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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWithout Dogma - 2 June to 29 June
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Without Dogma - 2 June to 29 June Post by :romecentral Category :Long Stories Author :Henryk Sienkiewicz Date :May 2012 Read :2156

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Without Dogma - 2 June to 29 June

2 June

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

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

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

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


8 June.

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

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

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

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

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

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


9 June.

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

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

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

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


11 June.

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

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

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

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

"At Sierpiec?"

"No, she comes from Wilkomierz."

"What took you to Wilkomierz?"

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

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

"The most fortunate in my life."

"Was it during the Carnival?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


15 June.

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

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


16 June.

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

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

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


17 June.

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


18 June.

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

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


FLORENCE, 20 June.

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


FLORENCE, 22 June.

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

FLORENCE, 23 June.

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

Here is that long, cursed letter:--

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

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

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

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

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


23 June.

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


CRACOW, 26 June.

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

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

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

Towards the end Sniatynski said to me:--

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

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


27 June.

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

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


28 June.

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

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

10 o'clock in the evening.

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


29 June.

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

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