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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWithout Dogma - 1 July to 30 July
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Without Dogma - 1 July to 30 July Post by :tevinj Category :Long Stories Author :Henryk Sienkiewicz Date :May 2012 Read :3401

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Without Dogma - 1 July to 30 July

1 July.

My jealousy would be a miserable thing if it were not at the same time the pain of the true believer who sees his divinity dragged in the dust. I would abstain even from touching her hand if I could place her on some inapproachable height where nobody could come near her.


2 July.

I deluded myself as to my state of quiescence. It was only a temporary torpidity of the nerves, which I mistook for calmness. Besides, I knew it could not last.


3 July.

Yes, something has passed between them. They hide some mutual offence, but I see it. For some days I have noticed that he does not take her hands, as he used to and kiss them in turn; he does not stroke her hair or kiss her forehead. I had a moment of real joy, but Aniela herself poisoned it. I see that she tries to conciliate and humor him as if wishing to restore their former relations. At the sight of this a great rage possessed me, and showed itself in my behavior to Aniela. Never had I been so pitiless to her and myself.


4 July.

To-day, returning from the Wandelbahn, I met Aniela on the bridge opposite the Cascades. She stopped suddenly and said something, but the roar of the water drowned her voice. This irritated me, for at present everything irritates me. Whereupon, leading her across the bridge towards our villa, I said impatiently: "I could not hear what you were saying."

"I wanted to ask you," she said, with emotion, "why you are so different to me now? Why have you no pity upon me?"

All my blood rushed to my heart at these words.

"Can you not see," I said quickly, "that I love you more than words can tell? and you treat it as if it were a mere nothing. Listen! I do not want anything from you. Only tell me that you love me, surrender your heart to me, and I will bear anything, suffer anything, and will give my whole life to you and serve you to the last breath. Aniela, you love me! Tell me, is it not true? You will save me by that one word; say it!"

Aniela had grown as pale as the foam on the cascade. It seemed as if she had turned to ice. For a moment she could not utter a word; then making a great effort, she replied:--

"You must not speak to me in that way."

"Then you will never say it?"


"Then you have not the least--" I broke off. It suddenly whirled across my brain that if Kromitzki asked her, she would not refuse him; and at this thought rage and despair deprived me of all consciousness. I heard the rushing of waters in my ear, and everything grew dark before my eyes. I only remember that I hurled a few horrible, cynical words at her, such as no man should use against a defenceless woman, and which I dare not put down in this diary. I remember as in a dream that she looked at me with dilated eyes, took me by the sleeve, then shook my shoulder, and said, anxiously:--

"Leon, what is the matter with you,--what ails you?"

What ailed me was that I was losing my senses. I tore my hand away and rushed off in the opposite direction. After a moment I retraced my steps; but she was gone. Then I understood only one thing: the time had come to put an end to life. The thought seemed to me like a rift in the dark clouds that weighed upon me. It was a strange state of consciousness, in one direction. For the moment all thoughts about myself, about Aniela, were wiped from my memory; but I contemplated the thought of death with the greatest self-possession. I knew, for instance, perfectly well that if I threw myself from the rocks it would be considered an accident, and if I shot myself in my own room my aunt would not survive the shock. It was still stranger that, in spite of this consciousness, I did not feel called upon to make any choice, as if the connection between my reasoning and my will and its consequent action had been severed. With a perfectly clear understanding that it would be better to throw myself from the rocks, I yet went back to the villa for my revolver. Why? I cannot explain it. I only remember that I ran faster and faster, at last went up the stairs into my room, and began to search for the key of my portmanteau, where the revolver was. Presently I heard steps approaching my door. This roused me, and the thought flashed through my mind that it was Aniela, that she had guessed my intention, and came to prevent it. The door was flung open, and there was my aunt, who called out in a breathless voice:--

"Leon, go quick for the doctor! Aniela has been taken ill."

Hearing that, I forgot all else, and without hat I rushed forth, and in a quarter of an hour brought a doctor from the Straubinger hotel. The doctor went to see Aniela, and I remained with my aunt on the veranda. I asked her what had happened to Aniela.

"Half an hour ago," said my aunt, "Aniela came back with such a feverishly burning face that both Celina and I asked whether anything had happened to her. She replied, 'Nothing, nothing,' almost impatiently; and when Celina insisted upon knowing what was the matter with her, Aniela, for the first time since I have known her, lost her temper and cried out, 'Why are you all bent upon tormenting me?' Then she became quite hysterical, and laughed and cried. We were terribly frightened, and then I came and asked you to fetch the doctor. Thank God, she is calmer now. How she wept, poor child, and asked us to forgive her for having spoken unkindly to us."

I remained silent; my heart was too full for words.

My aunt paced up and down the veranda, and presently, her arms akimbo, stopped before me and said,--

"Do you know, my boy, what I am thinking? It is this: We somehow do not like Kromitzki,--even Celina is not fond of him; and Aniela sees it, and it hurts her feelings. It is a strange thing; he does his best to make himself pleasant, and yet he always seems like an outsider. It is not right, and it grieves Aniela."

"Do you think, aunty, that she loves him so very much?"

"I did not say very much. He is her husband, and so she loves him, and feels hurt that we treat him badly."

"But who treats him badly? I think she is not happy with him,--that is all."

"God forbid that you should be right. I do not say but she might have done better; but after all there is nothing to be said against him. He evidently loves her very much. Celina cannot quite forgive him the sale of Gluchow; but as to Aniela, she defends him, and does not allow anybody to say a word against him."

"Perhaps against her own conviction?"

"It proves all the more that she loves him. As to his affairs, the worst is that nobody knows how he stands; and this is a great source of trouble to Celina. But after all, wealth is not everything; besides, as I told you before, I will not forget to provide for Aniela, and you agree with me, do you not? We both owe her a kind of duty, not to mention that she is a dear, affectionate creature, and deserves everything we can do for her."

"With all my heart, dear aunt; she will be always as a sister to me, and shall not be in want of anything as long as I live."

"I count upon my dear boy, and can die in peace."

Thereupon she embraced me. The doctor, coming towards us, interrupted our conversation. In a few words he set our minds at rest,--

"A little nervous agitation; it often appears after the first baths. Leave off bathing for a few days, plenty of air and exercise,--that is all that is wanted. The constitution is sound; strengthen the system, and all will be well."

I paid him so liberally that he bowed, and did not put on his hat till he was beyond the railings of the villa. I would have given anything if I could have gone immediately to Aniela, kissed her feet, and begged her forgiveness for all the wrong I had done her. I vowed to myself that I would be different, more patient, with Kromitzki,--not revolt any more, nor grumble. Contrition, contrition deep and sincere, permeated my whole being. How unspeakably I love her!

Close upon noon I met Kromitzki coming back from a long walk on the Kaiserweg. I put my good resolutions at once to the test, and was more friendly with him. He thought it was sympathy because of his wife's illness, and as such accepted it in a grateful spirit. He and Pani Celina spent the remainder of the day with Aniela. She had expressed a wish to dress and go out; but they did not let her. I did not permit myself even to chafe at that. I do not remember that I ever subdued myself to the same extent. "It is all for you, dearest," I said inwardly. I was very stupid all the day, and felt an irresistible desire to cry like a child. Even now tears fill my eyes. If I have sinned greatly, I bear a heavy punishment.


5 July.

After yesterday's commotion a calm has set in. The clouds have discharged their electricity, and the storm is over. I feel exhausted morally and physically. Aniela is better. This morning we met alone on the veranda. I put her on a rocking-chair, wrapped a shawl around her shoulders, as the morning was rather chilly, and said:--

"Aniela dear, I beg your pardon from my whole heart for what I said yesterday. Forgive and forget if you can, though I shall never forgive myself."

She put out her hand at once, and I clung to it with my lips. I could have groaned aloud; there is such a gulf between my love and my misery. Aniela seemed to feel it too, for she did not withdraw her hand at once. She too tried to control her emotion, and the feeling which urged her towards me. Her neck and breast heaved as if she were strangling the sobs that rose to her throat. She feels that I love her beyond everything; that a love like mine is not to be met with every day; and that it might have been a treasure of happiness to last our whole life. Presently she grew more composed and her face became serene. There was nothing but resignation there, and angelic goodness.

"There is peace between us, is there not?" she asked.

"Yes," I replied.

"And forever?"

"How can I tell, dearest? You know best how things stand with me."

Her eyes again grew misty, and again she recovered herself.

"All will be well," she said, "you are so good."

"I, good?" I exclaimed with real indignation; "do you not know that if you had not fallen ill yesterday I should--"

I did not finish. I suddenly remembered that it would be mean and cowardly to use such a weapon against her. I felt all the more ashamed of my rashness as I saw the troubled eyes looking anxiously into mine.

"What did you want to say?"

"I was going to say words unworthy of myself; besides, they have no meaning now."

"Leon! I must know what you meant, else I shall have no peace."

Suddenly a breath of wind blew a lock of her hair into her eyes. I rose, and with the light, tender touch of a mother, put it back into its place.

"Dear Aniela, do not force me to tell what I ought to forget. If it be a question of your peace of mind I pledge you my word that you need not have any fear for the future."

"You promise this?" she asked, still looking intently at me.

"Yes, most solemnly and emphatically; will that satisfy you, and drive out any foolish notions from the little head?"

The postman coming in with a parcel of letters interrupted our conversation. There was the usual budget from the East for Kromitzki; only one letter for Aniela, from Sniatynski (I recognized his handwriting on the envelope), and one for me from Clara. The latter does not say much about herself, but inquires most minutely what I am doing. I told Aniela who it was that had written, and she, to show me that all ill-feeling and constraint had gone, began to tease me. I paid her back in the same coin, and pointing to Sniatynski's letter said there was another poor man who had succumbed to little Aniela's wiles. We laughed and bandied jests for a little time.

The human soul, like the bee, extracts sweetness even from bitter herbs. The most unhappy wretch still tries to squeeze out a little happiness from his woes, and the merest shadow and pretext will serve his turn. Sometimes I think that this intense longing for happiness is one proof more that happiness is awaiting us in another world. I am convinced also that pessimism was invented as a comfort to satisfy a want, sum up all human misery, and put it into a philosophic formula. It satisfies our thirst for truth and knowledge, and happiness itself is nothing but satisfied craving. Perhaps love in itself is such a source of happiness that even a clouded love like ours is interwoven with golden rays. Such a ray fell on our path to-day. I had not expected it, as I had not expected that a man whose desires are without limits could be satisfied with so little.

We had scarcely read our letters when Pani Celina, who is now able to walk without help, came towards us with a footstool for Aniela.

"Oh mamma!" cried out Aniela, in a shocked voice; "You ought not to do that."

"And did you not yourself nurse me night and day when I was ill?"

I took the footstool from Pani Celina's hands, and kneeling down before Aniela, I waited until she had put her little feet upon it; and kneeling thus before her for a second filled me with happiness for the whole day. It is a fact. A very poor man lives upon crumbs, and smiles gratefully--through tears.


6 July.

I have a crippled heart, but it is capable of love. It is only now I fully understand what Sniatynski meant. If I were not a man out of joint, without an even-balanced mind, poisoned by scepticism, criticism of myself, and criticism of criticism, if my love were in harmony with law and principles, I should have found in Aniela the dogma of my life, and other dogmas, other beliefs, would have come to me in course of time. Yet I do not know; perhaps I could not love otherwise than crookedly; and in this lies my incapacity for life. In short, that which ought to have been my health and salvation has become my disease and damnation. Strange to say, there was no lack of warnings. It almost seems as if people had foreseen what would befall me. I remember constantly the words Sniatynski wrote to me when I was with the Davises at Peli: "Something must always be growing within us; beware lest something should grow in you which would cause your unhappiness, and the unhappiness of those near and dear to you." I laughed then at the words, yet how true they were. My father, too, spoke several times as if he had pierced the veil that hides the future. To-day the remembrance is too late. I know it is useless to rake up the ashes of the past, but I cannot help it. I am sorry for myself, but more sorry still for Aniela. She would have been a hundred times happier with me than with Kromitzki. Supposing even I should have subjected her at first to analysis, and discovered various faults, I should have loved her all the same. She would have been mine, and as such she would have become part of me and entered into the sphere of my egoism. Her faults would have been my weaknesses, and we are always ready to make allowance for ourselves, and though we criticise self we do not cease to care for its well-being. Thus she would have been dear to me; and as she is infinitely better than I, in time she would have become my pride, the noblest part of my soul; I should have found out that criticism, as far as she was concerned, was out of place; gradually she would have won me over to her pure faith and wrought my salvation. All that has been wasted, spoiled, and transmuted into a tragedy for her,--into evil and a tragedy for me.


7 July.

I have been reading what I wrote yesterday, and am struck by what I said at the end, namely: that the love which might have been my salvation has become a source of evil. I cannot quite agree with the thought. How can love for a pure woman like Aniela bring forth evil? One word explains it,--it is a crooked love. I must own the truth. If two years ago somebody had told me that I, a civilized man, a man with aesthetic nerves, and living in peace with the penal code, should meditate for nights and days how to put out of the world, even by murder, a man who would be in my way, I should have taken that somebody for an escaped lunatic. Yet it is true; I have come to that. Kromitzki shuts out from me the world; he takes from me the earth, water, and air. I cannot live because he lives; and for that reason I incessantly think of his death. What a simple and complete solution of all the difficulties and entanglements his death would be. I thought more than once that since the hypnotizer can send his medium to sleep, a more concentrated power would be able to put him to sleep forever. I have sent for all the newest books about hypnotism. In the mean while with every glance I say to Kromitzki, "Die!" and if such a suggestion were sufficient, he would have been dead some time ago. But the whole result of it is that he is as well as ever, is Aniela's husband, and I remain with the consciousness that my intention is equally criminal and foolish, ridiculous, and unworthy of an active man; and it makes me lose my self-respect more and more. Yet it does not prevent my trying to hypnotize Kromitzki.

It is the old story again of the intelligent man who, given up by the doctors, goes for advice to quacks and wise women. I want to kill my enemy by hypnotism; and as it only shows my own worthlessness, it is I who suffer by it. I must also confess that as often as I am alone, I begin to think of all possible means in human power to put the hateful man out of the way. For some time I nursed the thought of killing him in a duel; but this would not lead to anything. Aniela would never marry the man who had killed her husband; then, like a common criminal, I began to think of other ways. And what is the strangest thing of all, I discovered ways which human justice would not be able to detect. Foolishness! vain thoughts! pure theory!

Kromitzki need have no fear for his life; thoughts like these will never be acted upon. I should not kill him if I could do it without more responsibility than is incurred in crushing a spider; should not kill him if we two were alone together on a desert island. If one could divide the human brain as one cuts in two an apple, and lay bare its thoughts, it would be found that mine is honeycombed with murderous thoughts. What is more, I am well aware that if I refrain from killing Kromitzki it is not by reason of any moral principle contained in the law "Thou shalt do no murder." This law I have already violated morally. I refrain from killing him because some remnants of chivalric tradition bar my way; because my refined nerves would not permit me to commit a brutal deed; in short, I am too far removed from primitive man to be physically competent to the task, though morally I slay him every day. And now I ask myself whether, in presence of a higher judgment, I should be held responsible, as if I had committed the deed.

It may be that if one could lay open the human brain, as I said before, in the most virtuous individual thoughts would be found to make our hair stand on end. I remember that, when a little boy, there came upon me a period of such religious fervor that I prayed from morning until night; and at the same time, in the midst of my pious transports, there came into my mind blasphemous thoughts, as if an evil wind had blown them thither, or a demon whispered them into my ear. In the same way I had irreverent thoughts about persons whom I loved with all my heart and for whom I would have given my life without a moment's hesitation. I remember that this, which I might call a tragedy of childhood, cost me a great deal of anguish. But I will not dwell upon that now. Going back to blasphemous or criminal thoughts, I do not think we are responsible for them, as they come from the knowledge of evil, not from an evil growing within the organism itself; and for the very reason that it is outward to ourselves we fancy an evil spirit suggesting the thoughts. Man listens to it, and being averse to evil, spurns it; and there may be some merit in this. But with me it is different. The thought of getting rid of Kromitzki does not come from the outside, but springs from me and exists within me. I have come down to that morally, and if I do not commit the deed it is a mere matter of nerves. The part of my inward Mephistopheles is confined to mocking and whispering into my ear that the deed would only prove my energy, and not be much of a crime.

These are the crossways on which I never dreamed of finding myself. I look into the depths of my own self with amazement. I do not know whether my exceptional troubles will partly atone for my errors, but one thing I know, namely: that he whose life cannot find room in the simple code Aniela and others like her cling to, if his soul is brimming over and breaks its bounds it must mix with dust and be polluted in the mud.


9 July.

To-day in the reading-room Kromitzki pointed out to me an Englishman accompanied by a very beautiful woman, and told me their story. The beauty is a Roumanian by birth and married a Wallachian bankrupt Boyar, from whom the Englishman simply bought her at Ostend. I have heard of similar transactions at least a dozen times. Kromitzki even mentioned the sum the Englishman had given for her. The story made a strange impression upon me. I thought to myself, "This is one way, however disgraceful for the seller and buyer; it is a simple method of obtaining a desired result. The woman concerned in it need not know anything about the transaction, and the agreement could be concealed under decent appearances." Involuntarily I began to apply the idea to our own situation. Suppose it answered. The whole thing presented itself to me under two aspects: in regard to Aniela as a horrible profanation; in regard to Kromitzki, not only as feasible, but at the same time gratifying my scorn and hatred for him. If he agreed to it, he would prove himself a villain, and show what kind of man he is, and what a monstrous thing has been done in giving Aniela to him. I should then be quite justified in all my endeavors to take her from him. But would he agree? I said to myself: "You hate him, and consequently believe him capable of any evil." But thinking of him objectively, I remembered that the man had sold his wife's property, had deceived her and Pani Celina, and also that the ruling passion of his life was greed for gain. It was not I alone who considered him as one wholly possessed by the gold fever. Sniatynski thought the same, and so do my aunt and Pani Celina. This kind of moral disease always leads into pitfalls. I understand that much will depend upon the state of his affairs. How they stand nobody seems to know, unless it be his agent Chwastowski. It suddenly struck me that I might get some information from this same Chwastowski, but that would take some time. Perhaps I will run over to Vienna and see his brother the doctor, who is working in the Vienna hospitals; the brothers are sure to correspond with each other. My aunt thinks that he is not doing as well as he wants us to believe, and I imagine that he has sunk all his money in some speculation from which he expects a great profit. Will he succeed?--that is the question. He himself does not know; hence his restlessness, and the multitude of letters he sends to young Chwastowski. In the mean while I will sound him cautiously, lest I should rouse his suspicions, as to what he thinks of the Boyar who sold his wife to the Englishman. I do not suppose for a moment that he will be quite sincere, but I will help him and guess the rest. The whole sum and substance of this is, that it has put a little more life into me. There is nothing more horrible than to suffer passively; and anything that rouses me from my apathy is acceptable. I repeat to myself, "At least to-morrow and the day after, you will have something to do to further your plans;" and that promises a transition from utter passiveness to a feverish activity. I must be doing something; it is a question of not losing control over my senses. I pledged my word to Aniela not to attempt my life, and I cannot go on living as I do. If the road I am taking be ignominious, the ignominy will be for Kromitzki more than for me. I must and will separate them, not only for my own sake but also for Aniela's sake. I am really feverish. Everybody seems to derive some benefit from the bathing except me.


10 July.

There are some hot days even in Gastein. What heat! Aniela is dressed in white soft flannel, such as English girls wear for lawn-tennis. We have our breakfast in the open air. She comes from her bath as bright and fresh as the snow at sunrise. The supple figure shows to great advantage in the graceful dress. The morning light falls upon her and shows distinctly every hair on the eyebrows, lashes, and the delicate down on either side of her face. The hair is glistening with moisture and looks fairer in this light, and the eyelids are almost transparent. How young she is, and how intoxicating her appearance! In her, then, is my life, in her everything I want. I will not go away, I cannot. Looking at her I seem to lose my senses from intoxication, and at the same time from pain; for close by her side sits he who is her husband. It cannot continue thus; let her belong to no one provided she be not his. She understands to a certain extent what I suffer, but not altogether. She does not love her husband, but considers it her duty to live with him. I gnash my teeth at the very thought, for in admitting his rights she degrades herself; and that is not allowed, even to her. Far better she were dead. Then she will be mine; because the lawful husband will remain behind, but not I. By this token I am more lawfully hers than he is.

There is something very strange going on within me at times. For instance, when I am very tired or when my mind is concentrated upon one point I seem to look into the future, into far-away space which remains invisible to me in a normal state. Then there comes to me such a conviction that Aniela belongs to me--that in some way she is or will be mine--that when I wake up I have to remind myself that there exists such a man as Kromitzki. Maybe in moments like those I cross the boundary which separates the living from the dead, and have a vision of things more perfect, such as the ideals we dream about, as they might shape themselves in outward form. Why is it these two worlds are not more in touch with each other? As often as I try to solve this problem I lose myself; I cannot understand this want of harmony, but feel dimly that therein lie our imperfection and our misery. The thought comforts me, for in the ideal world Aniela could not belong to a man like Kromitzki.


11 July.

Another disappointment, another plan shattered, but I have still hope that all is not lost. I spoke to-day with Kromitzki about the Boyar who sold his wife, and invented a whole story in order to discover his real feelings. We met the Englishman with his purchased wife near the Cascades. I began by praising her beauty, and then remarked:--

"The doctor here told me something about the transaction, and I think you are a little hard upon the Boyar."

"Hard upon him? not a bit; he amuses me intensely," he replied.

"There are extenuating circumstances in the case. He is not only a Boyar, but the owner of extensive tannery works. Suddenly, because of the infection, the importation of skins from Roumania was forbidden. The man recognized that unless he could tide over the time until the law was repealed he would be ruined, and with him hundreds of families to whom he gave employment. My dear fellow, he looked at it from a business point of view; perhaps business morality is a little different from general morality, and as he had once entered into that--"

"He had a right to sell his wife? To fulfil one part of his duties he had no right to trample upon another and perhaps more binding duty."

Kromitzki could not have disappointed me more thoroughly than by thus showing some decent feeling. But I did not give up my hope at once. I know that even the meanest person has still at his disposition high-sounding words wherewith to mask his real character. Therefore I went on:--

"You do not take into account one thing, namely, that the man would have dragged his wife with him into poverty. Confess it is a singular idea of duty that it should lead us to deprive those dependent on us of their daily bread."

"Do you know, I had no idea you were so deucedly sober-minded."

"You fool!" I thought to myself; "don't you understand that these are not my views, but views I want you to adopt?" Aloud I said:--

"I only try to put myself into the place of this business man. Besides, you do not consider that the woman probably did not love her husband, and that the other man was aware of it."

"In such a case they were worthy of each other."

"That is another question altogether. Looking a little deeper into the affair, and supposing that being in love with the Englishman, she nevertheless remained faithful to her husband, she may be worthier than you think. As to the Boyar, he may be a villain for anything I know, but what can he do, I ask you, in case somebody comes to him and says: 'You are a bankrupt twice over; you have debts you cannot pay, and a wife that does not love you. Divorce that woman, and I will take care of her future, and will also take upon me all your liabilities.' It is a way of speaking, to say the man 'sold' his wife; but can a transaction like this be called a sale? Consider that the merchant who agreed to this proposition by one stroke saved his wife from poverty,--and possibly this is the right way to look upon duty,--and saved all those who depended upon him!"

Kromitzki thought a little, then dropped his eyeglass and said:--

"My dear fellow, as to business I flatter myself that I know a great deal more about it than you; but as to arguments, I confess that you would soon drive me into a corner. If you had not inherited millions from your father, you would be able to amass a fortune as a barrister. You have put the whole thing in such a light that I do not know what to think of that Roumanian chap. All I know about it is that some kind of transaction about his wife had occurred, and that, put it in whatever light you will, is always a disreputable thing. Besides, as I am somewhat of a merchant myself, I will tell you another thing: a bankrupt can always find a way out of his difficulties: he either makes another fortune and then pays his debts, or he blows out his brains and pays with his life; and at the same time, if he is married, he sets his wife free and gives her another chance."

I fumed and raged inwardly, and would have given anything if I could have shouted out to him: "You are a bankrupt already in one thing, for your wife does not love you. You see the Cascades; jump in, set her free, and give her the chance of some happiness." But I remained silent, chewing the bitter cud of my reflections. Kromitzki, however commonplace he might be, though capable of selling Gluchow and taking advantage of his wife's trust in him, was not the villain I took him for. It was a disappointment and destroyed the plan to which for the moment I had clung as to a plank of safety. Again I felt powerless, and saw looming up before me the vast solitude. Nevertheless, I held fast to that purpose because I understood that unless I could do something, I should go mad. "It will at least prepare the ground for anything that may turn up, and accustom Kromitzki to the thought of parting with Aniela," I said to myself. As I said before, nobody knows in what state Kromitzki's affairs are, but I suppose that a man who speculates is liable to losses as well as to gains. I said to him:--

"I do not know whether your principles are, strictly speaking, business principles, but at any rate they are the sentiments of an honorable man, and I respect you for them. You said, if I understood you, that a man has no right to drag his wife with him into poverty."

"No, I did not say that; I only said that to sell one's wife is a villany; the wife ought to share her husband's fate. I think but little of a fair-weather wife, who wants to break her marriage vows because her husband cannot give her the comforts of life."

"Suppose she did not agree, he might set her free against her will. Besides, if she knew that by submitting to a divorce, she could save her husband, duty well understood would bid her to yield."

"It is unpleasant even to talk about such things."

"Why? are you sorry for the Boyar?"

"Not I; I shall always hold him for a blackguard."

"Because you do not look at things from an objective point of view. But that is not astonishing. A man like you, with whom everything is prospering, cannot enter into the psychology of a bankrupt unless he be a philosopher; and philosophy has nothing to do with making millions."

I did not wish to prolong the conversation, so utterly disgusted was I with my own perversity. I had sown the seed,--a very small and pitiable seed to produce anything; and yet I clung to it tenaciously. One thing revived my hope. At the moment when I tried to make him believe that a ruined man ought to set his wife free, there was a certain constraint and trouble in his expression. I also noticed that when I spoke about his millions a slight sigh escaped him. To infer from this that he is on the brink of ruin, would be jumping at conclusions; but I may fairly conjecture that his affairs are in a precarious state. I resolved to get at the truth as quickly as possible.

In the mean while my own self seemed to be divided in two parts. The one said: "If you waver ever so little, I will push you downward if it should cost me my whole fortune. I will work your ruin, and when I come to deal with a broken man, it remains to be seen whether for certain transactions you do not find a gentler word than, 'villany.'" Yet I was conscious at the same time that these were not my thoughts nor my ways of dealing; that they had been suggested to me by somebody else, and that but for my desperate position they would never have found room in me, as they are averse to my nature and repulsive to me. Money never played any part in my life, either as means or as aim. I consider myself incapable of using such a weapon, and I felt what a degradation it would be for me and Aniela to introduce that element into our relations to each other. The thought of it was so repulsive to me that I said to myself: "Will you not spare yourself? Must you even drink from such a bowl? See how you are degenerating step by step. Formerly thoughts like these would never have crossed your mind; and what is more, schemes like these are utterly useless, and will only lower you in your own eyes."

In fact, formerly, when my aunt spoke of Kromitzki's affairs in a doubting spirit, it had always caused me some uneasiness. The prospect that at some time or other he might want me to assist him or take a share in his transactions had made me consider what I should do in such a case; and I always vowed that I would decline and have nothing to do with any of his affairs; so repugnant to me was the thought of mingling money matters with my relations to Aniela. I remember that I saw in this another proof of the nobility and refinement of my feelings. To-day I grasp that weapon as if I were a banker and had lived by money transactions all my life.

I perceive with absolute certainty that my thoughts and deeds are worse than myself, and I ask myself how that can be. Most probably because I cannot find the way out of the labyrinth. I love a noble woman; my love is very great; and yet, putting the two together, the net result is crookedness, and enchanted circles where my character loses itself and even my nerves grow less sensitive. When, in former times, I erred and strayed from the right path there still remained something, some aesthetic feeling, by the help of which I still distinguished good from evil. At present I have none of that feeling, or if it still exists it is powerless. If I had only at the same time lost the consciousness of what is ugly and offensive! But no; I have it still, only it does not serve me as a curb, and is of no effect except to aggravate my troubles. Beside my love for Aniela there is no room for anything; but consciousness does not require space. I absorb love, hatred, and sorrow as a cancer breeds in a diseased organism.

He who has never been in a position similar to mine cannot understand it. I knew that from love's entanglements spring various sufferings, but I did not appreciate those sufferings. I did not believe they were so real and so difficult to bear. Only now I understand the difference between "knowing" and "believing," and the meaning of the French thinker's words: "We know we must die, but we do not believe it."


12 July.

To-day my pulses are beating wildly, and there is a singing in my ears; for something has occurred the memory of which thrills every nerve as in a fever. The day was very beautiful, the evening more lovely still, and there was a full moon. We resolved to make an excursion to Hofgastein,--all but Pani Celina, who preferred to remain at home. My aunt, Kromitzki, and I went down together to the villa gate, whence Kromitzki sped towards Straubinger's to order a carriage, my aunt and I waiting for Aniela, who lingered behind. As she did not come I went back and saw her descending the winding staircase leading from the second floor into the garden.

As the moon was on the other side, this part of the house was wrapped in darkness, and Aniela came down very slowly. There was a moment when my head was on a level with Aniela's feet. The temptation was too great; I put my hands gently around them and pressed my lips to them. I knew I should have to pay a heavy penalty for this minute of happiness, but I could not forego it. God knows with what reverence I touched her feet, and for how much pain this moment compensated me. But for Aniela's resistance I should have put her foot upon my head in token that I was her servant and her slave. She drew back and went upstairs again but I ran down calling out loudly, so that my aunt could hear me:--

"Aniela is coming, coming."

Nothing remained for her now but to come down again, which she could do safely, as I had remained near the gate. At the same moment Kromitzki arrived with the carriage. Aniela coming up to us said:--

"I came to ask you, aunty, to let me stop at home. I would rather not leave mamma alone. You can go, and I will wait for you with the tea."

"But Celina is quite well," replied my aunt, with a shade of annoyance in her voice, "it was she who proposed the excursion, mainly for your sake."

"Yes, but--" began Aniela.

Kromitzki came up, and hearing what was the matter, said sharply: "Please do not raise any difficulties." And Aniela, without saying a word, took her seat in the carriage.

In spite of my emotion I was struck by Kromitzki's tone of voice and Aniela's silent obedience,--all the more as I had already noticed that his manners towards her during the day had been those of a man who is displeased. There was evidently the same reason, of which I knew nothing, at the bottom of this, and of the estrangement some time ago. But there was no room now for these reflections; the fresh memory of the kiss I had imprinted on her feet still overpowered my senses. I felt a great delight and joy, not unmixed with fear. I could account for the delight because I felt it every time I only touched her hand. But why the joy? Because I saw that the immaculate Aniela could not escape from me altogether, and must needs confess to herself: "I am on the downward path too, and cannot look people in the face; he was at my feet a moment ago, the man who loves me, and I am obliged to be his accomplice and cannot go to my husband and tell him to take me hence." I knew she could not do this without creating a commotion; and if she could, she would not do it, for fear of an encounter between me and Kromitzki,--"And who knows for whom she is most afraid?" something within me whispered.

Aniela's position is indeed a difficult one, and I, knowing this, take advantage of it without more scruples than are admitted by a general in time of war who attacks the enemy at his weakest point. I asked myself whether I would do the same if Kromitzki would make me personally responsible; and as I could conscientiously say "Yes," I thought there was no need for any further consideration. Kromitzki inspires me with fear only in so far as he has power to remove Aniela and put her out of my reach altogether. The very thought makes me desperate. But at this moment, in the carriage, I only feared Aniela. What will happen to-morrow? How will she take it? As a liberty, or as a mere impulse of respect and worship?

I felt as a dog may feel that has done wrong and is afraid of being whipped. Sitting opposite Aniela, I tried at moments when the moon shone on her face to read there what was to be my sentence. I looked at her so humbly and was so meek that I pitied myself, and thought she too ought to pity me a little. But she did not look at me at all, and listened or seemed to listen attentively to what Kromitzki was telling my aunt he would do if Gastein belonged to him. My aunt only nodded, and he repeated every moment: "Now, really, don't you think I am right?" It is evident that he wants to impress my aunt with his enterprising spirit, and to convince her that he is capable of making a shilling out of every penny.

The road to Hofgastein, hewn out of the rocks, skirting the precipices, winds and twists around the mountain slopes. The light of the moon shone alternately on our faces and those of the ladies opposite, according to the varying directions of the road. In Aniela's face I saw nothing but a sweet sadness, and I took courage from the fact that it was neither stern nor forbidding. I did not obtain a single glance, but I comforted myself by the thought that when concealed in the shadow, she would perhaps look at me and say to herself: "Nobody loves me as he does, and nobody can be at the same time more unhappy than he,"--which is true. We were both silent. Only Kromitzki kept on talking; his voice mingled with the rush of the waters below the rocks and the creaking of the brake, which the driver often applied. This creaking irritated my nerves very much, but the warm, transparent night lulled them into restfulness again. It was, as I said before, full moon; the bright orb had risen above the mountains, and sailing through space illumined the tops of Bocksteinkogl, the Tischlkar glaciers, and the precipitous slopes of the Graukogl. The snow on the heights shone with a pale-green, metallic lustre, and as the mountain sides below were shrouded in darkness, the snowy sheen seemed to float in mid air, as if not belonging to the earth. There was such a charm, such peace and restfulness in these sleeping mountains, that involuntarily the words of the poet came into mind:--

"At such a moment, alas! two hearts are grieving.
What there is to forgive, they are forgiving;
What was to be forgot, they dismiss to oblivion."


And yet what is there to forgive? That I kissed her feet? If she were a sacred statue she could not be offended by such an act of reverence. I thought if it came to an explanation between us I would tell her that.

I often think that Aniela does me a great wrong, not to say that she calls things by wrong names. She considers my love a mere earthly feeling, an infatuation of the senses. I do not deny that it is composed of various threads, but there are among them some as purely ideal as if spun of poetry. Very often my senses are lulled to sleep, and I love her as one loves only in early youth. Then the second self within me mocks, and says derisively: "I had no idea you could love like a schoolboy or a romanticist!" Yet such is the fact. I may be ridiculous, but I love her thus, and it is not an artificial feeling. It is this which makes my love so complete, and at the same time so sad; for Aniela misconstrues it and cannot enter into its spirit. Even now I inwardly spoke to her thus: "Do you think there are no ideal chords in my soul? At this moment I love you in such a way that you may accept my love without fear. It would be a pity to spurn so much feeling; it would cost you nothing, and it would be my salvation. I could then say to myself: 'This is my whole world; within its boundaries I am allowed to live. It would be something at least. I would try to change my nature, try to believe in what you believe, and hold fast to it all my life.'"

It seemed to me that she ought to agree to such a proposition, after which there would be everlasting peace between us. I promised myself to put it before her, and once we know that our souls belong to each other we may even part. There awoke within me a certain hope that she will agree to this, for she must understand that without it both our lives will remain miserable.

It was nine o'clock when we arrived at Hofgastein. It was very quiet and still in the village. Only the Gasthaus was lighted, and before Meger's some excellent voices were singing mountain airs. I thought of asking the serenaders to sing before our window, but I found they were not villagers; they were Viennese mountaineers, to whom one could not offer money. I bought two bunches of edelweiss and other Alpine flowers, and giving one to Aniela I accidentally, as it were, unloosened the other and the flowers fell under her feet.

"Let them lie there," I said, seeing she was stooping to pick them up. I went in search of some more flowers for my aunt. When I came back I heard Kromitzki say:--

"Even here at Hofgastein, by erecting another branch establishment, one could easily make a hundred per cent."

"You are still hammering at the same subject," I said quietly. I said this on purpose; it was the same as to say to Aniela: "See, while my whole being is occupied with you he thinks of nothing but how to make money. Compare our feelings; compare us with each other." I am almost certain she understood my meaning.

On the return journey I made several attempts to draw Aniela into general conversation, but did not succeed. When we arrived at the gate of the villa Kromitzki went upstairs with the ladies, and I remained behind to pay for the carriage. When I went up I did not find Aniela at tea. My aunt said she had gone to bed and seemed very tired. A great uneasiness got hold of me, and I reproached myself for tormenting her. There is nothing more crushing for the man who loves truly than the consciousness that he is bringing unhappiness on her he loves. We took our tea in silence, for my aunt was drowsy, Kromitzki seemed depressed, and I tormented myself more and more with anxious thoughts. "She must have taken it very much to heart," I thought, "and as usual has put upon it the worst construction." I expected she would avoid me the next day and consider our treaty of peace broken by that rash act of mine. This filled me with fear, and I resolved to go, or rather to escape, the next day to Vienna; firstly, because I dreaded meeting Aniela, secondly, because I wanted to see Doctor Chwastowski; and finally, I thought,--and God knows how bitter is the thought,--to relieve her of my presence for a few days and give her rest.


15 July.

A whole budget of events. I do not know where to begin, as the last sensations are the uppermost. Never yet had I such convincing proofs that she cares for me. It will cost me no small effort to put everything down in proper order. I am now almost sure Aniela will agree to the conditions I am going to propose to her. My head is still in a whirl; but I will try to start from the beginning.

I have been in Vienna and brought some news I am going to discuss with my aunt. I have seen Chwastowski. What a fine fellow he is!--works at the hospitals, is busy upon a series of hygienic articles his brother is to publish in three-penny booklets for the people, belongs to several medical and non-medical associations, and still finds time for various gay entertainments on the Kaerthner Strasse. I do not know when he finds time to sleep. And the fellow looks like a giant from a fair. What an exuberance of life!--he seems literally brimming over with life. I told him without any preliminaries what had brought me to Vienna.

"I do not know," I said, "whether you are aware that my aunt and I possess considerable capital. We are not obliged to speculate, but if we could invest our money in some enterprise where it would bring profit, the profit would be so much gain for the country. I suppose if at the same time we could render a service to Pan Kromitzki it would be a two-fold gain. Between ourselves, he is personally indifferent to us, but he is by his marriage connected with our family. We should be glad to help him provided we can do so without running any risk."

"And you would like to know how he stands in his affairs, sir?"

"Yes, I should. He seems very sanguine in his hopes, and no doubt believes himself to be right. The question is whether he does not delude himself. Therefore if your brother has written you anything without binding you to secrecy I should like to know what he says. You might also ask him to give me an exact statement as to their business transactions. My aunt relies upon you, considering that the relations which connect us with your family are of a much older standing than those connecting her with Kromitzki."

"All right; I will let my brother know about it. He mentioned something in one of his letters, but as it does not interest me very much I did not take notice of it at the time."

Saying this, he began to search in his desk among his papers, where he found it easily and then read aloud: "'I am heartily tired of the place. No women here worth talking about, and not a pretty one in the whole lot.'" He laughed. "No, that's not what I wanted. He would like to be in Vienna." Turning over a page he handed it to me, but I found only these few lines:--

"As to Kromitzki, his speculation in oil has turned out a failure. With the Rothschilds a struggle is impossible, and he went against them. We had to get out of it as well as we could, but lost a deal of money. We have got a monopoly in the contract business; there are immense profits to be made, but there is also a considerable risk. It all depends upon the honesty of the people we deal with. We treat them fairly and trust to luck. But money is wanted, because the government pays us at stated terms, and we have to pay money down, and besides that, often receive bad material. I have to look at present after everything myself."

"We will furnish the money," I said, when I had finished reading.

On the way back to Gastein I thought it over and my better instincts prevailed. "Let the future take care of itself," I thought; and in the mean while would it not be more simple and more honest to help Kromitzki instead of ruining him? Aniela would appreciate such an act, and my disinterestedness would win her approval; and as to the future, let Providence decide about that.

But would it be an act of disinterestedness on my part? Reflecting upon it, I found that my own selfish views had a great deal to do with it. Thus I foresaw that Kromitzki, getting hold of the money, would leave Gastein immediately and release me from the torments his presence near Aniela gives me. Aniela would remain alone, surrounded by my devotion, with gratitude in her heart for me, resentment or even indignation towards Kromitzki because he had availed himself of my offer. I seemed to see new horizons opening before me. But above all, and at whatever cost, I wanted to get free of Kromitzki's presence.

I thought so much of my future relation to Aniela that I arrived at Lend-Gastein before I was aware of it. At Lend I found a great commotion. A railway accident had happened on the branch line of Zell am See, and the place was full of wounded people; but scarcely had I taken my seat in the carriage when the impression the killed and wounded had made upon me gave way to the thoughts that occupied me so exclusively. I saw clearly that some change must take place in our relation, that the present state could not be prolonged indefinitely without doing mischief to both of us and bringing us both to such a pass that it would be better for me to roll down the precipice there and then and make an end of it at once.

Aniela, though she does not yield in the least, must needs be distracted in her mind by the continual presence of that forbidden love. It is true she does not give me any encouragement, but now and then I kiss her hands, her feet; she is compelled to listen to words of love, obliged to have secrets from her husband and her mother, and always control herself and me lest I might overstep the boundary. Life under such conditions becomes unbearable to us both. It must undergo some change. At last I had found, I thought, a solution of the problem. Let Aniela frankly admit that she loves me, and say to me: "I am yours heart and soul, and will be yours forever; but let that satisfy you. If you agree to that our souls henceforth will be as one and belong to each other forever." And I bound myself to her. I fancied I was taking her hand and saying: "I take you thus and promise not to seek for anything more, promise that our relations will remain purely spiritual, but as binding as those of husband and wife."

Is such an agreement feasible, and will it put an end to our sorrow? For me it is a renunciation of all my hopes and desires, but it creates for me a new world in which Aniela will be mine. Besides that, it will make our love a legitimate right; and I would give my very health if Aniela would agree to it. I see in this another proof of the earnestness of my love, and how I wish her to be mine; I am ready to pay any price, accept any restrictions, provided she acknowledges her love.

I began to think intently whether she would agree. And it seemed to me she would. I heard myself speaking to her in a persuasive, irrefutable manner:--

"Since you really love me, what difference can it make to you if you tell me so with your own lips? What can there be nobler, holier than the love I ask you for? I have surrendered to you my whole life, because I could not do otherwise. Ask your own conscience, and it will tell you that you ought to do this much for me. It is the same relation as Beatrice's to Dante. Angels love each other in that way. You will be near me, as near as one soul can be to another, and yet as distant as if you dwelt on the highest of heights. That it is a love above all earthly loves is all the more a reason for your not rejecting it; carried on the wings of such a love your soul will remain pure; it will save me and bring peace and happiness to both of us."

I felt within me a boundless wealth of this almost mystic love, and a belief that this earthly chrysalis would come forth in another world a butterfly, which, detached from all earthly conditions would soar from planet to planet, till it became united to the spirit of All-Life. For the first time the thought crossed my mind that Aniela and I may pass away as bodies, but our love will survive and even be our immortality. "Who knows," I thought, "whether this be not the only existing form of immortality?"--because I felt distinctly that there is something everlasting in my feeling, quite distinct from the ever changing phenomena of life. A man must love very deeply to be capable of such feelings and visions; he must be very unhappy, and perhaps close on the brink of insanity. I am not yet on that brink, but I am close upon mysticism, and never so happy as when I thus lose myself and scatter my own self, so that I have some difficulty in finding it again. I fully understand why this is the case. My dualism, my inward criticism shattered all the foundations of my life, together with the happiness these foundations would have given me. In those lands where, instead of syllogisms, visions and dim consciousness reign paramount, criticism finds no room; and this solution gives me rest and relief.

Thus I rested when I drew near Gastein. I saw myself and Aniela wedded spiritually and at peace. I had the proud consciousness that I had found a way out of the enchanted circle and into happiness. I was certain Aniela would give me her hand, and thus together we would begin a new life.

Suddenly I started as if waking from a dream, and saw that my hand was covered with blood. It appeared that the same vehicle I was travelling in had been used to transport some of the injured victims of the railway disaster. There was a deal of blood at one side of the seat, which the driver had not noticed or had forgotten to wipe off. My mysticism does not go so far as to create belief in the intervention of mysterious powers through omens, signs, or predictions. Yet, though not superstitious myself, I am able to enter the train of thought of a superstitious man, and consequently observe the singular coincidence of this fact. It seemed to me strange that in the carriage where I dreamed about the beginning of a new life some other life had perhaps breathed its last; also that with bloodstained hands I had been thinking of peace and happiness.

Coincidences like these more or less influence nervous persons, not by filling them with presentiments, but rather by throwing a dark shadow upon all their thoughts. Undoubtedly mine would have travelled in that direction had I not been close upon Wildbad. Slowly crawling up the hill I saw another carriage coming down at an unusual speed. "There will be another collision," I thought, as on the steep road it is very difficult for two carriages to pass each other. But at the same moment the driver of the vehicle put on the brake with all his strength, and the horses went at a slow pace. Suddenly, to my great astonishment, I recognized in the inmates of the carriage my aunt and Aniela. They, too, had caught sight of me; and Aniela cried out:--

"It is he! Leon! Leon!"

In an instant I was at their side. My aunt fell upon my neck, and repeated, "God has been good to us!" and breathed as rapidly as if she had been running all the way from Wildbad. Aniela had clutched my hand and held it fast; then all at once a terrible fear shone in her face, and she cried out:--

"You are wounded?"

I understood at once what was the matter, and said,--

"Not in the least. I was not at the accident at all. I got the blood on my hand from the carriage, which had been used for the wounded."

"Is it true, quite true?"

"Quite true."

"What train was it that was wrecked?" asked my aunt.

"The train coming from Zell am See."

"Oh, good God! A telegram came to say it was the Vienna train. It almost killed me. Oh, God, what happiness! Praise be to God!"

My aunt began wiping the perspiration from her face. Aniela was as white as a sheet. She released my hand, and turned her head aside to hide her tears and twitching mouth.

"We were alone in the house," continued my aunt. "Kromitzki had gone with some Belgians to Nassfeld. The landlord came and told us about the accident on the line, and you can well imagine what state I was in, knowing you were coming by that same line. I sent the landlord at once for a carriage, and this dear child would not let me go alone. What a terrible time it has been for us! Thank God, we escaped with a mere fright. Did you see the wounded?"

I kissed my aunt's and Aniela's hands, and told them what I had seen at Lend-Gastein. It appeared that the telegram sent to the Kurhaus was thus expressed: "Railway accident at Lend-Gastein; many killed and wounded." From which everybody concluded that the calamity had happened on the Vienna-Salzburg line.

I gave them a few fragmentary details of what I had seen. I did not think much of what I was saying, as my head was full of the one joyful thought: "Aniela could not wait for news at home, and preferred to come with my aunt and meet me!" Did she do this for my aunt's sake? Most assuredly not. I saw the trouble in her face, the sudden terror when she noticed the blood on my hand, and the lighting up of her whole countenance when she heard I had not been near the place at the time of the accident. I saw she was still so deeply moved as to be inclined to weep from sheer happiness. She would have burst into tears if at that moment I had taken her hands and told her how I loved her, and would not have snatched them away. And as all this was as clear as the day, it seemed to me that my torments were about to end, and that from that moment the dawn of another life had begun. From time to time I looked at her with eyes in which I concentrated all my power of love, and she smiled at me. I noticed that she was without gloves or mantle. She had evidently forgotten them in her haste and perturbation. As it had grown rather chilly, I wanted to wrap her in my overcoat. She resisted a little, but my aunt made her accept it.

When we arrived at the villa Pani Celina met me with as much overflowing tenderness and delight as if Aniela in case of my death had not been the next of kin, and heiress to the Ploszow estate. Such noble, disinterested women are not often met with in this world. I would not guarantee that Kromitzki when he comes to hear about it may not utter a discreet sigh, and think that the world would go on quite as well if there were no Ploszowskis.

Kromitzki returned very tired and cross. The Belgians he had met, and with whom he had gone to Nassfeld, were capitalists from Antwerp. He spoke of them as idiots who were satisfied to get three per cent. for their capital. He said when parting for the night that he wished to talk with me in the morning about some important matter. Formerly I should have disliked the idea of this, for I suppose he will make some financial proposition. Now I almost wished to get it over at once; but I wanted to be alone with my thoughts, with my happiness, and with Aniela in my heart and soul. I pressed her hand at good-night as a lover might, and she returned a warm pressure.

"Are you really and truly mine?" I said inwardly.


16 July.

I had scarcely finished dressing in the morning when my aunt came into my room, and after wishing me good-morning said, without any preface,--

"While you were away Kromitzki made me a proposal to enter into partnership with him."

"And what answer did you give him?"

"I refused point-blank. I said to him: 'My dear cousin, thank God, I have as much as I want; and after my death Leon will be one of the wealthiest men in the country. Why should we rush into adventures and tempt Providence? If you make millions in your enterprises, it will be a good thing for you; if you lose your money, why should we lose ours with you? I do not know anything about these things, and am not in the habit of undertaking what I know nothing about.' Was I right?"

"Very much so."

"That is just what I wanted to talk over with you, and I am glad you look at it from the same point of view. You see, he was a little offended that I called his enterprises adventures; he explained everything to me, nevertheless, and told me what prospects he had for the future. Then I asked him, straight out, why he wanted a partner, since everything was going on so well. He replied that the more money was put into the concern the greater would be the profit; that out there everything was done on a great scale, and he would rather the family shared the profits than strangers. I thanked him for his family sympathies, but repeated my refusal. I saw that he was greatly disappointed. He began to grumble that nobody in the country had any brains for business; all they were capable of was to spend what they had got. He said in plain words that it was a social crime not to use one's capital to a better purpose. Thereupon I became very angry. 'My good friend,' I said, 'I have managed my estate I dare say in woman fashion, but I have not lost any money; rather I have increased my property; and as to social crimes, if anybody has the right to speak of that, it is certainly not you, who sold Gluchow. If you wanted to hear the truth, you hear it now. If you had not sold Gluchow, I should have trusted you more. As to your enterprises, it is not only I that know nothing about them, but others too are equally in the dark; one thing is quite clear to me, and that is that if your prospects were as brilliant as you make them out, you would not be in search of partners or feel hurt at my refusal. You want a partner because you cannot do without; you have not dealt openly with me, and that I dislike more than anything else.'"

"What did he say to that?"

"He said that he could not understand why he should be held responsible for the sale of Gluchow. It was not he who had let the estate slip through his fingers; it had been slipping gradually through the hands of those that had administered it badly, and it was their thoughtlessness and lavishness that had made the sale indispensable. Aniela when she married him had nothing but debts. He had saved out of the wreck more than anybody else could have done, and now instead of gratitude he met with reproaches and--wait a bit, what word did he use?--yes, and 'pathetic declamations.'"

"It is not true," I said; "Gluchow could have been saved."

"I said the same to him, and also that upon Gluchow I would have lent him the money. 'You might have sent me word through Aniela,' I said to him, 'about the sale, or told her to talk it over with me, and God knows, I would have made any sacrifice to save the property. But such is your method,--not to let anybody know what you are doing. We all believed in your millions, and that is the reason I never dreamed of offering you any pecuniary help.' He laughed ironically. 'Aniela,' he said, 'is too great a lady and far too lofty to stoop to interest herself in the details of her husband's business. I asked her twice to speak to you about the partnership, and both times she refused most decidedly. It is very easy to speak about saving Gluchow when the opportunity is gone. Judging by the reception I have met with to-day, I am entitled to believe that it would have been the same about Gluchow.'"

I had begun to listen with the greatest interest, for now I saw clearly what had led to the estrangement between Kromitzki and Aniela. My aunt continued:--

"When I heard that I said: 'Now you see how little sincerity there is in what you told me. At first you said that you proposed the partnership in order that the family might derive the benefit of it, in preference to strangers, and now it turns out that you want it for your own sake.' He is not wanting in cleverness, and therefore replied at once that in this kind of affairs the gain was on both sides, and that naturally it was a matter of concern to him to have as much capital at his disposition as he could get; for in this kind of business the larger the basis it rested upon, the more certain the profit. 'Besides that,' he said, 'taking Aniela without any money I thought I might count upon the support of the family, at least in a case like this, when the help would turn out a clear gain to the family.' He was very cross, especially when I told him he had not taken Aniela without anything, as it had always been my intention to give her the life interest of a certain sum."

"You told him that?"

"Yes. I told him all that was uppermost in my mind. 'I love Aniela,' I said, 'as if she were my own child; and for that very reason, to make her safe, I will not leave her the principal, but a life interest. The principal might be swallowed up in your speculations, which may turn out God knows how; and an annual income will give Aniela the means of a decent establishment. The principal,' I said, 'will go to your children, if you have any, after Aniela's death; and that is all I intend to do,--which of course does not exclude any smaller services I may be able to render you.'"

"And that ended the conversation?"

"Almost. I saw he was very much upset. I fancy he was especially angry because I promised a life interest to Aniela instead of a round sum down, as it shows how little I trust him. When going away he said that for the future he would look for partners among strangers, as he could not meet with less good-will, and might find a better understanding of business matters. I meekly accepted this reproach. Yesterday he went for an excursion with the Belgians and came back discontented, I suppose he tried it on with them and met with a disappointment. Do you know what I think, Leon? His business is shaky, since he is so anxious to get partners. And I may tell you that the thought troubles me; for if such be the case common-sense tells us not to have anything to do with his affairs; and yet the simplest family duty bids us to help him, if only for Aniela's sake. That is one reason why I was so anxious to talk it over with you."

"His affairs are not in such a desperate state as you think, aunty." And I told her what I had heard from Chwastowski, and guessed long ago from Kromitzki's manner, namely, that he was in want and looking about for capital. I added that it was mainly to inquire about the state of his affairs that I had gone to Vienna.

My aunt was delighted with my tactics and perspicacity; and walking up and down the room according to her habit she muttered to herself, "He is a genius in everything." She finally decided to leave everything in my hands, and to act as I thought best. Upon this, she went below, and I, after perusing yesterday's papers for half an hour, followed her.

I found the whole company gathered round the breakfast table, and one glance was sufficient to tell me that something unusual had taken place. Aniela looked frightened, Pani Celina troubled, and my aunt was flushed with anger. Only Kromitzki was quietly reading the paper, but he looked cross, and his face was as yellow as if he had been ill.

"Do you know," said my aunt, pointing at Aniela, "what news she has brought me as a morning's greeting?"

"No, what is it?" I said, sitting down at the table.

"Nothing more nor less than that in two weeks, Celina's health permitting, they are both going to Odessa or somewhere farther still."

If a thunderbolt had fallen in the middle of the table, I could not have been more startled. My heart sank within me. I looked at Aniela, who had grown very red, as if caught in the act of committing a wrong deed, and at last asked, "Where are they going? why?"

"They give me a deal of trouble at Ploszow, you know," said my aunt, imitating Aniela's voice. "They do not want to be a burden to me, the charitable souls. They evidently think I yearn after solitude; and in case you went away too, it would be ever so much better, more cheerful for me, to be by myself in that big house. They have discussed this all the night, instead of sleeping like other respectable people."

My aunt waxed angrier still, and turning upon Kromitzki asked: "Did you preside at that debate?"

"Not at all," he replied; "I was never even consulted. But if my wife has resolved to go, I suppose it is in order to be nearer me, for which I ought to feel grateful."

"There is nothing settled yet," remarked Aniela.

I, forgetting all precautions, looked steadily at her, but she did not lift her eyes; which convinced me all the more that I was the cause of this sudden resolve. I cannot find words to express what I felt at that moment, and what deadly bitterness suffused my heart. Aniela knows perfectly that I live for her only, exist through her; that all my thoughts belong to her, my actions have only her in view; that she is to me an issue of life and death; and in spite of all that she calmly decides to go away. Whether I should perish or beat my head against the wall, she never so much as considered. She will be more at ease when she ceases to see me writhing like a beetle stuck on a pin; she will be no longer afraid of my kissing her feet furtively, or startling that virtuous conscience. How can she hesitate when such excellent peace can be got, at so small a price as cutting somebody's throat! Thoughts like these spun across my brain by thousands. I felt a bitter taste in my mouth. "You are virtuous," I said inwardly to Aniela, "because you have no heart. If a dog attached himself to you as I am attached, something would be due to him. You have never shown me any indulgence, or any spark of pity; you have never confessed to me any tender feeling, and you have taken from me what you could. If you were able, you would deprive me of your presence altogether,--although you had the certainty that if I could not see you my eyes would perish forever. But I begin to understand you now, begin to see that your inflexibility is so great because your heart is so small. You are cold and unfeeling, and your virtue is nothing but an enormous egoism, that wants above everything to be left undisturbed, and for that peace is capable of sacrificing all else."

During the whole time of breakfast I did not say a word. When alone in my own room I held my head with both hands and with a weary, over-wrought brain, began to think again of what had happened. My thoughts were still very bitter. Women of narrow hearts often remain unyielding through a certain philistinism of virtue. The first thing with them is to keep their accounts in order, like any tradesman. They fear love, as the grocer fears street-risings, war, riots, exalted ideas, and audacious flights of fancy. Peace at any price, because peace is good for business. Everything that rises above the rational and commonplace standard of life is bad, and deserves the contempt of reasonable beings. Virtue has its heights and precipices, but also its level plains.

I now struggled with the exceedingly painful question whether Aniela did not belong to that kind of commonplace virtuous women, who want to keep their accounts in order, and reject love because it reaches above the ordinary standard of their hearts and minds. I searched in the past for proofs. "Who knows," I said to myself, "whether her simple ethical code is not resting upon such a foundation?" I had believed her to be one of those exceptional natures, different from all other women, inaccessible as the snowy heights of the Alps that without any slope soar straight heavenward. And now this lofty nature considers it the most proper thing that a husband in slippers should trample on those snows. What does it all mean? Whenever thoughts like these crowd my brain I feel as if I were on the brink of madness; such a rage seizes me that if I could I would throw down, trample, and spit upon the forces of life, reduce the whole world to chaos and obliterate its existence. On my journey back from Vienna I was searching for some unearthly abode where I might love Aniela even as Dante loved Beatrice. I built it of the sufferings from which as from fire my love had risen purified, of my renunciations and sacrifices, and thought that in a superhuman, simply angelic way she would be mine, and feel that she belonged to me. And now it came into my thoughts that it was not worth while to speak about it, as she would not understand me; not worth while leading her on to those heights, as she would not be able to breathe there. She might agree, in her soul, that I should go on loving her, go on suffering, since that flatters her vanity; but no compact, no union the most spiritual, no mutual belonging even in the Dantesque meaning,--to none of these will she agree, because she understands only one belonging and one right, which is expressed in a man's dressing-gown, and her soul cannot rise above the narrow, mean, matrimonial, book-keeping spirit.

I felt an overwhelming regret that I had not been in the wrecked train. The regret was as much the result of physical exhaustion as of Aniela's cruelty. I was tired, as one who has watched night after night at the sick bed of a very dear friend, and to whom death appears as a desired rest. And then I thought that if they had brought my mangled remains to Gastein something would perhaps have stirred in her. Thinking of this I suddenly remembered yesterday's Aniela, who went with my aunt in search of me. I recalled to my mind the sudden terror and the joy close upon it, those eyes full of tears, the disordered hair; and love immeasurable, love a hundred times more real than all my thoughts and reasonings took possession of me. It was like a great convulsive motion of the heart, which almost at once got buried in a wave of doubts. All I had noticed that day might be explained upon quite different grounds. Who knows whether it was I or my aunt who played the principal part in this emotion? Besides impressionable women have always a store of sympathy at command, even for the merest stranger. What more natural than that she should exhibit some feeling when he who was threatened by some danger was a relative? She would naturally be horrified at the thought of my death, and rejoice at seeing me alive. If, instead of her, Pani Sniatynska had been staying with my aunt, she too would have been terror-stricken, and I should have seen her without her gloves, and her hair in disorder. No, in regard to that I cannot delude myself any longer. Aniela knew very well that her departure would be to me a more dangerous catastrophe than a wound on my head or the loss of an arm or leg; and yet she did not hesitate a moment. I was perfectly aware that it was all her doing. She wanted to be near her husband, and what would become of me was not taken into account.

Again I felt myself growing pale with anger, hatred, and indignation, and only one step removed from madness. "Stop a little," I said to myself, pressing both hands against my temples; "perhaps she is seeking safety in flight because she loves you, and feels she cannot resist any longer." Ah me! and these thoughts sprung up, but they did not find any congenial soil and perished like the seed sown on a rock; they only roused a bitter, despairing irony. "Yes," something said within me, "hers is a love resembling the compassion which makes people remove the pillow from under the dying man's head, to shorten his agony. I shall not suffer much longer, and Kromitzki will be able to see her often and bring her such comfort as a wife expects from her husband."

Aniela at that moment was hateful to me. For the first time in my life I wished she really loved Kromitzki; she would have been less repugnant to me. Anger and resentment almost deprived me of my senses, and I saw clearly that if I did not do something, revenge myself upon her in some way, something terrible would happen to me. I jumped up, and under the influence of that thought, as if touched by a red-hot iron, I took my hat and went forth in search of Kromitzki. I did not find him either in the house or in the garden. I went to the Wandelbahn, then to the reading-rooms; he was in neither of the two places. I stopped for a moment on the bridge near the Cascades, thinking what to do next. The wind coming from that direction blew a cloud of spray into my face. This caused me a pleasant sensation and relieved the tension of my nerves. I bared my head and exposed it to the spray until my hair was quite wet. I felt a purely animal delight in the coolness. I had regained all my self-possession. There remained now only the distinct and decided wish to thwart Aniela. I said to her, "You shall not be allowed to go away, and henceforth I will treat you as a man who has paid for you with his money." I saw the way clear before me, and was not afraid of making any mistakes in dealing with Kromitzki. I found him outside Straubinger's hotel reading the paper. When he saw me he dropped his eyeglass and said:--

"I was just thinking of going to look for you."

"Let us go on the Kaiserweg."

And we went. Not waiting for him to begin, I plunged at once into the subject.

"My aunt told me about your conversation with her yesterday," I said.

"I am very sorry it took place at all," replied Kromitzki.

"As far as I can judge, you were both not as calm as one ought to be in treating affairs of that kind. My dear fellow, I will be open with you, and tell you at once that you do not know my aunt. She is the dearest woman in the world, but she has one weakness. Possessed of a great deal of common-sense and shrewdness, she likes to assert them; therefore any new scheme or proposition is met by her with a certain almost exaggerated suspicion. For that reason she invariably refuses at first to have anything to do with it. Chwastowski, her manager, might tell you something about that. In dealing with her it is always best to suggest a thing and leave her time to digest it; and besides, you rubbed her the wrong way, and that makes her always more determined; a pity you could not have avoided that."

"But how could I have irritated her? If anybody it is I who should be able to discuss matters of this kind."

"You made a mistake in saying that you had married Aniela without a dowry; she is still very angry about that."

"I said it when she threw the sale of Gluchow in my teeth. Besides I only spoke the truth; Gluchow was so encumbered that next to nothing really belonged to Aniela."

"Plainly speaking, what induced you to sell that unfortunate estate?"

"Because by doing so I was able to do a good turn to somebody upon whom my future career depends to a great extent; besides, he paid more than I could have got from anybody else."

"Well, let that pass. My aunt felt all the more hurt as she has some intentions in regard to Aniela."

"Yes, I know. She is going to leave her a yearly income."

"Between ourselves, I tell you that she thinks of no such thing. I know she spoke to you about a life interest, because she was angry and wanted to let you feel that she mistrusted your business capacities. I as her heir ought to know something about her intentions, especially as she does nothing without consulting me."

Kromitzki looked at me keenly. "Anything she is doing for Aniela," he said, "would be against your interest as the heir."

"Yes, that is so; but I do not spend even my income, consequently I can speak about it quite calmly. If you cannot explain it any other way, consider it as a whim of mine. There are such people in the world. I may tell you that I do not intend to put any limit to my aunt's generosity, and also that she intends to give Aniela, not the life interest she spoke about, but the capital. Of course my influence might turn the scale either way, but I do not intend to exert it against you."

Kromitzki squeezed my hand with effusion, and his shoulders moved exactly like those of a wooden manikin. How repulsive the man is to me! I suppose he considered me more of a fool than an oddity; but he believed me, and that was all I wanted. He is quite right as to that, for I was decided that Aniela should have the capital instead of only a life interest. I saw that he was consumed with curiosity to know how much and when; but he understood that it would not do to show his hand so openly, and therefore remained silent as if from emotion. I continued:--

"You must remember one thing, my aunt wants careful handling. I know for certain that she means to provide for Aniela; but it all depends on her will, and even her humor. In the mean while, what is it you both are doing? Yesterday you made her angry, and to-day Aniela vexed her still more. As the future heir I ought to rejoice at your blunders, and not warn you, and yet you see I am doing the opposite. My aunt was deeply hurt by Aniela's plan, and in her anger turned upon you, hoping, I fancy, that you would take her side; but you, on the contrary, supported them!"

"My dear fellow," said Kromitzki, squeezing my hand again, "I will tell you openly that I agreed to their plan because I was vexed with your aunt, and that is the top and bottom of it. There is no sense in it at all. I cannot stand exaltation, and both these women are full of it. They always seem to think they ought not to take advantage of your aunt's hospitality, that they cannot always remain at Ploszow, and so on, _ad infinitum_. I am heartily sick of it. In the mean while it is this way: I cannot take them with me to Turkestan, and when I am there it is all the same to me whether they are at Odessa or at Warsaw. When I wind up my affairs, with a more than considerable fortune, I hope I shall give them, of course, an adequate home. That will take place in a year at the latest. The sale of the business itself will bring in a considerable sum. If they were not at Ploszow, I should have to look out for some other place; but since your aunt offers her house and is pleased to have them, it would be folly not to accept the offer. My mother-in-law has only just recovered from her illness. Who knows what might happen in the future? and if things went wrong, Aniela, young and inexperienced as she is, would be alone with all these troubles. I simply cannot remain with them; even now I am in a fever to be off, and only delayed my departure in the hope that I might persuade you or your aunt into a partnership. Now I have told you all that is in my mind; and it is your turn to tell me whether I may count upon your good-will."

I breathed again. Aniela's scheme was reduced to nothing. I was delighted because I had got what I wanted. Although my love for Aniela was akin to deep hatred, it was all I had to live for, and it wanted food; and this it would get only from Aniela's presence. From Kromitzki's words I concluded that by one stroke I could gain the most wished for end,--Kromitzki's departure for an almost unlimited time. I remained impassive, and thought it more advisable to show myself a little reluctant.

"I cannot," I said, "give you any promise beforehand. Tell me first exactly how you stand."

He began to talk, and talked with great volubility, showing that once embarked upon this theme, he felt himself in his proper element. Now and then he paused to buttonhole me or press me against the rocks. When he had said something he thought very convincing, he swiftly screwed his eyeglass into his eye and scrutinized my face to see what impression he had made upon me. This, added to his voice, which was like the sound of creaking hinges, and the reiteration of his "what, what," was very trying to my nerves, but I must render him justice; he did not try to deceive me. He told me substantially the same things that I had heard from Chwastowski. The affair stood thus: Great capital had already been invested in material, the purveying of which was solely in Kromitzki's hands. The danger of the business consisted in the fact that the capital already sunk came back to him only after passing through various official forms, therefore very slowly; and also in the fact that Kromitzki had to deal with purveyors whose interest it was to supply him with the very worst materials, for which he was held responsible. This last point put him more or less at the mercy of the agency, which besides had the most complete right to accept only good material. Who knows what complications might arise from that? After having listened to his statement, which lasted an hour, I replied:--

"My good fellow, considering all you have told me, neither my aunt nor I can have anything to do with the partnership."

His countenance fell, and he turned very yellow. "Tell me why," he said.

"If you, in spite of cautiousness and care, are in danger of lawsuits, we will not be mixed up in your affairs."

"Looking at things in that way, nobody would embark in any business at all."

"There is no necessity for us to do so. But supposing we entered into any partnership, how much would you want us to put into the business?"

"It is of no use to speak of that now; but if you could have come into it, let us say with seventy-five thousand roubles--"

"No, we will not put anything into the business; we do not think it advisable to do so. But as you are connected with our family, we will help you in another way. In brief, I will lend you the sum you mentioned upon a note of hand."

Kromitzki stopped, looked at me, and blinked as one who is not fully awake. But this lasted only a moment. He evidently thought it would not be wise to show too great a delight,--a mercantile caution not at all necessary, and ridiculous under present circumstances. He only pressed my hand and said: "Thank you,--at what rate of interest?"

"We will talk of that later on. I must go back now and talk with my aunt."

I said good-by at once. On the way I reflected whether Kromitzki would not think my acting thus a little curious and open to suspicion. But it was a vain fear. Husbands are proverbially blind, not because they love and trust their wives, but because they love themselves. Besides, Kromitzki, looking at us from his business point of view, considers me and my aunt as two fantastic beings, who, with little knowledge of practical matters, stick to antiquated notions about family ties and duties. He is, indeed, in many respects of such an altogether different type from us, that we cannot help looking upon him as an intruder.

When I came back to the villa I saw Aniela at the gate buying wild strawberries from a peasant woman. Passing close by, I said roughly, "You will not go away, because I do not wish it," and then went up into my room.

During dinner the conversation again turned upon the departure of the ladies. This time Kromitzki spoke up and treated the whole thing as a childish whim, to be laughed at by sensible people. He was not very considerate either to his wife or his mother-in-law, but then his nature is not a refined one. I did not say anything,--as if the question of their going or staying mattered very little to me. But I noticed that Aniela was conscious that her husband acted as a mere puppet in my hands, and she felt ashamed for him and deeply humiliated; but such was the resentment I had towards her that the sight of it did me good.

For in truth I was deeply wounded, and I cannot forgive Aniela. If, on the way from Vienna, I had not thought so much of that new compact, if I had not made a wholesale sacrifice of all my desires, passions, and senses, in fact of my whole nature, I should not have felt the disappointment so acutely. But it fell out so cruelly that, when, out of love for her, I was ready to change my whole being, when I climbed to a height I had never reached before, only to be near her, she, without any consideration or pity for me, wished to push me into the very depth of despair and without considering for a moment what would become of me! These thoughts poison even the pleasure afforded by Kroimitzki's departure.

The future will bring some kind of solution, but I am too tired to speculate upon it. The simplest solution would be inflammation of the brain. It will come to that. I torment myself all the day, do not sleep at night, smoke endless cigars to stupefy myself, and sit up till daylight.


30 July.

I have not written in my diary for two weeks. I went; with Kromitzki to Vienna to conclude his business; after which he remained three days and then left for the East. I had such violent headaches that I could not write. Pani Celina's cure is completed, but we still remain at Gastein because of the great heat.

Kromitzki's departure was a great relief to me, to Pani Celina,--whom he irritates to such a degree that if he were not her son-in-law she could not stand him at all,--and perhaps also to Aniela. The latter cannot forgive him that he involved me in his affairs. He, not supposing there could be anything between me and his wife except social relations, made no secret of the loan. She opposed it energetically, but could not tell him the reason,--perhaps from a secret fear that after an explanation he might compel her to remain where she is, and thus destroy the last shred of respect she has for him. I am almost sure that since the sale of Gluchow, both she and her mother distrust him, and in the secrecy of their hearts consider him worse than he really is. In my opinion he is a spiritual upstart, with a dry and wooden disposition, and incapable of any fine feeling or subtle thought. There is no generosity in him; his mind is neither deep, noble, nor sensitive; but in the general acceptance of the word he is a decent member of society. A certain natural pedantry aids him in this, which harmonizes with his money-making neurosis,--a degenerated imaginativeness seeking expression in financial adventure. Taking him all in all, he is so intensely repulsive to me--with his eyeglass, oblique eyes, long legs, and sallow, hairless face--that I doubt if I am capable of judging him objectively. Nevertheless I am quite sure that unless he loses his own money I shall not lose mine. But I put it down, in all sincerity, that I would rather he lost the money, his senses, his life, and went altogether to perdition.

I am ill. I have seen very little of Aniela lately,--partly by reason of my headaches, that kept me confined to my room, and partly because I wished to let her feel how deeply she had injured and grieved me. Not to see her cost me great self-denial, for my eyes want her as they want the light. I have already mentioned that with all her inflexibility, she has a certain weakness: she cannot bear that anybody should be angry with her; it frightens her, and she tries her best to conciliate those that are angry. She is then meek, sweet tempered, and looks into one's eyes with the pleading expression of a child who is afraid to be punished. This always moved me deeply and was my delight, as it kept up the delusion that I had only to open my arms and she would fall upon my neck, if only to soften my resentment. I cannot get rid altogether of this delusion, although convinced of its futility; and even now I cherish some hope in a corner of my heart that when we come to make it up, something will happen between us,--she will make a kind of submission and will draw closer to me. On the other hand I see in this mutual irritation a tacit acknowledgment on the part of Aniela that I have the right to love her; for if she admits the resentment springing from love, she must admit the love itself. It is a shadowy right, dim and vague as a dream, without shape or substance; yet I cling to it, for it saves me from utter apathy and hopelessness.

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Without Dogma - 2 August to 30 August Without Dogma - 2 August to 30 August

Without Dogma - 2 August to 30 August
2 August.I have received another letter from Clara Hilst. She must have divined something; there is much pity and sympathy in her words, as if she knew how wretched I am. I do not know and do not want to know, whether she loves me as a sister or otherwise, I only feel that she loves me. I answered her letter in the same hearty spirit, grateful for her friendliness. She is going to Berlin now, and promises her appearance in Warsaw for the winter. She wants me to come to Berlin, if only for a few days. I will not

Without Dogma - 1 June to 30 June Without Dogma - 1 June to 30 June

Without Dogma - 1 June to 30 June
1 June.Yesterday I received news from Gastein. The rooms for Pani Celina and Aniela are ready. I sent them the particulars, together with a parcel of books by Balzac and George Sand. To-day is Sunday, and the first day of the races. My aunt has arrived from Ploszow and taken up her abode with me. That she went to the races is a matter of course, she is altogether absorbed in them. But our horses, Naughty Boy and Aurora, which arrived here two days ago with the trainer Webb and Jack Goose, the jockey, are on the list for Thursday; therefore