
He was born in a small town in the interior of Sweden; consequently he
was a stranger in Stockholm. He knew nobody; was not on visiting terms
with any of the families and met his acquaintances nowhere but at the
public-house. He talked to them freely, but never gave them his
confidence, in fact he had no confidence to give. At school he taught
the third class and this gave him a feeling of having been stunted in
his growth. A very long time ago he had been in the third class
himself, had gradually crept up to the seventh, and had spent a few
terms at the University; now he had returned to the third; he had been
there for twelve years without being moved. He taught the second and
third books of Euclid; this was the course of instruction for the
whole year. He saw only a fragment of life; a fragment without
beginning or end; the second and third books. In his spare time he
read the newspapers and books on archaeology. Archaeology is a modern
science, one might almost say a disease of the time. And there is
danger in it, for it proves over and over again that human folly has
pretty nearly always been the same.
Politics was to him nothing but an interesting game of chess--played
for the king, for he was brought up like everybody else; it was an
article of faith with him that nothing which happened in the world,
concerned him, personally; let those look to it whom God had placed in
a position of power. This way of looking at things filled his soul
with peace and tranquillity; he troubled nobody and nothing troubled
him. When he found, as he did occasionally, that an unusually foolish
event had occurred, he consoled himself with the conviction that it
could not have been helped. His education had made him selfish, and
the catechism had taught him that if everybody did his duty, all
things would be well, whatever happened. He did his duty towards his
pupils in an exemplary fashion; he was never late; never ill. In his
private life, too, he was above reproach; he paid his rent on the day
it fell due, never ran up bills at his restaurant, and spent only one
evening a week on pleasure. His life glided along like a railway train
to the second and, being a clever man, he managed to avoid collisions.
He gave no thought to the future; a truly selfish man never does, for
the simple reason that the future belongs to him for no longer than
twenty or thirty years at the most.
And thus his days passed.
* * * * *
Midsummer morning dawned--radiant and sunny as mid-summer morning
should be. The schoolmaster was still in bed, reading a book on the
Art of Warfare in ancient Egypt, when Miss Augusta came into his room
with his breakfast. She had put on his tray some slices of saffron
bread, in honour of the festival, and on his dinner-napkin lay a spray
of elder blossoms. On the previous night she had decorated his room
with branches of the birch-tree, put clean sand and some cowslips in
the spittoon, and a bunch of lilies-of-the-valley on the dressing
"Aren't you going to make an excursion to-day, sir?" she asked, glancing
at the decorations, anxious for a word of thanks or approval.
But Mr. Blom had not even noticed the decorations, and therefore he
"Haven't you realised yet that I never make excursions? I hate elbowing
my way through a crowd, and the noise of the children gets on my nerves."
"But surely you won't stay in town on such a lovely day! You'll at least
go to the Deer Park?"
"That would be the very last place I should go to, especially to-day,
when it will be crowded. Oh! no, I'm better off in town, and I wish to
goodness that this holiday nuisance would be stopped."
"There are plenty of people who say that there aren't half enough
holidays these days when everybody has to work so hard," said the old
woman in a conciliatory tone. "But is there anything else you wish,
sir? My sister and I are making an excursion by steamer, and we shan't
be back until ten o'clock to-night."
"I hope you'll enjoy yourselves, Miss Augusta. I want nothing, and am
quite able to look after myself. The caretaker can do my room when I
have gone out."
Miss Augusta left him alone with his breakfast. When he had eaten it,
he lit a cigar and remained in bed with his _Egyptian Warfare_. The
open window shook softly in the southern breeze. At eight o'clock the
bells, large and small, of the nearest church began to ring, and those
of the other churches of Stockholm, St. Catherine's, St. Mary's and
St. Jacob's, joined in; they tinkled and jingled, enough to make a
heathen tear his hair in despair. When the church bells stopped, a
military band on the bridge of a steamer began to play a set of
quadrilles from _The Weak Point_. The schoolmaster writhed between his
sheets, and would have got out of bed and shut the window if it had
not been so hot. Next there came a rolling of drums, which was
interrupted by the strains of a brass quintet which played, on another
steamer, the Hunter's Chorus from the _Freischutz_. But the cursed
rolling of drums approached. They were marching at the head of the
Riflemen on their way to camp. Now he was subjected to a medley of
sounds: the Riflemen's march, the signals, the bells and the brass
bands on the steamers, until at last the whole crash and din was
drowned by the throbbing of the screw.
At ten o'clock he lit his spirit lamp and boiled his shaving water.
His starched shirt lay on his chest of drawers, white and stiff as a
board. It took him a quarter of an hour to push the studs through the
button-holes. He spent half-an-hour in shaving himself. He brushed his
hair as if it were a matter of the utmost importance. When he put on
his trousers, he was careful that the lower ends should not touch the
floor and become dusty.
His room was simply furnished, extremely plain and tidy. It was
impersonal, neutral, like the room in a hotel. And yet he had spent in
it twelve years of his life. Most people collect no end of trifles
during such a period; presents, little superfluous nothings, ornaments.
Not a single engraving, not a supplement to an illustrated magazine
even, which at some time or other had appealed to him, hung on the walls;
no antimacassar, no rug worked by a loving sister, lay on the chairs;
no photograph of a beloved face stood on his writing-table, no
embroidered pen-wiper lay by the side of the ink-stand. Everything had
been bought as cheaply as possible with a view to avoiding unnecessary
expense which might have hampered the owner's independence.
He leaned out of the window which gave him a view of the street and,
across Artillery Place, of the harbour. In the house opposite a woman
was dressing. He turned away as if something ugly had met his gaze, or
something which might disturb his peace of mind. The harbour was gay
with the fluttering flags on the steamers and sailing-ships, and the
water glittered in the sunshine. A few old women, prayer-book in hand,
passed his window on their way to church. A sentinel with drawn sword
was walking up and down before the Artillery Barracks, glancing
discontentedly at the clock on the tower every now and then to see how
much longer he would have to wait until the relieving guard arrived.
Otherwise the street lay empty and grey in the hot sunshine. His eyes
wandered back to the woman opposite. She was standing before her
looking-glass, powder puff in hand, intent on powdering the corners of
her nose, with a grimace which made her look like a monkey. He left the
window and sat down in his rocking chair.
He made his programme for the day, for he had a vague dread of
solitude. On week days he was surrounded by the school-boys, and
although he had no love for those wild beasts whose taming, or rather
whose efficient acquisition of the difficult art of dissembling, was
his life task, yet he felt a certain void when he was not with them.
Now, during the long summer vacations, he had established a holiday
school, but even so he had been compelled to give the boys short summer
holidays, and, with the exception of meal times when he could always
count on the bookseller and the second violin, he had been alone for
"At two o'clock," he mused, "when the guard has been relieved, and the
crowds have dispersed, I'll go to my restaurant to dine; then I'll
invite the bookseller to Stromsborg; there won't be a soul to-day; we
can have coffee there and punch, and stay till the evening when we'll
return to town and to Rejner's." (Rejner's was the name of his
restaurant in Berzelius Place.)
Punctually at two o'clock he took his hat, brushed himself carefully
and went out.
"I wonder whether there'll be stewed perch to-day," he thought. "And
mightn't one treat oneself to asparagus, as it's midsummer-day?"
He strolled past the high wall of the Government Bakery. In Berzelius
Park the seats which were usually occupied by the nursemaids of the
rich and their charges, were crowded with the families of the
labourers who had appeared in great numbers with their perambulators.
He saw a mother feeding her baby. She was a large, full-breasted
woman, and the baby's dimpled hand almost disappeared in her bosom.
The schoolmaster turned away with a feeling of loathing. He was
annoyed to see these strangers in _his_ park. It was very much like
the servants using the drawing-room when their master and mistress had
gone out; moreover, he couldn't forgive them their plainness.
He arrived at the glass verandah, and put his hand on the door handle,
thinking once more of the stewed perch "with lots of parsley," when
his eyes fell on a notice on the door. There was no necessity to read
it, he knew its purport: the restaurant was closed on midsummer-day;
he had forgotten it. He felt as if he had run with his head into a
lamp-post. He was furious; first of all with the proprietor for
closing, then with himself for having forgotten that the restaurant
would be closed. It seemed to him so monstrous that he could have
forgotten an incident of such importance, that he couldn't believe it
and racked his brain to find someone on whom he could lay the blame.
Of course, it was the fault of the proprietor. He had run off the
lines, come into collision. He was done. He sat down on the seat and
almost shed tears of rage.
Thump! a ball hit him right in the middle of his starched shirt front.
Like an infuriated wasp he rose from his seat to find the criminal; a
plain little girl's face laughed into his; a labourer in his Sunday
clothes and straw hat appeared, took her by the hand and smilingly
expressed a hope that the child had not hurt him; a laughing crowd of
soldiers and servant girls stared at him. He looked round for a
constable for he felt that his rights as a human being had been
encroached upon. But when he saw the constable in familiar conversation
with the child's mother, he dropped the idea of making a scene, went
straight to the nearest cab-stand, hired a cab, and told the driver
to drive him to the bookseller's; he could not bear to be alone any
In the safe shelter of the cab he took out his handkerchief and flicked
the dust from his shirt front.
He dismissed the cab in Goten Street, for he felt sure that he would
find his friend at home. But as he walked upstairs his assurance left
him. Supposing he were out after all!
He was out. Not one of the tenants was at home. His knock sounded
through an empty house; his footsteps re-echoed on the deserted
When he was again in the street he was at a loss to know what to do.
He did not know Potocki's address, and where was he to find an address
book on a day when all the shops were closed?
Without knowing where he was going, he went down the street, past the
harbour, across the bridge. He did not meet a single man he knew. The
presence of the crowd which occupied the town during the absence of
their betters annoyed him, for, like the rest of us, the education
which he had received at school had made an aristocrat of him.
In his first anger he had forgotten his hunger, but now it re-asserted
itself. A new, terrible thought occurred to him, a thought which up to
now he had put away from him out of sheer cowardice: Where was he to
dine? He had started out with plenty of vouchers in his pocket, but
only one crown and fifty ore in coin. The vouchers were only used at
Rejner's, for convenience sake, and he had spent a crown on his
He found himself again in Berzelius Park. Everywhere he met labourers
and their families, eating what they had brought with them in baskets;
hard-boiled eggs, crabs, pancakes. And the police did not interfere.
On the contrary, he saw a policeman with a sandwich in one hand and a
glass of beer in the other. But what irritated him more than anything
else was the fact that these people whom he despised had the advantage
of him. But why couldn't he go into a dairy and appease his hunger?
Yes, why not? The very thought of it made him shudder.
After some little reflection he went down to the harbour, intending to
cross over to the Deer Park. He was bound to find acquaintances there
from whom he could borrow money (hateful thought!) for his dinner. And
if so, he would dine at "Hazelmount," the best restaurant.
The steamer was so crowded that schoolmaster Blom had to stand close
to the engine; the heat at his back was intolerable; his morning coat
was being covered with grease spots, while he stood, with his gaze
rivetted on the untidy head of a servant girl and endured the rancid
smell of the hair-oil. But he did not see a single face he knew.
When he entered the restaurant in the Deer Park, he squared his
shoulders and tried to look as distinguished as possible.
The space before the restaurant was like the auditorium of a theatre
and seemed to serve the same purpose: that is to say, it was a place
where one met one's friends and showed off. The verandah was occupied
by officers, blue in the face with eating and drinking; with them were
representatives of the foreign Powers, grown old and grey in their
strenuous efforts to protect fellow-countrymen who had got mixed up
with sailors and fishermen in drunken brawls, or assist at Gala
performances, christenings, weddings and funerals. So much for the
aristocracy. In the centre of a large space Mr. Blom suddenly discovered
the chimney sweep of his quarter, the proprietor of a small inn, the
chemist's assistant and others of the same standing. He watched the
game-keeper in his green coat and silver lace, with his gilt staff,
walking up and down and casting contemptuous glances at the assembled
crowd, as if he were wondering why they were here? The schoolmaster felt
self-conscious under the stare of all those eyes which seemed to say:
"Look at him! there he goes, wondering how to get dinner!" But there was
nothing else for it. He went on to the verandah where the people sat
eating perch and asparagus, and drinking Sauternes and Champagne.
All of a sudden he felt the pressure of a friendly hand on his shoulder,
and as he turned round, he found himself face to face with Gustav, the
waiter, who seized his hand and exclaimed with undisguised pleasure:
"Is that really you, Mr. Blom? How are you?"
But Gustav, the waiter, who was so pleased to find himself for a few
moments the equal of his master, held a piece of wood in his warm hand
and met a pair of eyes which pierced his soul like gimlets. And yet
this same hand had given him ten crowns only yesterday, and the owner
of it had thanked him for six months' service and attention in the way
one thanks a friend. The waiter went back to his companions and sat
down amongst them, embarrassed and snubbed. But Mr. Blom left the
verandah with bitter thoughts and pushed his way through the crowd; he
fancied that he could hear a mocking: "He hasn't been able to get
dinner, after all!"
He came to a large open space. There was a puppet-show, and Jasper was
being beaten by his wife. A little further off a sailor was showing
servant girls, soldiers and apprentices their future husband or wife
in a wheel of fortune. They all had had dinner and were enjoying
themselves; for a moment he believed himself their inferior, but only
for a moment; then he remembered that they had not the vaguest idea of
how an Egyptian camp was fortified. The thought gave him back his
self-respect, and he wondered how it was possible that people could be
so degraded as to find pleasure in such childishness.
In the meantime he had lost all inclination to try the other restaurants;
he passed the Tivoli and went further into the heart of the park. Young
men and women were dancing on the grass to the strains of a violin: a
little further off a whole family was camping under an old oak; the head
of the family was kneeling down, in his shirt sleeves, with bare head, a
glass of beer in one hand, a sandwich in the other; his fat, jolly,
clean-shaven face beamed with pleasure and good-nature as he invited his
guests, who were evidently his wife, parents-in-law, brothers,
shop-assistants and servants, to eat, drink and be merry, for to-day was
Midsummer day, all day long. And the jovial fellow made such droll remarks
that the whole party writhed on the grass with amusement. After the
pancake had been produced and eaten with the fingers, and the port bottle
been round, the senior shop-assistant made a speech which was at once so
moving and so witty that the ladies at one moment pressed their
handkerchiefs to their eyes, while the head of the family bit his lips,
and at the next interrupted the speaker with loud laughter and cheers.
The schoolmaster's mood became more and more morose, but instead of
going away he sat down on a stone under a pinetree and watched "the
When the speech was finished and father and mother had been toasted
with cheers and a flourish of trumpets, executed on a concertina,
accompanied by the rattling of all cups and saucers that happened to
be empty, the party rose to play "Third Man," while mother and
mother-in-law attended to the babies.
"Just like the beasts in the field," thought the schoolmaster, turning
away, for all that was natural was ugly in his eyes, and only that
which was unnatural could lay any claim to beauty in his opinion,
except, of course, the paintings of "well-known" masters in the
He watched the young men taking off their coats, the young girls
slipping off their cuffs and hanging them on the blackthorn bushes;
then they took up their positions and the game began.
The girls picked up their skirts and threw up their legs so that their
garters, made of blue and red braid such as the grocers sell for tying
up pots, were plainly visible, and whenever the cavalier caught his
lady, he took her in his arms and swung her round so that her skirts
flew; and young and old shrieked so with laughter that the park
"Is this innocence or corruption?" wondered the schoolmaster.
But evidently the party did not know what the learned word "corruption"
meant, and that was the reason why they were so merry.
By the time they were tired of playing "Third Man" tea was ready. The
schoolmaster was puzzled to know where the cavaliers had learnt their
fine manners, for they moved about on all fours to offer the girls
sugar and cake; and the straps of their waistcoats stood out like
"The males showing off before the females!" thought the schoolmaster.
"They don't know what they are in for."
He noticed how the head of the family, the jolly fellow, waited on
father and mother-in-law, wife, shop-assistants and servant girls: and
whenever one of them begged him to help himself first, he invariably
answered that there was plenty of time for that.
He watched the father-in-law peeling a willow branch to make a flute
for the little boy; he watched the mother-in-law wash up as if she had
been one of the servants. And he thought that there was something
strange about selfishness, since it could be so cleverly disguised
that it looked as if no one gave more than he received; for it must be
selfishness, it couldn't be anything else.
They played at forfeits and redeemed every forfeit with kisses, true,
genuine, resounding kisses on the lips; and when the jolly book-keeper
was made to kiss the old oak-tree, his conduct was too absurd for
anything; he embraced and caressed the gnarled trunk as if it had been
a girl whom he had met secretly; everybody shouted with laughter, for
all knew how to do it, although none of them would have liked to be
caught doing it.
The schoolmaster who had begun by watching the spectacle with critical
eyes, fell more and more under the spell of it; he almost believed
himself to be one of the party. He smiled at the sallies of the
shop-assistants, and before an hour was gone the head of the family
had won his whole sympathy. No one could deny that the man was a
comedian of the first rank. He could play "Skin-the-cat"; he could
"walk backwards," "lie" on the tree-trunks, swallow coins, eat fire,
and imitate all sorts of birds. And when he extracted a saffron cake
from the dress of one of the girls and made it disappear in his right
ear, the schoolmaster laughed until his empty inside ached.
Then the dancing began. The schoolmaster had read in Rabe's grammar:
Nemo saltat sobrius, nisi forte insanit, and had always looked upon
dancing as a species of insanity. True, he had watched puppies and
calves dancing when they felt frisky, but he did not believe that
Cicero's maxim applied to the animal world, and he was in the habit of
drawing a sharp line between men and animals. Now, as he sat watching
these young people who were quite sober, and neither hungry nor thirsty,
moving round and round to the slow measures of the concertina, he felt
as if his soul were in a swing which was being kept going by his eyes
and ears, and his right foot beat time gently on the springy turf.
He spent three hours musing and watching, then he rose. He found it
almost difficult to tear himself away; it was just as if he were
leaving a merry party to which he had been invited; but his mood had
changed; he felt more reconciled. He was at peace with the world and
pleasantly tired, as if he had been enjoying himself.
It was evening. Smart carriages passed him, the lady-occupants lolling
on the back seats and looking in their long, white theatre wraps like
corpses in their shrouds; it was fashionable then to look as if one
had been exhumed. The schoolmaster, whose thoughts were running in
another direction, was sure that the ladies must be bored to death and
felt no trace of envy. Below the dusty highroad, far out on the sea,
the steamers with their flags and brass bands were returning from
their pleasure trips; cheers, strains of music and snatches of song
were wafted by the sea breezes to the mountains and the Deer Park.
The schoolmaster had never felt so lonely in his life as he did this
evening in the moving throng. He fancied that everybody was looking at
him compassionately as he made his solitary way through the crowd, and
almost gave way to self-pity. He would have liked to talk to the first
comer, for the mere pleasure of hearing his voice, for in his loneliness
he felt as if he were walking by the side of a stranger. And now his
conscience smote him. He remembered the waiter Gustav, who had been
unable to hide his pleasure at meeting him. Now he had arrived at a
point when he would have given worlds if anybody had met him and shown
any pleasure at the fact. But nobody came.
Yes, somebody did, after all. As he was sitting by himself on the
steamer, a setter, who had lost his master, came to him and put its
head on his knee. The schoolmaster was not particularly fond of dogs,
but he allowed it to stay; he felt it pressing its soft warm body
against his leg, he saw the eyes of the forsaken brute looking at him
in dumb appeal, as if it were asking him to find its master.
But as soon as they landed, the setter ran away. "It needed me no
longer," thought the schoolmaster, and he walked home and went to bed.
These trifling incidents of Midsummer day had robbed the schoolmaster
of his assurance. They taught him that all foresight, all precautions,
all the clever calculations in the world availed nothing. He felt a
certain instability in his surroundings. Even the public house, his
home, was not to be counted on. It might be closed any day. Moreover,
a certain reserve on the part of Gustav troubled him. The waiter was
as civil as before, more attentive even, but his friendship was gone;
he had lost confidence. It afforded the schoolmaster food for thought,
and whenever a tough piece of meat, or too small a dish of potatoes
was set before him he thought:
"Haha! He's paying me out!"
It was a bad summer for the schoolmaster: the second violin was out of
town and the book-seller frequented "Mosesheight," a garden restaurant
in his own district, situated on a hill.
On an evening in autumn the bookseller and the second violin were
sitting at their favourite table, drinking a glass of punch, when
the schoolmaster entered, carrying under his arm a parcel which he
carefully hid in an empty hamper in a cupboard used for all sorts of
lumber. He was ill-tempered and unusually irritable.
"Well, old boy," the bookseller began for the hundredth time, "and
when are you going to be married?"
"Confound your 'when are you going to be married!' As if a man hadn't
enough trouble without it! Why don't you get married yourself?"
growled the schoolmaster.
"Oh! because I have my old Stafva," answered the bookseller, who always
had a number of stereotyped answers in readiness.
"I was married very happily," said the Pole, "but my wife is dead,
"Is she?" mimicked the schoolmaster; "and the gentleman is a widower?
How am I to reconcile these facts?"
The Pole nodded, for he did not in the least understand what the
schoolmaster was driving at.
The latter felt bored by his friends; their topic of conversation was
always the same; he knew their replies by heart.
Presently he went into the corridor for a few moments to fetch his
cigar-case which he had left in the pocket of his overcoat. The
bookseller instantly raided the cupboard and returned with the
mysterious parcel. As it was not sealed, he opened it quickly; it
contained a beautiful American sleeping-suit; he hung it carefully
over the back of the schoolmaster's chair.
"Ugh!" said the Pole, grinning, as if he were looking at something
The proprietor of the restaurant who loved a practical joke, bent over
the counter, laughing loudly; the waiter stood rooted to the spot, and
one of the cooks peeped through the door which communicated with the
When the schoolmaster came back and realised the trick played on him,
he grew pale with anger; he immediately suspected the bookseller; but
when his eyes fell on Gustav who was standing in a corner of the room,
laughing, his old obsession returned to him: "He's paying me out!"
Without a word he seized his property, threw a few coins on the
counter and left the restaurant.
Henceforth the schoolmaster avoided Rejner's. The bookseller had heard
that he dined at a restaurant in his own district. This was true. But
he was very discontented! The food was not actually bad, but it was
not cooked to his liking. The waiters were not attentive. He often
thought of returning to Rejner's, but his pride would not let him. He
had been turned out of his home; in five minutes a bond of many years'
standing had been severed.
A short time after fate struck him a fresh blow. Miss Augusta had
inherited a little fortune in the provinces and had decided to leave
Stockholm on the first of October. The schoolmaster had to look out
for new lodgings.
But he had been spoilt, and there was no pleasing him. He changed his
room every month. There was nothing wrong with the rooms, but they
were not like his old room. It had become such a habit with him to
walk through certain streets, that he often found himself before his
old front door before he realised his mistake. He was like a lost
Eventually he went to live in a boarding house, a solution which he
had always loathed and dreaded. And then his friends lost sight of him
One evening, as the Pole was sitting alone over his grog, smoking,
drinking, and nodding with the capacity of the oriental to lapse into
complete stupor, the bookseller burst in on him like a thunderstorm,
flung his hat on the table, and shouted:
"Confound him! Has anybody ever heard anything like it?"
The Pole roused himself from his brandy-and-tobacco Nirvana, and
rolled his eyes.
"I say, confound it! Has anybody ever heard anything like it? He's
going to be married!"
"Who's going to be married?" asked the Pole, startled by the
bookseller's violence and emphatic language.
The bookseller expected a glass of grog in exchange for his news. The
proprietor left the counter and came to their table to listen.
"Has she any money?" he asked acutely.
"I don't think so," replied the bookseller, conscious of his temporary
importance and selling his wares one by one.
"Is she beautiful?" asked the Pole. "My wife was very beautiful. Ugh!"
"No, she's not beautiful either," answered the bookseller, "but
"Have you seen her?" enquired the proprietor. "Is she old?" His eyes
wandered towards the kitchen door.
"No, she's young!"
"And her parents?" continued the proprietor.
"I heard that her father was a brass founder in Orebro."
"The rascal! Well, I never!" said the proprietor.
"Haven't I always said so? The man is a born husband," said the
"We all of us are," said the proprietor, "and take my word for it, no
one escapes his fate!"
With this philosophical remark he closed the subject and returned to
When they had settled that the schoolmaster was not marrying for money,
they discussed the problem of "what the young people were going to live
on." The bookseller made a guess at the schoolmaster's salary and "what
he might earn besides by giving private lessons." When that question,
too, had been settled, the proprietor, who had returned to the table,
asked for details.
"Where had he met her? Was she fair or dark? Was she in love with
The last question was by no means out of the way; the bookseller
"thought she was," for he had seen them together, arm in arm, looking
into shop windows.
"But that he, who was such a stick, could fall in love! It was incredible!"
"And what a husband he would make!" The proprietor knew that he was
_devilish particular_ about his food, and that, he said, was a mistake
when one was married.
"And he likes a glass of punch in the evening, and surely a married
man can't drink punch every evening of his life. And he doesn't like
children! It won't turn out well," he whispered. "Take my word for it,
it won't turn out well. And, gentlemen, there's another thing," (he
rose from his seat, looked round and continued in a whisper), "I believe,
I'm hanged if I don't, that the old hypocrite has had a love affair of
some sort. Do you remember that incident, gentlemen, with the--hihihi
--sleeping suit? He's one of those whom you don't find where you leave
them! Take care, Mrs. Blom! Mind what you are about! I'll say no more!"
It was certainly a fact that the schoolmaster was engaged to be
married and that the wedding was to take place within two months.
What happened after, does not belong to this story, and, moreover, it
is difficult to know what goes on behind the convent walls of
domesticity when the vow of silence is being kept.
It was also a fact that the schoolmaster, after his marriage, was never
again seen at a public house.
The bookseller, who met him by himself in the street one evening, had
to listen to a long exhortation on getting married. The schoolmaster
had inveighed against all bachelors; he had called them egotists, who
refused to do their duty by the State; in his opinion they ought to be
heavily taxed, for all indirect taxes weighed most cruelly on the
father of a family. He went so far as to say that he wished to see
bachelorhood punished by the law of the land as a "crime against
The bookseller had a good memory. He said that he doubted the
advisability of taking a _fool_ into one's house, permanently. But the
schoolmaster replied that _his_ wife was the most intelligent woman he
had ever met.
Two years after the wedding the Pole saw the schoolmaster and his wife
in the theatre; he thought that they looked happy; "ugh!"
Another three years went by. On a Midsummer day the proprietor of the
restaurant made a pleasure trip on the Lake of Malar to Mariafred.
There, before Castle Cripsholm, he saw the schoolmaster, pushing a
perambulator over a green field, and carrying in his disengaged hand a
basket containing food, while a whole crowd of young men and women,
"who looked like country folk," followed in the rear. After dinner the
schoolmaster sang songs and turned somersaults with the youngsters. He
looked ten years younger and had all the ways of a ladies' man.
The proprietor, who was quite close to the party while they were
having dinner, overheard a little conversation between Mr. and Mrs.
Blom. When the young wife took a dish of crabs from the basket, she
apologised to Albert, because she had not been able to buy a single
female crab in the whole market. Thereupon the schoolmaster put his
arm round her, kissed her and said that it didn't matter in the least,
because male or female crabs, it was all the same to him. And when one
of the babies in the perambulator began to cry, the schoolmaster
lifted it out and hushed it to sleep again.
Well, all these things are mere details, but how people can get married
and bring up a family when they have not enough for themselves while
they are bachelors, is a riddle to me. It almost looks as if babies
brought their food with them when they come into this world; it really
almost does look as if they did.
He was considered a genius at College, and no one doubted that he
would one day distinguish himself. But after passing his examinations,
he was obliged to go to Stockholm and look out for a berth. His
dissertation, which was to win him the doctor's degree, had to be
postponed. As he was very ambitious, but had no private means, he
resolved to marry money, and with this object in view, he visited only
the very best families, both at Upsala where he studied for the bar, and
later on at Stockholm. At Upsala he always fraternised with the new
arrivals, that is to say, when they were members of aristocratic families,
and the freshers felt flattered by the advances made by the older man.
In this way he formed many useful ties, which meant invitations to his
friends' country houses during the summer.
The country houses were his happy hunting ground. He possessed social
talents, he could sing and play and amuse the ladies, and consequently
he was a great favourite. He dressed beyond his means; but he never
borrowed money from any of his friends or aristocratic acquaintances.
He even went to the length of buying two worthless shares and mentioning
on every possible occasion that he had to attend a General Meeting of
For two summers he had paid a great deal of attention to a titled lady
who owned some property, and his prospects were the general topic,
when he suddenly disappeared from high life and became engaged to a
poor girl, the daughter of a cooper, who owned no property whatever.
His friends were puzzled and could not understand how he could thus
stand in his own light. He had laid his plans so well, he "had but to
stretch out his hand and success was in his grasp"; he had the morsel
firmly stuck on his fork, it was only necessary for him to open his
mouth and swallow it. He himself was at a loss to understand how it
was that the face of a little girl whom he had met but once on a steamer
could have upset all his plans of many years' standing. He was bewitched,
He asked his friends whether they didn't think her beautiful?
Frankly speaking they didn't.
"But she is so clever! Just look into her eyes! What expressive eyes
His friends could see nothing and hear less, for the girl never opened
But he spent evening after evening with the cooper's family; to be
sure, the cooper was a very intelligent man! On his knees before her
(a trick often practised at the country houses) he held her skeins of
wool; he played and sang to her, talked about religion and the drama,
and he always read acquiescence in her eyes. He wrote poetry about
her, and sacrificed at her shrine his laurels, his ambitious dreams,
even his dissertation.
And then he married her.
The cooper drank too much at the wedding and made an improper speech
about girls in general. But the son-in-law found the old man so
unsophisticated, so amiable, that he egged him on instead of shutting
him up. He felt at his ease among these simple folk; in their midst he
could be quite himself.
"That's being in love," said his friends. "Love is a wonderful thing."
And now they were married. One month--two months. He was unspeakably
happy. Every evening they spent together and he sang a song to her
about the Rose in the Wood, her favourite song. And he talked about
religion and the drama, and she sat and listened eagerly. But she never
expressed an opinion; she listened in silence and went on with her
In the third month he relapsed into his old habit of taking an afternoon
nap. His wife, who hated being by herself, insisted on sitting by him.
It irritated him, for he felt an overwhelming need to be alone with his
Sometimes she met him on his way home from his office, and her heart
swelled with pride when he left his colleagues and crossed the street
to join her. She took him home in triumph: he was _her_ husband!
In the fourth month he grew tired of her favourite song. It was stale
now! He took up a book and read, and neither of them spoke.
One evening he had to attend a meeting which was followed by a banquet.
It was his first night away from home. He had persuaded his wife to
invite a friend to spend the evening with her, and to go to bed early,
for he did not expect to be home until late.
The friend came and stayed until nine o'clock. The young wife sat in
the drawing-room, waiting, for she was determined not to go to bed
until her husband had returned. She felt too restless to go to sleep.
She sat alone in the drawing-room. What could she do to make the time
pass more quickly? The maid had gone to bed; the grandfather's clock
ticked and ticked. But it was only ten o'clock when she put away her
crochet work. She fidgeted, moved the furniture about and felt a little
So that was what being married meant! One was torn from one's early
surroundings, and shut up in three solitary rooms to wait until one's
husband came home, half intoxicated.--Nonsense! he loved her, and he
was out on business. She was a fool to forget that. But _did_ he love
her still? Hadn't he refused a day or two ago to hold a skein of wool
for her?--a thing he loved to do before they were married. Didn't he
look rather annoyed yesterday when she met him before lunch? And--after
all--if he had to attend a business meeting to-night, there was no
necessity for him to be present at the banquet.
It was half-past ten when her musing had reached this point. She was
surprised that she hadn't thought of these things before. She relapsed
into her dark mood and the dismal thoughts again passed through her
mind, one by one. But now reinforcements had arrived. He never talked
to her now! He never sang to her, never opened the piano! He had told
her a lie when he had said that he couldn't do without his afternoon
nap, for he was reading French novels all the time.
He had told her a lie!
It was only half-past eleven. The silence was oppressive. She opened
the window and looked out into the street. Two men were standing down
below, bargaining with two women. That was men's way! If he should
ever do anything like that! She should drown herself if he did.
She shut the window and lighted the chandelier in the bedroom. "One
ought to be able to see what one is about," he had once said to her on
a certain occasion.--Everything was still so bright and new! The green
coverlet looked like a mown lawn, and the little pillows reminded her
of two white kittens curled up on the grass. The polish of her
dressing-table reflected the light: the mirror had as yet none of
those ugly stains which are made by the splashing of water. The silver
on the back of her hair-brush, her powder-box, her tooth-brush, all
shone and sparkled. Her bedroom slippers were still so new and pretty
that it was impossible to picture them down-at-heel. Everything looked
new, and yet everything seemed to have lost some of its freshness. She
knew all his songs, all his drawing-room pieces, all his words, all
his thoughts. She knew before-hand what he would say when he sat down
to lunch, what he would talk about when they were alone in the
She was sick of it all. Had she been in love with him? Oh, yes!
Certainly! But was this all then? Was she realising all the dreams of
her girlhood? Were things to go on like this until she died? Yes!
But--but--but--surely they would have children! though there was no
sign of it as yet. Then she would no longer be alone! Then he might go
out as often as he liked, for she would always have somebody to talk
to, to play with. Perhaps it was a baby which she wanted to make her
happy. Perhaps matrimony really meant something more than being a
man's legitimate mistress. That must be it! But then, he would have to
love her, and he didn't do that. And she began to cry.
When her husband came home at one o'clock, he was quite sober. But he
was almost angry with her when he found her still up.
"Why didn't you go to bed?" were the words with which he greeted her.
"How can I go to sleep when I am waiting for you?"
"A fine look out for me! Am I never to go out then? I believe you have
been crying, too?"
"Yes, I have, and how can I help it if you--don't--love--me--any--more?"
"Do you mean to say I don't love you because I had to go out on
"A banquet isn't business!"
"Good God! Am I not to be allowed to go out? How can women be so
"Obtrusive? Yes, I noticed that yesterday, when I met you. I'll never
meet you again."
"But, darling, I was with my chief--"
She burst into tears, her body moved convulsively.
He had to call the maid and ask her to fetch the hot-water bottle.
He, too, was weeping. Scalding tears! He wept over himself, his hardness
of heart, his wickedness, his illusions over everything.
Surely his love for her wasn't an illusion? He did love her! Didn't
he? And she said she loved him, too, as he was kneeling before her
prostrate figure, kissing her eyes. Yes, they loved one another! It
was merely a dark cloud which had passed, now. Ugly thoughts, born of
solitude and loneliness. She would never, never again stay alone. They
fell asleep in each other's arms, her face dimpled with smiles.
But she did not go to meet him on the following day. He asked no
questions at lunch. He talked a lot, but more for the sake of talking
than to amuse her; it seemed as if he were talking to himself.
In the evening he entertained her with long descriptions of the life
at Castle Sjostaholm; he mimicked the young ladies talking to the
Baron, and told her the names of the Count's horses. And on the
following day he mentioned his dissertation.
One afternoon he came home very tired. She was sitting in the
drawing-room, waiting for him. Her ball of cotton had fallen on the
floor. In passing, his foot got entangled in the cotton; at his next
step he pulled her crochet work out of her hand and dragged it along;
then he lost his temper and kicked it aside.
She exclaimed at his rudeness.
He retorted that he had no time to bother about her rubbish, and
advised her to spend her time more profitably. He had to think of his
dissertation, if he was to have a career at all. And she ought to
consider the question of how to limit their household expenses.
Things had gone far indeed!
On the next day the young wife, her eyes swollen with weeping, was
knitting socks for her husband. He told her he could buy them cheaper
ready-made. She burst into tears. What was she to do? The maid did all
the work of the house, there was not enough work in the kitchen for
two. She always dusted the rooms. Did he want her to send the maid
"What did he want, then?"
He didn't know himself, but he was sure that something was wrong. Their
expenses were too high. That was all. They couldn't go on living at their
present rate, and then--somehow he could never find time to work at his
Tears, kisses, and a grand reconciliation! But now he started staying
away from home in the evening several times a week. Business! A man
must show himself! If he stays at home, he will be overlooked and
A year had passed; there were no signs of the arrival of a baby. "How
like a little liaison I once had in the old days," he thought; "there
is only one difference: this one is duller and costs more." There was
no more conversation, now; they merely talked of household matters.
"She has no brain," he thought. "I am listening to myself when I am
talking to her, and the apparent depths of her eyes is a delusion, due
to the size of her pupils--the unusual size of her pupils.--"
He talked openly about his former love for her as of something that
was over and done with. And yet, whenever he did so, he felt a pain
in his heart, an irritating, cruel pain, a remorseless pain that could
"Everything on earth withers and dies," he mused, "why should her
favourite song alone be an exception to this? When one has heard it
three hundred and sixty-five times, it becomes stale; it can't be
helped. But is my wife right when she says that our love, also, has
died? No, and yet--perhaps she is. Our marriage is no better than a
vulgar liaison, for we have no child."
One day he made up his mind to talk the matter over with a married
friend, for were they not both members of the "Order of the Married"?
"How long have you been married?"
"And does matrimony bore you?"
"At first it did; but when the children came, matters improved."
"Was that so? It's strange that we have no child."
"Not your fault, old man! Tell your wife to go and see a doctor about
He had an intimate conversation with her and she went.
Six weeks after what a change!
What a bustle and commotion in the house! The drawing-room table was
littered with baby-clothes which were quickly hidden if anybody entered
unexpectedly, and reappeared as quickly if it was only he who had come
in. A name had to be thought of. It would surely be a boy. The midwife
had to be interviewed, medical books had to be bought, and a cradle
and a baby's outfit.
The baby arrived and it really was a boy! And when he saw the "little
monkey that smelled of butter" clasped to her bosom, which until then
had but been his plaything, he reverently discovered the mother in his
little wife; and "when he saw the big pupils looking at the baby so
intently that they seemed to be looking into the future", he realised
that there were depths in her eyes after all; depths more profound
than he could fathom for all his drama and religion. And now all his
old love, his dear old love, burst into fresh flames, and there was
something new added to it, which he had dimly divined, but never
How beautiful she was when she busied herself about the house again!
And how intelligent in all matters concerning the baby!
As for him, he felt a man. Instead of talking of the Baron's horses
and the Count's cricket matches, he now talked, too much almost, of
And when occasionally he was obliged to be out of an evening, he always
longed for his own fireside; not because his wife sat there waiting for
him, like an evil conscience, but because he knew that she was not alone.
And when he came home, both mother and child were asleep. He was almost
jealous of the baby, for there had been a certain charm in the thought
that while he was out, somebody was sitting alone at home, eagerly
awaiting his return.
Now he was allowed his afternoon nap. And as soon as he had gone back
to town, the piano was opened and the favourite song of the _Rose in
the Wood_ was sung, for it was quite new to Harold, and had regained
all its freshness for poor little Laura who hadn't heard it for so many
She had no time now for crochet work, but there were plenty of
antimacassars in the house. He, on his part, could not spare the time
for his dissertation.
"Harold shall write it," said the father, for he knew now that his
life would not be over when he came to die.
Many an evening they sat together, as before, and gossiped, but now
both took a share in the conversation, for now she understood what
they were talking about.
She confessed that she was a silly girl who knew nothing about religion
and the drama; but she said that she had always told him so, and that he
had refused to believe it.
But now he believed it less than ever.
They sang the old favourite song, and Harold crowed, they danced to the
tune and rocked the baby's cradle to it, and the song always retained
its freshness and charm.
His eyes had been opened. He realised the perversity of the world, but
he lacked the power to penetrate the darkness and discover the cause
of this perversity; therefore he gave himself up to despair, a
disillusioned man. Then he fell in love with a girl who married
somebody else. He complained of her conduct to his friends, male and
female, but they only laughed at him. For a little while longer he trod
his solitary path alone and misunderstood. He belonged to "society,"
and joined in its pursuits, because it distracted him; but at the bottom
of his heart he had nothing but contempt for its amusements, which he
took no pains to conceal.
One evening he was present at a ball. He danced with a young woman of
unusual beauty and animation. When the band ceased playing, he remained
standing by her side. He knew he ought to talk to her but he did not
know what to say. After a while the girl broke the silence.
"You are fond of dancing, Baron?" she said with a cold, smile.
"Oh no! not at all," he answered. "Are you?"
"I can't imagine anything more foolish," she replied.
He had met his man, or rather his woman.
"Why do you dance, then?" he asked.
"For the same reason that you do."
"Can you read my mind?"
"Easily enough; if two people think alike, the other always knows."
"H'm! You're a strange woman! Do you believe in love?"
"Nor do I! You and I ought to get married."
"I'm beginning to think so myself."
"Would you marry me?"
"Why not? At any rate, we shouldn't fight."
"Horrible idea! But how can you be so sure?"
"Because we think alike."
"Yes, but that might become monotonous. We should have nothing to talk
about, because the one would always know what the other is thinking."
"True; but wouldn't it be even more monotonous if we remained
unmarried and misunderstood?"
"You are right! Would you like to think it over?"
"Yes, until the cotillon."
"Why any longer?"
He took her back to the drawing-room and left her there, drank several
glasses of champagne and watched her during supper. She allowed two
young members of the Diplomatic Corps to wait on her, but made fun of
them all the time and treated them as if they were footmen.
As soon as the cotillon began, he went to her and offered her a bouquet.
"Do you accept me?" he asked.
"Yes," she replied.
And so they were engaged.
It's a splendid match, said the world. They are made for one another.
They are equals as far as social position and money are concerned.
They hold the same blase views of life. By blase the world meant that
they cared very little for dances, theatres, bazaars, and other noble
sports without which life is not really worth living.
They were like carefully wiped twin slates, exactly alike; but utterly
unable to surmise whether or not life would write the same legend on
both. They never asked one another during the tender moments of their
engagement: Do you love me? They knew quite well that it was impossible,
because they did not believe in love. They talked little, but they
understood one another perfectly.
And they married.
He was always attentive, always polite, and they were good friends.
When the baby was born, it had but one effect on their relationship;
they had something to talk about now.
But by-and-by the husband began to reveal a certain energy. He had a
sense of duty, and moreover, he was sick of being idle. He had a
private income, but was in no way connected with politics or the
Government. Now he looked round for some occupation which would fill
the void in his life. He had heard the first morning call of the
awakening spirits and felt it his duty to do his share of the great
work of research into the causes of human misery. He read much, made a
careful study of politics and eventually wrote an article and sent it
to a paper. The consequence was that he was elected a member of the
Board of Education. This necessitated hard reading in future, for all
questions were to be threshed out thoroughly.
The Baroness lay on the sofa and read Chateaubriand and Musset. She
had no faith in the improvement of humanity, and this stirring up of
the dust and mould which the centuries had deposited on human
institutions irritated her. Yet she noticed that she did not keep pace
with her husband. They were like two horses at a race. They had been
weighed before the start and been found to be of the same weight; they
had promised to keep side by side during the run; everything was
calculated to make them finish the race and leave the course at the
same time. But already the husband had gained by the length of a neck.
Unless she hurried up, she was bound to be left behind.
And the latter really happened. In the following year he was made
controller of the budget. He was away for two months. His absence made
the Baroness realise that she loved him; a fact which was brought home
to her by her fear of losing him.
When he returned home, she was all eagerness; but his mind was filled
with the things he had seen and heard abroad. He realised that they
had come to the parting of the ways, but he would have liked to delay
it, prevent it, if possible. He showed her in great living pictures
the functioning of the colossal gigantic machinery of the State, he
tried to explain to her the working of the wheels, the multifarious
transmissions, regulators and detents, unreliable pendulums and
untrustworthy safety valves.
She was interested at first, but after a while her interest waned.
Conscious of her mental inferiority, her insignificance, she devoted
herself entirely to her baby, anxious to demonstrate to her husband
that she yet had a value as a model mother. But her husband did not
appreciate this value. He had married her for the sake of companionship,
and he found in her an excellent nurse for his child. But how could it
be helped now? Who could have foreseen such a thing?
The house was always full of members of Parliament, and politics was
the subject of conversation at dinner. The hostess merely took care
that no fault could be found with the cooking. The Baron never omitted
to have one or two men amongst his guests who could talk to his wife
about music and the drama, but the Baroness wanted to discuss nothing
but the nursery and the bringing up of children. After dessert, as
soon as the health of the hostess was drunk, there was a general
stampede to the smoking-room where the political discussions were
continued. The Baroness left her guests and went to the nursery with a
feeling of bitterness in her heart; she realised that her husband had
so far outdistanced her that she could never again hope to come up
He worked much at home in the evening; frequently he was busy at his
writing-table until the small hours of the morning, but always behind
locked doors. When he noticed afterwards, as he sometimes did, that
his wife went about with red eyes, he felt a pain in his heart; but
they had nothing to say to each other.
Occasionally however, at those times when his work palled, when he
realised that his inner life was growing poorer and poorer, he felt a
void within him, a longing for warmth, for something intimate, something
he had dreamed of long ago, in the early days of his youth. But every
feeling of that sort he suppressed at once as unfaithfulness to his wife,
for he had a very high conception of the duty of a husband.
To bring a little more variety into her daily life, he suggested one
day that she should invite a cousin of whom she had often spoken, but
whom he had never seen, to spend the winter with them in town.
This had always been a great wish of the Baroness's, but now that the
realisation of it was within her power, she changed her mind. She did
not want her in the least now. Her husband pressed her for reasons,
but she could not give him any. It roused his curiosity and finally
she confessed that she was afraid of her cousin; afraid that she might
win his heart, that he might fall in love with her.
"She must be a queer girl, we really must have her here!"
The Baroness wept and warned, but the Baron laughed and the cousin
One afternoon the Baron came home, tired as usual; he had forgotten
all about the cousin and his curiosity in regard to her. They sat down
to dinner. The Baron asked the cousin if she was fond of the theatre.
She replied that she was not. She preferred reality to make-believe.
At home she had founded a school for black sheep and a society for the
care of discharged prisoners. Indeed! The Baron was much interested in
the administration of prisons. The cousin was able to give him a good
deal of information, and during the rest of the dinner the conversation
was exclusively about prisons. Eventually the cousin promised to treat
the whole question in a paper which the Baron was going to read and work
What the Baroness had foreseen, happened. The Baron contracted a
spiritual marriage with the cousin, and his wife was left out in the
cold. But the cousin was also beautiful, and when she leaned over the
Baron at his writing-desk, and he felt her soft arm on his shoulder
and her warm breath against his cheek, he could not suppress a
sensation of supreme well-being. Needless to say, their conversation
was not always of prisons. They also discussed love. She believed in
the love of the souls, and she stated as plainly as she could, that
marriage without love was prostitution. The Baron had not taken much
interest in the development of modern ideas on love, and found that
her views on the subject were rather hard, but after all she was
probably quite right.
But the cousin possessed other qualities, too, invaluable qualifications
for a true spiritual marriage. She had no objection to tobacco smoke for
instance, in fact, she was very fond of a cigarette herself. There was no
reason, therefore, why she should not go into the smoking-room with the
men after dinner and talk about politics. And then she was charming.
Tortured by little twinges of conscience, the Baron would every now
and then disappear from the smoking-room, go into the nursery, kiss
his wife and child, and ask her how she was getting on? The Baroness
was grateful, but she was not happy. After these little journeys the
Baron always returned to his friends in the best of tempers; one might
have thought that he had faithfully performed a sacred duty. At other
times it irritated and distressed him that his wife did not join the
party in the smoking-room, too, as _his_ wife; this thought was a
burden which weighed quite heavily on him.
The cousin did not go home in the spring, but accompanied the couple
to a watering-place. There she organised little performances for the
benefit of the poor, in which she and the Baron played the parts of
the lovers. This had the inevitable result that the fire burst into
flames. But the flames were only spiritual flames; mutual interests,
like views, and, perhaps, similar dispositions.
The Baroness had ample time to consider her position. The day arrived
when she told her husband that since everything was over between them,
the only decent thing to do was to part. But that was more than he had
bargained for; he was miserable; the cousin had better return to her
parents, and he would prove to his wife that he was a man of honour.
The cousin left. A correspondence between her and the Baron began. He
made the Baroness read every letter, however much she hated doing it.
After a while, however, he gave in and read the letters without showing
them to his wife.
Finally the cousin returned. Then matters came to a crisis. The Baron
discovered that he could not live without her.
What were they to do? Separate? It would be death. Go on as at present?
Impossible! Annul the marriage which the Baron had come to look upon as
legal prostitution and marry his beloved? However painful it might be,
it was the only honest course to take.
But that was against the wishes of the cousin. She did not want it said
of her that she had stolen another woman's husband. And then the scandal!
"But it was dishonest not to tell his wife everything; it was dishonest
to allow things to go on; one could never tell how the matter would end."
"What did he mean? How could it end?"
"Nobody could tell!"
"Oh! How dared he! What did he think of her?"
"That she was a woman!"
And he fell on his knees and worshipped her; he said that he did not
care if the administration of prisons and the school for black sheep
went to the devil; he did not know what manner of woman she was; he
only knew that he loved her.
She replied that she had nothing but contempt for him, and went helter
skelter to Paris. He followed at her heels. At Hamburg he wrote a
letter to his wife in which he said that they had made a mistake and
that it was immoral not to rectify it. He asked her to divorce him.
And she divorced him.
A year after these events the Baron and the cousin were married. They
had a child. But that was a fact which did not interfere with their
happiness. On the contrary! What a wealth of new ideas germinated in
their minds in their voluntary exile! How strong were the winds which
He encouraged her to write a book on "young criminals." The press tore
it to pieces. She was furious and swore that she would never write
another book. He asked her whether she wrote for praise, whether she
was ambitious?--She replied by a question: Why did he write?--A little
quarrel arose. He said it was refreshing to hear her express views
which did not echo his own--always his own.--Always his own? What did
he mean? Didn't she have _views of her own_? She henceforth made it
her business to prove to him on every occasion that she was capable of
forming her own opinions; and to prevent any errors on his part she
took good care that they always differed from his. He told her he did
not care what views she held as long as she loved him.--Love? What about
it? He was no better than other men and, moreover, he had betrayed her.
He did not love her soul, but her body.--No, he loved both, he loved
her, every bit of her!--Oh! How deceitful he had been!--No, he had not
been deceitful, he had merely deceived himself when he believed that he
loved her soul only.
They were tired of strolling up and down the boulevard, and sat down
before a cafe. She lighted a cigarette. A waiter requested her rather
uncivilly, not to smoke. The Baron demanded an explanation and the
waiter said that the cafe was a first-class establishment and the
management was anxious not to drive away respectable people by serving
_these ladies_. They rose from their seats, paid and went away. The
Baron was furious, the young Baroness had tears in her eyes.
"There they had a demonstration of the power of prejudice! Smoking was
a foolish act as far as a man was concerned, but in a woman it was a
crime! Let him who was able to do so, destroy this prejudice! Or, let
us say, him who would care to do so! The Baron had no wish that his
wife should be the first victim, even if it were to win for her the
doubtful honour of having cast aside a prejudice. For it was nothing
else. In Russia, ladies belonging to the best society smoked at the
dinner-table during the courses. Customs changed with the latitudes.
And yet those trifles were not without importance, for life consisted
of trifles. If men and women shared bad habits, intercourse between
them would be less stiff and formal: they would make friends more
easily and keep pace with one another. If they had the same education,
they would have the same interests, and cling together more closely
during the whole of their lives."
The Baron was silent as if he had said something foolish. But she had
not been listening to him; her thoughts had been far away.
"She had been insulted by a waiter, told that she was not fit to
associate with respectable people. There was more behind that, than
appeared on the surface. She had been recognised. Yes, she was sure of
it, it was not the first time that she had noticed it."
"What had she noticed?"
"That she had been treated with little respect at the restaurants. The
people evidently did not think that they were married; because they
were affectionate and civil to one another. She had borne it in silence
for a long time, but now she had come to the end of her tether. And yet
this was nothing compared to what they were saying at home!"
"Well, what were they saying? And why had she never told him anything
about it before?"
"Oh! horrible things! The letters she had received! Leaving the
anonymous ones quite out of the question.
"Well, and what about him? Was he not being treated as if he were a
criminal? And yet he had not committed a crime! He had acted according
to all legal requirements, he had not broken his marriage vows. He had
left the country in compliance with the dictates of the law; the Royal
Consistory has granted his appeal for a divorce; the clergy, Holy Church,
had given him his release from the bonds of his first marriage on stamped
paper; therefore he had not broken them! When a country was conquered, a
whole nation was absolved from its oath of loyalty to its monarch; why
did society look askance at the release from a promise? Had it not
conferred the right on the Consistory to dissolve a marriage? How could
it dare to assume the character of a judge now and condemn its own laws?
Society was at war with itself! He was being treated like a criminal!
Hadn't the secretary of the Embassy, his old friend, on whom he had left
his and his wife's cards, acknowledged them by simply returning one card
only? And was he not overlooked at all public functions?"
"Oh! She had had to put up with worse things! One of her friends in Paris
had closed her door to her, and several had cut her in the street."
"Only the wearer of a boot knew where it pinched. The boots which they
were wearing now were real Spanish boots, and they were at war with
society. The upper classes had cut them. The upper classes! This
community of semi-imbeciles, who secretly lived like dogs, but showed
one another respect as long as there was no public scandal; that was to
say as long as one did not honestly revoke an agreement and wait until
it had lapsed before one made use of one's newly-regained freedom! And
these vicious upper classes were the awarders of social position and
respect, according to a scale on which honesty ranked far below zero.
Society was nothing but a tissue of lies! It was inexplicable that it
hadn't been found out long ago! It was high time to examine this fine
structure and inquire into the condition of its foundations."
They were on friendlier terms on arriving home than they had been for
many years. The Baroness stayed at home with her baby, and was soon
expecting a second one. This struggle against the tide was too hard
for her, and she was already growing tired of it. She was tired of
everything! To write in an elegantly furnished, well-heated room on
the subject of discharged prisoners, offering them, at a proper
distance, a well-gloved hand, was a proceeding society approved of;
but to hold out the hand of friendship to a woman who had married a
legally divorced man was quite another thing. Why should it be so? It
was difficult to find an answer.
The Baron fought in the thick of the battle. He visited the Chamber of
Deputies, was present at meetings, and everywhere he listened to
passionate diatribes against society. He read papers and magazines,
kept a keen eye on literature, studied the subject deeply. His wife
was threatened by the same fate which had overtaken the first one; to
be left behind! It was strange. She seemed unable to take in all the
details of his investigations, she disapproved of much of the new
doctrine, but she felt that he was right and fighting for a good
cause. He knew that he could always count on her never-flagging
sympathy; that he had a friend at home who would always stand by him.
Their common fate drove them into each other's arms like frightened
birds at the approach of a storm. All the womanliness in her,--however
little it may be appreciated now-a-days,--which is after all nothing
but a memory of the great mother, the force of nature which is woman's
endowment, was roused. It fell on the children like the warm glow of a
fire at eventide; it fell on the husband like a ray of sunshine; it
brought peace to the home. He often wondered how it was that he did
not miss his old comrade, with whom he was wont to discuss everything;
he discovered that his thoughts had gained force and vigour since he
stopped pouring them out as soon as he conceived them; it seemed to
him that he was profiting more by the silent approval, the kindly nod,
the unwavering sympathy. He felt that his strength had increased, that
his views were less under outside control; he was a solitary man, now,
and yet he was less solitary than he had been in the past, for he was
no longer constantly met by contradictions which merely filled his
heart with misgivings.
It was Christmas Eve in Paris. A large Christmas tree, grown in the
wood of St. Germain, stood in their little chalet on the Cours de la
Reine. They were going out after breakfast to buy Christmas presents
for the children. The Baron was pre-occupied, for he had just published
a little pamphlet, entitled: "Do the Upper Classes constitute Society?"
They were sitting at breakfast in their cosy dining-room, and the doors
which led to the nursery stood wide open. They listened to the nurse
playing with the children, and the Baroness smiled with contentment and
happiness. She had grown very gentle and her happiness was a quiet one.
One of the children suddenly screamed and she rose from the table to see
what was the matter. At the same moment the footman came into the
dining-room with the morning post. The Baron opened two packets of
printed matter. The first was a "big respectable" newspaper. He opened
it and his eyes fell on a headline in fat type: "A Blasphemer!"
He began to read: "Christmas is upon us again! This festival dear to
all pure hearts, this festival sacred to all Christian nations, which
has brought a message of peace and good-will to all men, which makes
even the murderer sheathe his knife, and the thief respect the sacred
law of property; this festival, which is not only of very ancient
origin, but which is also, especially in the countries of the North,
surrounded by a host of historic associations, etc., etc. And then like
foul fumes arising from a drain, an individual suddenly confronts us
who does not scruple to tear asunder the most sacred bonds, who vomits
malice on all respectable members of society; malice, dictated by the
pettiest vengeance...." He refolded the paper and put it into the
pocket of his dressing-gown. Then he opened the second parcel. It
contained caricatures of himself and his wife. It went the same way as
the first, but he had to be quick, for his wife was re-entering the
dining-room. He finished his breakfast and went into his bed-room to
get ready to go out. They left the house together.
The sunlight fell on the frosted plane-trees of the Champs Elysees,
and in the heart of the stony desert the Place de la Concorde opened
out like a large oasis. He felt her arm on his, and yet he had the
feeling as if she were supporting him. She talked of the presents
which they were going to buy for the children, and he tried to force
himself to take an interest in the subject. But all at once he
interrupted her conversation and asked her, a-propos of nothing:
"Do you know the difference between vengeance and punishment?"
"No, I've never thought about it."
"I wonder whether it isn't this: When an anonymous journalist revenges
himself, it is punishment; but when a well-known writer, who is not a
pressman, fights with an open visor, meting out punishment, then it is
revenge! Let us join the new prophets!"
She begged him not to spoil Christmas by talking of the newspapers.
"This festival," he muttered, "on which peace and good-will...."
They passed through the arcades of the Rue de Rivoli, turned into the
boulevards and made their purchases. They dined at the Grand Hotel.
She was in a sunny frame of mind and tried to cheer him up. But he
remained preoccupied. Suddenly he asked,
"How is it possible that one can have a bad conscience when one has
She did not know.
"Is it because the upper classes have so trained us, that our conscience
troubles us whenever we rebel against them? Probably it is so. Why
shouldn't he who has been hurt unjustly, have the right to attack
injustice? Because only he who has been hurt will attack, and the upper
classes hate being attacked. Why did I not strike at the upper classes
in the past, when I belonged to them? Because, of course, I didn't know
them then. One must look at a picture from a distance in order to find
the correct visual point!"
"One shouldn't talk about such things on Christmas Eve!"
"True, it is Christmas. This festival of...."
They returned home. They lit the candles on the Christmas tree; it
radiated peace and happiness; but its dark branches smelt of a funeral
and looked sinister, like the Baron's face. The nurse came in with the
little ones. His face lighted up, for, he thought, when they are grown
up they will reap in joy what we have sown in tears; then their
conscience will only trouble them when they have sinned against the
laws of nature; they won't have to suffer from whims which have been
caned into us at school, drummed into us by the parsons, invented by
the upper classes for their own benefit.
The Baroness sat down at the piano when the maids and the footmen
entered. She played melancholy old dances, dear to the heart of the
people of the North, while the servants danced gravely with the
children. It was very much like the penitential part of divine
After that the presents were distributed among the children, and the
servants received their gifts. And then the children were put to bed.
The Baroness went into the drawing-room and sat down in an arm-chair.
The Baron threw himself on a footstool at her feet. He rested his head
on her knees. It was so heavy--so heavy. She silently stroked his
forehead. "What! was he weeping?"
She had never before seen a man weep. It was a terrible sight. His big
strong frame shook, but he made no sound.
"Why was he weeping?"
"Because he was unhappy."
"Unhappy with her?"
"No, no, not with her, but still, unhappy."
"Had anybody treated him badly?"
"Couldn't he tell her all about it?"
"No, he only wanted to sit at her knees, as he used to sit long ago,
at his mother's."
She talked to him as if he had been a child. She kissed his eyes and
wiped his face with her handkerchief. She felt so proud, so strong,
there were no tears in her eyes. The sight of her inspired him with
"How weak he had been! That he should have found the machine-made
attacks of his opponents so hard to bear! Did his enemies really
believe what they said?"
"Terrible thought! Probably they did. One often found stones firmly
grown into pine-trees, why should not opinions grow into the brain in
the same way? But she believed in him, she knew that he was fighting
for a good cause?"
"Yes, she believed it! But--he must not be angry with her for asking
him such a question--but--did he not miss his child, the first one?"
"Yes, certainly, but it could not be helped. At least, not yet! But he
and the others who were working for the future would have to find a
remedy for that, too. He did not know, yet, what form that remedy
would take, but stronger brains than his, and many together, would
surely one day solve this problem which at present seemed insolvable."
"Yes, she hoped it would be so."
"But their marriage? Was it a marriage in the true sense of the word,
seeing that he couldn't tell her what troubled him? Wasn't it, too,
"No, it was a true marriage, for they loved one another. There had
been no love between him and his first wife. But he and she did love
one another, could she deny it?"
"She couldn't, he was her dear love." Then their marriage was a true
marriage before God and before Nature.
UNNATURAL SELECTION OR THE ORIGIN OF RACE
The Baron had read in _The Slaves of Life_ with disgust and indignation
that the children of the aristocracy were bound to perish unless they
took the mothers' milk from the children of the lower classes. He had
read Darwin and believed that the gist of his teaching was that through
selection the children of the aristocracy had come to be more highly
developed representatives of the genus "Man." But the doctrine of
heredity made him look upon the employment of a foster-mother with
aversion; for might not, with the blood of the lower classes, certain
conceptions, ideas and desires be introduced and propagated in the
aristocratic nursling? He was therefore determined that his wife should
nurse her baby herself, and if she should prove incapable of doing so,
the child should be brought up with the bottle. He had a right to the
cows' milk, for they fed on his hay; without it they would starve, or
would not have come into existence at all. The baby was born. It was a
son! The father had been somewhat anxious before he became certain of
his wife's condition, for he was, personally, a poor man; his wife, on
the other hand, was very wealthy, but he had no claim to her fortune
unless their union was blest with a legal heir, (in accordance with the
law of entail chap. 00 par. 00). His joy was therefore great and genuine.
The baby was a transparent little thoroughbred, with blue veins shining
through his waxen skin. Nevertheless his blood was poor. His mother who
possessed the figure of an angel, was brought up on choice food, protected
by rich furs from all the eccentricities of the climate, and had that
aristocratic pallor which denotes the woman of noble descent.
She nursed the baby herself. There was consequently no need to become
indebted to peasant women for the privilege of enjoying life on this
planet. Nothing but fables, all he had read about it! The baby sucked
and screamed for a fortnight. But all babies scream. It meant nothing.
But it lost flesh. It became terribly emaciated. The doctor was sent
for. He had a private conversation with the father, during which he
declared that the baby would die if the Baroness continued to nurse
him, because she was firstly too highly strung, and secondly had
nothing with which to feed him. He took the trouble to make a
quantitative analysis of the milk, and proved (by equations) that the
child was bound to starve unless there was a change in the method of
What was to be done? On no account could the baby be allowed to die.
Bottle or foster mother? The latter was out of the question. Let us
try the bottle! The doctor, however, prescribed a foster mother.
The best Dutch cow, which had received the gold medal for the district,
was isolated and fed with hay; with dry hay of the finest quality. The
doctor analysed the milk, everything was all right. How simple the system
was! How strange that they had not thought of it before! After all, one
need not engage a foster mother a tyrant before whom one had to cringe,
a loafer one had to fatten; not to mention the fact that she might have
an infectious disease.
But the baby continued to lose flesh and to scream. It screamed night
and day. There was no doubt it suffered from colic. A new cow was
procured and a fresh analysis made. The milk was mixed with Karlsbad
water, genuine Sprudel, but the baby went on screaming.
"There's no remedy but to engage a foster mother," said the doctor.
"Oh! anything but that! One did not want to rob other children, it was
against nature, and, moreover, what about heredity?"
When the Baron began to talk of things natural and unnatural, the
doctor explained to him that if nature were allowed her own way, all
noble families would die out and their estates fall to the crown. This
was the wisdom of nature, and human civilization was nothing but a
foolish struggle against nature, in which man was bound to be beaten.
The Baron's race was doomed; this was proved by the fact that his wife
was unable to feed the fruit of her womb; in order to live they were
bound to buy or steal the milk of other women. Consequently the race
lived on robbery, down to the smallest detail.
"Could the purchase of the milk be called robbery? The purchase of
"Yes, because the money with which it was bought was produced by labour.
Whose labour? The people's! For the aristocracy didn't work."
"The doctor was a socialist!"
"No, a follower of Darwin. However, he didn't care in the least if they
called him a socialist. It made no difference to him."
"But surely, purchase was not robbery! That was too strong a word!"
"Well, but if one paid with money one hadn't earned!"
"That was to say, earned by manual labour?"
"But in that case the doctor was a robber too!"
"Quite so! Nevertheless he would not hold back with the truth! Didn't
the Baron remember the repenting thief who had spoken such true words?"
The conversation was interrupted; the Baron sent for a famous professor.
The latter called him a murderer straight out, because he had not
engaged a nurse long ago.
The Baron had to persuade his wife. He had to retract all his former
arguments and emphasize the one simple fact, namely, the love for his
child, (regulated by the law of entail).
But where was a foster mother to come from? It was no use thinking of
looking for one in town, for there all people were corrupt. No, it
would have to be a country girl. But the Baroness objected to a girl
because, she argued, a girl with a baby was an immoral person; and her
son might contract a hereditary tendency.
The doctor retorted that all foster mothers were unmarried women and
that if the young Baron inherited from her a preference for the other
sex, he would grow into a good fellow; tendencies of that sort ought
to be encouraged. It was not likely that any of the farmers' wives
would accept the position, because a farmer who owned land, would
certainly prefer to keep his wife and children with him.
"But supposing they married a girl to a farm labourer?"
"It would mean a delay of nine months."
"But supposing they found a husband for a girl who had a baby?"
"That wasn't a bad idea!"
The Baron knew a girl who had a baby just three months old. He knew
her only too well, for he had been engaged for three years and had
been unfaithful to his fiancee by "doctor's orders." He went to her
himself and made his suggestion. She should have a farm of her own if
she would consent to marry Anders, a farm labourer, and come to the
Manor as foster mother to the young Baron. Well, was it strange that
she should accept the proffered settlement in preference to her bearing
her disgrace alone? It was arranged there and then that on the following
Sunday the banns should be read for the first, second and third time,
and that Anders should go home to his own village for two months.
The Baron looked at her baby with a strange feeling of envy. He was a
big, strong boy. He was not beautiful, but he looked like a guarantee
of many generations to come. The child was born to live but it was not
his fate to fulfil his destination.
Anna wept when he was taken to the orphanage, but the good food at the
Manor (her dinner was sent up to her from the dining-room, and she had
as much porter and wine as she wanted) consoled her. She was also
allowed to go out driving in the big carriage, with a footman by the
side of the coachman. And she read _A Thousand and One Nights_. Never
in all her life had she been so well off.
After an absence of two months Anders returned. He had done nothing
but eat, drink, and rest. He took possession of the farm, but he also
wanted his Anna. Couldn't she, at least, come and see him sometimes?
No, the Baroness objected. No nonsense of that sort!
Anna lost flesh and the little Baron screamed. The doctor was
"Let her go and see her husband," he said.
"But supposing it did the baby harm?"
But Anders must be "analysed" first. Anders objected.
Anders received a present of a few sheep and was "analysed."
The little Baron stopped screaming.
But now news came from the orphanage that Anna's boy had died of
Anna fretted, and the little Baron screamed louder than ever. She was
discharged and sent back to Anders and a new foster mother was
Anders was glad to have his wife with him at last, but she had
contracted expensive habits. She couldn't drink Brazilian coffee, for
instance, it had to be Java. And her health did not permit her to eat
fish six times a week, nor could she work in the fields. Food at the
farm grew scarce.
Anders would have been obliged to give up the farm after twelve months,
but the Baron had a kindly feeling for him and allowed him to stay on as
Anna worked daily at the Manor and frequently saw the little Baron;
but he did not recognise her and it was just as well that he did not.
And yet he had lain at her breast! And she had saved his life by
sacrificing the life of her own child. But she was prolific and had
several sons, who grew up and were labourers and railway men; one of
them was a convict.
But the old Baron looked forward with anxiety to the day on which his
son should marry and have children in his turn. He did not look strong!
He would have been far more reassured if the other little Baron, the
one who had died at the orphanage, had been the heir to the estates.
And when he read _The Slaves of Life_ a second time, he had to admit
that the upper classes live at the mercy of the lower classes, and when
he read Darwin again he could not deny that natural selection, in our
time, was anything but natural. But facts were facts and remained
unalterable, in spite of all the doctor and the socialists might say
to the contrary.
AN ATTEMPT AT REFORM
She had noticed with indignation that girls were solely brought up to
be housekeepers for their future husbands. Therefore she had learnt a
trade which would enable her to keep herself in all circumstances of
life. She made artificial flowers.
He had noticed with regret that girls simply waited for a husband who
should keep them; he resolved to marry a free and independent woman
who could earn her own living; such a woman would be his equal and a
companion for life, not a housekeeper.
Fate ordained that they should meet. He was an artist and she, as I
already mentioned, made flowers; they were both living in Paris at the
time when they conceived these ideas.
There was style in their marriage. They took three rooms at Passy. In
the centre was the studio, to the right of it his room, to the left
hers. This did away with the common bed-room and double bed, that
abomination which has no counterpart in nature and is responsible for
a great deal of dissipation and immorality. It moreover did away with
the inconvenience of having to dress and undress in the same room. It
was far better that each of them should have a separate room and that
the studio should be a neutral, common meeting-place.
They required no servant; they were going to do the cooking themselves
and employ an old charwoman in the mornings and evenings. It was all
very well thought out and excellent in theory.
"But supposing you had children?" asked the sceptics.
"Nonsense, there won't be any!"
It worked splendidly. He went to the market in the morning and did the
catering. Then he made the coffee. She made the beds and put the rooms
in order. And then they sat down and worked.
When they were tired of working they gossiped, gave one another good
advice, laughed and were very jolly.
At twelve o'clock he lit the kitchen fire and she prepared the
vegetables. He cooked the beef, while she ran across the street to
the grocer's; then she laid the table and he dished up the dinner.
Of course, they loved one another as husbands and wives do. They said
good-night to each other and went into their own rooms, but there was
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