I had not in the slightest expected this revolt from her! It brought up all kinds of new possibilities and threats behind them; whose ugly faces were well concealed.
One thing became clear in that moment, that my passions were once more aroused, tantalized as they had been once before, in my younger, stronger times. I felt an irresistible craving, wanted to take up this female, to hold her fast with the last of my dwindling persuasive powers for the rest of my life. If she became free from me I would never find another. It would be boring and ridiculous to play out this dance of love all over again from the beginning.
In that moment I became sick with longing for the love of my former girlfriends. Fear and trembling nestled into my heart and waited to once more tear open the scarred wounds of old loves.
No resentment, no trace of ill feelings stepped between us. We had both long since given up such childish, useless resistance against things that were now over. One spoke of them, but did not get upset—
I turned the lamp on, but then took the red screen away from the clock. A bright yellow light now appeared to be what was needed.
Then I took Alice over to another place and chatted about harmless, unimportant things; about her new acquaintances, and the balls that she was planning to attend. I was trying to discover some new charm that could keep her from leaving me. But none of this seemed to make any impression on her.
“Do you really enjoy going to balls and soirees now?” I asked.
“Yes, now that I’ve gotten accustomed to them.”
“And naturally you are thinking about getting married?”
“Certainly, after I’m a little older . . .”
“The more you will sink in price. That is very important.—how would it be, if I myself joined the crowd of happy perspective buyers?”
“What do you mean and where?”
“Right now, I’m thinking of your gander market, at the ball.”
“That I would like to see, you, Tust, as a suitor!”
“Why not? I can still remember my charming manners, might even bring them along. An attorney from a respected family with my salary is already worthy of a girl valued at five hundred thousand by her brothers.
But Alice was thinking that it would be much nicer to marry a lieutenant. They would be better educated as a husband. She was determined as well, to respectability and the appearance of enduring restraint—
“What a fine marriage it would be between us!” she thought smiling, and secretly painted, in her imagination, a fantasy with a couple of images, that she had to heartily laugh over.
She provoked me with her humor, especially when I considered, that as long as I had known her, not a single thing had happened.
Perhaps later, after I had lost the capability to love entirely and stood waiting, after the honeymoon, to receive help from the known endearments of marriage, yes, then perhaps . . . ! Otherwise, she, as previously said, would be beaten by the untrusting women.
“I have a serious desire,” I continued, “to see for myself how you amuse yourself with your Herren.”
“Come to the next costume ball,” she said. “Then perhaps you will understand that our society is not at all that bad —I already know what you want to say—naturally it is vanity that comes over me there. But I enjoy it, being vain, even though it seems silly.”
And I could not reproach her for that. Only it was difficult for me, the master, to be able to win back her desire. It had not happened for months, when she hung on my neck and swore that there was nothing more beautiful, than to be alone with me. She didn’t want to become a Lady; she hated everything that was stupid and boring, and our high society was really nothing other than a herd of frisky sheep and geese.
“When is the costume ball?” I asked.
“On the first of March.”
“Then I will get an invitation to it from a good Aunt.”
“Oh, that is so dear of you,” she said in outright joy.
It was obviously a way for her to lead me once more into her Milieu, a way in which she would not need to shame herself any further.
“You see,” she continued, “I have always desired this; that your fighting the people was contrary to my wishes. They are not really that unbearably bad.”
“My dear, you are entirely correct. You can have a good laugh over them. Only not the same joke so often! By the third time it is pretty worn out!—”
But, I thought to myself, one must pursue the hoyden, even in strange places. Who knows, whether she will find better pastures over there, and then never again return—
We departed on that evening as good friends. I had not yet lost anything. Only the heavy gray clouds of wooing hung stuffy in the air.
Then I kissed Alice passionately; I held her pretty face solidly in my hands, for the last time, as if it belonged to me.
As her footsteps echoed down the hallway, it was very painful around my heart. She had become someone else for me, one of the beloved that a man suffers for, because a man struggles for her in fear—
The last hours of the day I read a book by Jonas Lie. It was “The Family of Gilje”, and spoke of the dull monotony in the life of a citizen’s daughter. Only in the last chapter did hope and sorrow burst suddenly for the first time, which still moved her; bursting like a soap bubble. Only a sad softness remained behind, the disappointment, which would remain there until death.
The book had tortured me with every page; but in the last chapter, I unexpectedly broke out into bitter tears, groundless and silly, from a feeling that came over me, as if from another world that was alien to me.
I had learned long ago not to feel sorry for myself, and every external hardship I have always observed only with the eyes of a wanderer, who goes through life as if through a strange and sad theater of fools.
So this feeling had to be a metaphysical one.
Still the metaphysical had always seemed pointless and hindered me along the path; and neither the wisdom of Pythagoras, nor the forced laughter of Zarathustra could banish it.
Once I thought that I had brooded this bad feeling inside myself to death, once and for all—and because of that it had returned to me as a ghost with new pains, new enticements and wanted to completely convince me that it was very serious about its childish game.
And I had no more desire at all to fight against it any longer.