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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWithout Dogma - 4 May to 31 May
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Without Dogma - 4 May to 31 May Post by :paule Category :Long Stories Author :Henryk Sienkiewicz Date :May 2012 Read :1783

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Without Dogma - 4 May to 31 May

4 May.

My reason is now altogether subservient to feeling, and is, in truth, like the driver who passively clings to his box, and can do nothing but watch whether the vehicle will go to pieces. I went back to Ploszow a few days ago, and all I say and all I do are only the tactics of love. He is a clever doctor--is Chwastowski--to prescribe for Aniela exercise in the park. I found her there this morning. There are moments when the feeling in my heart--though I am always conscious of it--manifests itself with such extraordinary power that it almost frightens me by its magnitude. Such a moment I had to-day, when at a sudden turn of the road I met Aniela. Never had she appeared to me more beautiful, more desirable, and more as if she were my own. This is exactly the only woman in the world who by virtue of certain natural forces, scarcely known by name, was to attract me, as the magnet attracts iron, to reign over me, to attach me to her, and become the aim and completion of my life. Her voice, her shape, her glances intoxicate me. To-day, when I thus unexpectedly met her, I thought it was not only her personal charm she carried with her, but the charm of that early morning, that spring and serene weather, the joy of all the birds and plants,--in fact, she seemed to be more an incarnation of beauty and nature than a woman. And it struck me then that, if nature had created her thus that she should react upon me more than upon any other man, nature had meant her to be mine, and that my right had been trodden under foot by this marriage. Who knows whether all the crookedness of the world does not spring from the non-fulfilment of certain laws, and whether that be not the cause of the imperfectness of life?

They are wrong who say that love is blind. On the contrary, nothing--not the smallest detail--escapes its eyes; it sees everything in the beloved being, notices everything; but melts it all in one flame in the great and simple "I love." When I came close to Aniela, I noticed that her eyes were brilliant as if from recent slumber; that on her face and the light print dress fell the golden rays of the morning sun filtering through the young leaves; her hair was tied in a loose knot, and the flowing morning dress showed the outline of her shoulders and supple waist, and in its very carelessness had a certain freshness, which enhanced a thousandfold her charm. It did not escape my notice how much smaller than usual she looked among the tall elm trees of the avenue,--almost a child; in brief, nothing escaped me, but all my observations changed into the rapture of one who loves deliriously. She returned my morning greeting with some confusion. For the last few days she seems afraid of me, for I hypnotize her with every glance and word. Her peace of thought is already disturbed, and the ferment has entered her soul. She cannot help seeing I love her, but does not own it, not even to herself. Sometimes I have a sensation as if I were holding a bird in my hand, and heard its heart palpitating under my fingers. We walked together in embarrassed silence, which I did not care to interrupt. I know this uneasiness is oppressive to her; but it renders her my accomplice, and brings me nearer to the end. In the silence which surrounded us not a sound was audible but the crunching of the gravel under our feet, and the whistling of the golden orioles, which are plentiful in the park. I started at last a conversation. I directed it to suit my plans, for however much my mind is closed against influences that have no bearing upon my feeling, within their sphere I have a well-nigh redoubled presence of mind,--an acuteness of perception, as have those plunged into a hypnotic trance, and in a given direction see more clearly than people in their normal state. We passed speedily on to personal topics. I spoke about myself in the confidential tone in which one speaks to those nearest, who alone have the right to know everything. There sprung up between us a whole world of mutual understanding and thoughts, common to us both. Since such a bond ought to exist by virtue of marriage,--between her and her husband,--I was leading her towards spiritual faithlessness by such gradual steps that she scarcely could be aware of it.

Nevertheless, the subtle nature perceived the drift. But I had taken her by the hand, and led her; yet while leading, I felt a moral resistance. I was fully aware the resistance would grow stronger if I pushed much farther, and she perceived the danger. But I saw too that I was gaining ground, and that step by step I could lead her where I wanted.

In the meantime I spoke on purpose about the past.

"Do you remember," I said, "how in the days gone by--those happier days--you asked me why I did not remain in the country, and turn my abilities to some use. It was when I came home late, and you were sitting up for me. I cannot tell you even what power you had over me. I could not then begin to work, I had to go away; then came my father's death. But I never forgot those words. I have come back now to live and to work at home, and if I ever achieve anything it will be owing to you,--your influence will be the source of my achievement."

There ensued a momentary silence between us, broken only by the whistling of the orioles. Aniela was evidently searching for a reply, and at last said,--

"I cannot believe that a man like you should not be able to find a more weighty inducement. You know very well it is your duty, and what is past is past, and now everything is changed."

"I am not so sure of that," I replied. "Perhaps, when once I start, I shall find in the work itself some pleasure and encouragement. But a man like me, who, in spite of what you are saying about duty, has never been, fully conscious of it, must have some personal reason for changing the whole tenor of his life; and the more he is unhappy, the more he wants that personal inducement. Why should I tell you what is not true? I am not happy. The consciousness of duty is a beautiful thing, no doubt; but unfortunately I do not have it. You, who are so much better, nobler than I, could have taught it me; but it was fated otherwise. But even now, if only for the sake of those times when you wanted me to do something, I can do it still if you will help me."

Aniela hastened her steps, as if she wanted to return home, and said almost in a whisper,--

"Do not say that, Leon; please do not. You know I cannot do it."

"Why can you not? Do not understand me wrongly. You are and always will be a very dear sister to me. It is only this I wanted you to know."

Aniela almost feverishly gave me her hand, which I raised reverently to my lips.

"Yes, I will be that,--always that," she replied quickly.

And I saw what a heavy weight I had lifted from her mind; how that one word "sister" had calmed and moved her. This made me recover all my self-possession; for, when I had touched her hand with my lips, it almost grew dark before my eyes, and I wanted to take her in my arms, and tell her the whole truth. In the mean time Aniela's face had grown brighter and more cheerful. As we came nearer the house, her trouble seemed to slip off from her, and seeing how much I had gained by taking this way with her, I continued in the same strain of friendly conversation.

"You see, little sister, there is such a void around me. My father is no more; my aunt is a saintly woman; but she does not understand new times and new people. Her ideas are different from mine. I shall never marry,--think only what a lonely man I am. I have nobody near me,--nobody to share my thoughts, my plans, or my sorrows; nothing but loneliness around me. Is it not natural that I look for sympathy where I might expect to find it? I am like the crippled beggar, who stands waiting at the gate until they give him a small coin. At this moment the beggar is very poor indeed, and he stands under your window, and begs for a little friendliness, sympathy, and pity. A very small coin will satisfy him,--you will not refuse him that, Aniela, will you?"

"I will not, Leon; I will not, since you are so unhappy--"

Her voice broke, and she began to tremble. Again I had to make a great effort to restrain myself; and as I looked at her, something like unshed tears took me by the throat.

"Aniela! little Aniela!" I exclaimed, not knowing what to say.

But she waved her hands, as if to ward me off, and said, her eyes full of tears,--

"Let me go--I shall be better presently. I can not go back like this; let me go."

And she went swiftly away.

"Aniela, forgive me!" I called after her.

My first impulse was to follow her, but I thought it would be better to leave her to herself, and I only followed her with my eyes. She went quickly back into the avenue we had crossed together, and then turned into a side path. Sometimes the foliage hid her from my eyes, then again the light dress lit up by the sun appeared between the trees. From the distance I saw how she shut and opened her sunshade, as if trying by physical exertion to overcome her emotion. During all that time I inwardly called her the most endearing names that love could invent. I could not go away without looking once more into her eyes; but I had a long time to wait. She came at last, but passed quickly by, as if afraid of another shock; she only smiled at me in passing, with angelic sweetness, and said, "I am all right again."

On her face, pink with exercise, there was no trace of tears. I remained alone, and a mad, indescribable joy got hold of me, hope filled my heart, and there was one thought dominating everything: "She loves me, she fights against it, does not yield, deludes herself--but loves." At times, the most self-possessed of men, in the super-abundance of some emotion, comes near the brink of madness. I was so near it then that I felt a wild desire to hide myself in the deepest recess of the woods, tear the grass, and shout at the top of my voice, "She loves me!" At present, when I am able to think more calmly of this joy, I find it was composed of various active forces. There was the joy of the artist who sees that a masterpiece he has begun is progressing satisfactorily; maybe also the satisfaction of the spider when the fly comes near the web; but there was also kindness, pity, great tenderness, and all that over which angels rejoice, as the poet has it. I felt sorry the defenceless little thing should fall into my hands; and that pity increased the love, and the desire to conquer Aniela. I felt also a sting of conscience that I had deceived her, and yet I had the consciousness that I had spoken the truth when I asked for her sympathy and friendship. I want it as I want my health. But I did not confess to all my desires, because the time for it has not yet come. I did not tell her the whole truth, so as not to frighten the timid soul. I shall come to it by and by, and the road which leads towards it in the straightest line is the best.

 

10 May.

The weather is still serene, and everything is serene between us. Aniela is calm and happy. She thoroughly believes in what I said, and, as I did not ask for anything but sisterly affection, and her conscience approves, she allows her heart to follow its dictates. I alone know that it is a loyal way of deceiving herself and her husband; for under cover of sisterly affection there is another feeling, the growth of which I am watching daily. Of course I do not intend to undeceive her until the feeling grows too strong for her. By and by she will be enveloped in a flame which neither will, nor consciousness of duty, nor the modesty of the woman white as a swan, will be able to keep under control. Constantly the thought dwells with me that since I love her most, mine is the higher right. What can there be more logical or more true? The unwritten code of ethics of all people, of whatever faith, says that the mutual belonging of man and woman to each other is based upon love.

But to-day I am so restful and happy that I prefer to feel rather than to reason. There is now between us a great cordiality, ease, and intimacy. How we were made for each other, cling to each other, and how the dear little thing delights in the warmth, delusive warmth of brotherly affection. Never since my return have I seen her so cheerful. Formerly when I looked at her she reminded me of Shakspeare's "Poor Tom." A nature like hers wants love, as her body wants air to breathe. Kromitzki, occupied with speculations, does not love her enough, perhaps does not know what love means. She might rightly say with Shakspeare, "Poor Tom's acold." When I think of this my heart is stirred, and I make a silent vow that she shall never feel cold as long as I live.

If our love were wrong there could not be within us such peace. That Aniela does not call it by its proper name means nothing; it is there all the same. The whole day passed for us like an idyl. Formerly I disliked Sundays; now I find that a Sunday, from morning until night, may be like a poem, especially in the country. Soon after breakfast, we went to church in time for the early mass. My aunt followed in our rear; even Pani Celina, profiting by the fine weather, was wheeled thither in her Bath chair. There were not many people in church, as most of them go later for high mass. Sitting on the bench by Aniela's side, I had the blissful illusion that I was sitting with my affianced wife. From time to time I looked at the sweet, dear profile, at the hands which were resting on the desk before her, and the concentration in her face and bearing gradually infected me. My senses went to sleep, my thoughts became purer, and I loved her at that moment with an ideal love, because I felt more than ever how different she was from any other woman, how infinitely better and purer.

For a long time I had not felt anything like what I felt in this quiet village church. Added to Aniela's presence there was the impressive dignity of the church itself, the soft, flickering light of the candles in the dim recess of the altar, shafts of colored light coming through the windows, the chirping sparrows, and the still mass. All this, with the dreaminess of an early morning, had something unutterably soothing. My thoughts began to flow as evenly as the incense at the altar. Nobler feelings stirred within me, and a desire to sacrifice my own self. An inward voice began to remonstrate:--

"Do not disturb that transparent water; respect its purity."

When the mass came to an end, and we left the church, I saw, to my greatest amazement, both the Latyszes crouching near the church gate, with wooden plates in their hands, asking for alms. My aunt, who knew about my gift, grew very angry upon seeing them there, and began to abuse them roundly. But the old woman, still holding out her wooden plate, and not at all abashed, said quietly:--

"His lordship's generosity is one thing, and God's will is another. We must not go against the Lord's will. When the little Lord Jesus told us to sit here, we must, now and forever and ever, Amen."

There was nothing to say against this kind of reasoning; especially that "forever and ever, Amen," imposed upon me, to such an extent that I gave them some money for the oddity of the thing. These people at the bottom of their hearts believe in fate, which they dress up in Christian forms, and submit to it blindly. These Latyszes, to whom I gave a thousand two hundred roubles, are now better off than they ever were in their lives, and yet they went to sit at the church gates because such was their fate,--which the old woman translated into the "will of God."

When we were wending our way homewards, the bells were ringing for high mass. On the road appeared groups of men and women. From the more distant hamlets one could see them going Indian file along the narrow paths amid the corn, which, though still green, had shot up to a considerable height, owing to the early spring. As far as the eye could reach, in the pure translucid atmosphere, the bright colored kerchiefs of the girls appeared above the wheat-fields like so many poppy flowers. By the bye, there is nowhere in Europe such a breadth of atmosphere as in Poland. What struck me most of all was the distinctly Sunday character of the day, not in the people alone, but also in nature. It is true the weather was splendid, but it seemed as if the wind were hushed because it was Sunday; even the corn did not rock, not a leaf shook on the poplars, the stillness was perfect; yet there was the cheerfulness of the Sunday in the festive garments, and in the dancing sunbeams.

I explained to Aniela how, from an artistic point of view, those bright spots harmonized with the landscape and melted in the distance into a blue haze. Then we began to talk about the peasants. I confessed that I did not see anything but a crowd of more or less picturesque models; but Aniela looks at them from a quite different point of view. She began telling me many characteristic traits, some sad, and some amusing, and while talking grew very animated, and at the same time as lovely as a summer's dream.

The conversation again drifted towards the old couple we had left sitting under the church gate, and especially the old woman, whose reasoning had amused us so much. I began comparing her position to my own. As my aunt remained with Pani Celina, whom the servant wheeled along at a certain distance behind, I could with freedom allude to our last conversation in the park.

"Not long ago," I said, "I asked you for alms, and you bestowed them on me. I see now that this does not bind me to anything, and I may again hold out my wooden platter at the church gate."

"Eh! to ask other charitable souls for the same," replied Aniela. "Aunty is going to invite one charitable soul to Ploszow, I understand."

"If it is Miss Hilst you mean, she is too big to find room in a single heart; it wants three at least to hold her," but Aniela did not leave off teasing, and shaking her little finger at me, said:--

"It is a suspicious case, very suspicious."

"At present there is no ground for suspicion," I replied. "My heart is a repository of brotherly feelings, and there reigns supreme the spiteful little being who is tormenting me at present."

Aniela ceased laughing and jesting, slackened her pace, and presently we joined the elder ladies. The remainder of the day passed without a cloud, and so pleasantly that at times I fancied myself again a schoolboy. My eyes still spoke to her of love; but my desires slept. My aunt went to Warsaw after lunch, and I remained in Pani Celina's room, reading to her Montalembert's letters, with whom my father at one time had a regular correspondence. These letters would have seemed very tedious to me but for Aniela's presence. Raising my eyes now and then, I met her glance, which filled me with inexpressible joy. Unless I have lost all power of judgment, she looks at me as would look a pure, innocent woman, unconsciously loving with all her soul. What a good day it has been!

My aunt came back towards evening, and announced visitors. To-morrow both the Sniatynskis are coming, and Clara Hilst.

It is very late, but I do not want to sleep, for I am loathe to part with the memories of the day. Sleep cannot be more beautiful. The park is literally alive with the song of the nightingales, and there is still in me a great deal of the old romanticist. The night is clear and limpid, and the sky full of stars. Thinking of Aniela, I say a hundred times good-night to her. I see that side by side with the _improductivite Slave_, there is in me a great deal of purely Polish sentimentality. I had not known myself in that capacity before. But what does it matter? I love her very much.

 

13 May.

Clara and the Sniatynskis have not arrived. Instead of this, there came a letter, informing us they would come to-morrow, the weather permitting. To-day we had a thunder-storm, the like of which they have not experienced here for a long time. About ten o'clock in the morning a hot wind rose, which smothered everything in clouds of dust. The wind fell at times, and then rose again with such fury that it seemed to lay the trees flat. Our beautiful park was filled with the sound of crashing branches, and clouds of dust mingled with torn-off leaves and twigs. The great lime-tree close to the pavilion, where young Latysz died, was split in two. It was fear-fully close, there was no air, and the wind seemed to come straight from a heated furnace, and carried with it a breath of carbon. I, used to the Italian _scirocco_, did not mind it so much, but Pani Celina suffered greatly, and indirectly, Aniela. My aunt was in a bad temper about the damage done to the park, and as usual, vented it on Chwastowski. The peppery old gentleman, who probably was caned often enough over his Homer, had evidently not forgotten the Odyssey, nor his ready speech either, for he replied to my aunt that if he were AEolus he would not serve her as agent, and bear with her unjust tantrums. My aunt gave way this time, merely because of the redoubled threats from the skies. It had grown very still all at once, but from the south, banks of cloud, black as a funereal pall, overcast with a sickly red sheen, came rolling up. In a moment it grew as dark as night, and Pani Celina rung for lights. Shortly afterwards the darkness yielded to an ominous reddish light. Chwastowski rushed off in a hurry to give orders for the cattle to be driven home, but the cow-herds had started without waiting for orders, for presently we heard distinctly the mournful lowing of the cattle. Then my aunt fetched the bell of Our Lady of Loreto, and went around the house ringing energetically. I did not even try to explain to her that ringing a bell in that motionless atmosphere might rather attract than avert a thunderbolt, and in spite of the consciousness that in case of danger I could not be of the slightest help, I was ashamed to let her risk the danger alone. The old lady was simply magnificent when, with her head thrown back, she seemed to defy the black and copper-colored banks of clouds, and shook at them her Loreto bell. I did not regret having gone with her, if only to see a symbolic picture. At a moment when everything trembles before the approaching horror, crouches in terror almost stupefied, faith alone has no fear; it defies, and rings a bell. This is, from whatever side we look at it, an element of incalculable power in the human soul.

We returned when the first thunder began to growl all around the horizon. A few minutes later the roar became incessant. I had a sensation as if the thunder rolled on the lower stratum of the clouds, and the whole mass would burst at any moment and come with a deafening crash upon the earth. A thunderbolt fell into the pond at the other end of the park, followed by another so close by that the house shook on its foundations. My ladies began to say the Litany; I felt uncertain what to do; if I joined them it would be hypocrisy on my part, and if I did not it would look as if I were showing myself off as an ill-bred wiseacre, who cannot make allowance for country customs and female terrors. But I was wrong; they were not afraid; their faces were calm, even serene. It was evident that the familiar Litany was to them a sufficient armor against all dangers, and that there was no fear in their hearts. The thought crossed my mind what a stranger in spirit I was in presence of these Polish women, of whom each knows ten times less than I, and according to human measure, is worth ten times as much as I. They are like books of comparatively few pages, each page containing clear and simple rules, whereas I, with all those volumes of which I am composed, do not possess a single undoubted truth.

It was but a passing thought, as presently the storm that broke upon us with terrific force engaged all my attention. The wind rose again, crashing among the trees. It fell at moments, and then the rain came down in streams; no drops were visible, but long spouts that seemed to join sky and earth. The avenues in the park were like foaming brooks. Sometimes a strong gust of wind whipped the water into a fine spray that hung between earth and sky and obscured the whole view. The deafening roar of thunder went on incessantly. The air was saturated with electricity. My pulses were beating loudly; in the rooms an irritating smell of sulphur made itself felt. The raging elements without seemed to influence me in a strange way, and I began to lose control over myself.

"Do you want to see the storm?" I asked Aniela.

"Very well. Where from?"

"Come into the next room, there is a larger window."

We went and stood at the window. It was very dark then, and every moment white and red forks of lightning tore across the clouds, opening the skies and at the same time illuminating our faces and the dark world without. Aniela was calm, but seemed every moment more desirable.

"Are you afraid?" I whispered.

"No."

"Give me your hand."

She looked at me wonderingly. Another moment and I should have folded her in my arms and pressed my lips against hers, and then let Ploszow be razed to the ground, by the tempest. But she was terrified, not by the storm, but by the expression of my face and that whisper; she drew back from the window and returned to the room where the elder ladies were sitting.

I remained alone,--with a feeling of anger and humiliation. That I should have taken advantage of Aniela's confidence is quite certain, and yet I felt offended by her want of trust, and resolved to pay her out in some way. I stood for an hour at the window looking absently at the lightning flashes. Then it grew lighter and lighter outside; at last the clouds parted, and the sun shone forth fresh and bright and as if wondering at the devastation the tempest had wrought.

It was very considerable; the avenues were still flooded with yellow, foaming water, above which floated broken branches. Here and there big trees were lying about, snapped across or torn out by the roots; the bark was partly stripped from the trunks of pine trees, leaving what looked like gaping wounds. Everywhere the eye could reach there was ruin and devastation, as if after a battle.

When the water had drained off a little I went out toward the ponds to ascertain the extent of the damage. Suddenly the whole park became alive with people, who, with an almost savage energy, began to tear off the broken branches and chop at the fallen trunks. It appears they were peasant-lodgers who had no right in the woods. In the main, I did not care whether they gathered the sticks, but as they had come through the broken fence without permission, and in such a savage manner, I, being out of humor, began to drive them away, my anger rising at their stubborn resistance. At last I threatened them with the village authorities, when suddenly, close by, the sweetest voice in the world said in French:--

"Is there any harm in their clearing the park, Leon?"

I turned round and saw Aniela, her head covered with a kerchief tied under her chin. With both hands she was holding up her dress, showing up to the ankles her little feet encased in high boots; bending slightly forward she looked at me entreatingly.

At her sight my anger vanished at once. I forgot the unpleasant sensations that had troubled me a little while before, and looked at her as if I could never fill myself enough with the sight.

"Is it your wish?" I asked.

Then, turning to the people, I said:--

"Take the wood, and thank the lady for the permission."

This time they obeyed with alacrity. Some of them, evidently strangers to Ploszow, addressed her as "gracious Panienka" (Miss), which caused me unspeakable delight. If Ploszow were mine they might cut down every tree at her wish. In half an hour every broken branch and fallen tree was cleared away, and the park looked really all the better for it. Walking with Aniela along the paths I found a great many swallows and other birds, either killed by the storm or half dead and drenched with rain. I picked them up, and handing them one by one to Aniela, I touched her hands, looked into her eyes, and again felt happy. The idyl of the day before repeated itself, for us both, and brought with it ease and cheerfulness. My heart was full of joy, for I saw what Aniela could not see,--that in our brotherly relation there was twice as much tenderness as would be or ought to be between the most loving brother and sister. I was quite sure now that, unconsciously, she loved me as much as I loved her. In this way one half of my hopes and schemes are realized already; there remains only to bring it home to her and make her own to the feeling. When I think of that I remember, with a heart beating fast with happiness, what I wrote down some time ago: that "no woman in the world can resist the man she truly loves."

 

15 May.

Our visitors did not come yesterday but to-day, which was very sensible, as all traces of the storm have disappeared and the weather is very fine. This fifteenth of May will be one of the best remembered days in my life. It is now past midnight; I am wide awake, as if I never wanted to sleep again, and intend to write until morning. I am collecting my thoughts so as not to begin at the end, and put it all down in proper order. Force of habit is a great help in this.

My aunt sent the carriage for the Sniatynskis and Clara very early, in consequence of which they arrived before noon. The ladies were bright, cheerful, and chirping like sparrows, glad of the fine weather and their excursion. What toilets, and what quaint hats! Clara looked very well in a light, striped dress that made her seem less tall than usual. I observed that Aniela, after the first greeting, looked at her searchingly and seemed struck by her beauty, of which I had scarcely said anything to her. I had not refrained out of calculation, but had been so occupied with Aniela that I had not thought of it. For instance, though I had met Pani Sniatynska several times I had never noticed she wore her hair short, which suits her style of beauty. The light, curly hair falling over her brow gives her the expression of a resolute, rosy-faced boy. We are excellent friends again. There was a time she would have liked to kill me, so angry was she about Aniela. Evidently her husband had told her what I suffered, and women have a special weakness for those who suffer for love's sake; she has forgiven me and reinstalled me in her favor. The presence of such a bright, vivacious, easy-going woman was a great help in bringing Clara and Aniela into closer relation. I saw that my aunt met Clara with great heartiness; but Aniela, in spite of her sweet disposition, seemed shy, and kept aloof from her. At lunch, amid a cheerful conversation, she thawed a little. Clara seemed struck by Aniela's beauty, and as she always says what she thinks, she expressed her admiration with so much grace and enthusiasm that Aniela had to yield.

Pani Celina, who now perhaps for the first time found herself in company with an artist, looked gratified, and turning to her said that "though Aniela's mother, she must say that as a child she was very pretty,--promising far greater beauty." Both Sniatynskis joined in the conversation. He began to discuss with Clara various female types, then spoke of Aniela's type and its aesthetic perfection in a highly amusing objective manner, as if she were a portrait hanging on the wall, rather than a living presence. She, listening to this, blushed and lowered her eyes, truly like a little girl, which made her look more charming than ever.

I was silent, but inwardly compared these three female faces, treating them also objectively, that is, putting aside the fact that one of them was the loved one, and as such occupied an exceptional position; even then everything spoke in her favor. Pani Sniatynska's, especially in her short curly hair, is a charming head, yet nothing but what may be found in any English Keepsake. Clara's beauty rests mainly upon her calm expression, the blue eyes, and that transparent complexion so often met with in German women; but for her art, which surrounds her as with a nimbus, she could only be called a handsome woman. Aniela is not only an artistic production of an exceedingly noble style as regards her features, but there is something individual in her that cannot be measured by any standard. Maybe her individuality rests upon the fact that, being neither dark nor fair, she gives the physical impression of a brunette and the spiritual one of a blonde. The cause of this is perhaps the great abundance of hair on a comparatively small head; enough that she is unique in her kind. She excels even Mrs. Davis in this regard, whose beauty was without a flaw, but it was the beauty of a statue. Mrs. Davis only excited the admiration of my senses, while Aniela rouses in me the idealist, who goes in rapture over the poetry of her expression.

But I will not even compare these two so utterly different beings. I yielded to these reflections during lunch, because the topic in question had brought me on that track; besides, the analysis of Aniela's beauty always gives me a keen delight. My aunt interrupted the discussion, deeming it proper, as lady of the house, to say something about Clara's last concert. She spoke much and very well; I never supposed she had such knowledge of music; she paid her some graceful compliments with the air of a _grande dame_, in that flowing, winning style only people of the older generation are capable of. In short, I observed that my downright, outspoken aunt was still able to recall the times of powder and patches. Clara seemed quite charmed, and did not remain behind-hand in graceful acknowledgment.

"I shall always be able to play well at Warsaw," she said, "because I am in touch with my audience, but I play best in small circles of friends where I feel in sympathy with everybody,--and if you will permit, I will give you a proof of it after lunch."

My aunt, who was very anxious that Pani Celina should hear her, yet had misgivings whether it would be right to ask her to play, was much pleased by the proposal. I began to speak of Clara's performances at Paris and her triumphs at Erard's concerts; Sniatynski gave an account of what was said at Warsaw; and so the time passed until we rose from lunch. Clara herself got hold of Paul Celina's invalid chair and would not allow anybody to help, declaring laughingly that she was by far the strongest among us, and was not afraid to tire her hands. Presently she sat down to the piano, and as evidently Mozart suited her disposition, she gave us Don Juan. The first notes sounded, she was a different Clara; not the merry, lively child any longer, but an incarnate Saint Cecilia. There shone in her the close relationship of outward form with the spirit of harmony, which surrounded her with a dignity above common womanhood. I made another observation, namely: that a man in love can find food for his feelings even in what tells against the loved woman. When I thought how far my Aniela was from being a Sybil, saw her sitting in a corner of the drawing-room so small and still, as if crushed down by some weight, I loved her all the more, and it made her if possible dearer to me than ever. It also occurred to me that a woman is not in reality what she appears to people in general, but such as the man who loves sees her; therefore her absolute excellence is in proportion to the power of love she inspires. I had no time to follow out this idea, but it pleased me because I saw dimly before me the conclusion that in the name of this excellence the woman ought to give her heart to him who loves her most.

Clara played superbly. I watched the sensation on the others' faces, when presently I noticed that Aniela was looking at me for the same reason. Was it mere curiosity, or an involuntary uneasiness of heart which could not say what it feared and yet was afraid? I said to myself: "If the last supposition were true it would be a proof that she loves me." The thought filled me with joy, and I resolved to find an answer to it in the course of the day. Thenceforth I bestowed all my attention upon Clara, and was more attentive to her than I had ever been before. In the woods whither we had driven, I walked with her, glancing furtively now and then at Aniela, who remained with the Suiatynskis. Clara was in rapture with the woods, which are indeed at their best now, the fresh green of the leafy trees forming a perfect canopy over the more sombre looking pines.

The sun filtering across the branches converted the earth, carpeted with ferns and tender mosses, into a delicate golden embroidery. There were the cheerful voices of spring around us, the cuckoo's call and the woodpecker's knock-knock at the trees. When we joined the others I asked Clara to translate into music the voices of spring. She said there was already a _Fruehlingslied singing within her, and she would try to give it expression. Truly she looked as if the song was there,--besides she is like a great harp that speaks only in sounds.

Her face was bright with burning blushes; Aniela instead looked fagged, though she evidently tried to keep up with the Sniatynskis, who were as lively as a couple of school-children on their holiday. They began finally to race with each other, and Clara joined in the sport, which she ought not to have done, considering her size, as the quick motion was anything but graceful,--nay, almost ridiculous.

When they were thus running after each other I remained alone with Aniela. According to my plan of operations I was anxious to bring her mind to full consciousness through the uneasiness with which she seemed to be oppressed.

"There is something troubling you, Aniela; what is it?" I asked.

"No, nothing whatever."

"It seemed to me as if you were dissatisfied with something; is it that you do not like Clara?"

"No; I like her very much, and do not wonder she is so much admired."

Further conversation was made impossible by the return of the truants. It was also time to go back. On the way, Sniatynski asked Clara whether she felt really satisfied with her stay at Warsaw.

"The best proof I can give you of this is that I do not think of going away yet," she replied gayly.

"We must try to keep you with us always," I interpolated.

Clara, in spite of the simplicity with which she accepts all that is said to her, looked questioningly at me, then grew a little confused, and replied,--"They are all very kind to me here."

I was conscious that my words were in a way dishonorable, as they might mislead Clara; but all I cared for was the impression they would make upon Aniela. Unfortunately, I could not see her face, as she was buttoning her gloves, with her head bent so low that her hat concealed it from me. This sudden movement seemed to me a good sign.

The elder ladies were awaiting us with the dinner, which lasted until nine o'clock; and then Clara improvised her _Fruehlingslied_. I am almost certain that since Ploszow existed there had never been heard such music within its walls, but I paid very little attention to it. I sat near her in the dusk, as she did not want the lamps lit. Sniatynski waved his arm as if it were a baton; which evidently annoyed his wife, as she pulled his sleeve several times. Aniela sat quite motionless; maybe she, too, was absorbed in her own thoughts, and did not listen to the _Fruehlingslied_. I was almost certain she was thinking about me and Clara, and especially about the meaning of the words I had said to Clara. It was easy enough to guess that even if she did not love me, or had the slightest consciousness that my love was any other but brotherly affection, she would feel sore and disappointed if that were about to be taken away from her. A woman who is not happy in her married life clings round any other feeling, if it be only friendship, as the ivy clings to the tree. I had no doubt whatever that if at this moment I knelt down at her feet and told her it was she, and she alone, that I loved, she would feel a sudden joy, as one feels upon recovering something very precious. And if so, I debated within me, why not hasten the solution, if only a way could be found,--frightening her as little as possible, or making her forget all terror in her joy. I began at once to devise ways and means, as I understood it must be done in such a way as to make it forever impossible for her to cast me off. My mind worked very hard at it, as the problem was not an easy one. Gradually a great emotion stole over me: and strange to say, it was more on Aniela's account than on my own that I felt moved,--for I realized suddenly what a great wrench it would be, and I was afraid for her.

In the mean time it had grown lighter in the drawing-room; the moon had risen above the trees, and cast luminous shafts across the floor. The melodies of the _Fruehlingslied still filled the air, and the nightingales responded to it through the open French window. It was a glorious evening, warm and balmy, and full of harmony and love. I thought involuntarily that, if life does not give us happiness, it presents us with a ready frame for it.

In the luminous dusk my eyes searched for Aniela; but she looked at Clara, who at this moment seemed more a vision than a substantial being. The moonlight, advancing more and more into the room, rested now upon her; and in the light dress she looked like the silvery spirit of music. But the vision did not last long. Clara finished her song; whereupon Pani Sniatynska rose, and saying it was late, gave the signal for departure. As the evening was so warm, I proposed we should see our visitors off as far as the high-road, about half a mile from our house. I did this on purpose, so as to walk home with Aniela. I knew she could not well refuse such a mere act of politeness, and I was also sure my aunt would not go with us.

I gave orders for the carriage to drive on and wait on the road, and we went on foot through the lime avenue. I offered my arm to Clara, but we walked all abreast, accompanied by the croaking of the frogs in the Ploszow mere.

Clara stopped a moment to listen to that chorus, which ceased now and then, to start afresh with redoubled vigor, and said,--

"This is the finale of my Song of Spring."

"What an exquisite evening!" remarked Sniatynski, and then began to quote the beautiful lines from the "Merchant of Venice":--

"How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!
Here will we sit and let the sounds of music
Creep in our ears: soft stillness and the night
Become the touches of sweet harmony."

He did not remember the rest, but I did, and took up the strain:--

"Sit, Jessica. Look how the floor of heaven
Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold:
There's not the smallest orb which thou behold'st
But in his motion like an angel sings,
Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubins;
Such harmony is in immortal souls;
But whilst this muddy vesture of decay
Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it."

 

Then I repeated to Clara, who does not understand Polish, the lines in French, improvising the translation. She listened to it, then raised her eyes heavenward, and said simply,--

"I was always certain there is music in the spheres."

It appeared that Pani Sniatynska was equally certain of it, and reminded her husband that she had discussed it with him not long before, but he was not quite sure he remembered; whereupon a slight matrimonial dispute took place, at which Clara and I laughed. Aniela had not joined the conversation at all; did she feel hurt that I had offered my arm to Clara, and paid her some attention? The very supposition made me feel happy. Yet I tried not to lose my head, and said to myself, "Do not run away with the idea that she knows what jealousy means; she is only a little sad and feels lonely, that is all." I would have given at this moment a whole host of artists such as Clara for a few words with Aniela,--to tell her that I belong to her, and only to her. Then Sniatynski began a discussion about astronomy, of which I heard now and then a few words, though this science attracts me more than I can tell,--for in its very nature there is no limit, either in itself or for the human mind; it is infinite.

We reached at last the end, where our guests mounted into the carriage. Presently the wheels rattled on the road, the last good-bys reached our ears, and I was alone with Aniela. We turned homewards, and for some time walked side by side in silence. The croaking of the frogs has ceased, and from the distance came the sound of the watchman's whistle and the loud baying of the dogs. I did not speak to Aniela, because the silence seemed fraught with deep meaning,--both our minds being full of the same subject. When about half-way I said to Aniela,--

"What a pleasant day it has been, has it not?"

"Yes. I never heard such beautiful music before."

"And yet you seemed not in your usual spirits, and though you will not tell me the cause, I notice every passing cloud on your face."

"You were obliged to look after your guests. You are very kind to trouble about me, but there is nothing the matter with me."

"To-day as any other day I was occupied with you only, and as a proof of it let me tell you of what you were thinking to-day." And without waiting for permission, I went on at once: "You thought I resembled somewhat the Latysz couple; you thought I had deceived you in speaking of the void around me; lastly, you thought that I had no need to ask for your friendship while I was seeking friendship elsewhere. Was it not so? Tell me the truth."

Aniela replied with evident effort: "If you insist upon knowing--yes, perhaps it is so. But I ought to be only glad of it."

"What ought you be glad of?"

"Of your mutual friendship with Clara."

"As to our friendship,--I wish her well, that is all. But Clara, like all other women, is indifferent to me. Do you know why?"

I began to tremble a little, because I perceived that the moment had come. I waited a moment to see whether Aniela would take up my question, and then, in a voice I tried to render steady, I said,--

"Surely you must see and understand that my whole being belongs to you; that I loved you and love you still madly."

Aniela stood still as if turned to stone. By the icy coldness of my face I felt that I was growing pale; and if the world seemed to totter under that poor child's feet, it was my life, too, which was at stake. Knowing with whom I had to deal, I did not give her time to repulse me. I began to speak very quickly:--

"Do not answer me, for I do not want anything from you. I desire nothing,--nothing whatever, understand that well. I wanted to tell you that you have taken my life, and it is henceforth yours, to do with it what you like. But you have seen yourself that such is the case, and it matters nothing whether I speak of it or not. I repeat that I desire nothing, nor do I expect anything. You cannot repulse me, because I repulse myself. I only tell you as I might tell a friend, a sister. I come and complain to you, because I have nowhere else to go, that I love a woman that belongs to somebody else,--love her to distraction,--oh, Aniela!--and without limit!"

We were near the gate, but still in the deep shadow of the trees. For a moment I had the delusion that she was leaning towards me like a broken flower, that I might snatch her into my arms; but I was mistaken.

Aniela, recovering from the sudden shock, began suddenly to say, with a kind of nervous energy I had not suspected in her,--

"I will not listen to this, Leon. I will not; I will not; I will not!"

And she ran into the moonlit courtyard. Yes; she ran away from my words,--my confession. Presently she disappeared within the portico, and I remained alone with a feeling of unrest, fear, and great pity for her, and triumph at the same time that the words which should be the beginning of a new life for us both had been spoken. For, to say the truth, I could not expect anything else from her at first; but the seed from which something must spring up was sown.

When I came into the house there was no Aniela visible. I found only my aunt, walking up and down the room muttering her rosary and soliloquizing between the prayers. I said good-night, and went at once to my room thinking that it would calm me if I put down the day's impressions; but it only tired me more. I intend to go away to-morrow, or rather to-day, for I see the daylight coming through the window. I want to confirm Aniela in the conviction that I expect nothing from her,--want her to calm down and get familiar with what I told her. But to confess the whole truth, I go away also because I am afraid to meet her so soon, and would fain put it off. There are moments when it seems to me a monstrous deed to have introduced an element of corruption in this pure atmosphere. But does not the principal evil lie in her marrying a man she cannot love? What is more immoral, my love which is a manifestation of nature's great law, or the belonging of Aniela to that man, which is a shameful breaking of the same law? And I, who understand this so clearly, am yet so weak that a horror seizes me when I kick against that corrupt morality. But all these scruples melt like snow at the words, "I love." If even now my heart feels sore at the thought that at this very moment she may be awake, weeping perhaps, or torn by doubts, it is only another proof how I love her. It hurts me, and at the same time I do not see how otherwise we can arrive at happiness.

 

19 May.

The first night after my arrival I slept profoundly. At Ploszow I grudged every moment that kept me from Aniela, and during the night I was writing; consequently I felt deadly tired. And now I feel still heavy, but am able to think. I am somewhat ashamed that I ran away and left Aniela alone to bear the burden of my confession; but when the beloved woman is in question, a little cowardice is not dishonorable. Besides, I should not have fled had it not been necessary for the future weal of my love. Now, every day when she rises and says her prayers, walks in the park or attends her sick mother, she must, if ever so unwillingly, say to herself, "He loves me," and the thought will gradually become familiar, less terrifying to her. Human nature gets accustomed to everything, and a woman soon becomes reconciled to the thought that she is loved, especially when she returns that love. This question, "Does she love me?" I put to myself the first time when I knew I loved her still; and again I turn it over in my mind, try to weigh all the circumstances as if somebody else's fate were at stake, and I arrive at the conviction that it cannot be otherwise. When she married she loved me, not Kromitzki; she only yielded to him her hand driven by despair. If she had married a superior man who dazzled her by his fame, his thoughts, or exceptional character, she might have forgotten me. But how could a Kromitzki, with his money-grubbing neurosis, get hold of her affection? Besides, he left her soon after they were married; he sold Gluchow, which was as the very apple of the eye to these two women. Judging Kromitzki quite impartially, there was nothing in him which could win a being full of ideal impulses and feelings. Then I came back,--I, whom she had loved. I touched the chords of her heart with memories of the past, by every word and glance. I drew her towards me, not only with that skill an experience of life gives, but also with that magnetic force true love bestows on man. Adding to this the fact that she knew how much I suffered when I sent Sniatynski to her, she must have pitied me, and that pity cannot have vanished altogether. I play for my life, but the cards are in my favor. I cannot lose the game.

I am as much in my right as anybody who is defending his life. I do not say this upon the impulse of the moment, but after calm reasoning. I have no convictions, no beliefs, no principles, no stable ground under my feet, for the ground has been undermined by criticism and reflection. I have only those forces of life born with us, and they are all concentrated on one woman. Therefore I clutch my love as a drowning man clutches a plank; if this gives way there will be nothing left to live for. If common-sense asks, "Why did you not marry Aniela?" I say what I have said before: I did not marry her simply for the reason that I am not straight, but crooked,--partly because born so, partly because so reared by those two nurses, Reflection and Criticism. Why this woman and no other should be my plank of salvation, I do not know. Most likely because it was she and not another. It did not depend upon me.

If she were free to-day, I would stretch my hands out for her without hesitation; if she had never been married, who knows?--I am ashamed of the thought, and yet it may be that she would not be so desirable. Most likely, judging by the past, I should have gone on watching her, watching my own feelings, until somebody else carried her off; but I prefer not to think of it, because it makes me inclined to swear.

 

20 May.

I considered to-day what would happen if I gained Aniela's love, or rather brought her to confess it. I see happiness before me but no way of reaching it. I know that if in presence of these women I uttered the word "divorce," they would think the roof was crashing down over our heads. There cannot be even a question as to that, because my aunt's and Pani Celina's ideas upon that point are such that neither of them would survive the shock. I have no illusions as to Aniela; her ideas are the same. And yet the moment she owns her love, I will say the word, and she must accustom herself to it; but we shall have to wait until my aunt's and Pani Celina's death. There is nothing else for it. Kromitzki will either agree willingly or he will not. In the latter case I shall carry Aniela off, if I have to go as far as the Indies, and the divorce, or rather invalidation of the marriage, I shall conduct myself, in spite of his wishes. Fortunately, there is no want of means. As regards myself, I am ready for everything, and the inward conviction that I am right justifies me in my own eyes. This time it is not a mere love intrigue, but a feeling that absorbs my whole being. Its sincerity and strength make all my stratagems lawful. I know that I deceive her in saying that all I wish to gain is a sister's love. I deceive her when I say I do not desire anything; all this would be wrong and a lie if my love were in itself a lie. In presence of a great truth, they are mere diplomatic stratagems of love. It all belongs to the course of love. It is a known fact that even affianced lovers have recourse to stratagems, in order to make each other confess their love. As to myself, I am sincere even when I say what is not true.

 

21 May.

I told Aniela that I intended to work, and I will do so, if only for the reason that I said so to her. I will have the collections brought over from Rome, and found a museum. This will be Aniela's merit, and the first useful deed that springs from our love. I suppose the Italian government will raise difficulties, as there is a law that prohibits the exportation of antiquities and precious works of art. But my lawyer will arrange that for me. And that reminds me of the Madonna by Sassoferrato, which my father bequeathed to his future daughter-in-law. I will have it sent over at once, because I want it.

 

22 May.

Human nature is ever malicious. I have a grim satisfaction in thinking how ridiculous a man like Kromitzki must seem, who is turning summersaults in the East in his effort to make money, while somebody whispers love vows into his wife's ears; and sooner or later Aniela must see it in this light. The whole Kromitzki can be summed up in the one fact: he sold Gluchow and left the women without a home. He thought perhaps they would live in Odessa or Kieff; in the mean while Pani Celina's illness brought Aniela to Ploszow.

Yet he knew how precarious the lady's health was; he ought to have foreseen that she might fall ill, and that Aniela would remain alone with the burden of sorrow and trouble. If his business requires his presence in the East, why did he marry at all?

To-morrow I go back to Ploszow. I feel very lonely here, and besides I feel the longing to look once more into Aniela's eyes, and at times feel guilty, as if I had been shirking a duty by running away. It was necessary at the time, but I must go back now. Who knows? greater happiness than I suppose may be waiting for me,--perhaps she too is longing for me.

I called upon the Sniatynskis, and Clara, whom I did not find at home. I paid also a visit to the celebrated beauty, Pani Korytzka. The latter carries her historical name like a jockey cap, and her wit as a riding-whip; she hits people with it between the eyes. I came off unscathed; she even tried a little coquetry on me. I made a dozen or so calls and left cards. I wish people to think that I am settled at Warsaw.

As the bringing over of my father's collections is only a matter of will and ready money, I am seeking what else there is for me to do. Men of my position are usually occupied with the administration of their fortune; and very badly they administer it on the whole, far worse than I. Very few take any part in public life. I mentioned before that here they still amuse themselves with aristocracy and democracy; there are even some whose whole aim in life consists in backing up social hierarchy, and stemming the tide of democratic currents. It is a sport as good as any other, but since I am no sportsman, I take no interest in that amusement. Even if it were no mere play, if there were some sense at the bottom of it, I am too much of a sceptic in regard to both parties to belong to either. Democracy, by which I mean patented democrats, not people of humble extraction, acts upon my nerves. As to aristocracy, methinks that if their _raison d'etre is based upon services rendered to the country by their ancestors, those services have often been such that the sooner their descendants don the hair shirt and cover their heads with ashes the better. Besides, these two parties, with the exception of a few foolish individuals, do not really believe in themselves. Some feign sincerity in order to serve their own ends, and as I never feign anything, it is clear that to take part in such struggles is not the work for me. Then there are those of the Sniatynski order who stand above both parties, but are always ready to drown both in their synthesis. They are, as a rule, strong men; but even if I could agree with them I should have to do something,--mere consciousness of duty is not work. Sniatynski writes plays. Truly, when I look things straight in the face, I find that I am outside the parenthesis, and do not see my way to get inside. It is strange that a man who has considerable means, culture, certain capacities, and a wish for something to do, should find nothing he can put his hands to. Again I feel inclined to swear, as it is all owing to that intellectual splitting of hairs. They ought to make a diagnosis upon me, as to the disease of Time's old age, which in me has reached the acute stage. He who is a sceptic in regard to faith, in regard to science, conservatism, progress, and so on, has indeed difficulty in finding anything to do.

In addition to all that, my aspirations are far greater than the possibility of satisfying them. Life rests upon work; and therefore, here people work at something or other. But it is the work of a dray-horse, carting grain to the granary. I could not do it even if I wished. I am a high-stepper, fit only for a carriage, and of no use on sandy, rutty roads, where common horses do the work better and more steadily. At the building of a house I could not carry the bricks, but might do something in the ornamental line, but where it is a question of four simple walls and a sound roof, artisans such as I are not wanted. If at least I had a mighty impulse towards work, I still might be able to force myself to do something. But in the main, it is only a question of appearances. I wish to work in order to please the woman I love. Aniela in regard to that has exalted notions, and it would certainly please her. Moreover, for that very reason my vanity and also my calculations urge me to bid for a prominent position, which would raise my value in her eyes. I will see what can be done, and in the meanwhile my purse will do the work for me. I shall have the collection sent over, support various institutions, and give money where it is wanted.

What a strange power there is in woman! She comes in contact with a genius without portfolio, an exceptionally useless implement like me, and then, without any preaching on her part, he feels himself in duty bound to do all sorts of things he never dreamed of doing before.

The deuce take me if I ever thought of bringing my collections to Paris or Vienna for the sake of a Parisian or Viennese. I am going back to Ploszow; I long to be near my good spirit.

 

23 May.

When I went away from Ploszow for some time, it was to bring Aniela to some kind of decision. At Warsaw and on the way back to Ploszow, I tried to guess what she had resolved upon. I knew she could not write to her husband: "Come and take me away, for Ploszowski is making love to me;" she would not have done so even if she hated me. There is too much delicacy of feeling in her to do that. Putting aside that an encounter between me and Kromitzki might be the consequence of such a step, Aniela would have to leave her sick mother, who cannot go away from Ploszow.

Aniela's position is indeed a difficult one, and I counted upon that before I made my confession. The thought crossed my mind that she might take it into her head to avoid me altogether, and shut herself up in her mother's rooms. But I dismissed the thought. In the country and under the same roof it would be quite impracticable, or at any rate so conspicuous as to rouse the elder ladies' attention and consequently act injuriously upon her mother's health. In truth I take the utmost advantage of her position, but who that is in love does not do the same? I foresaw that Aniela, even if she returns my love, will not allow me in the future to repeat my avowal,--she will resist more than any other married woman; for what with her principles and her modesty, the slightest sign of yielding would appear to her an incredible crime. But how can she prevent me from telling her my love? There is only one way,--by getting from me a voluntary promise; I guessed she would speak to me about it, and I was right.

When I arrived at Ploszow she seemed pale, and a little worn, but looked at me with a resolute face. It was evident the dear child had laid by a whole store of arguments to convince me with, and believed that after displaying them there would be nothing for me but to remain silent forever. Angelic delusion; to think there is only one truth in the world. No! do not enter into any arguments with me, my Aniela, for if I believe in any truth, it is the truth and right of love; besides, I am too wily, and each argument will be turned inside out like a glove and made into a weapon against yourself. Neither argument nor reasoning, not even my pity will save you; for the whiter, the more perfect and angelic you prove yourself, the more I shall love you, and the more I love, the more desirable you will be to me. I have nothing but crocodile tears for you, which will only sharpen my rapacity. Such is the mazy circle of love. At the sight of Aniela I felt myself drawn into that circle. In the afternoon, that same day, when Pani Celina had fallen asleep on the veranda, Aniela motioned me to follow her into the park. From the earnest expression of her face, I guessed that the time had come for those arguments, and I followed her eagerly. As we went farther from the veranda, I noticed that Aniela's animation began to flag; she had grown paler and seemed frightened at her own temerity; but she could not draw back now, and began in an unsteady voice:--

"If you only knew how unhappy I have been these last days--"

"Do you think I have been much happier?" I replied.

"I know you have not, and because of that I have a request to make. You understand everything, and are so good and generous you will not refuse what I ask you."

"Tell me, what do you want me to do?"

"Leon, you must leave here, go abroad again, and do not come back until mamma and I are able to leave Ploszow."

I was sure she would ask me that. I remained silent for a while as if searching for an answer.

"You can do with me what you like," I said; "but tell me, why do you send me into exile?"

"I do not send you into exile; but you know why--"

"I know," I replied, with unfeigned sadness and resignation; "it is because I am ready to give the last drop of my blood for you, because I would shield you with my body from any danger, because I love you more than my life,--these are heavy sins indeed!"

"No," she interrupted, with feverish energy, "but because I am the wife of a man I love and respect,--and I will not listen to such words."

Impatience and anger seized me; I knew she did not speak the truth. All married women shield themselves with love and respect for the husband when they arrive at a turning-point of their life, though there may not be a shadow of that feeling in their hearts; nevertheless, Aniela's words sent a shock through my nerves, and I could scarcely repress the exclamation: "You say what is not true! you are perjuring yourself, for you neither love nor respect the man;" but the thought that her energy would not hold out long made me refrain, and I replied, almost humbly:--

"Do not be angry with me, Aniela; I will go."

I saw that my humility disarmed her, and that she felt sorry for me. Suddenly she pulled a leaf from a low-hanging branch, and began to tear it nervously to pieces. She made superhuman efforts not to burst into tears, but I saw her breast heaving with agitation.

I, too, was moved to the very depth of my soul, and continued with difficulty:--

"Do not wonder that I hesitate to comply with your wish, for it is very heavy upon me. I have told you that I do not wish for anything but to breathe the same air with you, to look at you, and God knows it is not too much I ask for; yet such as it is, it is my all. And you take it away from me. Think only; everybody else is allowed to come here, to speak to you, look at you--but me. Why am I shut out? Because you are dearer to me than to anybody else! What a refined cruelty of fate! Only put yourself in my place. It is difficult for you, who have never known what loneliness means; you love your husband, or think you do, which comes to the same; put yourself for a moment into my position, and you will understand that such a sentence is worse than death. You ought to feel at least a little pity. Driving me from here, you take everything from me. I told you I had come home to do some useful work, in which I might find peace, forgetfulness, and redeem my former sins; only recently I resolved to bring over my father's collections; and you want me to renounce all that, bid me go away and begin again a wandering, aimless, life. But have your wish; I will go if you tell me the same three days hence, for I fancy you did not quite understand what all this meant for me. Now you know, I only ask for three days' respite, nothing more."

Aniela covered her eyes with her hands and moaned: "Oh, my God! my God!"

There was something inexpressibly touching in the low cry, like the wail of a child at its own powerlessness. There was a moment I felt tempted to promise everything she asked. But in that wail I saw the promise of a future victory, and I would not lose its fruits.

"Listen to me," I said, "I will go at once, this very moment, and put seas between us, if you tell me that it is necessary for your own peace of mind. I speak to you now as a friend, a brother! I know from my aunt that you loved me; if that love be still alive I will go at your bidding."

Sincere pain on my part dictated these words; but it was a terrible trap for Aniela, which might wring a confession from her. If that had happened--I do not know--maybe I should have kept my word, but as the heavens are above us, I would have taken her into my arms. But she only shuddered as if I had touched an open wound; then her face flamed up in anger and indignation. "No!" she exclaimed with desperate passion, "it is not true! not true! You may do as you like, go away or stay, but it is not true!" The very passion with which these words were uttered showed me that it might be true. I felt inclined to tell her so with frank brutality, but I saw my aunt coming towards us. Aniela was not able to conceal her emotion, and my aunt looking at her asked at once:--

"What is troubling you, child? what have you two been talking about?"

"Aniela was telling me how grieved her mother was about the sale of Gluchow--and I do not wonder she took it so much to heart."

Whether Aniela's strength was exhausted, or the untruth I made her take a silent part in filled the cup of bitterness to overflowing, she burst into incontrollable sobs that shook her like a reed; my aunt folded her into her arms and hushed her as if she were a little child.

"Aniela, my darling, there is no help for it; let us submit to God's will. The hail has ruined five of my farms, and I did not even say a word about it to Chwastowski."

The mention of the five farms appeared to me so inappropriate, selfish, and futile in presence of Aniela's tears that it made me quite angry with my aunt.

"Never mind the farms," I said brusquely, "she is grieved about her mother;" and I went away in sorrow, for I felt I was torturing the woman I loved beyond anything. I had conquered along the whole line, yet I felt profoundly sad, as if the future were full of unknown terrors.

 

25 May.

To-day is the third day since our conversation, and as Aniela has not referred to it again, I remain. She does not say much to me, nor does she avoid me altogether, fearing to attract notice. I try to be good, friendly, and attentive, but do not thrust myself in her way. I want her to think I keep my feeling under control, but she cannot help seeing it is there, and increasing every moment. At any rate we have a little world to ourselves, where only we two dwell; we have our mutual secret from the others. When we speak about indifferent topics we both know that at the bottom of our hearts there is something we both think about but do not put into words. This forms a tie; time and patience will do the rest. From my love I weave a thousand threads around her, which will bind us more and more. This would be all in vain if she loved her husband; it would make her hate me. But the past speaks in my favor, and the present does not not belong to Kromitzki. I still think it over with the greatest impartiality, and I come to the same conclusion, that she cannot love him. Aniela's resistance is the inward struggle of an exceptionally pure soul, that does not allow a breath of faithlessness to come near it. But she is without help in that struggle. I know the resistance will be long, and difficult to overcome; I must always be on the watch, give a clear account to myself of every trifle, and weave around her strong and invisible threads. Even if I should commit any mistakes they will be only, the result of my love, and as such will be rather a help than a hindrance.

 

26 May.

I told Sniatynski about my intention to have my Roman collections conveyed to Warsaw,--calculating that it would reach the press, which could not fail to laud me up to the sky as a public benefactor. Aniela involuntarily must compare me to Kromitzki, which will count in my favor. I sent also a telegram to Rome, asking for the Sassoferrato.

During breakfast I told Aniela, in presence of the others, that my father had left the picture to her in his will; which confused her, and she guessed at once that he had looked upon her as his future daughter. It is true there was no name mentioned in the will, and for that very reason I want Aniela to have it. The mention of this bequest reawoke in us both a host of memories. I had done this on purpose to turn Aniela's thoughts to the past, when she loved me and could love me in peace. I know the remembrance must be mingled with some bitter thoughts, even some resentment; it cannot be otherwise; but it would be worse without the message I sent her through Sniatynski. This message is the only extenuating circumstance in the whole guilty affair. Aniela knows that I wanted to undo the wrong, that I loved her then, suffered, and repented,--am repenting still, and that if we are unhappy she too helped to bring that unhappiness on both. She is bound to absolve me in her heart, regret the past and dream what the future might have been but for my misdeeds and her severity. Even then I was reading in her face that she felt frightened at her own thoughts and visions, and tried to drive them away by a conversation upon indifferent subjects. My aunt is so full of the approaching races and the expected victory of Naughty Boy, who is put down for the government stakes, that she cannot think of anything else. Aniela thereupon began to talk about the races, and made some random remarks and asked a few questions, until my aunt got scandalized and said:--

"My dear child, I see you have not the slightest notion about races."

I said to her with my eyes: "I know you want to stifle your feelings;" and she understood me as if I had said it in so many words. And indeed, I am quite certain that she is as much absorbed in our mutual relation as I am. The thought of love independent of matrimony is already planted in her soul; it is there, and does not leave her for a moment. She must live with it, and get reconciled to it. In such a case a woman, even if she had loved her husband, would turn from him. A drop of water will hollow out a stone. If Aniela loves me ever so little, if she only loves the past, she will be mine. I cannot think of it calmly, because the foretaste of happiness is almost choking me.

There are here and there quicksands on the seashore, and the unwary traveller who wanders there is lost. At times it seems to me that my love is like one of those quicksands, and that I am dragging Aniela into it; I myself am sinking, sinking--Let it be so--but together!

 

28 May.

My aunt is spending six to eight hours out of the twenty-four at Burzany, one of her farms, a mile from Ploszow, where she passes her time in contemplation of Naughty Boy, and in looking after Webb, the English trainer. I was there above an hour yesterday. Naughty Boy is a fine animal,--let us hope he will not be naughty when the great day arrives. But what does it matter to me? Various business is taking me to town, but I am loath to leave Ploszow. Pani Celina has been worse the last few days, but young Chwast, as my aunt calls him, says it is merely a passing symptom; he considers it necessary that somebody should always be with the sick lady, to distract her from the thoughts which dwell upon the loss of the dear ancestral home, and consequently weaken her nerves. I try to show her almost a son's attention, because in this way I earn Aniela's gratitude, and she gets used to consider me as belonging to them. I have now not the slightest ill-feeling towards the old lady,--she is too unhappy herself; and besides, I begin to love everything and everybody that belongs to Aniela,--with one exception.

Yesterday I spent several hours with the invalid, together with Aniela and Chwast. We were reading and talking. Pani Celina does not sleep at night, and as the doctor does not approve of sleeping-draughts, she dozes off in the daytime after any lengthy conversation, and strange to say, only a sudden silence wakes her up. For this reason we keep up the conversation or the reading. It was the same to-day. But for the doctor's presence I could speak to Aniela with the greatest freedom.

Just at this time the daily papers are fully occupied with the divorce of the beautiful Pani Korytzka. Everybody talks about it, and my aunt, who is related to the husband, is greatly shocked. I resolved to make the most of my opportunity, and plant ideas in Aniela's mind that had not been there before.

"You are quite wrong, dear aunt, to blame Pani Korytzka. To me it seems that she acts as a true and honest woman should. Where love begins, human will ends,--even you must acknowledge that. If Pani Korytzka loves somebody else, nothing remains for her but to leave her husband. I know what you are going to say, and also what Aniela thinks,--that duty still remains; is it not so?"

"I think you too must be of the same opinion," replied Aniela.

"Most certainly. The question is which way lies Pani Korytzka's duty."

I do not know why, but the young doctor stipulated that he did not recognize any free will, but afterwards listened attentively, evidently pleased with the boldness of my views.

But seeing astonishment on Aniela's face, I went on quickly:--

"What can there be more barbarous or unnatural than to ask a woman to sacrifice the man she loves to the man she does not love? Religious beliefs may be in contradiction with one another, but they all agree upon the same ethics, that marriage is based upon love. What then is matrimony? It is either something inviolable and essentially holy when resting upon such a basis, or if otherwise, only a contract in contradiction to religion and morality, and as such ought to be dissolved. Otherwise speaking, a woman's duties spring from her feelings, and not from a number of more or less solemn ceremonies, which in themselves are only so many forms. I say this because I am a man who puts truth above mere forms. I know the word 'faithlessness' sounds very terrible. But do not delude yourselves with the notion that a woman is faithless at the moment she leaves her husband. She is faithless the very moment she feels that her love for him is gone. What follows after is only a question of her capacity to bring things to a logical conclusion, of her courage and her heart that knows, or does not know, the meaning of love. Pani Korytzka loved the man for whom she divorces her husband before she was married; the marriage was contracted in a moment of misunderstanding, she mistaking an exhibition of jealousy for indifference. This was her only mistake; which she wants to correct now that she understands that it was not right to sacrifice the man she loved to the man she looked upon with indifference; nobody but those who will not see can call her bad or a hypocrite."

There was as much fiction as truth in what I was saying. I knew my aunt would never agree to the theory that the will ends when love steps in; but I said it to impress Aniela with the idea that there was no doubt about it. That first lover was also an invention of my own, to make the story more to the point. But I was perfectly sincere when speaking about the rights and duties springing from feeling. It is quite another thing that I might not stand up for this theory if it did not suit me just then; but man is always subjective, especially the man who has doubted all objective truths.

I stood up for myself, and should have been foolish to speak against my own interest. I counted that this kind of reasoning would hasten the evolution of her soul, encourage her, and finally justify her in her own eyes. Considering her great sensitiveness, I thought some of it would take root. She understood me perfectly, and I could see that every word thrilled her nerves; her color came and went; she put her hands to her burning face to cool it. At last, when I had ceased speaking, she replied:--

"Everything may be proved in some way or other; but when we do wrong our conscience tells us, 'It is wrong, wrong!' and nothing can convince it to the contrary."

Young Chwastowski must have thought Aniela wanting in philosophical development, and as to myself I had a sensation like that, for instance, when a weapon comes into contact with a stone wall. Aniela's reply, in its simplicity and dogmatism, brought to naught all my arguments. For if the principle that the will ends where love steps in might be open to doubt, there is no doubt whatever that where dogma begins reasoning ceases. Women generally, and Polish women especially, agree with logic as long as it does not bring them into danger. At the approach of danger they shelter themselves behind the fortifications of simple faith and catechismal truth, which strong feeling might force to surrender, but reasoning, never. It is their weakness, and at the same time their strength. In consequence of this their power of reasoning is weaker than man's, but their saintliness in certain conditions becomes unassailable. The devil can lead a woman astray only when he inspires her with love; by way of reasoning he can do nothing, even if for once he has the right on his side.

In presence of these reflections I feel disheartened. I am thinking that any structure, however cleverly and artfully raised by me, will be pulled down by the simple words: "It is wrong; conscience does not permit it."

In presence of that I am powerless. I must be very careful so as not to estrange or frighten her by the boldness of ideas I try to acclimatize in her mind. And yet I cannot give up all endeavors of this kind. Though they do not occupy the first place in the plan of subduing her, they may hasten the solution. They would be of no use whatever if it were true that she did not love me. If I had made a mistake,--but even then there would be some kind of solution.

 

29 May.

To-day I found Aniela standing on a chair before the old Dantzic clock which had gone wrong. At the moment she raised herself on tip-toe to reach the hands, the chair gave way. I had only time to cry out, "Take care! you are falling!" I caught her in my arms, and put her on the floor. For the twinkling of an eye I held the dear girl in my arms, her hair touched my face, her breath fanned my cheek. I felt so dizzy that I had to steady myself by grasping the back of a chair,--and she saw it. She knows I love her madly. I cannot write any more.

 

30 May.

My whole day was poisoned, for Aniela has received another letter from Kromitzki. I heard her telling my aunt that he does not know himself when he will be able to return,--may be shortly, or it may be two months hence. I cannot even imagine how I shall be able to bear his presence near Aniela. At times it seems that I simply could not bear it. I count upon some lucky chance that will prevent his coming back. Chwastowski says Pani Celina ought to go to Gastein as soon as she can bear the journey. Gastein is such a distance from Baku that it may be too far for Kromitzki to go. I shall go there as sure as there is a heaven above us. It is a happy thought of Chwastowski's; the baths will do us all much good. I too feel fagged and in want of bracing mountain air, and still more in want of being near Aniela. To-morrow I shall go to Warsaw, and send a telegram to the manager of the bathing establishment to secure rooms for the ladies. If no rooms are to be had, I am ready to buy a villa. When Pani Celina spoke of the trouble and difficulties it would give Aniela were she to go there, I only said: "Leave it all to me;" and then, in a lower voice, to Aniela: "I will take care of her as if she were my own mother." I saw that Pani Celina, who believes less and less in Kromitzki's millions, was afraid I might arrange things on too expensive a scale; but I have already settled it in my mind to show her a fictitious agreement, and take the greater part of the expenses upon myself. Of course, I never mentioned that I intended going there myself. I will arrange it so that the proposal shall come from my aunt. I am quite sure that, as soon as I unfold my plans of going somewhere in the hills to recruit my health, the good soul will fall into the trap, and say: "Why not go with them? it will be more comfortable for all of you." I know it will frighten Aniela, and in the most secret recess of her heart please her a little. Maybe it will remind her of the poet's line, "You are everywhere: above me, around me, and within me." Then truly, my love will surround her as with an enchanted circle, enter her heart in the guise of thoughtfulness towards the mother,--in the guise of little services she cannot refuse without exciting her mother's suspicions; all this will gradually sink into her heart, in the guise of gratitude and pity for my sufferings, will thrust itself upon her with all the force of old memories.

She hears my praises sung by everybody: by my aunt, who loves me blindly as she always did; by young Chwastowski, who, to show the impartiality people of his opinions are capable of, maintains I am an exception in the "rotten sphere." I have even won over Pani Celina by my attentions; she likes me now, and involuntarily, I dare say, regrets that I am not Aniela's husband. All around Aniela there is one great suggestion of love.

And you, dearest, are you going to resist all these powers? When will you come and tell me: "I cannot hold out any longer; take me,--I love you"?

 

Warsaw, 31 May.

Pani L., the patroness of a charitable institution, asked Clara to give another concert for the benefit of the destitute. Clara refused on the plea that she is busy upon a great musical work that engages all her attention. The letter,--a very pattern of polite refusal,--was accompanied by exactly the same sum of money the first concert had brought in. It is easy to imagine what a sensation this act of generosity made in Warsaw. The papers were full of it, raising the musician and her generosity to the sky. Naturally, her private means, which are considerable, gained in dimensions. I do not know how society came to couple our names; perhaps, our acquaintance, dating from a long time, our intimacy, and the exaggerated news of her wealth gave rise to the rumor. I was at first a little angry on hearing this; but upon maturer reflection, resolved not to give any direct denial, because this puts my attentions towards Aniela beyond all suspicion.

When I went to Clara's morning reception, Pani Korytzka came up to me, and, with that witty, aggressive air of hers, asked me in presence of some dozen people from the musical world and Warsaw society, in an audible voice,--

"Tell me, cousin, who was that mythological person that could not resist the Siren?"

"Nobody resisted, _ma cousine_, except Ulysses; and he only because he was tied to the mast."

"And why have you not taken these precautions?"

I saw some covert smiles lurking in the faces of those who witnessed the attack, and I retorted,--

"Sometimes even that is of no use. You know that love sunders the strongest ties."

In spite of all her self-possession, Pani Korytzka grew confused, and I gained one of those tiny victories which are comprised in the proverb, "The scythe hit upon a stone," or in plain English, "The biter bit."

Whether people repeat to each other that I am going to marry Clara or not, does not trouble me in the least; in fact, for the above stated reason I do not mind it at all; but I did not expect that this visit would turn out so unpleasant, and Clara herself be the cause of it. When all the people had left, and only Sniatynski and I remained, she sat down to the piano, and played her new concerto,--played it so magnificently that we could not find words to express our admiration; repeating at our request the finale, she said, suddenly,--

"This is my farewell, because everything comes to a finale."

"Surely you are not thinking of leaving us?" asked Sniatynski.

"Yes, in ten days at the furthest I must be at Frankfurt," replied Clara.

Thereupon Sniatynski turned to me,--

"And what do you say to that,--you who at Ploszow gave us to understand, made us hope, Miss Hilst would remain with us always?"

"Yes; and I say the same now: her memory will always remain with us."

"Yes; I understood it so," replied Clara, with naive resignation.

Inwardly I was furious,--with myself, Sniatynski, and Clara. I am neither so vain, foolish, nor mean that every conquest of that kind should rejoice me; therefore felt annoyed at the thought that Clara might love me, and nourish some baseless hopes. I knew she had some kind of undefined feeling, which, given time and occasion, might develop into something more lasting; but I had no idea this vague feeling dared to wish or expect something. It suddenly struck me that the announcement of her departure was prompted by a desire to find out how I would receive the news. I received it very coolly. A love like mine for Aniela ought to teach compassion; yet Clara's sadness and the mention of her departure, not only did not move me, but seemed to me an audacious flight of fancy and an insult to me.

Why? Not from any aristocratic notions; that is certain. I could not account at once for the strange phenomenon; but now explain it thus,--the feeling of belonging to Aniela is so strong and exclusive that it seems to me that any other woman wanting but one pulsation of my heart endeavors to steal something that is Aniela's property. This explanation is sufficient for me. No doubt, by and by I shall bid Clara good-by, and feel as friendly as ever towards her; but the sudden announcement of her departure gave me a distaste for her. It is only Aniela who may with impunity trample on my nerves. Never did I look at Clara so critically and resentfully; for the first time I became fully aware of the amplitude of her figure, the bright complexion, the dark hair, and blue, somewhat protruding eyes, the lips like ripe cherries,--in brief, her whole beauty reminded me of the cheap chromo-lithographs of harem beauties in second-class hotels. I left her in the worst of humors, and went straight to a book-shop to select some books for Aniela.

For a week I had been thinking what to choose for her reading. I did not wish to neglect anything, though I did not attach undue weight to this, as it acts very slowly. Besides, I have noticed that to our women, though their imagination is more developed than their temperament, a book is always something unreal. If it falls even into the hands of an exceptionally susceptible person, it creates in her at the most an abstract world, that has no connection with real life whatever. To almost none of them it occurs that ideas taken from books can be applied to any practical purpose. I am convinced that if a great writer tried to prove, for instance, that purity of thought and mind were not only superfluous in a woman, but even blameworthy from a moral point of view,--Aniela would opine that the principle might apply to the whole world with the exception of herself. The utmost I can hope for is that the reading of appropriate books will render her familiar with a certain kind of broad views and thoughts. That is all I wish for. Loving her from my whole soul, I want her to respond to that love, and do not neglect any means towards that end. I, who never deceive myself, confess openly that I want Aniela to sacrifice for me her husband, but I do not want to corrupt her or to soil her purity. Let nobody tell me that this is a sophism, and that the one includes the other. The tormenting devil that is always within me raising difficulties says: "You create new theories; the way of faithlessness _is the way of corruption." How these conflicting thoughts tear me to pieces! I reply to the familiar spirit: "I might doubt opposite theories quite as much; I contrive what I can in defence of my love,--it is my natural law." And there is a greater law still, the law of love. Some feelings are mean and commonplace, others lofty and full of nobility. A woman that follows the call of lofty feeling does not lose the nobility of her soul. Such a great, exceptional love I try to awake in Aniela, and therefore I may say conscientiously that I do not want to corrupt her.

Besides, these inward arguments do not lead to anything. Even if I had not the slightest doubt that I am doing wrong, if I were unable to give any conclusive answer to the tormenting spirit, I would not cease loving; and always following where a greater power leads me, I should go according to my feeling, and not according to abstract reasoning.

But the true misfortune of those analytic and hyper-analytic modern people is that, though not believing in the result of their analysis, they have the invincible habit of inquiring into everything that goes on within themselves. It is the same with me. For some time I have been questioning myself how it is possible that a man absorbed by a great feeling should be able to be so watchful, so calculating about ways and means, and to account for everything as if somebody else did it for him. I could reply to it in this way: The man of the period reserves above everything part of himself to observe the other part. Besides, the whole activity of a mind full of forethought, of reflections apparently cool, stands eventually in proportion to the temperature of the feeling. The hotter this grows, the more cool reason is forced into service. I repeat, it is a mistake to represent love with bandaged eyes. Love does not suppress reason, as it does not suppress the breathing, or the beating of the heart,--it only subjugates it. Reason thereupon becomes the first adviser, the implement of war,--in other words, it plays the part of an Agrippa to a Caesar Augustus. It is holding all the forces in readiness, leads them into war, gains victories, and places the monarch on the triumphal car; it erects finally,--not a Pantheon, like the historical Agrippa,--but a Monotheon, where it serves its only divinity. In the microcosm called man, the part reason plays is a still greater one than that of chief commander,--for it reflects into infinite parts the consciousness of everything and of self,--as a collection of properly arranged mirrors reflect a given object infinitely.

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