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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWithout Dogma - 2 February to 28 February
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Without Dogma - 2 February to 28 February Post by :prospertogether Category :Long Stories Author :Henryk Sienkiewicz Date :May 2012 Read :2867

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Without Dogma - 2 February to 28 February

2 February.

Yesterday my aunt's entertainment took place. Aniela was the cynosure of every eye. Her white shoulders peeping out from a cloud of muslin, gauze, or whatever it is called, she looked like a Venus rising from the foam. I fancy it is already gossiped about that I am going to marry her. I noticed that her eyes often strayed in my direction, and she listened to her partners with an absent, distracted expression.

Guileless child! she cannot hide the truth, and shows so plainly what is going on in her heart that I could not help seeing it, unless I were blind. And she is so humble and quietly happy when I am with her! I like her immensely, and begin to waver. Sniatynski is so happy in his home life! It is not the first time I have asked myself whether Sniatynski be more foolish or wiser than I. Of the many problems of life, I have not solved one. I am nothing; scepticism is sapping my whole system; I am not happy, and am very tired. He, with less knowledge than I, does useful work, has a good and handsome wife, the rogue! and his very philosophical principles, adapted to life, help to make him happy. No, it must be acknowledged, it is I who am the more foolish of the two.

The keynote of Sniatynski's philosophy is found in his dogmas of life. Before he was married he said to me: "There are two things I never approach with scepticism, and do not criticise: to me as a literary man, the community is a dogma; as a private individual, the beloved woman." I thought to myself then: "My mind is bolder,--it analyzes even that." But I see now that this boldness has not led me to anything. And how lovely she is,--that little dogma of mine with the long eyelashes! Decidedly, I am going the way I did not mean to go. The singular attraction which draws me towards her cannot be explained by the law of natural selection. Ho! there is something more, and I know what it is. She loves me with all the freshness of her honest heart, as I was never loved before. How different from the fencing practice of former years, when thrusts were dealt or guarded against! The woman who is much liked, and who in her turn loves, is sure to win in the end if she perseveres.

"The stray bird," says the poet Slowacki, "comes back to his haven of rest and peace all the more eagerly after the lonesomeness of his stormy flight. Nothing takes so firm a hold upon a man's heart as the consciousness that he is loved."

A few pages before, I wrote God knows what about Polish women; but if any one fancies that for the sake of a few written sentences I feel myself bound to pursue a certain course, he is vastly mistaken.

How that girl satisfies my artistic taste is simply wonderful. After the ball, came the pleasantest moment when, everybody gone, we sat down and had some tea. Wanting to see how the world looked outside, I drew back the heavy curtains. It was eight o'clock in the morning and a flood of daylight poured into the room. It was so perfectly blue, seen by the glare of the lamps, that it reminded me of the Capri grotto. And there stood Aniela, with that blue haze around her white shoulders. She looked so lovely that all my resolutions tottered and fell to pieces; I felt positively grateful to her for this glimpse of beauty, as if it were her doing. I pressed her hand more tenderly than I had ever done before when saying good-night to her.

"Good-morning, you mean, not good-night,--good-morning."

Either I am blind and deaf or her eyes and voice expressed: "I love you, I love you."

I do the same--almost.

My aunt looking at us gave a low grunt of contentment. I saw tears shining in her eyes.

To-morrow we leave here for Ploszow.


PLOSZOW, 5 February.

This is my second day in the country. We had a splendid drive. The weather was clear and frosty. The snow creaked under the runners of the sledge and glittered and sparkled in the fields. Towards sunset the vast plain assumed pink and purple shades. The rooks, cawing and flapping their wings, flew in and out the lime trees. Winter, the strong, homely winter, is a beautiful thing. There is a certain vigor in it, and dignity, and what is more, so much sincerity. Like a true friend, who, regardless as to consequences, hurls cutting truths, it smites you between the eyes without asking leave. By way of compensation it bestows upon you some of its own vigor. We were all of us glad to leave the town--the elder ladies, that their pet scheme might be brought to a climax by closer companionship; I, because I was near Aniela; she, maybe for the same reason, felt happy too. She bent down several times to kiss my aunt's hands, apropos of nothing, out of sheer content. She looked very pretty in a long, fluffy boa and a coquettish fur cap, from under which the dark eyes and the almost childish face peeped forth.

How young she looks.

I feel at home in Ploszow, it is so quiet and restful; and I like the huge, old-fashioned chimneys. The woods are to my aunt as the apple of her eye, but she does not grudge herself fuel; and big logs, which are crackling and burning there from morning until night, make it look bright and cheerful. We sat around the fire the whole afternoon. I brought out some of my reminiscences, and told them about Rome and its treasures. The three women listened with such devoutness that it made me feel ridiculous in my own eyes. From time to time, while I was talking, my aunt cast a searching glance at Aniela to see whether she expressed enough admiration. But there is too much of that already. Yesterday she said to me:--

"Another man might spend there his whole life and not see half the beautiful things you do."

My aunt added with dogmatic firmness,--

"I have always said so."

It is as well that there is not another sceptic here, for his presence would embarrass me not a little.

A certain dissonant chord in our little circle is Aniela's mother. The poor soul has had so many sorrows and anxieties that her cheerfulness, if ever she had any, is a thing of the past. She is simply afraid of the future, and instinctively suspects pitfalls even in good fortune. She was very unhappy in her married life, and afterwards has had continual worries about her estate, which is very much involved. In addition to all this she suffers from nervous headaches.

Aniela belongs to that category of women who never trouble themselves about money matters. I like her for that, for it proves that she thinks of higher things. For the matter of that, everything in her pleases and delights me now.

Tenderness grows on the soil of attraction by the senses, as quick as flowers after a warm rain. To-day, in the morning, I saw the maid carrying up her gown and boots; this moved me very much, especially the little, little boots, as if the wearing of them was the crown of all virtues in Aniela.


PLOSZOW, 8 or 9 February.

My aunt has taken up her visual warfare with Pan Chwastowski. This is such an original habit of hers that I must describe one of their disputes. The dear lady can evidently not exist without it, or at least not enjoy her dinner; Chwastowski, again, who, by the bye, is an excellent manager, is a compound of brimstone and saltpetre, and does not allow anybody to thwart him; therefore the quarrels sometimes reach the acute state. When entering the dining-room they eye each other with suspicious glances. The first shot is fired by my aunt while eating her soup.

"It is a very long time, Pan Chwastowski, since I heard anything about the winter crops, and Pan Chwastowski, instead of giving me the information, speaks about anything but what I want to know."

"They were very promising in autumn, my lady; now they are covered by a yard or two of snow,--how am I to know the state they are in? I am not the Lord Almighty."

"I beg of you, Pan Chwastowski, not to take the Lord's name in vain."

"I do not look under His snow, therefore do not offend Him."

"Do you mean to insinuate that I do?"

"Most certainly."

"Pan Chwastowski, you are unbearable."

"Oho! bearable enough because he bears a great deal."

In this or that way the screw goes round. There is scarcely a meal but they have some differences. Then my aunt at last subsides, and seems to wreak the remnants of her anger on the dinner. She enjoys a hearty appetite. As the dinner goes on she gradually brightens up and recovers her usual spirits. After dinner, I offer my arm to Aniela's mother, my aunt accepts Pan Chwastowski's, and presently they sip their black coffee in peace and perfect amity. My aunt inquires after his sons, and he kisses her hands. I saw those sons of his when they were at the university, and I hear they are promising young men, but great radicals.

Aniela used to get frightened at first at these prandial disputes, until I gave her the clue to the real state of things. So now when the first signal of battle is given, she looks at me slyly from under those long lashes, and there is a little smile lurking in the corners of her mouth. She is so pretty then I feel tempted to take her in my arms. I have never met a woman with such delicate veins on her temples.


12 February.

Truly a metamorphosis of Ovidius on the earth and within me! The frost has gone, the fine weather vanished, and there is Egyptian darkness. I cannot describe it better than by saying the weather is foul. What an abominable climate! In Rome, at the worst, the sun shines at intervals half a dozen times a day; here lamps ought to be lit these two days. The black, heavy mist seems to permeate one's thoughts, and paint them a uniform gray. My aunt and Pan Chwastowski were more intent than usual upon warfare. He maintained that my aunt, by not allowing the woods to be touched, causes the timber to spoil; my aunt replied that others did their best to cut down all the timber, and not a bit of forest would soon be left in the country. "I am getting old; let the trees grow old too." This reminds me of the nobleman of vast possessions who only allowed as much land to be cultivated as to where the bark of his dog could be heard.

Aniela's mother, without intending it, gave me to-day a bad quarter of an hour. Alone with me in the conservatory, she began telling me, with maternal boastfulness, that an acquaintance of mine, a certain Pan Kromitzki, had made overtures for Aniela's hand.

I had a sensation as if somebody tried to remove a splinter from my flesh with a fork. As the blue waves of light had stirred up within me a tender feeling for Aniela,--although it was no merit of hers,--so now the wooing of such a man as Kromitzki threw cold water upon the nascent affections. I know that ape Kromitzki, and do not like him. He comes from Austrian Silesia, where it seems they had owned estates. In Rome he used to say that his family had borne the title of count already in the fifteenth century, and at the hotels put himself down as "Graf von Kromitzki." But for his small, black eyes, not unlike coffee-berries, and his black hair, his head looks as if cut out from a cheese-rind,--for such is his complexion. He reminds me of a death's-head, and I simply have a physical loathing for him. Ugh! how the thought of him in connection with Aniela has spoiled her image. I am quite aware that she is in no way responsible for Kromitzki's intentions; but it has damaged her in my eyes. I do not know why her mother should think it necessary to tell me these details; if it be a warning, it has missed its aim. She must have some grand qualities, this Pani P., since she has managed to steer her life through so many difficulties, and at the same time educated her daughter so well; but she is clumsy and tedious with her headaches and her macaronism.

"I confess," she said, "that the alliance suited me. At times I almost break down under the weight of troubles. I am a woman with little knowledge of business, and what I acquired I have paid for with my health; but I had to think of my child. Kromitzki is very clever. He has large concerns at Odessa, and is at present engaged in some large speculations in naphtha at Baku, or some such place, 'que sais-je.' It seems there is some difficulty about his not being a Russian subject. If he married Aniela he might clear the estate; and as an extensive landowner he would have no difficulty in getting naturalized."

"What does Aniela say to this?" I asked impatiently.

"She does not care for him, but is a good and obedient child. I am anxious to see her married before I die."

I did not care to prolong the conversation, which irritated me more than I can tell; and though I understand well enough, if that match has not been arranged, it was Aniela's doing, yet I feel aggrieved that she should allow a man like that even to look at her. For me this would be a mere question of nerves. I forget, however, that others are not constituted like me, and that Kromitzki, in spite of his cadaverous face, passes among women as a good-looking man.

I wonder what his affairs are. I forgot to ask whether he is at Warsaw; most likely he is, as he goes there every winter. As to his business, it may be very magnificent, but I doubt whether it be on a solid basis. I am not a speculator, and could not for the life of me transact a stock-exchange affair; but I am shrewd enough to know it. Besides I am a close observer, and quick to draw conclusions. Therefore I do not believe in noblemen with a genius for speculation. I am afraid Kromitzki's is neither an inherited nor innate quality, but a neurosis driving him into a certain direction. I have seen examples of that kind. Now and then blind fortune favors the nobleman-speculator, and he accumulates wealth; but I have not seen one who did not come to grief before he died.

Capacities such as these are either inherited or acquired by early training. Chwastowski's boys will be able to do something in that way because their father lost by accident all his fortune, and they have to make a fresh start. But he who with ready capital, without commercial tradition or professional knowledge, embarks upon commerce, is bound to come to grief. Speculation cannot be based upon illusions, and there is too much of that in the speculations of our noblemen. Upon the whole, I wish Pan von Kromitzki every luck!


14 February.

Pax! pax! pax! The painful impression has vanished. What keen perceptions Aniela has! I endeavored to be cheerful, though I felt out of spirits, and I do not think there was any perceptible change in my behavior; yet she perceived a change at once. To-day, when we looked at the albums and were alone,--which happens pretty often, on purpose I suppose,--she grew embarrassed and changed color. I saw at once she wanted to say something, and did not dare. For a single moment the mad thought flashed across my brain that she was about to confess her love for me. But as quick as the thought, I remembered it was a Polish girl I had before me. A mere chit of a girl--I beg her pardon, a young princess,--would rather die than be the first to confess her love. When asked she gives her assent rather as a favor. Besides, Aniela very quickly corrected my mistake; suddenly closing the album she said in a hesitating voice: "What is the matter with you, Leon? There is something the matter, is there not?"

I began assuring her at once that there was nothing the matter with me, and to laugh away her perturbation; but she only shook her head and said: "I have seen that something was amiss these last two days. I know that men like you may be easily offended, and I have asked myself whether anything I might have done or said--" Her voice shook a little, but she looked straight at me.

"I have not hurt you, have I?"

There was a moment I felt tempted to say, "If there is anything wanting to my happiness it is you, Aniela, only you;" but a sudden terror clutched me by the hair. Not terror of her, but of the consequences that might follow. I took her hand, kissed it, and said in the most cheerful voice I could assume, "You are a good and dear girl; do not mind me,--there is nothing whatever the matter; besides, you are our guest, and it is I who ought to see that you are comfortable."

And I kissed again her hand, both hands in fact. All this could be still put down to cousinly affection,--human nature is so mean that the consciousness that there was still a door through which I could escape lent me courage. I call this feeling mean for the very reason that I am not responsible to anybody except to myself, and myself I cannot deceive. Yet I feel that even to myself I shall not give a strict account, because in so far as my relations to Aniela are concerned I am carried away by my sensations. I still feel on my lips the touch of her hand,--and my desires are simply without limit. Sooner or later I shall myself close that door through which I could still escape. But could I still escape? Yes, if some extraneous circumstances came to my aid.

In the meanwhile she loves me, and everything draws me towards her. To-day I asked myself, "If it is to be, why put it off?" I found a ready answer: "Because I do not want to lose any of my present sensations; the sudden thrills, the charm of the words unspoken, the questioning glances, the expectations. I wish to spin out the romance to the very end. I found fault with women that they preferred the semblance of love to love itself, and now I am quite as anxious not to lose any of its outward manifestations. But as one gets more advanced in years one attaches greater importance to these things; and besides, I am an Epicurean in my sensations."

After the above conversation with Aniela, we both recovered our spirits. During evening I helped her in the cutting out of lampshades, which gave me the opportunity to touch her hands and dress. I hindered her with the work and she became as gay as a child, and in a child's quick, plaintive voice called out, "Aunty, Leon is very naughty."


14 February.

Ill luck would have it that I accepted an invitation to attend a meeting at Councillor S.'s, who always tries to bring together representatives of all shades and opinions, and over a cup of tea and a sandwich to bring about a mutual understanding. As a man almost continually living abroad, I came to this meeting to find out what was going on in the minds of my countrymen and listen to their reasonings. The crush was very great, which made me feel uncomfortable, and at the same time happened what usually happens at large gatherings. Those of the same shade of opinion congregated in separate rooms to pay each other compliments and so forth. I was made acquainted with various councillors and representatives of the press. In other countries, there is a considerable difference between writers and journalists. The first is considered an artist and a thinker, the latter, a mere paragraph-monger--I cannot find a better word. Here there is no such distinction, and men of both occupations are known under the same collective name as literary men. The greater part of them follow both avocations, literature and journalism. Personally, they are more refined than the journalists I met abroad. I do not like the daily press, and consider it as one of the plagues sent down to torment humanity. The swiftness with which the world becomes acquainted with current events is equal to the superficiality of the information, and does not compensate for the incredible perversion of public opinion, as any one who is not prejudiced must perceive. Thanks to the daily press, the sense which knows how to sift the true from the false has become blunted, the notions of right and wrong have well-nigh disappeared, evil stalks about in the garb of righteousness, and oppression speaks the language of justice; in brief, the human soul has become immoral and blind.

There was, among others, also Stawowski, who is considered a leader among the advanced progressists. He spoke cleverly, but appeared to me a man suffering from a two-fold disease: liver, and self. He carries his ego like a glass of water filled to the brim, and seems to say, "Take care, or it will spill." This fear, by some subtle process, seems to communicate itself to his audience to such an extent that nobody dares to be of a different opinion. He has this influence over others because he believes in what he says. They are wrong, those who consider him a sceptic. On the contrary, he is of the temperament which makes fanatics. Had he been born a hundred years ago and been a judge, he would have sentenced people to have their tongues cut out for uttering blasphemy. Born as he is in the more enlightened times, he hates what he would have loved then; but essentially it is the same man.

I noticed that our conservatives crowded round Stawowski, not so much out of curiosity to hear what he said as rather with a certain watchful coquetry. Here, and maybe in other countries, this party has little courage. They looked at the speaker with insinuating smiles, as if they would say: "Although conservatives, nevertheless--" Ah! that "nevertheless" was like an act of contrition, a kind of submission. This was so evident that I who am a sceptic as to all party spirit, began to contradict Stawowski, not as a representative of any party, but simply as a man who is of a different opinion. My audacity excited some astonishment. The matter in question was the position of the working-men. Stawowski spoke of their hopeless condition, their weakness and incapacity for defending themselves; the audience which listened to his words grew every minute larger, when I interrupted:--

"Do you believe in Darwin's theory, the survival of the fittest?"

Stawowski, who is a naturalist by profession, took up the challenge at once.

"Of course I do," he said.

"Then allow me to point out to you that you are inconsequent. If I, as a Christian, care for the weak and defenceless, I do so by the doctrine of Christ; but you, from a standpoint of a struggle-for-life existence, ought to see it in a different light: they are weak, they are foolish, consequently bound to succumb; it is a capital law of nature,--let the weaker go to perdition. Why is it you do not take it this way? please explain the contradiction."

Whether Stawowski was taken aback by the unexpected opposition, or whether he really had never put the two things together, the fact was that he was at a loss for a ready answer, grew confused, and did not even venture upon the expression "altruism," which, after all, says very little.

The hero of the evening worsted, the conservatives came over to me in a body, and I might have become the hero now; but it was getting late, I was bored, and wanted to get back to Ploszow. Gradually the others too began to disperse. I was already in my fur coat and searching for my eyeglasses, that had slipped between the coat and furs, when Stawowski, who evidently had found his answer, came up to me and said:--

"You asked why--"

I, still searching for the eyeglasses and rather put out, said impatiently:--

"Plainly speaking, the question does not interest me very much. It is getting late and everybody is leaving; besides I can guess what you are going to say, therefore permit me to wish you good-night."

I fancy I have made an enemy of the man, especially by my last remark.

It was one o'clock when I arrived at Ploszow, and there a pleasant surprise awaited me; Aniela was sitting up to make some tea for me. I found her in the dining-room, still fully dressed, with the exception of her hair, which was done up for the night. From the intense delight I felt in seeing her thus unexpectedly, I perceived how deeply she had entered into my heart. What a dear girl she is, and how pretty she looks with the tresses coiled low down her neck. And to think that I have only to say the word and in a month or two I might have the right to undo those tresses and let them fall on her shoulders. I cannot think of it quietly. It seems past all belief that happiness should be so easy to get.

I began to scold her a little for sitting up so late, and she replied:--

"But I was not in the least sleepy, and begged mamma and aunty to let me sit up for you. Mamma would not allow it, said it was not proper; but I explained to her that we were cousins, and that makes all the difference. And do you know who took my part?--auntie."

"Dear aunt! You will take some tea with me, will you not?"

I watched her handling the cups with those deft, graceful fingers, and felt a desire to kiss them.

She looked at me now and then, but upon meeting my eyes her eyelashes drooped. Presently she inquired how I had spent the evening, and what impressions I had carried away. We spoke in a low voice, though the sleeping-rooms were far enough away to make it unnecessary. There was such confidence and heartiness in our intercourse as among relatives who are fond of each other.

I told her what I had seen and noticed, as one tells a friend. I spoke about the general impression the society of the country makes upon a man that has chiefly lived abroad. She listened quietly with wide-open eyes, happy to be thus taken into confidence. Then she said:--

"Why do you not write about all that, Leon? That I do not think of such things is not to be wondered at; but nobody else here has thoughts like these."

"Why do I not write?" I replied. "There are many reasons for it. I will explain to you some time; one of them is that I have nobody near me who, like you, says: 'Leon, why do you not do something?'"

After this we both became silent. I had never seen Aniela's lashes veil her eyes so closely, and I could almost hear the beating of her heart.

And indeed she had a right to expect me to say: "Will you remain with me always and put the same question?" But I found such a keen delight in skirting the precipice before making the final plunge, and feeling that heart palpitating almost in my hand that I could not do it.

"Good-night," I said, after a short time.

And that angelic creature gave not the slightest sign that she had met with a disappointment. She rose, and with the least touch of sadness in her voice, but no impatience, replied: "Good-night."

We shook hands and parted for the night. My hand was already on the latch, when I turned round and saw her still standing near the table.

"Aniela! Tell me," I said, "do you not think me a fantastic kind of man, full of whims and fancies?"

"Oh, no, not fantastic; sometimes I think you a little strange, but then I say to myself that men like you are bound to be different from others."

"One question more; when was it you thought me strange the first time?"

Aniela blushed to the tips of her ears. How pretty she looked with the pink flame spreading over her face and neck.

"No, I could not tell you."

"Then let me guess, and if I am right say yes. It is a single word."

"What word?" she asked, with increased confusion.

"Tablets. Yes, or no?"

"Yes," said Aniela, with drooping eyes.

"Then I will tell you why I wrote those words. First, because I wanted a link connecting us together, a little secret shared by both of us, and also--"

I pointed at the flowers the gardener had brought from the hot-house.

"You know flowers want light to bring out all their beauty, and I wanted plenty of light for our atmosphere."

"I cannot always follow you," she said, after a momentary silence, "but I trust you, yes, and believe in you."

We remained once more silent; I pressed her hand again, saying good-night. We stopped near the door, and our eyes met. The waters begin to rise and to rise. They will overstep their boundary any moment.

23 February.

The human being, like the sea, has his ebb and flood tides. To-day my will, my energy, the very action of life are at a very low tide. It came upon me without warning, a mere matter of nerves. But for that very reason my thoughts are full of bitterness. What right have I, a man physically worn out and mentally exhausted, to marry at all? Involuntarily the words of Hamlet come in my mind: "Get thee to a nunnery; why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners?" I shall not bury myself within cloister walls. The future sinners will be like me, all nerves, oversensitive, not fit for any practical life,--in fact, artists without portfolios. But the deuce take it, it is not they, but Aniela I am thinking of. Have I a right to marry her,--to link that fresh budding life, full of simple faith in God and the world, to my doubts, my spiritual impotence, my hopeless scepticism, my criticism and nerves? What will be the result of it for her? I cannot regain another spiritual youth, and even at her side cannot find my old self; my brains cannot change, or my nerves grow more vigorous,--and what then? Is she to wither at my side? It would be simply monstrous. I to play the part of a polypus that sucks the life-blood of its victims in order to renew its own life! A heavy cloud weighs on my brain. But if such be the case why did I allow it to go so far? What have I been doing ever since I met Aniela? Playing on her very heartstrings to bring forth sweet music. And yet, what for me was "Quasi una fantasia" may prove to her "Quasi un dolore." Yes, I have played on that sensitive instrument from morning until night; and what is more, I feel that in spite of my self-upbraidings, I shall do the same to-morrow and the days following, for I cannot help it; she attracts me more than any woman I ever met, I desire her above all things--I love her!

Why delude myself any longer?--I love her!

What is to be done? Must I go away back to Rome? That means a disappointment and sorrow for her; for who knows how deeply rooted her feelings may be? To marry her is the same as to sacrifice her for myself, and make her life unhappy in another way. A truly enchanted circle! Only people of the Ploszowski species ever get into such dilemmas. And there is devilish little comfort in the thought that there are more such as I, or that their name is legion.

Whether the species be gradually dying out, as badly fitted for the struggle of life, remains to be seen; for in addition to an incapacity for life, there is ill luck as well. I might have met such an Aniela ten years ago, when my sails were not, as now, worn to shreds and patches.

If that honest soul, my aunt, knew how, with the best of intentions, she brought me to this pass, she would be truly grieved. There was tragedy enough in my life,--the consciousness of utter failure, the dark mist in which my thoughts were straying; now there is a new,--to be, or not to be; but no, it is far worse than that!


26 February.

Yesterday I went again to Warsaw by appointment, to meet a certain Pan Julius Keo, on whose estates I lodged part of the capital I inherited from my mother. Pan Julius Keo wants to pay off the mortgage, and asked me to meet him at a fixed time; and I waited for him the whole day. The devil take their ways of managing any business in this country! He will make five other appointments, and not keep one. He is very rich, wants to get rid of the mortgage, and is able to pay it off any time; and yet--such is our way of transacting business.

From my own observations I long since came to the conclusion that in money matters we are the most flighty and unbusinesslike people in the world. I, who like to go to the root of matters, often pondered over this phenomenon.

According to my ideas, this is the result of the purely agricultural occupation of the people. Commerce was in the hands of the Jews, and these could not teach us accuracy; the cultivator of the soil is unreliable because the soil is unreliable, he is unpunctual because nature has no punctuality. Working in the soil, they gradually take some of its characteristics, which enters into their moral being, and in the course of time becomes an inherited defect.

The knowledge of cause and effect does not restore me to an equable temper. I had to tear myself away from Aniela for a whole day, and what is more, shall have to go through the some process a few days hence; but it cannot be helped. In my aunt's house I found visiting-cards from Kromitzki,--one for me and two for the elder ladies. I was afraid he might take it into his head to pay us a visit at Ploszow; to avoid that, I went out to leave my card on him. Unfortunately for me, he was at home, and I had to stay half an hour. He began his conversation by telling me that he had promised to call at Ploszow; to which I replied that we had gone there merely for a few days, and would be back in town almost immediately. He asked after Aniela's mother, and very guardedly after Aniela herself. He evidently wanted to impress me with the fact that he inquired as a mere acquaintance. I am so impressionable that even this gave me a twinge; how I loathe that man! I fancy the Tartars under Batu Khan must have played many pranks in what is to-day Austrian Silesia, when looting the country after the battle of Liegnitz. That those black eyes, like roasted coffee-berries, did not come from Silesian ancestors, I have not the slightest doubt.

He was exceedingly polite to me, because I am rich. It is true, he wants nothing from me,--I do not give him anything, and my being rich is of no advantage to him; but as a financier he worships money. We spoke about the difficulties in which Aniela's mother was and is still involved. According to Kromitzki, a great deal of her fortune might still be saved if she would part with the estate. Kromitzki looks upon the reluctance to part with ancestral lands as a mere fad. He said he might be able to understand it if she had the means to prevent it, but as the case stood it was mere sentimentality.

He is very talkative, and discussed at some length our national idiocy. Money was lying on the pavement, to be had for the picking up. His father, like other noblemen, had left scarcely any fortune; when all debts were cleared off there remained a paltry hundred thousand florins, and the world knew how he, Kromitzki, stood at present.

"If that business in Turkestan comes off, I shall be able to wind up my affairs. The Jews and Greeks have made millions in the contract business; why should not we be able to do as well? I do not put myself as an example; but I say, why should we not? There is room for everybody,--why not go in for it?"

According to my opinion, Kromitzki has a certain aptness for business, but is foolish in a general sense. That we are shiftless, everybody knows that; and that here and there somebody makes a fortune by contracts, I can well believe; but the greater part of the people must work at home, and not look for millions from contracts in Turkestan.

May God save Aniela from an alliance with that man. He may have some good qualities, but he belongs to a different moral type. If there be a worse fate in store for her, ought I to hesitate any longer?


28 February.

The elder ladies seem uneasy that the affair is not going on as speedily as they had fancied; my aunt, who is of an impatient temper, must chafe inwardly not a little. But the expression of happiness on Aniela's face soothes them, and allays their fears. I can read in her eyes endless trust and thorough belief in me. She fills my thoughts so that I cannot think of anything but her. I desire her more and more, and do not want to play upon her feelings any longer,--I want her.

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