Part 6 out of 12
"Oh!" said Sabine, who had already forgotten what she had just said, "don't
wait all that time!"
Her frankness delighted them both.
Christophe went to the drawer that she had shut.
"Let me look."
She ran to prevent his doing so.
"No, now please. I am sure I haven't any."
"I bet you have."
At once he found the button he wanted, and was triumphant. He wanted
others. He wanted to go on rummaging; but she snatched the box from his
hands, and, hurt in her vanity, she began to look herself.
The light was fading. She went to the window. Christophe sat a little away
from her: the little girl clambered on to his knees. He pretended to listen
to her chatter and answered her absently. He was looking at Sabine and she
knew that he was looking at her. She bent over the box. He could see her
neck and a little of her cheek.--And as he looked he saw that she was
blushing. And he blushed too.
The child went on talking. No one answered her. Sabine did not move.
Christophe could not see what she was doing, he was sure she was doing
nothing: she was not even looking at the box in her hands. The silence went
on and on. The little girl grew uneasy and slipped down from Christophe's
"Why don't you say anything?"
Sabine turned sharply and took her in her arms. The box was spilled on the
floor: the little girl shouted with glee and ran on hands and knees after
the buttons rolling under the furniture. Sabine went to the window again
and laid her cheek against the pane. She seemed to be absorbed in what she
"Good-night!" said Christophe, ill at ease. She did not turn her head, and
said in a low voice:
* * * * *
On Sundays the house was empty during the afternoon. The whole family went
to church for Vespers. Sabine did not go. Christophe jokingly reproached
her with it once when he saw her sitting at her door in the little garden,
while the lovely bells were bawling themselves hoarse summoning her. She
replied in the same tone that only Mass was compulsory: not Vespers: it was
then no use, and perhaps a little indiscreet to be too zealous: and she
liked to think that God would be rather pleased than angry with her.
"You have made God in your own image," said Christophe.
"I should be so bored if I were in His place," replied she with conviction.
"You would not bother much about the world if you were in His place."
"All that I should ask of it would be that it should not bother itself
"Perhaps it would be none the worse for that," said Christophe.
"Tssh!" cried Sabine, "we are being irreligious."
"I don't see anything irreligious in saying that God is like you. I am sure
He is flattered."
"Will you be silent!" said Sabine, half laughing, half angry. She was
beginning to be afraid that God would be scandalized. She quickly turned
"Besides," she said, "it is the only time in the week when one can enjoy
the garden in peace."
"Yes," said Christophe. "They are gone." They looked at each other.
"How silent it is," muttered Sabine. "We are not used to it. One hardly
knows where one is...."
"Oh!" cried Christophe suddenly and angrily.
"There are days when I would like to strangle her!" There was no need to
ask of whom he was speaking.
"And the others?" asked Sabine gaily.
"True," said Christophe, a little abashed. "There is Rosa."
"Poor child!" said Sabine.
They were silent.
"If only it were always as it is now!" sighed Christophe.
She raised her laughing eyes to his, and then dropped them. He saw that she
"What are you doing?" he asked.
(The fence of ivy that separated the two gardens was between them.)
"Look!" she said, lifting a basin that she was holding in heir lap. "I am
"But that is not unpleasant," he raid, laughing.
"Oh!" she replied, "it is disgusting, always having to think of dinner."
"I bet that if it were possible," he said, "you would go without your
dinner rather than haw the trouble of cooking it."
"That's true," cried she.
"Wait! I'll come and help you."
He climbed over the fence and came to her.
She was sitting in a chair in the door. He sat on a step at her feet. He
dipped into her lap for handfuls of green pods; and he poured the little
round peas into the basin that Sabine held between her knees. He looked
down. He saw Sabine's black stockings clinging to her ankles and feet--one
of her feet was half out of its shoe. He dared not raise his eyes to look
The air was heavy. The sky was dull and clouds hung low: There was no wind.
No leaf stirred. The garden was inclosed within high walls: there was no
world beyond them.
The child had gone out with one of the neighbors. They were alone. They
said nothing. They could say nothing. Without looking he went on taking
handfuls of peas from Sabine's lap: his fingers trembled as he touched her:
among the fresh smooth pods they met Sabine's fingers, and they trembled
too. They could not go on. They sat still, not looking at each other: she
leaned back in her chair with her lips half-open and her arms hanging: he
sat at her feet leaning against her: along his shoulder and arm he could
feel the warmth of Sabine's leg. They were breathless. Christophe laid his
hands against the stones to cool them: one of his hands touched Sabine's
foot, that she had thrust out of her shoe, and he left it there, could not
move it. They shivered. Almost they lost control. Christophe's hand closed
on the slender toes of Sabine's little foot. Sabine turned cold, the sweat
broke out on her brow, she leaned towards Christophe....
Familiar voices broke the spell. They trembled. Christophe leaped to his
feet and crossed the fence again. Sabine picked up the shells in her lap
and went in. In the yard he turned. She was at her door. They looked at
each other. Drops of rain were beginning to patter on the leaves of the
trees.... She closed her door. Frau Vogel and Rosa came in.... He went up
to his room....
In the yellow light of the waning day drowned in the torrents of rain, he
got up from his desk in response to an irresistible impulse: he ran to his
window and held out his arms to the opposite window. At the same moment
through the opposite window in the half-darkness of the room he saw--he
thought he saw--Sabine holding out her arms to him.
He rushed from his room. He went downstairs. He ran to the garden fence. At
the risk of being seen he was about to clear it. But when he looked at the
window at which she had appeared, he saw that the shutters were closed. The
house seemed to be asleep. He stopped. Old Euler, going to his cellar, saw
him and called him. He retraced his footsteps. He thought he must have been
It was not long before Rosa began to see what was happening. She had no
diffidence and she did not yet know what jealousy was. She was ready to
give wholly and to ask nothing in return. But if she was sorrowfully
resigned to not being loved by Christophe, she had never considered the
possibility of Christophe loving another.
One evening, after dinner, she had just finished a piece of embroidery at
which she had been working for months. She was happy, and wanted for once
in a way to leave her work and go and talk to Christophe. She waited until
her mother's back was turned and then slipped from the room. She crept from
the house like a truant. She wanted to go and confound Christophe, who had
vowed scornfully that she would never finish her work. She thought it would
be a good joke to go and take them by surprise in the street. It was no use
the poor child knowing how Christophe felt towards her: she was always
inclined to measure the pleasure which others should have at seeing her by
that which she had herself in meeting them.
She went out. Christophe and Sabine were sitting as usual in front of the
house. There was a catch at Rosa's heart. And yet she did not stop for the
irrational idea that was in her: and she chaffed Christophe warmly. The
sound of her shrill voice in the silence of the night struck on Christophe
like a false note. He started in his chair, and frowned angrily. Rosa waved
her embroidery in his face triumphantly. Christophe snubbed her
"It is finished--finished!" insisted Rosa.
"Oh! well--go and begin another," said Christophe curtly.
Rosa was crestfallen. All her delight vanished. Christophe went on crossly:
"And when you have done thirty, when you are very old, you will at least be
able to say to yourself that your life has not been wasted!"
Rosa was near weeping.
"How cross you are, Christophe!" she said.
Christophe was ashamed and spoke kindly to her. She was satisfied with so
little that she regained confidence: and she began once more to chatter
noisily: she could not speak low, she shouted deafeningly, like everybody
in the house. In spite of himself Christophe could not conceal his
ill-humor. At first he answered her with a few irritated monosyllables:
then he said nothing at all, turned his back on her, fidgeted in his chair,
and ground his teeth as she rattled on. Rosa saw that he was losing his
temper and knew that she ought to stop: but she went on louder than ever.
Sabine, a few yards away, in the dark, said nothing, watched the scene with
ironic impassivity. Then she was weary and, feeling that the evening was
wasted, she got up and went in. Christophe only noticed her departure after
she had gone. He got up at once and without ceremony went away with a curt
Rosa was left alone in the street, and looked in bewilderment at the door
by which he had just gone in. Tears came to her eyes. She rushed in, went
up to her room without a sound, so as not to have to talk to her mother,
undressed hurriedly, and when she was in her bed, buried under the clothes,
sobbed and sobbed. She made no attempt to think over what had passed: she
did not ask herself whether Christophe loved Sabine, or whether Christophe
and Sabine could not bear her: she knew only that all was lost, that life
was useless, that there was nothing left to her but death.
Next morning thought came to her once more with eternal illusive hope. She
recalled the events of the evening and told herself that she was wrong to
attach so much importance to them. No doubt Christophe did not love her:
she was resigned to that, though in her heart she thought, though she did
not admit the thought, that in the end she would win his love by her love
for him. But what reason had she for thinking that there was anything
between Sabine and him? How could he, so clever as he was, love a little
creature whose insignificance and mediocrity were patent? She was
reassured,--but for that she did not watch Christophe any the less closely.
She saw nothing all day, because there was nothing to see: but Christophe
seeing her prowling about him all day long without any sort of explanation
was peculiarly irritated by it. She set the crown on her efforts in the
evening when she appeared again and sat with them in the street. The scene
of the previous evening was repeated. Rosa talked alone. But Sabine did not
wait so long before she went indoors: and Christophe followed her example.
Rosa could no longer pretend that her presence was not unwelcome: but the
unhappy girl tried to deceive herself. She did not perceive that she could
have done nothing worse than to try so to impose on herself: and with her
usual clumsiness she went on through the succeeding days.
Next day with Rosa sitting by his side Christophe waited is vain for Sabine
The day after Rosa was alone. They had given up the struggle. But she
gained nothing by it save resentment from Christophe, who was furious at
being robbed of his beloved evenings, his only happiness. He was the less
inclined to forgive her, for being absorbed with his own feelings, he had
no suspicion of Rosa's.
Sabine had known them for some time: she knew that Rosa was jealous even
before she knew that she herself was in love: but she said nothing about
it: and, with the natural cruelty of a pretty woman, who is certain of her
victory, in quizzical silence she watched the futile efforts of her awkward
* * * * *
Left mistress of the field of battle Rosa gazed piteously upon the results
of her tactics. The best thing she could have done would have been not to
persist, and to leave Christophe alone, at least for the time being: but
that was not what she did: and as the worst thing she could have done was
to talk to him; about Sabine, that was precisely what she did.
With a fluttering at her heart, by way of sounding him, she said timidly
that Sabine was pretty. Christophe replied curtly; that she was very
pretty. And although Rosa might have foreseen the reply she would provoke,
her heart thumped when she heard him. She knew that Sabine was pretty: but
she had never particularly remarked it: now she saw her for the first time
with the eyes of Christophe: she saw her delicate features, her short nose,
her fine mouth, her slender figure, her graceful movements.... Ah! how
sad!... What would not she have given to possess Sabine's body, and live in
it! She did not go closely into why it should be preferred to her own!...
Her own!... What had she done to possess such a body? What a burden it was
upon her. How ugly it seemed to her! It was odious to her. And to think
that nothing but death could ever free her from it!... She was at once too
proud and too humble to complain that she was not loved: she had no right
to do so: and she tried even more to humble herself. But her instinct
revolted.... No. It was not just!... Why should she have such a body, she,
and not Sabine?... And why should Sabine be loved? What had she done to be
loved?... Rosa saw her with no kindly eye, lazy, careless, egoistic,
indifferent towards everybody, not looking after her house, or her child,
or anybody, loving only herself, living only for sleeping, dawdling, and
doing nothing.... And it was such a woman who pleased ... who pleased
Christophe.... Christophe who was so severe, Christophe who was so
discerning, Christophe whom she esteemed and admired more than anybody!...
How could Christophe be blind to it?--She could not help from time to time
dropping an unkind remark about Sabine in his hearing. She did not wish to
do so: but the impulse was stronger than herself. She was always sorry for
it, for she was a kind creature and disliked speaking ill of anybody. But
she was the more sorry because she drew down on herself such cruel replies
as showed how much Christophe was in love. He did not mince matters. Hurt
in his love, he tried to hurt in return: and succeeded. Rosa would make no
reply and go out with her head bowed, and her lips tight pressed to keep
from crying. She thought that it was her own fault, that she deserved it
for having hurt Christophe by attacking the object of his love.
Her mother was less patient. Frau Vogel, who saw everything, and old Euler,
also, had not been slow to notice Christophe's interviews with their young
neighbor: it was not difficult to guess their romance. Their secret
projects of one day marrying Rosa to Christophe were set at naught by it:
and that seemed to them a personal affront of Christophe, although he was
not supposed to know that they had disposed of him without consulting his
wishes. But Amalia's despotism did not admit of ideas contrary to her own:
and it seemed scandalous to her that Christophe should have disregarded the
contemptuous opinion she had often expressed of Sabine.
She did not hesitate to repeat it for his benefit. Whenever he was present
she found some excuse for talking about her neighbor: she cast about for
the most injurious things to say of her, things which might sting
Christophe most cruelly: and with the crudity of her point of view and
language she had no difficulty in finding them. The ferocious instinct of a
woman, so superior to that of a man in the art of doing evil, as well as of
doing good, made her insist less on Sabine's laziness and moral failings
than on her uncleanliness. Her indiscreet and prying eye had watched
through the window for proofs of it in the secret processes of Sabine's
toilet: and she exposed them with coarse complacency. When from decency she
could not say everything she left the more to be understood.
Christophe would go pale with shame and anger: he would go white as a sheet
and his lips would quiver. Rosa, foreseeing what must happen, would implore
her mother to have done: she would even try to defend Sabine. But she only
succeeded in making Amalia more aggressive.
And suddenly Christophe would leap from his chair. He would thump on the
table and begin to shout that it was monstrous to speak of a woman, to spy
upon her, to expose her misfortunes; only an evil mind could so persecute a
creature who was good, charming, quiet, keeping herself to herself, and
doing no harm to anybody, and speaking no ill of anybody. But they were
making a great mistake if they thought they could do her harm; they only
made him more sympathetic and made her kindness shine forth only the more
Amalia would feel then that she had gone too far: but she was hurt by
feeling it; and, shifting her ground, she would say that it was only too
easy to talk of kindness: that the word was called in as an excuse for
everything. Heavens! It was easy enough to be thought kind when you never
bothered about anything or anybody, and never did your duty!
To which Christophe would reply that the first duty of all was to make life
pleasant for others, but that there were people for whom duty meant only
ugliness, unpleasantness, tiresomeness, and everything that interferes with
the liberty of others and annoys and injures their neighbors, their
servants, their families, and themselves. God save us from such people, and
such a notion of duty, as from the plague!...
They would grow venomous. Amalia would be very bitter. Christophe would not
budge an inch.--And the result of it all was that henceforth Christophe
made a point of being seen continually with Sabine. He would go and knock
at her door. He would talk gaily and laugh with her. He would choose
moments when Amalia and Rosa could see him. Amalia would avenge herself
with angry words. But the innocent Rosa's heart was rent and torn by this
refinement of cruelty: she felt that he detested them and wished to avenge
himself: and she wept bitterly.
* * * * *
So, Christophe, who had suffered so much from injustice, learned unjustly
to inflict suffering.
Some time after that Sabine's brother, a miller at Landegg, a little town a
few miles away, was to celebrate the christening of a child. Sabine was to
be godmother. She invited Christophe. He had no liking for these functions:
but for the pleasure of annoying the Vogels and of being with Sabine he
Sabine gave herself the malicious satisfaction of inviting Amalia and Rosa
also, being quite sure that they would refuse. They did. Rosa was longing
to accept. She did not dislike Sabine: sometimes even her heart was filled
with tenderness for her because Christophe loved her: sometimes she longed
to tell her so and to throw her arms about her neck. But there was her
mother and her mother's example. She stiffened herself in her pride and
refused. Then, when they had gone, and she thought of them together, happy
together, driving in the country on the lovely July day, while she was
left shut up in her room, with a pile of linen to mend, with her mother
grumbling by her side, she thought she must choke: and she cursed her
pride. Oh! if there were still time!... Alas! if it were all to do again,
she would have done the same....
The miller had sent his wagonette to fetch Christophe and Sabine. They took
up several guests from the town and the farms on the road.. It was fresh
dry weather. The bright sun made the red berries of the brown trees by the
road and the wild cherry trees in the fields shine. Sabine was smiling. Her
pale face was rosy under the keen wind. Christophe had her little girl on
his knees. They did not try to talk to each other: they talked to their
neighbors without caring to whom or of what: they were glad to hear each
other's voices: they were glad to be driving in the same carriage. They
looked at each other in childish glee as they pointed out to each other a
house, a tree, a passerby. Sabine loved the country: but she hardly ever
went into it: her incurable laziness made excursions impossible: it was
almost a year since she had been outside the town: and so she delighted in
the smallest things she saw. They were not new to Christophe: but he loved
Sabine, and like all lovers he saw everything through her eyes, and felt
all her thrills of pleasure, and all and more than the emotion that was in
her: for, merging himself with his beloved, he endowed her with all that he
When they came to the mill they found in the yard all the people of the
farm and the other guests, who received them with a deafening noise. The
fowls, the ducks, and the dogs joined in. The miller, Bertold, a great
fair-haired fellow, square of head and shoulders, as big and tall as Sabine
was slight, took his little sister in his arms and put her down gently as
though he were afraid of breaking her. It was not long before Christophe
saw that the little sister, as usual, did just as she liked with the giant,
and that while he made heavy fun of her whims, and her laziness, and her
thousand and one failings, he was at her feet, her slave. She was used to
it, and thought it natural. She did nothing to win love: it seemed to her
right that she should be loved: and if she were not, did not care: that is
why everybody loved her.
Christophe made another discovery not so pleasing. For a christening a
godfather is necessary as well as a godmother, and the godfather has
certain rights over the godmother, rights which he does not often renounce,
especially when she is young and pretty. He learned this suddenly when he
saw a farmer, with fair curly hair, and rings in his ears, go up to Sabine
laughing and kiss her on both cheeks. Instead of telling himself that he
was an ass to have forgotten this privilege, and more than an ass to be
huffy about it, he was cross with Sabine, as though she had deliberately
drawn him into the snare. His crossness grew worse when he found himself
separated from her during the ceremony. Sabine turned round every now and
then as the procession wound across the fields and threw him a friendly
glance. He pretended not to see it. She felt that he was annoyed, and
guessed why: but it did not trouble her: it amused her. If she had had a
real squabble with some one she loved, in spite of all the pain it might
have caused her, she would never have made the least effort to break down
any misunderstanding: it would have been too much trouble. Everything would
come right if it were only left alone.
At dinner, sitting between the miller's wife and a fat girl with red cheeks
whom he had escorted to the service without ever paying any attention to
her, it occurred to Christophe to turn and look at his neighbor: and,
finding her comely, out of revenge, he flirted desperately with her with
the idea of catching Sabine's attention. He succeeded: but Sabine was not
the sort of woman to be jealous of anybody or anything: so long as she
was loved, she did not care whether her lover did or did not pay court to
others: and instead of being angry, she was delighted to see Christophe
amusing himself. From the other end of the table she gave him her most
charming smile. Christophe was disgruntled: there was no doubt then that
Sabine was indifferent to him: and he relapsed into his sulky mood from
which nothing could draw him, neither the soft eyes of his neighbor, nor
the wine that he drank. Finally, when he was half asleep, he asked himself
angrily what on earth he was doing at such an interminable orgy, and did
not hear the miller propose a trip on the water to take certain of the
guests home. Nor did he see Sabine beckoning him to come with her so that
they should be in the same boat. When it occurred to him, there was no room
for him: and he had to go in another boat. This fresh mishap was not likely
to make him more amiable until he discovered that he was to be rid of
almost all his companions on the way. Then he relaxed and was pleasant.
Besides the pleasant afternoon on the water, the pleasure of rowing, the
merriment of these good people, rid him of his ill-humor. As Sabine was no
longer there he lost his self-consciousness, and had no scruple about being
frankly amused like the others.
They were in their boats. They followed each other closely, and tried to
pass each other. They threw laughing insults at each other. When the boats
bumped Christophe saw Sabine's smiling face: and he could not help smiling
too: they felt that peace was made. He knew that very soon they would
They began to sing part songs. Each voice took up a line in time and the
refrain was taken up in chorus. The people in the different boats, some
way from each other, now echoed each other. The notes skimmed over the
water like birds. From time to time a boat would go in to the bank: a few
peasants would climb out: they would stand there and wave to the boats as
they went further and further away. Little by little they were disbanded.
One by one voices left the chorus. At last they were alone, Christophe,
Sabine, and the miller.
They came back in the same boat, floating down the river. Christophe and
Bertold held the oars, but they did not row. Sabine sat in the stern facing
Christophe, and talked to her brother and looked at Christophe. Talking so,
they were able to look at each other undisturbedly. They could never have
done so had the words ceased to flow. The deceitful words seemed to say:
"It is not you that I see." But their eyes said to each other: "Who are
you? Who are you? You that I love!... You that I love, whoever you be!..."
The sky was clouded, mists rose from the fields, the river steamed, the sun
went down behind the clouds. Sabine shivered and wrapped her little black
shawl round her head and shoulders. She seemed to be tired. As the boat,
hugging the bank, passed under the spreading branches of the willows,
she closed her eyes: her thin face was pale: her lips were sorrowful:
she did not stir, she seemed to suffer,--to have suffered,--to be dead.
Christophe's heart ached. He leaned over to her. She opened her eyes again
and saw Christophe's uneasy eyes upon her and she smiled into them. It was
like a ray of sunlight to him. He asked in a whisper:
"Are you ill?"
She shook her head and said:
"I am cold."
The two men put their overcoats about her, wrapped up her feet, her legs,
her knees, like a child being tucked up in bed. She suffered it arid
thanked them with her eyes. A fine, cold rain was beginning to fall. They
took the oars and went quietly home. Heavy clouds hung in the sky. The
river was inky black. Lights showed in the windows of the houses here and
there in the fields. When they reached the mill the rain was pouring down
and Sabine was numbed.
They lit a large fire in the kitchen and waited until the deluge should he
over. But it only grew worse, and the wind rose. They had to drive three
miles to get back to the town. The miller declared that he would not let
Sabine go in such weather: and he proposed that they should both spend the
night in the farmhouse. Christophe was reluctant to accept: he looked at
Sabine for counsel: but her eyes were fixed on the fire on the hearth: it
was as though they were afraid of influencing Christophe's decision. But
when Christophe had said "Yes," she turned to him and she was blushing--(or
was it the reflection of the fire?)--and he saw that she was pleased.
A jolly evening.... The rain stormed outside. In the black chimney the fire
darted jets of golden sparks. They spun round and round. Their fantastic
shapes were marked against the wall. The miller showed Sabine's little
girl how to make shadows with her hands. The child laughed and was
not altogether at her ease. Sabine leaned over the fire and poked it
mechanically with a heavy pair of tongs: she was a little weary, and smiled
dreamily, while, without listening, she nodded to her sister-in-law's
chatter of her domestic affairs. Christophe sat in the shadow by the
miller's side and watched Sabine smiling. He knew that she was smiling
at him. They never had an opportunity of being alone all evening, or of
looking at each other: they sought none.
* * * * *
They parted early. Their rooms were adjoining, and communicated by a door.
Christophe examined the door and found that the lock was on Sabine's side.
He went to bed and tried to sleep. The rain was pattering against the
windows. The wind howled in the chimney. On the floor above him a door was
banging. Outside the window a poplar bent and groaned under the tempest.
Christophe could not close his eyes. He was thinking that he was under
the same roof, near her. A wall only divided them. He heard no sound in
Sabine's room. But he thought he could see her. He sat up in his bed and
called to her in a low voice through the wall: tender, passionate words
he said: he held out his arms to her. And it seemed to him that she was
holding out her arms to him. In his heart he heard the beloved voice
answering him, repeating his words, calling low to him: and he did not know
whether it was he who asked and answered all the questions, or whether it
was really she who spoke. The voice came louder, the call to him: he could
not resist: he leaped from his bed: he groped his way to the door: he did
not wish to open it: he was reassured by the closed door. And when he laid
his hand once more on the handle he found that the door was opening....
He stopped dead. He closed it softly: he opened it once more: he closed it
again. Was it not closed just now? Yes. He was sure it was. Who had opened
it?... His heart beat so that he choked. He leaned over his bed, and sat
down to breathe again. He was overwhelmed by his passion. It robbed him of
the power to see or hear or move: his whole body shook. He was in terror of
this unknown joy for which for months he had been craving, which was with
him now, near him, so that nothing could keep it from him. Suddenly the
violent boy filled with love was afraid of these desires newly realized and
revolted from them. He was ashamed of them, ashamed of what he wished to
do. He was too much in love to dare to enjoy what he loved: he was afraid:
he would have done anything to escape his happiness. Is it only possible to
love, to love, at the cost of the profanation of the beloved?...
He went to the door again: and trembling with love and fear, with his hand
on the latch he could not bring himself to open it.
And on the other side of the door, standing barefooted on the tiled floor,
shivering with cold, was Sabine.
So they stayed ... for how long? Minutes? Hours?... They did not know that
they were there: and yet they did know. They held out their arms to each
other,--he was overwhelmed by a love so great that he had not the courage
to enter,--she called to him, waited for him, trembled lest he should
enter.... And when at last he made up his mind to enter, she had just made
up her mind to turn the lock again.
Then he cursed himself for a fool. He leaned against the door with all his
strength. With his lips to the lock he implored her:
He called to Sabine in a whisper: she could hear his heated breathing. She
stayed motionless near the door: she was frozen: her teeth were chattering:
she had no strength either to open the door or to go to bed again....
The storm made the trees crack and the doors in the house bang.... They
turned away and went to their beds, worn out, sad and sick at heart.
The cocks crowed huskily. The first light of dawn crept through the wet
windows, a wretched, pale dawn, drowned in the persistent rain....
Christophe got up as soon as he could: he went down to the kitchen and
talked to the people there. He was in a hurry to be gone and was afraid
of being left alone with Sabine again. He was almost relieved when the
miller's wife said that Sabine was unwell, and had caught cold during the
drive and would not be going that morning.
His journey home was melancholy. He refused to drive, and walked through
the soaking fields, in the yellow mist that covered the earth, the trees,
the houses, with a shroud. Like the light, life seemed to be blotted out.
Everything loomed like a specter. He was like a specter himself.
* * * * *
At home he found angry faces. They were all scandalized at his having
passed the night God knows where with Sabine. He shut himself up in his
room and applied himself to his work. Sabine returned the next day and shut
herself up also. They avoided meeting each other. The weather was still
wet and cold: neither of them went out. They saw each other through their
closed windows. Sabine was wrapped up by her fire, dreaming. Christophe
was buried in his papers. They bowed to each other a little coldly and
reservedly and then pretended to be absorbed again. They did not take
stock of what they were feeling: they were angry with each other, with
themselves, with things generally. The night at the farmhouse had been
thrust aside in their memories: they were ashamed of it, and did not know
whether they were more ashamed of their folly or of not having yielded to
it. It was painful to them to see each other: for that made them remember
things from which they wished to escape: and by joint agreement they
retired into the depths of their rooms so as utterly to forget each
other. But that was impossible, and they suffered keenly under the secret
hostility which they felt was between them. Christophe was haunted by the
expression of dumb rancor which he had once seen in Sabine's cold eyes.
From such thoughts her suffering was not less: in vain did she struggle
against them, and even deny them: she could not rid herself of them. They
were augmented by her shame that Christophe should have guessed what was
happening within her: and the shame of having offered herself ... the shame
of having offered herself without having given.
Christophe gladly accepted an opportunity which cropped up to go to Cologne
and Duesseldorf for some concerts. He was glad to spend two or three weeks
away from home. Preparation for the concerts and the composition of a new
work that he wished to play at them took up all his time and he succeeded
in forgetting his obstinate memories. They disappeared from Sabine's mind
too, and she fell back into the torpor of her usual life. They came to
think of each other with indifference. Had they really loved each other?
They doubted it. Christophe was on the point of leaving for Cologne without
saying good-bye to Sabine.
On the evening before his departure they were brought together again by
some imperceptible influence. It was one of the Sunday afternoons when
everybody was at church. Christophe had gone out too to make his final
preparations for the journey. Sabine was sitting in her tiny garden warming
herself in the last rays of the sun. Christophe came home: he was in a
hurry and his first inclination when he saw her was; to bow and pass on.
But something held him back as he was passing: was it Sabine's paleness, or
some indefinable feeling: remorse, fear, tenderness?... He stopped, turned
to Sabine, and, leaning over the fence, he bade her good-evening. Without
replying she held out her hand. Her smile was all kindness,--such kindness
as he had never seen in her. Her gesture seemed to say: "Peace between
us...." He took her hand over the fence, bent over it, and kissed it. She
made no attempt to withdraw it. He longed to go down on his knees and say,
"I love you."... They looked at each other in silence. But they offered no
explanation. After a moment she removed her hand and turned her head. He
turned too to hide his emotion. Then they looked at each other again with
untroubled eyes. The sun was setting. Subtle shades of color, violet,
orange, and mauve, chased across the cold clear sky. She shivered and drew
her shawl closer about her shoulders with a movement that he knew well. He
"How are you?"
She made a little grimace, as if the question were not worth answering.
They went on looking at each other and were happy. It was as though they
had lost, and had just found each other again....
At last he broke the silence and said:
"I am going away to-morrow."
There was alarm in Sabine's eyes.
"Going away?" she said.
He added quickly:
"Oh! only for two or three weeks."
"Two or three weeks," she said in dismay.
He explained that he was engaged for the concerts, but that when he came
back he would not stir all winter.
"Winter," she said. "That is a long time off...."
"Oh! no. It will soon be here."
She saddened and did not look at him.
"When shall we meet again?" she asked a moment later.
He did not understand the question: he had already answered it.
"As soon as I come back: in a fortnight, or three weeks at most."
She still looked dismayed. He tried to tease her:
"It won't be long for you," he said. "You will sleep."
"Yes," said Sabine.
She looked down, she tried to smile: but her eyes trembled.
"Christophe!..." she said suddenly, turning towards him.
There was a note of distress in her voice. She seemed to say:
"Stay! Don't go!..."
He took her hand, looked at her, did not understand the importance she
attached to his fortnight's absence: but he was only waiting for a word
from her to say:
"I will stay...."
And just as she was going to speak, the front door was opened and Rosa
appeared. Sabine withdrew her hand from Christophe's and went hurriedly
into her house. At the door she turned and looked at him once more--and
* * * * *
Christophe thought he should see her again in the evening. But he was
watched by the Vogels, and followed everywhere by his mother: as usual, he
was behindhand with his preparations for his journey and could not find
time to leave the house for a moment.
Next day he left very early. As he passed Sabine's door he longed to go in,
to tap at the window: it hurt him to leave her without saying good-bye:
for he had been interrupted by Rosa before he had had time to do so. But
he thought she must be asleep and would be cross with him if he woke her
up. And then, what could he say to her? It was too late now to abandon his
journey: and what if she were to ask him to do so?... He did not admit to
himself that he was not averse to exercising his power over her,--if need
be, causing her a little pain.... He did not take seriously the grief that
his departure brought Sabine: and he thought that his short absence would
increase the tenderness which, perhaps, she had for him.
He ran to the station. In spite of everything he was a little remorseful.
But as soon as the train had started it was all forgotten. There was youth
in his heart. Gaily he saluted the old town with its roofs and towers rosy
under the sun: and with the carelessness of those who are departing he said
good-bye to those whom he was leaving, and thought no more of them.
The whole time that he was at Duesseldorf and Cologne Sabine never once
recurred to his mind. Taken up from morning till night with rehearsals and
concerts, dinners and talk, busied with a thousand and one new things and
the pride and satisfaction of his success he had no time for recollection.
Once only, on the fifth night after he left home, he woke suddenly after a
dream and knew that he had been thinking of _her_ in his sleep and that the
thought of _her_ had wakened him up: but he could not remember how he had
been thinking of her. He was unhappy and feverish. It was not surprising:
he had been playing at a concert that evening, and when he left the hall
he had been dragged off to a supper at which he had drunk several glasses
of champagne. He could not sleep and got up. He was obsessed by a musical
idea. He pretended that it was that which had broken in upon his sleep and
he wrote it down. As he read through it he was astonished to see how sad
it was. There was no sadness in him when he wrote: at least, so he thought.
But he remembered that on other occasions when he had been sad he had only
been able to write joyous music, so gay that it offended his mood. He gave
no more thought to it. He was used to the surprises of his mind world
without ever being able to understand them. He went to sleep at once, and
knew no more until the next morning.
He extended his stay by three or four days. It pleased him to prolong it,
knowing he could return whenever he liked: he was in no hurry to go home.
It was only when he was on the way, in the train, that the thought of
Sabine came back to him. He had not written to her. He was even careless
enough never to have taken the trouble to ask at the post-office for any
letters that might have been written to him. He took a secret delight in
his silence: he knew that at home he was expected, that he was loved....
Loved? She had never told him so: he had never told her so. No doubt they
knew it and had no need to tell it. And yet there was nothing so precious
as the certainty of such an avowal. Why had they waited so long to make
it? When they had been on the point of speaking always something--some
mischance, shyness, embarrassment,--had hindered them. Why? Why? How much
time they had lost!... He longed to hear the dear words from the lips of
the beloved. He longed to say them to her: he said them aloud in the empty
carriage. As he neared the town he was torn with impatience, a sort of
agony.... Faster! Faster! Oh! To think that in an hour he would see her
* * * * *
It was half-past six in the morning when he reached home. Nobody was up
yet. Sabine's windows were closed. He went into the yard on tiptoe so
that she should not hear him. He chuckled at the thought of taking her by
surprise. He went up to his room. His mother was asleep. He washed and
brushed his hair without making any noise. He was hungry: but he was
afraid of waking Louisa by rummaging in the pantry. He heard footsteps in
the yard: he opened his window softly and saw Rosa, first up as usual,
beginning to sweep. He called her gently. She started in glad surprise when
she saw him: then she looked solemn. He thought she was still offended with
him: but for the moment he was in a very good temper. He went down to her.
"Rosa, Rosa," he said gaily, "give me something to eat or I shall eat you!
I am dying of hunger!"
Rosa smiled and took him to the kitchen on the ground floor. She poured him
out a bowl of milk and then could not refrain from plying him with a string
of questions about his travels and his concerts. But although he was quite
ready to answer them,--(in the happiness of his return he was almost glad
to hear Rosa's chatter once more)--Rosa stopped suddenly in the middle of
her cross-examination, her face fell, her eyes turned away, and she became
sorrowful. Then her chatter broke out again: but soon it seemed that she
thought it out of place and once more she stopped short. And he noticed it
then and said:
"What is the matter, Rosa? Are you cross with me?"
She shook her head violently in denial, and turning towards him with her
usual suddenness took his arm with both hands:
"Oh! Christophe!..." she said.
He was alarmed. He let his piece of bread fall from his hands.
"What! What is the matter?" he stammered.
She said again:
"Oh! Christophe!... Such an awful thing has happened!"
He thrust away from the table. He stuttered:
She pointed to the house on the other side of the yard.
"She is dead."
Christophe saw nothing. He got up: he almost fell: he clung to the table,
upset the things on it: he wished to cry out. He suffered fearful agony. He
Rosa hastened to his side: she was frightened: she held his head and wept.
As soon as he could speak he said;
"It is not true!"
He knew that it was true. But he wanted to deny it, he wanted to pretend
that it could not be. When he saw Rosa's face wet with tears he could doubt
no more and he sobbed aloud.
Rosa raised her head:
"Christophe!" she said.
He hid his face in his hands. She leaned towards him.
"Christophe!... Mamma is coming!..."
Christophe got up.
"No, no," he said. "She must not see me."
She took his hand and led him, stumbling and blinded by his tears, to a
little woodshed which opened on to the yard. She closed the door. They were
in darkness. He sat on a block of wood used for chopping sticks. She sat on
the fagots. Sounds from without were deadened and distant. There he could
weep without fear of being heard. He let himself go and sobbed furiously.
Rosa had never seen him weep: she had even thought that he could not weep:
she knew only her own girlish tears and such despair in a man filled her
with terror and pity. She was filled with a passionate love for Christophe.
It was an absolutely unselfish love: an immense need of sacrifice, a
maternal self-denial, a hunger to suffer for him, to take his sorrow upon
herself. She put her arm round his shoulders.
"Dear Christophe," she said, "do not cry!"
Christophe turned from her.
"I wish to die!"
Rosa clasped her hands.
"Don't say that, Christophe!"
"I wish to die. I cannot ... cannot live now.... What is the good of
"Christophe, dear Christophe! You are not alone. You are loved...."
"What is that to me? I love nothing now. It is nothing to me whether
everything else live or die. I love nothing: I loved only her. I loved only
He sobbed louder than ever with his face buried in his hands. Rosa could
find nothing to say. The egoism of Christophe's passion stabbed her to
the heart. Now when she thought herself most near to him, she felt more
isolated and more miserable than ever. Grief instead of bringing them
together thrust them only the more widely apart. She wept bitterly.
After some time, Christophe stopped weeping and asked:
"She fell ill of influenza on the evening you left. And she was taken
"Dear God!... Why did you not write to me?"
"I did write. I did not know your address: you did not give us any. I went
and asked at the theater. Nobody knew it."
He knew how timid she was, and how much it must have cost her. He asked:
"Did she ... did she tell you to do that?"
She shook her head:
"No. But I thought ..."
He thanked her with a look. Rosa's heart melted.
"My poor ... poor Christophe!" she said.
She flung her arms round his neck and wept. Christophe felt the worth of
such pure tenderness. He had so much need of consolation! He kissed her:
"How kind you are," he said. "You loved her too?"
She broke away from him, she threw him a passionate look, did not reply,
and began to weep again.
That look was a revelation to him. It meant:
"It was not she whom I loved...."
Christophe saw at last what he had not known--what for months he had not
wished to see. He saw that she loved him.
"'Ssh," she said. "They are calling me." They heard Amalia's voice.
"Do you want to go back to your room?"
"No. I could not yet: I could not bear to talk to my mother.... Later
"Stay here. I will come back soon."
He stayed in the dark woodshed to which only a thread of light penetrated
through a small airhole filled with cobwebs. From the street there came up
the cry of a hawker, against the wall a horse in a stable next door was
snorting and kicking. The revelation that had just come to Christophe gave
him no pleasure; but it held his attention for a moment. It made plain many
things that he had not understood. A multitude of little things that he
had disregarded occurred to him and were explained. He was surprised to
find himself thinking of it; he was ashamed to be turned aside even for a
moment from his misery. But that misery was so frightful, so irrepressible
that the mistrust of self-preservation, stronger than his will, than his
courage, than his love, forced him to turn away from it, seized on this
new idea, as the suicide drowning seizes in spite of himself on the first
object which can help him, not to save himself, but to keep himself for a
moment longer above the water. And it was because he was suffering that
he was able to feel what another was suffering--suffering through him. He
understood the tears that he had brought to her eyes. He was filled with
pity for Rosa. He thought how cruel he had been to her--how cruel he must
still be. For he did not love her. What good was it for her to love him?
Poor girl!... In vain did he tell himself that she was good (she had just
proved it). What was her goodness to him? What was her life to him?...
"Why is it not she who is dead, and the other who is alive?"
"She is alive: she loves me: she can tell me that to-day, to-morrow, all my
life: and the other, the woman I love, she is dead and never told me that
she loved me: I never have told her that I loved her: I shall never hear
her say it: she will never know it...."
And suddenly he remembered that last evening: he remembered that they were
just going to talk when Rosa came and prevented it. And he hated Rosa....
The door of the woodshed was opened. Rosa called Christophe softly, and
groped towards him. She took his hand. He felt an aversion in her near
presence: in vain did he reproach himself for it: it was stronger than
Rosa was silent: her great pity had taught her silence. Christophe was
grateful to her for not breaking in upon his grief with useless words. And
yet he wished to know ... she was the only creature who could talk to him
of _her_. He asked in a whisper:
"When did she..."
(He dared not say: die.)
"Last Saturday week."
Dimly he remembered. He said:
Rosa looked at him in astonishment and said:
"Yes. At night. Between two and three."
The sorrowful melody came back to him. He asked, trembling:
"Did she suffer much?"
"No, no. God be thanked, dear Christophe: she hardly suffered at all. She
was so weak. She did not struggle against it. Suddenly they saw that she
"And she ... did she know it?"
"I don't know. I think ..."
"Did she say anything?"
"No. Nothing. She was sorry for herself like a child."
"You were there?"
"Yes. For the first two days I was there alone, before her brother came."
He pressed her hand in gratitude.
She felt the blood rush to her heart.
After a silence he said, he murmured the question which was choking him:
"Did she say anything ... for me?"
Rosa shook her head sadly. She would have given much to be able to let him
have the answer he expected: she was almost sorry that she could not lie
about it. She tried to console him:
"She was not conscious."
"But she did speak?"
"One could not make out what she said. It was in a very low voice."
"Where is the child?"
"Her brother took her away with him to the country."
"She is there too. She was taken away last Monday week."
They began to weep again.
Frau Vogel's voice called Rosa once more. Christophe, left alone again,
lived through those days of death. A week, already a week ago.... O God!
What had become of her? How it had rained that week!... And all that time
he was laughing, he was happy!
In his pocket he felt a little parcel wrapped up in soft paper: they were
silver buckles that he had brought her for her shoes. He remembered the
evening when he had placed his hand on the little stockinged foot. Her
little feet: where were they now? How cold they must be!... He thought the
memory of that warm contact was the only one that he had of the beloved
creature. He had never dared to touch her, to take her in his arms, to hold
her to his breast. She was gone forever, and he had never known her. He
knew nothing of her, neither soul nor body. He had no memory of her body,
of her life, of her love.... Her love?... What proof had he of that?... He
had not even a letter, a token,--nothing. Where could he seek to hold her,
in himself, or outside himself?... Oh! Nothing! There was nothing left him
but the love he had for her, nothing left him but himself.--And in spite
of all, his desperate desire to snatch her from destruction, his need of
denying death, made him cling to the last piece of wreckage, in an act of
"... _he son gia morto: e ben, c'albergo cangi resto in te vivo. C'or mi
vedi e piangi, se l'un nell' altro amante si trasforma_."
"... I am not dead: I have changed my dwelling. I live still in thee who
art faithful to me. The soul of the beloved is merged in the soul of the
He had never read these sublime words: but they were in him. Each one of us
in turn climbs the Calvary of the age. Each one of us finds anew the agony,
each one of us finds anew the desperate hope and folly of the ages. Each
one of us follows in the footsteps of those who were, of those before us
who struggled with death, denied death--and are dead.
* * * * *
He shut himself up in his room. His shutters were closed all day so as not
to see the windows of the house opposite. He avoided the Vogels: they were
odious to his sight. He had nothing to reproach them with: they were too
honest, and too pious not to have thrust back their feelings in the face of
death. They knew Christophe's grief and respected it, whatever they might
think of it: they never uttered Sabine's name in his presence. But they had
been her enemies when she was alive: that was enough to make him their
enemy now that she was dead.
Besides they had not altered their noisy habits: and in spite of the
sincere though passing pity that they had felt, it was obvious that at
bottom they were untouched by the misfortune--(it was too natural)--perhaps
even they were secretly relieved by it. Christophe imagined so at least.
Now that the Vogels' intentions with regard to himself were made plain
he exaggerated them in his own mind. In reality they attached little
importance to him: he set too great store by himself. But he had no doubt
that the death of Sabine, by removing the greatest obstacle in the way of
his landlords' plans, did seem to them to leave the field clear for Rosa.
So he detested her. That they--(the Vogels, Louisa, and even Rosa)--should
have tacitly disposed of him, without consulting him, was enough in any
case to make him lose all affection for the person whom he was destined to
love. He shied whenever he thought an attempt was made upon his umbrageous
sense of liberty. But now it was not only a question of himself. The rights
which these others had assumed over him did not only infringe upon his
own rights but upon those of the dead woman to whom his heart was given.
So he defended them doggedly, although no one was for attacking them. He
suspected Rosa's goodness. She suffered in seeing him suffer and would
often come and knock at his door to console him and talk to him about the
other. He did not drive her away: he needed to talk of Sabine with some
one who had known her: he wanted to know the smallest of what had happened
during her illness. But he was not grateful to Rosa: he attributed ulterior
motives to her. Was it not plain that her family, even Amalia, permitted
these visits and long colloquies which she would never have allowed if they
had not fallen in with her wishes? Was not Rosa in league with her family?
He could not believe that her pity was absolutely sincere and free of
And, no doubt, it was not. Rosa pitied Christophe with all her heart. She
tried hard to see Sabine through Christophe's eyes, and through him to love
her: she was angry with herself for all the unkind feelings that she had
ever had towards her, and asked her pardon in her prayers at night. But
could she forget that she was alive, that she was seeing Christophe every
moment of the day, that she loved him, that she was no longer afraid of the
other, that the other was gone, that her memory would also fade away in its
turn, that she was left alone, that one day perhaps ...? In the midst of
her sorrow, and the sorrow of her friend more hers than her own, could she
repress a glad impulse, an unreasoning hope? For that too she was angry
with herself. It was only a flash. It was enough. He saw it. He threw her a
glance which froze her heart: she read in it hateful thoughts: he hated her
for being alive while the other was dead.
The miller brought his cart for Sabine's little furniture. Coming back from
a lesson Christophe saw heaped up before the door in the street the bed,
the cupboard, the mattress, the linen, all that she had possessed, all that
was left of her. It was a dreadful sight to him. He rushed past it. In the
doorway he bumped into Bertold, who stopped him.
"Ah! my dear sir," he said, shaking his hand effusively. "Ah! who would
have thought it when we were together? How happy we were! And yet it was
because of that day, because of that cursed row on the water, that she fell
ill. Oh well. It is no use complaining! She is dead. It will be our turn
next. That is life.... And how are you? I'm very well, thank God!"
He was red in the face, sweating, and smelled of wine. The idea that he was
her brother, that he had rights in her memory, hurt Christophe. It offended
him to hear this man talking of his beloved. The miller on the contrary
was glad, to find a friend with whom he could talk of Sabine: he did not
understand Christophe's coldness. He had no idea of all the sorrow that
his presence, the sudden calling to mind of the day at his farm, the happy
memories that he recalled so blunderingly, the poor relics of Sabine,
heaped upon the ground, which he kicked as he talked, set stirring in
Christophe's soul. He made some excuse for stopping Bertold's tongue. He
went up the steps: but the other clung to him, stopped him, and went on
with his harangue. At last when the miller took to telling him of Sabine's
illness, with that strange pleasure which certain people, and especially
the common people, take in talking of illness, with a plethora of painful
details, Christophe could bear it no longer--(he took a tight hold of
himself so as not to cry out in his sorrow). He cut him short:
"Pardon," he said curtly and icily. "I must leave you."
He left him without another word.
His insensibility revolted the miller. He had guessed the secret affection
of his sister and Christophe. And that Christophe should now show such
indifference seemed monstrous to him: he thought he had no heart.
Christophe had fled to his room: he was choking. Until the removal was
over he never left his room. He vowed that he would never look out of the
window, but he could not help doing so: and hiding in a corner behind the
curtain he followed the departure of the goods and chattels of the beloved
eagerly and with profound sorrow. When he saw them disappearing forever he
all but ran down to the street to cry: "No! no! Leave them to me! Do not
take them from me!" He longed to beg at least for some little thing, only
one little thing, so that she should not be altogether taken from him. But
how could he ask such a thing of the miller? It was nothing to him. She
herself had not known his love: how dared he then reveal it to another? And
besides, if he had tried to say a word he would have burst out crying....
No. No. He had to say nothing, to watch all go, without being able--without
daring to save one fragment from the wreck....
And when it was all over, when the house was empty, when the yard gate was
closed after the miller, when the wheels of his cart moved on, shaking the
windows, when they were out of hearing, he threw himself on the floor--not
a tear left in him, not a thought of suffering, of struggling, frozen, and
like one dead.
There was a knock at the door. He did not move. Another knock. He had
forgotten to lock the door. Rosa came in. She cried out on seeing him
stretched on the floor and stopped in terror. He raised his head angrily:
"What? What do you want? Leave me!"
She did not go: she stayed, hesitating, leaning against the floor, and said
He got up in silence: he was ashamed of having been seen so. He dusted
himself with his hand and asked harshly:
"Well. What do you want?"
Rosa said shyly:
"Forgive me ... Christophe ... I came in ... I was bringing you...."
He saw that she had something in her hand.
"See," she said, holding it out to him. "I asked Bertold to give me a
little token of her. I thought you would like it...."
It was a little silver mirror, the pocket mirror in which she used to look
at herself for hours, not so much from coquetry as from want of occupation.
Christophe took it, took also the hand which held it.
"Oh! Rosa!..." he said.
He was filled with her kindness and the knowledge of his own injustice. On
a passionate impulse he knelt to her and kissed her hand.
"Forgive ... Forgive ..." he said.
Rosa did not understand at first: then she understood only too well: she
blushed, she trembled, she began to weep. She understood that he meant:
"Forgive me if I am unjust.... Forgive me if I do not love you.... Forgive
me if I cannot ... if I cannot love you, if I can never love you!..."
She did not withdraw her hand from him: she knew that it was not herself
that he was kissing. And with his cheek against Rosa's hand, he wept hot
tears, knowing that she was reading through him: there was sorrow and
bitterness in being unable to love her and making her suffer.
They stayed so, both weeping, in the dim light of the room.
At last she withdrew her hand. He went on murmuring;
She laid her hand gently on his hand. He rose to his feet. They kissed in
silence: they felt on their lips the bitter savor of their tears.
"We shall always be friends," he said softly. She bowed her head and left
him, too sad to speak.
They thought that the world is ill made. The lover is unloved. The beloved
does not love. The lover who is loved is sooner or later torn from his
love.... There is suffering. There is the bringing of suffering. And the
most wretched is not always the one who suffers.
* * * * *
Once more Christophe took to avoiding the house. He could not bear it. He
could not bear to see the curtainless windows, the empty rooms.
A worse sorrow awaited him. Old Euler lost no time in reletting the ground
floor. One day Christophe saw strange faces in Sabine's room. New lives
blotted out the traces of the life that was gone.
It became impossible for him to stay in his rooms. He passed whole
days outside, not coming back until nightfall, when it was too dark to
see anything. Once more he took to making expeditions in the country.
Irresistibly he was drawn to Bertold's farm. But he never went in, dared
not go near it, wandered about it at a distance. He discovered a place on
a hill from which he could see the house, the plain, the river: it was
thither that his steps usually turned. From thence he could follow with his
eyes the meanderings of the water down to the willow clump under which he
had seen the shadow of death pass across Sabine's face. From thence he
could pick out the two windows of the rooms in which they had waited,
side by side, so near, so far, separated by a door--the door to eternity.
From thence he could survey the cemetery. He had never been able to bring
himself to enter it: from childhood he had had a horror of those fields
of decay and corruption, and refused to think of those whom he loved in
connection with them. But from a distance and seen from above, the little
graveyard never looked grim, it was calm, it slept with the sun....
Sleep!... She loved to sleep! Nothing would disturb her there. The crowing
cocks answered each other across the plains. From the homestead rose
the roaring of the mill, the clucking of the poultry yard, the cries of
children playing. He could make out Sabine's little girl, he could see her
running, he could mark her laughter. Once he lay in wait for her near the
gate of the farmyard, in a turn of the sunk road made by the walls: he
seized her as she passed and kissed her. The child was afraid and began, to
cry. She had almost forgotten him already. He asked her:
"Are you happy here?"
"Yes. It is fun...."
"You don't want to come back?"
He let her go. The child's indifference plunged him in sorrow. Poor
Sabine!... And yet it was she, something of her.... So little! The child
was hardly at all like her mother: had lived in her, but was not she: in
that mysterious passage through her being the child had hardly retained
more than the faintest perfume of the creature who was gone: inflections of
her voice, a pursing of the lips, a trick of bending the head. The rest of
her was another being altogether: and that being mingled with the being of
Sabine was repulsive to Christophe though he never admitted it to himself.
It was only in himself that Christophe could find the image of Sabine.
It followed him everywhere, hovering above him; but he only felt himself
really to be with her when he was alone. Nowhere was she nearer to him than
in this refuge, on the hill, far from strange eyes, in the midst of the
country that was so full of the memory of her. He would go miles to it,
climbing at a run, his heart beating as though he were going to a meeting
with her: and so it was indeed. When he reached it he would lie on the
ground--the same earth in which _her_ body was laid: he would close his
eyes: and _she_ would come to him. He could not see her face: he could
not hear her voice; he had no need: she entered into him, held him, he
possessed her utterly. In this state of passionate hallucination he would
lose the power of thought, he would be unconscious of what was happening:
he was unconscious of everything save that he was with her.
That state of things did not last long.--To tell the truth he was only
once altogether sincere. From the day following, his will had its share in
the proceedings. And from that time on Christophe tried in vain to bring
it back to life. It was only then that he thought of evoking in himself
the face and form of Sabine: until then he had never thought of it. He
succeeded spasmodically and he was fired by it. But it was only at the cost
of hours of waiting and of darkness.
"Poor Sabine!" he would think. "They have all forgotten you. There is only
I who love you, who keep your memory alive forever. Oh, my treasure, my
precious! I have you, I hold you, I will never let you go!..."
He spoke these words because already she was escaping him: she was slipping
from his thoughts like water through his fingers. He would return again and
again, faithful to the tryst. He wished to think of her and he would close
his eyes. But after half an hour, or an hour, or sometimes two hours, he
would begin to see that he had been thinking of nothing. The sounds of the
valley, the roar of the wind, the little bells of the two goats browsing on
the hill, the noise of the wind in the little slender trees under which he
lay, were sucked up by his thoughts soft and porous like a sponge. He was
angry with his thoughts: they tried to obey him, and to fix the vanished
image to which he was striving to attach his life: but his thoughts fell
back weary and chastened and once more with a sigh of comfort abandoned
themselves to the listless stream of sensations.
He shook off his torpor. He strode through the country hither and thither
seeking Sabine. He sought her in the mirror that once had held her smile.
He sought her by the river bank where her hands had dipped in the water.
But the mirror and the water gave him only the reflection of himself. The
excitement of walking, the fresh air, the beating of his own healthy blood
awoke music in him once more. He wished to find change.
"Oh! Sabine!..." he sighed.
He dedicated his songs to her: he strove to call her to life in his music,
his love, and his sorrow.... In vain: love and sorrow came to life surely:
but poor Sabine had no share in them. Love and sorrow looked towards the
future, not towards the past. Christophe was powerless against his youth.
The sap of life swelled up again in him with new vigor. His grief, his
regrets, his chaste and ardent love, his baffled desires, heightened the
fever that was in him. In spite of his sorrow, his heart beat in lively,
sturdy rhythm: wild songs leaped forth in mad, intoxicated strains:
everything in him hymned life and even sadness took on a festival shape.
Christophe was too frank to persist in self-deception: and he despised
himself. But life swept him headlong: and in his sadness, with death in his
heart, and life in all his limbs, he abandoned himself to the forces
newborn in him, to the absurd, delicious joy of living, which grief, pity,
despair, the aching wound of an irreparable loss, all the torment of death,
can only sharpen and kindle into being in the strong, as they rowel their
sides with furious spur.
And Christophe knew that, in himself, in the secret hidden depths of his
soul, he had an inaccessible and inviolable sanctuary where lay the shadow
of Sabine. That the flood of life could not bear away.... Each of us bears
in his soul as it were a little graveyard of those whom he has loved. They
sleep there, through the years, untroubled. But a day cometh,--this we
know,--when the graves shall reopen. The dead issue from the tomb and smile
with their pale lips--loving, always--on the beloved, and the lover, in
whose breast their memory dwells, like the child sleeping in the mother's
After the wet summer the autumn was radiant. In the orchards the trees were
weighed down with fruit The red apples shone like billiard balls. Already
some of the trees were taking on their brilliant garb of the falling year:
flame color, fruit color, color of ripe melon, of oranges and lemons, of
good cooking, and fried dishes. Misty lights glowed through the woods: and
from the meadows there rose the little pink flames of the saffron.
He was going down a hill. It was a Sunday afternoon. He was striding,
almost running, gaining speed down the slope. He was singing a phrase, the
rhythm of which had been obsessing him all through his walk. He was red,
disheveled: he was walking, swinging his arms, and rolling his eyes like a
madman, when as he turned a bend in the road he came suddenly on a fair
girl perched on a wall tugging with all her might at a branch of a tree
from which she was greedily plucking and eating purple plums. Their
astonishment was mutual. She looked at him, stared, with her mouth full.
Then she burst out laughing. So did he. She was good to see, with her round
face framed in fair curly hair, which was like a sunlit cloud about her,
her full pink cheeks, her wide blue eyes, her rather large nose,
impertinently turned up, her little red mouth showing white teeth--the
canine little, strong, and projecting--her plump chin, and her full figure,
large and plump, well built, solidly put together. He called out:
"Good eating!" And was for going on his road. But she called to him:
"Sir! Sir! Will you be very nice? Help me to get down. I can't...."
He returned and asked her how she had climbed up.
"With my hands and feet.... It is easy enough to get up...."
"Especially when there are tempting plums hanging above your head...."
"Yes.... But when you have eaten your courage goes. You can't find the way
to get down."
He looked at her on her perch. He said:
"You are all right there. Stay there quietly. I'll come and see you
But he did not budge, and stood beneath her. She pretended to be afraid,
and begged him with little glances not to leave her. They stayed looking at
each other and laughing. She showed him the branch to which she was
clinging and asked:
"Would you like some?"
Respect for property had not developed in Christophe since the days of his
expeditions with Otto: he accepted without hesitation. She amused herself
with pelting him with plums. When he had eaten she said:
He took a wicked pleasure in keeping her waiting. She grew impatient on her
wall. At last he said:
"Come, then!" and held his hand up to her.
But just as she was about to jump down she thought a moment.
"Wait! We must make provision first!"
She gathered the finest plums within reach and filled the front of her
blouse with them.
"Carefully! Don't crush them!"
He felt almost inclined to do so.
She lowered herself from the wall and jumped into his arms. Although he was
sturdy he bent under her weight and all but dragged her down. They were of
the same height. Their faces came together. He kissed her lips, moist and
sweet with the juice of the plums: and she returned his kiss without more
"Where are you going?" he asked.
"I don't know."
"Are you out alone?"
"No. I am with friends. But I have lost them.... Hi! Hi!" she called
suddenly as loudly as she could.
She did not bother about it any more. They began to walk, at random,
following their noses.
"And you ... where are you going?" said she.
"I don't know, either."
"Good. We'll go together."
She took some plums from her gaping blouse and began to munch them.
"You'll make yourself sick," he said.
"Not I! I've been eating them all day."
Through the gap in her blouse he saw the white of her chemise.
"They are all warm now," she said.
"Let me see!"
She held him one and laughed. He ate it. She watched him out of the corner
of her eye as she sucked at the fruit like a child. He did not know how the
adventure would end. It is probable that she at least had some suspicion.
"Hi! Hi!" Voices in the woods.
"Hi! Hi!" she answered. "Ah! There they are!" she said to Christophe. "Not
a bad thing, either!"
But on the contrary she was thinking that it was rather a pity. But speech
was not given to woman for her to say what she is thinking.... Thank God!
for there would be an end of morality on earth....
The voices came near. Her friends were near the road. She leaped the ditch,
climbed the hedge, and hid behind the trees. He watched her in amazement.
She signed to him imperiously to come to her. He followed her. She plunged
into the depths of the wood.
"Hi! Hi!" she called once more when they had gone some distance. "You see,
they must look for me!" she explained to Christophe.
Her friends had stopped on the road and were listening for her voice to
mark where it came from. They answered her and in their turn entered the
woods. But she did not wait for them. She turned about on right and on
left. They bawled loudly after her. She let them, and then went and called
in the opposite direction. At last they wearied of it, and, making sure
that the best way of making her come was to give up seeking her, they
"Good-bye!" and went off singing.
She was furious that they should not have bothered about her any more than
that. She had tried to be rid of them: but she had not counted on their
going off so easily. Christophe looked rather foolish: this game of
hide-and-seek with a girl whom he did not know did not exactly enthrall
him: and he had no thought of taking advantage of their solitude. Nor did
she think of it: in her annoyance she forgot Christophe.
"Oh! It's too much," she said, thumping her hands together. "They have left
"But," said Christophe, "you wanted them to."
"Not at all."
"You ran away."
"If I ran away from them that is my affair, not theirs. They ought to look
for me. What if I were lost?..."
Already she was beginning to be sorry for herself because if what might
have happened if ... if the opposite of what actually had occurred had come
"Oh!" she said. "I'll shake them!" She turned back and strode off.
As she went she remembered Christophe and looked at him once more.--But it
was too late. She began to laugh. The little demon which had been in her
the moment before was gone. While she was waiting for another to come she
saw Christophe with the eyes of indifference. And then, she was hungry. Her
stomach was reminding her that it was supper-time: she was in a hurry to
rejoin her friends at the inn. She took Christophe's arm, leaned on it with
all her weight, groaned, and said that she was exhausted. That did not keep
her from dragging Christophe down a slope, running, and shouting, and
laughing like a mad thing.
They talked. She learned who he was: she did not know his name, and seemed
not to be greatly impressed by his title of musician. He learned that she
was a shop-girl from a dress-maker's in the _Kaiserstrasse_ (the most
fashionable street in the town): her name was Adelheid--to friends, Ada.
Her companions on the excursion were one of her friends, who worked at the
same place as herself, and two nice young men, a clerk at Weiller's bank,
and a clerk from a big linen-draper's. They were turning their Sunday to
account: they had decided to dine at the Brochet inn, from which there is a
fine view over the Rhine, and then to return by boat.
The others had already established themselves at the inn when they arrived.
Ada made a scene with her friends: she complained of their cowardly
desertion and presented Christophe as her savior. They did not listen to
her complaints: but they knew Christophe, the bank-clerk by reputation, the
clerk from having heard some of his compositions--(he thought it a good
idea to hum an air from one of them immediately afterwards)--and the
respect which they showed him made an impression on Ada, the more so as
Myrrha, the other young woman--(her real name was Hansi or Johanna)--a
brunette with blinking eyes, bumpy forehead, hair screwed back, Chinese
face, a little too animated, but clever and not without charm, in spite of
her goat-like head and her oily golden-yellow complexion,--at once began to
make advances to their _Hof Musicus_. They begged him to be so good as to
honor their repast with his presence.
Never had he been in such high feather: for he was overwhelmed with
attentions, and the two women, like good friends as they were, tried each
to rob the other of him. Both courted him: Myrrha with ceremonious manners,
sly looks, as she rubbed her leg against his under the table--Ada, openly
making play with her fine eyes, her pretty mouth, and all the seductive
resources at her command. Such coquetry in its almost coarseness incommoded
and distressed Christophe. These two bold young women were a change from
the unkindly faces he was accustomed to at home. Myrrha interested him, he
guessed her to be more intelligent than Ada: but her obsequious manners and
her ambiguous smile were curiously attractive and repulsive to him at the
same time. She could do nothing against Ada's radiance of life and
pleasure: and she was aware of it. When she saw that she had lost the bout,
she abandoned the effort, turned in upon herself, went on smiling, and
patiently waited for her day to come. Ada, seeing herself mistress of the
field, did not seek to push forward the advantage she had gained: what she
had done had been mainly to despite her friend: she had succeeded, she was
satisfied. But she had been caught in her own game. She felt as she looked
into Christophe's eyes the passion that she had kindled in him: and that
same passion began to awake in her. She was silent: she left her vulgar
teasing: they looked at each other in silence: on their lips they had the
savor of their kiss. From time to time by fits and starts they joined
vociferously in the jokes of the others: then they relapsed into silence,
stealing glances at each other. At last they did not even look at each
other, as though they were afraid of betraying themselves. Absorbed in
themselves they brooded over their desire.
When the meal was over they got ready to go. They had to go a mile and a
half through the woods to reach the pier. Ada got up first: Christophe
followed her. They waited on the steps until the others were ready: without
speaking, side by side, in the thick mist that was hardly at all lit up by
the single lamp hanging by the inn door.--Myrrha was dawdling by the
Ada took Christophe's hand and led him along the house towards the garden
into the darkness. Under a balcony from which hung a curtain of vines they
hid. All about them was dense darkness. They could not even see each other.
The wind stirred the tops of the pines. He felt Ada's warm fingers entwined
in his and the sweet scent of a heliotrope flower that she had at her
Suddenly she dragged him to her: Christophe's lips found Ada's hair, wet
with the mist, and kissed her eyes, her eyebrows, her nose, her cheeks, the
corners of her mouth, seeking her lips, and finding them, staying pressed
The others had gone. They called:
They did not stir, they hardly breathed, pressed close to each other, lips
They heard Myrrha:
"They have gone on."
The footsteps of their companions died away in the night. They held each
other closer, in silence, stifling on their lips a passionate murmuring.
In the distance a village clock rang out. They broke apart. They had to run
to the pier. Without a word they set out, arms and hands entwined, keeping
step--a little quick, firm step, like hers. The road was deserted: no
creature was abroad: they could not see ten yards ahead of them: they went,
serene and sure, into the beloved night. They never stumbled over the
pebbles on the road. As they were late they took a short cut. The path led
for some way down through vines and then began to ascend and wind up the
side of the hill. Through the mist they could hear the roar of the river
and the heavy paddles of the steamer approaching. They left the road and
ran across the fields. At last they found themselves on the bank of the
Rhine but still far from the pier. Their serenity was not disturbed. Ada
had forgotten her fatigue of the evening. It seemed to them that they could
have walked all night like that, on the silent grass, in the hovering
mists, that grew wetter and more dense along the river that was wrapped in
a whiteness as of the moon. The steamer's siren hooted: the invisible
monster plunged heavily away and away. They said, laughing:
"We will take the next."
By the edge of the river soft lapping waves broke at their feet. At the
landing stage they were told:
"The last boat has just gone."
Christophe's heart thumped. Ada's hand grasped his arm more tightly.
"But," she said, "there will be another one to-morrow."
A few yards away in a halo of mist was the flickering light of a lamp hung
on a post on a terrace by the river. A little farther on were a few lighted
windows--a little inn.
They went into the tiny garden. The sand ground under their feet. They
groped their way to the steps. When they entered, the lights were being put
out. Ada, on Christophe's arm, asked for a room. The room to which they
were led opened on to the little garden. Christophe leaned out of the
window and saw the phosphorescent flow of the river, and the shade of the
lamp on the glass of which were crushed mosquitoes with large wings. The
door was closed. Ada was standing by the bed and smiling. He dared not look
at her. She did not look at him: but through her lashes she followed
Christophe's every movement. The floor creaked with every step. They could
hear the least noise in the house. They sat on the bed and embraced in
* * * * *
The flickering light of the garden is dead. All is dead.... Night.... The
abyss.... Neither light nor consciousness.... Being. The obscure, devouring
forces of Being. Joy all-powerful. Joy rending. Joy which sucks down the
human creature as the void a stone. The sprout of desire sucking up
thought. The absurd delicious law of the blind intoxicated worlds which
roll at night....
... A night which is many nights, hours that are centuries, records which
are death.... Dreams shared, words spoken with eyes closed, tears and
laughter, the happiness of loving in the voice, of sharing the nothingness
of sleep, the swiftly passing images flouting in the brain, the
hallucinations of the roaring night.... The Rhine laps in a little creek by
the house; in the distance his waters over the dams and breakwaters make a
sound as of a gentle rain falling on sand. The hull of the boat cracks and
groans under the weight of water. The chain by which it is tied sags and
grows taut with a rusty clattering. The voice of the river rises: it fills
the room. The bed is like a boat. They are swept along side by side by a
giddy current--hung in mid-air like a soaring bird. The night grows ever
more dark, the void more empty. Ada weeps, Christophe loses consciousness:
both are swept down under the flowing waters of the night....
Night.... Death.... Why wake to life again?...
The light of the dawning day peeps through the dripping panes. The spark of
life glows once more in their languorous bodies. He awakes, Ada's eyes are
looking at him. A whole life passes in a few moments: days of sin,
greatness, and peace....
"Where am I? And am I two? Do I still exist? I am no longer conscious of
being. All about me is the infinite: I have the soul of a statue, with
large tranquil eyes, filled with Olympian peace...."
They fall back into the world of sleep. And the familiar sounds of the
dawn, the distant bells, a passing boat, oars dripping water, footsteps on
the road, all caress without disturbing their happy sleep, reminding them
that they are alive, and making them delight in the savor of their
* * * * *
The puffing of the steamer outside the window brought Christophe from his
torpor. They had agreed to leave at seven so as to return to the town in
time for their usual occupations. He whispered:
"Do you hear?"
She did not open her eyes; she smiled, she put out her lips, she tried to
kiss him and then let her head fall back on his shoulder.... Through the
window panes he saw the funnel of the steamer slip by against the sky, he
saw the empty deck, and clouds of smoke. Once more he slipped into
An hour passed without his knowing it. He heard it strike and started in
"Ada!..." he whispered to the girl. "Ada!" he said again. "It's eight
Her eyes were still closed: she frowned and pouted pettishly.
"Oh! let me sleep!" she said.
She sighed wearily and turned her back on him and went to sleep once more.
He began to dream. His blood ran bravely, calmly through him. His limpid
senses received the smallest impressions simply and freshly. He rejoiced in
his strength and youth. Unwittingly he was proud of being a man. He smiled
in his happiness, and felt himself alone: alone as he had always been, more
lonely even but without sadness, in a divine solitude. No more fever. "No
more shadows. Nature could freely cast her reflection upon his soul in its
serenity. Lying on his back, facing the window, his eyes gazing deep into
the dazzling air with its luminous mists, he smiled:
"How good it is to live!..."
To live!... A boat passed.... The thought suddenly of those who were no
longer alive, of a boat gone by on which they were together: he--she....
She?... Not that one, sleeping by his side.--She, the only she, the
beloved, the poor little woman who was dead.--But is it that one? How came
she there? How did they come to this room? He looks at her, he does not
know her: she is a stranger to him: yesterday morning she did not exist for
him. What does he know of her?--He knows that she is not clever. He knows
that she is not good. He knows that she is not even beautiful with her face
spiritless and bloated with sleep, her low forehead, her mouth open in
breathing, her swollen dried lips pouting like a fish. He knows that he
does not love her. And he is filled with a bitter sorrow when he thinks
that he kissed those strange lips, in the first moment with her, that he
has taken this beautiful body for which he cares nothing on the first night
of their meeting,--and that she whom he loved, he watched her live and die
by his side and never dared touch her hair with his lips, that he will
never know the perfume of her being. Nothing more. All is crumbled away.
The earth has taken all from him. And he never defended what was his....
And while he leaned over the innocent sleeper and scanned her face, and
looked at her with eyes of unkindness, she felt his eyes upon her. Uneasy
under his scrutiny she made a great effort to raise her heavy lids and to
smile: and she said, stammering a little like a waking child:
"Don't look at me. I'm ugly...."
She fell back at once, weighed down with sleep, smiled once more, murmured.
"Oh! I'm so ... so sleepy!..." and went off again into her dreams.
He could not help laughing: he kissed her childish lips more tenderly. He
watched the girl sleeping for a moment longer, and got up quietly. She gave
a comfortable sigh when he was gone. He tried not to wake her as he
dressed, though there was no danger of that: and when he had done he sat in
the chair near the window and watched the steaming smoking river which
looked as though it were covered with ice: and he fell into a brown study
in which there hovered music, pastoral, melancholy.
From time to time she half opened her eyes and looked at him vaguely, took
a second or two, smiled at him, and passed from one sleep to another. She
asked him the time.
"A quarter to nine."
Half asleep she pondered:
"What! Can it be a quarter to nine?"
At half-past nine she stretched, sighed, and said that she was going to get
It was ten o'clock before she stirred. She was petulant.
"Striking again!... The clock is fast!..." He laughed and went and sat on
the bed by her side. She put her arms round his neck and told him her
dreams. He did not listen very attentively and interrupted her with little
love words. But she made him be silent and went on very seriously, as
though she were telling something of the highest importance:
"She was at dinner: the Grand Duke was there: Myrrha was a Newfoundland
dog.... No, a frizzy sheep who waited at table.... Ada had discovered a
method of rising from the earth, of walking, dancing, and lying down in the
air. You see it was quite simple: you had only to do ... thus ... thus ...
and it was done...."
Christophe laughed at her. She laughed too, though a little ruffled at his
laughing. She shrugged her shoulders.
"Ah! you don't understand!..."
They breakfasted on the bed from the same cup, with the same spoon.
At last she got up: she threw off the bedclothes and slipped down from the
bed. Then she sat down to recover her breath and looked at her feet.
Finally she clapped her hands and told him to go out: and as he was in no
hurry about it she took him by the shoulders and thrust him out of the door
and then locked it.
After she had dawdled, looked over and stretched each of her handsome
limbs, she sang, as she washed, a sentimental _Lied_ in fourteen couplets,
threw water at Christophe's face--he was outside drumming on the
window--and as they left she plucked the last rose in the garden and then
they took the steamer. The mist was not yet gone: but the sun shone through
it: they floated through a creamy light. Ada sat at the stern with
Christophe: she was sleepy and a little sulky: she grumbled about the light
in her eyes, and said that she would have a headache all day. And as
Christophe did not take her complaints seriously enough she returned into
morose silence. Her eyes were hardly opened and in them was the funny
gravity of children who have just woke up. But at the next landing-stage an
elegant lady came and sat not far from her, and she grew lively at once:
she talked eagerly to Christophe about things sentimental and
distinguished. She had resumed with him the ceremonious _Sie_.
Christophe was thinking about what she could say to her employer by way of
excuse for her lateness. She was hardly at all concerned about it.
"Bah! It's not the first time."
"The first time that ... what?"
"That I have been late," she said, put out by the question.
He dared not ask her what had caused her lateness.
"What will you tell her?"
"That my mother is ill, dead ... how do I know?"
He was hurt by her talking so lightly.
"I don't want you to lie."
She took offense:
"First of all, I never lie.... And then, I cannot very well tell her...."
He asked her half in jest, half in earnest:
She laughed, shrugged, and said that he was coarse and ill-bred, and that
she had already asked him not to use the _Du_ to her.
"Haven't I the right?"
"After what has happened?"
"Nothing has happened."
She looked at him a little defiantly and laughed: and although she was
joking, he felt most strongly that it would not have cost her much to say
it seriously and almost to believe it. But some pleasant memory tickled
her: for she burst out laughing and looked at Christophe and kissed him
loudly without any concern for the people about, who did not seem to be in
the least surprised by it.
* * * * *
Now on all his excursions he was accompanied by shop-girls and clerks: he
did not like their vulgarity, and used to try to lose them: but Ada out of
contrariness was no longer disposed for wandering in the woods. When it
rained or for some other reason they did not leave the town he would take
her to the theater, or the museum, or the _Thiergarten_: for she insisted
on being seen with him. She even wanted him to go to church with her; but
he was so absurdly sincere that he would not set foot inside a church since
he had lost his belief--(on some other excuse he had resigned his position
as organist)--and at the same time, unknown to himself, remained much too
religious not to think Ada's proposal sacrilegious.
He used to go to her rooms in the evening. Myrrha would be there, for she
lived in the same house. Myrrha was not at all resentful against him: she
would hold out her soft hand, caressingly, and talk of trivial and improper
things and then dip away discreetly. The two women had never seemed to be
such friends as since they had had small reason for being so: they were
always together. Ada had no secrets from Myrrha: she told her everything:
Myrrha listened to everything: they seemed to be equally pleased with it
Christophe was ill at ease in the company of the two women. Their
friendship, their strange conversations, their freedom of manner, the crude
way in which Myrrha especially viewed and spoke of things--(not so much in
his presence, however, as when he was not there, but Ada used to repeat her
sayings to him)--their indiscreet and impertinent curiosity, which was
forever turned upon subjects that were silly or basely sensual, the whole
equivocal and rather animal atmosphere oppressed him terribly, though it
interested him: for he knew nothing like it. He was at sea in the
conversations of the two little beasts, who talked of dress, and made silly
jokes, and laughed in an inept way with their eyes shining with delight
when they were off on the track of some spicy story. He was more at ease
when Myrrha left them. When the two women were together it was like being
in a foreign country without knowing the language. It was impossible to
make himself understood: they did not even listen: they poked fun at the
When he was alone with Ada they went on speaking different languages: but
at least they did make some attempt to understand each other. To tell the
truth, the more he understood her, the less he understood her. She was the
first woman he had known. For if poor Sabine was a woman he had known, he
had known nothing of her: she had always remained for him a phantom of his
heart. Ada took upon herself to make him make up for lost time. In his turn
he tried to solve the riddle of woman; an enigma which perhaps is no enigma
except for those who seek some meaning in it.
Ada was without intelligence: that was the least of her faults. Christophe
would have commended her for it, if she had approved it herself. But
although she was occupied only with stupidities, she claimed to have some
knowledge of the things of the spirit: and she judged everything with
complete assurance. She would talk about music, and explain to Christophe
things which he knew perfectly, and would pronounce absolute judgment and
sentence. It was useless to try to convince her she had pretensions and
susceptibilities in everything; she gave herself airs, she was obstinate,
vain: she would not--she could not understand anything. Why would she not
accept that she could understand nothing? He loved her so much better when
she was content with being just what she was, simply, with her own
qualities and failings, instead of trying to impose on others and herself!
In fact, she was little concerned with thought. She was concerned with
eating, drinking, singing, dancing, crying, laughing, sleeping: she wanted
to be happy: and that would have been all right if she had succeeded. But
although she had every gift for it: she was greedy, lazy, sensual, and
frankly egoistic in a way that revolted and amused Christophe: although she
had almost all the vices which make life pleasant for their fortunate
possessor, if not for their friends--(and even then does not a happy face,
at least if it be pretty, shed happiness on all those who come near
it?)--in spite of so many reasons for being satisfied with life and herself
Ada was not even clever enough for that. The pretty, robust girl, fresh,
hearty, healthy-looking, endowed with abundant spirits and fierce
appetites, was anxious about her health. She bemoaned her weakness, while
she ate enough for four. She was always sorry for herself: she could not
drag herself along, she could not breathe, she had a headache, feet-ache,
her eyes ached, her stomach ached, her soul ached. She was afraid of