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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWithout Dogma - 5 September to 23 September
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Without Dogma - 5 September to 23 September Post by :bigjim_l0pht Category :Long Stories Author :Henryk Sienkiewicz Date :May 2012 Read :2723

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Without Dogma - 5 September to 23 September

Berlin, 5 September.

I am at Berlin, because escaping from Vienna I had to go somewhere. I could not go to Ploszow, because she will be there. I was so convinced that no human power could tear me from her that the very idea of separation seemed to me a wild impossibility. But no! It is always the unexpected that happens, for I have gone away, and everything is at an end. I am at Berlin. I feel as if I had an engine in my head, the wheels of which keep whirring incessantly. This hurts me; but I am not mad. I know everything and remember everything. My physician was right; it is only weak heads that come to grief. Besides, it could not happen to me, because insanity sometimes means happiness.

 

6 September.

Yet at times I fancy that my brain is bursting bounds. What is there more natural than that a married woman should have children? But to me that natural order seems so monstrous that it well-nigh maddens me. Yet a thing cannot be at the same time in the order of nature and a monstrosity. No brain can withstand that. What does it mean? I understand that those whom fate means to crush are crushed by some great, overwhelming calamity. With me it is different. I am rent asunder by an ordinary, natural event,--and the more natural, the more terrible it is. One contradicts the other. She is not responsible,--I understand that because I am not mad. She is still virtuous, and yet I could have sooner forgiven her any other crime. And I cannot, God knows I cannot forgive you, because I loved you so much. And believe me, there is not another woman in the whole world I scorn so much as I scorn you. For, after all, it comes to this: you had two lovers, one for Platonic love and the other for matrimonial love. There is in me a wild desire to laugh, and at the same time to dash my head against the wall. I had not foreseen that a way could be found to tear me from you; and yet there is one, and it has proved effective.

 

8 September

When I come to think that all is at an end between us, and that I have left her forever, I can scarcely believe it. There is no Aniela for me any more. Then what is there? Nothing. Then why do I live? I do not know. It is not out of curiosity to know whether a son or a daughter will be born to Pan Kromitzki. I always think of it as the most natural thing in the world, and my head seems nigh to bursting. It is very strange! I ought to have been prepared for that, and yet the thought never entered my head. I should have sooner expected a stroke of lightning to fell me down. Yet Kromitzki was with her at Ploszow; they were together in Vienna, and afterward in Gastein.

And I put it all down to her nerves, to her deep feelings! What egregious foolishness! Since I could bear to see the two together, I ought to be able to put up with the consequences. Alas, it is not my reason that revolts, it is my nerves that quiver under these consequences. There are people in whom these two forces dwell in harmony; within me they worry each other like dogs. That is another of my misfortunes. How is it I never thought of it? It ought to have struck me that if there were any terrible coincidence, any blow more painful than another, it would be reserved for me.

Sometimes it seems to me as if I were hunted by a Providence that, not satisfied by the logic of facts that contain in themselves a Nemesis, took a special delight in fastening personally upon me. There are many others who love their neighbors' wives, and they do not suffer, because they love less honestly, more thoughtlessly. Is there any justice in that? No, it is not that. There is no self-conscious thought in the ordering of these things; they happen by chance and by virtue of necessity.

 

10 September.

The thought still pursues me that as a rule human tragedy is the outcome of exceptional events and calamities, and mine comes from a natural event. Really I do not know which is worst. The natural order of things seems to me past bearing.

 

11 September.

I have heard that a man struck by lightning stiffens, but does not fall down at once. I too keep up, sustained by that thunderbolt that struck me, but I feel myself falling. As soon as it grows dark in the evening something strange takes place within me. I feel so oppressed that it costs me an effort even to sigh; it seems as if the air could not get to my lungs, and that I breathe with only a part of them. During the night, and also in the day, a sudden nameless terror seizes me,--terror of nothing in particular. I feel as if something horrible was going to happen, something worse than death. Yesterday I put the question to myself: "What would become of me if, in this foreign town, I suddenly forgot my name and where I lived, and wandered on and on in darkness without knowing where I was going?"

These are sick fancies. Besides, in such a case that would happen to my body which has already happened to my soul; for in a moral sense I do not know where I dwell,--I walk in darkness, aimlessly, in a kind of madness. I am afraid of everything, except of death. Strictly speaking, I have a strange sensation as if it were not that I am afraid, but as if fear dwelt in me, as a separate being,--and I tremble; I cannot bear darkness now. In the evening I go out and walk in the streets, lighted by electric lamps, until I am thoroughly tired. If I met anybody I knew, I should escape, if to the other end of the world; but crowds have become a necessity to me. When the streets are getting empty I feel terrified. The thought of night fills me with nameless fear. And how long they seem, these nights!

I have continually a metallic taste in my mouth. I felt it for the first time that night when I came home and found Kromitzki waiting for me; the second time I felt it when Pani Celina told me the "great news." What a day! I had gone to ask how Aniela was, when the doctor had seen her for the second time. There was not the slightest suspicion in my mind; I did not understand anything even when Pani Celina said: "The doctor says that those are purely nervous symptoms, and have nothing to do with her state."

Seeing that I did not understand, she said, with a certain uneasiness:--

"I must tell you the great news."

And she told me the "great news." When I heard it I felt the metallic taste in my mouth, and a cold sensation in my brain, exactly as I had felt that evening I met Kromitzki unexpectedly. I went into my room. I remember among other things that I felt an immense desire to laugh. That ideal being, for whom even Platonic love seemed to be impermissible, and who instead of "love" used the word "friendship!" I felt a desire to laugh, and at the same time to dash my head against the wall.

I preserved nevertheless a mechanical self-possession. It came from the consciousness that everything was over and done with; that I must go--that there was nothing for it but to go. That consciousness transformed me into an automaton, doing by routine everything that was necessary for my departure. I was even conscious of keeping up appearances. Why? I do not know, as this did not matter now to me any longer. Most likely it was an instinctive action of the brain, which for months had been trained in concealing the truth and keeping up appearances. I told Pani Celina that I had seen a doctor, and that he said there was something amiss with my heart, and ordered me to go to Berlin without delay,--and she believed it.

Not so Aniela. I saw her eyes dilated with terror, and in her face the expression of a degraded martyr; and there were two persons within me: one who said, "Is it her fault?" and another who despised her. Oh, why did I love her so much?

 

12 September.

It is almost two weeks since I left. They must be at Ploszow by this time. I wrote to-day a letter to my aunt, because I was afraid she might be uneasy about me and come here to look after me. I am sometimes astonished to find there is still somebody that cares what becomes of me.

 

13 September.

There are men who lead astray other men's wives, deceive them, and afterwards throw them aside and quietly resume their every-day life. I have never done any such thing, and if Aniela had been my victim I should have wiped the dust from off her path; no human power could have torn me from her. There are greater crimes than mine, but upon me has fallen such a burden that it gives me the impression of an exceptional punishment; and I cannot help thinking that my love must have been a terrible crime.

This is a kind of instinctive fear, against which scepticism is no safeguard. And yet by all moral laws it must be admitted that it would be a greater offence to lead a woman to ruin without love, and do from calculation what I did from a deep love. Surely the responsibility cannot be greater for an immense, overpowering feeling than for a mean little weakness.

No! therefore my love is, above all, an awful calamity. A man free from prejudices can imagine how he would feel if he were swayed by prejudice; so, too, a man who doubts may imagine how he could pray if he had the faith. I not only have the feeling, but it breaks forth into a complaint, almost like a sincere prayer, and I say: "If I am guilty, O God! I have been punished severely, and a little mercy might be shown to me." But I cannot even imagine in what shape that mercy could come to me now! It is impossible!

 

14 September.

They must have gone back to Ploszow by this time. I still think of Aniela very often, for we cannot wipe out the past; especially when we have nothing to look for in the future; and I have nothing, nothing at all. If I had faith I might become a priest; if I were a man who denies the existence of God I might become a convert. But within me the organs with which we believe are withered, as sometimes a limb withers. I do not know anything except that in my sorrows I do not find comfort in religion.

When Aniela married Kromitzki, I thought everything between us was over. I was mistaken. It is only now I have the full conviction that everything is over; for now we are divided not only by our will and my departure, but by something that is beyond us, by forces of nature independent of us. We are like two parallel lines that can never meet, though we wish for it ever so much. On Aniela's line there will be suffering, but there will be also new worlds, a new life; on mine there is nothing but solitude. She doubtless understands that as well as I. I wonder whether sometimes she says to herself: "It is I who, without intending it, have ruined that man." It does not matter much to me, and yet I should like to know that she is sorry for me. Maybe she will feel a little sorry until her child is born. After that all her feelings will flow into one channel, and, for her, I shall not exist any longer. That also is a law of nature,--an excellent law.

 

16 September.

I saw to-day on an advertisement in big letters the name of Clara Hilst. I now remembered that she had told me in her last letter that she was going to Berlin. She is here, and she is going to give several concerts. At the time, the news neither pleased nor displeased me. Now, in proportion as my nervous restlessness increases, the sensation grows more distinct, and takes a twofold shape: the thought that she is near acts soothingly on me, but the thought is sufficient, and I would rather not see her; and when I say to myself that I ought to call on her it gives me an unpleasant sensation. Clara has that inquisitive solicitude that wants to know everything and asks questions. She has a strong leaning towards romantic situations, and the firm belief that friendship is a remedy for all evils. For me to make confidences is simply impossible. I often, lack the strength even to think of what has happened.

 

17 September.

Why do I wake up in the morning? Why do I exist? And what do I care for acquaintances or people in general? I did not go to see Clara, because she can have nothing to say to me that could possibly interest me, and it wearies me beforehand. The whole world is as entirely indifferent to me as I am to the world.

 

18 September.

I did well to write to my aunt. If I had not done so she would have come here. She writes thus:--

"Your letter came to hand the same day that Celina and Aniela arrived. How are you now, my dearest boy? You say that you are all right, but is that really and truly so? What did the doctors in Berlin say, and how long do you think of remaining there? Send me a telegram whether you are still there, and I will come to you at once. Celina says you went away so suddenly that she and Aniela were terribly frightened. If you had not mentioned that the doctor most likely will advise a sea voyage, I should have started off at once after receiving your letter. It is only some fifteen hours by rail, and I feel stronger than ever. The congestions I used to have have not returned. I am very anxious about you, and do not like the idea of the sea at all. You are used to that sort of thing, but I shudder at the thought of ships and storms. Celina is quite well, and Aniela fairly so. I hear that you have been told the news. Before leaving Vienna they consulted a specialist, and he said there was no doubt whatever about Aniela's state. Celina is overjoyed, and I too am glad. Perhaps this will induce Kromitzki to give up his speculations and settle at home. Aniela will now be altogether happy, having an aim in life. She looked rather tired and as if oppressed when she came back, but that may be only the consequence of the journey.

"Sniatynski's child has been very bad with croup, but is better now."

Reading my aunt's letter gave me the impression that there is no room for me among them, especially near Aniela. Even my memory will soon become unpleasant to her.

 

19 September.

I cannot imagine myself as living a year or two hence. What shall I do? Such utter aimlessness ought to debar one from life. Properly speaking, there is no room for me anywhere.

I did not go to see Clara, but met her in the Friedrichsstrasse. Seeing me she grew pale from joy and emotion, and greeted me with such effusion that it pleased and pained me at the same time. I was conscious that my cordiality towards her was a mere outward form, and that I did not derive any pleasure from the meeting. When she had recovered from the surprise at meeting me thus unexpectedly, she scrutinized my face anxiously. Truly I must have presented a strange sight; and my hair has become much grayer too. She began to inquire after my health, and in spite of my friendship for her, I felt that to see her often would be more than I could stand. I resolved to put myself on guard against this; I told her that I did not feel very well, and was shortly going away to a warmer climate. She tried to persuade me to come and see her; than asked after my aunt, Pani Celina, and Aniela. I put her off with general remarks. I thought to myself that she perhaps is the only being who would have understood me, and yet I felt that I could not open my heart to her.

Nevertheless I am still susceptible to human kindness. At moments, when those honest blue eyes of Clara's looked into mine with such kindliness and such keen scrutiny, as if they wanted to look into my very soul, her goodness humiliated me so that I felt a desire to weep. Clara, in spite of my effort to seem as usual, noticed that I was changed, and with quick feminine intuition she guessed that I speak, live, almost think mechanically, and that my soul is half dead within me. She left off all searchings and inquiries, but became very tender. I saw that she was afraid of wearying me. She also tried to make me understand that in the tenderness she was showing there was no concealed intention of winning my regard, but only the desire to comfort me. And it did comfort me, but I could not help feeling very tired. My mind is not capable of any concentration, any effort to maintain a conversation, even with a friend. And besides, since the one aim of my life has vanished from my eyes, everything appears to me so empty that I have continually the question in my mind: "What is the use of it? what can it matter now?"

 

21 September.

Never in my life have I passed a more terrible night. I had a sensation of terror, as if I descended by endless steps into deeper and deeper darkness, full of horrible, indefined, moving shapes. I made up my mind to leave Berlin; I cannot breathe under that heavy, leaden sky. I will go back to Rome, to my house on the Babuino, and settle there for good. I think my accounts with Aniela and the world in general may be considered as closed, and henceforth I will quietly vegetate at Rome until my time comes. Anything for tranquillity! Yesterday's visit to Clara convinced me that even if I wished it, I cannot live with others, since I have nothing wherewith to repay their kindness. I am excluded from general life and stand outside, and though I am conscious of the indescribable solitude, I have no wish to go back. The idea of Rome and my hermitage on the Babuino smiles upon me; it is a pale, sorrowful smile, but I prefer it to anything else. There I spread my wings to fly out into the world, and thither I go back with broken wings,--to wait for the end.

I am writing mostly in the morning, for at night I always descend to those dark regions wherein fear dwells. To-day I shall go to the concert and say good-by to Clara. To-morrow I depart. On the way I may stop at Vienna, perhaps see Angeli, but am not certain. I am never certain how I shall feel, or what I shall do the next day.

I received to-day a note from Clara, in which she asks me to come and see her after the concert. I shall go to the concert because there are so many healthy-minded people there that I feel safer in their midst; and they do not tire me, as they are personally unknown to me; I see only the crowd. But I shall not go to Clara. She is too kind. It is said of persons dying from starvation that for some time before their death they cannot bear the sight of food. In the same way my spiritual organism cannot stand sympathy and kindness. It cannot bear memories either. It is a very small thing, but I know now why that visit to Clara was such a trial to my nerves. She uses the same scent I brought from Vienna for Aniela. I have noticed the same thing before, that nothing recalls to the mind a certain person so distinctly as when one inhales the perfume she is in the habit of using.

 

22 September.

I have broken down at last. I caught a chill yesterday coming from the concert-room, where the air was very close. I did not put on my overcoat, and when I arrived at the hotel I was chilled to the bone. Every breath I draw gives me a sensation as if my lungs in expanding came in contact with two rows of needles hidden under the shoulder-blade. I feel alternately very hot and very cold. I am continually thirsty. At times I feel so weak that I could not go downstairs. There is no question now about going away; I could not get into the carriage without help. While writing I hear my own breath coming three times as quick and loud as usual. I am quite certain that but for my nerves the sudden chill would not have done me any harm, but in my present state of nervous prostration I have lost all power of resistance. It is undoubtedly inflammation of the lungs.

I shall keep up as long as I can. In the morning as soon as I felt ill, I wrote to my aunt, telling her I was all right, and would leave Berlin in a few days. In a few days, if I am still conscious, I shall write the same. I asked her to send all letters and telegrams to my banker here. I shall take care that nobody at Ploszow knows about my illness. How very fortunate I said good-by to Clara yesterday.

 

23 September.

I am worse than yesterday. I am feverish and at times conscious that my thoughts wander, but I have not lain down. When I shut my eyes the border line between the real and the outcome of my sick brain seems to vanish altogether. But I have still control over my senses. I am only afraid the fever will overpower me and I shall lose consciousness altogether.

The thought comes now and then into my mind that I, a man more richly endowed by fate than so many others, who could have a home, a family, be surrounded by loving hearts, sits here lonely and in sickness, in a strange place, with nobody near him to give him a glass of water. Aniela would be near me too--I cannot go on.

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