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 After the wet summer the autumn was radiant. In the orchards1 the trees were weighed down with fruit The red apples shone like billiard balls. Already some of the trees were taking on their brilliant garb2 of the falling year: flame color, fruit color, color of ripe melon, of oranges and lemons, of good cooking, and fried dishes. Misty3 lights glowed through the woods: and from the meadows there rose the little pink flames of the saffron.  
He was going down a hill. It was a Sunday afternoon. He was striding, almost running, gaining speed down the slope. He was singing a phrase, the rhythm of which had been obsessing4 him all through his walk. He was red, disheveled: he was walking, swinging his arms, and rolling his eyes like a madman, when as he turned a bend in the road he came suddenly on a fair girl perched on a wall tugging6 with all her might at a branch of a tree from which she was greedily plucking and eating purple plums. Their astonishment7 was mutual8. She looked at him, stared, with her mouth full. Then she burst out laughing. So did he. She was good to see, with her round face framed in fair curly hair, which was like a sunlit cloud about her, her full pink cheeks, her wide blue eyes, her rather large nose, impertinently turned up, her little red mouth showing white teeth—the canine10 little, strong, and projecting—her plump chin, and her full figure, large and plump, well built, solidly put together. He called out:
"Good eating!" And was for going on his road. But she called to him:
"Sir! Sir! Will you be very nice? Help me to get down. I can't…."
He returned and asked her how she had climbed up.
"With my hands and feet…. It is easy enough to get up…."
"Especially when there are tempting11 plums hanging above your head…."
"Yes…. But when you have eaten your courage goes. You can't find the way to get down."
He looked at her on her perch5. He said:
"You are all right there. Stay there quietly. I'll come and see you to-morrow. Good-night!"
But he did not budge12, and stood beneath her. She pretended to be afraid, and begged him with little glances not to leave her. They stayed looking at each other and laughing. She showed him the branch to which she was clinging and asked:
"Would you like some?"
Respect for property had not developed in Christophe since the days of his expeditions with Otto: he accepted without hesitation13. She amused herself with pelting14 him with plums. When he had eaten she said:
He took a wicked pleasure in keeping her waiting. She grew impatient on her wall. At last he said:
"Come, then!" and held his hand up to her.
But just as she was about to jump down she thought a moment.
"Wait! We must make provision first!"
She gathered the finest plums within reach and filled the front of her blouse with them.
"Carefully! Don't crush them!"
He felt almost inclined to do so.
She lowered herself from the wall and jumped into his arms. Although he was sturdy he bent16 under her weight and all but dragged her down. They were of the same height. Their faces came together. He kissed her lips, moist and sweet with the juice of the plums: and she returned his kiss without more ceremony.
"Where are you going?" he asked.
"I don't know."
"Are you out alone?"
"No. I am with friends. But I have lost them…. Hi! Hi!" she called suddenly as loudly as she could.
No answer.
She did not bother about it any more. They began to walk, at random18, following their noses.
"And you … where are you going?" said she.
"I don't know, either."
"Good. We'll go together."
She took some plums from her gaping19 blouse and began to munch20 them.
"You'll make yourself sick," he said.
"Not I! I've been eating them all day."
Through the gap in her blouse he saw the white of her chemise.
"They are all warm now," she said.
"Let me see!"
She held him one and laughed. He ate it. She watched him out of the corner of her eye as she sucked at the fruit like a child. He did not know how the adventure would end. It is probable that she at least had some suspicion. She waited.
"Hi! Hi!" Voices in the woods.
"Hi! Hi!" she answered. "Ah! There they are!" she said to Christophe. "Not a bad thing, either!"
But on the contrary she was thinking that it was rather a pity. But speech was not given to woman for her to say what she is thinking…. Thank God! for there would be an end of morality on earth….
The voices came near. Her friends were near the road. She leaped the ditch, climbed the hedge, and hid behind the trees. He watched her in amazement21. She signed to him imperiously to come to her. He followed her. She plunged23 into the depths of the wood.
"Hi! Hi!" she called once more when they had gone some distance. "You see, they must look for me!" she explained to Christophe.
Her friends had stopped on the road and were listening for her voice to mark where it came from. They answered her and in their turn entered the woods. But she did not wait for them. She turned about on right and on left. They bawled24 loudly after her. She let them, and then went and called in the opposite direction. At last they wearied of it, and, making sure that the best way of making her come was to give up seeking her, they called:
"Good-bye!" and went off singing.
She was furious that they should not have bothered about her any more than that. She had tried to be rid of them: but she had not counted on their going off so easily. Christophe looked rather foolish: this game of hide-and-seek with a girl whom he did not know did not exactly enthrall25 him: and he had no thought of taking advantage of their solitude26. Nor did she think of it: in her annoyance27 she forgot Christophe.
"Oh! It's too much," she said, thumping28 her hands together. "They have left me."
"But," said Christophe, "you wanted them to."
"Not at all."
"You ran away."
"If I ran away from them that is my affair, not theirs. They ought to look for me. What if I were lost?…"
Already she was beginning to be sorry for herself because if what might have happened if … if the opposite of what actually had occurred had come about.
"Oh!" she said. "I'll shake them!" She turned back and strode off.
As she went she remembered Christophe and looked at him once more.—But it was too late. She began to laugh. The little demon29 which had been in her the moment before was gone. While she was waiting for another to come she saw Christophe with the eyes of indifference30. And then, she was hungry. Her stomach was reminding her that it was supper-time: she was in a hurry to rejoin her friends at the inn. She took Christophe's arm, leaned on it with all her weight, groaned31, and said that she was exhausted32. That did not keep her from dragging Christophe down a slope, running, and shouting, and laughing like a mad thing.
They talked. She learned who he was: she did not know his name, and seemed not to be greatly impressed by his title of musician. He learned that she was a shop-girl from a dress-maker's in the Kaiserstrasse (the most fashionable street in the town): her name was Adelheid—to friends, Ada. Her companions on the excursion were one of her friends, who worked at the same place as herself, and two nice young men, a clerk at Weiller's bank, and a clerk from a big linen33-draper's. They were turning their Sunday to account: they had decided34 to dine at the Brochet inn, from which there is a fine view over the Rhine, and then to return by boat.
The others had already established themselves at the inn when they arrived. Ada made a scene with her friends: she complained of their cowardly desertion and presented Christophe as her savior. They did not listen to her complaints: but they knew Christophe, the bank-clerk by reputation, the clerk from having heard some of his compositions—(he thought it a good idea to hum an air from one of them immediately afterwards)—and the respect which they showed him made an impression on Ada, the more so as Myrrha, the other young woman—(her real name was Hansi or Johanna)—a brunette with blinking eyes, bumpy36 forehead, hair screwed back, Chinese face, a little too animated37, but clever and not without charm, in spite of her goat-like head and her oily golden-yellow complexion38,—at once began to make advances to their Hof Musicus. They begged him to be so good as to honor their repast with his presence.
Never had he been in such high feather: for he was overwhelmed with attentions, and the two women, like good friends as they were, tried each to rob the other of him. Both courted him: Myrrha with ceremonious manners, sly looks, as she rubbed her leg against his under the table—Ada, openly making play with her fine eyes, her pretty mouth, and all the seductive resources at her command. Such coquetry in its almost coarseness incommoded and distressed40 Christophe. These two bold young women were a change from the unkindly faces he was accustomed to at home. Myrrha interested him, he guessed her to be more intelligent than Ada: but her obsequious42 manners and her ambiguous smile were curiously43 attractive and repulsive44 to him at the same time. She could do nothing against Ada's radiance of life and pleasure: and she was aware of it. When she saw that she had lost the bout9, she abandoned the effort, turned in upon herself, went on smiling, and patiently waited for her day to come. Ada, seeing herself mistress of the field, did not seek to push forward the advantage she had gained: what she had done had been mainly to despite her friend: she had succeeded, she was satisfied. But she had been caught in her own game. She felt as she looked into Christophe's eyes the passion that she had kindled45 in him: and that same passion began to awake in her. She was silent: she left her vulgar teasing: they looked at each other in silence: on their lips they had the savor46 of their kiss. From time to time by fits and starts they joined vociferously47 in the jokes of the others: then they relapsed into silence, stealing glances at each other. At last they did not even look at each other, as though they were afraid of betraying themselves. Absorbed in themselves they brooded over their desire.
When the meal was over they got ready to go. They had to go a mile and a half through the woods to reach the pier48. Ada got up first: Christophe followed her. They waited on the steps until the others were ready: without speaking, side by side, in the thick mist that was hardly at all lit up by the single lamp hanging by the inn door.—Myrrha was dawdling49 by the mirror.
Ada took Christophe's hand and led him along the house towards the garden into the darkness. Under a balcony from which hung a curtain of vines they hid. All about them was dense51 darkness. They could not even see each other. The wind stirred the tops of the pines. He felt Ada's warm fingers entwined in his and the sweet scent52 of a heliotrope53 flower that she had at her breast.
Suddenly she dragged him to her: Christophe's lips found Ada's hair, wet with the mist, and kissed her eyes, her eyebrows54, her nose, her cheeks, the corners of her mouth, seeking her lips, and finding them, staying pressed to them.
The others had gone. They called:
They did not stir, they hardly breathed, pressed close to each other, lips and bodies.
They heard Myrrha:
"They have gone on."
The footsteps of their companions died away in the night. They held each other closer, in silence, stifling55 on their lips a passionate56 murmuring.
In the distance a village clock rang out. They broke apart. They had to run to the pier. Without a word they set out, arms and hands entwined, keeping step—a little quick, firm step, like hers. The road was deserted57: no creature was abroad: they could not see ten yards ahead of them: they went, serene58 and sure, into the beloved night. They never stumbled over the pebbles59 on the road. As they were late they took a short cut. The path led for some way down through vines and then began to ascend60 and wind up the side of the hill. Through the mist they could hear the roar of the river and the heavy paddles of the steamer approaching. They left the road and ran across the fields. At last they found themselves on the bank of the Rhine but still far from the pier. Their serenity61 was not disturbed. Ada had forgotten her fatigue62 of the evening. It seemed to them that they could have walked all night like that, on the silent grass, in the hovering63 mists, that grew wetter and more dense along the river that was wrapped in a whiteness as of the moon. The steamer's siren hooted64: the invisible monster plunged heavily away and away. They said, laughing:
"We will take the next."
By the edge of the river soft lapping waves broke at their feet. At the landing stage they were told:
"The last boat has just gone."
Christophe's heart thumped65. Ada's hand grasped his arm more tightly.
"But," she said, "there will be another one to-morrow."
A few yards away in a halo of mist was the flickering66 light of a lamp hung on a post on a terrace by the river. A little farther on were a few lighted windows—a little inn.
They went into the tiny garden. The sand ground under their feet. They groped their way to the steps. When they entered, the lights were being put out. Ada, on Christophe's arm, asked for a room. The room to which they were led opened on to the little garden. Christophe leaned out of the window and saw the phosphorescent flow of the river, and the shade of the lamp on the glass of which were crushed mosquitoes with large wings. The door was closed. Ada was standing67 by the bed and smiling. He dared not look at her. She did not look at him: but through her lashes68 she followed Christophe's every movement. The floor creaked with every step. They could hear the least noise in the house. They sat on the bed and embraced in silence.
The flickering light of the garden is dead. All is dead…. Night…. The abyss…. Neither light nor consciousness…. Being. The obscure, devouring69 forces of Being. Joy all-powerful. Joy rending70. Joy which sucks down the human creature as the void a stone. The sprout71 of desire sucking up thought. The absurd delicious law of the blind intoxicated72 worlds which roll at night….
… A night which is many nights, hours that are centuries, records which are death…. Dreams shared, words spoken with eyes closed, tears and laughter, the happiness of loving in the voice, of sharing the nothingness of sleep, the swiftly passing images flouting74 in the brain, the hallucinations of the roaring night…. The Rhine laps in a little creek75 by the house; in the distance his waters over the dams and breakwaters make a sound as of a gentle rain falling on sand. The hull76 of the boat cracks and groans77 under the weight of water. The chain by which it is tied sags78 and grows taut79 with a rusty80 clattering81. The voice of the river rises: it fills the room. The bed is like a boat. They are swept along side by side by a giddy current—hung in mid-air like a soaring bird. The night grows ever more dark, the void more empty. Ada weeps, Christophe loses consciousness: both are swept down under the flowing waters of the night….
Night…. Death…. Why wake to life again?…
The light of the dawning day peeps through the dripping panes82. The spark of life glows once more in their languorous83 bodies. He awakes, Ada's eyes are looking at him. A whole life passes in a few moments: days of sin, greatness, and peace….
"Where am I? And am I two? Do I still exist? I am no longer conscious of being. All about me is the infinite: I have the soul of a statue, with large tranquil85 eyes, filled with Olympian peace…."
They fall back into the world of sleep. And the familiar sounds of the dawn, the distant bells, a passing boat, oars39 dripping water, footsteps on the road, all caress86 without disturbing their happy sleep, reminding them that they are alive, and making them delight in the savor of their happiness….
The puffing87 of the steamer outside the window brought Christophe from his torpor88. They had agreed to leave at seven so as to return to the town in time for their usual occupations. He whispered:
"Do you hear?"
She did not open her eyes; she smiled, she put out her lips, she tried to kiss him and then let her head fall back on his shoulder…. Through the window panes he saw the funnel89 of the steamer slip by against the sky, he saw the empty deck, and clouds of smoke. Once more he slipped into dreaminess….
An hour passed without his knowing it. He heard it strike and started in astonishment.
"Ada!…" he whispered to the girl. "Ada!" he said again. "It's eight o'clock."
Her eyes were still closed: she frowned and pouted90 pettishly91.
"Oh! let me sleep!" she said.
She sighed wearily and turned her back on him and went to sleep once more.
He began to dream. His blood ran bravely, calmly through him. His limpid92 senses received the smallest impressions simply and freshly. He rejoiced in his strength and youth. Unwittingly he was proud of being a man. He smiled in his happiness, and felt himself alone: alone as he had always been, more lonely even but without sadness, in a divine solitude. No more fever. "No more shadows. Nature could freely cast her reflection upon his soul in its serenity. Lying on his back, facing the window, his eyes gazing deep into the dazzling air with its luminous93 mists, he smiled:
"How good it is to live!…"
To live!… A boat passed…. The thought suddenly of those who were no longer alive, of a boat gone by on which they were together: he—she…. She?… Not that one, sleeping by his side.—She, the only she, the beloved, the poor little woman who was dead.—But is it that one? How came she there? How did they come to this room? He looks at her, he does not know her: she is a stranger to him: yesterday morning she did not exist for him. What does he know of her?—He knows that she is not clever. He knows that she is not good. He knows that she is not even beautiful with her face spiritless and bloated with sleep, her low forehead, her mouth open in breathing, her swollen94 dried lips pouting95 like a fish. He knows that he does not love her. And he is filled with a bitter sorrow when he thinks that he kissed those strange lips, in the first moment with her, that he has taken this beautiful body for which he cares nothing on the first night of their meeting,—and that she whom he loved, he watched her live and die by his side and never dared touch her hair with his lips, that he will never know the perfume of her being. Nothing more. All is crumbled96 away. The earth has taken all from him. And he never defended what was his….
And while he leaned over the innocent sleeper97 and scanned her face, and looked at her with eyes of unkindness, she felt his eyes upon her. Uneasy under his scrutiny98 she made a great effort to raise her heavy lids and to smile: and she said, stammering99 a little like a waking child:
"Don't look at me. I'm ugly…."
She fell back at once, weighed down with sleep, smiled once more, murmured.
"Oh! I'm so … so sleepy!…" and went off again into her dreams.
He could not help laughing: he kissed her childish lips more tenderly. He watched the girl sleeping for a moment longer, and got up quietly. She gave a comfortable sigh when he was gone. He tried not to wake her as he dressed, though there was no danger of that: and when he had done he sat in the chair near the window and watched the steaming smoking river which looked as though it were covered with ice: and he fell into a brown study in which there hovered100 music, pastoral, melancholy101.
From time to time she half opened her eyes and looked at him vaguely102, took a second or two, smiled at him, and passed from one sleep to another. She asked him the time.
"A quarter to nine."
Half asleep she pondered:
"What! Can it be a quarter to nine?"
At half-past nine she stretched, sighed, and said that she was going to get up.
It was ten o'clock before she stirred. She was petulant103.
"Striking again!… The clock is fast!…" He laughed and went and sat on the bed by her side. She put her arms round his neck and told him her dreams. He did not listen very attentively104 and interrupted her with little love words. But she made him be silent and went on very seriously, as though she were telling something of the highest importance:
"She was at dinner: the Grand Duke was there: Myrrha was a Newfoundland dog…. No, a frizzy sheep who waited at table…. Ada had discovered a method of rising from the earth, of walking, dancing, and lying down in the air. You see it was quite simple: you had only to do … thus … thus … and it was done…."
Christophe laughed at her. She laughed too, though a little ruffled105 at his laughing. She shrugged106 her shoulders.
"Ah! you don't understand!…"
They breakfasted on the bed from the same cup, with the same spoon.
At last she got up: she threw off the bedclothes and slipped down from the bed. Then she sat down to recover her breath and looked at her feet. Finally she clapped her hands and told him to go out: and as he was in no hurry about it she took him by the shoulders and thrust him out of the door and then locked it.
After she had dawdled108, looked over and stretched each of her handsome limbs, she sang, as she washed, a sentimental109 Lied in fourteen couplets, threw water at Christophe's face—he was outside drumming on the window—and as they left she plucked the last rose in the garden and then they took the steamer. The mist was not yet gone: but the sun shone through it: they floated through a creamy light. Ada sat at the stern with Christophe: she was sleepy and a little sulky: she grumbled110 about the light in her eyes, and said that she would have a headache all day. And as Christophe did not take her complaints seriously enough she returned into morose111 silence. Her eyes were hardly opened and in them was the funny gravity of children who have just woke up. But at the next landing-stage an elegant lady came and sat not far from her, and she grew lively at once: she talked eagerly to Christophe about things sentimental and distinguished112. She had resumed with him the ceremonious Sie.
Christophe was thinking about what she could say to her employer by way of excuse for her lateness. She was hardly at all concerned about it.
"Bah! It's not the first time."
"The first time that … what?"
"That I have been late," she said, put out by the question.
He dared not ask her what had caused her lateness.
"What will you tell her?"
"That my mother is ill, dead … how do I know?"
He was hurt by her talking so lightly.
"I don't want you to lie."
She took offense113:
"First of all, I never lie…. And then, I cannot very well tell her…."
He asked her half in jest, half in earnest:
"Why not?"
She laughed, shrugged, and said that he was coarse and ill-bred, and that she had already asked him not to use the Du to her.
"Haven't I the right?"
"Certainly not."
"After what has happened?"
"Nothing has happened."
She looked at him a little defiantly114 and laughed: and although she was joking, he felt most strongly that it would not have cost her much to say it seriously and almost to believe it. But some pleasant memory tickled115 her: for she burst out laughing and looked at Christophe and kissed him loudly without any concern for the people about, who did not seem to be in the least surprised by it.
Now on all his excursions he was accompanied by shop-girls and clerks: he did not like their vulgarity, and used to try to lose them: but Ada out of contrariness was no longer disposed for wandering in the woods. When it rained or for some other reason they did not leave the town he would take her to the theater, or the museum, or the Thiergarten: for she insisted on being seen with him. She even wanted him to go to church with her; but he was so absurdly sincere that he would not set foot inside a church since he had lost his belief—(on some other excuse he had resigned his position as organist)—and at the same time, unknown to himself, remained much too religious not to think Ada's proposal sacrilegious.
He used to go to her rooms in the evening. Myrrha would be there, for she lived in the same house. Myrrha was not at all resentful against him: she would hold out her soft hand, caressingly116, and talk of trivial and improper117 things and then dip away discreetly118. The two women had never seemed to be such friends as since they had had small reason for being so: they were always together. Ada had no secrets from Myrrha: she told her everything: Myrrha listened to everything: they seemed to be equally pleased with it all.
Christophe was ill at ease in the company of the two women. Their friendship, their strange conversations, their freedom of manner, the crude way in which Myrrha especially viewed and spoke73 of things—(not so much in his presence, however, as when he was not there, but Ada used to repeat her sayings to him)—their indiscreet and impertinent curiosity, which was forever turned upon subjects that were silly or basely sensual, the whole equivocal and rather animal atmosphere oppressed him terribly, though it interested him: for he knew nothing like it. He was at sea in the conversations of the two little beasts, who talked of dress, and made silly jokes, and laughed in an inept120 way with their eyes shining with delight when they were off on the track of some spicy121 story. He was more at ease when Myrrha left them. When the two women were together it was like being in a foreign country without knowing the language. It was impossible to make himself understood: they did not even listen: they poked122 fun at the foreigner.
When he was alone with Ada they went on speaking different languages: but at least they did make some attempt to understand each other. To tell the truth, the more he understood her, the less he understood her. She was the first woman he had known. For if poor Sabine was a woman he had known, he had known nothing of her: she had always remained for him a phantom123 of his heart. Ada took upon herself to make him make up for lost time. In his turn he tried to solve the riddle124 of woman; an enigma125 which perhaps is no enigma except for those who seek some meaning in it.
Ada was without intelligence: that was the least of her faults. Christophe would have commended her for it, if she had approved it herself. But although she was occupied only with stupidities, she claimed to have some knowledge of the things of the spirit: and she judged everything with complete assurance. She would talk about music, and explain to Christophe things which he knew perfectly126, and would pronounce absolute judgment127 and sentence. It was useless to try to convince her she had pretensions128 and susceptibilities in everything; she gave herself airs, she was obstinate129, vain: she would not—she could not understand anything. Why would she not accept that she could understand nothing? He loved her so much better when she was content with being just what she was, simply, with her own qualities and failings, instead of trying to impose on others and herself!
In fact, she was little concerned with thought. She was concerned with eating, drinking, singing, dancing, crying, laughing, sleeping: she wanted to be happy: and that would have been all right if she had succeeded. But although she had every gift for it: she was greedy, lazy, sensual, and frankly130 egoistic in a way that revolted and amused Christophe: although she had almost all the vices132 which make life pleasant for their fortunate possessor, if not for their friends—(and even then does not a happy face, at least if it be pretty, shed happiness on all those who come near it?)—in spite of so many reasons for being satisfied with life and herself Ada was not even clever enough for that. The pretty, robust133 girl, fresh, hearty134, healthy-looking, endowed with abundant spirits and fierce appetites, was anxious about her health. She bemoaned135 her weakness, while she ate enough for four. She was always sorry for herself: she could not drag herself along, she could not breathe, she had a headache, feet-ache, her eyes ached, her stomach ached, her soul ached. She was afraid of everything, and madly superstitious136, and saw omens137 everywhere: at meals the crossing of knives and forks, the number of the guests, the upsetting of a salt-cellar: then there must be a whole ritual to turn aside misfortune. Out walking she would count the crows, and never failed to watch which side they flew to: she would anxiously watch the road at her feet, and when a spider crossed her path in the morning she would cry out aloud: then she would wish to go home and there would be no other means of not interrupting the walk than to persuade her that it was after twelve, and so the omen15 was one of hope rather than of evil. She was afraid of her dreams: she would recount them at length to Christophe; for hours she would try to recollect139 some detail that she had forgotten; she never spared him one; absurdities140 piled one on the other, strange marriages, deaths, dressmakers' prices, burlesque141, and sometimes, obscene things. He had to listen to her and give her his advice. Often she would be for a whole day under the obsession142 of her inept fancies. She would find life ill-ordered, she would see things and people rawly and overwhelm Christophe with her jeremiads; and it seemed hardly worth while to have broken away from the gloomy middle-class people with whom he lived to find once more the eternal enemy: the "trauriger ungriechischer Hypochondrist."
But suddenly in the midst of her sulks and grumblings, she would become gay, noisy, exaggerated: there was no more dealing143 with her gaiety than with her moroseness144: she would burst out laughing for no reason and seem as though she were never going to stop: she would rush across the fields, play mad tricks and childish pranks145, take a delight in doing silly things, in mixing with the earth, and dirty things, and the beasts, and the spiders, and worms, in teasing them, and hurting them, and making them eat each other: the cats eat the birds, the fowls146 the worms, the ants the spiders, not from any wickedness, or perhaps from an altogether unconscious instinct for evil, from curiosity, or from having nothing better to do. She seemed to be driven always to say stupid things, to repeat senseless words again and again, to irritate Christophe, to exasperate147 him, set his nerves on edge, and make him almost beside himself. And her coquetry as soon as anybody—no matter who—appeared on the road!… Then she would talk excitedly, laugh noisily, make faces, draw attention to herself: she would assume an affected148 mincing149 gait. Christophe would have a horrible presentiment150 that she was going to plunge22 into serious discussion.—And, indeed, she would do so. She would become sentimental, uncontrolledly, just as she did everything: she would unbosom herself in a loud voice. Christophe would suffer and long to beat her. Least of all could he forgive her her lack of sincerity151. He did not yet know that sincerity is a gift as rare as intelligence or beauty and that it cannot justly be expected of everybody. He could not bear a lie: and Ada gave him lies in full measure. She was always lying, quite calmly, in spite of evidence to the contrary. She had that astounding152 faculty153 for forgetting what is displeasing154 to them—or even what has been pleasing to them—which those women possess who live from moment to moment.
And, in spite of everything, they loved each other with all their hearts. Ada was as sincere as Christophe in her love. Their love was none the less true for not being based on intellectual sympathy: it had nothing in common with base passion. It was the beautiful love of youth: it was sensual, but not vulgar, because it was altogether youthful: it was naïve, almost chaste155, purged156 by the ingenuous157 ardor158 of pleasure. Although Ada was not, by a long way, so ignorant as Christophe, yet she had still the divine privilege of youth of soul and body, that freshness of the senses, limpid and vivid as a running stream, which almost gives the illusion of purity and through life is never replaced. Egoistic, commonplace, insincere in her ordinary life,—love made her simple, true, almost good: she understood in love the joy that is to be found in self-forgetfulness. Christophe saw this with delight: and he would gladly have died for her. Who can tell all the absurd and touching160 illusions that a loving heart brings to its love! And the natural illusion of the lover was magnified an hundredfold in Christophe by the power of illusion which is born in the artist. Ada's smile held profound meanings for him: an affectionate word was the proof of the goodness of her heart. He loved in her all that is good and beautiful in the universe. He called her his own, his soul, his life. They wept together over their love.
Pleasure was not the only bond between them: there was an indefinable poetry of memories and dreams,—their own? or those of the men and women who had loved before them, who had been before them,—in them?… Without a word, perhaps without knowing it, they preserved the fascination161 of the first moments of their meeting in the woods, the first days, the first nights together: those hours of sleep in each other's arms, still, unthinking, sinking down into a flood of love and silent joy. Swift fancies, visions, dumb thoughts, titillating162, and making them go pale, and their hearts sink under their desire, bringing all about them a buzzing as of bees. A fine light, and tender…. Their hearts sink and beat no more, borne down in excess of sweetness. Silence, languor84, and fever, the mysterious weary smile of the earth quivering under the first sunlight of spring…. So fresh a love in two young creatures is like an April morning. Like April it must pass. Youth of the heart is like an early feast of sunshine.
Nothing could have brought Christophe closer to Ada in his love than the way in which he was judged by others.
The day after their first meeting it was known all over the town. Ada made no attempt to cover up the adventure, and rather plumed163 herself on her conquest. Christophe would have liked more discretion164: but he felt that the curiosity of the people was upon him: and as he did not wish to seem to fly from it, he threw in his lot with Ada. The little town buzzed with tattle. Christophe's colleagues in the orchestra paid him sly compliments to which he did not reply, because he would not allow any meddling165 with his affairs. The respectable people of the town judged his conduct very severely166. He lost his music lessons with certain families. With others, the mothers thought that they must now be present at the daughters' lessons, watching with suspicious eyes, as though Christophe were intending to carry off the precious darlings. The young ladies were supposed to know nothing. Naturally they knew everything: and while they were cold towards Christophe for his lack of taste, they were longing167 to have further details. It was only among the small tradespeople, and the shop people, that Christophe was popular: but not for long: he was just as annoyed by their approval as by the condemnation168 of the rest: and being unable to do anything against that condemnation, he took steps not to keep their approval: there was no difficulty about that. He was furious with the general indiscretion.
The most indignant of all with him were Justus Euler and the Vogels. They took Christophe's misconduct as a personal outrage169. They had not made any serious plans concerning him: they distrusted—especially Frau Vogel—these artistic170 temperaments171. But as they were naturally discontented and always inclined to think themselves persecuted172 by fate, they persuaded themselves that they had counted on the marriage of Christophe and Rosa; as soon as they were quite certain that such a marriage would never come to pass, they saw in it the mark of the usual ill luck. Logically, if fate were responsible for their miscalculation, Christophe could not be: but the Vogels' logic173 was that which gave them the greatest opportunity for finding reasons for being sorry for themselves. So they decided that if Christophe had misconducted himself it was not so much for his own pleasure as to give offense to them. They were scandalized. Very religious, moral, and oozing174 domestic virtue175, they were of those to whom the sins of the flesh are the most shameful176, the most serious, almost the only sins, because they are the only dreadful sins—(it is obvious that respectable people are never likely to be tempted177 to steal or murder).—And so Christophe seemed to them absolutely wicked, and they changed their demeanor178 towards him. They were icy towards him and turned away as they passed him. Christophe, who was in no particular need of their conversation, shrugged his shoulders at all the fuss. He pretended not to notice Amalia's insolence179: who, while she affected contemptuously to avoid him, did all that she could to make him fall in with her so that she might tell him all that was rankling180 in her.
Christophe was only touched by Rosa's attitude. The girl condemned181 him more harshly even than his family. Not that this new love of Christophe's seemed to her to destroy her last chances of being loved by him: she knew that she had no chance left—(although perhaps she went on hoping: she always hoped).—But she had made an idol182 of Christophe: and that idol had crumbled away. It was the worst sorrow for her … yes, a sorrow more cruel to the innocence183 and honesty of her heart, than being disdained184 and forgotten by him. Brought up puritanically186, with a narrow code of morality, in which she believed passionately187, what she had heard about Christophe had not only brought her to despair but had broken her heart. She had suffered already when he was in love with Sabine: she had begun then to lose some of her illusions about her hero. That Christophe could love so commonplace a creature seemed to her inexplicable188 and inglorious. But at least that love was pure, and Sabine was not unworthy of it. And in the end death had passed over it and sanctified it…. But that at once Christophe should love another woman,—and such a woman!—was base, and odious190! She took upon herself the defense191 of the dead woman against him. She could not forgive him for having forgotten her…. Alas192! He was thinking of her more than she: but she never thought that in a passionate heart there might be room for two sentiments at once: she thought it impossible to be faithful to the past without sacrifice of the present. Pure and cold, she had no idea of life or of Christophe: everything in her eyes was pure, narrow, submissive to duty, like herself. Modest of soul, modest of herself, she had only one source of pride: purity: she demanded it of herself and of others. She could not forgive Christophe for having so lowered himself, and she would never forgive him.
Christophe tried to talk to her, though not to explain himself—(what could he say to her? what could he say to a little puritanical185 and naïve girl?).—He would have liked to assure her that he was her friend, that he wished for her esteem193, and had still the right to it He wished to prevent her absurdly estranging194 herself from him.—But Rosa avoided him in stern silence: he felt that she despised him.
He was both sorry and angry. He felt that he did not deserve such contempt; and yet in the end he was bowled over by it: and thought himself guilty. Of all the reproaches cast against him the most bitter came from himself when he thought of Sabine. He tormented196 himself.
"Oh! God, how is it possible? What sort of creature am I?…"
But he could not resist the stream that bore him on. He thought that life is criminal: and he closed his eyes so as to live without seeing it. He had so great a need to live, and be happy, and love, and believe!… No: there was nothing despicable in his love! He knew that it was impossible to be very wise, or intelligent, or even very happy in his love for Ada: but what was there in it that could be called vile159? Suppose—(he forced the idea on himself)—that Ada were not a woman of any great moral worth, how was the love that he had for her the less pure for that? Love is in the lover, not in the beloved. Everything is worthy189 of the lover, everything is worthy of love. To the pure all is pure. All is pure in the strong and the healthy of mind. Love, which adorns197 certain birds with their loveliest colors, calls forth198 from the souls that are true all that is most noble in them. The desire to show to the beloved only what is worthy makes the lover take pleasure only in those thoughts and actions which are in harmony with the beautiful image fashioned by love. And the waters of youth in which the soul is bathed, the blessed radiance of strength and joy, are beautiful and health-giving, making the heart great.
That his friends misunderstood him filled him with bitterness. But the worst trial of all was that his mother was beginning to be unhappy about it.
The good creature was far from sharing the narrow views of the Vogels. She had seen real sorrows too near ever to try to invent others. Humble199, broken by life, having received little joy from it, and having asked even less, resigned to everything that happened, without even trying to understand it, she was careful not to judge or censure200 others: she thought she had no right. She thought herself too stupid to pretend that they were wrong when they did not think as she did: it would have seemed ridiculous to try to impose on others the inflexible201 rules of her morality and belief. Besides that, her morality and her belief were purely202 instinctive203: pious204 and pure in herself she closed her eyes to the conduct of others, with the indulgence of her class for certain faults and certain weaknesses. That had been one of the complaints that her father-in-law, Jean Michel, had lodged205 against her: she did not sufficiently206 distinguish between those who were honorable and those who were not: she was not afraid of stopping in the street or the market-place to shake hands and talk with young women, notorious in the neighborhood, whom a respectable woman ought to pretend to ignore. She left it to God to distinguish between good and evil, to punish or to forgive. From others she asked only a little of that affectionate sympathy which is so necessary to soften207 the ways of life. If people were only kind she asked no more.
But since she had lived with the Vogels a change had come about in her. The disparaging208 temper of the family had found her an easier prey209 because she was crushed and had no strength to resist. Amalia had taken her in hand: and from morning to night when they were working together alone, and Amalia did all the talking, Louisa, broken and passive, unconsciously assumed the habit of judging and criticising everything. Frau Vogel did not fail to tell her what she thought of Christophe's conduct. Louisa's calmness irritated her. She thought it indecent of Louisa to be so little concerned about what put him beyond the pale: she was not satisfied until she had upset her altogether. Christophe saw it. Louisa dared not reproach him: but every day she made little timid remarks, uneasy, insistent210: and when he lost patience and replied sharply, she said no more: but still he could see the trouble in her eyes: and when he came home sometimes he could see that she had been weeping. He knew his mother too well not to be absolutely certain that her uneasiness did not come from herself.—And he knew well whence it came.
He determined211 to make an end of it. One evening when Louisa was unable to hold back her tears and had got up from the table in the middle of supper without Christophe being able to discover what was the matter, he rushed downstairs four steps at a time and knocked at the Vogels' door. He was boiling with rage. He was not only angry about Frau Vogel's treatment of his mother: he had to avenge212 himself for her having turned Rosa against him, for her bickering213 against Sabine, for all that he had had to put up with at her hands for months. For months he had borne his pent-up feelings against her and now made haste to let them loose.
He burst in on Frau Vogel and in a voice that he tried to keep calm, though it was trembling with fury, he asked her what she had told his mother to bring her to such a state.
Amalia took it very badly: she replied that she would say what she pleased, and was responsible to no one for her actions—to him least of all. And seizing the opportunity to deliver the speech which she had prepared, she added that if Louisa was unhappy he had to go no further for the cause of it than his own conduct, which was a shame to himself and a scandal to everybody else.
Christophe was only waiting for her onslaught to strike out, He shouted angrily that his conduct was his own affair, that he did not care a rap whether it pleased Frau Vogel or not, that if she wished to complain of it she must do so to him, and that she could say to him whatever she liked: that rested with her, but he forbade her—(did she hear?)—forbade her to say anything to his mother: it was cowardly and mean so to attack a poor sick old woman.
Frau Vogel cried loudly. Never had any one dared to speak to her in such a manner. She said that she was not to be lectured fey a rapscallion,—and in her own house, too!—And she treated him with abuse.
The others came running up on the noise of the quarrel,—except Vogel, who fled from anything that might upset, his health. Old Euler was called to witness by the indignant Amalia and sternly bade Christophe in future to refrain from speaking to or visiting them. He said that they did not need him to tell them what they ought to do, that they did their duty and would always do it.
Christophe declared that he would go and would never again set foot in their house. However, he did not go until he had relieved his feelings by telling them what he had still to say about their famous Duty, which had become to him a personal enemy. He said that their Duty was the sort of thing to make him love vice131. It was people like them who discouraged good, by insisting on making it unpleasant. It was their fault that so many find delight by contrast among those who are dishonest, but amiable214 and laughter-loving. It was a profanation215 of the name of duty to apply it to everything, to the most stupid tasks, to trivial things, with a stiff and arrogant216 severity which ends by darkening and poisoning life. Duty, he said, was exceptional: it should be kept for moments of real sacrifice, and not used to lend the lover of its name to ill-humor and the desire to be disagreeable to others. There was no reason, because they were stupid enough or ungracious enough to be sad, to want everybody else to be so too and to impose on everybody their decrepit217 way of living…. The first of all virtues218 is joy. Virtue must be happy, free, and unconstrained. He who does good must give pleasure to himself. But this perpetual upstart Duty, this pedagogic tyranny, this peevishness219, this futile220 discussion, this acrid221, puerile222 quibbling, this ungraciousness, this charmless life, without politeness, without silence, this mean-spirited pessimism223, which lets slip nothing that can make existence poorer than it is, this vainglorious224 unintelligence, which finds it easier to despise others than to understand them, all this middle-class morality, without greatness, without largeness, without happiness, without beauty, all these things are odious and hurtful: they make vice appear more human than virtue.
So thought Christophe: and in his desire to hurt those who had wounded him, he did not see that he was being as unjust as those of whom he spoke.
No doubt these unfortunate people were, almost as he saw them. But it was not their fault: it was the fault of their ungracious life, which had made their faces, their doings, and their thoughts ungracious. They had suffered the deformation225 of misery226—not that great misery which swoops228 down and slays229 or forges anew—but the misery of ever recurring230 ill-fortune, that small misery which trickles231 down drop by drop from the first day to the last…. Sad, indeed! For beneath these rough exteriors232 what treasures in reserve are there, of uprightness, of kindness, of silent heroism233!… The whole strength of a people, all the sap of the future.
Christophe was not wrong in thinking duty exceptional. But love is so no less. Everything is exceptional. Everything that is of worth has no worse enemy—not the evil (the vices are of worth)—but the habitual234. The mortal enemy of the soul is the daily wear and tear.
Ada was beginning to weary of it. She was not clever enough to find new food for her love in an abundant nature like that of Christophe. Her senses and her vanity had extracted from it all the pleasure they could find in it. There was left her only the pleasure of destroying it. She had that secret instinct common to so many women, even good women, to so many men, even clever men, who are not creative either of art, or of children, or of pure action,—no matter what: of life—and yet have too much life in apathy235 and resignation to bear with their uselessness. They desire others to be as useless as themselves and do their best to make them so. Sometimes they do so in spite of themselves: and when they become aware of their criminal desire they hotly thrust it back. But often they hug it to themselves: and they set themselves according to their strength—some modestly in their own intimate circle—others largely with vast audiences—to destroy everything that has life, everything that loves life, everything that deserves life. The critic who takes upon himself to diminish the stature236 of great men and great thoughts—and the girl who amuses herself with dragging down her lovers, are both mischievous237 beasts of the same kind.—But the second is the pleasanter of the two.
Ada then would have liked to corrupt238 Christophe a little, to humiliate239 him. In truth, she was not strong enough. More intelligence was needed, even in corruption240. She felt that: and it was not the least of her rankling feel............
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