Almost running, Sanin returned to his hotel room. He felt, he knew that only there, only by himself, would it be clear to him at last what was the matter, what was happening to him. And so it was; directly he had got inside his room, directly he had sat down to the writing-table, with both elbows on the table and both hands pressed to his face, he cried in a sad and choked voice, ‘I love her, love her madly!’ and he was all aglow within, like a fire when a thick layer of dead ash has been suddenly blown off. An instant more . . . and he was utterly unable to understand how he could have sat beside her . . . her! — and talked to her and not have felt that he worshipped the very hem of her garment, that he was ready as young people express it ‘to die at her feet.’ The last interview in the garden had decided everything. Now when he thought of her, she did not appear to him with blazing curls in the shining starlight; he saw her sitting on the garden-seat, saw her all at once tossing back her hat, and gazing at him so confidingly . . . and the tremor and hunger of love ran through all his veins. He remembered the rose which he had been carrying about in his pocket for three days: he snatched it out, and pressed it with such feverish violence to his lips, that he could not help frowning with the pain. Now he considered nothing, reflected on nothing, did not deliberate, and did not look forward; he had done with all his past, he leaped forward into the future; from the dreary bank of his lonely bachelor life he plunged headlong into that glad, seething, mighty torrent — and little he cared, little he wished to know, where it would carry him, or whether it would dash him against a rock! No more the soft-flowing currents of the Uhland song, which had lulled him not long ago . . . These were mighty, irresistible torrents! They rush flying onwards and he flies with them. . . .
He took a sheet of paper, and without blotting out a word, almost with one sweep of the pen, wrote as follows:—
‘DEAR GEMMA — You know what advice I undertook to give you, what your mother desired, and what she asked of me; but what you don’t know and what I must tell you now is, that I love you, love you with all the ardour of a heart that loves for the first time! This passion has flamed up in me suddenly, but with such force that I can find no words for it! When your mother came to me and asked me, it was still only smouldering in me, or else I should certainly, as an honest man, have refused to carry out her request. . . . The confession I make you now is the confession of an honest man. You ought to know whom you have to do with — between us there should exist no misunderstandings. You see that I cannot give you any advice. . . . I love you, love you, love you — and I have nothing else — either in my head or in my heart!!
When he had folded and sealed this note, Sanin was on the point of ringing for the waiter and sending it by him. . . . ‘No!’ he thought, ‘it would be awkward. . . . By Emil? But to go to the shop, and seek him out there among the other employés, would be awkward too. Besides, it’s dark by now, and he has probably left the shop.’ Reflecting after this fashion, Sanin put on his hat, however, and went into the street; he turned a corner, another, and to his unspeakable delight, saw Emil before him. With a satchel under his arm, and a roll of papers in his hand, the young enthusiast was hurrying home.
‘They may well say every lover has a lucky star,’ thought Sanin, and he called to Emil.
The latter turned and at once rushed to him.
Sanin cut short his transports, handed him the note, and explained to whom and how he was to deliver it. . . . Emil listened attentively.
‘So that no one sees?’ he inquired, assuming an important and mysterious air, that said, ‘We understand the inner meaning of it all!’
‘Yes, my friend,’ said Sanin and he was a little disconcerted; however, he patted Emil on the cheek. . . . ‘And if there should be an answer. . . . You will bring me the answer, won’t you? I will stay at home.’
‘Don’t worry yourself about that!’ Emil whispered gaily; he ran off, and as he ran nodded once more to him.
Sanin went back home, and without lighting a candle, flung himself on the sofa, put his hands behind his head, and abandoned himself to those sensations of newly conscious love, which it is no good even to describe. One who has felt them knows their languor and sweetness; to one who has felt them not, one could never make them known.
The door opened — Emil’s head appeared.
‘I have brought it,’ he said in a whisper: ‘here it is — the answer!’
He showed and waved above his head a folded sheet of paper.
Sanin leaped up from the sofa and snatched it out of Emil’s hand. Passion was working too powerfully within him: he had no thought of reserve now, nor of the observance of a suitable demeanour — even before this boy, her brother. He would have been scrupulous, he would have controlled himself — if he could!
He went to the window, and by the light of a street lamp which stood just opposite the house, he read the following lines:—
I beg you, I beseech you — don’t come to see us, don’t show yourself all day tomorrow. It’s necessary, absolutely necessary for me, and then everything shall be settled. I know you will not say no, because . . .
Sanin read this note twice through. Oh, how touchingly sweet and beautiful her handwriting seemed to him! He thought a little, and turning to Emil, who, wishing to give him to understand what a discreet young person he was, was standing with his face to the wall, and scratching on it with his finger-nails, he called him aloud by name.
Emil ran at once to Sanin. ‘What do you want me to do?’
‘Listen, my young friend . . . ’
‘Monsieur Dimitri,’ Emil interrupted in a plaintive voice, ‘why do you address me so formally?’
Sanin laughed. ‘Oh, very well. Listen, my dearest boy —(Emil gave a little skip of delight)— listen; there you understand, there, you will say, that everything shall be done exactly as is wished —(Emil compressed his lips and nodded solemnly)— and as for me . . . what are you doing tomorrow, my dear boy?’
‘I? what am I doing? What would you like me to do?’
‘If you can, come to me early in the morning — and we will walk about the country round Frankfort till evening. . . . Would you like to?’
Emil gave another little skip. ‘I say, what in the world could be jollier? Go a walk with you — why, it’s simply glorious! I’ll be sure to come!’
‘And if they won’t let you?’
‘They will let me!’
‘Listen . . . Don’t say there that I asked you to come for the whole day.’
‘Why should I? But I’ll get away all the same! What does it matter?’
Emil warmly kissed Sanin, and ran away.
Sanin walked up and down the room a long while, and went late to bed. He gave himself up to the same delicate and sweet sensations, the same joyous thrill at facing a new life. Sanin was very glad that the idea had occurred to him to invite Emil to spend the next day with him; he was like his sister. ‘He will recall her,’ was his thought.
But most of all, he marvelled how he could have been yesterday other than he was today. It seemed to him that he had loved Gemma for all time; and that he had loved her just as he loved her today.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01