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Without Dogma by Henryk Sienkiewicz

Part 3 out of 8

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fresh and green. Why is it that I never dream of walking arm-in-arm
with Laura? And since I come to mention her name, I add inwardly,
"Perdition upon the memory!" I often think I have been holding
happiness by both wings, and let it escape.

2 June.

I never was so amazed in my life as to-day, in regard to Lukomski. We
went together to the museum on the Capitol. When near the Venus,
he surprised me by saying he preferred the Neapolitan Psyche by
Praxiteles, as being more spiritual. A strange confession from a
sculptor like him; but a greater surprise was in store for me near
"The Dying Gladiator." Lukomski looked at him for nearly half an hour,
then said, through clenched teeth, as he does when deeply moved,--"I
have heard it said a hundred times that he has a Slavonic face, but
really the likeness is wonderful. My brother has a farm,--Koslowka,
near Sierpiec. There was one of the laborers, Michna, who was drowned
driving horses through the water. I tell you it is exactly the same
face. I come here very often for an hour, because I feel a longing to
look at it."

I could not believe my ears, and was surprised the roof of the Capitol
did not come down on our heads. Sierpiec, Koslowka, Michna, here in
the world of the antique, of classic forms! and from whose lips?--from
those of Lukomski! I saw at once, peeping out from beneath the
sculptor, the man. And that is the artist, I thought,--that the Roman,
the Greek! You come here to look at the Gladiator, not so much for the
sake of the form, as because he reminds you of Michna from Koslowka.
I begin to understand now the taciturnity and melancholy. Lukomski
evidently guessed my thoughts; for, the mystic eyes looking straight
before him, he began in a broken voice to reply to my unuttered words:
"Rome is well enough,--to live in, but not to die in! I am getting on
fairly well,--no right to complain. I remain here because I must; but
the longing for the old place tears me like all the devils. When the
dogs bark at night in the garden, I fancy the sound comes from the
village; and I feel as if I could scratch the walls. I should go mad
if I did not go there once a year. I am going now, shortly, because I
cannot breathe here any longer."

He put his hand to his throat, and screwed up his mouth as if
to whistle, to hide the trembling of the lips. It was almost an
explosion,--the more astounding, as it was so unexpected. A sudden
emotion seized me at the thought of the vast difference between me and
such men as he and Sniatynski. Even now I think of it with a certain
apprehension. There are vast horizons out of my reach. What an
intensity of feeling there is in those men! They may be happy or
wretched with it; but how immeasurably richer they are than I!
There is no danger of life becoming to them a desert and a barren
wilderness. In each of them there is life enough for ten. I too feel
conscious of ties to my country; but the consciousness is not so
pressing, does not burn with the same steady light, and is not part
of myself. My existence does not depend upon any Koslowka, Michna, or
Ploszow. Where men such as Sniatynski or Lukomski find live springs
from which they draw their motive vigor, I find dry sand. And yet, if
they had not this basis, there remains still, for one his sculpture,
for the other his literature. It seems incredible that a man
possessing so many conditions of happiness should be not only so
little happy, but clearly does not see the reason why he should exist
at all.

It is doubtless my bringing up which has something to do with
it,--those Metzes, Romes, Paris; I have always been as a tree taken
from its soil and not firmly planted in another. Partly it is my own
fault; because I am putting points of interrogation all along the road
of life, and philosophize where others love only. The consequence is
that philosophy, instead of giving me anything, has eaten my heart

8 June.

I note down the occurrences of a whole week. I received, among other
letters, one from Sniatynski. The honest fellow is so concerned about
the turn my affair with Aniela has taken that he does not even abuse
me. He tells me, though, that his wife is angry past forgiveness, and
does not allow my name to be mentioned in her presence,--considers me
a perfect monster, who finds his only delight in gloating over fresh
victims. For once I am a good Christian, and not only do not bear
malice to the little woman, but feel very friendly towards her. What a
warm, generous heart hers is! Sniatynski evidently thinks the question
finally settled; for he refrains from advice, and only expresses

"God grant," he writes, "you may find another like her." Strange, when
I come to think of it! It seems to me that I do not want another like
Aniela, or a better one either,--I want her. I say it seems to me;
for it is a feeling without any definite shape. I carry within me
something like an entangled skein; I weary myself, and yet am not able
to reduce it to any kind of order. In spite of all my self-knowledge,
I cannot quite make out what it is that makes me feel sad. Is it
because I find I love her, or is it because I feel I could love her
very much? Sniatynski unconsciously replies to this question in these
words: "I have heard or read that gold nuggets have sometimes a large
admixture of quartz, which must be crushed in order to get at the
gold. I suppose your heart is thus covered with an incrustation, that
only partly melted while you were staying at Ploszow. You did not
remain long enough, and simply had no time to let your love grow
sufficiently strong. You have, maybe, energy enough to act, but not
enough to decide; but you would have found the energy if the feeling
had been powerful enough. You went away, and according to your custom,
began to ponder, to think it over; and it came to pass, as I was
afraid it would, that you philosophized away your own happiness and
that of another." What strikes me most in Sniatynski's words is
that they are almost a repetition of what my father said to me. But
Sniatynski penetrates deeper; for he adds almost immediately: "It is
the old story,--he who inquires too deeply into his own mind ends by
disagreeing with himself; and who disagrees with himself is incapable
of any decision. Truly times must be out of joint, when only asses
have any power of action left, and those who have a little more
intelligence use it to doubt everything, and to persuade themselves
that it is not worth while to attempt anything." I have read similar
observations in one of the French authors; and by Jove! he is right.

I almost wish Sniatynski had given me a downright scolding, instead of
larding his letter with sentences like this "In spite of all your good
qualities it will come to this, that you will always be a cause of
suffering and anxiety to those who love you." He brings it home with a
vengeance. I have caused suffering to Aniela, her mother, and my-aunt,
and to myself also. I feel inclined to laugh a little as I read
further: "According to the laws of nature, there is always something
growing within us; beware, lest it be a poisonous weed that will
destroy your whole existence!" No,--I am not afraid of that. There
is some mould sown by Laura's fair hands, but it grows only on the
outward crust of which Sniatynski speaks, and has not struck any
roots. There is no need of uprooting anything; it is as easily wiped
off as dust. Sniatynski is more reasonable when he is himself again,
and steps forth with his pet dogma that lies always close to his
heart: "If you consider yourself a superior type, or even if you be
such, let me tell you that the sum total of such superiority, is
socially, a minus quantity."

I am far from considering myself a superior type, unless it be in
comparison to such as Kromitzki; but Sniatynski is right. Men like me
escape being minus quantities in society only when they are men of
science or great artists,--not artists without portfolios. Often they
take the part of great reformers. As to myself I could only be a
reformer as regards my own person. I went about with that thought all
the day.

It is surpassing strange that, knowing my own short-comings so well, I
do not make any attempt to mend matters. For instance, after debating
for half a day whether to go out or not, ought I not to take myself by
the collar and thrust myself into the street? I am a sceptic?--very
well! Could I not act for once as if I were not a sceptic? A little
more or less conviction, what does it matter? What ought I to do now?
Pack up my things and go straight to Ploszow. I could do it easily
enough. What the result of such a step would be, I do not know, but at
any rate it would be doing something. Then Sniatynski writes: "That
ape is now every day at Ploszow, keeping watch over the ladies, who,
without that additional trouble, are worn to shadows."

Perhaps it is too late. Sniatynski does not say when he was last at
Ploszow, perhaps a week ago or maybe two; since then things may have
gone much farther. Yes, but I do not know anything for certain, and
when all is said how can it be worse than it is already? I feel that
anybody with a little more energy in his composition would go at once,
and I should feel more respect for myself if I brought myself to do
it, especially as Sniatynski, who is usually so enterprising, does not
urge me. The very thought brightens me up, and in this brightness I
see a beloved face which at this moment is dearer to me than anything
else in the world, and--per Baccho! I shall most probably do it.

9 June.

"La nuit porte conseil." I will not go at once to Ploszow, it would be
a journey in the dark; but I have written a long letter to my aunt,
quite different from that I wrote at Peli. Within a week, or at the
most ten days, I shall get an answer, and according to it I shall
either go or stay,--in fact, I do not know myself yet what I shall do.
I might count upon a favorable answer if I had written for instance
like this: "Dearest aunt, send Kromitzki about his business; I beg
Aniela to forgive me. I love her, and my dearest wish is to make her
my wife." Unless she were married already,--and things could not have
been managed there so speedily,--such a letter could have but one
result. But I did not write anything of that kind. My missive was
intended to reconnoitre the position, sent in fact as a scout to find
out how affairs were progressing, and partly, to learn what Aniela
was thinking. To say the truth, if I did not express myself more
definitely, it is because experience has taught me to mistrust myself.
Ah! if Aniela, in spite of the wrong inflicted upon her by me,
refused Kromitzki, how gratified I should feel towards her; and how
immeasurably higher she would rise in my esteem if once removed from
the ranks of marriageable girls whose only aim is to get a husband.
What a pity I ever heard about Kromitzki. Once rid of the entanglement
with Laura, I should have flown on wings to Aniela's side. This dear
aunt has managed things with a clumsy hand in writing to me about
Kromitzki and the encouragement he had from Aniela's mother. In these
times of overwrought nerves, it is not only women that are like
sensitive plants. A rough touch, and, the soul shrinks, folds itself
up, maybe forever. I know it is foolish, even wrong, but I cannot help
it. To change myself I should have to order at an anatomist's a new
set of nerves, and keep those I have for special occasions. No one,
not even Pani Sniatynski, can judge me more severely than I judge
myself. But is Kromitzki better than I? Is his low, money-making
neurosis better than mine? Without any boastfulness I may say that I
have more delicacy of feeling, nobler impulses, a better heart, more
tenderness, and--his own mother would be obliged to own it--more
intelligence. It is true I could not make millions to save my life;
but then Kromitzki has not achieved it yet; instead of that, I could
guarantee that my wife would spend her life in a broader and warmer
atmosphere; there would be more sincerity in it and nobler aims.

It is not the first time I have compared myself to Kromitzki, and it
makes me angry considering what a vast difference there is between us.
We are like inhabitants of different planets, and as to our souls, if
one has to climb up to reach mine, such as Aniela would have to stoop
very low to reach his. But would this be such a difficult task for
her? It is a horrible question; but in regard to women I have seen so
monstrous things, especially in my country where the women generally
speaking are superior to the men, that I am obliged to consider it.
I have seen girls, angels in all but wings, full of noble impulses,
sensitive to everything beautiful and uncommon, not only marry
louts of narrow and mean characters, but adopt after marriage their
husbands' maxims of life, vanities, narrowness, and commonplace
opinions. What is more, some of them did this eagerly, as if former
ideals were only fit to be thrown aside with the bridal wreath. They
seemed to labor under the conviction that only thus they could prove
themselves true wives. It is true that sometimes a reaction follows,
but in a general sense Shakspeare's Titania is a common enough type,
to be met with every day.

I am a sceptic from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet, but
my scepticism springs from pain, for it hurts me to think that such
may be Aniela's fate. Perhaps she too will shrug her shoulders at the
memory of her girlish aspirations, and consider contracts in Turkestan
better adapted to practical life. A dull wrath seizes me at the
thought, all the more as it will be partly my fault, that is, if it
should come to that.

On the other side these reflections and vacillations are not merely
the result of a want of decision, as Sniatynski seems to think. I have
such a high conception about marriage, such lofty demands, that they
take away my courage. It is true that often husband and wife fit each
other like two warped boards, and yet jog through life contentedly
enough; but this would not be enough for me. For the very reason that
I believe in happiness so little, I should like to attain it; but can
I attain it? It is not so much the unhappy marriages I have met with
that make me so wavering, but the few happy ones I have seen; at the
remembrance of these I ask myself, "Is it possible I could be so
happy?" And yet happiness is not met with in fiction only,--but how to
know where to look for it!

11 June.

In the last few days I have become quite intimate with Lukomski. He
is not so self-contained and melancholy as he used to be. Yesterday,
towards evening, he came to see me; we went out for a walk as far as
the Thermes of Caracalla; then I asked him to come back with me, and
he stopped until midnight. I had a long talk with him, which I note
down, as it made upon me a certain impression. Lukomski seemed a
little ashamed of the exhibition of feeling he had made near "The
Dying Gladiator;" but I led him on and gradually came to know the
man as he really was. As we were growing very friendly I ventured to

"Excuse the question, but I cannot understand why a man so fond of
domestic life has not taken to himself a companion. Neither your
studio, your assistants, nor your dogs can give you the feeling of a
home you are missing, as a wife would."

Lukomski smiled, and pointing to the ring on his finger, said,--

"I am going to be married shortly. We are only waiting because the
young lady is in mourning for her father; I am to join her in two

"At Sierpiec?"

"No, she comes from Wilkomierz."

"What took you to Wilkomierz?"

"I have never been there. I met her by accident on the Corso in Rome."

"That was a fortunate accident, was it not?"

"The most fortunate in my life."

"Was it during the Carnival?"

"No. It happened in this way: I was on my way to the studio when, in
the Via Condotto, I saw two fair-haired women inquiring in very
bad Italian the way to the Capitol. They were saying: 'Capitolio,
Capitole, Capitol,' and nobody seemed to know what they wanted,
because here, as you know, they call it 'Campidolio.' I could not have
been mistaken,--they were Poles, evidently mother and daughter. They
were overjoyed when I addressed them in Polish; I was very glad too,
and so I not only showed them the way but went there with them."

"You have no idea how this interests me; and so you went together?"

"Yes, we went together. On the way I looked at the younger lady; a
figure like a young poplar, graceful, pretty, a small head, ears a
perfect model, the face full of expression, and eyelashes pure gold,
such as, you find only at home; there is nothing of that kind here,
unless now and then at Venice. She pleased me very much too because of
that thoughtfulness for her mother, who was in grief, having lost her
husband; I thought she must have a good heart. For about a week I went
with them everywhere, and then asked for the young lady's hand."

"After a week's acquaintance; is it possible?"

"Yes, because the ladies were going back to Florence."

"At any rate you are not one of those who take a long time to make up
their minds."

"At home it would have taken much longer; but here, sir, the very
thought they were my countrywomen made me long to kiss their hands."

"Yes, but marriage is such an important step."

"That is true; but three or four weeks more would not help me to a
clearer view of it. I had certain scruples, I confess; I feel a little
reluctant to speak of it. In our family there is hereditary deafness.
My grandfather at an advanced age became quite deaf. My father was
deaf at forty. One can live with that, but it is a great drawback,
because deaf people as a rule are irritable. I debated within myself
whether it was right for a young girl to marry a man threatened with
such a defect, and who in course of time might become a burden to

I began to observe now that Lukomski had in the expression of his
eyes, and the way he listened to what was said to him, a certain
peculiarity noticed in deaf people. His hearing was still excellent,
but he evidently feared that he might be losing the faculty.

I told him he had no right to let that stand in his way.

"I thought so a little myself. It is not worth while to spoil one's
life for a thing that may never happen. There is the cholera that
sweeps now and then over Italy; it would be foolish for Italians not
to marry for fear they might leave orphans and widows. Besides I have
done what I considered my duty. I told Panna Vanda that I loved
her and would give my life to call her my own, but there was this
impediment. And do you know what her answer was? 'When you are no
longer able to hear me saying I love you, I will write it.' All this
did not come off without some crying, but an hour afterwards we made
merry over it. I pretended to have suddenly grown deaf, to make her
write, 'I love you.'"

This conversation fixed itself in my mind. Sniatynski is wrong when
he maintains that among us only asses have still a kind of will.
This sculptor had a real motive to reflect, and yet a week seemed
sufficient for such a weighty decision. Maybe he does not possess the
same knowledge of self as I, but he is a very intelligent fellow. What
a plucky woman the future Pani Lukomska is; I like her ready answer.
Aniela would do the same. If, for instance, I were to lose my
eyesight, Laura would care only in so far as she could show me off, a
picturesque Demadoc, singing at her feast; but Aniela would take care
of me even if she were not my wife.

I must acknowledge that, having such convictions, a week of indecision
seems a long time; and here I have been wavering for five months, and
the letter I wrote to my aunt was not very decisive either.

But I comfort myself with the thought that my aunt is a clever woman,
and loving me as she does, will guess what I meant to say, and will
help me in her own way; and then there is Aniela who will assist her.
Nevertheless, I regret now that I did not write more openly, and I
feel half inclined to send another letter, but will not yield to the
impulse. Perhaps it will be as well to wait for the reply. Happy those
people, like Lukomski, whose first impulse is towards action.

15 June.

Whatever name I might give to the feeling I cherish for Aniela, it is
different from anything I ever felt before. Either night or day she is
never out of my thought; it has grown into a kind of personal affair
for which I feel responsible to myself. This never used to be the
case. My other love affairs lasted a longer or shorter time, their
memories were pleasant sometimes, a little sad at others, or
distasteful as the case might be, but never absorbed my whole being.
In the idle, aimless life we are leading, woman, perforce, occupies a
large space,--she is always before us; we bestow our attentions upon
her until we become so used to it that she counts only as a venial sin
in our lives. To disappoint a woman causes us but little trouble
of conscience, though a little more perhaps than she feels in
disappointing us. With all the sensitiveness of my nature, I have a
rather blunted conscience. Sometimes it happened I said to myself,
"Now is the time for a pathetic lecture!" but I only shrugged my
shoulders and preferred to think of something more pleasant. This time
it is altogether different. For instance, I think of something that
has no connection with it whatever; presently I am overcome by a
feeling that something is missing, a great trouble seizes me, a fear
as if I had forgotten something of great importance, not done a thing
I ought to have done; and I find out that the thought of Aniela has
percolated through every nook and cranny of the mind, and taken
possession of it. It knocks there night and day like the death-tick in
the desk of Mickiewicz's poem. When I try to lessen or to ridicule the
impression, my scepticism and irony fail me, or rather help me only
for a moment; then I go back to the enchanted circle. Strictly
speaking, it is neither a great sorrow nor a sting of conscience; it
is rather a troublesome fastening upon one subject, and a restless,
feverish curiosity as to what will happen next,--as if upon that next
my very life depended. If I analyzed myself less closely, I should say
it was an all-absorbing love that had taken possession of me; but I
notice that there is something besides Aniela that causes me anxiety.
There is no doubt as to her having made a deep impression upon me; but
Sniatynski is right,--if I had loved her as much as Sniatynski loved
his wife, I should have desired to make her my own. But I--and this is
quite a fact--do not desire her so much as I am afraid to lose her.
It is not everybody perhaps who could perceive the singular and great
difference. I feel quite convinced that but for Kromitzki and the fear
of losing Aniela, I should not feel either anxieties or trouble. My
entangled skein is gradually getting straighter, and I can see now
more clearly that it is not so much love for Aniela as fear of losing
her, and with her some future happiness, that moves me, and still more
the utter loneliness I see before me should Aniela go out from my

I have noticed that the stoutest pessimists, when fate or men try to
take something out of their lives, fight tooth and nail, and cry out
as loud as the greatest optimists. I am exactly in the like position.
I do not cry out, but a terrible fear clutches at my heart, that a few
days hence I shall not know what to do with myself in this world.

16 June.

I had indirect news of Laura through my lawyer, who is also their
legal adviser. Mr. Davis is already in a lunatic asylum, and Laura at
Interlaken, at the foot of the Jungfrau. Perhaps she has some ideas
about climbing the mountain heights, drapes herself in Alps, eternal
snow, and rising sun, sails gracefully on the lake, and bends over
precipices. I expressed my regret at Mr. Davis's condition, and the
lady's, who at so early an age was left without protection. Thereupon
the old lawyer set my mind at rest, telling me that Count Maleschi, a
Neapolitan, and Laura's cousin, had gone to Switzerland. I know
him. He is beautiful as an Antinous, but an inveterate gambler, and
somewhat of a coward. It appears I was a little out of my reckoning
when I compared Laura to the tower of Pisa.

It has happened to me literally for the first time that the memory of
a woman whom I did not love, though I made her believe I did, rouses
within me much ill-feeling. I am so ungrateful and ungenerous to her
that it makes me feel ashamed. Plainly, what reason have I for any
ill-feeling, and what has she done to me that I cannot forgive? It is
because, as I said before, from the very beginning of our relations,
though not through any fault of hers, I did many things I have
never done before in my life. I did not respect my sorrow, had
no consideration for the weakness and helplessness of Davis, got
corrupted, slothful, and finally sent off that fatal letter.

It is all my fault! But the blind man when he stumbles over a stone,
curses the stone, not the blindness that made him stumble.

17 June.

To-day I paid Lukomski, gave a power of attorney to the lawyer, had my
things packed, and am ready for the journey. Rome begins to pall upon

18 June.

I have been counting that my aunt's reply ought to have reached me by
this. Putting aside all the worst suppositions, I try to guess what
she is going to tell me. I regret, for I do not know how many times,
that my letter was not more conclusive. Yet I wrote that I would come
to Ploszow if I felt sure my presence would be acceptable to my aunt's
guests, sending them my kindest regards at the same time. I also
mentioned that during the last days of my stay at Peli I felt so
irritable that I scarcely knew what I was doing. The letter, while I
was writing it, seemed to me very clever; now it appears to me as the
height of folly. It was simply that my vanity did not permit me to
revoke clearly and decidedly what I had written previously. I counted
upon my aunt grasping at the opportunity I gave her for settling
matters, and then I meant to make my appearance as the generous
prince. Human nature is very pitiful. Nothing now remains but to hold
fast to the hope that my aunt would guess how it stood with me.

With my anxiety increasing every moment, I feel not only that I could
have loved Aniela, but that I do love her beyond expression, and also
that I might become an incomparably better man. Strictly speaking, why
do I act as if beyond nerves and egoism there were nothing else in me?
and if there be anything else, why does not my auto-analysis point it
out to me? I have the courage to draw extreme conclusions, and do not
hide the truth from myself, but I decidedly negative the notion.
Why? Because I have the unshaken conviction that I am better than my
actions. The cause of the latter is partly a certain incapacity of
life, partly the inheritance of my race and the disease of the times
in which I live, and finally that over-analysis which does not permit
me to follow the first, simple impulses of nature, but criticises
until it reduces the soul to utter impotence. When a child I used to
amuse myself by piling up coin upon coin until the column, bending
under its own weight, tumbled down into one chaotic heap. I am doing
now exactly the same with my thoughts and intentions, until they
collapse and roll over each other in a disorderly confusion. For this
very reason it has always been easier for me to play a passive part
than an active one. It appears to me that many cultured people are
attacked by the same disease. Criticism of ourselves and everything
else is corroding our active power; we have no stable basis, no point
of issue, no faith in life. Therein lies the reason why I do not care
so much to win Aniela as I am afraid of losing her. In speaking of a
disease common to our time, I will not confine myself exclusively to
my own case. That somebody takes to his bed when an epidemic disease
is raging is a very common occurrence; nowadays criticism of
everything is the epidemic spreading all over the world. The result
is that various roofs that sheltered men collapse over their heads.
Religion, the very name of which means "ties," is getting unloosened.
Faith, even in those who still believe, is getting restive. Through
the roof of what we call Fatherland social currents begin to filter.
There remains only one ideal in presence of which the most hardened
sceptic raises his hat,--the People. But on the base of this statue
mischievous spirits are beginning already to scribble more or less
ribald jokes, and, what is still more strange, the mist of unbelief is
rising from the heads of those who, in the nature of things, ought
to bow down reverently. Finally there will come a gifted sceptic, a
second Heine, to spit and trample on the idol, as in his time did
Aristophanes; he will not, however, trample on it in the name of old
ideals, but in the name of freedom of thought, in the name of freedom
of doubt; and what will happen then I do not know. Most likely on the
huge, clean-wiped slate the devil will write sonnets. Can anything
be done to prevent all this? Finally, what does it matter to me? To
attempt anything is not my business; I have been trained too carefully
as a child of my time. But if all that is thought, that is achieved
and happening, has for its ultimate aim to increase the sum of general
happiness, I permit myself a personal remark as to that happiness; by
which I do not mean material comfort, but that inward spiritual peace
in which I as well as anybody else may be wanting. Thus my grandfather
was happier than my father, my father happier than I, and as to my
son, if ever I have one, he will simply be an object of commiseration.

FLORENCE, 20 June.

The house of cards has tumbled down. I received a letter from my aunt.
Aniela is engaged to Kromitzki, and the marriage will take place in a
few weeks. She herself has fixed such a short date. After receiving
the news I took a railway ticket, with the intention of going straight
to Ploszow, conscious all the time that it was a foolish thing to do,
which could lead to nothing. But the impulse was upon me, and carried
me along; when, collecting the last remnants of common-sense and
reflection, I stuck fast here.

FLORENCE, 22 June.

Simultaneously with my aunt's letter, I received a "faire part"
addressed in a female hand. It is not Aniela's handwriting, or her
mother's; neither of them would have done it. Most likely it is Pani
Sniatynska's malicious device. Upon the whole, what does it matter? I
got a blow with a club on the head, and feel dizzy; it has shaken me
more than it has hurt. I do not know how it will be later on; they say
one does not feel a bullet wound at once. But I have not sent a bullet
through my head, I am not mad; I look at the Lung Arno; I could sit
down to a game of patience if I knew how to play; in fact, I am quite
well. It is the old story,--among sincere friends the dogs tore the
hare to pieces. My aunt considered it her Christian duty to show
Aniela the letter I had written from Peli.

FLORENCE, 23 June.

In the morning, when I wake up,--or rather, when opening my
eyes,--I am obliged to repeat to myself that Aniela is marrying
Kromitzki,--Aniela, so good, so loving, who insisted on sitting up to
take care of me when I returned from Warsaw to Ploszow; who looked
into my eyes, hung upon every word that came from my lips, and with
every glance told me she was mine. That same Aniela will not only be
Kromitzki's wife, but within a week from the wedding will not be able
to conceive how she could ever hesitate in her choice between such a
man as Ploszowski and a Jupiter like Kromitzki. Strange things happen
in this world,--so terrible and irrevocable that it takes away the
desire to live out the mean remnant of one's existence. Most likely
Pani Celina together with Pani Sniatynska make a great ado about
Kromitzki, and praise him at my expense. I hope they will leave Aniela
in peace. It is my aunt's doing; she ought not to have allowed it, if
only for Aniela's sake, as she cannot possibly be happy with him. She
herself says Aniela has accepted him out of despair.

Here is that long, cursed letter:--

"I thank you for the last news,--all the more as that first letter
from Peli was not only conclusive, but also very cruel. I could
scarcely believe that you had not only no affection for the girl, but
also neither friendship nor compassion. My dear Leon, I never asked
nor advised you to become engaged to Aniela at once,--I only wanted
you to write a few kindly words, not to her directly, but in a letter
to me. And believe me, it would have been sufficient; for she
loved you as only girls like her can love. Put yourself in my
position,--what could I do after having received your letter? How
could I conscientiously allow her to remain in her illusion, and at
the same time in that anxiety that evidently undermined her health?
Chwastowski always sends a special messenger for papers and letters,
and brings them himself when he comes to breakfast. Aniela saw there
was a letter from you, because the poor child was always on the
lookout for Chwastowski, and took the letters from him under pretext
that she wanted to put them under my napkin; and the real reason was
that she might see whether there was a letter from you. I noticed how
her hands trembled when she poured out the tea. Touched by a sudden
foreboding, I hesitated whether to put off the reading of your letter
until I had gone into my room; but I was anxious about your health,
and could not wait. God knows what it cost me not to show what I felt,
especially as Aniela's eyes were fixed upon my face. But I got a firm
grip of myself, and even managed to say: 'Leon is still sorrowing,
but, thank God! his health is all right, and he sends you kind
messages.' Aniela inquired, as it were in her usual voice, 'Is he
going to remain long in Italy?' I saw how much the question meant
to her, and had not the heart to undeceive her then,--especially as
Chwastowski and the servants were there; so I said merely: 'No, not
very long; I believe he will soon come to see us.' If you had seen the
flame that shot up in her face, the sudden joy that kindled her eyes,
and the effort she made not to burst into tears. Poor child! I feel
inclined to cry every time I think of it. What I went through in the
solitude of my own room, you cannot imagine; but you wrote distinctly,
'I wish her happiness with Kromitzki;' it was duty, my conscience told
me, to open her eyes. There was no need to send for her,--she came
herself. I said to her, 'Aniela, dear, you are a good girl, and a girl
that submits to God's will. We must be open with each other. I have
seen the affection that was springing up between you and Leon. It was
my dearest wish you might come to love each other; but evidently the
Lord willed it otherwise. If you have still any illusions, you must
try to get rid of them.' I took her into my arms; for she had grown
deadly white, and I was afraid she might faint. But she did not lose
consciousness, but hid her head on my knees and said over and over
again: 'What message did he send me?' I did not want to tell her, but
then it struck me it might be better for her if she knew the whole
truth; and I told her you wished her happiness with Kromitzki. She
rose, and after a moment said, in a quite changed voice: 'Thank him
for me, aunty!' and then left the room. I am afraid you will not thank
me for repeating to her your very words, without disguising them under
any kind expressions; but since you do not want Aniela, the more
plainly she is told about it the better. Convinced that you treated
her badly, she may forget you all the sooner. Besides, if it give
you pain, remember how much pain and anxiety you have caused
us,--especially Aniela. Yet she has more control over herself than I
even expected. Her eyes were quite dry the whole day, and she gave
no sign of inward trouble; she is anxious to spare her mother, about
whose health she is much concerned; she only clung more to her and
to me,--which moved me so deeply that it made my chin tremble. Pan
Sniatynski, who came to see us the same day, did not notice anything
unusual in Aniela. Knowing he is in your confidence, I told him all
about it; and he was dreadfully shocked, and got into such a rage with
you that it made me quite angry with him. I need not repeat what
he said,--you know his ways. You, who do not love Aniela, cannot
understand how happy you might have been with her; but you have done
wrong, Leon, in making her believe you loved her. Not only she,--we
all thought the same; and that is where the sting lies. Only God
knows how much she suffered; and it was this that made her accept
Kromitzki,--it was done out of despair. She must have had a long talk
with her mother, and then it was decided. When Kromitzki arrived the
day after, she treated him differently; and a week later they were
engaged. Pan Sniatynski heard about it only a few days ago, and he was
tearing his hair; and as to my own feelings, I will not even try to
put them into words.

"I was more angry with you than I have ever been in my life with
anybody, and only your second letter has pacified me a little, though
it convinced me at the same time of the futility of my dreams. I
confess that after the first letter, and before Kromitzki had finally
proposed, I still thought: 'Perhaps God will be good to us and change
his heart; maybe he has written thus in a fit of auger!' but when
afterwards you sent kind messages to Aniela without denying or
contradicting what you had written in the first letter, I saw it was
of no use deceiving myself any longer. Aniela's wedding is to take
place on the 25th of July, and I will tell you why they have fixed
upon such a short date. Celina is really very ill, thinks she will
soon die, and is afraid her death might delay the marriage, and thus
leave Aniela without a protector. Kromitzki is in a hurry because he
has his business to attend to in the East; lastly, Aniela wishes to
drain the cup with as little delay as possible. Ah! Leon, my boy,
why should all this have happened, and why is that poor child made

"I would never have allowed her to marry Kromitzki, but how could I
say a word against it, feeling as I do that I am guilty in regard
to Aniela. I was over-anxious to see you settled in life, and never
considered what might be the consequences for her. It is my fault,
and consequently I suffer not a little; I pray every day for the poor

"After the ceremony they will immediately leave for Volhynia. Celina
remains with me for the present; she was thinking of Odessa, but I
will not let her go on any account. You know, my dear boy, how happy I
am when you are with me, but do not come now to Ploszow for Aniela's
sake; if you wish to see me I will come to you, but we must spare
Aniela now as much as we can."

Why deceive myself any longer? When I read that letter I felt as if I
could ram my head against the wall,--not in rage or jealousy but in
utter anguish.

23 June.

I cannot possibly fold my hands and let things take their own way.
This marriage must not take place; it would be too monstrous. To-day,
Thursday, I have sent a telegram to Sniatynski, entreating him by all
the powers to be at Cracow by Sunday. I shall leave here to-morrow. I
asked him not to mention the telegram to anybody. I will see him, talk
to him, and beg him to see Aniela in my name. I count much upon his
influence. Aniela respects and likes him very much. I did not apply to
my aunt, because we men understand one another better. Sniatynski, as
a psychologist, can make allowance for the phase of life I have been
passing through lately. I can tell him, too, about Laura; if I were
to mention such a thing to my aunt she would cross herself as if in
presence of the Evil One. I first wanted to write to Aniela; but a
letter from me would attract attention and cause a general confusion.
I know Aniela's straight-forwardness; she would show the letter to her
mother, who does not like me and might twist the words so as to suit
her own schemes, and Kromitzki would help her. Sniatynski must see
Aniela alone. His wife will help him. I hope he will undertake the
mission, though I am fully aware what a delicate task it is. I have
not slept for several nights. When I shut my eyes I see Aniela before
me,--her face, her eyes, her smile,--I even hear her voice. I cannot
go on like this.

CRACOW, 26 June.

Sniatynski has arrived. He has promised to do it,--good fellow, God
bless him for it! It is four o'clock at night, but I cannot sleep, so
I sit down to write, for I can do nothing else. We talked together,
discussed and quarrelled till three o'clock. Now he is sleeping in the
adjoining room. I could not at first persuade him to undertake the
mission. "My dear fellow," he said, "what right have I, a stranger, to
meddle in your family affairs, and such a delicate affair too? Pana
Aniela could reduce me to silence at once by saying, 'What business is
it of yours?'"

I assured him that Aniela would do nothing of that kind. I
acknowledged he was right in the main, but this was an exceptional
case, and general rules could not apply to it. My argument that it was
for Aniela's sake seemed to convince him most; but I think he is doing
it a little for my sake too; he seemed sorry, and said I looked very
ill. Besides, he cannot bear Kromitzki. Sniatynski maintains that
money speculations is the same as taking money out of somebody
else's pocket and put it in one's own. He takes many things amiss in
Kromitzki, and says of him: "If he had a higher or honester aim in
view I could forgive him; but he tries to gain money for the mere sake
of having it." Aniela's marriage is almost as repugnant to him as
to me, and his opinion is that she is preparing a wretched life for
herself. At my entreaties he promised to take the first train in the

The day after both he and his wife will go to Ploszow, and if they do
not find a chance of seeing Aniela alone, carry her off to Warsaw for
a few hours. He is going to tell Aniela how much I suffer, and that my
life is in her hands. He is able to do it. He will speak to her with a
certain authority, gently and persuasively; he will convince her that
a woman, however wounded her heart may be, has no right to marry the
man she does not love; that doing so she acts dishonestly, and is not
true to herself; that, likewise, she has no right to throw over the
man she loves, because in an access of jealousy he wrote a letter he
repents of now from the veriest depths of his heart.

Towards the end Sniatynski said to me:--

"I will do what you wish under one condition: you must pledge me your
word that in case my mission fails, you will not go to Ploszow and
make a scene which the ladies might pay for with their health; you may
write to Aniela if you wish, but you will not go, unless she gives you

What does he take me for? I promised unreservedly, but his words
increased my anxiety. But I count upon Aniela's heart and Sniatynski's
eloquence. Ah! how he can speak! He did not encourage my hopes, but I
can see he is hopeful himself. As a last resource he promised to get
Aniela to delay the marriage for six months. In that case the victory
is ours, for Kromitzki will draw back. I shall remember this day for
a long time. Sniatynski, when in presence of a real sorrow, can be as
gentle as a woman, and he was anxious to spare my feelings. Yet
it costs me something to lay bare even before such a friend my
madness,--weak points,--and put into his hands my whole fate, instead
of fighting it out by myself. But what does it all matter when Aniela
is in question?

27 June.

Sniatynski left early. I went with him to the station. On the way I
kept repeating various instructions as if he were an idiot. He said
teasingly that if he were successful in his mission, I would begin
again philosophizing. I felt a desire to shake him. He went away with
such a cheerful face I could swear he feels sure not to fail.

After his departure I went straight to St. Mary's Church, and I, the
sceptic, the philosopher, I who do not know, do not know, do not
know, had a mass offered in the names of Leon and Aniela. I not only
remained during mass in church, but put down here, black on white:
Perdition upon all my scepticism, philosophy, and my "I do not know!"

28 June.

It is one o'clock in the afternoon. Sniatynski and his wife are
starting for Ploszow. Aniela ought to agree at least to a postponement
of her marriage. Various thoughts cross my mind. That Kromitzki is
greedy for money there is not the slightest doubt; then why did he not
fix his attentions on a richer girl? Aniela's estate is large, but
encumbered with debts,--perhaps it was the landed property he wanted,
so as to secure himself a position and a citizenship. Yet Kromitzki,
with his reputation as a rich man, could have got all this, and money
with his wife besides. Evidently Aniela attracted him personally
and for some time. It is not to be wondered at that Aniela should
captivate any one.

And to think that she was waiting, as one waits for one's happiness or
salvation, for one word from me! My aunt says it, that she was lying
in wait for Chwastowski, to take the letters from him. A terrible fear
seizes me that all this may not be forgiven, and that I am doomed and
all those that are like me.

10 o'clock in the evening.

I had a terrible neuralgia in the head; it has passed now, but what
with the pain, the sleeplessness, and anxiety, I feel as if I were
hypnotized. My mind, open and excited on one point, concentrated upon
one thought, sees more clearly than it has ever done before how the
affair will end. It seems to me that I am at Ploszow; I listen to what
Aniela says to Sniatynski, and I cannot understand how I could buoy
myself up with false hopes. She has no pity on me. These are not mere
suppositions, they are a dead certainty. Truly, something strange is
going on with me. A terrible gravity has suddenly fallen upon me, as
if up to this moment I had only been a child,--and such a terrible
sadness. Am I going to be ill? I made Sniatynski promise to send me a
telegram. No message has as yet arrived, though, properly speaking, it
will not tell me anything new.

29 June.

The telegram has come. It contains these words: "It is of no
use,--pull yourself together and travel." Yes, I will do it. Oh,

Paris, 2 April.

It is some ten months since I put down anything in my journal; it had
become such a familiar friend that I missed it. But I said to myself:
what is the use of it? If I put down on paper thoughts worthy of a
Pascal; deeper than the ocean depth; loftier than the Alps,--it would
not change the simple fact that she is married. With that fact staring
at me, my hands dropped powerless. Sometimes life concentrates itself
in one object, not necessarily an important one; but if that fails us
we seem at a loss what to do with ourselves. It is strange,--almost
laughable,--but for a long time I remained in a state of mind in which
the most commonplace functions of life seemed irksome and useless,
and it took me some time to remember that I used to go to clubs and
theatres, shaved, dressed, and dined before I knew her. The first
months I travelled a great deal, straying as far as Iceland. The sight
of Swedish lakes, Norwegian fiords, and Icelandic geysers conveyed to
me no direct impressions; I only tried to imagine what Aniela would
have felt or said to such a view,--in short, I saw with her eyes,
thought her thoughts, and felt with her heart. And when presently I
remembered that she was Aniela no longer, but Pani Kromitzka, I went
straight to the nearest railway station or ship to go somewhere else,
as what I looked upon had ceased to interest me. It did not matter
to me in the least that I played a part in one of the so commonly
ridiculed dramas where thousands of fools have played the same parts
before. And death is a drama; and those who are entering its gates
think the world is coming to an end; and so it is,--for them.

I do not know, and will not enter into it now, whether my feeling
the first few months was one of fathomless despair. Everything is
relative. I know only that my whole being was absorbed by one woman,
and I understood for the first time the void created by the death of a
dearly loved being.

But gradually the habit--not the zest--of life recovered its vital
power. This is a common enough fact. I have known people, inwardly
intensely sad, without a grain of cheerfulness in their souls, yet
keep up an appearance of cheerfulness because they had once been
cheerful, and the habit clung to them. And time dulls the pain, and I
found an antidote to the poison. I read once, in a book of travels by
Farini, that the Caffres, when stung by a scorpion, cure themselves
by letting the scorpion sting them in the same place. Such a
scorpion,--such an antidote,--was for me, and is generally for most
people, the word, "It is done; there is no help for it."

It is done, therefore I suffer; it is done, and I feel relieved.
There is an anodyne in the consciousness that it cannot be helped. It
reminds me of the Indian carried away by the Niagara: he struggled
at first with all his strength against the current; but seeing the
hopelessness of his efforts, threw away his oar, laid himself down in
the bottom of the canoe, and began to sing. I am ready to sing now.
The Niagara Falls have that advantage--they crush the life out of a
man; there are others that throw him on a lonely barren shore without
water. This has happened to me.

The evil genius bent upon wrecking my life had not taken in account
one thing: a man crushed and utterly wretched cares less for himself
than a happy one. In presence of that indifference fate becomes more
or less powerless. I was and am still in that frame of mind that, if
angry Fortuna came to me in person, and said: "Go to perdition," I
should reply calmly: "Be it so,"--not out of sorrow for the loss of
Aniela, but from mere indifference to everything within or without me.

This is a special kind of armor which not only protects the man
himself, but also makes him dangerous to others. It is clear that
he who does not spare himself will not spare others. Even God's
commandment does not say: "Love thy neighbor more than thyself." It
does not follow that I mean to cut somebody's throat one of these
days. What I said has merely a theoretical bearing upon life in
general; nobody will be any the worse for it; for if indifference
diminishes altruism, it also lessens egoism. If I were to sleep
with my neighbor under the, same cloak, I should not surrender it
altogether; neither should I take it all to myself.

Dangerous, and even very dangerous, such a man as I am may become
when at length he is aroused from his lethargy, drawn forth from the
seclusion of his egotism, and forced into definite action. He then
acquires the precision of motion, and also the merciless power, of
an engine, I have gained that mechanical power. For some time I have
noticed that I impress others by my way of thinking and my will more
strongly than formerly, though I have not sought it in the least. The
everlasting source of weakness is love of self, vanity, and coquetry
in regard to others. Almost unconsciously everybody tries to please,
to gain sympathy; and towards that end often sacrifices his own
opinions and convictions. At present this coquetry, if not altogether
gone, is greatly diminished; and the indifference as to whether I
please or not gives me a kind of superiority over others. I have
noticed that during my travels, and especially now at Paris. There are
many here who at one time had an ascendency over me; now I have the
ascendency, for the very reason that I care less for it.

In a general way I look upon myself as a man who could be energetic
if he wished to exert himself; but the will acts in proportion to the
passions, and mine are in the passive state.

As the habit of giving an account to myself for my thoughts and
actions still remains with me, I explain in this way that in certain
conditions of life we may as strongly desire not to live, as in others
we should wish the contrary. Most likely my indifference springs from
this dislike of life. It is this which renders it different from the
apathy of such men as Davis.

It is quite certain that I have grown more independent than formerly,
and might say with Hamlet that there is something dangerous in
me. Fortunately nobody crosses my path. Everybody is as supremely
indifferent and cool towards me as I am in regard to them. Only my
aunt in far-away Ploszow loves me as of old; but I suppose even
her love has lost its active character, and there will be no more
match-making in my behalf.

3 April.

Alas! that indifference I compared to pure water without taste or
color is only apparently colorless. Looking more closely I perceive
tiny bubbles which dim its purity. They are my idiosyncrasies.
Everything else has left me and they remained. I do not love anybody,
have no active hatred towards any one, but am full of aversions in
regard to various people. One of these is Kromitzki. I do not hate him
because he has taken Aniela from me; I dislike him for his long, flat
feet, his thick knees, lank figure, and that voice like a coffee-mill.
He was always repulsive to me, and I mention the fact now because that
aversion has such a strange vitality in me. I cannot help thinking of
people who jar upon my nerves. If only Kromitzki and Pani Celina came
under that category, I might think those antipathies were hatred in
the disguise of aversion. But it is not so. There are others who have
roused at some time or other an aversion in me that clings quite as
perversely to my memory. As I cannot ascribe it to the state of my
health,--I never felt better in my life,--I explain it in this way:
The world has robbed me of my love, time has dried up hatred, and as
the living individual must feel something, I live upon what remains to
me. I must also say that he who feels and lives thus does not get a
surfeit of happiness.

My former sympathies have cooled down very considerably. To Sniatynski
I have taken a dislike which no reasoning on my part can overcome.
Sniatynski has many grand qualities and is pleasantly conscious of
them, which gives him, as painters express it, a certain mannerism. I
suppose it is exceedingly rare that a man who sees that his individual
characteristics impress people favorably does not fall in love with
his own type, and end by exaggerating it. Sniatynski consequently has
grown artificial, and for the sake of the pose sacrifices his innate
delicacy; as in case of the abrupt telegram he sent to Cracow, after
his mission with Aniela had failed,--his advice to travel, which I
should have done without it,--and I received another letter from him
at Christiania soon after Aniela's wedding, written in a friendly
spirit, but very abrupt and artificial. I might give its substance as
follows: "Panna Aniela is now Pani Kromitzka,--the thing is done; I am
sorry for you; do not think the bottom is falling out of the universe;
there are other things in the world of more importance, the deuce take
it. Norway must be splendid just now. Come back soon and set to work.
Good-by," and so forth. I do not repeat it word for word, but such was
the gist of the letter. It impressed me unpleasantly, first because
I had not asked Sniatynski to lend me his yard-measure to measure my
sorrow with; secondly, I had thought him a sensible man, and supposed
he understood that his "more important things" are merely empty words
unless they imply feelings and inclinations that existed before. I
wanted to write to him there and then and ask him to release me from
his spiritual tutelage, but thinking better of it did not answer
at all,--I fancy that is the easiest way of breaking off a
correspondence. Entering more minutely into the matter, I find that
neither his telegram nor his letter have caused my dislike. Properly
speaking, I cannot forgive him that for which I ought to feel
grateful,--his mediation between me and Aniela. I myself implored him
to undertake it, but exactly because I implored him, entrusted him
with my fate, confessed to him my weaknesses, and made him in a way my
protector, and because the humiliation and sorrow which overwhelmed me
passed through his hands,--this, perhaps, explains my dislike towards
him. I felt angry with myself, and angry with Sniatynski as having
a part in it. It is unjust, I know, but I cannot help it, and my
friendship for him has burned out like a candle.

Besides, I have never been quick in forming ties of friendship. With
Sniatynski my relations were closer than with anybody else, perhaps
because we lived each of us in a different part of Europe. I had no
other friends. I belong in general to the class of persons called
singles. I remember there was a time when I considered this a sign
of strength. In the animal world, for instance, the weak ones mostly
cling together, and those whom nature has endowed with powerful claws
and teeth go single, because they suffice unto themselves. This
principle can be applied to human beings only in exceptional cases.
Incapacity for friendship proves mostly dryness of heart, not strength
of character. As to myself, the cause of it was a certain shyness and
sensitiveness. My heart is like that plant which closes its leaves at
the slightest touch. That I never formed ties of friendship with a
woman is a different thing altogether. I had a desire for friendship
in regard to those from whom I expected more. I feigned it sometimes,
as the fox makes believe to be dead in order to secure the rooks. It
does not follow that I disbelieve in friendship between man and woman.
I am not a fool who measures the world according to his own standard,
or a churl who is for ever suspecting evil; besides, various
observations have proved to me that such a friendship is quite
possible. As there exists the relation of brother and sister, the same
feeling may exist between two persons who feel as brother and sister
towards each other. Moreover, the capacity for that kind of friendship
belongs to the choicer spirits who have a natural inclination for
Platonic feasts, such as poets, artists, philosophers, and generally,
people who cannot be measured by the common standard. If this be a
proof that I was not made of the stuff artists, poets, and great men
are made of,--the worse for me. Most likely it is so, since I am
nothing but Leon Ploszowski. There was a time when I felt that if
Aniela had become my wife, she would not only have been my love, but
also my dearest friend. But I prefer not to think of it. Ghosts of
this kind visit me far too often, and I shall never have any peace
until I banish them altogether.

4 April.

I meet Mrs. Davis here pretty often, and call upon her at her house.
And nothing else! There is some dislike, a little contempt under a
thick layer of ashes, and for the rest, the usual social intercourse.
She is still too beautiful to be classified among my idiosyncrasies.
I cannot love her, and do not take the trouble to hate her. She
understood that at once, and adapted herself to circumstances. All the
same she cannot always conceal her irritation at my self-possession
and cool independence; but for that very reason shows me greater
consideration. It is very strange, that easiness with which women from
closest relations pass on to mere acquaintanceship. Laura and I treat
each other as if there had never been anything between us,--not only
before people, but even when we are alone together. It does not
seem to cost her the slightest effort; she is polite, cool, and
self-possessed, affable in her way, and her manners influence me
to such a degree that I should never dream of calling her by her
Christian name.

The Neapolitan cousin, Maleschi, used to roll his eyes so ferociously
at me that I almost considered it my duty to ask him not to injure his
optics; he has now calmed down, seeing how very distant our relations
to each other are, and is very friendly towards me. He has already
fought a duel about Laura, and in spite of the reputation of coward he
had in Italy, showed a deal of pluck. Poor Davis has passed to Nirvana
some months ago, and I suppose after a decent interval of widowhood,
Laura will marry Maleschi. They will make a splendid couple. The
Italian has the torso and head of an Antinous; in addition to that, a
complexion like pale gold, raven black hair, and eyes as blue as the
Mediterranean. It may be that Laura loves him, but for some reason
known only to herself, she bullies him a great deal. Several times in
my presence she treated him so uncivilly that I was surprised, as I
had thought her aesthetic nature incapable of such an exhibition of
temper. Aspasia and Xantippe in one.

I have often noticed that women, merely beautiful, without striking
qualities of the soul, who are looked upon as stars, are something
more than stars; they are a whole constellation, two in fact,--a Great
Bear to their surroundings, a Cross to their husbands. Laura was a
Cross to poor Davis, and is now a Bear in regard to Maleschi. She
would treat me a little in that way, too, if it were not that she is
not familiar with the ways of Parisian society, and considers it safer
to have me for an ally than an enemy. It is very strange, but she
does not create here the same sensation as in Italy, or on the
Mediterranean. She is simply too classical, too beautiful for
Parisians, whose taste is to a certain degree morbid, as appears in
their literature and art; and characteristic ugliness more strongly
excites their blunted nerves than simple beauty. It is a noted fact
that the most celebrated stars of the _demi-monde_ are rather ugly
than beautiful. In regard to Laura, there is another reason for
her non-success with the Parisians. Her intelligence, though very
uncommon, is upon too straight lines, wanting in that kind of dash
so appreciated here. There are thinkers, and deep thinkers, too, in
Paris, but in society those mostly win a reputation whose minds are
nimble enough to cling to any subject, as a monkey to a branch by his
tail or feet, turning head over heel. The more these jumps are sudden
and unexpected, the surer the success. Laura understands this, and at
the same time is conscious that to do this would be as easy for her
as to dance on a rope. She considers me an adept in these kinds of
gymnastics, and consequently wants me.

To increase the attraction of her salon, she has made it into a temple
of music. She herself sings like a siren, and thereby attracts
many people. I meet there often a pianiste, Clara Hilst, a young,
good-looking German girl, very tall of figure, whom one of the
painters here describes thus: "C'est beau, mais c'est deux fois
grandeur naturelle." In spite of her German origin, she has met with
a considerable success. As to myself, I evidently belong to the old
school, for I do not understand the music of the present, which
consists in a great deal of noise and confusion. Listening the last
time to Miss Hilst's playing at Laura's, I thought to myself that if
the piano were a man who had seduced her sister, she could not
belabor him more mercilessly. She also plays on the harmonium. Her
compositions are thought of a great deal here, and considered very
deep; most likely because those who could not understand them, hearing
them for the tenth time, hope the eleventh time will make them more
intelligible. I must confess that these remarks sound malicious,
perhaps bold in one who does not profess to be a judge. Yet it seems
to me that music for the understanding of which one has to be a
professor of the Conservatorium, and for which people intellectually
developed, let alone simple folk, do not possess the key, is not what
it ought to be. I am afraid that musicians following the same track
will end by creating a separate caste, like the Egyptian priests, in
order to keep knowledge and art exclusively to themselves.

I say this because I notice that since Wagner's time, music, compared,
for instance, to painting, has taken a quite different direction. The
newer school of painting is narrowing spontaneously the limit of its
proportions, tries to divest itself from philosophical and literary
ideas; does not attempt speeches, sermons, historical events that
require a commentary, or allegory that does not explain itself at a
glance; in fact confines itself with the full consciousness of doing
so to the reproduction of shape and color. Music since Wagner's time
goes in the opposite direction,--tries to be, not only a harmony of
sound, but at the same time the philosophy of harmony. I sometimes
think a great musical genius of the future will say, as Hegel did in
his time:--

"There was only one who understood me, and he understood me wrongly."

Miss Hilst belongs to the category of musical philosophers, which is
all the more strange, as her mind is full of simplicity. This caryatid
has the limpid, innocent eyes of a child, and is unsophisticated and
sincere like one. She is surrounded by a great throng of admirers, who
are attracted by her beauty, and more still by the nimbus that makes a
woman touched by the hand of the Muses always a centre of attraction;
nevertheless, not a breath has touched her fair fame. Even the women
speak well of her, for she disarms them by her invariable good humor
and sincerity. She is as gay as any street urchin, and I have seen her
laughing as schoolgirls laugh, the tears running down her face, which
would be considered bad form in anybody but an artist, who is a
privileged person. Hers, from a moral point of view, is a beautiful
character, though beyond her art, she is not endowed with great
intellectual gifts. Laura, who, in the main, does not like her, hinted
to me several times that the caryatid is in love with me. I do not
believe it; she might love me, perhaps, if I tried to make her. One
thing is certain, she likes me very much, and felt sympathy for me the
first time we met. I return the sentiment, and do not try to disturb
her peace of mind. When I meet a woman for the first time I look upon
her, from old habit I suppose, as a possible conquest; it is the first
instinct. A second thought is quite different. Generally speaking,
women interest me in the way precious stones interest a jeweller who
has retired from business. Seeing a valuable gem, I say to myself it
is worth having, and then I remember that I have sold out, and go on
my way.

In spite of all that, I once, half in jest, urged her to go to Warsaw,
and promised to escort her as honorary _impresario_. I do not say that
such a journey would be without charm. I really intend going. My aunt
has given me her town house, and wants me to come over in order to
take the property. Besides, I always go to Warsaw for the races. Who
would believe that my aunt, a grave, serious-minded lady, devoted to
the management of the estate, to prayer and benevolent schemes, had
such a worldly weakness as horse-racing. It is her one passion. Maybe
the knightly instincts which women inherit as well as men, find an
outlet in this noble sport. Our horses have been running for Heaven
knows how many years,--and are always beaten. My aunt never fails to
attend the races, and is an enthusiast about horses. While her own
horses are running, she stands on the back seat of her carriage,
leaning on a stick, her bonnet usually awry, and watches for the
result,--then gets very angry, and for at least a month makes
Chwastowski's life a burden to him. At present I hear she has reared
a wonderful horse, and she bids me to come and witness the triumph of
the black and orange colors. I shall go. There are other reasons too
which make me inclined to go. As I have said, I am comparatively
speaking calm, do not wish for anything, or expect anything, am
resigned in fact to that kind of spiritual paralysis until the time
comes when bodily paralysis carries me off, as it carried off my
father. Nevertheless, I cannot forget altogether, therefore it is
only a partial paralysis. The one being I ever loved presents herself
before my mind in two shapes. The one is called Pani Kromitzka, the
other Aniela. As far as Pani Kromitzka is concerned, I am indifferent
and a stranger; but Aniela still haunts me and brings with her,
as gifts, the consciousness of wrong, my foolishness, spiritual
crookedness, pain, bitterness, disappointment, and loss. Verily a
munificent spirit! I might be even now perfectly contented if somebody
could take from my brain that particular part wherein memory dwells. I
try to drive away the thoughts of what might have been if things had
turned out differently, but cannot always manage it. My munificent,
generous angel will come now and then, and from her cornucopia shower
her gifts upon me. At times the idea comes into my mind that Pani
Kromitzka will lay the ghost of Aniela,--and that is one reason I wish
to go; to look upon her happiness, her married life, and all those
changes which must have made her different from the old Aniela.
Perhaps I may meet her at Ploszow, as she will want to see her mother,
after so many months of separation.

I suppose that I do not delude myself, and that "ceci tuera cela."
I count mostly upon my nerves, which are so easily worked upon. I
remember that when I had made Aniela's acquaintance and her charm
began to act upon me with such irresistible force, the very mention of
Kromitzki in connection with her made her less desirable. This will
be more so now, when she belongs to him body and soul. I am almost
certain the remedy will prove efficacious, and that "ceci tuera cela."
And if not, if it should turn out differently, what have I to lose? I
do not wish to gain anything, but should not be sorry perhaps to know
that the guilt was not on my side only, and that henceforth the burden
would have to be divided between us two; this might give me a kind of
satisfaction. I say, it _might_, because I am not sure that it would.
Thoughts of revenge are very far from me. It is only on theatrical
boards that disappointed lovers are thirsting for revenge; in real
life they go away with distaste, that is all. Moreover, to make Pani
Kromitzka believe that she had done wrong in rejecting my repentance I
should have to believe firmly in it myself,--and strange to say, there
are moments I am not sure of anything.

5 April.

I know for certain I shall meet Pani Kromitzka. Her husband has sold
the estate, betaken himself to Baku on business speculation, and has
sent his wife to join her mother at Ploszow; so my aunt tells me in
her letter. I received the news if not indifferently, at least with
perfect composure, but I notice that the impression gradually gained
upon me. At present I cannot think of anything else, as the fact is of
so great importance to the two women. After so short a space as ten
months he sold the estate which over four hundred years had been in
Aniela's family, and to the preservation of which Pani Celina had
devoted her own life. Then comes a Pan Kromitzki and sells it with a
light heart because he wants the money for his speculations. Suppose
he does make millions--will that compensate the women for the loss of
what they prized above money? What will they think of him now? My
aunt writes that she is sitting by Pani Celina's bedside, who after
receiving the news of the sale grew worse at once. I am quite certain
that Aniela, when putting her signature to the deed which empowered
her husband to dispose of the land, did not know what she was signing.
She is even now defending her husband. My aunt quotes from Aniela's
letter: "A great misfortune has happened, but it was not Charles's
fault." Defend him, defend him, O loyal wife; but you cannot prevent
my thinking that he has wounded you deeply, and that at the bottom of
your heart you despise him. Neither kisses nor soft words will efface
from your memory the one word "sold." And Pani Celina thought that
after the marriage he would devote his money towards clearing off the
debts and disincumbering the property! Dear ladies, I, a man who does
not boast of civic virtues, would not have done it, if for no other
reason than innate delicacy of feeling, affection for you, and fear to
wound you. But for speculations, ready money is wanted. I hope it is
not merely prejudice, but these millions I heard so much about appear
to me like a great point of interrogation. Maybe he will get them;
perhaps the capital realized from the sale will help him towards it;
but if he had possessed the wealth he used to boast of, would he have
dealt his wife and mother-in-law such a blow, and sold their ancestral
seat? My aunt writes that he left immediately after the sale for Baku,
and intends to go as far as Turkestan. Aniela being too young to live
by herself must needs come to Ploszow, as her mother cannot leave it
at present, because she is too ill to travel; and besides my aunt will
not let her go, and she is afraid of crossing her in any way. I know
Aniela too well to suspect her of any calculations. She is the very
essence of disinterestedness. But the mother, who would grasp all the
world for her only child, doubtless counts upon the chance of a legacy
for Aniela. And she is not mistaken either. My aunt, who never quite
believed in Kromitzki's millions, gave me to understand several times
that she meant to do something for Aniela; she said it with a certain
hesitation, almost humbly, as she considers everything ought to go to
a Ploszowski, and that to leave anything to another would be a wrong
to the family. How little she knows me! If Aniela were in want of a
pair of shoes and I had to sell Ploszow and give all I possess, she
should have them. I might be prompted by a less noble motive,--for
instance, to appear different from a Kromitzki,--but from whatever
motive, I should give it certainly. But there is no question of that
now. I am thinking continually that she is living at Ploszow, and will
remain there as long as Kromitzki's journeys last, which may be God
only knows for how long. I shall see Pani Kromitzka every day. At the
thought of this I feel a certain uneasiness, with a strong admixture
of curiosity as to our future relations towards each other; and I
clearly see what might happen if my disposition and feelings in regard
to her were different. I never lie to myself; I repeat again that I
am going there in order to cure myself, that I do not love Pani
Kromitzka, and never will love her; that on the contrary, I am in
hope that the sight of her will drive Aniela out of my heart far more
successfully than all the fiords and geysers; but I would not be
myself, the man who has lived much and thought much, if I did not see
the danger which under other circumstances such a position might bring

If I wanted to revenge myself, if the very name Pani Kromitzka did not
excite my loathing, what could stand in my way or hinder me,--in
quiet Ploszow, where would be we two only, and the elder ladies, as
unsuspicious and unsophisticated in their stainless virtue as any
babies? In regard to this I know my aunt and Pani Celina. In the
higher spheres of society one meets sometimes women thoroughly
corrupted; but there are many, especially among the older generation,
who pass through life like angels, with no thought of evil ever coming
near them. Neither my aunt nor Pani Celina would ever dream of any
danger threatening Aniela now she is married. Aniela herself belongs
to that kind. She would not have rejected my prayers had she not given
her word to Kromitzki. But Polish women of this kind would rather
break a heart than break their word. At the very thought of it a dull
wrath seizes me. I crush down within me the desire every one has to
prove the truth of his opinion. I do not want to argue at all with
Pani Kromitzka, but if somebody else would do it,--point out to women
like her that the laws of nature, laws of affection, cannot be broken
with impunity, that they are stronger than any ethic laws, I should be
glad of it. It is true I have sinned in regard to Aniela, but I wished
to make amendment from the very depth of my heart, and she rejected
me,--rejected me perhaps so as to be able to say to herself: "I am not
a Leon Ploszowski; I have given a promise, and do not take it back."
This is not virtue, it is want of heart; it is not heroism, but
foolishness; not rectitude of conscience, but vanity. I cannot forget,
I cannot; but Pani Kromitzka will help me. When I come to see her in
her new matronly dignity, satisfied with her heroism, self-possessed,
in love, or apparently so, with her husband, watching me furtively to
see whether I have been punished, and punished sufficiently, full of
happiness and her own virtues, the ghost of my old love will be laid,
and I can go back to where the reindeer lives without Aniela's memory
following me like the sea-gulls in the track of ships.

It is possible that Pani Kromitzka will put on the airs of an injured
victim, and her whole manner to me may say: "It is your fault!" Very
well. We have seen some of that in the world. As artificial flowers
have one defect, the want of scent, artificial crowns of thorn have
one advantage, they do not prick, and may be worn as a bonnet, very
becoming to a pretty face. Whenever I met one of those victims who
married out of despair I felt a desire to say: "It is not true! you
were a victim maybe in good faith as long as the chosen one did not
approach you in his slippers. From that moment you ceased to be
pathetic, and are only ridiculous, and the more so if you pose as a

6 April.

How beautiful and wise is the Greek word "ananke." It was fated that
through a woman I should lose my peace of mind, though I had ceased
to care for her. The news that her ancestral seat is sold, and she
herself coming to live at Ploszow, moved me so deeply that I could not
sleep. Various questions knocked at my brain, asking for admittance.
I tried to solve the question whether I had any right to lead Pani
Kromitzka from the path of virtue. I neither wish, nor will I endeavor
to do so, because she has ceased to attract me; but would it be right?
I fill my life with these questions of "to be, or not to be," because
I have nothing else to do. Thoughts like mine are not reckoned among
the delights of life. It is like the dog trying to catch his tail; he
does not catch anything. I do not prove anything, only tire myself;
but have the satisfaction that another day has passed, or another
night gone by.

I observe at the same time, that with all my scepticism, I am still
beset with scruples worthy of the vicar of Ploszow. The modern man is
composed of so many threads that in trying to set himself right, he
gets more and more entangled. It was in vain I repeated to myself,
if only in theory, that I had the right. A voice, as from the parish
church, seemed to say at intervals: "No! no! you have not the right!"
But scruples like these ought to be kept down, as for me this is a
question of keeping my mind evenly balanced. At this quiet evening
time, I feel just in the humor for it. This afternoon, at a well-known
painter's studio, I heard Mrs. Davis maintain, in discussion with two
literary men, that a woman ought to be unapproachable all her life,
if only "pour la nettete du plumage," and Maleschi repeated, "Oui,
oui,--du plumaze." Oh, ye gods and fishes! I fancied all the crabs
in the Mediterranean rolling on their backs in silent laughter, and
raising their claws to heaven, imploring Jove for a thunderbolt! By
the bye, Mrs. Davis borrowed that sentence from me, and I borrowed
it from Feuillet. I kept my gravity, and did not permit myself the
slightest smile, but it put me into a merry, cynical humor, the
reflection of which still remains with me, and is for the moment the
best weapon against scruples of conscience.

Now for the start. Would it be right for me to fall in love with Pani
Kromitzka, and in case of success lead her from the path of duty?
First, let us look at it from a point of honor, as people consider it
who call themselves, and whom the world regards as, gentlemen. There
is not a single paragraph there against it. It is one of the queerest
codices ever invented under the sun. If, for instance, I steal
somebody's money, the disgrace falls upon me, and not upon the man who
is robbed, according to the world's rule of honor; but if I rob him of
his wife, it is not I, but the robbed man who is disgraced. What does
it mean? Is it a mere aberration of the moral sense, or is it that
between stealing a man's purse and stealing his wife, there is such
a vast difference that the two cases cannot be even compared? I have
often thought over this, and have come to the conclusion that there
is a great difference. A human being can never be as absolutely a
property as a thing, and the taking away somebody's wife is an act of
a double will. Why should I respect the rights of a husband if his own
wife does not? What is he to me? I meet a woman who wants to be mine,
and I take her. Her husband does not exist for me; her vows are no
affair of mine. What should hold me back? Respect for the matrimonial
institution? But if I loved Pani Kromitzka, I would cry out from the
very depth of my soul: "I protest against this marriage; protest
against her duties towards Kromitzki. I am the worm this marriage has
crushed; and they tell me, writhing in anguish, to respect it,--me,
who would sting it with my last breath." Why; for what reason? What do
I care for a social institution that has wrung from me the last drop
of blood, deprived me of my very existence? Man lives on fish. Go tell
the fish to respect the order that it be skinned alive before being
put on the fire. I protest and sting,--that is my answer. Spencer's
ideal of a finally developed man, in whom the individual impulses will
be in perfect harmony with social laws, is nothing but an assumption.
I know perfectly that such as Sniatynski would demolish my theory with
one question: "You are then for free-love?" No, nothing of the sort. I
am for myself. I do not wish to hear anything about your theories. If
you fall in love with another woman, or your wife with somebody else,
we shall see what becomes of your rules, paragraphs, and respect for
social institutions. At the worst, I might be called inconsequent. I
was inconsequent, too, when I, a sceptic, had a mass offered up for
Leon and Aniela, and prayed like a child, and swallowed my tears like
any fool. In future I will always be inconsequent when it suits me and
makes me happier. There is only one logic in the world,--the logic of
passions. Reason holds the reins for a time, but when the horses tear
along in mad career, she sits on the box and merely watches lest
the vehicle should go to pieces. The human heart cannot be rendered
love-proof, and love is an element strong as tidal waves. The very
gates of hell cannot overcome a woman who loves her husband, for the
marriage vows are only the sealing of love's compact; but if it be
mere duty, the first tide will throw her on the sands like a dead
fish. I cannot bind myself not to let my hair grow, or to remain
always young; and as often as I did so, the laws of nature would take
their course in spite of human bonds. It is strange, but all that I
am writing is pure theory. I have no schemes I need justify before
myself, and yet all these reflections have stirred my soul to such
an extent that I had to leave off writing. My calmness is evidently
artificial. I walked up and down the room for an hour, and at last
found out what disturbed me.

It is very late. From the windows of my room I see the cupola of the
Invalides gleaming in the moonlight, as once I saw St. Peter's cupola,
when, full of hope, I walked on the Pincio, thinking of Aniela.
Unconsciously I had given myself up to those memories. Whatever there
be or awaits us in the future, one thing is certain: I could have been
happy, and she might be ten, nay, a hundred times happier than she
is. Even now, if I had any hidden schemes, or if she were to me the
greatest temptation, I would respect her unhappiness. I would not hurt
her for anything. The very thought of it would take away my courage
and decision, I had such an amount of tenderness for her.

But all that is in the past. The sceptic dwelling within me creeps up
again with another question: Would she be really so unhappy? I have
verified, not once, but several times, the fact that women are unhappy
only while they struggle. The battle once over, regardless of the
result, there follows a period of calm and happiness. I knew at one
time a woman in Paris who resisted most persistently for three years.
When at last her heart got the upper hand and she gave in, she only
reproached herself for not having done so sooner.

But what is the use of putting all these questions or trying to solve
problems? I know that every principle is open to argument, and every
proof to scepticism. The good old times when people doubted everything
except their intelligence to recognize the true from the false, have
gone. At present there is nothing but labyrinths upon labyrinths.
I had better not think of anything but the journey before me. And
Kromitzki sold his wife's ancestral home and thus inflicted on her a
cruel blow! I had to write it down black on white once more, otherwise
I could not believe it.

10 April.

I went towards evening to say good-by to Mrs. Davis, and dropped in
for a regular concert. Laura seems really very fond of music. Miss
Hilst was playing on the harmonium. I always like to see her, but
especially when she sits down to the harmonium, and playing the
prelude, keeps her eyes on the keys. There is so much earnestness and
intentness in her face, combined with calmness. She reminds me of
Saint Cecilia, the most sympathetic of all saints, with whom I should
have fallen in love had she lived in our times. A pity Clara is so
tall; but one forgets it when she is playing. From time to time she
lifts her eyes, as if recalling to memory a note heard somewhere in
the spheres, or seeking inspiration, and she herself looks like
one inspired. She rightly bears the name of Clara, for it would be
difficult to find a more transparent soul. I said I liked to see her;
as to her music, it is still the same; I do not understand it,
or rather I follow her meaning with the greatest difficulty.
Nevertheless, in spite of my satirical remarks, I think she has a
remarkable talent.

When she had finished I approached her, and still half jestingly said
the time had come and I was ready to escort her to Warsaw according
to our agreement. I was surprised to see her take my proposition so
seriously. She said that she had wanted to go there for some time, and
was quite ready; it was all a question of informing an old relative
who always went with her, and of taking a dumb piano, as she practised
even on her journeys.

The prospect began to alarm me somewhat. If she goes, I shall have to
help her in getting up a concert; and I would rather go straight on to
Ploszow. As a last resource I could hand her over to Sniatynski,
who would be more useful to her than I. Besides, Miss Hilst is the
daughter of a rich mill-owner at Frankfurt, and it is not a question
of material success with her. The eagerness with which she agreed to
the journey made me thoughtful. I had half a mind to tell her that I
did not object to the dumb piano so much as to the elderly relative.
Men are so prone to lie in wait for women that few approach a young
and pretty one without an after-thought. As to myself, though wholly
absorbed by something else, the idea of the old relative travelling
with us was unpleasant, the more so as my person evidently plays some
part in this so quickly arranged journey. Paris presents a far wider
scope for her musical talent, and she does not care for gain; why
should she be so anxious to go to Warsaw? Laura, as I have said, has
hinted more than once that Miss Hilst has more than a liking for me. A
strange woman, Laura! Clara's innocence excites her envy, but only as
it might be excited by a beautiful jewel, or by rare lace,--with her
it is merely a question of adornment. Maybe for that reason she would
like to push that big child into my arms. She does not care for me any
longer; I am an ornament she has worn already.

That woman, though unconsciously, has wrought me such irreparable harm
that I ought to hate her, but cannot,--first, because I am conscious
that, had she never crossed my path, I should have probably found some
other means to wreck my happiness; secondly, as Satan is a fallen
angel, so hatred is degenerated love, and I never loved Laura. There
is a little contempt for her, a little dislike, and she returns the
feeling undoubtedly a hundredfold.

As to Clara's feelings, Laura may be right. To-day I saw it clearer
than ever. If that be the case, I am grateful to her. For the first
time in my life I long for the pure friendship of a woman. A soul so
restless as mine will find solace and comfort in such a friendship.

We conversed together to-day, Clara and I, like old friends. Her
intelligence is not large, but clear and discerning between bad and
good, ugly and what she considers beautiful; consequently her judgment
is not shifty, but calm and serene. She has that kind of spiritual
healthiness often met with in Germans. Coming across them now and
then I observe that the type I belong to is very rare among them. The
Germans and the English are generally positive and know what they
want. They too are sounding the fathomless depth of doubt, but they
do it methodically as scientists, not as sensitive geniuses without
portfolio like me; in consequence of which their recent transcendental
philosophy, their present scientific pessimism, and their poetic
_Weltschmerz_ have only a theoretical meaning. Their everyday practice
consists in adapting themselves to the rules of life. According to
Hartmann, the more humanity gains in intensity and consciousness.
The more unhappy it grows. The same Hartmann, with the calmness of a
German _Cultur-traeger_, becomes practical when he raises his voice
in favor of suppressing the Polish element as detrimental to German
supremacy. But, putting aside this incident, which belongs to the
category of human villanies, Germans do not take theories seriously,
and therefore are always calm and capable of action. This same
calmness Clara possesses. Things which rend and trouble human souls
must have come near her some time or other, but if so they left no
trace and were not absorbed by her; thus she never lost faith in
truth and in her art. If she has any deeper feeling for me than mere
friendship, the feeling is unconscious and does not ask for anything
in return. If it were otherwise, it would be the beginning of her
tragedy, as I could not return her love and might make her unhappy. I
am not so conceited as to think that no woman could resist me, but I
am of the opinion that no woman can resist the man she truly loves.
It is a trite saying that "a fortress besieged is a fortress
surrendered," but there is some truth in it when adapted to woman,
especially when behind the entrenchment of her virtues she harbors
such a traitor as her own heart. But Clara may rest tranquil. We shall
travel peacefully together: she, her old relative, myself, and the
dumb piano.

16 April.

I arrived at Warsaw three days ago, but have not been able to go to
Ploszow as, shortly after my arrival, I got a cold in my teeth and my
face is swollen. I do not wish to show myself to the ladies in that

I have seen Sniatynski, and my aunt, who has welcomed me as the
prodigal son. Aniela arrived at Ploszow a week ago. Her mother is very
ill, so ill that the doctors who advised her to try Wiesbaden now
declare she could not bear the journey. She will therefore remain
at Ploszow until she recovers--or dies, and Aniela with her, until
Kromitzki winds up his business or thinks it proper to give her a
home. From what my aunt says this may take him some months. I tried to
get from my aunt as much news about Aniela as I could, which is easy
enough, as she speaks about her with perfect freedom. She simply
cannot understand how a married woman could excite any feeling except
in the way of relationship; or rather, she has never even considered
the question. She spoke openly about the sale of Aniela's home, which
she considers a great shame. She got so excited over it as to break
her watch-chain and let the watch roll on the floor.

"I will tell him so to his face," she said. "I would rather have lent
him the money had I known anything about it. Only what would have been
the use? His speculations are a gulf. I do not know whether any good
will come out of it, but in the meanwhile everything is swallowed up
in it. Let him only come, and I will tell him that he makes Aniela
unhappy, kills her mother, and will end in ruining them and himself."
I asked my aunt whether she had said anything about this to Aniela.

"To Aniela?" she replied. "I am glad you have come; it relieves my
mind and makes it easier to bear. I cannot speak about it with Aniela.
I tried it once when I could not contain myself any longer. I made
some remark and she grew very angry, then burst out crying and said,
'He was obliged, he was obliged, and could not help it.' She does not
allow anybody to say a word against him, and would like to cover all
his short-comings before the world; but she cannot deceive an old
woman like me, and I know that at the bottom of her heart she must
condemn him as I do."

"Do you mean she does not love him?"

My aunt looked at me in unfeigned surprise.

"Not love him? Of course she loves him. Whom should she love if not
him? That's just where the sting lies; she grieves because she loves
him. But one may love and yet have one's eyes open to what is wrong."

I had my own opinion on that point, but preferred not to express it,
and allowed my aunt to proceed.

"What I resent most in him are his lies. He assured Celina and Aniela
that in a year or two he would be able to buy the estate back. Just
tell me, is this possible? and those women believe he is in earnest!"

"According to my opinion it is quite impossible. Besides, he will go
on speculating."

"He knows it even better than we do, and yet he goes on lying to the

"Perhaps he does it to relieve their anxiety."

My aunt grew angrier still.

"Relieve their anxiety! fiddlesticks! they would not have had any
anxiety if he had not sold it. Do not defend him, it is of no use.
Everybody blames him. Chwastowski was wild about it. He had looked
into the affairs, and says that without any ready money he could have
cleared the estate himself in a few years. I would have given the
money and so would you, would you not? and now it is too late."

Presently I inquired about Aniela's health, with a strange, troubled
foreboding I might hear something which, though perfectly natural
and in the order of things, would give a shock to my nerves. My aunt
caught the drift of my thoughts and replied with as much acerbity as

"There is nothing whatever the matter with her. All he could do
he did; that was to sell his wife's estate. No, there is nothing

I turned the conversation to something else. I told my aunt I had
arrived together with the celebrated pianist Miss Hilst, who, having
considerable means of her own, wished to give a few concerts gratis.
My aunt is a queer mixture of eccentricities. She began by abusing
Miss Hilst for not coming in winter, when the time for concerts was
more propitious; presently began considering that it was not too late
yet, and wanted to go and call upon her at once. I could scarcely
persuade her to put off her visit until I had told Miss Hilst about
it. My aunt is a patroness of several charitable institutions, and it
is with her a point of honor to get for them as much as she can at the
expense of other institutions, consequently was afraid somebody else
might forestall her with the artist.

When leaving me she asked, "When are you coming to stay at Ploszow?"

I replied that I was not going to stay there at all. I had thought of
that during the journey and came to the conclusion that it would be
better to have my headquarters at Warsaw. Ploszow is only six miles
from here, and I can go there in the morning and stay as long as I
like. It is indifferent to me where I live, and my living here will
prevent people talking. Besides, I do not want Pani Kromitzka to think
I am anxious to dwell under the same roof with her. I spoke of this to
Sniatynski, and saw that he fully agreed with me; he seemed anxious to
discuss Aniela with me. Sniatynski is a very intelligent man, but he
does not seem to understand that changed circumstances mean changed
relations, even between the best of friends. He came to me as if I
were the same Leon Ploszowski who, shaking in every limb, asked for
his help at Cracow; he approached me with the same abrupt sincerity,
desiring to plunge his hand up to his elbow under my ribs. I pulled
him up sharply, and he seemed surprised and somewhat angry. Presently
he fell in with my humor, and we talked together as if the last
meeting at Cracow had never taken place. I noticed, nevertheless,
that he watched me furtively, and not being able to make me out tried
indirect inquiry, with all the clumsiness of an author who is a
deep psychologist and reader of the human mind at his desk, and as
unsophisticated as any student in practical life. As Hamlet of yore, I
might have handed him a pipe and said, "Do you think I am easier to be
played on than a pipe? Call me what instrument you will, though you
can fret me, yet you cannot play upon me."

I had been reading Hamlet the night before, as I have read it many a
time, and involuntarily these words came into my mind. It seems to
me surpassing strange that a man of my time, in whatever position or
complicated trouble of soul, should find so much analogy to himself
as I find in this drama, based upon Holinshed's sanguinary and gross
legend. Hamlet is the human soul as it was, as it is, and as it will
be. In conceiving this drama, Shakspeare overstepped the limit fixed
even for genius. I can understand Homer and Dante, studied by the
light of their epoch. I can comprehend that they could do what they
did; but how an Englishman of the seventeenth century could foreknow
psychosis, a science of recent growth, will be to me, in spite of my
study of Hamlet, an everlasting mystery.

Having mentally handed over to Sniatynski Hamlet's pipe, I recommended
to his care Miss Hilst, and then began to discuss his pet theories.
Upon his wanting to know what brought me back, I said it was the
longing for the country, and consciousness of unfulfilled duties
towards it. I said it in a careless, off-hand way, and Sniatynski
looked puzzled, not knowing whether I spoke seriously or mockingly.
And again the same phenomenon of which I spoke in Paris repeated
itself here. The moral ascendency he had gained over me gradually
disappeared. He did not know himself what to think, but he saw the
old key would not serve any longer. When he said good-by I again
recommended to him Miss Hilst. He looked at me keenly.

"Do you attach much importance to her success?"

"Yes, very much. She is a person I hold in great esteem, and have much
friendship for."

In this way I centred all his attention on Miss Hilst. Most likely he
thought I had fallen in love with her. He went away angry, and could
not disguise his feelings. He shut the door sharply; and when I
accompanied him as far as the staircase, and turned back to the
anteroom, I heard him descending the staircase, taking four steps at
once, and whistling,--which he always does when angry. Besides, it was
quite true, what I said about Miss Hilst. I wrote to-day to Clara,
explaining why I had not been to see her, and received a reply at
once. She is delighted with Warsaw, and especially its inhabitants.
All the musical world has called upon her, and they are vying with
each other in politeness and offers of help. Whether they would
be quite as enthusiastic had she come to settle here, is another
question; but Clara has the gift to win friends wherever she goes. She
has already seen something of the town, and was much charmed with the
Sazienki Park and Palace. I am glad she likes it,--the more so as
the country, soon after crossing the frontier, seemed to her rather
depressing. Truly, only those born on the soil can find any charm in
the vast solitary plains, where the eye finds very little to rest
upon. Clara, looking through the carriage window, said more than once:
"Ah! I can understand Chopin now!" She is utterly mistaken,--she does
not understand Chopin and his feelings, any more than she is in touch
with his native land. I, though a cosmopolitan by education, by
atavism understand our nature, and am surprised myself at the spell
a Polish spring casts upon me, and it seems as if I could never
feel tired of it. Properly speaking, what does the view consist of?
Sometimes, on purpose, I put myself into a stranger's place,--a
painter's, having no preconceived ideas about it, and look at it with
his eyes. The landscape then makes upon me the impression as if a
child had drawn it, or a savage, who had no notion about drawing. Flat
fallow-land, wet meadows, huts with their rectangular outline, the
straight poplars around country-seats on the distant horizon, a broad,
flat plain, finished off with a belt of woods,--that "ten miles of
nothing," as the Germans call it; all this reminds me of a first
attempt at drawing landscape. There is scarcely enough for a
background. From the moment I cease looking upon it with a stranger's
eyes, I begin to feel the simplicity of the view, incorporate myself
with that immense breadth, where every outlined object melts into the
far distance, as a soul in Nirvana; it has not only the artistic
charm of primitiveness, but it acts soothingly upon me. I admire the
Apennines; but my spirit is not in touch with them, and sooner or
later they become wearisome. The human being finds a resting-place
only where he is in harmony with his surroundings; and is reminded
that his soul and the soul of nature are of the same organization.
Homesickness springs from the isolation of the soul from its
surroundings. It appears to me that the principle of psychical
relationship could be applied in a still wider sense. It may seem
strange that I, brought up in foreign lands, permeated by their
culture, should harbor such views; but I go farther still, and say
a foreign woman, even the most beautiful, appears to me more as a
species of the female kind than a soul.

I remember what I wrote at one time concerning Polish women, but one
statement does not contradict the other; I may perceive their faults,
and yet feel myself nearer to them than to strangers. Besides, my old
opinions--at least, the greater part of them--are now in tatters, like
a worn-out garment.

But enough of this! I notice with a certain shame and surprise
that all I have been writing has been done in order to distract my
thoughts. Yes, that is true. I speak about landscapes, homesickness,
and so forth, while all my thoughts are at Ploszow. I did not want to
acknowledge it, even to myself. I feel restless, and something seems
to weigh me down. It is very probable that my going there and the
getting over the first meeting will be easier and far simpler than I
imagine. Expectancy of anything is always oppressive. When a young
lad, I had a duel; and on the eve of the day I felt troubled. Then,
too, I tried to think of something else, and could not manage it.
My thoughts are not at all tender, not even friendly, towards Pani
Kromitzka; but they swarm around me like angry bees, and I cannot
drive them away.

17 April.

I have been to Ploszow, and found things very different indeed from
what I had pictured to myself. I left Warsaw at seven in the morning
in a cab, counting I should be in Ploszow by eight. The oppressive
feeling still remained with me. I had said to myself that I would not
make any plans about that first meeting, or my future bearing towards
her. Let chance be my guide. But I could not help speculating how
it would be,--how she would greet me, what she would try to make me
understand, and what our future relation to each other would be. Not
having formed any plans of my own, I fancied, I do not know why that
she would want to act according to a well-defined system. Trying to
fathom this, I felt almost inimical towards her. Then again, at the
thought that the meeting might cause her pain, I felt something akin
to pity, and seemed to see her before me as she used to be. I saw
distinctly the low brow with the wealth of auburn hair, the long
eyelashes, and the small, delicate face. I tried to guess how
she would be dressed. Memories came back of words she had said,
expressions of the face, graceful motions, dresses. With strange
pertinacity, the one memory remained with me,--her coming into the
room after she had tried to disguise her emotion by applying powder
to her face. At last these memories became so vivid as to equal a
second-sight. "There she is again," I said to myself; and in order to
pull myself together, I began talking to the driver, and asked him
whether he were married; whereupon he replied that without the old
woman at home, there would be no go, then said something I did not
hear, as I had caught sight of the Ploszow poplars in the distance. I
had not paid any heed to the time we had been on the road.

At the sight of Ploszow I felt more troubled still, and my eagerness
increased. I tried to pay attention to outward things, changes that
had taken place during my absence, and look at the new buildings on
the road. I repeated to myself mechanically that the weather was very
fine, and the spring exceptionally early this year. And indeed, the
weather was magnificent; the morning air was crisp and transparent;
near the cottages the apple-trees, in full bloom, were scattering
their petals like snowflakes on the grass; it was like a long line of
pictures by the modern school of painters. Wherever the eye turned,
there was that luminous _plein-air_ in the midst of which moved the
figures of people working in the fields or near their cottages. I saw
it all, observed every detail; but, strange to say, I was not able to
take it in, or give myself up to it altogether. The impressions had
lost their absorbing power, and remained only on the surface of the
brain, the brain itself being full of other thoughts. In this state of
divided attention I approached Ploszow.

Presently the cool air of the lime avenue fanned my face, and I saw
at the other end, far off, the windows of the house. The scattered,
futile thoughts hammered and knocked louder than ever at my brain. I
stopped the driver from going straight to the house, and dismissed
him, I do not know why, at the gate. Followed by his thanks, I went on
foot straight towards the veranda. I cannot explain to myself why I
felt so troubled, unless it was that within these well-known walls
something unknown was awaiting me, which was in close connection with
the tragic past. Crossing the courtyard, I felt such a weight upon my
chest that it obstructed my breath. "What the deuce is the matter with
me?" said I, inwardly. As I had dismissed the cab, nobody had heard me
coming. The hall was empty; I went in to the dining-room to wait until
the ladies came down.

I knew they would come soon, as the table was laid for breakfast,
and the samovar, whispering and growling, was sending coils of steam
aloft. Again not the slightest detail escaped my notice. I observed
that the room was cool and comparatively dark, as the windows faced
the north. For a moment my attention was fixed on the three luminous
streaks the light from the windows made upon the polished floor. I
looked at the carved sideboard I remembered since a child, and then
recalled the conversation I had in this same room with Sniatynski, and
we looked through the window at his wife and Aniela, in fur boots,
coming from the hot-houses.

At last a feeling of great solitude and sadness overcame me, and
I went close to the window to get more light and make further
observations in the garden. But all this did not restore my balance of
mind. The only real thought my mind was full of was that I should meet
her in a few minutes. There are people who out of fear are capable of
the most heroic deeds. With me it is different. Fear, uncertainty
of what may come next, rouses me to anger. This happened now. The
difference between the old Aniela and the present Pani Kromitzka
impressed itself upon me more forcibly than ever. "If you borrowed the
very moonbeams for your head-dress, if you were a hundred times
more beautiful than my fancy can paint, you would be as nothing to
me,--less than nothing, because an object of aversion." My anger rose
still, for I fancied that she would come to me in order to point out
my guilt, my wrong-doing; that she would be still desirable, but
unapproachable. "We shall see," I replied inwardly, under the vivid
impression that with this woman there was awaiting me a duel; a
struggle in which I should lose and gain at the same time,--lose the
haunting memories and regain peace. At that moment I felt the power to
overcome any obstacles, repulse any attack.

Then the door opened quietly, and Aniela came in.

At the sight of her I felt my brain in a whirl, and my finger-tips
grew icy cold. The being before me bore the name of Pani Kromitzka,
but had the sweet, hundred times beloved features and inexpressible
charm of the Aniela I had known. In the chaotic bewilderment of my
brain there was only one sound I heard distinctly: "Aniela! Aniela!
Aniela!" And she did not see me, or took me for somebody else as I
stood against the light. But when I drew nearer, she raised her eyes
and stood still as if turned into stone. I cannot even describe the
expression of sudden terror, confusion, emotion, and humility which
shone in her face. She had grown white to the lips, and I was afraid
she might faint. When I took her hand it felt as cold as ice. I had
expected anything but that. I thought she would let me know in some
way or other that she was Pani Kromitzka, but there was nothing of the
sort. She stood before me moved, frightened, my former little Aniela.
It was I who had made her unhappy,--I who was guilty, a hundred times
guilty; and at this moment she looked at me as if she herself asked
to be forgiven. The old love, contrition for the past, and pity
overwhelmed me to such a degree that I almost lost my head, and
thought I must take her into my arms, and soothe her with endearing
words, as one soothes a beloved being. I was so agitated by the
unexpected meeting, not with Pani Kromitzka, but Aniela, that I
could only press her hand in silence. And yet I felt obliged to say
something; therefore, pulling myself together, I said, as if in
somebody else's voice,--

"Did aunt not tell you I was coming?"

"Yes; she told me," said Aniela, with an evident effort.

And then we fell back into silence. I felt that I ought to ask after
her mother, and about herself, but could not force myself to do so.
I wished from my soul somebody would come and deliver us from this
position. Presently my aunt came in with the young Doctor Chwastowski,
the agent's son, who for a month past has had the care of Pani Celina.
Aniela slipped away to pour out the tea, and I began to talk with my
aunt. I had recovered my presence of mind entirely when we sat down to
breakfast. I began now to inquire after Pani Celina's health. My aunt,
telling me about her, appealed every moment to the doctor, who turned
to me with that peculiar shade of superciliousness with which a newly
patented scientist treats outsiders, and at the same time with the
watchfulness of a democrat who is afraid of slights where none are
intended. He appeared to me very conceited; and after all, I treated
him with far greater politeness than he exhibited towards me. This
amused me a little, and helped to keep my thoughts, which the sight
of Aniela confused, under control. From time to time I looked at her
across the table, and repeated to myself: "The same features, the same
little face, the same low brow shaded by a wealth of hair; it is the
same Aniela, almost a little girl, my love, my happiness; and now lost
to me forever." There was inexpressible sweetness in the sensation,
mingled with exquisite pain. Aniela, too, had recovered from her
emotion, but looked still frightened. I tried to draw her into
conversation, speaking about her mother. I was partly successful; she
seemed a little more at ease, and said,--

"Mamma will be very glad to see you."

I permitted myself a doubt as far as her mother was concerned, but
listened to her voice with half-closed eyes; it was sweeter to me than
any music.

We were conversing more freely every moment. My aunt was in excellent
spirits,--first, because of seeing me once more at Ploszow, and also
because she had seen Clara and got from her the promise of a concert.
When leaving the artist she had met two other ladies, patronesses of
charitable institutions, ascending the staircase bent on the same
errand. They were too late, and that had put her in a high good-humor.
She asked me a great many questions about Clara, who had made an
excellent impression upon her. Towards the end of breakfast, to
satisfy my aunt's curiosity, I had to say something about my travels.
She was amazed to hear I had been as far as Iceland, and asked what it
looked like; she then remarked,--

"One must be desperate to go to such places as that."

"Yes; I did not feel very cheerful when I went."

Aniela looked at me for a moment, and there was that hunted,
half-frightened expression in her eyes again. If she had put her hand
upon my naked heart she could not have given it a sharper pull. The
more I had prepared myself for an exhibition of triumphant coldness
and satisfaction at my disappointment, the more I felt crushed now by
that angelic compassion. All my calculations and foresight had been
put to naught. I supposed she could not help showing herself off as a
married woman. And now I had to remind myself that she was married;
but in the recollection there was no loathing, nothing but
inexpressible sorrow.

It is in my nature that in every moral suffering I try to reopen my
wounds. I wanted to do that even now by speaking about her husband;
but I could not do it. It seemed to me cruel, almost a profanation.
Instead of that I said that I should like to see her mother, if she
were able to receive me. Aniela went to see, and presently came back
and said,--

"Mamma will be pleased to see you."

We crossed to the other side of the house, my aunt going with us. I
wanted to say a kind word to Aniela so as to put her more at ease; but
my aunt was in the way; presently I thought it would be even better if
I said it within my aunt's hearing. Near the door, leading into Pani
Celina's rooms, I stopped and, turning to Aniela, said,--

"Give me your hand, my dear little sister."

Aniela put her hand into mine; I saw her eyes lighting up with
gratitude for the words "little sister," and the pressure of her hand
seemed to say:--

"Oh! let us be friends! let us forgive each other!"

"I hope you two will agree together," muttered my aunt.

"We shall, we shall; he is so good!" replied Aniela.

And truly, my heart was very full of good-will at that moment.

Entering Pani Celina's room, I greeted her very cordially, but she

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