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 He went home. He shut himself up in his room and never stirred for several days. He only went out even into the town, when he was compelled. He was fearful of ever going out beyond the gates and venturing forth1 into the fields: he was afraid of once more falling in with the soft, maddening breath that had blown upon him like a rushing wind during a calm in a storm. He thought that the walls of the town might preserve him from it. He never dreamed that for the enemy to slip within there needed be only the smallest crack in the closed shutters2, no more than is needed for a peep out.  
In a wing of the house, on the other side of the yard, there lodged3 on the ground floor a young woman of twenty, some months a widow, with a little girl. Frau Sabine Froehlich was also a tenant4 of old Euler's. She occupied the shop which opened on to the street, and she had as well two rooms looking on to the yard, together with a little patch of garden, marked off from the Eulers' by a wire fence up which ivy5 climbed. They did not often see her: the child used to play down in the garden from morning to night making mud pies: and the garden was left to itself, to the great distress6 of old Justus, who loved tidy paths and neatness in the beds. He had tried to bring the matter to the attention of his tenant: but that was probably why she did not appear: and the garden was not improved by it.
Frau Froehlich kept a little draper's shop which might have had customers enough, thanks to its position in a street of shops in the center of the town: but she did not bother about it any more than about her garden. Instead of doing her housework herself, as, according to Frau Vogel, every self-respecting woman ought to do—especially when she is in circumstances which do not permit much less excuse idleness—she had hired a little servant, a girl of fifteen, who came in for a few hours in the morning to clean the rooms and look after the shop, while the young woman lay in bed or dawdled8 over her toilet.
Christophe used to see her sometimes, through his windows, walking about her room, with bare feet, in her long nightgown, or sitting for hours together before her mirror: for she was so careless that she used to forget to draw her curtains: and when she saw him, she was so lazy that she could not take the trouble, to go and lower them. Christophe, more modest than she, would leave the window so as not to incommode her: but the temptation was great. He would blush a little and steal a glance at her bare arms, which were rather thin, as she drew them languidly around her flowing hair, and with her hands, clasped behind her head, lost herself in a dream, until they were numbed10, and then she would let them fall. Christophe would pretend that he only saw these pleasant sights inadvertently as he happened to pass the window, and that they did not disturb him in his musical thoughts; but he liked it, and in the end he wasted as much time in watching Frau Sabine, as she did over her toilet. Not that she was a coquette: she was rather careless, generally, and did not take anything like the meticulous12 care with her appearance that Amalia or Rosa did. If she dawdled in front of her dressing13 table it was from pure laziness; every time she put in a pin she had to rest from the effort of it, while she made little piteous faces at herself in the mirrors. She was never quite properly dressed at the end of the day.
Often her servant used to go before Sabine was ready: and a customer would ring the shop-bell. She would let him ring and call once or twice before she could make up her mind to get up from her chair. She would go down, smiling, and never hurrying,—never hurrying would look for the article required,—and if she could not find it after looking for some time, or even (as happened sometimes) if she had to take too much trouble to reach it, as for instance, taking the ladder from one end of the shop to the other,—she would say calmly that she did not have it in stock: and as she never bothered to put her stock in order, or to order more of the articles of which she had run out, her customers used to lose patience and go elsewhere. But she never minded. How could you be angry with such a pleasant creature who spoke14 so sweetly, and was never excited about anything! She did not mind what anybody said to her: and she made this so plain that those who began to complain never had the courage to go on: they used to go, answering her charming smile with a smile: but they never came back. She never bothered about it. She went on smiling.
She was like a little Florentine figure. Her well marked eyebrows15 were arched: her gray eyes were half open behind the curtain of her lashes16. The lower eyelid17 was a little swollen18, with a little crease19 below it. Her little, finely drawn20 nose turned up slightly at the end. Another little curve lay between it and her upper lip, which curled up above her half-open mouth, pouting21 in a weary smile. Her lower lip was a little thick: the lower part of her face was rounded, and had the serious expression of the little virgins22 of Filippo Lippi. Her complexion23 was a little muddy, her hair was light brown, always untidy, and done up in a slovenly24 chignon. She was slight of figure, small-boned. And her movements were lazy. Dressed carelessly—a gaping25 bodice, buttons missing, ugly, worn shoes, always looking a little slovenly—she charmed by her grace and youth, her gentleness, her instinctively26 coaxing27 ways. When she appeared to take the air at the door of her shop, the young men who passed used to look at her with pleasure: and although she did not bother about them, she noticed it none the less. Always then she wore that grateful and glad expression which is in the eyes of all women when they know that they have been seen with sympathetic eyes. It seemed to say:
"Thank you!… Again! Look at me again!" But though it gave her pleasure to please, her indifference28 would never let her make the smallest effort to please.
She was an object of scandal to the Euler-Vogels. Everything about her offended them: her indolence, the untidiness of her house, the carelessness of her dress, her polite indifference to their remarks, her perpetual smile, the impertinent serenity29 with which she had accepted her husband's death, her child's illnesses, her straitened circumstances, the great and annoyances30 of her daily life, while nothing could change one jot31 of her favorite habits, or her eternal longing32,—everything about her offended them: and the worst of all was that, as she was, she did give pleasure. Frau Vogel could not forgive her that. It was almost as though Sabine did it on purpose, on purpose, ironically, to set at naught34 by her conduct the great traditions, the true principles, the savorless duty, the pleasureless labor36, the restlessness, the noise, the quarrels, the mooning ways, the healthy pessimism37 which was the motive38 power of the Euler family, as it is that of all respectable persons, and made their life a foretaste of purgatory39. That a woman who did nothing but dawdle7 about all the blessed day should take upon herself to defy them with her calm insolence40, while they bore their suffering in silence like galley-slaves,—and that people should approve of her into the bargain—that was beyond the limit, that was enough to turn you against respectability!… Fortunately, thank God, there were still a few sensible people left in the world. Frau Vogel consoled herself with them. They exchanged remarks about the little widow, and spied on her through her shutters. Such gossip was the joy of the family when they met at supper. Christophe would listen absently. He was so used to hearing the Vogels set themselves up as censors41 of their neighbors that he never took any notice of it. Besides he knew nothing of Frau Sabine except her bare neck and arms, and though they were pleasing enough, they did not justify42 his coming to a definite opinion about her. However, he was conscious; of a kindly43 feeling towards her: and in a contradictory44 spirit he was especially grateful to her for displeasing45 Frau Vogel.
After dinner in the evening when it was very hot it was impossible to stay in the stifling46 yard, where the sun shone the whole afternoon. The only place in the house where it was possible to breathe was the rooms looking into the street, Euler and his son-in-law used sometimes to go and sit on the doorstep with Louisa. Frau Vogel and Rosa would only appear for a moment: they were kept by their housework: Frau Vogel took a pride in showing that she had no time for dawdling47: and she used to say, loudly enough to be overheard, that all the people sitting there and yawning on their doorsteps, without doing a stitch of work, got on her nerves. As she could not—(to her sorrow)—compel them to work, she would pretend not to see them, and would go in and work furiously. Rosa thought she must do likewise. Euler and Vogel would discover draughts48 everywhere, and fearful of catching49 cold, would go up to their rooms: they used to go to bed early, and would have thought themselves ruined had they changed the least of their habits. After nine o'clock only Louisa and Christophe would be left. Louisa spent the day in her room: and, In the evening, Christophe used to take pains to be with her, whenever he could, to make her take the air. If she were left alone she would never go out: the noise of the street frightened her. Children were always chasing each other with shrill50 cries. All the dogs of the neighborhood took it up and barked. The sound of a piano came up, a little farther off a clarinet, and in the next street a cornet à piston51. Voices chattered52. People came and went and stood in groups in front of their houses. Louisa would have lost her head if she had been left alone in all the uproar54. But when her son was with her it gave her pleasure. The noise would gradually die down. The children and the dogs would go to bed first. The groups of people would break up. The air would become more pure. Silence would descend55 upon the street. Louisa would tell in her thin voice the little scraps56 of news that she had heard from Amalia or Rosa. She was not greatly interested in them. But she never knew what to talk about to her son, and she felt the need of keeping in touch with him, of saying something to him. And Christophe, who felt her need, would pretend to be interested in everything she said: but he did not listen. He was off in vague dreams, turning over in his mind the doings of the day. One evening when they were sitting there—while his mother Was talking he saw the door of the draper's shop open. A woman came out silently and sat in the street. Her chair was only a few yards from Louisa. She was sitting in the darkest shadow. Christophe could not see her face: but he recognized her. His dreams vanished. The air seemed sweeter to him. Louisa had not noticed Sabine's presence, and went on with her chatter53 in a low voice. Christophe paid more attention to her, and, he felt impelled57 to throw out a remark here and there, to talk, perhaps to be heard. The slight figure sat there without stirring, a little limp, with her legs lightly crossed and her hands lying crossed in her lap. She was looking straight in front of her, and seemed to hear nothing. Louisa was overcome with drowsiness58. She went in. Christophe said he would stay a little longer.
It was nearly ten. The street was empty. The people were going indoors. The sound of the shops being shut was heard. The lighted windows winked59 and then were dark again. One or two were still lit: then they were blotted60 out. Silence…. They were alone, they did not look at each other, they held their breath, they seemed not to be aware of each other. From the distant fields came the smell of the new-mown hay, and from a balcony in a house near by the scent61 of a pot of cloves62. No wind stirred. Above their heads was the Milky63 Way. To their right red Jupiter. Above a chimney Charles' Wain bent64 its axles: in the pale green sky its stars flowered like daisies. From the bells of the parish church eleven o'clock rang out and was caught up by all the other churches, with their voices clear or muffled65, and, from the houses, by the dim chiming of the clock or husky cuckoos.
They awoke suddenly from their dreams, and got up at the same moment. And just as they were going indoors they both bowed without speaking. Christophe went up to his room. He lighted his candle, and sat down by his desk with his head in his hands, and stayed so for a long time without a thought. Then he sighed and went to bed.
Next day when he got up, mechanically he went to his window to look down into Sabine's room. But the curtains were drawn. They were drawn the whole morning. They were drawn ever after.
Next evening Christophe proposed to his mother that they should go again to sit by the door. He did so regularly. Louisa was glad of it: she did not like his shutting himself up in his room immediately after dinner with the window and shutters closed.—The little silent shadow never failed to come and sit in its usual place. They gave each other a quick nod, which Louisa never noticed. Christophe would talk to his mother. Sabine would smile at her little girl, playing in the street: about nine she would go and put her to bed and would then return noiselessly. If she stayed a little Christophe would begin to be afraid that she would not come back. He would listen for sounds in the house, the laughter of the little girl who would not go to sleep: he would hear the rustling66 of Sabine's dress before she appeared on the threshold of the shop. Then he would look away and talk to his mother more eagerly. Sometimes he would feel that Sabine was looking at him. In turn he would furtively67 look at her. But their eyes would never meet.
The child was a bond between them. She would run about in the street with other children. They would find amusement in teasing a good-tempered dog sleeping there with his nose in his paws: he would cock a red eye and at last would emit a growl68 of boredom69: then they would fly this way and that screaming in terror and happiness. The little girl would give piercing shrieks70, and look behind her as though she were being pursued; she would throw herself into Louisa's lap, and Louisa would smile fondly. She would keep the child and question her: and so she would enter into conversation with Sabine. Christophe never joined in. He never spoke to Sabine. Sabine never spoke to him. By tacit agreement they pretended to ignore each other. But he never lost a word of what they said as they talked over him. His silence seemed unfriendly to Louisa. Sabine never thought it so: but it would make her shy, and she would grow confused in her remarks. Then she would find some excuse for going in.
For a whole week Louisa kept indoors for a cold. Christophe and Sabine were left alone. The first time they were frightened by it. Sabine, to seem at her ease, took her little girl on her knees and loaded her with caresses71. Christophe was embarrassed and did not know whether he ought to go on ignoring what was happening at his side. It became difficult: although they had not spoken a single word to each other, they did know each other, thanks to Louisa. He tried to begin several times: but the words stuck in his throat. Once more the little girl extricated72 them from their difficulty. She played hide-and-seek, and went round Christophe's chair. He caught her as she passed and kissed her. He was not very fond of children: but it was curiously73 pleasant to him to kiss the little girl. She struggled to be free, for she was busy with her game. He teased her, she bit his hands: he let her fall. Sabine laughed. They looked at the child and exchanged a few trivial words. Then Christophe tried—(he thought he must)—to enter into conversation: but he had nothing very much to go upon: and Sabine did not make his task any the easier: she only repeated what he said:
"It is a fine evening."
"Yes. It is a very fine evening."
"Impossible to breathe in the yard."
"Yes. The yard was stifling."
Conversation became very difficult. Sabine discovered that it was time to take the little girl in, and went in herself: and she did not appear again.
Christophe was afraid she would do the same on the evenings that followed and that she would avoid being left alone with him, as long as Louisa was not there. But on the contrary, the next evening Sabine tried to resume their conversation. She did so deliberately74 rather than for pleasure: she was obviously taking a great deal of trouble to find subjects of conversation, and bored with the questions she put: questions and answers came between heartbreaking silences. Christophe remembered his first interviews with Otto: but with Sabine their subjects were even more limited than then, and she had not Otto's patience. When she saw the small success of her endeavors she did not try any more: she had to give herself too much trouble, and she lost interest in it. She said no more, and he followed her lead.
And then there was sweet peace again. The night was calm once more, and they returned to their inward thoughts. Sabine rocked slowly in her chair, dreaming. Christophe also was dreaming. They said nothing. After half an hour Christophe began to talk to himself, and in a low voice cried out with pleasure in the delicious scent brought by the soft wind that came from a cart of strawberries. Sabine said a word or two in reply. Again they were silent. They were enjoying the charm of these indefinite silences, and trivial words. Their dreams were the same, they had but one thought: they did not know what it was: they did not admit it to themselves. At eleven they smiled and parted.
Next day they did not even try to talk: they resumed their sweet silence. At long intervals75 a word or two let them know that they were thinking of the same things.
Sabine began to laugh.
"How much better it is," she said, "not to try to talk! One thinks one must, and it is so tiresome76!"
"Ah!" said Christophe with conviction, "if only everybody thought the same."
They both laughed. They were thinking of Frau Vogel.
"Poor woman!" said Sabine; "how exhausting she is!"
"She is never exhausted," replied Christophe gloomily.
She was tickled77 by his manner and his jest.
"You think it amusing?" he asked. "That is easy for you. You are sheltered."
"So I am," said Sabine. "I lock myself in." She had a little soft laugh that hardly sounded. Christophe heard it with delight in the calm of the evening. He snuffed the fresh air luxuriously78.
"Ah! It is good to be silent!" he said, stretching his limbs.
"And talking is no use!" said she.
"Yes," returned Christophe, "we understand each other so well!"
They relapsed into silence. In the darkness they could not see each other.
They were both smiling.
And yet, though they felt the same, when they were together—or imagined that they did—in reality they knew nothing of each other. Sabine did not bother about it. Christophe was more curious. One evening he asked her:
"Do you like music?"
"No," she said simply. "It bores me, I don't understand it."
Her frankness charmed him. He was sick of the lies of people who said that they were mad about music, and were bored to death when they heard it: and it seemed to him almost a virtue79 not to like it and to say so. He asked if Sabine read.
"So. She had no books."
He offered to lend her his.
"Serious books?" she asked uneasily.
"Not serious books if she did not want them. Poetry."
"But those are serious books."
"Novels, then."
She pouted80.
"They don't interest you?"
"Yes. She was interested in them: but they were always too long: she never had the patience to finish them. She forgot the beginning: skipped chapters and then lost the thread. And then she threw the book away."
"Fine interest you take!"
"Bah! Enough for a story that is not true. She kept her interest for better things than books."
"For the theater, then?"
"No…. No."
"Didn't she go to the theater?"
"No. It was too hot. There were too many people. So much better at home.
The lights tired her eyes. And the actors were so ugly!"
He agreed with her in that. But there were other things in the theater: the play, for instance.
"Yes," she said absently. "But I have no time."
"What do you do all day?"
She smiled.
"There is so much to do."
"True," said he. "There is your shop."
"Oh!" she said calmly. "That does not take much time."
"Your little girl takes up your time then?"
"Oh! no, poor child! She is very good and plays by herself."
He begged pardon for his indiscretion. But she was amused by it.
"There are so many things."
"What things?"
"She could not say. All sorts of things. Getting up, dressing, thinking of dinner, cooking dinner, eating dinner, thinking of supper, cleaning her room…. And then the day was over…. And besides you must have a little time for doing nothing!"
"And you are not bored?"
"Even when you are doing nothing?"
"Especially when I am doing nothing. It is much worse doing something: that bores me."
They looked at each other and laughed.
"You are very happy!" said Christophe. "I can't do nothing."
"It seems to me that you know how."
"I have been learning lately."
"Ah! well, you'll learn."
When he left off talking to her he was at his ease and comfortable. It was enough for him to see her. He was rid of his anxieties, and irritations81, and the nervous trouble that made him sick at heart. When he was talking to her he was beyond care: and so when he thought of her. He dared not admit it to himself: but as soon as he was in her presence, he was filled with a delicious soft emotion that brought him almost to unconsciousness. At night he slept as he had never done.
When he came back from his work he would look into this shop. It was not often that he did not see Sabine. They bowed and smiled. Sometimes she was at the door and then they would exchange a few words: and he would open the door and call the little girl and hand her a packet of sweets.
One day he decided82 to go in. He pretended that he wanted some waistcoat buttons. She began to look for them: but she could not find them. All the buttons were mixed up: it was impossible to pick them out. She was a little put out that he should see her untidiness. He laughed at it and bent over the better to see it.
"No," she said, trying to hide the drawers with her hands. "Don't look! It is a dreadful muddle…."
She went on looking. But Christophe embarrassed her. She was cross, and as she pushed the drawer back she said:
"I can't find any. Go to Lisi, in the next street. She is sure to have them. She has everything that people want."
He laughed at her way of doing business.
"Do you send all your customers away like that?"
"Well. You are not the first," said Sabine warmly.
And yet she was a little ashamed:
"It is too much trouble to tidy up," she said. "I put off doing it from day to day…. But I shall certainly do it to-morrow."
"Shall I help you?" asked Christophe.
She refused. She would gladly have accepted: but she dared not, for fear of gossip. And besides it humiliated83 her.
They went on talking.
"And your buttons?" she said to Christophe a moment later. "Aren't you going to Lisi?"
"Never," said Christophe. "I shall wait until you have tidied up."
"Oh!" said Sabine, who had already forgotten what she had just said, "don't wait all that time!"
Her frankness delighted them both.
Christophe went to the drawer that she had shut.
"Let me look."
She ran to prevent his doing so.
"No, now please. I am sure I haven't any."
"I bet you have."
At once he found the button he wanted, and was triumphant84. He wanted others. He wanted to go on rummaging85; but she snatched the box from his hands, and, hurt in her vanity, she began to look herself.
The light was fading. She went to the window. Christophe sat a little away from her: the little girl clambered on to his knees. He pretended to listen to her chatter and answered her absently. He was looking at Sabine and she knew that he was looking at her. She bent over the box. He could see her neck and a little of her cheek.—And as he looked he saw that she was blushing. And he blushed too.
The child went on talking. No one answered her. Sabine did not move. Christophe could not see what she was doing, he was sure she was doing nothing: she was not even looking at the box in her hands. The silence went on and on. The little girl grew uneasy and slipped down from Christophe's knees.
"Why don't you say anything?"
Sabine turned sharply and took her in her arms. The box was spilled on the floor: the little girl shouted with glee and ran on hands and knees after the buttons rolling under the furniture. Sabine went to the window again and laid her cheek against the pane86. She seemed to be absorbed in what she saw outside.
"Good-night!" said Christophe, ill at ease. She did not turn her head, and said in a low voice:
On Sundays the house was empty during the afternoon. The whole family went to church for Vespers. Sabine did not go. Christophe jokingly reproached her with it once when he saw her sitting at her door in the little garden, while the lovely bells were bawling87 themselves hoarse88 summoning her. She replied in the same tone that only Mass was compulsory90: not Vespers: it was then no use, and perhaps a little indiscreet to be too zealous91: and she liked to think that God would be rather pleased than angry with her.
"You have made God in your own image," said Christophe.
"I should be so bored if I were in His place," replied she with conviction.
"You would not bother much about the world if you were in His place."
"All that I should ask of it would be that it should not bother itself about me."
"Perhaps it would be none the worse for that," said Christophe.
"Tssh!" cried Sabine, "we are being irreligious."
"I don't see anything irreligious in saying that God is like you. I am sure
He is flattered."
"Will you be silent!" said Sabine, half laughing, half angry. She was beginning to be afraid that God would be scandalized. She quickly turned the conversation.
"Besides," she said, "it is the only time in the week when one can enjoy the garden in peace."
"Yes," said Christophe. "They are gone." They looked at each other.
"How silent it is," muttered Sabine. "We are not used to it. One hardly knows where one is…."
"Oh!" cried Christophe suddenly and angrily.
"There are days when I would like to strangle her!" There was no need to ask of whom he was speaking.
"And the others?" asked Sabine gaily92.
"True," said Christophe, a little abashed93. "There is Rosa."
"Poor child!" said Sabine.
They were silent.
"If only it were always as it is now!" sighed Christophe.
She raised her laughing eyes to his, and then dropped them. He saw that she was working.
"What are you doing?" he asked.
(The fence of ivy that separated the two gardens was between them.)
"Look!" she said, lifting a basin that she was holding in heir lap. "I am shelling peas."
She sighed.
"But that is not unpleasant," he raid, laughing.
"Oh!" she replied, "it is disgusting, always having to think of dinner."
"I bet that if it were possible," he said, "you would go without your dinner rather than haw the trouble of cooking it."
"That's true," cried she.
"Wait! I'll come and help you."
He climbed over the fence and came to her.
She was sitting in a chair in the door. He sat on a step at her feet. He dipped into her lap for handfuls of green pods; and he poured the little round peas into the basin that Sabine held between her knees. He looked down. He saw Sabine's black stockings clinging to her ankles and feet—one of her feet was half out of its shoe. He dared not raise his eyes to look at her.
The air was heavy. The sky was dull and clouds hung low: There was no wind. No leaf stirred. The garden was inclosed within high walls: there was no world beyond them.
The child had gone out with one of the neighbors. They were alone. They said nothing. They could say nothing. Without looking he went on taking handfuls of peas from Sabine's lap: his fingers trembled as he touched her: among the fresh smooth pods they met Sabine's fingers, and they trembled too. They could not go on. They sat still, not looking at each other: she leaned back in her chair with her lips half-open and her arms hanging: he sat at her feet leaning against her: along his shoulder and arm he could feel the warmth of Sabine's leg. They were breathless. Christophe laid his hands against the stones to cool them: one of his hands touched Sabine's foot, that she had thrust out of her shoe, and he left it there, could not move it. They shivered. Almost they lost control. Christophe's hand closed on the slender toes of Sabine's little foot. Sabine turned cold, the sweat broke out on her brow, she leaned towards Christophe….
Familiar voices broke the spell. They trembled. Christophe leaped to his feet and crossed the fence again. Sabine picked up the shells in her lap and went in. In the yard he turned. She was at her door. They looked at each other. Drops of rain were beginning to patter on the leaves of the trees…. She closed her door. Frau Vogel and Rosa came in…. He went up to his room….
In the yellow light of the waning94 day drowned in the torrents95 of rain, he got up from his desk in response to an irresistible96 impulse: he ran to his window and held out his arms to the opposite window. At the same moment through the opposite window in the half-darkness of the room he saw—he thought he saw—Sabine holding out her arms to him.
He rushed from his room. He went downstairs. He ran to the garden fence. At the risk of being seen he was about to clear it. But when he looked at the window at which she had appeared, he saw that the shutters were closed. The house seemed to be asleep. He stopped. Old Euler, going to his cellar, saw him and called him. He retraced97 his footsteps. He thought he must have been dreaming.
It was not long before Rosa began to see what was happening. She had no diffidence and she did not yet know what jealousy98 was. She was ready to give wholly and to ask nothing in return. But if she was sorrowfully resigned to not being loved by Christophe, she had never considered the possibility of Christophe loving another.
One evening, after dinner, she had just finished a piece of embroidery99 at which she had been working for months. She was happy, and wanted for once in a way to leave her work and go and talk to Christophe. She waited until her mother's back was turned and then slipped from the room. She crept from the house like a truant100. She wanted to go and confound Christophe, who had vowed101 scornfully that she would never finish her work. She thought it would be a good joke to go and take them by surprise in the street. It was no use the poor child knowing how Christophe felt towards her: she was always inclined to measure the pleasure which others should have at seeing her by that which she had herself in meeting them.
She went out. Christophe and Sabine were sitting as usual in front of the house. There was a catch at Rosa's heart. And yet she did not stop for the irrational102 idea that was in her: and she chaffed Christophe warmly. The sound of her shrill voice in the silence of the night struck on Christophe like a false note. He started in his chair, and frowned angrily. Rosa waved her embroidery in his face triumphantly103. Christophe snubbed her impatiently.
"It is finished—finished!" insisted Rosa.
"Oh! well—go and begin another," said Christophe curtly104.
Rosa was crestfallen105. All her delight vanished. Christophe went on crossly:
"And when you have done thirty, when you are very old, you will at least be able to say to yourself that your life has not been wasted!"
Rosa was near weeping.
"How cross you are, Christophe!" she said.
Christophe was ashamed and spoke kindly to her. She was satisfied with so little that she regained106 confidence: and she began once more to chatter noisily: she could not speak low, she shouted deafeningly, like everybody in the house. In spite of himself Christophe could not conceal108 his ill-humor. At first he answered her with a few irritated monosyllables: then he said nothing at all, turned his back on her, fidgeted in his chair, and ground his teeth as she rattled109 on. Rosa saw that he was losing his temper and knew that she ought to stop: but she went on louder than ever. Sabine, a few yards away, in the dark, said nothing, watched the scene with ironic33 impassivity. Then she was weary and, feeling that the evening was wasted, she got up and went in. Christophe only noticed her departure after she had gone. He got up at once and without ceremony went away with a curt9 "Good-evening."
Rosa was left alone in the street, and looked in bewilderment at the door by which he had just gone in. Tears came to her eyes. She rushed in, went up to her room without a sound, so as not to have to talk to her mother, undressed hurriedly, and when she was in her bed, buried under the clothes, sobbed110 and sobbed. She made no attempt to think over what had passed: she did not ask herself whether Christophe loved Sabine, or whether Christophe and Sabine could not bear her: she knew only that all was lost, that life was useless, that there was nothing left to her but death.
Next morning thought came to her once more with eternal illusive111 hope. She recalled the events of the evening and told herself that she was wrong to attach so much importance to them. No doubt Christophe did not love her: she was resigned to that, though in her heart she thought, though she did not admit the thought, that in the end she would win his love by her love for him. But what reason had she for thinking that there was anything between Sabine and him? How could he, so clever as he was, love a little creature whose insignificance112 and mediocrity were patent? She was reassured113,—but for that she did not watch Christophe any the less closely. She saw nothing all day, because there was nothing to see: but Christophe seeing her prowling about him all day long without any sort of explanation was peculiarly irritated by it. She set the crown on her efforts in the evening when she appeared again and sat with them in the street. The scene of the previous evening was repeated. Rosa talked alone. But Sabine did not wait so long before she went indoors: and Christophe followed her example. Rosa could no longer pretend that her presence was not unwelcome: but the unhappy girl tried to deceive herself. She did not perceive that she could have done nothing worse than to try so to impose on herself: and with her usual clumsiness she went on through the succeeding days.
Next day with Rosa sitting by his side Christophe waited is vain for Sabine to appear.
The day after Rosa was alone. They had given up the struggle. But she gained nothing by it save resentment114 from Christophe, who was furious at being robbed of his beloved evenings, his only happiness. He was the less inclined to forgive her, for being absorbed with his own feelings, he had no suspicion of Rosa's.
Sabine had known them for some time: she knew that Rosa was jealous even before she knew that she herself was in love: but she said nothing about it: and, with the natural cruelty of a pretty woman, who is certain of her victory, in quizzical silence she watched the futile115 efforts of her awkward rival.
Left mistress of the field of battle Rosa gazed piteously upon the results of her tactics. The best thing she could have done would have been not to persist, and to leave Christophe alone, at least for the time being: but that was not what she did: and as the worst thing she could have done was to talk to him; about Sabine, that was precisely116 what she did.
With a fluttering at her heart, by way of sounding him, she said timidly that Sabine was pretty. Christophe replied curtly; that she was very pretty. And although Rosa might have foreseen the reply she would provoke, her heart thumped117 when she heard him. She knew that Sabine was pretty: but she had never particularly remarked it: now she saw her for the first time with the eyes of Christophe: she saw her delicate features, her short nose, her fine mouth, her slender figure, her graceful119 movements…. Ah! how sad!… What would not she have given to possess Sabine's body, and live in it! She did not go closely into why it should be preferred to her own!… Her own!… What had she done to possess such a body? What a burden it was upon her. How ugly it seemed to her! It was odious120 to her. And to think that nothing but death could ever free her from it!… She was at once too proud and too humble121 to complain that she was not loved: she had no right to do so: and she tried even more to humble herself. But her instinct revolted…. No. It was not just!… Why should she have such a body, she, and not Sabine?… And why should Sabine be loved? What had she done to be loved?… Rosa saw her with no kindly eye, lazy, careless, egoistic, indifferent towards everybody, not looking after her house, or her child, or anybody, loving only herself, living only for sleeping, dawdling, and doing nothing…. And it was such a woman who pleased … who pleased Christophe…. Christophe who was so severe, Christophe who was so discerning, Christophe whom she esteemed122 and admired more than anybody!… How could Christophe be blind to it?—She could not help from time to time dropping an unkind remark about Sabine in his hearing. She did not wish to do so: but the impulse was stronger than herself. She was always sorry for it, for she was a kind creature and disliked speaking ill of anybody. But she was the more sorry because she drew down on herself such cruel replies as showed how much Christophe was in love. He did not mince123 matters. Hurt in his love, he tried to hurt in return: and succeeded. Rosa would make no reply and go out with her head bowed, and her lips tight pressed to keep from crying. She thought that it was her own fault, that she deserved it for having hurt Christophe by attacking the object of his love.
Her mother was less patient. Frau Vogel, who saw everything, and old Euler, also, had not been slow to notice Christophe's interviews with their young neighbor: it was not difficult to guess their romance. Their secret projects of one day marrying Rosa to Christophe were set at naught by it: and that seemed to them a personal affront124 of Christophe, although he was not supposed to know that they had disposed of him without consulting his wishes. But Amalia's despotism did not admit of ideas contrary to her own: and it seemed scandalous to her that Christophe should have disregarded the contemptuous opinion she had often expressed of Sabine.
She did not hesitate to repeat it for his benefit. Whenever he was present she found some excuse for talking about her neighbor: she cast about for the most injurious things to say of her, things which might sting Christophe most cruelly: and with the crudity125 of her point of view and language she had no difficulty in finding them. The ferocious126 instinct of a woman, so superior to that of a man in the art of doing evil, as well as of doing good, made her insist less on Sabine's laziness and moral failings than on her uncleanliness. Her indiscreet and prying127 eye had watched through the window for proofs of it in the secret processes of Sabine's toilet: and she exposed them with coarse complacency. When from decency128 she could not say everything she left the more to be understood.
Christophe would go pale with shame and anger: he would go white as a sheet and his lips would quiver. Rosa, foreseeing what must happen, would implore129 her mother to have done: she would even try to defend Sabine. But she only succeeded in making Amalia more aggressive.
And suddenly Christophe would leap from his chair. He would thump118 on the table and begin to shout that it was monstrous130 to speak of a woman, to spy upon her, to expose her misfortunes; only an evil mind could so persecute131 a creature who was good, charming, quiet, keeping herself to herself, and doing no harm to anybody, and speaking no ill of anybody. But they were making a great mistake if they thought they could do her harm; they only made him more sympathetic and made her kindness shine forth only the more clearly.
Amalia would feel then that she had gone too far: but she was hurt by feeling it; and, shifting her ground, she would say that it was only too easy to talk of kindness: that the word was called in as an excuse for everything. Heavens! It was easy enough to be thought kind when you never bothered about anything or anybody, and never did your duty!
To which Christophe would reply that the first duty of all was to make life pleasant for others, but that there were people for whom duty meant only ugliness, unpleasantness, tiresomeness132, and everything that interferes133 with the liberty of others and annoys and injures their neighbors, their servants, their families, and themselves. God save us from such people, and such a notion of duty, as from the plague!…
They would grow venomous. Amalia would be very bitter. Christophe would not budge134 an inch.—And the result of it all was that henceforth Christophe made a point of being seen continually with Sabine. He would go and knock at her door. He would talk gaily and laugh with her. He would choose moments when Amalia and Rosa could see him. Amalia would avenge135 herself with angry words. But the innocent Rosa's heart was rent and torn by this refinement136 of cruelty: she felt that he detested137 them and wished to avenge himself: and she wept bitterly.
So, Christophe, who had suffered so much from injustice138, learned unjustly to inflict139 suffering.
Some time after that Sabine's brother, a miller140 at Landegg, a little town a few miles away, was to celebrate the christening of a child. Sabine was to be godmother. She invited Christophe. He had no liking141 for these functions: but for the pleasure of annoying the Vogels and of being with Sabine he accepted eagerly.
Sabine gave herself the malicious142 satisfaction of inviting143 Amalia and Rosa also, being quite sure that they would refuse. They did. Rosa was longing to accept. She did not dislike Sabine: sometimes even her heart was filled with tenderness for her because Christophe loved her: sometimes she longed to tell her so and to throw her arms about her neck. But there was her mother and her mother's example. She stiffened144 herself in her pride and refused. Then, when they had gone, and she thought of them together, happy together, driving in the country on the lovely July day, while she was left shut up in her room, with a pile of linen145 to mend, with her mother grumbling146 by her side, she thought she must choke: and she cursed her pride. Oh! if there were still time!… Alas147! if it were all to do again, she would have done the same….
The miller had sent his wagonette to fetch Christophe and Sabine. They took up several guests from the town and the farms on the road.. It was fresh dry weather. The bright sun made the red berries of the brown trees by the road and the wild cherry trees in the fields shine. Sabine was smiling. Her pale face was rosy148 under the keen wind. Christophe had her little girl on his knees. They did not try to talk to each other: they talked to their neighbors without caring to whom or of what: they were glad to hear each other's voices: they were glad to be driving in the same carriage. They looked at each other in childish glee as they pointed149 out to each other a house, a tree, a passerby150. Sabine loved the country: but she hardly ever went into it: her incurable151 laziness made excursions impossible: it was almost a year since she had been outside the town: and so she delighted in the smallest things she saw. They were not new to Christophe: but he loved Sabine, and like all lovers he saw everything through her eyes, and felt all her thrills of pleasure, and all and more than the emotion that was in her: for, merging152 himself with his beloved, he endowed her with all that he was himself.
When they came to the mill they found in the yard all the people of the farm and the other guests, who received them with a deafening107 noise. The fowls153, the ducks, and the dogs joined in. The miller, Bertold, a great fair-haired fellow, square of head and shoulders, as big and tall as Sabine was slight, took his little sister in his arms and put her down gently as though he were afraid of breaking her. It was not long before Christophe saw that the little sister, as usual, did just as she liked with the giant, and that while he made heavy fun of her whims154, and her laziness, and her thousand and one failings, he was at her feet, her slave. She was used to ............
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