How Women Love Max Nordau
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Justice or Revenge
Prince and Peasant
The Art of Growing Old
How Women Love
A Midsummer Night's Dream
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|How Women Love Max Nordau||
It was the first of November, 1878. The Paris Exposition was over, and Herr Rudolph Weltli was preparing to return to his home, Switzerland, after spending a beautiful sunny fortnight on the Seine. He had made the great bazaar on the Champ de Mars the pretext for his journey; but in reality the study of the exhibition, many as were the interesting objects it could offer to him, the engineer, was a somewhat minor matter, and he devoted his stay in Paris principally to walks through the streets, excursions to the environs, wanderings through the museums, in short, endless pilgrimages to all the scenes where, more than a quarter of a century before, the drama of his student's life in Paris had been enacted for three years, and whose image was interwoven with the most beloved memories of his youth.
A quarter of a century! Almost a human life-time. And, during this long period, he had not seen Paris again. When he left it he intended to return very soon and very often. But, as usually happens, life morosely opposed this pleasant plan. He was bound by the fetters of duty, and only imagination could allow itself to wander into the alluring blue distance.
Whoever makes his first visit to Rome throws a piece of money into the Fontana Trevi to be sure that he will see the eternal city again. We need not bind ourselves to Paris by such little superstitious practices. Its mysterious spell obtains the pledge without any intervention, and lures and draws the absent one so that he cannot rest until he returns. But why attribute this spell to Paris alone? Every place where we have been young, dreamed, loved, and suffered, possesses it. We feel the affection for it which the ploughman has for the field to which he entrusted his seed. We have the desire to see whether we shall still find traces of our wanderings, and are joyously surprised when we discover that wherever we sowed our youth, the best part of ourselves, invisible to others, but tangible to us, a rich harvest of memories has sprung up.
Every year Rudolf planned the journey to Paris, every year he was compelled to defer it to the next, and he was already beginning to accustom himself to a sorrowful resignation, when the World's Fair of 1878 gave the external impulse for the realization of his long-cherished dream.
The holiday weeks on which his mind had been fixed so many years had passed as swiftly as a dream, and the daily yoke of professional work must again be put on. The last day of his stay in Paris fell on the anniversary of All Souls. Rudolf, with the great majority of Parisians, used it to visit the cemeteries. He spent the first hours of the afternoon in Père la Chaise, where, beside the old, well-known graves, he inspected with great interest the monuments erected since his residence in Paris of Musset, Rossini, Michelet, Regnault, Countess d'Agoult and other celebrities. From Père la Chaise he drove to the cemetery of Montmartre, where he merely wished to place a wreath of immortelles on Heine's grave. But once there, he could not go away without looking about the place a little.
He strolled slowly along the streets of graves, in which, amid commonplace stone slabs and insignificant iron crosses, stately monuments rose at brief intervals, though they rarely bore inscribed on their fronts a name of sufficient distinction to afford a justification for attracting the attention of the wanderer; while as a rule they were only memorials of the vanity extending beyond the grave of the poor obscure mortal whose ashes they sheltered.
The graves were adorned in various ways for the great festival of the dead. The narrow walks around them were strewn with fresh yellow gravel and river sand; pots of blossoming plants stood on the slabs and at the foot of the crosses; on the arms of the latter hung garlands of evergreen and yellow or red immortelles, but also the ugly wreaths of painted plaster and glass beads with affected inscriptions, which dishonour Parisian industry. Beside these mounds, where the work of a loving hand was apparent, and whose dead were evidently united by filaments of love to a tender human being still breathing in the sunshine, forsaken and neglected ones often appeared, on which only a few rain-soaked, decaying leaves of paper wreaths were mouldering, where moss and weeds grew rankly, and in which lay dead for whom no one grieved, and who were now remembered by none in the world of the living. But how speedily one is forgotten in Paris. How soon the ocean of the world's capital swallows up, not only a human being, but his family, all his friends and acquaintances, and even his memory! A chill ran down Rudolf's spine as he pondered over the melancholy thought of living and dying in Paris as a stranger.
As he drifted aimlessly on with the flowing human stream, he suddenly found himself in a narrow side-path before a monument surrounded by a specially dense throng. Several rows of people, principally workmen and their wives, were standing around it, those behind thrusting their heads over the shoulders of the front ranks, the new arrivals pressing impatiently upon those who had taken the place before them and now, as though spell-bound by an absorbing spectacle, stood motionless, making no sign of moving on. Yet the whole crowded group was pervaded by a calmness, a solemn earnestness, not often found among the worshippers in church. Rudolf, whose curiosity was awakened, forced his way through the living wall to the front rank, and suddenly stood before the monument of Baudin, the republican representative of the people who, on the 3d of December, 1851, was shot down in the streets of Paris by drunken soldiers, as, girdled with the tri-coloured sash, which made him recognizable as a member of the legislature, he protested from the top of a barricade against Bonaparte's coup d'etat. A familiar anecdote is associated with the death of this hero. As, surrounded by a few persons of similar views, he was preparing to ascend the barricade, some workmen passing by shouted derisively: "There goes a twenty-five franc man!" This was the insult with which the proletarians, who were systematically incited against the National Assembly, designated the representatives of the people, alluding to their daily pay. Baudin calmly answered: "You will see presently how one can die for twenty-five francs!" and a moment after, fell under the bullets of the soldiery.
At the sight of the monument Rudolf felt the emotion which it awakens in every spectator. On a rectangular stone pedestal lies the life-size bronze figure of Baudin, draped to the breast in a cloak, the left hand hanging in the relaxation of death, while the right convulsively clutches a symbolical table of laws, with the inscription "La Loi," through which passes a treacherous rent. Baudin's face is that of a middle-aged man, with commonplace features, smooth-shaven lips and chin, and the regulation whiskers. But this ordinary countenance becomes grand and heroic by a horrible hole in the forehead, from which blood and brains have gushed. Oh, how such a hole in the brow, pierced by a bullet sent to murder liberty, transfigures a man's visage! A supernatural radiance appears to stream from this tragical opening, into which we cannot gaze without having our eyes overflow with tears.
Rudolf was more touched by the unspeakably pathetic monument than any of the others who reverently surrounded it; for he remembered how narrowly he, too, had escaped a fate akin to that of the martyr before whose statue he had unexpectedly wandered. As he followed the path toward the exit from the cemetery, he again saw himself on the terrible night of December 3d and 4th, 1851, lying weltering in his blood, with failing consciousness, upon the wet pavement of the Rue Montmartre, a bullet in his right hip. The memory of that moment was so vivid, that he fancied he again felt the pain in his hip and began to limp, as he had done for months after the wound. In the broad avenue leading to the main entrance new visions rose before him, made still more intense by the recollections of the coup d'etat evoked by the sight of Baudin's grave. At the right he saw the monument of Gottfried Cavaignac in the midst of the great common grave, into which all the nameless victims of the street fights were thrown in a horrible medley. This blood-stained bit of earth surrounds a circular border of flowers, in whose centre, above a low mound covered with stone slabs, rises a plain iron cross. Rudolf entered the sinister circle and paused beside it. Very peculiar emotions stole over him. It seemed as though he were standing within a cabalistic line which divided him from the world and life. The air within the magic circle appeared more chill than without. He imagined he felt a stir and tremor in the ground beneath his feet as if the dead below were moving, and scraping with their bony fingers on the cover of their narrow abode.
"I should now be lying there with the rest, if the bullet had taken a little different course!" he thought, drawing a long breath of relief. He glanced around him. At the foot of the cross was a heap of wreaths and bouquets, and several women were kneeling on the stone slabs, murmuring silent prayers. "Are there still, after the lapse of twenty-seven years, mourners who remember the dead? No one would have come for my sake, if they had thrown me there too."
He was standing beside one of the kneeling women, at whom he gazed with deep sympathy. She was dressed in black, a long black veil hung from her head, and she seemed wholly absorbed in her fervour. Feeling a steady gaze fixed upon her, she involuntarily looked up. Their eyes met. She sank back with a stifled cry which seemed to issue from a throat suddenly compressed. Involuntarily stretching her arms toward him, while her eyes half closed and consciousness seemed failing, her blanching lips whispered:
He had retreated a step, astonished and bewildered, at the first cry, now he caught the fainting woman in his arms, drew her to his breast, and murmured in a hollow tone:
"Pauline! Is it possible! Pauline!"
She tottered to her feet, her knees trembled, she laid both hands on his shoulders and gazing steadily at him with head thrown back and dilated eyes, said:
"Is it really you! Is it you, Rudolf. You are alive!"
"So you believed me dead?" he asked in a trembling voice, bowing his head.
"I believed that you were down there," she answered, pointing to the stone slabs at their feet.
"And you came to-day "
"To you, Rudolf; to-day as I have come every year for twenty-seven years. See, Rudolf, that is the wreath I laid there for you. And," she added in a very low tone, after a brief pause, "when I suddenly saw you before me, I thought you had risen from this grave to see me once more."
She again remained silent a short time, during which her glances timorously caressed him. "And do you know what instantly convinced me that I beheld no ghost? Because you no longer look as you did at the time when you would have been laid here, if you had really died. The dead do not change. But you, my poor Rudolf, have certainly altered."
"Do you find me very much changed?"
Pauline gazed at him a long time. Her eyes wandered slowly over his figure, his features, his whole appearance, then, as if speaking to herself, she said:
"Not really, Rudolf, not much, after all."
She was probably the only person in the world who could say it; the only one who could see in his countenance the face of the youth of twenty-three, as a practised eye detects, under a palimpsest, the effaced, almost invisible characters of the original writing. For her, his former wealth of brown locks still waved in the place of the closely cut, thin grey hair; she saw the bushy moustache fine and curled, the wrinkled skin ruddy and smooth, the somewhat corpulent figure slender and pliant; she transferred to the man of fifty before her, feature by feature, the image which lived in her faithful memory, transfigured and handsomer than the reality had ever been. And Rudolf did the same. His imagination effaced the little wrinkles around her eyes and mouth, restored to those dim black eyes the sparkle and mirthfulness of youth, developed, from the somewhat fleshy outlines, the graceful forms of the cheeks, chin, neck, bust, which he had once beheld and loved, recognized the raven braids which alone had lost none of their beauty, and saw in the faded woman the blooming girl, surrounded by all the magic of her nineteen years, whom he had left twenty-seven years ago.
Her first excitement had calmed a little during the silent observation which had occupied several minutes; her voice had regained its natural tone, and only trembled a little as she asked:
"But now, for Heaven's sake, tell me how all this has happened? Our concierge saw you when you fell in the street and were carried away."
"He saw correctly."
"Then you were not killed?"
"Well, and ?"
"You know how I left you. I was excited, bareheaded, mad. When I came out of the Passage Saumon into the Rue Montmartre, I found the street deserted, but I heard the roll of drums in the distance, soldiers seemed to be pressing forward from the boulevard. Several persons ran past, trying to escape into the side streets. Before I could clearly understand what was going on around me, a volley of musketry was fired, I felt a violent blow and fell. A few paces from me another man fell, who did not move again. A window in the Passage Saumon opened and instantly closed.
"The soldiers came up, carrying lanterns and torches. They found the other man first, and threw the light into his face. Several voices rose and I saw bayonets thrust into his body. Then they came to me. Bayonets were already flashing above me, I instinctively thrust out my hands in defense, an officer cried: 'Halt!' approached me, and asked who I was. I said as quickly as my mortal fright would permit, that I was a Swiss, a pupil of the École Centrale, lived in the Passage Saumon, had accidentally entered the street and been wounded by a shot. The officer looked at my hands, they were not blackened by powder. The light of the lanterns was cast around I lay in my own blood, but no weapon was near. 'Where is your hat?' asked the officer. 'I wore none when I left home.' 'That is suspicious,' he said, to my terror, but after a moment's reflection, which to me seemed an eternity, gave orders that I should be placed in a vegetable dealer's cart, which had been abandoned by the owner, and taken to a hospital. Four soldiers flung me roughly into the vehicle and dragged me to the Hôtel Dieu."
He paused in his narrative.
Pauline looked at him and her eyes filled with tears.
"If I could tell you how I passed that night! You had scarcely gone out, when the concierge rushed into the room, panting: 'Mademoiselle Pauline! Mademoiselle Pauline! They have just shot our Monsieur Rudolf and carried him off.' I wanted to fly down, he forcibly prevented me. I tried to throw myself out of the window, he would not permit it. I was obliged to wait until morning. Then I ran to the morgue, to the cemeteries, wherever corpses were exposed; I saw many, oh, a horrible number of them, but I did not find you."
She had blanched to the lips as she spoke, and her eyes looked vacant. Rudolf drew her toward him and she unconsciously let her head sink upon his shoulder.
"I was sure that you were dead," she went on, "and that you had been flung into this common grave. Everybody whom I asked told me so. And you sent no message? Why not, if you were still in the Hotel Dieu? Were you not allowed to do so? Were you unconscious?"
"Both, my poor child. For several days I was so ill that I could form no distinct thoughts. When I grew better, I was placed under rigid surveillance, for they suspected me of having fought on the barricades. I was compelled to communicate with my ambassador that he might give information about me, and answer "
"But if you could communicate with your ambassador, you could also have sent me "
He made no answer.
"And then you were cured," she went on more urgently, "and during these long, long years, did it never enter your mind to care for me?"
He hung his head in embarrassment, and with deep pain avoided the glance she fixed upon him. Why had he not written to her, why had he not returned to his lodgings when he left the hospital? He could not yet tell her the truth, not now, not here. Shame and repentance seized him when he thought of it now; simply because he was glad to be able to leave Paris without seeing Pauline again.
It was the old story, which ever remains new. A young student in Paris meets a pretty young working-girl, who is alone in the world; they are pleased with each other, the girl willingly throws herself into the young man's arms, and these arms gladly clasp the affectionate young creature who nestles in them. Under favourable circumstances, this careless, happy relation lasts a year or two, then comes the time when the student has completed his studies and practical life claims him. Farewell to the delightful love-life, with no care for the future, no responsibility! Farewell to the dove-like nest for two in an attic chamber filled with the roseate morning light of youth and hope! As a rule the parting takes place without trouble. He is calm, and she is sensible. Then they dine together in the country, for the last time, drink champagne, and separate with blithesome wishes for future prosperity. Or they are both sentimental. Then there is a little weeping and sighing, they promise to write to each other and probably do so for a time, and it is days, perhaps even weeks before the wound in the heart which, happily, is not very deep, heals.
But often, oh, often
Well, Rudolf's case was precisely one of these. When it was time to leave Paris to begin his professional life, he perceived with terror that the bonds which united him to Pauline were much firmer than he had ever supposed. For two years she had shared his room in the Passage Saumon and, during this whole period, she had not caused him a moment's sorrow, had always thought only of him, to see him content and happy. She went to her work-room in the morning with a kiss and a smile, and returned in the evening with a smile and an embrace. If he was at work she sat quietly in her corner, looking over at him; if he wanted to be gay, she was as frolicsome as a poodle. If he took her to the theatre, she kissed his hand in gratitude. If he went out alone, she was sad, but she said nothing and asked no questions, which touched him so much that he gradually relinquished the habit of going out alone. If he gave her anything, she was reluctant to accept it; she would scarcely allow him even to bestow any articles of dress. In the whole two years he had never seen her nervous or out of temper. Yet he ought, he must repulse this loyal devotion. Yes, he must. For he could not be so crazy as to marry her! At twenty-three! A girl who had been picked up on the sidewalk of the Rue Montmartre. The thought was so absurd that it was not worth while to dwell upon it a moment. Then, when he told her that the happiness must now end, he saw her, to his surprise and terror, turn deadly pale and sink back fainting.
On recovering her consciousness, she burst into endless sobs, clung to his neck, covered him with burning kisses and tears, and exclaimed:
"No, no, you won't leave me; I cannot, I cannot, I would rather die."
He vainly endeavored to bring her to reason. She would listen to nothing. "For what do you reproach me?" The question could not help embarrassing him; for he had nothing with which to reproach her, except that she had been the object of his love, a reproach which of all men on earth he should be the last to make; and that she was poor, which he was ashamed to utter; and that she was uneducated, which could be no serious obstacle, for she made up for ignorance by natural wit and intelligence, and innate refinement. She wanted reasons, he could offer none except: "Why, dear child, surely you will see that we must part now." That, however, was precisely what she could not perceive, and she continued to weep, saying mournfully: "Rudolf, Rudolf, do not leave me. I love you, and that is always something. I want nothing except to have you keep me with you. No one will ever love you as I do."
These unspeakably painful scenes, to which Rudolf had not the courage to put a heroic end, were repeated many days. When Pauline's tears became unendurable, he went out and wandered for hours through the streets, restless, out of humour, tortured. It had happened so on that third of December, and
This was the reason that he had not written to her or returned to his lodgings. The soldier's bullet seemed to him a merciful interposition of Fate, which released him from his difficulties. When health was restored, he fairly fled from Paris, leaving behind him the few effects of a jolly student. This soothed his conscience a little, and moreover he told himself that he owed Pauline nothing, that she did not need him, that she, who possessed a thoroughly reasonable, nay, superior nature, would henceforward pursue the path of honour. True, a secret voice often cried out to him: "Coward! Coward!" But then he solaced himself by shrugging his shoulders and thinking that everybody else would have done the same, and she would console herself quickly enough.
Of course he could not confess this to her, but it was not necessary.
She had divined it all.
With a melancholy smile, she said:
"I understand, my poor Rudolf, I understand you were glad to get rid of troublesome Pauline. The bullet spared you the pain of bidding me farewell." She was about to say more, but she forced it all back into her heart. She had never reproached him, should she do so now, in the spot which, for so many years, she had believed his grave?
Clasping her hand, Rudolf pressed it tenderly, and to give the painful conversation a pleasanter turn, asked:
"What are you doing now, how do you fare, Pauline?"
"I thank you for asking me." There was not a tinge of sarcasm or bitterness in these words, nothing but gratitude. "I am getting on perfectly well. I have worked, have made myself independent, and am now employing eight or ten workwomen, I am well-off, almost rich."
She divined a question in the expression of his eyes, and said quickly:
"Always, Rudolf, I have always remained faithful to you. I did not lack offers, you can understand that but I would not accept. I was ashamed. And I wanted to have only your memory in my heart. Does that surprise you? I suppose you don't believe it? Of course. It isn't to be believed. A girl is courted. What else is there. When one has wearied of her, she is abandoned. But she was so foolish as to love sincerely and can never, never console herself." This time she was growing bitter. Her lips quivered, and she passed her hand across her eyes, once she sobbed softly. Suddenly she drew from her pocket an old leather book, which she gave him. While, with emotion, he recognized it as his own note-book, and found on the first page his half effaced caricature which a comrade in the Ecole Centrale had once sketched, she took from her bosom an enamelled locket, opened it, and held it before his eyes. It was a gift from him, and contained a lock of brown hair his hair! He could not resist the impulse and clasped her passionate sexyly to his breast, in spite of the people who were passing to and fro outside of the circle of flowers.
"Do you believe me now?" she asked releasing herself.
His sole answer was to raise her hand to his lips.
She held his right hand firmly. "And you, Rudolf?"
With an involuntary movement, he tried to draw it from her grasp. This led her to glance quickly at it. The third finger bore a wedding ring.
Pauline uttered a deep sigh, let his hand fall, closed her eyes, and tottered a moment. Then she suddenly sank upon her knees in the same spot where she had knelt before, and her lips began to murmur a prayer.
"Pauline!" he cried imploringly.
She shook her head gently, as though to drive away an inner vision, and turned entirely away from him.
"Pauline! Let me at least have your address! I will not leave you so again!"
She bowed her head upon her clasped hands, and neither moved nor answered.
Rudolf went close to her and laid his hand on her shoulder. A long shudder passed visibly and perceptibly through her whole frame, and she buried her face still more closely in her hands.
He understood her
The first signal of bell ringing sounded, which announced the closing of the cemetery. Rudolf cast a hasty glance towards the entrance. His wife and his brother-in-law, with whom he had appointed this place of meeting, had just appeared there and were looking in every direction. Rudolf glanced once more at the kneeling supplicant, then with a slow, noiseless, faltering step he left the circle of flowers. He passed down the wide avenue as though walking in a dream. When he had nearly reached the gate he stopped and turned for the last time. The western sky was steeped in the glow of sunset. A light mist was rising from the damp ground, filling the paths of the cemetery and effacing the outlines of the human beings and the monuments. Shrouded by these floating vapours, Pauline's motionless dark figure stood forth in strong relief against the bright sky, and seemed to be gradually merging into a background of flaming crimson sunset.
Rudolf felt as if he were beholding his own youth fade and melt into white cloudlets of mist.
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|How Women Love Max Nordau||
"So we have met again, old fellow?" said Wolf Breuning, with heartfelt pleasure, filling his friend Sigmund Friese's glass with wine.
"May it not be so long before the next meeting," cried Sigmund, as he touched glasses and drank.
Wolf Breuning, a tall, handsome man, with bold blue eyes and a long, parted beard, which seemed as though it was woven of threads of red gold, was the manager of a chemical factory in Paris. Sigmund Friese, shorter in stature, with a gentle, somewhat sensitive face, a short, fair, curly beard, and hair aristocratically thin, which already suggested a diplomatic bald head, was teaching mathematics in an American university. Both were natives of South Germany, friends from childhood, and had once plunged into the flood of life from the same spot on the shore, but were afterward washed far apart.
After a long absence, Sigmund had come from Washington to Europe to attend his sister's wedding, and availed himself of the opportunity, on the way from Havre to Mannheim, to visit his friend Wolf in Paris. The latter met him at the station and took him to his pleasant bachelor lodgings in the Rue Notre Dame de Lorette. Now, scarcely an hour later, the first overflow of mutual confidences had been exchanged, and the friends were seated comfortably at dinner.
"Do you know that it is thirteen years since our last meeting?" asked
"Thirteen years!" sighed Sigmund. "How many more times shall we experience such a period?"
"Never again," replied Wolf, "the period from the twenty-fourth to the thirty-seventh year."
"The festal time of life!" said Sigmund; and after a pause, raising the glass to his lips, he added:
"You have no cause to complain," said Wolf consolingly; "youth is past, but you have used it well. A great name in science, an honourable position, comfortable circumstances "
Sigmund smiled sorrowfully and pointed to his bald head.
"Yes, my friend," cried Wolf, "we must make no unreasonable demands on life. Luxuriant locks, and a well-paid professorship, teeth and celebrity, youth and orders, prosperity, successes of all kinds, these we cannot have unless we are born to royal rank."
"When we consider how much we strive and how little we attain! What we dream, and to what realities we waken."
"Sigmund, you are unjust. Thirteen years ago did you imagine, in your boldest expectations, more than you have now attained?"
"Perhaps not. But, to have it afford me pleasure, I ought to have attained it immediately after that time."
"Of course we are more weary when we reach the goal than at the start."
"But this weariness very materially diminishes our pleasure in having reached it."
"Ah, I know the one thing wanting for your happiness," cried Wolf.
"Oh! you have no right to preach marriage, since you have remained a bachelor yourself."
"I am three years younger than you."
"But you are thirty-seven."
"True," replied Wolf, and for a time remained silent and thoughtful.
Then he continued:
"What would you have? Fate destines us to live in a foreign country, without family intercourse, far from the circle with which one is united by early memories and the first affections of the heart; we do not definitely seek, Fate does not help us find. We adjust our lives to habits which really leave no room for a wife, and so the years flit by till some day we discover that we are bachelors and that it is too late to change."
"That is exactly my case; I did not suppose it was yours also."
"With me," replied Wolf, "something else is added. Recollections which make marriage rather dreaded than desired. We know how we have been loved, and fear that we shall not find such love again. We compare in advance a virtuous wife with the woman whose distant image is somewhat transfigured by the past, and confess that we have been completely spoiled for the part of a husband content to sit phlegmatically in the chimney corner."
"You still think of Helene?" cried Sigmund in surprise.
"Why shouldn't I?" replied Wolf, "you also remember her, as I see."
"True," Sigmund assented. "I have not forgotten her. She was a
bewitchingly beautiful and charming woman. What a tempting mouth!
What wicked eyes! And her clever talk! Her merry disposition!
Wherever she was, she filled everything with life and animation."
Wolf gazed thoughtfully into vacancy, and made no reply.
"She loved you very dearly," Sigmund added.
Still Wolf remained silent.
"And you loved her."
"Yes," Wolf answered at last, drawing his fingers slowly through his red beard. "I loved Helene very dearly. So long as I was with her, I did not notice it, and when the child was born, I even felt greatly disturbed by the thought that I should now have her bound to me forever. Not until after we had separated did I discover how large a place she had filled in my life. And the more distant that time becomes, it grows larger instead of less. A reversion of all the laws of perspective."
"But an intelligible phenomenon," observed Sigmund. "Helene has become, in your remembrance, the embodiment of your youth, and the longing with which you think of her concerns your twenty-four years at least as much as she herself."
"It may be so. The fact is that I see Helene in a golden light of youth and careless happiness, and cannot think of her without tears."
"Do you know, friend Wolf, that you perhaps did wrong to leave her?"
"There are hours when I believe it. When we have found a creature whom we love, and who loves us in return, we ought on no account to give her up. We never know whether it will be possible to replace. And, after all, love is the only thing which makes life worth living."
"What would you have, Sigmund? That is the wisdom of mature years. At four and twenty we have not yet reached that knowledge. At that time I perceived only that I had picked Helene up in the Luxembourg gardens, that is, as it were, in the streets. I knew that I was not her first love "
"But her only one," interposed Sigmund.
"So she said, yes. But I had the feeling that I owed her nothing. Love for love. This I gave her, and she ought to ask nothing more. Yet it was an extremely careless relation, and I fully realized its doubtful character. At that time I should have advised any one else in my situation to release themselves from it kindly, and well, I gave myself the same counsel.
"Your heart, even then, must have told you that you were wrong, and I think your common sense tells you so now. After all, the reasoning of the heart and that of the intellect does not differ so widely as silly wise folk suppose."
Wolf made no answer.
"Do you remember," Sigmund began again, "when I came from Heidelberg to visit you thirteen years ago? It was my first trip to Paris. The city, its life, the people, everything produced an overpowering impression upon me. And in the midst of this frantic rush was the charming idyl; you and Helene. Your little room in the quiet street seemed like a magic isle in the roaring ocean. What was the name of that street?"
"The Rue St. Dominique."
"Yes. I should like to make a pilgrimage there to see the old house."
"Impossible. The house has been torn down. The street has disappeared. The magnificent Boulevard St. Germain now runs through there."
"So nothing is to be found again! Nothing is left of all the beautiful things which we experience, save the shadow of its memory in our souls! We ought never to return to the scenes of past happiness, unless we are sure of finding them unchanged."
Sigmund was becoming more and more tender and sensitive. It was his nature.
"How often I have lived over again the evening when you went to Dr. Amandier's reception, and left me alone with Helene. I was very awkward. I did not know how I ought to treat her, and the more at ease she appeared, the more embarassed I became. I paid her compliments, she laughed. Conversation was difficult, for I had no great knowledge of French. She took pity on me and sat down at the cottage piano. She played very prettily. Very often she turned round and smiled at me. She was extremely bewitching, and my heart glowed. I envied you. I planned all sorts of base things. I paid court to her. I confess it now. You are not angry with me?"
"Don't fear," replied Wolf smilingly, "Helene told me about it as soon as I came home. I was not jealous of you."
"Thank you," replied Sigmund with comical irritability. "Summoning my whole vocabulary, I said all sorts of pretty things to her, but while talking excitedly, with burning cheeks, she took up the little dog our friend Tannemann gave her, and calmly began to hunt for fleas in his curly hair. This made me so furious that I started up and rushed off without a farewell."
"But you were appeased the next day," observed Wolf.
"Of course. When my blood had become cool, her composure in the presence of my love-making inspired respect. Then we became the best friends, and she remarked: 'Since you no longer say that you love me, I love you.' And do you remember the Sunday excursion?"
"Certainly. To St Cloud. With Tannemann."
"It was enough to made one die of laughing. Helene intentionally talked extremely fast, so that Tannemann, who knew little about French, could not understand her. He was terribly provoked because he was continually obliged to ask her to repeat everything two or three times. What a merry breakfast we had on the grass in the midst of the ruins!"
"You carried the two bottles of wine in the pockets of your overcoat."
"And you the ham and the chicken. Helene had the bread and butter and the dishes in a little basket. Tannemann was to furnish the dessert. But when the time came for that, he declared that there was some misunderstanding, nothing had been said to him about it."
"He is still the same skinflint he was then."
"The same old pedant, too? Whenever Helene kissed you, he looked away indignantly."
"Helene was very loving that day. How you blush ed when she said that the only thing we needed to be thoroughly comfortable was that you should have brought a little friend too."
Sigmund sighed deeply.
"Yes, we were young then," Wolf said, closing the retrospect.
"And you at least know that you have been young. You possess beautiful memories, of which nothing and no one can deprive you.
"'Who'er has been clasped in the arms of love,
All poverty's ills is for aye raised above;
E'en though he should die afar and alone,
Still would he possess the blissful hour
When kisses upon her lips he did shower,
And, e'en in death, she would yet be his own.'"
"Yours?" asked Wolf.
"Nonsense, that's no mathematician's poetry. Old Storm."
"The feeling is true, though it is somewhat insipidly expressed. Memories are indeed wealth, though it arouses melancholy to rummage amid the treasure."
"Tell me, Wolf what has become of Helene?"
"I hope she is faring very well."
"You do not know?"
"I will tell you what I know about her. I was going to Spain at that time, as you are aware, about the copper-mining business. But I had to give it up because I would not leave Helene. Our child died when it was six weeks old. What would I give if I had the boy now! Then I considered his death the solving of a problem. I told Helene that I must now go to Huelva. She wanted to accompany me. Of course that would not do. There were passionate sexy scenes, but I released myself. She promised to return to her father in Douai, and she kept her word, because for a time her letters came from there."
"So you wrote to each other?"
"Yes, at first. After some time she suddenly appeared in Paris again. She wrote in apology that she could no longer endure that dull Douai with her morose old father. After that I heard nothing from her for a long time. Then came a letter informing me that she was going to marry a wine-merchant, who cherished no resentment for her past, as her father had made a sacrifice!"
"You just said yourself that I ought to have bound her permanently to my life."
"Yes, from love, not for a dowry. Besides, you had less to forgive than the wine-merchant."
"What of it that's the morality of people who are called practical."
"Then the marriage probably took place. I have heard nothing more from
"Did you not try to learn something about her?"
"To be honest no. I do not think I have a right to cross her path. And what would have been the object of another advance, since she was married? True I often feel but we combat such emotions."
"She has never made the attempt to see you again? Perhaps she thinks that you are still in Spain."
"Or she is dead. For when people have loved each other so ardently in the glorious days of youth, it is impossible to live and become strangers. At least it seems so to me."
"Ah, Sigmund, life is a cruel extinguisher of lights."
"Certainly, but there are flames which life does not extinguish. Only death "
A few months had passed since the meeting of the two friends. Sigmund Friese was again in Washington, teaching mathematics, when one day he received the following letter from Wolf Breuning.
"What wonderful things chance can bring to pass in the capital! I am writing to you under the fresh impression of the incident. You will open your eyes! I was walking through the Rue Rochechouart about two o'clock this afternoon when an elegantly dressed lady, coming from the opposite direction, suddenly stopped just in front of me. As I was absorbed in thought, at first I took no notice but passed on. After a few steps the fleeting perception became a distinct consciousness, and I involuntarily turned. There the lady still stood, as if rooted to the spot, looking after me. I went back somewhat hesitatingly, though curious, she hastily advanced to meet me and, ere I could distinguish her features through the thick veil, she cried in a stifled voice: 'I was not mistaken! It is really you! What good luck! What good luck!' As she spoke she stretched out both hands, clasped mine, pressed them, and continued to hold them. You have guessed it: Helene. What shall I say to you, my friend? I felt as if I were in a dream. Before me stood the woman of whom I so often thought, since your visit more frequently and more tenderly than ever, the personification of my happiest moments, the love of my youth, transfigured by memory, for whom I had longed twelve years, whom I had never expected to see again! You know that I am not usually sentimental, but my eyes grew dim. I could say only: 'Helene!' Then we had embraced and kissed each other through the veil as if we were mad, in the public street, and in the presence of the passers-by, who looked at us curiously. Helene took my arm and drew me quickly forward in silence. A hack was passing. Helene stopped it, sprang in hastily, and then asked: 'Can we go to your home?' 'Certainly,' I cried. 'Then give the driver your address.' Now we again sat hand clasped in hand, gazing into each other's eyes, it was a moment full of mingled bliss and pain, such as I have scarcely ever experienced. Then came another shower of kisses and caresses, this time with the veil thrown back and even the hat laid aside the twelve years of course have not passed over her leaving no trace, but she is still a beautiful, stylish woman then followed questions. I was obliged to relate first how I had fared and what I had experienced. She rejoiced that I was unmarried, she pressed my hand when I told her that I had not ceased to think of her. Then she began to tell her story. She was married. Happily? She really had no cause to complain. Her husband, of course, was not I, but she made no comparisons. He treated her kindly. He made a great deal of money. Only she was bored. Besides, he was jealous. It was absurd, since he did not love her. On account of this jealousy she had been obliged to cease writing to me. She was stupid at that time and did not know for what the 'to be kept till called for' had been invented
"Then we reached my lodgings. I was as soft-hearted and imbecile as a student at his first love-tryst. I did not wish to degrade this meeting to the level of a commonplace bachelor adventure. I wanted to keep the bloom and the fragrance of the flower.
"I began to speak of the past."
Alas, dear Sigmund!
"She first said that our meeting occurred in the year 1878. When I clasped my hands and mournfully exclaimed: 'Then you have forgotten that it was in 1874,' she was a little confused, but recovered with the swift remark: 'A date is of no importance, the main thing is that we were happy, oh, very happy!' I asked if she remembered our little nest.
"'Certainly!' she cried, clapping her hands in delight. She remembered that it was in the Rue St. Dominique, but when I attempted to win from her a description of the furniture, the view from our two windows, she evaded it. I turned the conversation to you I don't mention it to offend you but there was not the faintest recollection! Completely forgotten! I spoke of Tannemann nothing, nothing! Not until I recalled the little dog could she remember him, but it was especially the animal, the giver very dimly. I alluded to our excursion her eyes sparkled, all the details, even the most minute incidents came back to her, and she related with the utmost fluency, in a rapture of delight, a picnic with breakfast in a hut built of branches and an extravagant quantity of wine which we had never had together.
"What a shower-bath! My teeth fairly chattered from it. She noticed my coldness, asked if I had any other love, became irritated when I pretended not to hear the question, finally said that she must go, and was thoroughly offended when I did not detain her. She went away without mentioning another meeting and I let her go, without even asking where she lived.
"I shall hardly see her again. I regret that I met her. To-day is the first time that I have wholly lost Helene, and the loss gives me pain. It was a beautiful self-delusion, and I would gladly have treasured it to my life's end.
"You were right when you said that we ought not return to the scenes of former happiness unless we were sure of finding them unchanged.
"A thousand kind remembrances from your strangely agitated
"Postscript. Shall I tell you all I think? I believe that Helene has mistaken me for some one else "
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