Part 5 out of 8
"Leon, you must leave here, go abroad again, and do not come back
until mamma and I are able to leave Ploszow."
I was sure she would ask me that. I remained silent for a while as if
searching for an answer.
"You can do with me what you like," I said; "but tell me, why do you
send me into exile?"
"I do not send you into exile; but you know why--"
"I know," I replied, with unfeigned sadness and resignation; "it is
because I am ready to give the last drop of my blood for you, because
I would shield you with my body from any danger, because I love you
more than my life,--these are heavy sins indeed!"
"No," she interrupted, with feverish energy, "but because I am the
wife of a man I love and respect,--and I will not listen to such
Impatience and anger seized me; I knew she did not speak the truth.
All married women shield themselves with love and respect for the
husband when they arrive at a turning-point of their life, though
there may not be a shadow of that feeling in their hearts;
nevertheless, Aniela's words sent a shock through my nerves, and I
could scarcely repress the exclamation: "You say what is not true! you
are perjuring yourself, for you neither love nor respect the man;" but
the thought that her energy would not hold out long made me refrain,
and I replied, almost humbly:--
"Do not be angry with me, Aniela; I will go."
I saw that my humility disarmed her, and that she felt sorry for me.
Suddenly she pulled a leaf from a low-hanging branch, and began to
tear it nervously to pieces. She made superhuman efforts not to burst
into tears, but I saw her breast heaving with agitation.
I, too, was moved to the very depth of my soul, and continued with
"Do not wonder that I hesitate to comply with your wish, for it is
very heavy upon me. I have told you that I do not wish for anything
but to breathe the same air with you, to look at you, and God knows it
is not too much I ask for; yet such as it is, it is my all. And you
take it away from me. Think only; everybody else is allowed to come
here, to speak to you, look at you--but me. Why am I shut out? Because
you are dearer to me than to anybody else! What a refined cruelty of
fate! Only put yourself in my place. It is difficult for you, who have
never known what loneliness means; you love your husband, or think
you do, which comes to the same; put yourself for a moment into my
position, and you will understand that such a sentence is worse than
death. You ought to feel at least a little pity. Driving me from here,
you take everything from me. I told you I had come home to do some
useful work, in which I might find peace, forgetfulness, and redeem
my former sins; only recently I resolved to bring over my father's
collections; and you want me to renounce all that, bid me go away and
begin again a wandering, aimless, life. But have your wish; I will
go if you tell me the same three days hence, for I fancy you did not
quite understand what all this meant for me. Now you know, I only ask
for three days' respite, nothing more."
Aniela covered her eyes with her hands and moaned: "Oh, my God! my
There was something inexpressibly touching in the low cry, like the
wail of a child at its own powerlessness. There was a moment I felt
tempted to promise everything she asked. But in that wail I saw the
promise of a future victory, and I would not lose its fruits.
"Listen to me," I said, "I will go at once, this very moment, and put
seas between us, if you tell me that it is necessary for your own
peace of mind. I speak to you now as a friend, a brother! I know from
my aunt that you loved me; if that love be still alive I will go at
Sincere pain on my part dictated these words; but it was a terrible
trap for Aniela, which might wring a confession from her. If that had
happened--I do not know--maybe I should have kept my word, but as the
heavens are above us, I would have taken her into my arms. But she
only shuddered as if I had touched an open wound; then her face flamed
up in anger and indignation. "No!" she exclaimed with desperate
passion, "it is not true! not true! You may do as you like, go away
or stay, but it is not true!" The very passion with which these words
were uttered showed me that it might be true. I felt inclined to tell
her so with frank brutality, but I saw my aunt coming towards us.
Aniela was not able to conceal her emotion, and my aunt looking at her
asked at once:--
"What is troubling you, child? what have you two been talking about?"
"Aniela was telling me how grieved her mother was about the sale of
Gluchow--and I do not wonder she took it so much to heart."
Whether Aniela's strength was exhausted, or the untruth I made her
take a silent part in filled the cup of bitterness to overflowing, she
burst into incontrollable sobs that shook her like a reed; my aunt
folded her into her arms and hushed her as if she were a little child.
"Aniela, my darling, there is no help for it; let us submit to God's
will. The hail has ruined five of my farms, and I did not even say a
word about it to Chwastowski."
The mention of the five farms appeared to me so inappropriate,
selfish, and futile in presence of Aniela's tears that it made me
quite angry with my aunt.
"Never mind the farms," I said brusquely, "she is grieved about her
mother;" and I went away in sorrow, for I felt I was torturing the
woman I loved beyond anything. I had conquered along the whole line,
yet I felt profoundly sad, as if the future were full of unknown
To-day is the third day since our conversation, and as Aniela has not
referred to it again, I remain. She does not say much to me, nor does
she avoid me altogether, fearing to attract notice. I try to be good,
friendly, and attentive, but do not thrust myself in her way. I want
her to think I keep my feeling under control, but she cannot help
seeing it is there, and increasing every moment. At any rate we have a
little world to ourselves, where only we two dwell; we have our mutual
secret from the others. When we speak about indifferent topics we both
know that at the bottom of our hearts there is something we both think
about but do not put into words. This forms a tie; time and patience
will do the rest. From my love I weave a thousand threads around her,
which will bind us more and more. This would be all in vain if she
loved her husband; it would make her hate me. But the past speaks in
my favor, and the present does not not belong to Kromitzki. I still
think it over with the greatest impartiality, and I come to the same
conclusion, that she cannot love him. Aniela's resistance is the
inward struggle of an exceptionally pure soul, that does not allow a
breath of faithlessness to come near it. But she is without help in
that struggle. I know the resistance will be long, and difficult to
overcome; I must always be on the watch, give a clear account to
myself of every trifle, and weave around her strong and invisible
threads. Even if I should commit any mistakes they will be only, the
result of my love, and as such will be rather a help than a hindrance.
I told Sniatynski about my intention to have my Roman collections
conveyed to Warsaw,--calculating that it would reach the press, which
could not fail to laud me up to the sky as a public benefactor. Aniela
involuntarily must compare me to Kromitzki, which will count in my
favor. I sent also a telegram to Rome, asking for the Sassoferrato.
During breakfast I told Aniela, in presence of the others, that my
father had left the picture to her in his will; which confused her,
and she guessed at once that he had looked upon her as his future
daughter. It is true there was no name mentioned in the will, and for
that very reason I want Aniela to have it. The mention of this bequest
reawoke in us both a host of memories. I had done this on purpose to
turn Aniela's thoughts to the past, when she loved me and could love
me in peace. I know the remembrance must be mingled with some bitter
thoughts, even some resentment; it cannot be otherwise; but it would
be worse without the message I sent her through Sniatynski. This
message is the only extenuating circumstance in the whole guilty
affair. Aniela knows that I wanted to undo the wrong, that I loved her
then, suffered, and repented,--am repenting still, and that if we are
unhappy she too helped to bring that unhappiness on both. She is bound
to absolve me in her heart, regret the past and dream what the future
might have been but for my misdeeds and her severity. Even then I was
reading in her face that she felt frightened at her own thoughts
and visions, and tried to drive them away by a conversation upon
indifferent subjects. My aunt is so full of the approaching races
and the expected victory of Naughty Boy, who is put down for the
government stakes, that she cannot think of anything else. Aniela
thereupon began to talk about the races, and made some random remarks
and asked a few questions, until my aunt got scandalized and said:--
"My dear child, I see you have not the slightest notion about races."
I said to her with my eyes: "I know you want to stifle your feelings;"
and she understood me as if I had said it in so many words. And
indeed, I am quite certain that she is as much absorbed in our mutual
relation as I am. The thought of love independent of matrimony is
already planted in her soul; it is there, and does not leave her for
a moment. She must live with it, and get reconciled to it. In such a
case a woman, even if she had loved her husband, would turn from him.
A drop of water will hollow out a stone. If Aniela loves me ever so
little, if she only loves the past, she will be mine. I cannot think
of it calmly, because the foretaste of happiness is almost choking me.
There are here and there quicksands on the seashore, and the unwary
traveller who wanders there is lost. At times it seems to me that my
love is like one of those quicksands, and that I am dragging Aniela
into it; I myself am sinking, sinking--Let it be so--but together!
My aunt is spending six to eight hours out of the twenty-four at
Burzany, one of her farms, a mile from Ploszow, where she passes her
time in contemplation of Naughty Boy, and in looking after Webb, the
English trainer. I was there above an hour yesterday. Naughty Boy is
a fine animal,--let us hope he will not be naughty when the great day
arrives. But what does it matter to me? Various business is taking me
to town, but I am loath to leave Ploszow. Pani Celina has been worse
the last few days, but young Chwast, as my aunt calls him, says it
is merely a passing symptom; he considers it necessary that somebody
should always be with the sick lady, to distract her from the thoughts
which dwell upon the loss of the dear ancestral home, and consequently
weaken her nerves. I try to show her almost a son's attention, because
in this way I earn Aniela's gratitude, and she gets used to consider
me as belonging to them. I have now not the slightest ill-feeling
towards the old lady,--she is too unhappy herself; and besides, I
begin to love everything and everybody that belongs to Aniela,--with
Yesterday I spent several hours with the invalid, together with Aniela
and Chwast. We were reading and talking. Pani Celina does not sleep at
night, and as the doctor does not approve of sleeping-draughts, she
dozes off in the daytime after any lengthy conversation, and strange
to say, only a sudden silence wakes her up. For this reason we keep up
the conversation or the reading. It was the same to-day. But for the
doctor's presence I could speak to Aniela with the greatest freedom.
Just at this time the daily papers are fully occupied with the divorce
of the beautiful Pani Korytzka. Everybody talks about it, and my aunt,
who is related to the husband, is greatly shocked. I resolved to make
the most of my opportunity, and plant ideas in Aniela's mind that had
not been there before.
"You are quite wrong, dear aunt, to blame Pani Korytzka. To me it
seems that she acts as a true and honest woman should. Where love
begins, human will ends,--even you must acknowledge that. If Pani
Korytzka loves somebody else, nothing remains for her but to leave
her husband. I know what you are going to say, and also what Aniela
thinks,--that duty still remains; is it not so?"
"I think you too must be of the same opinion," replied Aniela.
"Most certainly. The question is which way lies Pani Korytzka's duty."
I do not know why, but the young doctor stipulated that he did
not recognize any free will, but afterwards listened attentively,
evidently pleased with the boldness of my views.
But seeing astonishment on Aniela's face, I went on quickly:--
"What can there be more barbarous or unnatural than to ask a woman to
sacrifice the man she loves to the man she does not love? Religious
beliefs may be in contradiction with one another, but they all agree
upon the same ethics, that marriage is based upon love. What then is
matrimony? It is either something inviolable and essentially holy
when resting upon such a basis, or if otherwise, only a contract
in contradiction to religion and morality, and as such ought to be
dissolved. Otherwise speaking, a woman's duties spring from her
feelings, and not from a number of more or less solemn ceremonies,
which in themselves are only so many forms. I say this because I am a
man who puts truth above mere forms. I know the word 'faithlessness'
sounds very terrible. But do not delude yourselves with the notion
that a woman is faithless at the moment she leaves her husband. She
is faithless the very moment she feels that her love for him is gone.
What follows after is only a question of her capacity to bring things
to a logical conclusion, of her courage and her heart that knows, or
does not know, the meaning of love. Pani Korytzka loved the man for
whom she divorces her husband before she was married; the marriage
was contracted in a moment of misunderstanding, she mistaking an
exhibition of jealousy for indifference. This was her only mistake;
which she wants to correct now that she understands that it was not
right to sacrifice the man she loved to the man she looked upon with
indifference; nobody but those who will not see can call her bad or a
There was as much fiction as truth in what I was saying. I knew my
aunt would never agree to the theory that the will ends when love
steps in; but I said it to impress Aniela with the idea that there was
no doubt about it. That first lover was also an invention of my own,
to make the story more to the point. But I was perfectly sincere when
speaking about the rights and duties springing from feeling. It is
quite another thing that I might not stand up for this theory if it
did not suit me just then; but man is always subjective, especially
the man who has doubted all objective truths.
I stood up for myself, and should have been foolish to speak against
my own interest. I counted that this kind of reasoning would hasten
the evolution of her soul, encourage her, and finally justify her in
her own eyes. Considering her great sensitiveness, I thought some of
it would take root. She understood me perfectly, and I could see that
every word thrilled her nerves; her color came and went; she put her
hands to her burning face to cool it. At last, when I had ceased
speaking, she replied:--
"Everything may be proved in some way or other; but when we do wrong
our conscience tells us, 'It is wrong, wrong!' and nothing can
convince it to the contrary."
Young Chwastowski must have thought Aniela wanting in philosophical
development, and as to myself I had a sensation like that, for
instance, when a weapon comes into contact with a stone wall. Aniela's
reply, in its simplicity and dogmatism, brought to naught all my
arguments. For if the principle that the will ends where love steps in
might be open to doubt, there is no doubt whatever that where dogma
begins reasoning ceases. Women generally, and Polish women especially,
agree with logic as long as it does not bring them into danger. At the
approach of danger they shelter themselves behind the fortifications
of simple faith and catechismal truth, which strong feeling might
force to surrender, but reasoning, never. It is their weakness, and at
the same time their strength. In consequence of this their power of
reasoning is weaker than man's, but their saintliness in certain
conditions becomes unassailable. The devil can lead a woman astray
only when he inspires her with love; by way of reasoning he can do
nothing, even if for once he has the right on his side.
In presence of these reflections I feel disheartened. I am thinking
that any structure, however cleverly and artfully raised by me, will
be pulled down by the simple words: "It is wrong; conscience does not
In presence of that I am powerless. I must be very careful so as
not to estrange or frighten her by the boldness of ideas I try to
acclimatize in her mind. And yet I cannot give up all endeavors of
this kind. Though they do not occupy the first place in the plan of
subduing her, they may hasten the solution. They would be of no use
whatever if it were true that she did not love me. If I had made a
mistake,--but even then there would be some kind of solution.
To-day I found Aniela standing on a chair before the old Dantzic clock
which had gone wrong. At the moment she raised herself on tip-toe to
reach the hands, the chair gave way. I had only time to cry out, "Take
care! you are falling!" I caught her in my arms, and put her on the
floor. For the twinkling of an eye I held the dear girl in my arms,
her hair touched my face, her breath fanned my cheek. I felt so dizzy
that I had to steady myself by grasping the back of a chair,--and she
saw it. She knows I love her madly. I cannot write any more.
My whole day was poisoned, for Aniela has received another letter from
Kromitzki. I heard her telling my aunt that he does not know himself
when he will be able to return,--may be shortly, or it may be two
months hence. I cannot even imagine how I shall be able to bear his
presence near Aniela. At times it seems that I simply could not bear
it. I count upon some lucky chance that will prevent his coming back.
Chwastowski says Pani Celina ought to go to Gastein as soon as she can
bear the journey. Gastein is such a distance from Baku that it may be
too far for Kromitzki to go. I shall go there as sure as there is a
heaven above us. It is a happy thought of Chwastowski's; the baths
will do us all much good. I too feel fagged and in want of bracing
mountain air, and still more in want of being near Aniela. To-morrow I
shall go to Warsaw, and send a telegram to the manager of the bathing
establishment to secure rooms for the ladies. If no rooms are to be
had, I am ready to buy a villa. When Pani Celina spoke of the trouble
and difficulties it would give Aniela were she to go there, I only
said: "Leave it all to me;" and then, in a lower voice, to Aniela: "I
will take care of her as if she were my own mother." I saw that Pani
Celina, who believes less and less in Kromitzki's millions, was afraid
I might arrange things on too expensive a scale; but I have already
settled it in my mind to show her a fictitious agreement, and take the
greater part of the expenses upon myself. Of course, I never mentioned
that I intended going there myself. I will arrange it so that the
proposal shall come from my aunt. I am quite sure that, as soon as I
unfold my plans of going somewhere in the hills to recruit my health,
the good soul will fall into the trap, and say: "Why not go with them?
it will be more comfortable for all of you." I know it will frighten
Aniela, and in the most secret recess of her heart please her a
little. Maybe it will remind her of the poet's line, "You are
everywhere: above me, around me, and within me." Then truly, my love
will surround her as with an enchanted circle, enter her heart in the
guise of thoughtfulness towards the mother,--in the guise of little
services she cannot refuse without exciting her mother's suspicions;
all this will gradually sink into her heart, in the guise of gratitude
and pity for my sufferings, will thrust itself upon her with all the
force of old memories.
She hears my praises sung by everybody: by my aunt, who loves me
blindly as she always did; by young Chwastowski, who, to show the
impartiality people of his opinions are capable of, maintains I am an
exception in the "rotten sphere." I have even won over Pani Celina
by my attentions; she likes me now, and involuntarily, I dare say,
regrets that I am not Aniela's husband. All around Aniela there is one
great suggestion of love.
And you, dearest, are you going to resist all these powers? When will
you come and tell me: "I cannot hold out any longer; take me,--I love
Warsaw, 31 May.
Pani L., the patroness of a charitable institution, asked Clara to
give another concert for the benefit of the destitute. Clara refused
on the plea that she is busy upon a great musical work that engages
all her attention. The letter,--a very pattern of polite refusal,--was
accompanied by exactly the same sum of money the first concert had
brought in. It is easy to imagine what a sensation this act of
generosity made in Warsaw. The papers were full of it, raising the
musician and her generosity to the sky. Naturally, her private means,
which are considerable, gained in dimensions. I do not know how
society came to couple our names; perhaps, our acquaintance, dating
from a long time, our intimacy, and the exaggerated news of her wealth
gave rise to the rumor. I was at first a little angry on hearing this;
but upon maturer reflection, resolved not to give any direct denial,
because this puts my attentions towards Aniela beyond all suspicion.
When I went to Clara's morning reception, Pani Korytzka came up to me,
and, with that witty, aggressive air of hers, asked me in presence of
some dozen people from the musical world and Warsaw society, in an
"Tell me, cousin, who was that mythological person that could not
resist the Siren?"
"Nobody resisted, _ma cousine_, except Ulysses; and he only because he
was tied to the mast."
"And why have you not taken these precautions?"
I saw some covert smiles lurking in the faces of those who witnessed
the attack, and I retorted,--
"Sometimes even that is of no use. You know that love sunders the
In spite of all her self-possession, Pani Korytzka grew confused,
and I gained one of those tiny victories which are comprised in the
proverb, "The scythe hit upon a stone," or in plain English, "The
Whether people repeat to each other that I am going to marry Clara or
not, does not trouble me in the least; in fact, for the above stated
reason I do not mind it at all; but I did not expect that this visit
would turn out so unpleasant, and Clara herself be the cause of it.
When all the people had left, and only Sniatynski and I remained, she
sat down to the piano, and played her new concerto,--played it so
magnificently that we could not find words to express our admiration;
repeating at our request the finale, she said, suddenly,--
"This is my farewell, because everything comes to a finale."
"Surely you are not thinking of leaving us?" asked Sniatynski.
"Yes, in ten days at the furthest I must be at Frankfurt," replied
Thereupon Sniatynski turned to me,--
"And what do you say to that,--you who at Ploszow gave us to
understand, made us hope, Miss Hilst would remain with us always?"
"Yes; and I say the same now: her memory will always remain with us."
"Yes; I understood it so," replied Clara, with naive resignation.
Inwardly I was furious,--with myself, Sniatynski, and Clara. I am
neither so vain, foolish, nor mean that every conquest of that kind
should rejoice me; therefore felt annoyed at the thought that Clara
might love me, and nourish some baseless hopes. I knew she had some
kind of undefined feeling, which, given time and occasion, might
develop into something more lasting; but I had no idea this vague
feeling dared to wish or expect something. It suddenly struck me that
the announcement of her departure was prompted by a desire to find out
how I would receive the news. I received it very coolly. A love like
mine for Aniela ought to teach compassion; yet Clara's sadness and the
mention of her departure, not only did not move me, but seemed to me
an audacious flight of fancy and an insult to me.
Why? Not from any aristocratic notions; that is certain. I could
not account at once for the strange phenomenon; but now explain it
thus,--the feeling of belonging to Aniela is so strong and exclusive
that it seems to me that any other woman wanting but one pulsation of
my heart endeavors to steal something that is Aniela's property. This
explanation is sufficient for me. No doubt, by and by I shall bid
Clara good-by, and feel as friendly as ever towards her; but the
sudden announcement of her departure gave me a distaste for her. It is
only Aniela who may with impunity trample on my nerves. Never did I
look at Clara so critically and resentfully; for the first time
I became fully aware of the amplitude of her figure, the bright
complexion, the dark hair, and blue, somewhat protruding eyes, the
lips like ripe cherries,--in brief, her whole beauty reminded me of
the cheap chromo-lithographs of harem beauties in second-class hotels.
I left her in the worst of humors, and went straight to a book-shop to
select some books for Aniela.
For a week I had been thinking what to choose for her reading. I did
not wish to neglect anything, though I did not attach undue weight
to this, as it acts very slowly. Besides, I have noticed that to
our women, though their imagination is more developed than their
temperament, a book is always something unreal. If it falls even into
the hands of an exceptionally susceptible person, it creates in her
at the most an abstract world, that has no connection with real life
whatever. To almost none of them it occurs that ideas taken from books
can be applied to any practical purpose. I am convinced that if a
great writer tried to prove, for instance, that purity of thought and
mind were not only superfluous in a woman, but even blameworthy from
a moral point of view,--Aniela would opine that the principle might
apply to the whole world with the exception of herself. The utmost I
can hope for is that the reading of appropriate books will render her
familiar with a certain kind of broad views and thoughts. That is all
I wish for. Loving her from my whole soul, I want her to respond to
that love, and do not neglect any means towards that end. I, who never
deceive myself, confess openly that I want Aniela to sacrifice for me
her husband, but I do not want to corrupt her or to soil her purity.
Let nobody tell me that this is a sophism, and that the one includes
the other. The tormenting devil that is always within me raising
difficulties says: "You create new theories; the way of faithlessness
_is_ the way of corruption." How these conflicting thoughts tear me
to pieces! I reply to the familiar spirit: "I might doubt opposite
theories quite as much; I contrive what I can in defence of my
love,--it is my natural law." And there is a greater law still, the
law of love. Some feelings are mean and commonplace, others lofty and
full of nobility. A woman that follows the call of lofty feeling does
not lose the nobility of her soul. Such a great, exceptional love I
try to awake in Aniela, and therefore I may say conscientiously that I
do not want to corrupt her.
Besides, these inward arguments do not lead to anything. Even if I had
not the slightest doubt that I am doing wrong, if I were unable to
give any conclusive answer to the tormenting spirit, I would not cease
loving; and always following where a greater power leads me, I should
go according to my feeling, and not according to abstract reasoning.
But the true misfortune of those analytic and hyper-analytic modern
people is that, though not believing in the result of their analysis,
they have the invincible habit of inquiring into everything that goes
on within themselves. It is the same with me. For some time I have
been questioning myself how it is possible that a man absorbed by a
great feeling should be able to be so watchful, so calculating about
ways and means, and to account for everything as if somebody else did
it for him. I could reply to it in this way: The man of the period
reserves above everything part of himself to observe the other
part. Besides, the whole activity of a mind full of forethought, of
reflections apparently cool, stands eventually in proportion to the
temperature of the feeling. The hotter this grows, the more cool
reason is forced into service. I repeat, it is a mistake to represent
love with bandaged eyes. Love does not suppress reason, as it does
not suppress the breathing, or the beating of the heart,--it only
subjugates it. Reason thereupon becomes the first adviser, the
implement of war,--in other words, it plays the part of an Agrippa to
a Caesar Augustus. It is holding all the forces in readiness, leads
them into war, gains victories, and places the monarch on the
triumphal car; it erects finally,--not a Pantheon, like the historical
Agrippa,--but a Monotheon, where it serves its only divinity. In the
microcosm called man, the part reason plays is a still greater one
than that of chief commander,--for it reflects into infinite parts the
consciousness of everything and of self,--as a collection of properly
arranged mirrors reflect a given object infinitely.
Yesterday I received news from Gastein. The rooms for Pani Celina and
Aniela are ready. I sent them the particulars, together with a parcel
of books by Balzac and George Sand. To-day is Sunday, and the first
day of the races. My aunt has arrived from Ploszow and taken up her
abode with me. That she went to the races is a matter of course,
she is altogether absorbed in them. But our horses, Naughty Boy and
Aurora, which arrived here two days ago with the trainer Webb and Jack
Goose, the jockey, are on the list for Thursday; therefore my aunt's
attendance at the Sunday races was merely a platonic affair. The
goings on here are past all description. The stables have been
converted into a kind of fortress. My aunt fancies the jockeys of
other racing studkeepers shake in their shoes at the very mention of
Naughty Boy, and are ready to use every means to prevent his running;
consequently in every orange boy or organ grinder that comes into the
yard, she sees an enemy in disguise, bent upon some evil practice. The
Swiss porter and the servants have strict orders to keep an eye upon
everybody that comes in. In the stables, the precautions taken are
still stricter. The trainer Webb, being an Englishman, remains
impassive, but the unfortunate Jack Goose, a native of Burzany, and
whose name is a literal translation from the Polish Kuba Gonsior,
fairly loses his head; my aunt scolds him and the grooms, natives also
of Burzany, whenever she fancies things are going wrong. She was so
much at the stables that I did not see much of her, and only when
departing she told me that Aniela was to come for the races. I suppose
Pani Celina consented to this in order to please my aunt; besides, she
can very well remain alone for one day, with the doctor and the maids
to look after her. Aniela, who is walled up at Ploszow day after day,
really wants a little change. For me this is joyful news indeed. The
very thought that she will be under my roof has a singular charm for
me. Here I began to love her and maybe her heart kept beating a little
faster after that entertainment my aunt gave here in her honor.
Everything here will remind her of the past.
It is fortunate I did not have the rooms altered to suit a museum. I
have an idea to give a dinner-party after the races. In this way I
shall be able to keep her here a few hours longer,--and besides, she
will understand that it is all for her.
I ordered a cartload of plants and flowers to put along the staircase
and in the rooms. Aniela's room remains exactly as it was when she
occupied it. I suppose the ladies will arrive in the morning and
Aniela will want to change her dress. I had a large mirror put there,
and every requisite for a lady's toilet. Aniela will meet everywhere
proofs of thoughtfulness, memory, and faithful love. Only now, while
writing, it strikes me how much easier I feel when occupied with
something, when outward activity takes me out of the enchanted circle
of reflection and pondering over myself. Even driving nails into
the wall for the pictures of the future museum would be better than
twisting one idea around another. Why cannot I be a simple-minded man?
If I had been that in times gone by I should be now the happiest man
in the world.
I went to-day to invite the Sniatynskis and several other people to
dinner. Sniatynski has spread the news of my founding a museum for the
public, and I am at present the hero of the day. All the papers write
about it, improving the occasion as usual by pitching into those that
waste their substance abroad instead of doing good to the country.
I know their style so well, and it amuses me. There are the usual
phrases about a citizen's duties and "noblesse oblige," but it suits
my purpose. I gathered the whole packet to show my aunt and Aniela.
The races have been fixed a day sooner because of to-morrow's holiday.
Aniela and my aunt arrived this morning with a maid and sundry boxes
containing their racing toilets. The first glance at Aniela filled me
with terror. She does not look well at all; her face is wan and
has lost its former warm color; it seems smaller too, and there is
something misty about her that reminds me of Puvis de Chawannes'
figures. My aunt and her mother do not notice it, because they see her
every day; but to me, after the absence of a few days, the change is
very remarkable. I am seized with contrition and sincere pity. It is
evident that the inward struggle is telling upon her. If she would
only end it, and follow the dictates of a heart that is mine,--a
hundred times mine and pleads for me,--all her troubles would
cease and happiness begin. I am getting deeper and deeper into the
quicksands. It seemed to me that I knew her so well; every detail and
every feature stands out before my eyes when I do not see her, and yet
when I meet her, after a few days' absence, I discover a new charm,
and find something new I like in her. How she satisfies my every
taste, and I am deeply conscious that she is my type,--my only
affinity. This consciousness gives me a belief, half mystic, half
approaching the natural hypothesis, that she was meant for me. When
hearing the sound of wheels, I ran down to meet her, and again had the
sensation one might call falling under the spell; again the reality
seemed to me more perfect than the picture I carry in my heart. She
was dressed in a dust-cloak of Chinese silk; a long gray veil was
twisted round her hat and tied under her chin, and from amid that
frame the dear face, always more like a girl's than a married woman's,
smiled at me. Her greeting was more cheerful and more frank than
usual; it was evident the morning drive and the prospect of a little
pleasure had brightened her spirits; this filled me with delight. I
thought, "She is glad to see me again, and Ploszow appears to her dull
and empty without me." I offered one arm to my aunt and the other to
Aniela, as the staircase is wide enough for three persons, and led
them upstairs. At the sight of all the plants and flowers she uttered
a little cry of wonder.
"It is my surprise," I said.
I pressed her arm slightly, so slightly that it might have passed for
an accidental movement, and then turning to my aunt, said:--
"I am giving a dinner in honor of the Ploszowski success."
My aunt was deeply gratified with my belief in that event. Ah! if she
knew how little I care for Naughty Boy, and all the races the Ploszow
horses might win on all the race-courses of Europe. Aniela evidently
guessed something of this, but she was in such spirits that she only
cast a passing glance at me, and bit her lips to hide a smile.
I well-nigh lost my head. In the covert smile I saw a shade of
coquetry I had never noticed there before. It is impossible, I
thought, that she should have no vanity whatever, and not feel
flattered in the least, on perceiving that all I am doing is done
through her and for her sake.
My aunt divested herself of her travelling-wraps, and without delay
went to inspect Naughty Boy and Aurora, and I showed Aniela the list
of the invited guests.
"I tried to bring together people you like; but if there is anybody
else you would like to have, I will go myself, or send an invitation."
"Show it to aunty;" replied Aniela, "let her decide."
"No; aunty will sit at the head of the table, and we shall go to her
with our congratulations or condolences, as the case may be; but the
part of lady of the house I have assigned to you."
Aniela blushed a little, and, trying to change the conversation,
"Leon, I do hope Naughty Boy will win; aunty has set her heart upon
it, and will be so vexed if it should turn out otherwise."
"I have won already, because I have as guest under my roof a certain
small person who is sitting opposite me."
"You are making fun; but I am really anxious about it."
"My aunt," I replied, more seriously, "will have some compensation if
she loses. My collections will be in Warsaw in a few weeks, and this
has been the dearest wish of her life. She always tried to make my
father give them to the town. All the papers are full of it, and
praise me to an extent you have no idea of."
The dear face lit up with pleasure.
"Show me; read it to me," she said eagerly.
I had a desire to kiss her hands for that glimpse of brightness. It
was a new proof. If I were indifferent to her, would she rejoice so
much when I am praised?
"Not now," I replied. "I will read it when my aunt comes back, or
rather she must read it, and I will hide my blushes behind you; you,
at least, shall not see how foolish I look."
"Why should you look foolish?"
"Because the thing is not worth all the fuss, and if there be any
merit in it, it is yours, not mine. They ought to praise you. I would
give a good deal if I could tell those journalists: 'If you think well
of it, go _en masse_ and kneel at certain little feet and pour out
your gratitude there!'"
"Leon! Leon!" interrupted Aniela.
"Now do not say a word, lest I should feel tempted to divulge the
Aniela did not know what to say. The words were those of a man in
love; but the tone was so playful and jesting that she could not
possibly receive them in a tragic spirit.
I was glad I had discovered a way by which I could convey a deeper
meaning without absolutely frightening her. But I did not take too
much advantage of it, and presently, in a more serious tone, began
telling her about the projected changes in the house.
"The whole story is to be given up to the collections, with the
exception of the room in which you lived last winter. This remains as
it was. I have only permitted myself to adorn it a little for your
Saying this I led her to the door. Standing on the threshold she
exclaimed with astonishment:--
"Oh, what lovely flowers!"
I said in a low voice:--
"And you the most lovely among them!"
Then added, earnestly:--
"You believe me, Aniela, if I tell you that it is in this room I wish
to die some day!"
Oh, how much sincerity there was in these words. Aniela's face grew
misty; all the radiance had gone. I saw that my words had touched a
chord, as all words do that come from the depth of the soul. For
a moment her whole body swayed as if some inward power pushed her
towards me. But she resisted still. She stood before me, her eyes
veiled by the long lashes, and said, with mournful dignity:--
"Let me be at ease with you, Leon; do not sadden me."
"Very well, Aniela; I will not say anything more; here is my hand upon
I gave her my hand, and she pressed it warmly, as if by that pressure
she wanted to say all she forbade her lips to utter. It indemnified me
for all I had suffered, and almost made me stagger on my feet. For
the first time I felt distinctly that I was taking for my own this
being,--body and soul. It was a sensation of such immeasurable
happiness as to cause me almost pain. New, unknown worlds began
to open for me. From this moment I grew quite convinced that her
resistance was only a question of time.
My aunt returned from the stables in excellent humor; no attempt had
been made upon Naughty Boy's precious health. The trainer, Webb, to
all inquiries, had the same answer,--"All right." Jack Goose was
animated by the boldest spirit. We went to the window to see the
future conquerors come from the stables; for it was time they went to
the Mokotoff Field, there to pace around until their turn arrived.
A few minutes later we saw the grooms leading them into the yard,
encased from top to bottom as in a pillow-slip. Only the soft eyes
were visible through the slit; and from below, the shapely feet that
seemed wrought in steel. They were followed by Webb and our little
home-bred Englishman, Jack Goose, in a new overcoat, which concealed
his silks and jockey-boots. I called out to him through the open
"Mind, and don't get beaten, Kuba!"
He raised his cap, and pointing with it at Naughty Boy, replied in the
purest, not London, but Bursany, dialect:--
"Bedom prosz jasnie hrabiego widzieli, ale ino jegozad." (They will
see him, my lord, but only his hind-quarters.)
We sat down to a hurried lunch; nevertheless my aunt had time to read
what the papers had to say about the future museum. It is strange how
sensitive women are to public applause for their nearest mankind. My
aunt fairly beamed at me through her spectacles, and was incomparable
when she now and then, interrupting the reading, glanced keenly at
Aniela, and then said in her most dogmatic tone:--
"They do not exaggerate the least bit. He was always like that."
Praise heaven there was not another sceptic mind present, otherwise I
should have looked foolish indeed.
It was time for the ladies to dress. Before leaving the room my aunt
turned to me and said with the most innocent expression of face:--
"We must be quick, for I promised to call for Panna Zawilowski; she
was going with her father, but as he is suffering from an attack of
gout I shall have to chaperon her."
With this she went to her room. We looked at each other, Aniela and I;
the corners of her mouth twitched with merriment. "Aniela, it is a new
matrimonial scheme, what shall I do?" She put a finger to her lips
in warning that I spoke too loud, and disappeared within her room;
presently the lovely head peeped out through the half-open door.
"I just remembered you have not asked Miss Hilst," she said.
"No, I have not asked her."
"Because I love her on the sly," I retorted, laughing.
"Seriously, why did you not invite her?"
"If you wish I will invite her now."
"It is as you wish," she replied, and disappeared again.
But I preferred not to invite Miss Hilst.
An hour later we were driving in the Belvederski Avenue. Aniela wore a
cream-colored dress trimmed with lace. I have such a knack of saying
with my eyes what my lips must not utter, that Aniela read in them
my rapture. I recognized it in her face, that looked half-pleased,
half-vexed. We stopped on the way before the Zawilowski villa, and
before I had time to ring, the door opened, and Panna Zawilowska
herself came out. She stood before me a vision in silver gray, rather
a cold vision, as she barely nodded to me before going to my aunt.
She is rather plain than pretty,--a blond with steely blue eyes and
studied manners. She is considered a very pattern of distinction, and
with good reason; that is, if distinction means the same as stiffness.
Her treatment of me is as cold as her eyes, too cold even to be quite
natural. If this is a method adopted on purpose to chafe my vanity, it
is very foolish, for it only bores me, and does not provoke me in the
least. I am rather glad of it, as it permits me to pay her only such
attentions as simple politeness exacts.
To-day I paid her a little more attention; she served me in fact as
a screen to avert any suspicion from Aniela. Presently we drove on
again, but very slowly, as in front and in rear as far as the eye
could reach, all sorts of vehicles were moving in the same direction.
Before us and behind, there was a perfect stream of sunshades; the
various colors of which shone in the sun and created a warmly tinted
shadow from beneath which peeped forth, women's heads with delicate
and refined features. There was the average number of pretty faces,
but they expressed a want of temperament. I did not even see it in the
financial world, which, besides many other things, puts on temperament
rather than possesses it in reality. Among the carriages not a few
displayed considerable taste, and the bright toilets changing and
gleaming in the sun on a background of green trees, the crowds of
fine people and fine horses gave the whole show a highly civilized
appearance, not lacking either in picturesqueness. I was glad to see
Aniela pleased with the motion and turmoil. Replying to my casual
remarks she looked at me with gratitude as if it were I that had
arranged it all for her pleasure. Sitting opposite, I could look at
her without constraint, but I turned oftener towards Panna Zawilowska,
from whom blew a cold air, as from a decanter of iced water, which
began to amuse me; her words and manner seemed to imply that she
agreed to my society, because politeness did not permit her to do
otherwise. I treated her with a certain good-humored courtesy that
seemed to irritate her not a little.
We arrived at last on the Mokotoffskie Pola. There was a reserved
place near the grand stand for my aunt's carriage, and presently
various acquaintances with tickets stuck on their hats came up and
congratulated her upon the promising appearance of Naughty Boy. One of
the greatest horsebreeders said to her that the horse was a splendid
animal, though not sufficiently trained; but as the turf was soft from
yesterday's rain, a strong animal like Naughty Boy stood a fair chance
of coming in a winner.
It seemed to me that he spoke a little ironically, which made me feel
uneasy. Naughty Boy's defeat would spoil the day for my aunt, and
indirectly for me, too, as her bad humor would damp our pleasure. In
the mean while I looked around me at the field, and searched for known
faces. The race course was thronged with people. The grand stand
looked like a dark, compact mass, relieved by bright female toilets.
The course was surrounded by rows after rows of spectators; even the
town walls were alive with them. On either side of the grand stand
stood a long line of carriages; each separately looked like a
flower-basket. Not very far from where I stood I became suddenly aware
of a pink face and aggressive little nose that could not belong to
anybody but Pani Sniatynska. I went up to her and she told me her
husband had just left her to look for Miss Hilst; and then, almost in
one breath, asked me how my aunt was, whether Aniela was at the races,
how the ladies would manage their journey to Gastein since Pani Celina
could not walk, whether I thought Naughty Boy would win the race, and
what we would do if he lost, and how many people had I invited to
dinner. While standing near her carriage I noticed what a sweet
expression her face has, and the pretty foot that peeped forth from
the carriage; but as to answering all the questions, I should have to
borrow Gargantua's mouth, as Shakspeare says. Replying to one or two
of the questions and saying I hoped to see her after the races, I
followed Sniatynski's track in search of Clara. I found her carriage
not far from my aunt's. Clara looked like a hill covered with
heliotrope blossoms. I found her surrounded by a host of admirers and
artists, conversing gayly with them. Her face clouded when she saw me,
and my reception was of the coolest. A friendly word from me would
have changed all that, but I remained cold; after a quarter of an
hour's polite and ceremonious conversation, I went farther, exchanging
here and there a few words with people I knew, and then turned toward
our own carriage. The first two races had taken place, and Naughty
Boy's turn came at last.
I looked at my aunt; the expression of her face was very solemn; she
evidently tried her best to keep cool. On the contrary, Aniela's face
showed evident uneasiness. We had to wait some time before the horses
came out, because the weighing lasted unusually long. Suddenly
Sniatynski came running up, gesticulating with both hands, and showing
some bits of paper.
"I have put a pot of money on Naughty Boy," he exclaimed; "if he
betrays me, I shall have to throw myself upon your well-known
"I trust--" began my aunt, with all her dignity.
But she did not finish her sentence, as at this moment from amid the
dark mass of people there rose the varicolored caps and silks of the
jockeys. The horses were slowly trotting along. Some of them, finding
themselves in the open, quickened their pace; others followed more
leisurely. At the start they passed us in a group and not very fast,
so as to save their horses' strength, the race being a double one. But
at the second turn they were drawn out in a line. It looked as if the
wind had scattered the petals of some flowers along the road. The
first was a jockey in white, closely followed by another in pale blue
and red, then two together, one in red, the other in red and yellow;
our Kuba in orange and black was last but one, followed by a jockey
in white and blue. This order did not last long. When the horses had
reached the other side of the course, there arose some commotion in
the carriages. The more excited ladies climbed up on the seats so as
not to lose the least part of the race; their example was followed by
my aunt, who evidently could not sit still any longer.
Aniela offered her place to Panna Zawilowska, who, after some
ceremonious protests, accepted it; and I helped Aniela to the back
seat, and, as she had nothing to hold on by, offered her my hand. I
confess that I did not think of the race so much as of the dear little
hand that rested so trustingly in mine.
My aunt's back obscured the view a little; but raising myself on
tiptoe, I swept the whole field with my eyes, and saw the jockeys
drawing near the curve of the other side. Seen from this distance,
they looked like bright-colored beetles flying through the air; the
motion appeared slow, and the throwing out of the horses' fore and
hind legs almost mechanical. But in spite of the apparent slowness,
they cleared the ground very swiftly.
The order of the riders was changed again. The white was still
leading, followed by the red; but our Kuba was third now. The others
remained behind, and the distance between them grew wider every
moment. Naughty Boy was evidently not the worst among them. For a
moment I lost sight of him, and presently saw him again as they passed
us. The red was close upon the white, and Kuba gaining ground. I now
observed for the first time that the white would have no chance, as
the horse's flanks shone with moisture, as if water had been poured
over him. It was clear the race would lie between the red and orange
and black. At the worst, Naughty Boy would be second, and the defeat
not so complete. What inspired me with confidence was the horse's
pace; he threw out his legs so evenly, as if he performed a daily
task. The spectators' excitement became greater every moment.
"Has Naughty Boy lost?" asked Aniela, in a low, excited voice, seeing
the order in which the horses came past the stand.
"No, dear; they have still another round," I replied, pressing her
hand slightly. She did not withdraw her hand; it is true that her
whole attention was absorbed in the race. When the horses came to the
other side, Kuba was second, the white was so exhausted that he had to
fall back, and the three following riders came up to him. It was now a
race between the two, and there were only five or six lengths between
them. Suddenly a loud murmur from the stand told us that something
unusual had happened; Kuba was coming up to his adversary. The murmurs
on the stand grew into a tumult. Aniela was so carried away by
excitement that she squeezed my hand nervously, and asked every
moment, "What are they doing now?" The riders were on the left side of
the field. The red, by the help of his whip, had gained a little;
but presently Naughty Boy almost touched him with his nose. In this
furious pace they came both on a line with the stand, where we lost
sight of them again. The struggle would be over now in a few seconds.
On the stand there was a momentary silence, which suddenly changed
into loud, prolonged cheering. Many people were running along the
lines which hide the road, and at this moment we saw the red nostrils;
the horse's head, stretched out like a cord, orange and black, was
carried along as if by a hurricane. The bell rang on the grand
stand,--the victory was ours.
The red had lost by a dozen lengths.
I must say for my aunt that she never lost her self-possession. Nobody
but me noticed the few drops of perspiration which stood on her
forehead; she fanned with her pocket-handkerchief. Aniela was excited,
amused, and happy. We both congratulated our aunt; even Panna
Zawilowska said a few French sentences, stiff and proper, as if taken
from a copy-book. Presently a crowd of acquaintances thronged around
our carriage, and my aunt's triumph was complete.
I was also intoxicated, but by something quite different; namely,
the pressure of Aniela's hand. In vain I said to myself that it was
nothing but the excitement of the moment; because it occurred to me
that a woman's resistance often passes a crisis in such moments of
exaltation, when carried beside herself by some amusement, beautiful
view, or other circumstance different from the even tenor of every-day
life. Then a certain relaxation of the nerves takes place, in presence
of which a loss of the usual balance is easily explained. Taking
into account this special state of Aniela's mind, I arrived at the
conclusion that she did not fight against her feeling any longer; and
I resolved to put an end to it.
I suppose at Ploszow there will be no difficulty about a chance. We go
back to-morrow. To-day's entertainment, the dinner, the conversation,
and the excitement are so many drops of narcotic. She does not
even suppose what happiness there is in store for us; but she must
surrender her soul to me, wholly and unconditionally.
Though my aunt had notified Pani Celina that we might remain at Warsaw
until the next day, we really intended going back after dinner,--when
something occurred that prevented our starting. Dinner and tea
afterwards lasted until ten o'clock. When the last of our guests had
departed somebody came to tell my aunt that Naughty Boy had been taken
ill. There was a great confusion. The vet was sent for in a hurry, but
it was midnight before he arrived. My aunt would not think of going so
late as that.
Aniela wanted to go very much, but knew I would have to go with her;
and she is still afraid of me. My aunt told her she would only rouse
the whole house, disturbing thereby her mother, and wound up by
"Leon does not mind my looking at his house as my own; consequently
you are my guest. It would be the same if I gave up Ploszow to him; I
should live there, and you with me,--at least, so long as Celina has
not recovered her health."
And finally Aniela had to remain.
It is now three o'clock in the morning. It is already growing light;
but lanterns are still flitting across the yard near the stables,
where they are busy with Naughty Boy.
My aunt, when wishing us good-night, announced that she intended to
remain a day longer at Warsaw; whereupon I said that I had left some
papers at Ploszow, and would go and fetch them, and see Aniela home at
the same time. We shall be alone, and I will hesitate no longer. The
blood rushes to my heart at the thought that I shall travel, though
only a short distance, with the dear love close to my heart, and
listen to her confession that she loves me as much as I love her.
The sky is clouded, and it has begun to rain. A few hours only divide
me from the moment when a new life is to begin for me. Of course I do
not sleep; I could not sleep now for anything in the world. There is
no heaviness on my eyelids,--I write, and recall memories. I still
seem to feel the pressure of her hand on mine. I made that soul,
educated, developed it, and prepared it for love. I am like the head
of an army, who has foreseen all chances, arranged and calculated
everything, and does not sleep on the eve of the day that will decide
his fate. But Aniela sleeps peacefully on the other side of the house;
and even her dreams plead for me, for my love. When I think of this,
all my nerves are vibrating.
In that ocean of trouble, evil, foolishness, uncertainties, and doubts
we call life, there is one thing worth living for, as certain and as
strong as--nay, stronger than--death; and that is love. Beyond it
there is nothingness.
I went with Aniela, and am even now asking myself, "Have I gone mad?"
I did not hold her close to my heart, did not hear an avowal of love.
I was spurned without a moment's hesitation; all her modesty risen
in arms, she reduced me to a mere nothing. What is it? Am I a fool
without brains, or has she no heart? What am I fighting against? What
are the obstacles in my way? Why does she spurn me? My head is in such
a chaotic state that I can neither think, write, nor reason. I only
repeat to myself, over and over again, "What is it that bars my way?"
I have made an enormous mistake somewhere; there is something in
Aniela I have not observed or taken into account. For two days I have
tried to understand what has happened to me, but my head was in such a
whirl that I could not think. Now I am collecting my thoughts, pulling
myself together to look the situation in the face. It would be clear
enough if Aniela were guarded by a strong love for her husband. I
could understand then the offended modesty and indignation with which
a being, so meek and sweet-tempered usually, spurned me from her feet.
But I cannot even suppose such a thing. I have still enough brains
left to know that it is a mistake to see things too black, as it is
a mistake to see them too rose-colored. Where should her love for
Kromitzki have come from? She married him without love. In the short
time they lived together, he deceived her and sold the land so dear
to both of those women, and injured her mother's health. They have no
child; besides, a child does not teach a woman to love her husband; it
only teaches her to take him into account; it makes her safer,--that
is to say, it strengthens the union of hands, not of hearts. Aniela
besides does not belong to that kind of women to whom love comes
suddenly, as a revelation after marriage; women like that pine more
after their husbands, or more readily take a lover. I speak of all
this in such a matter of fact way that it hurts me; but why should
I spare myself? Finally, I am convinced she has no feeling even
approaching to love for Kromitzki,--what is more, does not even
respect him; she does not permit herself to despise him, that is all.
I consider that as proved, otherwise I should be blind.
Then if her heart at the moment of my return was a _tabula rasa_ I
must have contrived to write something on it, I who managed this in
other conditions, and was more bent on it than I ever was on anything
in my life, who worked upon her feelings of friendship, touched the
chords of pity and memories of the past, not neglecting anything,
considering every trifle, and moreover am possessed of the power a
strong, earnest feeling gives. I take myself by the shoulders: "Man,
whatever you may be, you are not a provincial lion, that considers
himself irresistible to any woman chance throws in his way; have you
not deluded yourself into the belief that she loves you?"
What speaks in favor of its being a delusion?
At the first glance, her resistance.
But I never supposed for a moment that she would not resist. I fancy
to myself any other married woman, desperately in love with another
man; can one suppose she would not resist and struggle against it and
the loved one, until her strength gave way? Resistance is not the
outcome of love, but since those two forces can exist side by side
like two birds in a nest, one does not exclude the other.
I write this diary not only because it has become my second nature, my
passion, not only because it gives an outlet for my pent-up feelings,
but still more because it gives me a clear view and keeps account of
all that is passing. I read over again the pages where I have written
down my and Aniela's history from the time of my arrival at Ploszow.
I have taken note of well-nigh every glance, every smile and tear,
caught every tremor of her heart; and no! I do not deceive myself, the
analysis is not wrong! Hers were the tears, the words, the glances and
smiles of a woman--maybe unhappy--but not indifferent. I must have
influenced her, made an impression upon her. I am not blind; it tears
my heart day after day to see how her face is getting smaller, the
hands more transparent--and it makes my hair stand on end to think she
is paying out her life in this struggle. But all these are invincible
proofs. Her heart, her thoughts belong to me. For that very reason she
is unhappy--perhaps even more unhappy than I.
I read over what I wrote a moment ago,--that I did not even suppose
she would not resist. I thought so soon after my return to Ploszow,
but lately and when she was at Warsaw I fancied that I saw signs of
yielding. I was wrong. She did not give way in the least, showed no
sign of pity; my words to which she would not even listen seemed
blasphemy to her. I saw in her eyes sparks of anger and resentment;
she tore away her hands I covered with kisses, and the words: "You
insult me!" were continually on her lips. Her energy daunted me the
more as I had least expected such an explosion of wrath. Ah me! She
threatened to leave the carriage and go on foot in the pelting rain
to Ploszow. The word "divorce" acted upon her as a red-hot iron. I
obtained nothing, nothing, nothing with all my eloquence and audacity;
neither my entreaties nor my love moved her; she took everything as an
insult to her womanhood, spurned my love and trampled on it. To-day
when I see her so meek and sweet-tempered it seems like a horrid
dream, and I can scarcely believe that it is the same woman. I cannot
hide it from myself; I have met with a defeat so complete and decisive
that if I had the strength, or anything else to live for I ought to go
away at once.
Supposing she does love me, what good can it be to me if that feeling
is to remain for ever imprisoned within her own heart, and never show
itself--either in word or deed? I might as well be loved by Greek
Helen, Cleopatra, Beatrice, or Mary Stuart. Such must be the feeling
which does not desire anything, exact anything, and is sufficient
unto itself. Maybe her heart belongs to me, but it is a faint heart,
incapable of any action.
Possibly she poses before herself as a lofty soul, sacrificing her
love upon the altar of duty--and pleases herself in that pose. It is a
satisfaction worth doing something for. Be it so! Sacrifice me; but if
you think you sacrifice much in immolating your feeling, and feed your
duty upon it, you are mistaken. I cannot, I cannot either think or
A coquette is like a usurer, giving very little and exacting upon it a
high percentage. To-day, as I am growing more composed and can think
again, I must render Aniela justice; she never encouraged me or
exacted anything. What I mistook for a touch of coquetry at Warsaw
was mere joyfulness of a youthful spirit that had shaken itself
momentarily free from all trouble. All that has happened was brought
on by me. I made mistake after mistake, and it is all my fault.
To know something, and to make it a matter of calculation are two
different things. We account to ourselves for unknown factors which
act upon the soul of a given individual, but in dealing with the same
we generally take ourselves as a point of issue. This happened to me.
I knew, or at least was conscious of the fact, that Aniela and I are
as different from each other as if we were the inhabitants of two
separate planets, but I did not always remember it. Involuntarily I
counted upon her acting in a certain position as I should have acted.
In spite of the consciousness that we two are the most dissimilar
beings under the sun, as opposite as the poles, I note it down with a
certain surprise, and seem not able to get used to the thought. And
yet it is true. I am a thousand times more like Laura Davis than
And now I begin to understand why I failed.
The rock I split against is the want of that which has vanished within
me, thereby freeing my thoughts, but bringing instead of it the mortal
disease that has become my tragedy; it is the catechismal simplicity
of the soul.
Now I can account for it clearly, perhaps not quite satisfactorily,
for I am of so complex a disposition as to have lost the very instinct
of simplicity. "I hear thy voice, but I see thee not." My spiritual
sight suffers from Daltonian disease and cannot distinguish colors.
I cannot even understand how any one can accept a principle, however
hallowed by ages, without looking at it from both sides, pulling it to
pieces, into shreds and atoms, until it crumbles into dust and cannot
be put together any more.
Aniela cannot understand that a principle once considered good,
hallowed by religion, as well as by public opinion, could be
considered otherwise than as a sacred duty.
It does not matter to me whether she is conscious of it, or it is
instinctive impulse reasoned out by her intelligence, or merely
acquired; it is enough that it has entered her very nature.
I had a glimpse of it the other day when I spoke about Pani Korytzka's
divorce suit: "You can prove everything, and yet when one does wrong
conscience tells us: 'It is wrong, it is wrong!'" I did not then
attach the importance to these words that belonged to them. In Aniela
there is no wavering, no doubt whatever. Her soul winnows the chaff
from the grain with such precision that there can be no question about
its purity. She does not try to find her own norma, but takes it
ready-made from religion, general moral principles, and clings to
them so strongly that they become her very own, for they permeate her
system. The simpler the differential quality of good and evil, the
more absolute and merciless it grows. In this ethical code there are
no extenuating circumstances. As according to it the wife belongs to
her husband, she who gives herself to another does wrong. There are no
discussions, no considerations, or reflections,--there is the right
hand for the righteous, the left for the sinners, God's mercy above
all,--but nothing between, no intermediate place.
It is the code of the honest villager, so simple that people like me
do not understand it. It seems to us that human life and human souls
are too complex to find room in it. Unfortunately we have not found
anything to replace it, and consequently we flutter here and there
like stray birds, in loneliness and alarm.
The greater part of our women still hold fast to that code. Even those
who occasionally stray from it do not permit themselves a momentary
doubt as to its truth and sacredness. Where it begins, reasoning
The poets erroneously represent woman as an enigma, a living Sphinx.
Man is a hundred times more of an enigma and a Sphinx. A healthy woman
that is not hysterical may be either good or bad, strong or weak, but
she has more spiritual simplicity than man. Forever and all times the
Ten Commandments are enough for her, whether she live according to
their tenets, or through human frailty set them aside.
The female soul is so dogmatic that I have known a woman whose very
atheism took the form of religion.
It is strange that this code of the honest villager does not exclude
in women either keen intelligence, a subtle mind, or loftiness of
ideas. Their soul seems to have something of the humming-bird which
flits in and out the thickest shrubs, without getting entangled in
their branches, or touching a single leaf.
This may be said especially in regard to Aniela. The greatest
subtility of feeling and thought goes hand in hand with the utmost
simplicity of moral ideas. Her Ten Commandments are the same as the
village girls', with the exception that those of the latter are
wrought on coarse linen, and hers on a web as fine as lace. Why do
I discuss this question? Simply because it is a question of my
happiness, almost my life; for I feel that with all my complex and
intricate philosophy of love, I cannot get over the Ten Commandments.
And how can I conquer them, since I do not even believe in that
philosophy, while Aniela's faith in her principles is calm and
Only the lips that have been drinking at the fountain of doubt opine
that a forbidden kiss is not a sin. A religious woman may be carried
away, as a tree is swept away by a hurricane, by forbidden love, but
she will never acknowledge it.
Shall I ever be able to carry off Aniela? It is possible that my
present state of despondency and discouragement is only a passing one,
and to-morrow I shall feel more hopeful,--to-day all seems impossible.
I wrote once in this same diary that in certain families they
inoculate their children with modesty as they inoculate for small-pox.
The rule which says the wife shall belong to the husband, and in which
Aniela believes so firmly, is strengthened by that modesty, so knitted
into her being, so worked into the system, that I could sooner fancy
Aniela cold and lifeless than baring her bosom in my presence.
And I can still delude myself with the idea that I may expect anything
from her! It is simple idiocy!
What am I to do then? Go away?
No; I shall not go away. I will not, and cannot.
I will remain, and since my love is idiotic, I will do as idiots do.
Enough of systems, calculations, forethought! Let things take their
own way. My former ways did not lead to anything.
She is not a bit happier than I am. What I saw to-day confirmed my
suspicion that she is fighting a heavy battle, with nothing to help
her except the truth of her own faith and convictions.
After the departure of Pan Zawilowski and his daughter, who had paid
us a visit, my aunt, evidently with a certain purpose, began to
enlarge upon the good qualities of Panna Zawilowska. I burst out into
a sudden rage; I was tired, my nerves over-wrought by sleeplessness
and irritated beyond measure. I exclaimed: "Have your way then! If it
be a question of marriage only, and not of happiness, I will propose
to-morrow to Panna Zawilowska. She or somebody else; what does it
Anybody might have seen it was merely irritation, not conviction, that
dictated words I should never have acted upon. But Aniela had grown
very white. She rose and without apparent reason began to unfasten the
cords of the blind with trembling hands. Fortunately my aunt was so
taken aback by the suddenness of my outburst that she did not notice
her. She said something, I did not hear what, as all my attention was
concentrated upon Aniela. It is true that by reasoning I had come to
the conclusion that something must be going on in her heart, but to
reason out a thing and to see it, are two different things. As long as
I live I shall never forget that white face and those trembling hands.
I had now a tangible proof, which, however I might explain it by the
suddenness of my announcement, is still proof enough. Sudden news
either of the death or marriage of anybody that is indifferent to us
does not pale our cheeks.
I thought a few days ago: "Of what use is it to me that she loves me,
if that love is to remain forever hidden in her breast?" and yet when
I came to read, as I did now, the confirmation of it, my hope rose
at once and all doubts vanished. Again a vision of possible victory
flashed before my eyes,--alas! to be dissolved almost at once into
nothing. My aunt, saying something, went out of the room, maybe to
wipe away a furtive tear at my hardness, and I went up to Aniela.
"Aniela dear! I would not marry that girl for anything in the world,
but you ought to enter a little in my position. I have troubles enough
to bear, and even here they will not leave me in peace. You know best
that I could never dream of such a step."
"On the contrary, I should be glad if that happened," she said, with
"It is not true! I have seen you changing color,--I have seen it."
"Permit me to go away."
"Aniela mine! you love me! do not lie to me and to yourself; you love
She grew white to her lips.
"No," she replied quickly; "but I am afraid I might learn to hate
And with that she left the room. I know that to a woman who fights
with herself, a bitter and forbidden love often seems akin to hatred;
and yet Aniela's words staggered me and extinguished the newborn hope,
as one blows out a candle. There are many quite natural things in this
world which we are strong enough to bear but for our nerves. I am
struck by a truth not recognized by me formerly, not recognized
generally,--that love for another man's wife, if only a pastime is
the greatest vileness, and if real, the greatest misfortune that
can happen to any man; the more worthy the woman the greater the
misfortune. I have a burning curiosity within me, very bitter at the
same time, as to what Aniela would do if I said to her: "Either put
your arms round my neck and own that you love me, or I will blow out
my brains here before your eyes!" I know it would be the meanest thing
in the world, and I should never force her hand in that way; no!
whatever I may be, I am not bad enough for that! But I cannot help
thinking, "What would she do?" I am almost certain she would not
survive the shock and the scorn of herself, but she would not yield.
When I think of this I curse her and worship her at the same time; I
hate her and love her more than ever. The worst is I do not see how I
shall ever get out of this enchanted circle. Added to the passion
of the senses this woman wakes in me, I have for her a dog-like
affection. I envelop her with my eyes and thoughts, can never satiate
myself with the sight of her, and at the same time she is the most
desirable of women, and the very crown of my head. No other woman ever
attached me to her so absolutely and in that twofold manner.
At times this influence of hers over me seems well-nigh incredible;
then again I explain it, and as usual take the worst view of it. I
have lived too quickly, passed already the zenith, and am going down
hill, where it is dark and cold. I feel that in her I could recover my
lost youth, vitality, and the desire for life. If she be lost to me,
then truly nothing remains but to vegetate, and gloominess unutterable
as the foretaste of decay. Therefore I love Aniela with the instinct
of self-preservation,--not with my senses only, not with my soul, but
also from the fear of annihilation.
Aniela does not know all this; but I suppose she pities me, just as I
torture her, who would give my life to make her happy. And therefore
I say again that the love for another man's wife is the greatest
misfortune, since it leads the man to make her unhappy whose happiness
he would ensure at the cost of his own. The result of this is that we
are both unhappy. But you, Aniela, have at least your dogma to support
you, whereas I am verily like a boat drifting without helm and oar.
I am not well in health either. I sleep very badly, or rather scarcely
at all. I should like to fall ill and lie unconscious for a month
without memories, without trouble--and rest. It would be a kind of
holiday. Chwastowski examined me yesterday, and said I had the nerves
of a decaying race, but had inherited a fair supply of muscular
strength. I believe he is right; but for that I should have succumbed
ere this to my nerves. Maybe to my very strength I may ascribe this
present concentration of feeling; it had to find an outlet somewhere,
and as it did not find it either in science or other useful work, it
all got absorbed into love for a woman. But owing to my nervous system
it is turbid, stormy, and crooked,--above all, crooked.
What sensations I pass through every day! Towards evening the dear old
aunt came to me and began to apologize for praising Panna Zawilowska
to me. I kissed both her hands, and in my turn asked her to forgive my
momentary show of temper. She then said,--
"I promise never to mention her again. It is true, my dear Leon, I
wish from all my heart to see you married, for you are the last of our
race; but the Lord knows what is best. But believe me, dearest boy, it
is not family pride, but your happiness I am thinking of."
I soothed her agitation as well as I could, and then said:--
"You must not mind me, dearest aunt; I am like a woman,--a nervous
"You a woman?" she said, indignantly. "Everybody is liable to make
mistakes. I only wish everybody had as much intelligence and character
as you; the world would then be quite a different place!"
Ah, me! how can I dispel these illusions? Sometimes I grow quite
desperate as I say to myself: "What business have I in this house,
among these women who have taken a monopoly for saintliness? For me it
is too late to convert myself to their faith; but how many troubles,
disappointments, misfortunes may I not bring upon them?"
To-day I received two letters,--one from my lawyer in Rome, the other
from Sniatynski. The lawyer informs me that the difficulties the
Italian government usually raises at the exportation of art treasures
can be got over, my father's collections being private property and as
such not under government control, and that they could be transported
simply as furniture.
I shall have to see to the arrangement of the house, which I do
unwillingly, as my heart is not any more in the scheme. What does it
matter to me now, and what is the use of it? If I do not give it up
altogether, it is only because I spread the news about it myself, and
cannot possibly draw back. I have fallen back into that state of mind
which possessed me during my wanderings after Aniela's marriage. Again
I understand nothing, cannot act or look upon anything that has no
direct bearing upon Aniela. The thoughts in which I do not see her
image at the bottom are meaningless to me. It is a proof how far a man
may sink his own self. I read this morning a lecture by Bunge called
"Vitality and Mechanism," and I perused it with exceptional interest.
He demonstrates scientifically that which has been in my mind more
as a dim, shapeless idea than a definite conviction. Here science
confesses scepticism in regard to itself, and, moreover, not only
confirms its own impotence but clearly points to the existence of
another world which is something more than matter and motion, which
cannot be explained either physically or chemically. It does not
concern me in the least whether that world be above matter or subject
to it. It is a mere play of words! I am not a scientist; I am not
bound to be careful in my deductions; therefore I throw myself
headforemost into that open door, and let science prate and say a
hundred times over that all is dark there. I feel it will be lighter
than here. I read with almost feverish eagerness and great relief.
Only fools do not acknowledge how materialism wearies and oppresses
us, what secret fear lurks in the mind lest their science should prove
true, what a dreary waiting for new scientific evolutions, and joy of
the prisoners when they see a small door ajar through which they
may escape into the open air. The worst of it is that the spirit is
already so oppressed that it dares not breathe freely or believe
in its own happiness. But I dared, and had a sensation as if I had
escaped from a stifling cellar.
Perhaps this is only a momentary relief, for I understand well that
Neo-Vitalism does not form an epoch in science; maybe to-morrow I
shall go back to prison,--I do not know. In the meantime the breath
of air did me good. I said to myself over and over again: "If it be
possible that by way of scepticism one can arrive at the undoubted
certainty of another world, mocking at mechanical explanation, being
absolutely beyond all physico-chemical elucidation, then everything
is possible,--every creed, every dogma, every mysticism! It is
permissible then to think that, as there is infinite Space, there is
also infinite Reason, infinite Good, enfolding the whole universe
as in a vast cloak, under which we may find rest and shelter and
protection. And if so, all is well! I shall know at least why I live
and why I suffer. What an immense relief!"
I repeat once more that I am not obliged to be timid and wary in my
deductions, and, as I said before, no one is so near mysticism as the
sceptic. I realized it once more in myself when I began spreading my
wings, like the bird which has been caged and delights in its new
freedom. I saw before me endless space covered with new life. I did
not know whether it was on another planet or farther still, beyond the
planetary sphere,--enough that the space was different from ours, the
light brighter and softer, the air cool and full of sweetness; the
difference consisted mainly in the closer union of the individual
spirit with the spirit of the universe; it was so close that it was
difficult to understand where the individual ceased and the universe
began. I felt at the same time it was upon that very dimness of the
boundary that the happiness of this other life rested, as the being
did not live in opposition or exclusion but in harmony with his
surroundings, and thus lived with the whole power of universal life.
I do not say it was a vision; it was only a crossing of the narrow
boundary beyond which reasoning leaves off and conscious feeling
begins,--a feeling which as yet is only a conclusion of former
premises, but carried so far as to be difficult to grasp, as a golden
thread spun out to its utmost length. Moreover, I did not know how to
incorporate myself with that new life and new space,--how to melt in
it my own self. I had kept to a certain extent my own individuality,
and there was something wanting near me,--something I searched for.
Suddenly I became aware it was Aniela I was searching for. Of course,
only her and always her. What could another life matter to me without
her? I found her at last, and we roamed about together like the shadow
of Paolo with the shadow of Francesca di Rimini. I write this down
because I see in it an almost terrifying proof how far my whole being
has been absorbed by this love.
What connection is there between Bunge's Neo-Vitalism and Aniela?
Nevertheless, even when thinking of things far removed, it all brings
me back to her. Science, art, nature, life,--all are carried back to
the same denominator. It is the axis around which turns my world.
This is of great importance to me, for, in presence of all this, is it
possible that I should ever listen to the advice of reason and that
inward monitor that bids me to go away?
I know it all will end in ruin. But how can I go away; how summon
strength and will and energy when all these have been taken from me?
Tell a man deprived of his legs to go and walk about. On what? And
from myself I add: "Why? whereto? My life is here."
Sometimes I feel tempted to let Aniela read this diary, but do not
intend to do so. Her pity for me might be increased, but not her love.
If Aniela be ever mine, she will want to look up to me for support,
peace, and immovable faith for both; that is how it ought to be
where happiness is at stake. Here she would find nothing but doubts.
Supposing even she could understand all that has been and is going on
in my mind, there are many things she could not sympathize with. We
are too different from each other. For instance, when I plunge into
mysticism, when I say to myself that everything is possible, even a
future life, I do not shape it according to generally admitted ideas,
and if those general ideas may be called a normal point of view, mine
must needs be an abnormal one. Why? If everything is possible, then
why not a hell, a purgatory, a heaven, or my subplanetary spaces,--and
Dante's vision, which is far greater and more magnificent than mine?
Then why? For a twofold reason. First, because my scepticism, which
poisons itself by its own doubts, as the scorpion poisons itself with
its own venom, is nevertheless strong enough to exclude the most
simple and generally accepted ideas; secondly, I cannot fancy myself
in the Dantean divisions with Aniela,--I do not desire such a life.
It is only part of myself that writes and thinks, the greater part is
always with Aniela. At this moment I see a streak of light from her
window resting on the barberry bushes. My poor love has sleepless
nights too. I saw her dozing over her needle-work to-day. Seated in
a deep armchair she looked to me so small, and she drew such a long
breath as if from weariness. I had a feeling for her as if she were my
They have sent me at last the Madonna by Sassoferrato. I handed it to
Aniela in presence of the elder ladies, as a thing left to her in my
father's will, and so she could not refuse it. Afterwards I hung it up
myself in her little sitting-room, and it looks very pretty there. I
am not fond of Madonnas by Sassoferrato, but this one is so simple and
so serene in its clear shades. I like to think that as often as she
looks at it she will remember that it was I who gave her that relic,
gave it her because I love her. In this way the love she considers
sinful must in her thought be united to holy things. It is a childish
comfort, but he who has no other must be satisfied even with that.
I had another crumb of comfort to-day. When the picture had been hung
in its place, Aniela came to thank me. As the armchair in which Pani
Celina sits was at the other end of the room, I held for a moment the
hand Aniela was about to withdraw, and asked in a low voice:--
"Is it true, Aniela, that you hate me?"
She only shook her little head, as if in sadness.
"Oh, no!" she replied quickly.
This one word expressed so much. It was a way of saying that if the
feeling of the loved woman were always to remain hidden in her breast,
it would be the same as not to be loved at all. No! it is not the
same. Let me have it, if only that. I would not give it up for
anything in the world. If this were taken from me, I should have
nothing to live for any more.
I am at Warsaw in consequence of the letter from Sniatynski, received
the day before yesterday, in which he asked me to take part in a
farewell dinner in honor of Clara Hilst. I did not go to the dinner,
which took place yesterday, but said good-by to Clara at the station.
I have just returned thence. The good soul was going away, most likely
disappointed, and with some resentment against me in her heart, but
upon seeing me, forgave me everything, and we parted the best of
friends. I felt too that I should miss her, and that the loneliness
around me would be greater still. On my mystic fields there will be
no farewells. This one was truly sad,--in addition to it the sky was
overcast, and there was a drizzling rain that looked as if it would
last for days. In spite of that a great many people had come to see
the last of the celebrated artist. Her sleeping-car was filled with
bouquets and wreaths like a hearse; she will have to discard them
unless she lets herself be suffocated. Clara, at the moment of
departure, without taking into account what people might think or say,
devoted herself to me as much as the bustle of the place would permit.
I went into her carriage, and we conversed together like two old
friends, not paying any attention to the old and always silent
relative, or to the other people, who at last retired discreetly into
the corridor. I held both Clara's hands, and she looked at me with
those honest blue eyes of hers, and said in a moved voice:--
"It is only to you I say it openly, that I never was so sorry to go
away from anywhere as from here. There is no time to say much, with
all these people around us, but believe me, I am sorry to go. At
Frankfurt I meet many people, great artists, scientists; only there is
a difference,--you are like one of the more delicate instruments. As
regards yourself, I will not say anything."
"You will let me write to you?"
"I will write too. I wanted to ask you that. I have my music, but it
is not always sufficient now. I think you too will want to hear from
me now and then; though you may have many friends, you have none more
sincere and devoted than I. I am very foolish; anything upsets me, and
it is time to go."
"We are both wanderers on the earth, you as an artist, I as a
Bohemian; therefore it will not be farewell, but au revoir."
"Yes, au revoir, and that speedily. You too are an artist. You may not
play or paint, but you are an artist all the same. I saw it the first
moment I met you,--and also that you may seem happy, but are very sad
at heart. Remember there is a German girl who will be always as a
sister to you."
I raised her hand to my lip, and she, thinking I was going, said
"There is still time, they have only rung the second bell!"
But I really wished to leave. Oh, those wretched nerves of mine!
Clara's companion wore a stiff mackintosh which rustled at her every
motion; and that rustle, or rather swish of the india-rubber, set my
very teeth on edge. Besides, we had only a few minutes left. I stepped
aside to make place for Pani Sniatynska, who came rushing up.
"Hilst, Frankfurt," Clara called out after me; "at home they will
forward my letters wherever I go!"
Presently I found myself on the platform under the window of her
carriage, among all those who had come to see her off. Their farewells
and good-bys mingled with the labored breathing of the locomotive and
the shouts of the railway men. The window of the carriage was lowered,
and I saw the friendly, honest face once more.
"Where are you going to spend the summer?" she asked.
"I don't know, I will write to you," I replied.
The panting of the locomotive grew quick, then came the last shrill
whistle, and the train began to move. We gave Clara a loud cheer, she
waved her hands to us, and then disappeared in the distance and the
"You will feel very lonely," said suddenly close to me Pani
"Yes, very," I said, and lifting my hat to her, I went home. And truly
I had the feeling as if somebody had left, who in case of need would
have given me a helping hand. I felt very despondent. Possibly the
gloomy evening, the mist and drizzling rain, in the midst of which the
street lamps looked like miniature rainbow arches, had something to
do with it. The last spark of hope seemed to have died out. There was
darkness not only within me, but it seemed to encompass the whole
world, and weigh upon it as the atmosphere weighs upon us and
permeates all nature.
I carried home with me a heaviness of feeling and great restlessness
and a fear as if something unknown was threatening me. There woke
up within me a sudden longing for the sun and brighter skies, for
countries where there is no mist, no rain, and no darkness. It seemed
to me that if I went where there was sun and brightness, it would
shield me from some unknown danger.
Oh, to go away! The entire capacity of my thoughts was filled with
that eager desire. Then suddenly another fear clutched at my heart: if
I went away, Aniela would be exposed to that same impalpable danger
from which I wanted to fly. I knew it was only a delusion of my brain,
and that really my departure would be the best thing for her. Yet
I could not get rid of the sensation that to desert her would be
cowardice and meanness. All my reasoning cannot get over this.
Besides, the going away is only an empty word; I may say it to myself
a hundred times, but if I were to try to change it into fact I should
find it altogether beyond my power. I have put so much of my life in
that one feeling that it would be easier to cut me into pieces than to
part me from it.
I possess so much control over my thoughts, such a consciousness of
self that it seems to me impossible that I could ever lose my reason.
I cannot even imagine it; but at moments I feel as if my nerves could
not bear the strain any longer.
I am sorry Clara is gone. I have seen but little of her lately; but
I liked to know that she was not far off; now Aniela will absorb me
altogether, because I give to her that power which rules our likings,
and makes us conscious of friendship.
When I returned home, I found there young Chwastowski, who had come to
town in order to consult with his brother, the bookseller. They have
some scheme in hand about selling elementary books. They are always
scheming something, always busy, and that fills their life. I have
come to such a pass that I rejoiced to see him as a child that is
afraid of ghosts is glad to see somebody coming into the room. His
spiritual healthiness seems to brace me. He said that Pani Celina
was so much better that within a week she would be able to bear the
journey to Gastein. Oh yes! yes! Anything for a change! I shall push
that plan with all my powers. I will persuade my aunt to go too. She
will do it for my sake, and in that case nobody will be astonished at
my going. There is at least something I desire, and desire very much.
I shall have so many chances of taking care of Aniela, and shall be
nearer to her than at Ploszow. I feel somewhat relieved; but it has
been a terrible day, and nothing oppresses me so much as dark, rainy
weather. I still hear the drops falling from the waterspouts; but
there is a rift in the clouds, and a few stars are visible.
Kromitzki arrived to-day.
Gastein, 23 June.
We arrived at Gastein a week ago,--the whole family: Aniela, my aunt,
Pani Celina, Kromitzki, and myself. I interrupted my diary for some
time, not because I had lost the zest for it, nor because I did not
feel the necessity for writing, but simply because I was in a state of
mind which words cannot express. As long as a man tries to resist his
fate, and wages war against the forces that crush him, he has neither
brains nor time for anything else. I was like the prisoner in
Sansson's memoirs, who when they tore his flesh and poured molten lead
into the wounds shouted in nervous ecstasy, "Encore! encore!" until
he fainted. I have fainted too, which means that I am exhausted and
A great hand seems to weigh upon me, as immense as the mountains that
loom up before me. What can I do against it? Nothing but submit and
remain passive while it crushes me. I did not know that one
could find, if not comfort, at least some kind of peace in this
consciousness of impotence and the looking straight at one's misery.
If only I could keep from struggling against it, and not disturb this
state of quiescence. I could write then about things that happen to me
as if they had happened to somebody else. But I know from experience
that one day does not resemble another, and I am afraid of what the
morrow will bring forth.
Towards the end of my sojourn at Warsaw I put down these words: "Love
for another man's wife, if only a pastime, is a great villany, and if
real, is one of the greatest misfortunes that can happen to a man."
Writing this before Kromitzki's arrival, I had not taken into account
all the items which make up the sum of this misfortune. I also thought
it nobler than it really is. Now I begin to see that besides great
suffering, it includes a quantity of small humiliations, the
consciousness of villany, ridicule, the necessity of falsehood, the
doing of mean things, and the need of precautions unworthy of a man.
What a bouquet! Truly the scent of it is enough to overpower any man.
God knows with what delight I would take such a Kromitzki by the
throat, press him to the wall, and tell him straight in his face, "I
love your wife!" Instead of that I must be careful lest the thought
should enter his mind that she pleases me. What a noble part to play
in her presence! What must she think of me? That too is one of the
flowers in the bouquet.
As long as I live I shall not forget the day of Kromitzki's arrival.
He had gone straight to my house. Coming home late at night, I found
somebody's luggage in the anteroom. I do not know why it did not occur
to me that it might be Kromitzki's. Suddenly he himself looked out
from the adjacent room, and dropping his eyeglass rushed up with open
arms to salute his new relative. I saw as in a dream that dry skull,
so like a death's-head, the glittering eyes, and the crop of black
hair. Kromitzki's arrival was the most natural thing in the world, and
yet I felt as if I had looked into the face of death. It seemed to
me like a nightmare, and the words, "How do you do, Leon?" the most
fantastic and most improbable words I could have heard anywhere.
Presently such a rage, such a loathing combined with fear, seized me
that it took all my self-control to prevent me from throwing him down
and dashing out his brains. I have sometimes felt such paroxysms of
rage and loathing, but never combined with fear; it was not so much
fear of a living man as horror of the dead. For some time I could not
find a word to say. Fortunately he might suppose I had not recognized
him at first, or was astonished that a man I scarcely knew should
treat me so familiarly. It still irritates me when I think of it.
I tried to recover myself; he in the mean while readjusted his
eyeglass, and shaking my hand once more, said:--
"Well, and how are you? How are Aniela and her mother? Old lady always
ill, I suppose. And our aunt, how is she?"
I was seized with amazement and anger that this man should mention
those nearest and dearest to me as if they belonged to him. A man of
the world bears most things and hides his emotions, because he is
trained from his earliest years to keep himself under control;
nevertheless I felt that I could not bear it any longer, and in order
to pull myself together and occupy my thoughts with something else, I
called for the servant and told him to get tea ready.
Kromitzki appeared uneasy that I did not reply at once to his
questions; the eyeglass dropped again, and he said, hurriedly:--
"There is nothing wrong, is there? Why don't you speak?"
"They are all well," I replied.
It suddenly struck me that my emotion might give the hateful man an
advantage over me, and the thought restored all my self-possession at
once. I led him into the dining-room, asked him to sit down, and then
"How is it going with you? Have you come to make a long stay?"
"I do not know," he replied. "I was longing for Aniela; and I fancy
she too must have been anxious to have me back again. We have only
been a few months together, and for a newly married couple that is
not much, is it?" and he burst out into one of his wooden laughs.
"Besides," he added, "I have some business here to look after. Always
business, you see."
Then he began a long-winded harangue about his affairs; of which I
did not hear much, except the often repeated words "combined forces,"
observing meanwhile the motion of the eyeglass. It is a strange thing
how in presence of some great calamity small things will thrust
themselves into evidence. I do not know whether this be so with
everybody, but in the present instance the reiterated words "combined
forces" and the shifting of the eyeglass irritated me beyond
endurance. In the earlier moments of the interview I was almost
unconscious, and yet I could count how often that eyeglass dropped and
was put up again. It always used to be thus with me, and it was so
After tea I conducted Kromitzki to the room he was to occupy for the
night. He did not cease talking, but went on in the same strain while
with the help of the servant he unpacked his portmanteau. Sometimes
he interrupted his flow of words in order to show me some specimens
brought from the East. He undid his travelling straps, unfolded two
small Eastern rugs, and said:--
"I bought these at Batoum. Pretty things, are they not? They will do
to put before our bed."
He got tired at last, and after the servant had gone he sat down in
the armchair, and still continued to talk about his affairs, while I
thought of something else. When we are not able to defend ourselves
from a great misfortune, there is one safety-valve,--we may be able
to grapple with some of its details. I was now mainly busy with
the thought whether Kromitzki would go with us to Gastein or not.
Therefore after some time I remarked:--
"I did not know you formerly; but I begin to think that you are the
kind of man to make your fortune. You are not in the least flighty,
and would never sacrifice important affairs for mere sentimentality."
He pressed my hand warmly. "You have no idea," he said, "how much I
wish you to trust me."
At the moment I did not attach any special meaning to his words. I
was too much occupied with my own thoughts, and especially with the
reflection that in regard to Kromitzki I had already been guilty of a
lie and a meanness,--a lie, because I did not believe in his business
capacities at all; a meanness, because I flattered the man I should
have liked to kill with a glance. But I was only anxious to induce
him not to go to Gastein; therefore I went deeper and deeper into the
"I see this journey does not suit you in the least," I said.
Thereupon, egoist that he is, feeling things only in so far as they
concern himself, he began to grumble at his mother-in-law.
"Of course it does not suit me," he said; "and between ourselves I do
not see the necessity of it. There is a limit to everything, even to
a daughter's affection for her mother. Once married, a woman ought
to understand that her first duty is toward her husband. Besides, a
mother-in-law who is always there, either in the same room or in the
next, is a nuisance, and prevents a young married couple from drawing
near to each other, and living exclusively for themselves. I do not
say but that love for one's parents is a good thing, if not carried
too far and made an impediment in one's life."
Once embarked upon that theme he gave expression to very commonplace
and mean sentiments, which irritated me all the more that from his
point of view there was certainly some truth in what he said.
"There is no help for it," he concluded; "I made a bargain, and must
stick to it."
"Then you mean to go with them to Gastein?"
"Yes; I have some personal interest in the journey. I want to enter
into closer relation with my wife's family and gain your confidence.
We will speak of that later on. I am free for a month or six weeks. I
left Lucian Chwastowski in charge of the business, and he is, as the
English say, a 'solid' man. Besides, when one has a wife like Aniela
one wants to stop with her a little while,--you understand, eh?"
Saying this he laughed, showing his yellow, decayed teeth, and clapped
me on the knee. A cold shiver penetrated to my very brain. I felt
myself growing pale. I rose and turned away from the light to hide my
face, then made a powerful effort to collect myself and asked "When do
you intend going to Ploszow?"
"Good-night," he replied, his eyeglass dropping once more. He put out
both hands, adding: "I am tremendously glad to have the opportunity
to get more acquainted with you. I always liked you, and I am sure we
shall understand each other."
We understand each other! How intensely stupid the man is! But the
more stupid he is, the more horrible to me is the thought that Aniela
belongs to him, is simply a thing of his! I did not even try to
undress that night. I never had seen so clearly that there may be
situations where words come to an end, the power of reasoning ceases,
even the power of feeling one's calamity,--to which there seems to
be no limit. A truly magnificent life which is given unto us! It is
enough to say that those former occasions when Aniela trampled upon
my feelings, and when I thought I had reached the height of misery,
appear now to me as times of great happiness. If then, if even now,
the Evil One promised me in exchange for my soul that everything
should remain as it was, Aniela forever to reject my love, but
Kromitzki not to come near her,--I would sign the agreement without
hesitation. Because in the man rejected by a woman there grows
involuntarily a conviction that she is like a Gothic tower far out of
his reach, to which he scarcely dares to lift his eyes. Thus I always
thought of Aniela. And then comes a Pan Kromitzki, with two rugs from
Batoum, and drags her from the height, that inexorable priestess,
down to a level with those rugs. What a terrible thing it is, that
imagination can bring it all so clear before us! And how repulsively
mean he is, and how ridiculous withal!
Where are all my theories, my reasonings, that love is far above
matrimonial bonds,--that I have a right to love Aniela? I still have
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