Full Online Books
Authors Authors Short Stories Short Stories Long Stories Long Stories Funny Stories Funny Stories Love Stories Love Stories Stories For Kids Stories For Kids Poems Poems Essays Essays Nonfictions Nonfictions Plays Plays Folktales Folktales Fairy Tales Fairy Tales Fables Fables Learning Kitchen Learning Kitchen
Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Free Classified Website Without Registration Free Classified Website Daniel Company
Twitter Twitter Add book
Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWithout Dogma - 4 March to 31 March
Famous Authors (View All Authors)
Without Dogma - 4 March to 31 March Post by :Addicted Category :Long Stories Author :Henryk Sienkiewicz Date :May 2012 Read :1045

Click below to download : Without Dogma - 4 March to 31 March (Format : PDF)

Without Dogma - 4 March to 31 March

4 March.

This day has been to me of so much importance that I am obliged to muster all my calmness and self-possession to put down everything in its proper order. Nevertheless, I cannot contain myself. The die is cast, or as good as cast. I could not have gone on quietly, had I not put that down.

And now I can begin. Sniatynski and his wife arrived here towards noon, for an early dinner. He had to go back, as a new play of his is coming out at the theatre. However happy we may be in our rural seclusion, we are always delighted to see them. Aniela is great friends with Pani Sniatynska, and I suppose there will be an exchange of confidences. Pani Sniatynska guessed at the state of things, and tried to put her hand to the wheel, to make the cart go a little faster. She had only just arrived, when she said to my aunt:--

"How lovely and peaceful everything is here! No wonder the young people there do not pine after the dissipations of town."

We both, Aniela and I, understood perfectly well that Pani Sniatynska, calling us the young people, was not referring only to our age. Besides, she repeated the same thing several times during dinner: "the young people," "the young couple," as if making a pointed difference between us two and the elder ladies. But there was such real sympathy for us in the friendly eyes; such a pricking up of her little ears to hear what we were saying to each other; and the little woman looked so charming withal that I forgive her readily her good-natured meddling. I have arrived at such a state of infatuation that this coupling of our names rather gladdens than irritates me. Aniela too seemed to hear it with pleasure. In her efforts to please the Sniatynskis and the attentions she bestowed on them during dinner, she truly looked like a young bride, who receives dear visitors for the first time in her new home. At the sight of this my aunt's heart seemed to swell, and she said many kind and polite things to both Sniatynskis. I noticed a wonderful thing, which I should not believe had I not seen it with my own eyes. Pani Sniatynska blushes up to her ears when anybody praises her husband! To blush with pleasure when her husband is praised after eight years of married life! Surely, I committed an egregious mistake writing as I did about Polish women.

The dinner passed off very pleasantly. A married couple, like these two, are born matchmakers. The very sight of them sets people thinking: "If married life is like that, let us go and commit matrimony." I at least saw it for the first time in a quite different light,--not as the prose of life, a commonplace, more or less skilfully disguised indifference, but as a thing to be desired.

Aniela evidently read our future in the same light; I saw it in her eyes shining with happiness.

After dinner I remained in the dining-room with Sniatynski, who liked a quiet talk over a glass of cognac after his coffee. The elder ladies went to the drawing-room, and Aniela took Pani Sniatynska upstairs to show her some photographs of Volhynia. I questioned Sniatynski about his new play, the fate of which seemed to make him a little anxious. Our conversation drifted on to those times when we both tried our sprouting wings. He told me how afterwards, step by step, he had worked his way upward; how he had been full of doubts, and still doubted his power, in spite of having acquired a certain reputation.

"Tell me," I asked, "what do you do with your fame?"

"How do you mean what I do with my fame?"

"For instance, do you wear it as a crown on your head, or as a golden fleece round your neck? do you put it over your writing-desk, or hang it up in your drawing-room? I only ask as a man who has no idea what to do with it if he once obtains it?"

"Let us suppose I have won it; the man must be deuced ill-bred mentally either to wear the so-called fame as an ornament or to put it up for show. I confess that at first it gratifies one's vanity; but only a spiritual parvenu would find it sufficient to fill the whole life, or take the place of real happiness. It is quite another thing to be conscious you are doing good work; that the public appreciates it, and that your work calls forth an echo in other minds,--a public man has the right to feel pleased with that. But as to feeling gratified when somebody, looking more or less foolish, comes up and says: 'We are indebted to you for so much pleasure;' or, when a dinner does not agree with me, our daily press remarks: 'We communicate to our readers the sad news that our famous XX suffers from a stomachache,'--pshaw! what do you take me for, that such a thing could give me satisfaction?"

"Listen," I said, "I am not inordinately vain; but I confess that, when people speak of my extraordinary talents, and regret that I make not a better use of them, it flatters me; and though I feel more than ever my uselessness, it gives me pleasure; humankind is fond of approbation."

"That is because you pity yourself, and in that you are quite right. But you are turning away from the question. I do not say that it would give one pleasure to be called an ass."

"But the public esteem that goes hand in hand with fame?"

Sniatynski, who is very lively and always walks about the room, sitting down on any table or chair, now sat on the window-sill, and replied:--

"Public esteem? You are wrong there, old fellow; there is no such thing. Ours is a strange society, dominated by a pure republican jealousy. I write plays, work for the stage; very good. I have gained a certain reputation; better still. Now, these plays excite the jealousy,--of another playwright, you think? Not at all; it is the engineer, the bank clerk, the teacher, the physician, the railway official,--in short, people who never wrote a play in their lives,--that envy you. All these in their intercourse will show that they do not think much of you, will speak slightingly of you behind your back, and belittle you on purpose, so as to add an inch or two to their own height. 'Sniatynski? who is he? Yes, I remember; he dresses at the same tailor as I.' Such is fame, my dear fellow."

"But if must be worth something, since people risk their lives for it?"

Sniatynski grew thoughtful, and replied with a certain gravity:--

"In private life it is worth something; you can make a footstool of it for the woman you love."

"You will gain a new fame by this definition."

Sniatynski rushed at me with lively impetuosity.

"Yes, yes; put all your laurels into a cushion, go to the dear one, and say to her: 'This for which people risk their lives; this which they consider supreme happiness, appreciate more than wealth,--I have got it, striven for it; and now put your dear feet on it at once.' If you do this, you will be loved all your life. You wanted to know what fame is good for, and there you are."

Further discussions were cut short by the entrance of Pani Sniatynska and Aniela. They were dressed for going out to the hot-houses. What an imp of mischief lurks in that little woman. She came up to her husband to ask his permission to go out, which he granted, insisting only that she should wrap herself up warm; she turned to me and said with a roguish smile,--

"You will let Aniela go, will you not?"

That Aniela should blush furiously was only natural, but that I, an old stager, a razor sharpened against the strops of so many experiences, should have betrayed so much confusion, I cannot forgive myself. But, putting on a semblance of self-possession, I went up to Aniela, and raising her hand to my lips, said:--

"It is Aniela who gives orders at Ploszow, and I am her humble subject."

I should have liked to take Sniatynski with me and join the excursion, but refrained. I felt a want to speak about Aniela, my future marriage, and I knew that sooner or later Sniatynski himself would broach the question. I gave him an opening after the ladies had left us by saying:--

"And do you still believe as firmly as ever in your life-dogmas?"

"More than ever, or rather, the same as ever. There is no expression more worn to tatters than the word 'love;' one scarcely likes to use it; but between ourselves, I tell you; love in the general meaning, love in the individual sense does not permit of criticism. It is one of the canons of life. My philosophy consists in not philosophizing about it at all,--and the deuce take me if for the matter of that, I consider myself more foolish than other people. With love, life is worth something; without, it is not worth a bag of chaff."

"Let us see what you have to say about individual love,--or better still, put in its place woman."

"Very well, let it be woman."

"My good friend, do you not perceive on what brittle foundation you are building human happiness?"

"On about as brittle a foundation as life,--no more nor less!"

I did not want to drift into a discussion of life and death, and pulled Sniatynski up.

"For mercy's sake, do not generalize about individual happiness. You chanced to find the right woman, another might not."

He would not even listen to that. According to his view, ninety out of a hundred were successful. Women were better, purer, and nobler than men.

"We are rascals all, in comparison with them!" he shouted, waving his arms and snaking his leonine mane. "Nothing but rascals! It is I who say it,--I, who study mankind closely, if only for the reason that I am a playwright."

He was sitting astride on his chair, attacking me, as it were, with the chairback, and went on with his usual impetuosity:--

"There are, as Dumas says, apes from the land of Nod, who know neither curb nor bridle; but what are eyes given for but to see that you do not take to wife an ape from Nod? Generally speaking a woman does not betray her husband nor deceive him, unless he himself corrupts her heart, tramples on her feelings, or repulses and estranges her by his meanness, his selfishness, narrowness, and his miserable, worthless nature. You must love her! Let her feel that she is not only your female, but the crown of your head, as precious as your child and friend; wear her close to your heart, let her feel the warmth of it, and you may rest in peace; year after year she will cling closer to you, until you two are like Siamese twins. If you do not give her all that, you pervert her, estrange her by your worthlessness,--and she will leave you. She will leave you as soon as she sees nobler hands stretched out for her; she is forced to do it, as this warmth, this appreciation, are as necessary to her life as the air she breathes."

He charged me with the chairback as with a battering ram. I retreated before him until we had come close to the window; there he jumped up.

"How blind you are! In presence of such social drought, such utter absence of general happiness as stamps our time, not to grasp this felicity that is within reach! Shiver on the forum, and not light a fire at home! Idiotism can go no farther! I tell you plainly, go and get married."

He pointed through the window at Aniela, who with his wife was coming back from the hot-houses, and added: "There is your happiness. There it patters in fur boots on the frozen snow. Take her by weight of gold, by weight in carats rather! You simply have no home, not only in a physical sense, but in a moral, intellectual meaning; you have no basis, no point of rest, and she will give you all that. But do not philosophize her away as you have philosophized away your abilities and your thirty-five years of life!"

He could not have told me anything better, nobler, or what chimed in more with my own desires. I pressed his hands and replied:--

"No, I will not philosophize her away, because I love her."

Upon this the ladies entered, and Pani Sniatynska observed:--

"We heard some disputes when we were leaving, but I see peace is restored. May I ask what you have been discussing?"

"Woman, madame," I said.

"And what was the result?"

"As you see, a treaty of peace sealed by a grasp of the hand, and something further may come of it in the course of time."

The sledge was already waiting at the door. The short day was drawing to its close, and they had to go back; but as the weather was calm, and the snow on the drive as smooth as a parquetted floor, we resolved, Aniela and I, to accompany them as far as the high-road.

And so we did. After having said good-by to our charming visitors, we went slowly homeward. It was already dusk; in the dim light I could still see Aniela's face. She seemed moved, perhaps had opened her heart to Pani Sniatynska, and even now hoped for the long deferred word. It was almost burning on my tongue; but, oh, wonder! I who never yet had lost all my self-possession, I who was used to play upon heartstrings, who at a fencing match of that kind, if not cleverly, at least with perfect composure guarded myself against the most masterly strokes, I was as deeply moved as a lad in his teens. What a difference from former sentiments. I was afraid I could not find words to express myself,--and remained silent.

Thus in silence we approached the veranda. The snow was slippery; I offered her my arm, and when she leaned on it I felt how all my desires were centred in her. The feeling grew so intense that it thrilled my nerves like electric sparks. We entered the hall. There was nobody there; not even the lamps were lit, the only light came in fitful gleams from the open stoves. In this half-light and in silence I began to relieve Aniela of her furs, when suddenly the warmth emanating from her body seemed to enter into my veins; I put my arm around her, and drawing her close to me I pressed my lips on her brow.

It was done almost unconsciously, and Aniela must have been greatly startled, for she made not the slightest resistance. Presently a footstep became audible; it was the servant with the lamps. She went upstairs, and I, deeply moved, entered the dining-room.

To every man who is ever so little enterprising, similar events occur in the course of life. I am no exception, but, as a rule, I always kept the mastery over myself. Now it was different. Thoughts and sensations whirled across my brain like leaves before a gale. Fortunately the dining-room was empty; my aunt and Aniela's mother were in the drawing-room, where I joined them after a while. My thoughts were so far away that I scarcely heard what they were saying to me. I felt restless. I seemed to see Aniela sitting in her room, pressing her hands to her temples, trying to realize what it all meant. Soon Aniela herself came down. I felt relieved, as I had feared she might not come down again for the evening. She had two burning spots on either side of her face, and eyes bright as if from recent slumber. She had tried to cool her face with powder; I saw the traces on her left temple. The sight of her moved me; I felt that I loved her deeply.

Presently she stooped over some needlework. I saw that her breath came and went irregularly, and once or twice I intercepted a quick glance full of unsettled questions and trouble.

In order to set her mind at rest I thrust myself into the conversation of the elder ladies, who were speaking about Sniatynski, and said:--

"Sniatynski considers me a kind of Hamlet, and says I philosophize too much; but I am going to show him that he is mistaken, and that not later than to-morrow."

I laid some stress on the "to-morrow," and Aniela caught the meaning, for she gave me a long look; but my aunt, all unconscious, asked:--

"Are you going to see him to-morrow?"

"We ought to go and see his play, and if Aniela agrees we will all go to-morrow."

The dear girl looked at me shyly but trustingly, and said, with indescribable sweetness:--

"I will go with great pleasure."

There was a moment when I could scarcely contain myself, and felt I ought to speak there and then; but I had said "to-morrow," and refrained.

I feel like a man who shuts his eyes and ears before taking the final plunge. But I really think it is a costly pearl I shall find at the bottom of the deep.


Yesterday I arrived at Rome. My father is not quite so bad as I had feared. His left arm and the left side of his body are almost paralyzed, but the doctor tells me his heart is not threatened, and that he may live for years.

7 March.

I left Aniela in doubt, expectation, and suspense. But I could not do otherwise. The day following the Sniatynskis' visit, the very day I was going to ask Aniela to be my wife, I received a letter from my father telling me about his illness.

"Make haste, dear boy," he wrote, "for I should like to see you before I die, and I feel my bark very close to the shore."

After the receipt of such a letter I took the first train, and never stopped until I reached Rome. When leaving Ploszow I had very little hope to find my father alive. In vain my aunt tried to comfort me, saying if things were so bad he would surely have sent a telegram instead of a letter.

I know my father's little oddities, among which is a rooted dislike to telegrams. But my aunt's composure was only put on, at the bottom she felt as frightened as myself.

In the hurry, the sudden shock, and under the horror of my father's likely death, I could not speak of love and marriage. It seemed against nature, almost a brutal thing, to whisper words of love, not knowing whether at the same time my father might not be breathing his last. They all understood that, and especially Aniela.

"I will write to you from Rome," I said before starting; to which she replied: "May God comfort you first."

She trusts me altogether. Rightly or wrongly, I have the reputation of fickleness in regard to women, and Aniela must have heard remarks about it; maybe it is for that very reason the dear girl shows such unbounded confidence in me. I understand, and can almost hear the pure soul saying: "They wrong you,--you are not fickle; and those who accuse you of fickleness do not know what love means, and did not love you as truly and deeply as I love you."

Perhaps I am a little fickle by nature, and this disposition, developed under the influence of the barren, empty, worthless sentiments I met with in the world,--this might have dried up my heart and corrupted it altogether; in which case Aniela would have to pay for the sins of others. But I believe the case is not hopeless, and the blessed physician has not come too late. Who knows whether it be ever too late, and that the pure, honest love of a woman does not possess the power to raise the dead? Perhaps, too, the masculine heart has a greater power of recuperation. There is a legend about the rose of Jericho, which, though dry to the core, revives and brings forth leaves when touched by a drop of dew. I have noticed that the male nature has more elasticity than the female. A man steeped in such utter corruption that half of its venom would cover the woman with moral leprosy is able to throw off the contagion, and recover easily not only his moral freshness, but even a certain virginity of heart. It is the same with the affections. I have known women whose hearts were so used up that they lost every capacity of loving, even of respecting anything or anybody. I have never known men like that. Decidedly, love cleanses our hearts. Definitions like these sound strange from a sceptic's pen; but in the first place I have no more belief in my doubts than I have in any other kind of assertions, axioms, and observations which serve general humanity as a basis of life. I am ready to admit at any moment that my doubts are as far removed from the essence of things as are these axioms. Secondly, I am writing now under the influence of my love for Aniela, who, maybe, does not know herself how wisely she is acting, and how by that very trust in me she has secured a powerful hold on my affections. Lastly, whenever I speak of love, or any other principle of life, I speak and write of it as it appears to me in the present. What my opinion about it will be to-morrow, I do not know. Ah, if I but knew that whatever view I take or principle I confess would withstand the blasting scepticism of to-morrow or the days following, I would make it my canon of life, and float along with sails unfurled, like Sniatynski, in the light, instead of groping my way in darkness and solitude.

But I do not intend to go back now to my inner tragedy. As to love in general, from the standpoint of a sceptic in regard to the world and its manifestations, I might say with Solomon, "Vanitas vanitatum;" but I should be utterly blind did I not perceive that of all active principles this is the most powerful,--so powerful indeed that whenever I think of it or my eyes roam over the everlasting ocean of all-life, I am simply struck with amazement at its almightiness. Though these are known things, as much known as the rising of the sun and the tides of the ocean, nevertheless they are always wonderful.

After Empedocles, who divined that Eros evolved the worlds from Chaos, metaphysics have not advanced one step. Only death is a power equally absolute; yet in the eternal struggle between the two, love is the stronger; love conquers death by night and day, conquers it every spring, follows death step by step, throwing fresh grain into the gulf it creates. People occupied with every-day affairs forget or do not wish to remember that they are love's servants. It is strange when we come to think of it that the warrior, the chancellor of state, the cultivator of the soil, the merchant, the banker, in all their efforts, which apparently have nothing to do with love, are merely furthering its ends; that is, they serve the law of nature which bids the man to stretch out his arms for the woman. A mad paradox it would seem to a Bismarck if he were told that the final and only aim of all his endeavors is to further the love of Hermann and Dorothea. It seems even to me a paradox; and yet Bismarck's aim is the consolidation of the German empire, and this can be achieved only through Hermann and Dorothea. What else, then, has a Bismarck to do but to create by the help of politics and bayonets such conditions that Hermann and Dorothea may love each other in peace, unite in happiness, and bring up new generations?

When at the university I read an Arabian ghazel in which the poet compares the power of love to that of infernal torments. I forget the name of the poet, but the idea remained in my memory. Truly, love is the one power that lasts for all times, holds the world together, and creates new worlds.


10 March.

To-day I tore up three or four letters to Aniela. After dinner, I went into my father's room to talk with him about my aunt's plans. I found him looking through a lens at some epilichnions with the earth still adhering to them, he had received from the Peloponnesus. How splendid he looked in that light coming through stained windows in the large room full of Etruscan vases, statues more or less mutilated, and all kinds of Greek and Roman treasures. Among these surroundings his face reminded me of a divine Plato or of some other Greek sage. When I entered he interrupted his work, listened attentively to what I had to say, and then asked, "Do you hesitate?"

"No, I do not hesitate, but I am reflecting. I want to know why I want it."

"Then I will tell you this; I was once like you, inclined to analyze not only my own feelings but all manifestations of life. When I came to know your mother I lost that faculty at once. I knew one thing only, that I wanted her, and did not care to know anything else. Therefore if you have a like powerful desire, marry. I express myself wrongly, for if you wish it very much you will do it without anybody's help or advice, and be as happy as I was until your mother died."

We remained silent for some time. If I were to apply my father's words closely to my own case, I should feel small comfort. I love Aniela, there is no doubt; but I have not arrived yet at a state that precludes all reflection. But I do not consider this as a bad sign; it simply means that I belong to a generation that has gone a step farther on the way to knowledge.

There are always two persons within me,--the actor, and the spectator. Often the spectator is dissatisfied with the actor, but at present they both agree.

My father was the first to interrupt the silence.

"Tell me what she is like."

Since a description is an unsatisfactory way of painting a portrait, I showed my father a large and really excellent photograph of Aniela, at which he looked with the keenest interest. I was no less interested in the study of his face, in which I saw not only the roused artist, but also the refined connoisseur of female beauty, the old Leon _l'Invincible_. Resting the photograph on the poor hand half paralyzed, he put on his eyeglass with the right, and then holding the likeness at a longer or shorter distance he began to say: "But for certain details, the face is like one of those Ary-Schaeffer liked to paint. How lovely she would look with tears in her eyes. Some people dislike angelic faces in women, but I think that to teach an angel how to become a woman is the very height of victory. She is very beautiful, very uncommon looking. 'Enfin, tout ce qu'il y a de plus beau au monde--c'est la femme.'"

Here he fumbled with his eyeglass, and then added: "Judging by the face, or rather by the photograph (sometimes one makes mistakes, but I have had some practice), hers is a thoroughly loyal nature. Women of this type are in love with the whiteness of their plumage. God bless you, my boy! I like her very much, this Aniela of yours. I used to be afraid you might end by marrying a foreigner--let it be Aniela."

I came up close to him and he put his arm round my neck.

"I should like to see my future daughter before I die."

I assured him that he would certainly see her shortly. Then I unfolded my plans of bringing Aniela and her mother over to Rome. After a betrothal by letter I might expect as much, and the ladies would not refuse, if only out of consideration for my father. In this case the marriage ceremony would take place at Rome, and that very soon.

My father was delighted with the plan; old and sick people like to see around them life and motion. I knew that Aniela would be pleased with this turn of affairs, and let my thoughts dwell upon it with more and more pleasure. Within a few weeks everything would be settled. Such quick decision would be against my nature, but the very idea that I could exert myself if I wished raised my spirits. I already saw myself escorting Aniela about Rome. Only those who live there understand what a delight it is to show to anybody the endless treasures of that city,--a much greater delight when the somebody is the beloved woman.

Our conversation was interrupted by a visit from Mr. and Mrs. Davis, who come every day to see my father. He is an English Jew, and she an Italian nobleman's daughter who married him for the sake of his wealth. Mr. Davis himself is a valetudinarian, who took out of his life twice as much as his poor organization could bear. He is ill, threatened with softening of the brain, indifferent to everything that goes on around him,--one of those specimens of mankind one meets at hydropathic establishments. Mrs. Davis looks like a Juno; her eyebrows meet on her forehead, and she has the figure of a Greek statue. I do not like her; she reminds me of the leaning tower at Pisa,--leans but does not fall. A year ago I paid her some attentions; she flirted with me outrageously, that was all. My father has a singular weakness for her; I thought at times he was in love with her. At any rate, he admires her from a thinker and artist's point of view; for beautiful she is,--there can be no two opinions as to that,--and of more than average intelligence. Their conversations, which my father calls "causeries Romaines," are endless, and they never seem to get tired of them; maybe these discussions about life's problems with a beautiful woman appear Italian to him, poetical, and worthy of the times of the Renaissance. I very seldom take part in these conversations because I do not believe in Mrs. Davis' sincerity. It seems to me that her intellect is merely a matter of brain, and not of soul, and that in reality she does not care for anything except her beauty and the comforts of life. I have often met women who seem full of lofty aspiration; upon closer acquaintance it seems that religion, philosophy, art, and literature, are only so many items of their toilet. They dress themselves in either as it suits their style of beauty. I suppose it is the same with Mrs. Davis; she drapes herself in problems of life, sometimes in Greek and Roman antiquities, in the Divina Commedia, or the Renaissance, the churches, museums, and so forth. I can understand a powerful intellectual organism making itself the centre of the universe; but in a woman, and one who is bent upon futile things, it is mere laughable egoism and vanity.

I ask myself what makes Mrs. Davis so fond of my father; and I fancy I know the reason. My father, with his fine head of a patrician philosopher, and his manners reminding one of the eighteenth century, is for her a kind of _objet d'art_, and still more, a grand intelligent mirror, in which she can admire her own beauty and cleverness; besides, she feels grateful that he never criticises her, and likes her very much. Upon this basis has sprung up a friendship, or rather a kind of affection for my father which gradually has become a necessity of her life. Moreover, Mrs. Davis has the reputation of a coquette, and coming here to see my father every day, she says to the world: "It is not true; this old man is seventy, and nobody can suspect me of flirting with him, and yet I show him more attentions than to any one else." Finally, though she herself comes from an old family, Mr. Davis, in spite of his wealth, is a mere nobody, and their friendship with my father strengthens their position in society. There was a time when I asked myself whether these daily visits were not partly for my sake--and who knows? At any rate, it is not my qualities which attract her, nor any real feeling on her part. But she feels that I do not believe in her, and this irritates her. I should not wonder if she hated me, and yet would like to see me at her feet. I might have been, for she is a splendid specimen of the human species; I would have been, if only for the sake of the meeting eyebrows and the Juno shoulders,--but at a price she does not feel inclined to pay.

Soon after the arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Davis my father began a philosophical discussion, which, going from one question to another, concluded with an analysis of human feelings. Mrs. Davis made several very shrewd remarks. From the studio we went to the terrace overlooking our gardens. It is only the tenth of March, and here spring is at its best. This year everything is much advanced,--fierce heat in the daytime, the magnolias covered with snow-white blossoms, and the nights as warm as in July. What a different world from that of Ploszow. I breathe here with all my lungs.

Mrs. Davis on the terrace with the moon shining upon her was beautiful as a Greek dream. I saw she was under the influence of that indescribable Roman night. Her voice was softer, even, and more mellow than usual. Perhaps even now she only thinks of herself, is impressed because it is herself who feels it, dresses herself in moonbeams, restfulness, and magnolia scent as in a new shawl or bonnet. But all the same the dress suits her splendidly. Were it not that my heart is full of Aniela, I should fall under the spell of the picture. Besides this, she said things which not many could have conceived.

All the same, whenever I am present at these _causeries Romaines I have always a feeling that my father, I, such as Mrs. Davis, and generally speaking, all the people of the so-called upper classes do not live a true, real life. Below us something is always going on, something always happens; there is the struggle for life, for bread,--a life full of diligent work, animal necessities, appetites, passions, every-day efforts,--a palpable life, which roars, leaps, and tumbles like ocean waves; and we are sitting eternally on terraces, discussing art, literature, love, woman, strangers to that other life far removed from it, obliterating, out of the seven, the six work-days. Without being conscious of it, our inclinations, nerves, and soul are fit only for holidays. Immersed into blissful dilettantism as in a warm bath, we are half awake, half dreaming. Consuming leisurely our wealth, and our inherited supply of nerves and muscles, we gradually lose our foothold upon the soil. We are as the down, carried away by the wind. Scarcely do we touch ground, when the real life pushes us back, and we draw aside; for we have no power of resistance.

When I think of it I see nothing but contradictions in us. We consider ourselves the outcome and highest rung of civilization, and yet have lost faith in ourselves; only the most foolish believe in our _raison d'etre. We look out instinctively for places of enjoyment, gayety, and happiness, and yet we do not believe in happiness. Though our pessimism be wan and ephemeral as the clouds from our Havanas, it obscures our view of wider horizons. Amidst these clouds and mists we create for ourselves a separate world, a world torn off from the immensity of all life, shut up within itself, a little empty and somnolent. If this merely concerned the aristocracy, whether by descent or wealth, the portent would be less weighty. But to this isolated world belong more or less all those who boast of a higher culture,--men of science, literature, and art. This world does not dwell within the very marrow of life, but parting from it creates a separate circle; in consequence withers within itself and does not help in softening down the animalism of those millions which writhe and surge below.

I do not speak as a reformer, because I lack the strength. Besides, what matters it to me? Who can avoid the inevitable? But at times I have the dim presentiment of a terrible danger which threatens the cultured world. The great wave which will wash us from off the surface of the earth will carry off more than that one which washed away hairpowder and shirtfrills. It is true that to those who perished then it seemed that with them the whole civilization was perishing.

In the mean while it is pleasant to sit on moonlit terraces and talk in subdued tones about art, love, and woman, and look at the divine profile of such a woman as Mrs. Davis.


10 March.

Mountains, towers, rocks, the further they recede from our view, appear as a mere outline through a veil of blue haze. There is a kind of psychical blue haze that enfolds those who are removed from us. Death itself is a removal, but the chasm is so wide that the beloved ones who have crossed it disappear within the haze and become as beloved shadows. The Greek genius understood this when he peopled the Elysian fields with shadows.

But I will not enlarge upon these mournful comparisons, especially when I want to write about Aniela. I am quite certain my feelings towards her have not changed, but I seem to see her a long distance off, shrouded in a blue haze and less real than at Ploszow. I do not feel her through my senses. When I compare my present feelings with those I had at Ploszow, she is more of a beloved spirit than a desired woman. From a certain point of view it is better, as a desired woman might be even such a woman as Mrs. Davis; but on the other hand this is not one of the reasons that have prevented me from writing to Aniela. Doubtless that profile of Mrs. Davis which I still see before me is a mere passing impression. When I compare these two women my feeling for the other becomes very tender; and yet I leave her in cruel suspense and uncertainty.

To-day my father wrote to my aunt, setting her mind at rest as to his health, and I added a postscript from myself, sending kind regards to Aniela and her mother. I could not say much in a few lines, but I might have promised them a longer letter. Such a promise would have comforted Aniela and the elder ladies. I did not do it because I could not. To-day my spirits are at a very low ebb. My wish for another life, and my trust in the future have retreated into the farthest distance; I can see them no more, see only the barren, sandy wilderness. I cannot get rid of the idea that I can only marry Aniela if I can conscientiously believe that our union would lead to mutual happiness. I cannot represent it otherwise to Aniela without uttering a lie; for I have none of that belief, and instead of it an utter hopelessness almost a dislike of life. She is ill at ease with longing and uncertainty, but I am worse, all the more so because I love her.


11 March.

Mrs. Davis, to whom, during our _causerie on the moonlit terrace, I unfolded my view as to the all-powerfulness of love, more or less as I have written it down, called me Anacreon, and advised me to crown my head with vine leaves, and then said more soberly, "If such be your opinions, why play the part of pessimist? Belief in such a deity ought to make any man happy."

Why? I did not tell her, but I know why. Love conquers death, but saves from it only the species. What matters it to me that the species be preserved, when I, the individual, am sentenced to a merciless, unavoidable death? Is it not rather a refined cruelty that the very affections, which can be felt only by the individual, should serve the future of the species only? To feel the throbbing of an eternal power, and yet to die,--that is the height of misery. In reality there exists only the individual; the species is an abstract idea, and in comparison to the individual, an utter Nirvana. I understand the love for a son, a grandson, a great grandson,--for the individual, in fact, that is sentenced to perish,--but to profess love for one's species one needs be insincere, or a fanatical sectarian. I can understand now how centuries after Empedocles there came Schopenhauer and Hartmann.

My brain feels as sore as the back of the laborer who carries burdens beyond his strength. But the laborer stooping to his work earns his daily bread and is at peace.

I still seem to hear Sniatynski's words: "Do not philosophize her away, as you have philosophized away your abilities and your thirty-five years of life." I know it leads to nothing, I know it is wrong, but I do not know how not to think.


13 March.

My father died this morning. He was ill only a few hours.



Death is such a gulf, and though we know that all have to go thither, yet when it swallows up one of our dear ones, we who remain on the brink are torn with fear, sorrow, and despair. On that brink all reasoning leaves us, and we only cry out for help which cannot come from anywhere. The only solace and comfort lies in faith, but he who is deprived of that light gets well-nigh maddened by the impenetrable darkness. Ten times a day it seems to me impossible, too horrible, that death should be the end of everything,--and then again, a dozen times I feel that such is the case.


23 March.

When I arrived from Ploszow I found my father so much better that it never even entered my mind that the end could be so near. What strange twists there are in the human mind. God knows how sincerely I rejoiced when I found my father so much better than I had thought, and yet because throughout that anxious journey I had fancied him sick unto death, and already saw myself kneeling at his coffin, I was sorry for my wasted anxieties. Now the memory of this fills me with keen remorse.

How thoroughly unhappy is the individual whose heart and soul have lost their simplicity. Thus not less bitter, not less of a reproach is the remembrance that at my father's deathbed there were two persons in me: one of them the son full of anguish, who gnawed his hands to keep back his sobs; the other the philosopher, who studied the psychology of death. I am unutterably unhappy because my nature is an unhappy one.

My father died with full consciousness. Saturday evening he felt a little worse. I sent for the doctor, that he might be at hand in case we should want him. The doctor prescribed some physic, and my father, according to his habit, disputed the point, demonstrating that the physic would bring on a stroke. The doctor calmed my fears, and said though there was always fear of another stroke, he saw no immediate danger, and that my father most likely would live for many years to come. He repeated the same to the patient, who, hearing of the many years to come, incredulously shook his head and said: "We will see." As he has always been in the habit of contradicting his doctors, and proving to them that they know nothing, I did not take his words seriously. Towards ten at night, when taking his tea, he suddenly rose and called out:--

"Leon, come here, quick!"

A quarter of an hour later he was in his bed, and within an hour he was dying.


24 March.

I am convinced that people preserve their idiosyncracies and originality to the last minute of their life. Thus my father, in the solemn dignity of thoughts at the approaching end, still showed a gratified vanity that he, and not the doctor, had been right, and that his unbelief in medicine was well founded. I listened to what he said, and besides, read his thoughts in his face. He was deeply impressed with the importance of the moment; there was also curiosity as to the future life,--not a shadow of doubt as to its existence, but rather a certain uneasiness about how he would be received, joined to an almost unconscious, unsophisticated belief that he would not be treated as a mere nobody in particular. I shall never die like this, because I have no basis to uphold me in the hour of death. My father parted with his life in absolute faith and the deep contrition of a true Christian. At the moment when he received the last sacraments he was so venerable, so purely saintly, that his image will remain with me always.

How futile, how miserable, appears to me my scepticism in presence of that immense power of faith that, stronger even than love, triumphs over death at the very moment when it extinguishes life. After having received the last sacraments, a great tenderness took possession of him. He grasped my hand strongly, almost convulsively, and did not let it go again, as if through me he wanted to hold fast to life. And yet it was neither fear nor despair that moved him, he was not in the least afraid. Presently I saw the eyes riveted upon my face grow dim and fixed, his forehead became moist, as if covered by a gentle dew; he opened his mouth several times as if to catch his breath,--sighed deeply once more,--and died.

I was not present at the embalming of the body,--I had not the strength; but after that I did not leave the dear remains for a minute, out of fear they might treat him as a thing of no consequence. How truly awful are those last rites of death,--the whole funereal paraphernalia, the candles, the misericordia, with the covered faces of the singers. It still clings to my ears, the "Anima ejus," and "Requiem aeternam." There breathes from it all the gloomy, awful spirit of Death. We carried the remains to Santa Maria Maggiore, and there I looked for the last time at the dear, grand face. The Campo Santo looks already like a green isle. Spring is very early this year. The trees are in bloom and the white marble monuments bathed in sunshine. What an awful contrast, the young, nascent life, the budding trees, the birds in full song,--and a funeral. Crowds of people filled the cemetery, for my father was known for his benevolence in Rome as much as my aunt is at Warsaw. All these people so full of life, as if reflecting the joys of spring, jarred upon my feelings. Crowds, especially in Italy, consider everything as a spectacle got up for their special benefit, and even now their faces betrayed more curiosity to see a grand funeral than any sympathy. Human selfishness knows no limit, and I am convinced that even people morally and intellectually educated, when following a funeral, feel a kind of unconscious satisfaction that this has happened to somebody else, and it is not they who are to be interred.

My aunt arrived, as I had summoned her by telegram. She, from the standpoint of faith, looks upon death as a change essentially for the better; therefore received the blow with far more calmness than I. This did not prevent her from, shedding bitter tears at her brother's coffin.

Afterwards she spoke to me long and tenderly,--a conversation full of exceeding goodness, I took much amiss at the time, for which I am sorry now. She did not mention Aniela's name,--spoke only of my future loneliness, and insisted upon my coming to Ploszow; where, surrounded by tender hearts, especially the one old heart which loved me beyond everything on earth, I would feel less sad. I saw in all this only her desire to continue her matchmaking; and in presence of my recent bereavement this seemed to me improper, and irritated me very much. I felt not inclined to think of the life before me, nor of love-speeches or weddings, with the shadow of death across my path. I refused peremptorily, even curtly; told my aunt I was going away,--most likely to Corfu, then would come back to Rome in order to arrange my father's affairs, and after that would come to Ploszow.

She did not insist upon having her own way. Feeling deeply for me, she was even more gentle than usual, and left Rome three days after the funeral. I did not go to Corfu; instead of that, Mr. and Mrs. Davis carried me off to their villa at Peli, where I have been now for several days. Whether Mrs. Davis is sincere or not I do not know, and will not even enter upon that now; I know only that no sister could have shown more sympathy and solicitude. With a nature poisoned by scepticism, I am always prone to suspect and misjudge those around me; but if it should be proved that I misjudged this woman, I should feel truly guilty,--because her goodness to me is quite extraordinary.


26 March.

My windows look out upon the vast blueness of the Mediterranean, encompassed by bands of a darker blue on the far horizon. Close to the villa, the crisped waves glitter like fiery scales; in the distance, the sea is glassy and still, as if lulled to sleep in its blue veil. White lateen sails flash in the sun, and once a day a steamer from Marseilles for Genoa passes hence, dragging in her wake woolly coils of smoke that hang over the sea like a dark cloud, until it gradually dissolves and disappears. The restfulness of the place is indescribable. Thoughts dissolve like yonder black cloud between the blue sky and azure sea, and life is a blissful vegetation.

I felt very tired yesterday, but to-day I inhale with eager lungs the fresh sea-breezes, that leave a salty taste on my lips. Say what they like, the Riviera is one of the gems of God's creation. I fancy to myself how the wind whistles at Ploszow; the sudden changes from mild spring weather to wintry blasts; the darkness, sleet, and hail, with intermittent gleams of sunshine. Here the sky is transparent and serene; the soft breeze which even now caresses my face comes through the open window together with the scent of heliotropes, roses, and mignonette. It is the enchanted land, where the orange blossoms, and also an enchanted palace; because everything that millions can buy, combined with the exquisite taste of Mrs. Davis, is to be found in this villa. I am surrounded by masterworks of art,--statues, pictures, matchless specimens of ceramics, chased works by Benvenuto. Eyes feast on nature, feast on art, and do not know where to dwell longest,--unless it be on the splendid pagan, the mistress of all these splendors, and whose only religion is beauty.

But is it quite just to call her a pagan? because, I say again, whether sincere or not, she shares my sorrows and tries to soothe them. We talk for hours about my father, and I have often seen tears in her eyes. Since she found out that music acts soothingly upon my mind, she plays for hours, and often until late at night. Sometimes I sit in my room in the dark, look absently at the sea riddled by a silver network, and listen to the sounds of her music mingling with the splashing of the waves. I listen until I feel half distracted, half sleepy,--until in sleep I forget the real life, with all its sorrows.


29 March.

I do not even feel inclined to write every day. We are reading together the Divina Commedia,--or rather, its last part. There was a time when I felt more attracted by the awful plasticity of the Inferno. Now I like to plunge into the luminous mist, peopled with still more luminous spirits, of the Dantesque heaven. At times it seems as if amid all that radiance I see the dear, familiar features, and my sorrow becomes almost sweet to me. I never before understood the exceeding beauty of heaven. Never has human mind taken such a lofty flight, encompassed such greatness, or borrowed such a slice from infinity as in this sublime, immortal poem. The day before yesterday and the two days following, we read it together in the boat. We usually go out a long distance, and when the sea is quite still I furl the sail; and we read, rocked by the waves,--or rather, she reads and I listen. Surrounded by the glories of the sunset, far from the shore, with the most beautiful woman reading to me Dante, I was under a delusion, that I had been transferred to another world.


30 March.

At times the sorrow that seemed to be lulled to sleep wakes up with renewed force. I feel then as if I wanted to fly hence.


VILLA LAURA, 31 March.

To-day I thought a great deal about Aniela. I have a strange feeling, as if lands and seas divided us. It seems to me as if Ploszow were a Hyperborean island somewhere at the confines of the world. We have delusions of that kind when personal impression takes the place of tangible reality. It is not Aniela who is far from me, it is I who go farther and farther away from the Leon whose heart and thoughts were once so full of her. This does not mean that my feelings for her have vanished. By close analysis I find they have only changed in their active character. Some weeks ago, I loved her and wanted something; I love her still, but want nothing. My father's death has scattered the concentration of the feelings. It would be the same, for instance, had I begun some literary work, and some unfortunate accident interrupted the even flow of my thoughts. But that is not all. Not long ago, all the faculties of my mind were strung to their highest pitch; now, under the influence of a heavy sorrow, a soft atmosphere, and the gently rocking sea, they have relaxed. I live, as I said before, the life of a plant; I rest as one rests after a long fatigue, and as if immersed in a warm bath. Never did I feel less inclined to any kind of exertion; the very thought of it gives me pain. If I had to choose a watchword, it would be, "Do not wake me." What will happen when I wake up, I do not know. I am sad now, but not unhappy; therefore I do not want to wake up, and do not consider it my duty. It is even difficult to me to recall the image of the Ploszowski who fancied himself bound to Aniela. Bound,--why? by what reason? What has happened between us?

A slight, almost imperceptible kiss on the forehead,--a caress which, among near relations, can be put down to brotherly affection. These are ridiculous scruples. I have broken ties far different from these without the slightest twinge of conscience. Were she not a relation, it would be a different matter. It is true, she understood it in a different way, and so did I at the time,--but let it pass. One prick of conscience more or less, what does it matter? We do worse things continually, to which the disappointment I caused Aniela is mere childishness. Conscience that can occupy itself with such peccadilloes must have nothing else to do. There is about the same proportion of such kinds of crime to real ones as our conversations on the terrace to real life.

Upon the whole, I do foresee what will happen; but I want to be left in peace at present and not think of anything. "Do not wake me." To-day it was determined that we ought to leave Peli as soon as the hot weather sets in,--perhaps in the middle of April,--and go to Switzerland. Even that terrifies me. I fancy Mrs. Davis will have to place her husband under restraint; he shows symptoms of insanity. He says not a word for whole days, but sits staring either at the floor or at his finger-nails; he is afraid they will come off. These are with him the consequences of a wild life and narcotics.

I leave off writing as it is our time for sailing.

If you like this book please share to your friends :

Without Dogma - 2 April to 30 April Without Dogma - 2 April to 30 April

Without Dogma - 2 April to 30 April
2 April.Yesterday there was a thunderstorm. A strong southern wind drove the clouds along as a herd of wild horses. It pulled and tore, chased and scattered them, then got them under and threw them with a mighty effort upon the sea, which darkened instantly as man in wrath, and began in its turn to send its foam aloft,--a veritable battle of two furies, which, battering each other, produce thunder and lightning flashes. But all this lasted only a short time. We did not go out to sea, as the waves were too rough. Instead of it we looked at the

Without Dogma - 2 February to 28 February Without Dogma - 2 February to 28 February

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