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JOSEPH KERKHOVENS THIRD

EXISTENCE

Other Books by Jacob Wassermann


TH E JEWS O F ZIR N D O R F

JOSE PH K E R K H O V E N S
T H I R D E X IST EN C E

FABER: OR T H E L O S T YEARS

(2nd Impression)

A N ov el

T H E TR IU M PH O F YO U T H

(3rd Impression)

by

TH E W O R L D S IL L U S IO N
(2nd Impression)

JACOB W A S S E R M A N N

T H E M A U R IZIU S CASE
E T Z E L A N D E R G A ST
W O R L D S ENDS

Translated from the German by

W EDLOCK
(2nd Impression)

M Y L IF E AS GERM AN AN D JEW

EDEN

and C E D A R P A U L

(Members of the Translators' Guild)

LONDON
GEORGE ALLEN

& U N W IN L T D

M USEUM STR EET

T h e G erm an o rig in a l was fir s t p u b lish ed in 1934


FIRST

PUBLISHED

IN

GREAT

BRITAIN

A l l rights reserved
PRINTED
UNWIN

IN

GREAT

BROTHERS

BRITAIN

LTD.,

BY

WOKING

1 93 4

T R A N S L A T O R S PREFACE
E a r l y in January, when we were busily engaged upon the trans
lation of Joseph Kerkhovens Third Existence, which was (as events
turned out) to be Jacob Wassermanns last work, the news
reached us of his sudden death from heart failure on New Years
morning 1934. T h e tidings came as a considerable shock to us
(though we had never met the man): partly because so charming
a character breathes through this quasi-autobiographical novel,
since Wassermann, to those who can read between the lines,
is obviously himself Kerkhoven and in part Herzog; but
also because a year and a half earlier we had translated the same
authors Bula Matari, II. M . Stanley, Explorer, published by
Cassell & Company, Limited. W e had had a good deal of corre
spondence with the author about certain details of that remarkable
work, a correspondence which had privileged us to number
ourselves among his friends. Another great adventurer and
explorer had attracted Wassermanns pen, for he had written
of Columbus. But it is as a novelist that Wassermann has chiefly
become famous; and many, though by no means all of his novels
have been translated into English, and published in London
by Messrs. George Allen & Unwin, Limited. Arnold Bennett
called him the biggest of modern German novelists. O f The
Worlds Illusion, a reviewer declared that it was One of the
greatest works of fiction of this or any other century. In the
preface to The Triumph of Youth, a mediaeval fantasia, Emil
Ludwig wrote: I consider Jacob Wassermann to be one of the
greatest authors of our time. T h e Bookman, which is not
usually lavish of praise, wrote of Wedlock: It is a magnificent
achievement. Faber or The Lost Years is a notable work. Notable,
too, is the volume of short stories entitled Worlds' Ends, translated
by Lewis Galantiere.
Born in the Bavarian industrial town of Fiirth in 1873, the
son of a Jewish trader in a small way of business, Wassermann
had considerable difficulty in developing his talent for writing,

JOSEPH

K E R K H O V E N S

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EXISTENCE

and the first book to bring him fame was a story of Jewish life
entitled The Jews of Zirndorf, recently translated by Cyrus
Brooks. Yes, Wassermann was of Jewish extraction, though he
did not look like a Jew (one would rather have regarded him
as a Spaniard, predominantly of the Mediterranean type a
type which is fairly common in Franconia), and his writings
were by no means confined to Jewish themes. Throughout his
career ran the tragedy by which the lives of so many German
Jews are devastated, the tragedy of a profound spiritual conflict
between his Jewish origin and his German nationality. That
conflict deepened during the last years of his life and brought
increasing sadness owing to circumstances which are familiar
to us all. Formerly a member of the Prussian Academy of Art,
Wassermann was, with other Jewish savants, deprived of that
distinction by the present German government. He was included
among the many distinguished authors in the First Official
Black-List for Prussia, the list published last spring of writers
whose works were banned from German public libraries.
In M y Life as German and Jew, Wassermann has given a
detailed account of the difficulties that beset those who are
brought up as Germans, feel as Germans, but are ostracised
from German life because they have Semitic instead of
Nordic blood in their veins although perhaps no race on
the European continent is more of a hotch-potch than that which
is called the German. M y Life as German and Jew was written
more than a decade ago; but the recent English translation
contains a concluding chapter entitled Twelve Years Later.
T h e work is free from bitterness, but not free from pain. Not
even in the concluding chapter is any specific mention made
of the official persecution of the Jews which has disgraced the
Hitlerite regime.
Enough of this painful topic. Let us return to Joseph Kerk
hovens Third Existence, which is a typically German book, and
in which none o f the characters are ostensibly Jews. It is the
third volume of a trilogy or saga, the two first volumes of the
series having been published in English as The Maurizius Case

TRANSLATORS'

PREFACE

and Etzel Andergast. Though a sequel, it can be read as a novel


by itself, sufficient indications being given to link it on to the
story of Joseph Kerkhoven, a neurologist and psychologist, and
his wife Marie, two of the leading characters in the second
volume of the sequence. Their lives become intertwined with
that of the famous novelist Alexander Herzog and his second
wife Bettina (Herzog himself, in an interlude, recounts the story
of his first and unhappy marriage). These four main characters
are brought together at the close in Kerkhovens sanatorium
beside the Lake of Constance, where the third existence is
fulfilled. What are these three existences ? The first is described
in Etzel Andergast, when Kerkhoven had a very close friendship
with a man named Johann Irlen, and ended with a period of
apraxia which occurred during the days following Irlens death.
T h e second existence continues through Etzel Andergast and
through the first part of the present volume. T h e third exis
tence, and the philosophy that develops during it (round which
the discussions at the sanatorium centre) begin with Kerkhovens
knowledge that his death is imminent.
In part Joseph Kerkhovens Third Existence is devoted to a
study of the illusions many of which wreck our lives, but some
of which are perhaps necessary to them. Sigmund Freud, it will
be remembered, writes of religion under the fierce title The
Future of an Illusion. Jung, like a good many other scientists,
believes that religion is an illusion, but also a necessity to the
bulk of mankind, and therefore to be encouraged. WassermannKerkhoven, under the shadow of imminent death, goes farther.
He returns to religion (not to Christianity) as something that
is real and true. A rt, it has been well said, was given to us
that we might not be slain by truth. But for WassermannKerkhoven naked truth, is not really true it is to many a
Gorgons Head, and must be veiled in the higher truth of
religion. T o which Wassermann even adds a mystical belief
in immortality. He goes back, explicitly, to a philosophy in
which modern science is affiliated to the religious mysticism of
six hundred years ago, the days of Eckhart, Tauler, and the

IO

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Friends of G od; he discloses a path full of woes, leading,


through death, from earthly love to divine.
In a lecture given by the dying man in defiance of medical
advice, Humanitat und das Problem des Glaubens, the author
develops this creed along systematical lines, and the lecture will
be found in S. Fischers D ie neue Rundschau for February
J934- (Fischers publication of this lecture given in Holland by
Wassermann, is an interesting indication that the Hitlerites are
relaxing, in some measure, the strictness of their ban upon every
manifestation of Semitic thought). English readers who would
like to read the statement of an almost identical scientific credo
by a British scientist will find it in Julian Huxleys Essays of
a Biologist (London, Chatto & Windus, 1923); though Huxley,
while trying to revivify the idea of God, has not much to say
about immortality.
Julian Huxley has not much to say about immortality, for
a biologist unless he leans upon revelation knows nothing
of immortality except that of unicellular organisms and the
germplasm. T h e individual metazoon is mortal. But Jacob
Wassermann, as a mystic and an imaginative writer, transcends
biological limitations. T h e First Book of the novel is named
Syneidesis, a rather vague term in the Greek, meaning both
consciousness and conscience. Wassermann uses it in a
sense at once wider and more precise, writing of it as the law
of biological consciousness, of syneidesis, with a meaning which
may in part denote the phase in evolution wherein the Simian
became man through self-awareness, a process followed by
awareness of death and a craving for immortality. Later, how
ever, the author expands this concept of syneidesis as follows,
in a way which has affiliations with Samuel Butler, Bernard
Shaw, and Bergson: The life-force; the vital impetus; the
god-body; the god-brain, the divine substance; and, in ampli
fying counterpart thereto, the unknown impulse in mans spiritual
life, that something which resembles a pulsating heart, the
substance of the vital programme . . . the sustainer of syneidesis;
the infallible, primary, ineradicable consciousness of protoplasm

TRANSLATORS

PREFACE

11

and the cell-State. Still later, in Book Three, of which the


sub-title is The World of Faith, the doctrine blossoms, during
the conversations at Seeblick, into a specific (but still mystical)
conviction of personal immortality. The mortal puts on immor
tality by being transformed into" G od. This is the dying
Kerkhovens, the dying Wassermanns, confession of faith. Love
is not a state of knowledge or cognition; that is illusion. Love
is a condition of divine obscurity, and only amid obscurity does
faith burgeon.
Thus as a thinker Jacob Wassermann wobbled like most
of us, and to an extent which makes it difficult to classify him.
He was prophet and seer more than thinker, one of those whom
(in On the Rocks) Bernard Shaw describes as ghosts from the
future, speaking back into our distracted epoch, and trying to
give it a lead. In Joseph Kerkhoven's Third Existence are descrip
tions of two interlacing worlds, one, a world of finite doubt and
torment, the other a world of infinite felicity and trust. Wasser
mann, being both Herzog and Kerkhoven, knew both worlds
from personal experience. Through all the episodes of the great
trilogy, we sense the heavy, feverish, and terror-stricken atmo
sphere of earthbound spirits; a frenzy, an agony, a perplexity,
and a supplication. But in Kerkhoven himself, after the third
existence has begun, there develops a wonderful serenity of
mind which may be a message from days to come, though
couched in the terminology of long-past centuries. Realising that
death is imminent, Kerkhoven rests, and awakes refreshed
because he is sure of himself, in harmony with himself, a creature
outside of time and space, at peace with his destiny. In the
language of those days long past, you may call it, if you like
to talk theistically, the peace of God, which passeth all under
standing. Freudians may say that, subconsciously, Wassermann
knew this to be one more illusion, and that was why he made
Alexander Herzog mislay the manuscript of Joseph Kerk
hovens great work on Illusion!
It will be seen that Joseph Kerkhovens Third Existence is
typically a philosophical novel ; but this preface would fail

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of its purpose if it allowed so much talk about philosophy to


scare readers away from the novel. T h e book is full of character
and incident, and is entirely readable, like all the late authors
writings. Although, even as Joseph Kerkhoven knew his death
to be close at hand, so probably did Jacob Wassermann, one
feels that another volume was needed and intended to complete
the series; a volume in which Etzel Andergast would reappear
upon the stage, but that book was destined to remain unwritten.
In any case, Joseph Kerkhovens Third Existence is a worthy
crown to the great novelists career, and cannot fail to have
the success it deserves. For, whether we accept Wassermanns
Taulerian mysticism or not, we are all of us, nowadays, suffering
in an age that has lost its faith not only in God; but in man,
as a member of a society that has failed to develop a collective
intelligence and a collective will for order commensurate with
its complexities. I f Kerkhovens religious faith will help us to
develop that collective intelligence and collective will without
which man will perish, then, indeed, it is better that the Gorgons
Head should be veiled.
Tim e will show, and, meanwhile, Jacob Wassermanns last
novel is a profoundly interesting contribution to a worldwide
problem.
EDEN AN D CED AR PAU L
PR O V E N CE ,

April

19 3 4

CONTENTS
B O O K ONE

Syneidesis
PAGE 17

BO O K TW O

Alexander and Bettina


PAGE 177

BOOK THREE

Joseph and Marie


or the World of Faith
PAGE 479

BOOK

ONE

Syneidesis

SYNEIDESIS
i

O ne day in the early autumn of the year 1929, Joseph Kerkhoven

was overwhelmed by the discovery that his wife, whom he


fondly loved, and his young friend and pupil Etzel Andergast,
whom he had trusted without reserve, were on intimate terms.
The two persons dearest to him in the world had betrayed him,
and the continuance of his ordinary life became inconceivable.
The deadliest stroke was the unexpected onslaught on his own
person, when for years he had deemed himself impregnable to
the bludgeonings of fate. Daily subjected to unspeakable hard
ships, he had gradually learned to forget self; and it had never
occurred to him that a crushing blow could be dealt him.
Destiny was for him a general term. He had acquired a firm
and (as he now learned) an illusory conviction that private
misfortune, personal suffering, individual pain, could not touch
him. Working for others, and wholly devoted to their service,
the man, Kerkhoven, had slipped from his mind so completely
that he was now moved only by the outward mechanisms of life.
Accustomed to pull the strings of other puppets, he no longer
remembered what it was like to be thrust under the wheels of
the Car of Juggernaut. At last he was to be reminded of the
difference between the wound a surgeon has to treat for another,
and the wound which is made in ones own quivering flesh.
2

Incredible as the words may sound, it was true that only in the
moment of catastrophe did it dawn upon him that the ties
between himself and his wife were his very heart-strings. He
felt that Marie and his relationship to her were elements of his
pre-natal being, and that he had lived with her for years without
becoming aware of the fact. Is not this a common oversight,
and should a man feel guilty because he has been guilty of it?
W e have to accommodate ourselves to circumstances, and to

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regard much of what happens as determined by our own


peculiarities.
A ll the same, things might have gone badly with him had he
been alone during the first days of the shock. Not that he would
have laid violent hands upon himself. His self-preservative
instinct and his talent for the appraisal of values would have
prevented suicide. There would, however, have been grave risk
of mental disintegration, of nervous decay. But the questions,
How shall I live henceforward? How can one live down such
a betrayal, so complete a shattering of confidence? led him
back to Marie. It was as if, when out walking, one misses a
companion, and turns eagerly to look for him, even though one
is aware he has deliberately led one into a trap. Besides,
Kerkhoven was a doctor of medicine, and he felt it incumbent
on him to help others without thought of self. It was plain that
Maries spirit was broken.
3

He did not wish to pass judgment; he wanted to know. He was


eager to learn how and when his wife and his friend had come
to stray from the path. This notion that Marie and Etzel had
gone astray throws a strong light upon the condition of a ^ a n
who, in ordinary circumstances, was not prone to think in terms
of moral reprobation. It was the beginning of a momentous
internal conflict. As for Marie, emotionally and spiritually
distraught, she found alleviation and a possibility of requital in
the avowals he impetuously demanded.
She must make a clean breast of it, for otherwise she would
be a prey to shame, bitterness, remorse, and despair. T o yearning,
also, which would be worst of all; to a hopeless longing for the
man who had forsaken her, and had fled to an undiscovered
bourne. It was not to Joseph as her husband that she now
unbosomed herself with the frankness of a penitent at the
confessional; but to Joseph as her friend, as the only person
able to understand what had happened. She asked this under
standing of him with the naivety characteristic of persons stricken
to the soul; begging him not to arraign her, but to put himself

SYNEIDESIS

and his suffering out of consideration; making it clear to him


that she looked up to him, and could speak frankly to him about
her sorrows. She was to blame, intolerably to blame; but she
would only be able to acknowledge her fault, if he did not account
her blameworthy.
This was no longer the Marie whom he knew, or had believed
himself to know. She was a woman who had had a unique and
irrevocable sensual experience, and one she would not repudiate.
She was willing to sacrifice her person. Do with me as you
w ill, she seemed to say. Drive me away from you; deprive
me of my children; call me a cheat and a liar. These things do
not matter; but I cling to my recent experience.
Kerkhoven was confronted with an enigma. He fancied he
had a faculty for insight into the hidden depths of the mind,
but he could not fathom what was going on in his wifes. No
doubt his perplexity was the outcome of the loving ties between
them, of the invisible navel-string that united the pair. She has
plunged into abysses where I cannot reach her, he reflected.
He ceased to note, or forgot, his own crashing fall; for it was
a consolation to him to figure himself as one who bends forward
in the attempt to rescue another. She lent herself to this notion,
lifting imploring hands to him, begging for help. But, so far, he
lacked power to raise her up. He wanted to know. First he must
know everything. Full knowledge would bring deliverance.
4

Even now, however, Marie would make no acknowledgment of


sin.
Had he never noticed how lonely she was in her married life ?
How she lacked companionship? How she had moved along
close to him, after him, round him continually hoping that he
would turn to her once more? How from month to month and
from year to year she had unceasingly tried to make the best of
her loneliness; and how the unsatisfied need had, by degrees,
preyed upon her spirits and aroused a tumult in her mind?
Had he never suspected? What had he been doing, then; of

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what had he been thinking? A thousand times she had asked


herself what he could be about; had blamed herself for being
selfish and exacting; had reminded herself of the great tasks he
was called upon to fulfil, of the profession which monopolised
his time and his energies, until he had become nothing more
than a name and a function, a mere lodger in his own house,
one whose bed had to be made and for whom meals had to be
provided at stated intervals; one who kept doors and windows
open for the free admittance o f lives, even the most valueless;
all, excepting the life of the person who was pining away by his
side. How had this been possible?
Kerkhoven could not deny that her description of what had
taken place was accurate. He had been too sure of her! The
upshot of such overweening confidence had been that Marie
was reduced to being nothing more than part of the furniture
of his home; a part that happened to be alive, indeed, but could
be relied upon to keep its place in the establishment without any
trouble being taken. T h e accusation was justified. It grew plain
to him that in every genuinely human alliance the deadly sin is
for either o f the partners to rest content with the certainty that
all is well. Still, he could plead extenuating circumstances. His
life had been strenuous, overfilled with duties and claimsMsvents
had proved too much for him both as husband and as father.
His crowning mistake had been a belief that Marie approved
and supported him in his behaviour. He had made the great
blunder of fancying her willing to renounce a life and a happiness
that should be peculiarly her own.
5

So much for the counter-charge. Bitter enough forsooth, in spite


o f its being phrased delicately. Y et what was the good of phrasing
an exculpation delicately when nevertheless every word shouted
the fact: you have betrayed me? T h is is what cut Marie to the
quick. If it were true that she had acted the traitor, how could
she hope to expiate the fault? No, it was not true. U p to the last
she had with all her strength fought against her passionate desire.

SYNEIDESIS

21

Joseph, if you only knew! You would not then speak of


betrayal.
What should I know?
It has nothing to do with you or with me. Nothing to do
with my love for you.
All very pretty, to be sure. Perhaps in retrospect you honestly
think so.
You are mistaken. Both for myself and for him you were
always a kind of guardian angel, from the very first, all the
time.
I know. I know. He was pleased to set me up as a divinity
so as to have an excuse for yielding to his human frailty, just as
a pious burglar will kneel down and offer up a prayer before
breaking into a house. But you, Marie, you?
She did not answer at once. What he said seemed to her
crazy, seemed inconsistent with his character and his outlook
on life. She could only look at him in astonishment. Then,
tentatively, she reminded him of the many times she had waited
for his home-coming, how she had signed to him and he had
not seen, how she had called to him and he had not heard.
Not merely had he not heard, but he had actually sent Etzel
to replace him.
Have you forgotten? Have you forgotten the letter wherein
I told you I could no longer bear my solitude, that I wanted
you, my husband, at my side, the man fate had given me and
not the doctor with his celebrity and his work and his short
quarter-hour visits snatched from higher occupations, not the
famous physician with his head among the clouds and his eyes
staring into the illimitable spaces o f the universe? I wanted my
man, the whole of him, with his eyes, his skin, his hair, his
heart, and his breath. Joseph, Joseph, did I not make my meaning
plain? Could you not read between the lines of that letter that
my heart was torn, that my arms were outstretched, aching to
hold you, to press you to me? That I was athirst, that I was
consumed with longing? Forgive me. This sounds so theatrical
when it is actually spoken; and yet that is exactly how I ve been

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feeling. A crisis, if you like. And what have you done? Not
budged. So when the youngster brought me your message
he . . . What did you suppose? That hed change the current
o f my thoughts? Was it not natural in the circumstances that I
should feel you wanted to be quit of me and my love? Did you
not force me into the path I followed? Was it a crime to fancy
that you had set your heart on our doing what neither he nor
I had ventured to think of doing?
Her body trembled. Her glibness of tongue was decidedly
morbid. She was at one and the same time fighting for her
husband and for herself. W ith her face supported between her
hands, she gazed at him distraught. Kerkhoven endeavoured to
loosen the convulsive grip of her fingers upon her cheeks. A t last
he managed to say:
. I thought . . . the children. . . . After all, you are their
mother. I ve always looked upon you as a true mother to
them. . . .
Marie sobbed convulsively, and with a wry smile returned to
the charge.
The fact of being a mother does not compensate for every
thing. Motherhood may very well turn out to be a dudgeon into
which one thrusts away the woman and wife, to put her out of
harms way. You recognise that as clearly as I do. One can be
a mother and housekeeper and mistress of the home, or anything
else you like, but you cannot expect a woman of thirty-six to
live as though she were a widow while her husband dwells under
the same roof and is a man of flesh and blood. Surely you
understand that much?
He understood only too well, although he had never expected
to hear her speak so frankly about such matters. Kerkhoven was
taken aback. What would have been the good of saying: M y
road to join you has been strewn with a hundred sufferers begging
for help and relief; the clamour these poor wretches raised
stifled the sound of your voice. Had there been a thousand or a
million supplicants, still that would not have altered the fact
that here and now, in my very presence, is a creature, utterly

SYNEIDESIS

23

broken, a woman who has called to me in vain, and who, for me,
weighs heavier in the balances of fate than the entire universe
put together.

6
He felt that in the present crisis it was incumbent upon him to
devote as much o f his time as was practicable to Marie.
Kerkhoven cried off his lectures, declaring that he was too ill to
deliver them; refused to allow his work to encroach upon his
private life; was loth to answer telegrams and telephone calls.
In a word, what a few weeks earlier appeared impossible of
attainment came about quite naturally. Nobody and nothing
afforded him the slightest interest save Marie. I f an urgent
request for his services came from Berlin, he would return
immediately the consultation was over.
From morning till night he was, whenever possible, at M aries
side. Should he leave the room for a moment, she would have
an attack of giddiness, would suffer from nausea and shivering
fits; indeed the rigor was at times so violent that her teeth
chattered like pebbles in a box, and she would be seized with
violent colic. Hands uplifted, she implored him not to leave her
alone. She followed him into his study, his bedroom, or the
garden, while her head spun like a top. I f he persuaded her to
go to bed, she would obey as soon as he promised to stay by
her. Even at night she refused to be alone. She had his bed
brought into her room and placed beside hers. Hardly could she
bear to take her eyes off him. It seemed as if she dared not let
him out of her sight. Only if she constantly kept him in view,
could she feel assured that he did nothing, thought nothing, felt
nothing that would separate him from her. What she dreaded
most was his private reflections.
She could not sleep without sedatives. T h e fear of fears was
awakening in the morning, for with awakening came fear. Fear
is a word that drops lightly from the tongue though few realise
what it means. T o depict it one needs to employ the gaudiest
colours. Toads seemed to crawl over her body, the skin exuded
a slimy moisture, the brain was pressed within iron bands, the

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heart beat wildly like that of a hunted beast, the stomach was
an alien monster tortured with cramps, light was a glare, smelling
and tasting became horrible, ones children with their endearing
ways and their questions put one on the rack, and if a visitors
foot kicked accidentally against the bed-post one could scream
with the agony of it.
Kerkhoven knew what fear meant. He had made a special
study of it in its every manifestation, and had found a name for
its many grades and aspects. But for all his experience of this
disease, in the case before him he was at fault. He was forced
to recognise something which he did not wish consciously to
accept and yet had to accept, namely: sensual ties and com
plications, abysses of sensual disintegration to which the exhausted
nerves bore witness, for in them memory persisted as the memory
of a life that has ceased persists in an excised heart which is
artificially induced to beat upon the experimenters table. The
pendulum swung to the other side; the twitchings of ardour
continued in the cold; a shudder occurred as a metamorphosis
of what once was pleasure. Such medical analyses proved highly
detrimental to him, for through them he was goaded into an
attitude of self-martyrdom. Kerkhoven became obsessed with the
desire to inflict a mortal injury upon the being whc,.had held
Marie in his arms. M urder alone could free him, and restore
his peace of mind. A bestial impulse, a despicable inclination no
doubt; but how was he to react against this inner urge? It was
like a voracious appetite, rendering him frenzied because of his
incapacity to overcome it. He was a creature to be pitied.
Marie was ready to tell him all he wanted to know, for this
was an infallible way of keeping him by her side; and so long
as he was there, fear was held at bay. She was, therefore,
reconciled to furnishing suitable answers to his unending
questions, although the pain of talking over her experience was
excruciating. Nevertheless, she felt instinctively that he did not
wish to be spared and, consequently, she did not spare him.
Even suffering procures a simulated pleasure. When she had
sufficiently lashed herself with words, her dreams and her

SYNEIDESIS

25

longings would stray into the domain of her lost happiness, of


which she would proceed to speak with content and even with
intoxication her confused narration rising and falling like the
curve on a temperature chart. A t one moment she would describe
how she had suffered morally and spiritually through being
forced to lie and to misrepresent and because of her lovers
tyranny, whereas at another moment she would not admit that
she had done wrong, and would defiantly champion the rights
(so-called) of a free person. In one breath she would empty the
vials of hatred and bitterness upon the name of the lover to
whom she had given herself, and therewith intensify Kerkhovens
distress as he listened to her words; but in the next breath she
would speak of Etzel with the reverential tenderness customary
when speaking of the enshrined dead.
This Marie was unknown to him. She was no longer the
woman who had borne him two children, and had been a comrade
to him upon his difficult road. He recalled how, sixteen years
before, something similar had happened, when he had first made
her acquaintance after, heedless of her own physical and mental
peculiarities, she had given herself to an unprincipled adventurer.
But then he had understood, for he had just begun to understand
himself and his own experiences. Now he was confronted by a
human being with an inaccessible secret, hidden by a curtain of
fear. Yet he, Kerkhoven, was to be the guardian of the black
curtain! Although he was burning with the desire to learn what
lay behind, it behoved him at all costs to prevent the raising of
the curtain and the disclosure of the secret. A t the same time,
he had to behave as if he knew, for Marie posed as though she
were revealing the most secret places of her mind.
An impossible situation! He was no longer a physician, no
longer a healer, no longer a father confessor, no longer a rescuer.
His impatience to pull aside the curtain made his duties as
watchman repulsive. He had become a non-physician, an anti
physician, one who tears open partially healed wounds. The sex
in him had been mortified. T h e man had been humiliated, the
homunculus (infuriated) was on the defensive. He entered a

26

JOSEPH

KERKH O VEN S

THIRD

EXISTENCE

phase of debasement, in which his form and character were


sacrificed. Need we be surprised that, with Marie, he plunged
into the abyss?
7

Was Etzel Andergast the seducer or the seduced? This seemed


to Kerkhoven the crux of the whole business. Marie kept her
own counsel; indeed the answer appeared to her a matter of no
moment. A power exterior to themselves had driven the young
man and the woman into one anothers arms: the Master. He
knew of the liaison, he countenanced the liaison; that decided
the matter and wiped away any smirch that might have clung
to it. Unused to yielding to anger, Kerkhoven swallowed his
gruel as best he might. Fine mastery, that had made him a
figure of fu n ! Fine magnanimity, that had made him a cuckold!
Marie was horrified both at the word and at the idea. Were
liberal-mindedness and medical understanding things that
existed only outside the home?
Joseph, remember who you are!
Whether she had been seduced or not, what she wanted her
husband to grasp was that the young fellow had swept her off
her feet. Never had a man paid her so much attention, been so
considerate and tender, so chivalrous; never had she realised
how greatly she yearned to be made love to in that way until
she had already yielded to his fascination. Every tim-,, Marie
mentioned Andergasts name, she expatiated upon this enthralling
characteristic. On such occasions, Kerkhoven felt as if a spectre
were standing behind him ready to clap him on the shoulder.
He had always to be on hand, always to have time for talks
with Marie, must never shirk giving himself trouble in her
behalf, must invariably be alert to catch the significance of her
wayward moods, to anticipate her wishes, to guess her thoughts.
In addition, he knew that she revelled in the feeling that she
had been the initiator, that she had awakened Etzel to the
realisation of the love life. . . .
All this, Kerkhoven understood very well. What puzzled him
was her harsh and explosive censures of her youthful lover, her

SYNEIDESIS

27

accusations, her declaration that he was a tyrant. W hich was


Kerkhoven to believe; which constituted the true portrait?
Marie would hasten to affirm that Etzel had shown such qualities
only after fate had drawn the twain together. Conscience pricked
the lad; he was morbidly jealous of his rival, his senior; he had
urged her to decamp with him, and then they would marry. . . .
At the outset she had considered such propositions mad, and
she had laughed at the boy. Then he set about finding ways of
wounding her, of arousing her jealousy, of scolding her, of
railing at her. In the end he had declared: I ll bring you to
your knees! He meant her to capitulate, no matter what might
ensue. That had been the culmination of the affair. Then, then
at last, Joseph had taken a hand in the game.
What did he mean by bringing you to your knees ? asked
Kerkhoven, mystified. Capitulate? I dont understand.
I would have yielded to his will. Gone off with him. Married
him. Oh, I was as mad as he!

8
Marie brought to her knees by a mere boy! Marie, his proud
Marie? Kerkhoven could not get over that. T h e idea haunted
him, bored into his brain like an auger. How could such a thing
come to pass? He must know, he absolutely must know; and at
the very next talk, he put his question.
T h e household had already retired for the night, and Marie
and Joseph were alone in the sitting-room. She was ensconced
in an armchair; he sat on a dumpy nearby, holding her ice-cold
hands in his. For a long time she looked deep into his eyes
without saying a word. Then that terrifying sensation of euphoria
she had come to know so well flooded her being, altering her
demeanour so that she seemed to be playing a part.
Do you not understand? The power that an unsullied being
can exercise . . . the charm . . . oh, its indescribable . . .
particularly the charm, the exquisite sweetness of it all. . . .
One encounters that so rarely among men. Cant you understand

28

JOSEPH

K E R K H O V E N S

THIRD

EXISTENCE

that when a man comes to a woman absolutely pure . . .


intact . .
Why did the word intact so horrify and wound Kerkhoven
when he had already been horrified and wounded by everything
Marie said ? Ones ideas of a persons character are apt to become
fixed, so that the use of an unexpected term opens the windows
on to a mind one had thought familiar, to reveal things which
had been overlooked for a lifetime. A brilliant flashlight is thus
thrown upon what hitherto had been dimly surmised. Kerkhoven
was not lacking in imagination, and this faculty had served him
in good stead during the years he had practised the healing art.
Now he turned it ruthlessly against himself, re-living the scenes
between the two lovers and suffering the agonies of the damned.
He had to look on, yes, look on without being able to blot out
the pictures which presented themselves before his minds eye,
and denied the blessed repose of forgetfulness. He saw them in
one anothers arms; he saw them looking desirously into one
anothers eyes; he saw them never satiated with mutual caresses;
he saw them going to meet one another at the place of
assignation. . . . But these were preliminaries merely. Further
torture was to follow. W ith a quasi-perverse voluptuousness, he
participated in her unclothing, in their passionate embraces, in
the growing delirium of the encounter, in the climax of their
ardours, in the subsequent languor when they lay 'imply
entwined. M ating, that was the expression which beat upon
his brain; a loathsome word to his way of thinking. Mating,
mating; adulterously mating. . . . These images, one and all of
them, besieged him, mocked him, poisoned and strangled him.
His spirit, his heart, the centres of his living personality, sucked
in the unmitigated horror, awakening jealousy which was
nourished to repletion on the past, rendering him as restless as
a madman and clouding his mind as with an eclipse.
9

Marie was alive to the situation. It was certainly a serious one.


She guessed what was going on in her husbands head. Did she

SYNEIDESIS

29

not know him better than he knew himself? Often it was as if


she were gifted with second sight, so clearly was she able to put
a finger on his most hidden feelings. In her despair, the only
ray of hope had been to find in him a tower of strength. Her
reliance on him had been invested with a kind of mystical
glamour, so that he had appeared as solid as a rock. How
frequently, in the most trying circumstances, had he not proved
himself unshakable. Now that she saw him vacillating, a prey to
phantoms, looking to her for support, to her who had dragged
loose from her moorings, her grief and disappointment knew no
bounds.
Instead of being helped, she had to expend her energies in
helping him. But what sort of help could she give? It would
have to be something which would kill his pain in the germ.
She felt vaguely what was needed of her. In spite of exhaustion,
her feminine instinct was on the alert, so that she sympathised
fully with Josephs mortification as erotic companion who had
failed unwittingly in his duties as husband; she knew that he
needed to be reassured in his manly pride; for were he not, the
torment he was suffering would turn sour, and undermine his
sexual self-confidence. All this had nothing to do with the
physical side of lo v e; her blood was as stagnant for the moment
as the water in an abandoned quarry. But she could serve him
as friend and comrade; yes, devote herself to him as a friend
with whom one shares joy and trouble alike. She would need to
make use of her mother-wit, would need to be cunning and
self-sacrificing if she were to succeed in relaxing the tension of
his soul. Not so very hard in the circumstances to have recourse
to a little misrepresentation; a woman is apt at the game, and
men are easily beguiled!
Her heroic resolve was, however, not only vain, but it made
matters worse. W hat happened invariably happens when the
body refuses cooperation with the will. Strength of purpose was
mastered by an excessive irritability of the nerves. Functional
capacity was paralysed by the intensity of her resolution. Defeat
followed defeat. Kerkhoven ate his heart out, for his shame was

3o

JO S E P H

KERKH O VEN S

T H IR D

E X IS T E N C E

becoming plainer day by day. He was a vanquished man. Y et


he was loth to surrender, and his defencelessness led him to
thoughts of suicide. He was like a boxer who enters the ring
with a temperature at fever point, and who mistakes the delusive
energy thus imparted for a sign that he is unconquerable. An
added horror was that he could not rid himself of the feeling
that he must measure his strength with an opponent whose
watchful eye was constantly upon him, and whose strength
(belauded by Marie) was specially galling to him and contributed
to his mad imaginings. The man of forty-nine wished to challenge
the stripling of twenty-three to a combat, wanted to annihilate
a rival who had fled like a coward for it was thus that Kerkhoven
looked upon Etzel. But the endeavour to belittle this rival, to
conquer this rival, to rid his mind of this rival and squeeze him
out of Maries blood, was unavailing. Josephs fixed idea was
that he could act as substitute for the absconding Andergast,
and that Marie would not notice the substitution; he imagined
that the passionate experience might be continued with himself,
her husband, as partner; that Marie would lend herself to the
game; indeed, desired nothing better. Each mistake Kerkhoven
made was worse than the previous one.
Marie was on the rack, and accepted her martyrdom. Though
the role she was assuming was ^nerely that of the loving wife,
in truth she had to play the part of the Good Samaritan and to
bind up Josephs wounds. Though her endearments were
fruitless to help him, still she could console him. His astonish
ment at her tenderness cut her to the quick. His galloping pulse
filled her with anxiety. She put her arms around him, and
whispered:
There, there, my dear; try to compose yourself, be patient,
your body is wiser than your mind. . .
He was no more than a boy in her embrace, an unhappy son,
a mad, shamefaced, and sobbing child.
Man could sink no lower. There was nothing left of his
spiritual possessions, of his personal dignity, of his acquirements,
o f his manifold activities, of the worlds appreciation for all he

S Y N E ID E S IS

31

had done. He was empty, finished, plundered. Late one evening


in the laboratory he selected a bottle containing a quick-acting
poison, and slipped it into his pocket. On getting back to Lindow,
he found a wire awaiting him. It came from the Dutch Colonial
Ministry. He was invited to go to Java for six months to study
an endemic disease of the brain that was rife among the indigenes.
Was this a sign? Were the higher powers taking a hand? He
shrugged. Half an hour later he marched up to the fireplace and
dropped the bottle of poison into the flames. It exploded with
a loud report, and Kerkhoven smiled grimly.
10

Two creatures clinging convulsively to one another in the hope


that with their combined efforts they may sooner escape from
the whirlpool such was the course things took. Marie left the
Lindow estate to see after itself. She looked forward to the
coming winter with a shudder. Every day brought fresh desolation
in its train. Every hour of the sleepless night possessed a horror
all its own. W hy could not one be snuffed out like a candle?
Life under such conditions was a crime against nature. When
delirium overtook her, even the maddest ideas seemed to her
possibilities, such as that the beloved fugitive was standing at
the door begging for admittance, or that the telephone bell
sounded and when she took up the receiver she heard his voice
over the wires. Or it might be that Joseph had summoned Etzel
to a final interview in order to thrash the matter out, and that
she would see her dear one for a last time. When the evil mood
was upon her, she felt capable o f taking revenge. Then her
longing might be turned into hate. Etzel had no business to
leave her thus to her misery, to flee from the Master who had
formed him, set him on his feet, imbued him with the concept
of what is meant by a human soul.
One evening they had gone to the Philharmonic to hear a
concert given by the Don Cossacks. Afterwards, Marie said:
Joseph, my dear, could you not write him a few lines. . . .
It would prove, I am sure, a relief to you, to him, and to myself.

32

JO SEPH

K E R K H O V E N S

T H IR D

E X IS T E N C E

Kerkhoven coloured. T h ey were sitting at supper, and he


glared down at his plate. Then, in a broken, spasmodic voice,
he managed to answer:
Write? T o him? T h ats a quaint idea. What do you hope to
get out of it? In what way do you fancy itll do him good?
Marie stretched her arms across the table, and took his right
hand in both of hers.
T ell him, she said softly, tell him you have forgiven him.
Thats the only way of saving the situation for us. . . .
Though she spoke of us, in the back of her mind she was
thinking you. T h e idea had come to her during the concert,
and it acted as if a crowbar had raised a huge block of ice from
her chest. It was incumbent on her to give her husband back
his reason for living, restore him to himself, raise him out of
the pit into which her conduct had precipitated him. Her duty!
After all, his state of mind had been occasioned by her, and as
she had listened to the mournful cadence of the Russian songs
she had come to believe that a letter from Joseph to Etzel was
the only way out.
I cannot see, Marie continued, how else you and I can
reconstruct our life together.
Kerkhoven got up and wandered aimlessly round the table.
How can I write when I do not know where the hell he is?
No one knows of his whereabouts. Nobody.
He tried to withstand her influence, which he felt was a kind
of bondage. This idea, as it forced itself upon him, put him
farther out of humour.
Still, persisted Marie tentatively, you were once an intimate
at his mothers house. . .
When last I heard from her she was living at Baden-Baden.
Then, after a moments hesitation: Your suggestion is im
possible, Marie. M y unhappy pride would suffer too much.
I simply cant do it. I d be giving myself away a trifle in excess
of . .
But does one give oneself away by acting in a generous
spirit? You are apt to place extreme values upon things. Indeed

SYNEIDESIS

33

you are no longer yourself. If you were yourself, everything


would be different.
Kerkhoven, in a strange state bordering upon unconsciousness,
muttered:
One thing I could do . . . I must do . . . seek him out,
find him . . . it is surely possible to trace . .
His features
were convulsed; he clenched his fists.
Look me in the eyes, my dear, besought Marie, raising her
hands in supplication. Her blue satin dress made a beautiful
contrast to the amethyst coloured chair she was sitting in, and
her face, with its closed eyes, shone like frozen milk.
I see no way out, answered Kerkhoven in a sepulchral
voice. I feel as though I were standing over the void.
Then, suddenly, he strode up to her and placed his powerful
hand on her head. Her hair felt like warm hay in the noontide
sun. A wan smile flickered over her features as she raised her
eyes to his, while he spoke words which betokened that a new
day had dawned.
Y ouve been caught in elemental forces, Marie, forces beyond
our control. This much at least I know. You are enmeshed in
a world where the darkest powers reign supreme . . . in a kind
of primeval night. Such a thing happens rarely on our planet.
Most people keep clear of those regions. W eve got to strive
with all our energy to close the breach made in the wall . . .
tend it like a wound. . . . For we cannot go on living so long
as it is gaping. . .
Hearing these words Marie sprang to her feet, flung her arms
round her husband, pressed him to her heart.
Oh Joseph, my dear, she sighed, and laid her tortured face
on his shoulder.
ii

All the same, a terrible conflagration had taken place. It was


necessary to clear up the mess and to see whether any of what
remained could be made use of in the rebuilding. Yes, a general
overhaul was needed. There ensued talks between the twain
B

34

JOSEPH

K E R K H O V E N S

THIRD

EXISTENCE

which no longer related to the abyss of misery into which they


had plunged, but which gradually led them on to higher planes.
They seemed to have passed the lowest point, although the
night still encompassed them.
They had become inseparable. Never before had they been so
united. One might have thought that for the first time they had
got to know one another. They made, incidentally, a great
discovery, namely that their years of wedded life had been a
period of growing estrangement rather than of mutual under
standing. Now they met again as fresh acquaintances. Strangers,
it is true: but such a situation might prove salutary in the
extreme. Marie was able in the long run to persuade him that
he was the initiator, that he had exorcised the demons that
tortured them both. Unless their nerves and their senses could
find peace, all methods of salvation would prove nothing better
than a childish game. Joseph recognised that he had been remiss
in the performance o f his conjugal duties. Renunciation must be
the first step towards reinstatement. Marie, however, refused to
relinquish the idea that a man who genuinely loves a woman
must leave her free, free as an Arab of her beloved. After
lengthy cogitation he agreed that she was right. Nevertheless,
he asked:
Dont you think that in our case its a bit late to . . .
It is never too late, she answered decidedly.
All right, then, agreed.
So it was arranged that she was to be free, that no thought
of his and no wish o f his was to bind her in any way. He was
to be an invisible protector, that was all. A difficult position?
Perhaps. But is renunciation ever easy?
In his view it was only by such means that he could regain
his position and release her from the trap in which she had been
caught. Thus only could he relieve her of the fear which possessed
her, and blot out the memory of her passionate interlude. He
would need the utmost tact, for Marie must on no account
become aware of what he was trying to do. So much for a
beginning. Thereafter he would have to furnish her with new

SYNEIDESIS

35

ingredients for her spiritual nourishment, food which would


content her soul to satiety; he must create in her a sense of
tension, of perpetual motion thus far, at least, he had read in
the book of her character, that he no longer considered her
recent love-affair as a chance happening, or as a lawless debauch,
as a frivolous lapse from the fidelity she owed him as his wife,
but as an act of dire necessity caused by a drought in the springs
o f affection.
I ve got to recognise that much at least, he communed,
otherwise I shall never be able to understand M arie.
But Marie, whose intuition registered his every emotion like
a seismograph, knew that he was overshooting the mark. W hy
take things so deeply to heart? W hy load the scales so heavily?
Could he not imagine what had taken place, without allowing
himself to be influenced by his personal participation or non
participation? Nothing had happened to him, and yet he was
behaving like a man who had suffered a grievous wrong. W hy
could he not look at the matter naturally and reasonably, as
Joseph Kerkhoven should look at it, and not with the outraged
feelings of one who thinks it necessary to make a parade of his
love? For this love was nowise impugned. Could he not see that,
for a Joseph Kerkhoven, his attitude was bad form?
She was eternally coming back to this question. Although by
nature she was not of a joking disposition, she now put herself
about to appear gay, to make the house cheerful for him, to
make him laugh at his own deaths-head demeanour, to tease
him into a more playful mood. Her sense of humour was
sufficiently well developed to save many a painful situation,
although a few moments earlier she had imagined she could
never find relief from the despondency which oppressed her.
Occasionally, even Kerkhoven mustered a smile in response. It
did not seem improbable to him that in some remote future he
might assume the sovereign role Marie had assigned to him.
But the body set itself up in opposition; his virility, a heritage
from past generations of men, who had for centuries been
guaranteed complete and sole possession of the mate-woman,

36

JOSEPH

K E R K H O V E N S

THIRD

EXISTENCE

put up a dull, idiotic, and senseless resistance, so that as man


he fought desperately agfinst the theft and the dishonour.
These feelings lie in the blood of every man, and no amount of
change or of custom can eradicate them. A wife is not an object
a man can lend to another, a something that can be taken
possession of by the first person who happens to come along.
Such a state o f affairs would destroy domestic order, would
defile the holy of holies, would deprive the family of its bond
o f unity, would cut the ground away from true connubial
comradeship, would disturb the tranquil waters of married bliss
which act as a barricade against lust and amorous adventures.
The domestic hearth must be safeguarded. Surely a man may
demand that as an elementary right? No, freedom to desecrate
the home cannot be permitted. That would be a misconception
of the word freedom.
Marie shook her head disconsolately at Josephs reasoning.
She found this perpetual boring into the past a most despairing
process. By day and by night they talked the issue over, and
never reached a satisfactory conclusion. Th ey moved round and
round in a circle. Y et he was all the while incomparably tender
and considerate. He was never at a loss to find means which
acted as balm to her spiritual need. They went for long rambles
together, over fields and meadows, through woods. He ordered
rare flowers and succulent fruits to be sent from town, brought
home ancient woodcuts and prints for M aries delectation. He
who had hitherto regarded the ornamental as superfluous, now
came to realise what a delightful part it could play in life. Often
one might have fancied he was trying to benumb his senses by
an exaggerated attention to material things. He became aware
that his sexual inadequacy had had unfavourable repercussions
upon his intellectual and spiritual powers. Only through achieving
Maries psychical regeneration could he hope to become the
physician he had once been. Their new life must be based upon
love, upon a hallucination of the heart. No other means was
possible, for he had tried all things and had found them
lacking.

SYNEIDESIS

37

12

A man named Karl Buschmann had frequently called at


Kerkhovens town flat begging for an interview. Since the Master
had temporarily retired to his country estate at Lindow a meeting
had never taken place, but the man had written letter after
letter, each one more urgent than the last, beseeching the doctor
to grant him the necessary consultation. Kerkhoven was used to
receiving hundreds of missives as pressing, but something
uncommon in this individuals method of expression made him
consent to see his petitioner.
One forenoon, at the appointed hour, a wretched creature
presented himself. He appeared to be in an advanced stage o
consumption, about twenty-eight years of age, and had been
released a couple of weeks earlier from prison, where he had
done six years for high treason. He and his twin brother Erich
had belonged to the same revolutionary association and had been
condemned at the same time. Kerkhoven gathered that someone
had committed perjury. Erich had died about eighteen months
ago, while still in prison. Apart from this brother, Karl had no
friends, and no one to love. T h e two had formed but one united
personality. They were persons of family, the father having been
a colliery owner, killed during the war. T h e boys had gone to
the same school, the same college, the same technical institute.
As adolescents they had become members of the same political
party and had taken part in the Spartacus campaign. Identical
outlooks, identical objectives, identical books; they shared the
same bed. The only thing that differentiated them was that one
was christened Karl whilst the other was called Erich. When
Karl was informed of his brothers death he lay as one stricken,
refusing food, and, for a time, totally blind. This was not an
imaginary blindness, but something absolute. Karl lost all sense
of the passage of time, suffered from nervous crises. Once he
was the object of a homosexual assault by the man who shared
his cell, and when he lodged a complaint he was beaten half
dead during the night. Still, this had nothing to do with his
reasons for consulting D r. Kerkhoven. What he wished to be

38

JOSEPH

K E R K H O V E N S

THIRD

SYNEIDESIS

EXISTENCE

advised about was the things that had happened since his release.
T h e only way he couldfldescribe his condition was that he was
suffering from atrophy of his organs and his feelings. Food
stuck in his gizzard, he could not digest even the little he
swallowed, water was as nauseous to him as alcohol, he could
no longer differentiate colours, his skin lacked sensation, he was
unable to distinguish one sound from another, human voices
drummed on his ears like bugle-calls, the rustle of paper seemed
like the tinkling of glass, he had a dread o f the world around
him, and he could only rid himself of this anxiety when he held
a woman in his arms. Indeed, he could never have enough of a
womans company; this seemed to be the only sensation, the
only power left him. He felt that madness was imminent, that
he was suffering from an unquenchable thirst. Women appeared
to be aware of his longing, and threw themselves upon h im ; but
for some time now he had been unable to satisfy their needs. It
was horrible, especially since he took no further interest in himself,
in his higher aspirations. All he still possessed was a vague
memory of what he had once been; that in earlier days he was
an entire man whereas now, since Erichs death, he was no more
than half a man. What could a fellow do in this beastly world?
Oh, Doctor, cant you do something to help me? he implored.
Kerkhovens eyes probed the man. He had always expected
that time would wash such an anomaly on to his shores, a
creature resembling the Golem of the old Jewish myth, a thing
begotten of anti-divine and anti-creative forces. This meeting
was bound to be. What was one to say? What advise? It needed
some extreme visitation of the sort to make Joseph fully aware
of his own impotence, to bring home to him the fact that his
easy-going methods were in danger of being proved utterly
inadequate, that he himself ran the risk of becoming a cheat
and a self-deceiver. I f one took charge o f anothers fate, the
healing art would be placed higher than the individual sufferer.
That would be a wrong course, for it might send the patient over
the edge; impossible to fancy that mechanical and external aid
would prove helpful in this kind of case. No, the man himself

39

must be made to cooperate in his own salvation. It would need


a hard fight, a physical and moral combat wherein every organ,
every nerve, every brain-cell would take part, if the poor devil
was ever to live a proper life again. He must be forced to take
up the reins of his own destiny, must be frightened into a
realisation of his responsibility towards himself; his will would
need to be drilled and disciplined; he would have to be trained
to make up his mind, to utter the decisive Yes or No which
would prepare the soil for a thorough regeneration, and would
put an end to the desire for death.
But to treat a patient thus meant a revolution in the whole
o f Kerkhovens system, and to consider so vast a change in his
practice would necessitate time and reflection. He would be
obliged to lay new foundations, to gather fresh experience, and
these he could not expect to achieve without dogged work and
a transformation in himself and his mental outlook. Here, too,
renunciation was indicated. As he looked deeply and searchingly
into the mans glittering eyes, he became aware that the pupils
were not reacting normally. But there was no time just then to
investigate the cause. He talked comfortingly, felt the unhappy
creatures pulse, took his blood-pressure, tested the reflexes.
Then he prescribed a multiglandular preparation, and felt that
any other medicine might prove equally efficacious or in
efficacious. He was no longer capable of seeing, or feeling, or
knowing. When Kerkhoven let the man out of the front door
with some further encouraging words, he recognised that his
patient had gained nothing by the visit, but went away as
disquieted as he had come. Joseph watched young Buschmann
walk listlessly down the drive, and thought:
There goes my double; another, a dead Kerkhoven, a Golem.
For the rest of the day he remained in his study, silent,
uncommunicative.

13
On the last day of October, Joseph and Marie spent the afternoon
in the open air; and in the evening, after dinner, Kerkhoven
said:

4o

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EXISTENCE

I ve got something special I want to talk over with you.


Go ahead, answered Marie, looking at him expectantly.
You may have been wondering why I have put aside all my
customary occupatiojjp.
Marie shook her head emphatically.
Well, I may be wrong, he went on. Perhaps you took
everything as a matter of course.
L ets suppose I have been wondering. . . . What about it?
Kerkhoven cocked his head to one side like a bird, and gazed
upward.
You see, in any case things could not have gone on much
longer as they were. It has been growing clearer and clearer to
me that I was on the wrong track, that I was working in the
void.
Working in the void? Lots of people use that expression
nowadays. What form has it taken with you?
Lack of cohesion between my field o f operations and my
inner dynamic.
Marie became more attentive.
By your inner dynamic you mean that part of you which
is contraposed to the practical man who has to fulfil certain
professional obligations?
Thats about it. One inclines to succumb to routinism, to
repeat oneself day after day. Daily work, whether of hand or
of brain, is incessantly repetitive.
Yes, but without such repetitions one cannot exert far-reaching
influence, and that is what you want, surely.
I dont know. I used to want that, but what you call a
far-reaching influence implies renouncing the attempt to exert
a profound influence, to plumb the heights and the depths. This
is the problem of problems. W e moderns are fighting, so to say,
for a new dimension. We put the finest metals of life into
building the old structure, and all we have got for our pains is
dross.
What are you going to do about it?
Make an end. Begin from the beginning. Turn back, so as

SYNEIDESIS

41

to discover the exact point where I diverged from the right


path.
He spoke decisively and hastily.
I cannot as yet get hold of anything tangible in what you
say, Marie put in hesitatingly.
T ry to grasp what I am driving at, and dont let yourself be
frightened by what I am about to tell you, M arie, he answered,
taking her hand between his own two. I intend to give up my
practice for a while, to break with the past. A man cannot make
his livelihood out of a profession when he is no longer convinced
that it fits him like his skin. You need to be the master of your
craft, not its slave or its dog. A ll this seems to me as plain and
simple as wishing a person good morning; and yet when one
meditates upon it, the matter becomes a question of life or death.
Marie looked at him, intensely interested, as though she were
trying to read a cypher.
It would not be the first time you have given up everything
to start afresh, she observed musingly. Fifteen years ago you
did the same thing and certainly not to your undoing. It seems
to be a law of your being, my dear.
Joseph nodded.
That time, likewise, it was on account of you. Strange dont
you think so? But do you quite realise what such a resolve will
mean for us ?
I fancy so.
During recent years w eve been living luxuriously, like
successful speculators.
I am ready for anything, Joseph. You surely do not think
that I am like a hen clucking round the nest?
Easy enough to say one is ready for anything. But reflect a
moment. You have your personal tastes, you like to dress prettily,
youve got used to having plenty of money to spend.
I am not dependent upon such things, Joseph. From one
day to another I am capable of change. But there must be
something to make it worth while, and, to speak frankly, I expect
to be given this something.
B*

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Good. W ell first of all have to sell this estate and give up
the flat in Berlin. Close down the clinic. What money remains
over after we have settled outstanding debts will have to provide
necessaries for you and the children. I ll get along as best I may.
T he means I propo^S to adopt will come up for discussion later.
I ve long had a project in view, but I cannot speak about it yet.
All the same, so that you may have your share in my thoughts,
I will tell you that it concerns a small sanatorium, a place I
have often dreamed of inaugurating, somewhere in southern
Germany. . . . T ill I get my sanatorium, I have a lengthy
furrow to plough.
Why? W hy put it off?
Because, he hesitated, because I have a great mass of
work to get through first. You know about it already, my book
on Illusion.
She looked at him searchingly.
Joseph, my dear, that is not the true reason. You are hiding
something from me.
Right, quite right. But I do not know, Marie, whether . . .
I fear . . . T h ats the hardest thing of all I have to say to
you. . .
Marie shivered. She guessed. But she would not press him.
Her eyes were fixed steadily upon his. His attitude, as he sat
leaning back in his chair with the light shining down on his
massive head and brow, made a profound impression on her.
He looked beautiful, and she was always sensitive to beauty
even though her heart was ravaged and her mind distraught
with grief. Those who did not know her well were apt to
stigmatise her as an aesthete.
14

After a prolonged silence, Marie said:


I too . . . well you can understand that I cannot wait about
for chickens ready roasted to fall into my mouth. In all these
years I ve done precious little thats of any value. Yes, theres
been the estate to manage but I ve merely given orders, never

SYNEIDESIS

43

done any labour myself. Even the children I ve neglected, just


allowing them to grow up as best they could. Not so many years
remain before theyll have to be launched on a career of one
sort or another, and I ve done nothing to prepare them for what
life holds in store. Th ey may go to the dogs for all I know.
W eve coddled and pampered them. . . .
You are right. A hard time lies before every one of us. For
a thousand years mankind has not been faced by anything so
critical.
I, too, continued Marie, have been living like a princess.
And yet there are certain duties to perform. . . . I ve done
nothing. That was fine what you said about beginning over again,
Joseph. It applies to myself just as much as to you. I scarcely
know yet what I shall do. The future is still clouded. M ay I
tell you a dream I had last night? It seemed to me that I was
flying higher and higher. I was alarmed and sorrowful, for I
had a vague feeling I should never see you again. Then I reached
such an altitude that I knew I was near to God. One thing only
did I desire that He should look at me. This seemed more
important than life itself, that He should catch sight of me. In
order to attract His attention I shifted my ground, going hither
and thither in search of I l k glance. M y endeavours availed
nothing, and in my distress I began to weep bitterly. A t that
moment I started to fall quite slowly from the elevation, softly
and slowly I descended, and a great joy took possession of me
for I felt G ods eye was upon me; otherwise, how account for
the smooth facility o f my falling? The nearer I drew to earth,
the happier did I become. I awoke in a condition of intense
happiness, and with the persistent impression that God had
looked upon me, had seen me. Weird kind of dream, wasnt it?
Y es, admitted Kerkhoven.
Again the two of them sat silent for a while. Then Marie
began:
Now, my dear, its your turn for confidences. What is it you
find so difficult to tell me? No need to be anxious. I m no coward,
as you very well know.

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Kerkhoven leaned so far forward that his hands, which hung


limply between his knees, almost touched the carpet. This was
a characteristic attitude of his at times when he had a momentous
communication to make. A t length he said:
Its difficult to explain, extremely difficult; and yet it is the
only way, so that in the end we . . . Marie, you will have to
give me every ounce of help you can spare, otherwise we shall
not succeed in . . . I fancied it might be fairly easy to tell
you . . . because . . . He abruptly drew himself up and
threw back his head. His face was pale, as he continued: We
shall have to part, Marie; part for a longish time. Marie in her
turn went pale, and looked at him mutely. If you ask for
reasons, I cannot give you anything specific or adequate. It is a
resolution I have come to, and you can only give or withhold
your consent. W ith her elbow propped on her knee and her
chin leaning in her hand Marie gazed at him. Save for the
impetuous throbbing of her throat, she did not stir. W e have
lived through something terrible together, Marie . . . Oh,
please dont put in any comment. A t present I am the ruin of a
man, and as such I cannot live beside you. No, I could not do
that, you are too dear to me. Only recently have I come to realise
how much I love you. There was plenty of love lying around,
so to speak; but I had no idea how deep, how immense it was.
I have to tell you this so that you may better understand what I
am driving at. Not only our relation to one another is involved
. . . although that is the key to the situation. No good trying
to hide the fact that I am emasculated both as man and as
physician. Any further endeavour to patch the matter up would
only make the evil irreparable. This will mean a period of
abstinence. W e shall have to break our bonds for a while. A
person such as I is hard put to it to imagine what, from the
practical viewpoint, such renunciation signifies. Perhaps I shall
look up Andergast. Dont be frightened, beloved. M y idea may
be a mad one. But I have invested too much spiritual capital in
that young man to . . . And hes made off as if he were an
embezzler. Maybe I shall have to look him straight in the face

SYNEIDESIS

45

for three short seconds in order to know what I want to


know.
N o, cried Marie, and her voice sounded cold and sad, you
must not think any more of doing that.
Kerkhoven rose from his chair, and paced up and down the
room.
What is the good o f vacillating? I do not mean to leave any
thing undone that needs to be done, in order to make me feel
a free man once more. T h e whole of our life together depends
upon this. When a man has constantly avoided gratifying his
natural impulses, it is occasionally worth while for him to commit
a folly. I shall be nameless, no longer a famous doctor; and as
a perfectly unknown individual I can permit myself a certain
amount o f relaxation. Are you beginning to grasp what I am
aiming at? Nameless, homeless. A phrase is perpetually drum
ming through my head about going into the wilderness. Where
have I got it from? Do you recall Tolstoys flight when he was
eighty? How he died in a wayside station amid the snowy
steppes? You were grown up when that happened, so you
cannot fail to remember. Grand, it was. A memento. A prophecy
lived out in the flesh. Oh, never fear! I shall not die. I dont want
to die. Ones instincts cannot deceive one as to what is likely
to happen. Biological certainty; thats fundamental. But it needs
implicit trust. In the present instance it is you who must have
implicit trust. If you can honestly feel this trust, then you will
take a hand in the fashioning of the man I hope to be.
He spoke excitedly, and Marie managed to get in the question:
Then you dont intend that I shall know where you are?
Kerkhoven pressed his hand to his forehead as he replied:
Cant tell yet. H alf measures are what I most dread. As a
start, I m going to drift, without a programme of action. A few
days ago I received an invitation from the Dutch Colonial Office.
Th ey want me to join a mission of enquiry which is about to
set out for Java. I m turning the proposal over in my mind.
Four weeks remain before I need come to a decision, and four
and a half months before the expedition sails. I shall have enough

46

JOSEPH

K E R K H O V E N S

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EXISTENCE

to live on. But you must not be asking me how the matter is
taking shape. Hard on you, doubtless. Nevertheless itll have
to be so. I m terribly in earnest, Marie. One day I ll write to
you. If at that moment you are as prepared as I am then no
further obstacle will lie between us.
*5

T h e grandfathers clock in the hall struck one. Marie, in her


turn, got up. She went over to the window and, pushing the
curtain aside, looked forth into the night. T h e complexity of
her emotions was indescribable. What her husband proposed
appeared to he? such a madcap adventure, was so surprising,
so menacing, that she found it hard to believe the words had
actually dropped from his lips. The man who paced to and fro
in the room behind her seemed another being from the Joseph
Kerkhoven she had known these many years. This man was
not the same who had so lovingly and fraternally shared in her
life. She was faced by a stranger, severe and unexpectedly
resolute. It was, almost, as if Joseph Kerkhoven had already
taken farewell of her, was already voyaging to a far-off land,
and as if her heart ached at the parting. Could she carry the
burden he was laying upon her? She must find an answer to
this question. Suppose she broke down under the strain ? Suppose
the task she had vaguely imposed upon herself was no more
than a dream wish? Suppose she found it impossible to live
alone, and the voice she heard assuring her she could build her
own character up anew was no more than flattery and delusion ?
Had she the strength to make a fresh start ? Had she the strength
to wait? Besides, what guarantee had she that he would not
break down, and in the end give up the attempt. Could she tell
whether he would come back to her? Could she tell whither
this impulse would lead him? A man o f titanic nature, a giant
oak; but such trees can be uprooted by the blast, and what would
happen to her then ?
While pressing her forehead to the cool window-pane her
eyes travelled upward and she caught the flash of a falling star.

SYNEIDESIS

47

It left a trail like a gleaming lance-head. A convulsion shook


her. She remembered her dream, and with bowed head asked
herself: Is that G ods glance?
Then she felt Kerkhovens hands laid gently on her shoulders.
Marie leaned against him, and her hands groped their way
towards his. He gripped her wrists, and she said solemnly as
if uttering the bridal pledge:
Yes, Joseph, I w ill.
16
For two weeks Kerkhoven was busy setting his affairs in order.
He had to see officials, meet his colleagues on the medical board,
issue instructions to his assistants, and so forth. Marie made
herself responsible for the winding-up of the two households.
She engaged an expert to value the Lindow estate, which she
had admirably managed during recent years. Several possible
buyers were soon on the scene. She proposed taking a little
flat in Berlin for herself and the children as soon as her husband
had sailed. But she thought of renting the place for no more
than six months, as she wished to settle on the Lake o f Con
stance hoping to find in the neighbourhood a suitable school
whither to send the elder boy, Johann. Her husband concurred
in the plan, having no desire to return to Berlin.
Marie, neither by word nor sign, endeavoured to lure K erk
hoven from his purpose. She never questioned him, never
betrayed any weakness, kept a stiff upper lip, and her outwardly
calm demeanour betrayed nothing of the gnawing anxiety which
overwhelmed her whenever she was by herself.
His luggage consisted of a small trunk and a leather handbag.
He reflected carefully over each article as he packed it, won
dering whether he would really need it or not.
T h e clutter one gathers around one in the course of life
clogs the wheels of the spiritual machinery. Possession spells
being possessed, he cried exasperated.
What you say has a deal o f truth in it, my dear, answered
his wife.
Next day she sold the greater part of her jewelry.

48

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EXISTENCE

T hey avoided any reference to the parting; Marie, indeed,


assumed a cheerfulness she was far from feeling. Five minutes
before the final goodbye, she was hard put to it not to burst
into tears, for his plan suddenly appeared to her a criminal
challenge to fate. Was it necessary that he should take such
a line? His look reassured her, and she never put the question,
for he appeared calm and contented. Marie turned with quivering
lips towards her children, who were gazing up sadly and in
quisitively into their fathers face. His last words were:
Take care of them, and take care o f yourself.
I

17

T h e negotiations with the Dutch government were lengthy, and


occupied many weeks. Tw ice Kerkhoven had to go to Amster
dam, and once he was obliged to meet an under-secretary in
Diisseldorf. A t length it was agreed that he and three other
gentlemen would form the mission, and would sail for Batavia
by the S.S. W ilhelmina on April 20, 1930. He brought the
news to Marie.
Before all these arrangements were concluded, and even after
everything had been fixed up, Kerkhoven visited many cities,
until the end of the year 1929 found him in the little university
town where he had practised as a young medical man. He
relived those distant days when he had first met Marie who
was then a girl of eighteen, and thought about his long-dead
friend Irlen. He shunned social intercourse, and chose his
quarters in that part of the town where he might be reasonably
sure his name was unknown. Meanwhile his book was slowly
consolidating. T h e notes he had been collecting these many
years past were being licked into shape from scores of chance
jottings. T h e full title of the work was to be: Pathology of
Illusion and its Influence upon Religion, Social Institutions,
and Legislation. If for research purposes he was forced to go
to a public or collegiate library, had to visit some hospital or
asylum and thus had to come into contact with doctors, students,
librarians, or what not, he made use of a letter of introduction

SYNEIDESIS

49

furnished him under a false name by a professional friend in


Berlin. It was not until he reached Zurich, where he wanted
to consult a famous brain anatomist, that he disclosed his
identity. T h e alias would have caused him a needless amount
o f explanation and would have proved irksome should he, at
some future day, wish to cross the frontier for purposes of study.
He was becoming more and more interested in the structure
and functions of the brain.
Never had he lived so actively in reality and at the same time
outside reality; liberation from one set of entanglements and
a forging himself on to another chain, so that his sense organs
were acutely alive and sharp and precise. He worked fourteen
hours a day without a trace of fatigue. Should he go for a twelvemile walk, he had merely to take four hours sleep followed
by a cold bath, to be keen and ready for labour. He took to
a vegetarian diet, hoping thereby to school his body to the new
conditions of existence. After losing a stone in weight, he felt
so light and invigorated that it seemed he must have reduced
by at least fifty pounds. T h e animal juices regained their health.
His nerves, though more sensitive, were more obedient. He set
about studying the rhythm of his breathing, his heart-beats, his
movements, quite dispassionately, quite objectively. He had
never taken much stock in yoga or similar Asiatic disciplines
that were advocated by many amateurs in these matters. He
was firmly convinced that the race to which he belonged had
its own characteristics; believed that European life and regimen
had caused specific changes in the metabolism of those who
inhabit our continent changes which began many centuries
ago, so that if a general law of amelioration applicable to Euro
peans could be formulated at all, its working must be continued
for centuries in order to be effective. Still, one who became
his own physician, one who systematically trained and subtilised
the instinct for dealing with his own body, one who could
succeed in directing sight and hearing inwards and could educate
himself into an extreme attention to his own experiences, might
look for remarkable achievements on the part of an organism

So

JOSEPH

K E R K H O V E N S

THIRD

EXISTENCE

so transformed and trained. It was not a question of avoiding


pain or preventing illness, nor yet of selfish anxieties; but, rather,
o f learning how to deal with the short-lived mass of protoplasm
which makes up a human being, in such a way as to develop
therein hitherto unsurmised powers of help, and exemplary
faculties of one sort and another.
18
One thing, however, was against him. He could not rid himself
of a torturing unrest, and this was the chief hindrance to the
cleansing pro^ss he had imposed upon himself. Absorbed as
he was in the investigation of the nature of illusions and delusions,
and wishing to push his studies farther than any had done
before him, he stumbled upon the very evil from which his
own brain was ailing. This discovery made him at times lose
heart, and at others promoted in him a longing for revenge.
Again, an idea of fighting a duel would pass through his head;
not a duel with pistols, not a hand-to-hand fight, but a spiritual
combat wherein everything should be thoroughly thrashed out,
a combat which would at one and the same time be a settling
of accounts and an act of atonement. Kerkhoven found it almost
impossible to forget the wrong that had been done him, and
the ingratitude of the young man who owed wellnigh everything
to him. He wanted to be given satisfaction. The form mattered
little: Etzel might show remorse or contrition, he might explain
how events had come to pass, might make a general confession
such as is undertaken among Catholics who return to the fold
after having lapsed for long years from the faith. Thus, at least,
the crime might be expiated. But it was terrible not to know
how betrayal was reacting upon the betrayer, to reflect that the
culprit had escaped retribution in silence and flight. It was
asking more than mortal man could bear. Reason was powerless
to persuade Kerkhoven into another point of view. His spiritual
regeneration was not far enough advanced for him to throw off
the oppression which weighed on him as heavily as though he
had suffered a public affront, or had been placed in the pillory.

SYNEIDESIS

Si

And though he might assure Marie that he had been living


in a world of dead moral concepts, in a world of unworthy
resentments and ridiculous ideas as to what constituted a mans
honour, he knew very well that if he succeeded in hoaxing her
into believing him, himself he could not blind to the urgent
need he felt for a full settlement of accounts.
W e have to remember all that Etzel Andergast had meant
to Joseph Kerkhoven if we are to understand the doctors state
of mind. The young man had been his spiritual son and heir.
Such a son is more to a father than the child of his loins. The
coming generation of disciples was for him personified in Etzel.
He had rejoiced in his pupils whole-hearted dependence, for
it had been assumed by one of the most independent spirits
he had ever met. T h is dependence had its foundations in a
realm of experiences such as can be acquired by a youth only
during a peculiarly fruitful era and by one whose destiny holds
extraordinary possibilities. Kerkhoven had made a hero of
Andergast, had looked upon him as a young Hercules, as a
future leader. The striplings love and respect had warmed the
Masters heart, for they had acted as a spur and an endorsement.
Was it possible, was it thinkable, that so upright and candid
a man could have set himself deliberately to deceive and betray,
and could be guilty of the hypocrisy his absconding would seem
to imply? What excuses could be made for Etzel? Some mis
understanding might exist, something that even Marie had failed
to discover. Kerkhoven had penetrated to the heart of M aries
secret, but of Etzels secret he knew nothing. Marie had emerged
from the investigation transfigured, whereas her fellow-culprit
had never so much as put in an appearance. In these circum
stances, the case was still unsettled. Order had not yet been
re-established in Kerkhovens inner world.
Perhaps, as he had hinted to Marie, the storm in his emotional
life would have been calmed if the young man who had betrayed
him, had stood before him with such a bearing that Kerkhoven
could be confident of the offenders desire for absolution. Joseph,
however, could not but ask himself whether, in entertaining this

52

JOSEPH

KERKH O VEN S

THIRD

EXISTENCE

desire, he was not animated by a more contemptible longing


for vengeance than that of the ordinary man who wants to fire
a pistol at his enemy. However this might be, he suffered from
a wound that refused to heal. Driven by impulse, therefore,
rather than as the outcome of a deliberate act of will, he set
out in search o f the enemy.

T h e only clue to Andergasts whereabouts was the lads mother.


Kerkhoven still remembered Sophia von Andergasts address,
for she was a lady with whom he had corresponded in years
gone by. He called up the image of this wife and mother who
after sevei% inner conflicts had regained serenity of mind. To
go and look her up would be a bold deed, and Kerkhoven
hesitated, for a false situation might be created were he to
present himself in any other guise than that of the guardian
and teacher of her son the position he had once rejoiced to
hold.
He knew that she had left Baden-Baden about eighteen months
ago. Still, he journeyed to her house on the Hebelweg and was
received by a venerable old dame who looked at him askance
until she learned the object of his visit. Then she unbent, and
grew most gracious and enthusiastic. Although his present
mission was a delicate one, Kerkhoven did not allow his mind
to become troubled. He knew his own gifts, and the one he
valued more than any other was his power of persuading strangers
to open their hearts to him, to bring them in the course of what
appeared to be casual conversation to confide in him wholly.
T his power had lately grown considerably. He could sense as
much, just as a mathematician is aware when his thought-process
gains in clarity and speed.
Sophias last letter dated from the previous summer, and in
this she mentioned a plan of migrating to Fex, and setting-up
house in the Engadine.
She certainly went to live there, and, so far as I know, she
may be there still. It was my daughter who gave me the news,

SYNEIDESIS

53

for while she was on holiday at Zuoz she had a line from
Sophia.
Would it be indiscreet to let me see the letter in question?
asked Kerkhoven.
T h e old lady opened a drawer, and took out a bundle of
correspondence neatly tied. Kerkhoven was startled when his
eyes fell upon the handwriting, for it was crabbed, neat in the
extreme, and the lines were widely interspaced. Also there was
a very broad margin to the left of the text. T h e whole presented
a vivid picture to an expert in caligraphy.
I have letters from Frau von Andergast, said Kerkhoven,
but the writing was totally different from this, being what
w ed call a large hand, loose and flowing. I wonder what influences
were at work to bring about so considerable a change.
It has often puzzled me, too. Indeed, I mentioned the fact
to her once.
T h e cause must be looked for in a change of the emotional
sphere, said Kerkhoven thoughtfully. Not only that, but it
is something that has affected her psychological automatism.
Here we have all the signs of purposive concentration.
You are very near the truth, but I am not at liberty to
furnish details, answered his hostess with obvious reserve.
T h ey conversed quietly about one thing and another till, quite
casually so it would seem, Kerkhoven referred to Etzel. At
mention of the young mans name, the old lady shook her head,
and sighed.
Three days later, about noon, Kerkhoven got down from the
Engadine autocar at Sils-Maria, and from there wandered up
the Fextal. He had already climbed a considerable part o f the
way, when it occurred to him that he ought to have made
enquiries before leaving the village. As it was, he lacked any
definite goal, and yet was loth to turn back. Snow covered the
slopes, and the air was enchantingly pure, while the blue sky
was delicately veiled with a rosy film of mist. From time to
time he heard the call of a marmot among the undergrowth.
T h e altitude, coupled with the stiff ascent, had taxed his heart

54

JOSEPH

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THIRD

EXISTENCE

and lungs, so that he stayed progress for a while near a farm


stead which resembled a small castle of ancient days. He looked
up towards the glacier, and closed his eyes as though dazzled
by its glittering brightness. When he opened them again, he
noticed a tall man leaning against the gate-post of the farmyard.
His hands were thrust deep into his trouser-pockets, a brier
pipe was between his lips, and he was scrutinising Kerkhoven
with the whimsical expression so often seen on the face of a
native when contemplating a foreigner. Kerkhoven passed
the time of day with the man, who returned the strangers
greeting politely. He seemed to be a peasant farmer very much
at home in the place; but in the course o f subsequent conversation
Kerkhoven was to learn that his interlocutor was a painter who
had come up from the Pratigau and had installed his home and
his studio here.
The mans sunburnt face brightened when Kerkhoven men
tioned the name o f Andergast. Taking his pipe from his
mouth, he pointed with it to a medium-sized house on a neigh
bouring hillside. T h e shutters were closed, and it was evident
that the place was untenanted.
Gone? queried Kerkhoven.
Yes, both she and he, answered the artist laconically.
Kerkhoven tried to appear unconcerned.
He? Was there a man staying with her?
Yes, her son; the whole winter.
Did you know them personally?
No.
Saw much of them?
Yes, often enough.
Not very sociable, I gather.
Certainly the young fellow did not look as if he cared tc
associate with other mortals, exclaimed the painter.
Happen to know where they are now?
Not exactly.
Well, then, inexactly?
Just gossip round and about.

SYNEIDESIS

55

What do the gossips say?


Any special interest in the couple?
Y es.
Well, the lady is said to have gone to Chur. T h eyll probably
give you her present address at Sils-Maria post-office.
And her son?
H es supposed to have gone off to Russia.
Russia? How could any one have got to know that?
A relation of yours? asked the man, rather taken aback at
Kerkhovens excited manner.
No, no. H es not a relation, but . . .
D ont bother to explain. Its pretty certain, however, that
he went to Russia. His mother stayed on after he had gone,
and received letters from Moscow.
Sure?
In a little place like this every one knows all there is to know
about everybody!
Kerkhoven meditated a while. He had travelled so many miles
to no purpose!
W ont you step in a moment? asked the man, looking at
him sympathetically.
Mechanically, Kerkhoven followed as the painter led the way
into a delightfully appointed studio. T h e two men drank a glass
o f kirsch each, but soon the conversation flagged, and in a
quarter of an hour Kerkhoven took his leave. On making en
quiries in Sils-Maria he learned that Frau von Andergast was
living at Chur in the Weisskreuz Gasse, the house being locally
known as the Domherr Haus. Next day at eventide, Kerkhoven
arrived at Chur and put up at a modest inn. T o himself he
seemed to be playing the part of sleuth in a detective story.
20
T h e whole journey was like a chase after a will-o-the-wisp.
What did he hope to gain by the search? Was he wanting to
hear from the mothers lips that Etzel had fled from his wrath
to the ends of the world ? Besides, could he be sure that she knew

56

JOSEPH

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anything about what had happened ? What would be the upshot ?


It was as if he were suffering from spiritual tetanus. One false
step might ruin everything. But his good genius guided him.
Kerkhoven slept little that night. At six next morning he was
already roaming the streets. The quaint old city was still en
veloped in the mists of a wintry sunrise. Impossible, of course,
to pay a call at so early an hour. Still, nothing prevented him
from finding the ancient chapter-house. It was a beautiful
structure. He looked up at it from the opposite side o f the
alley-way, delighting in its graceful form and the garlands of
flowers sculptured round the window recesses.
Ten minutes he stood thus in contemplation. Then the housedoor opened, and a woman stepped forth. Clad in black, with
a black scarf wound about her head, the lady walked with a
very upright carriage. Her face was long and pale, her eyes were
sunken. Although the space of the street divided them, K erk
hoven stepped back into the shadow of a doorway so as not
to be observed. T h is must be Frau von Andergast, he thought.
Something indefinable in her aspect and her gait reminded him
o f Etzel. She might almost have been taken for the lads elder
sister. Without: raising her eyes, the lady made her way swiftly
along towards St Lucius Cathedral. He followed at a distance
o f about twenty paces. For a moment the dark figure was sil
houetted against the metallic sheen of the sky, then it was
swallowed up in the twilit depths of the church.
Kerkhoven hesitated whether to wait for her outside or to
follow her into the building. What pretext could he find for
addressing her? Seriously considered, there existed no plausible
reason for his encroaching on her retirement. Yet he felt irre
sistibly drawn to seek her out. He entered the church by the side
door through which she had disappeared. The sudden change
from the light outside to the devotional gloom within, affected
his vision, so that he could see nothing clearly till his eyes had
become accustomed to the darkness. T he candles alight for Mass
on the high altar guided him into the nave. There, on the steps
leading up into the choir, Sophia was kneeling, so absorbed in

SYNEIDESIS

57

meditation that his scrutiny of her appeared to him to border


on criminal inquisitiveness. Embodied prayer, was the ex
pression which rose to his mind. A duet between her and an
unsubstantial being far away in eternity. In the bend of her
neck, the droop o f her shoulders, the relaxation of her limbs,
the folds of her head-wrap, Kerkhoven found an expression so
poignant that it seemed to be a message from another world.
It turned his thoughts and feelings into a different channel. If
such a thing is possible in this world of ours, then I m no better
than an elementary schoolboy. I know nothing. True, many
others were present, and they, too, were kneeling and praying;
but, compared with the figure he was contemplating, they were
no more than simulacrums. These were genuine only in the
sense that action and body are genuine. Doubtless Kerkhovens
mind was somewhat distraught by the events o f recent months,
so that he had become more than usually impressionable in
regard to things outside his ordinary circle o f activities and
thoughts to things that were, indeed, beyond his power to
understand. He was only capable o f surmising, and of hoping
to comprehend such a phenomenon in years to come. He felt
as though he were standing on the lowest ring of a spiral which
curled up aloft into the infinite and which enthralled him like
an architectural dream.
He turned, and tiptoed from the sacred fane. T h e sunshine
greeted him on the threshold as if liberating him into a greater
and more illuminating existence. The shadow that had oppressed
him was lifted. He had been purified by the mother of his enemy
as she knelt in prayer. This, likewise, was a new sensation for
Kerkhoven. He had never felt the need for absolution, and had,
therefore, never sought it. Grace had been given him, and he
had received the gift. He smiled for the first time for many
months.
21

Four days remained to Joseph Kerkhoven before the W ilhelmina was scheduled to sail. He broke the journey to Rotter
dam at Freiburg-in-Baden, in order to look up a friend of his

58

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EXISTENCE

youth who was professor at the University. Th ey partook of


a midday meal in a small tavern, and then fixed up for a further
meeting late the same night. As Kerkhoven was returning to
his hotel, his eye caught sight of a poster announcing a lecture
to be given that evening by Alexander Herzog, a writer whose
work had interested him for decades, and whose books he had
never failed to read. He was glad of an opportunity to see the
author in the flesh, and bought a ticket. This was the prelude
to their acquaintance, an acquaintance which was to have farreaching consequences.
The lecture was not on any special topic as Kerkhoven had
expected, but was a quasi-extemporised recitation in which the
illusion o f being a true story was enhanced by the use o f the
personal pronoun I throughout. A peasant was telling how
he killed his only and late-begotten son, and excused his deed
on the ground o f an overwhelming conviction that the heir to
his name and property was a failure from every point o f view.
In the course o f the dramatic trial which ensued the judge,
who was one o f the narrators o f the affair, showed clearly that
the fathers self-accusation was false, since the son, crushed by
having to live with so hard and unapproachable a parent, had
put an end to his life, and that the peasant only took the blame
upon his shoulders because he was responsible for opening his
sons eyes to the real situation, and therefore looked upon him
self as the boys spiritual murderer.
Kerkhoven was on the stretch during the whole recitation.
T h e problem was one which resembled many o f those he had
recently been attempting to solve, such as the right of life and
death over others, the justification for cutting short an unworthy
life once it had been proved to be harmful to the community,
and that the moral purpose of the individual who decides to
use such a prerogative is indubitable. A revolutionary reversal
o f extant laws and outlooks especially for a physician, since
it invalidated the accepted view that a doctors duty to society
is to heal, and did this quite independently of current theories
o f eugenics and sterilisation. T h e experiment would be a dan

SYNEIDESIS

59

gerous one, nay criminal, unless one could ensure the most
serene unselfishness in those to whom its execution was en
trusted. Besides, what would become of the Paracelsian doctor
whose ideal was lovingkindness ? That notion could not be
revived until gentler times came, when human beings would
once more be able to kneel and pray. Obviously this story of
Herzogs put in question the worth of an individual life, for the
son had only committed suicide because the father, a man with
a dominant personality, had succeeded in convincing the son
of his own worthlessness, and had thus roused in the latter the
will-to-death. W ell, thought Kerkhoven, here we certainly
have a pointer, and it seems that imaginative writers are to be
the pace-makers for our race.
An even deeper impression than the story was produced upon
Kerkhoven by the author himself. Alexander Herzog was a man
of middle height, possessed o f a pleasing and well-modulated
voice. His eyes were dark and gloomy, his gestures reserved.
Though close upon sixty, he looked under fifty years of age.
His most striking feature was his forehead. It was so high, so
impressive, that in comparison with the remainder o f his face
it appeared almost as though it were an artificially imposed
structure. His entire aspect bespoke sadness and suffering. T h e
whole man produced the impression of a ceaseless inner activity,
so that the picture he presented was that o f an individual affected
with spiritual pain, a victim of starvation of the sensual life,
prisoned both in the world and in himself, yet able now and
again to find possibilities of escape to wrest himself from
the grip of the daimon whose presence was plain enough to
all those who had eyes to see. The longer Kerkhoven sat lis
tening entranced to the speaker, the more confirmed grew this
picture. It stamped itself so deeply into his memory that hence
forward he could never forget it. While he journeyed over the
seas to the Dutch Indies it accompanied him, and leapt up
clearly before him during his wanderings in Java. As we shall
see later, this recurrent memory of Alexander Herzog was, so
to say, fore-ordained.

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22

Kerkhovens transfer to a tropical island produced almost


exactly the effect he had anticipated, namely a modification of
the very stuff and substance o f his being, a change which
approximated at the outset to a feeling o f having lost himself,
since the memories of his earlier life were more or less com
pletely effaced. It remains an open question whether a man
close on fifty can afford to forget without renouncing his moral
and intellectual responsibilities, and, if he does, what powers
he is to put in their stead.
Kerkhoven had never had experience of ocean travel. During
the voyage he had been the prey to a most peculiar illusion:
it seemed to him that he was moving in a vertical direction;
that the intensity of the perpendicular light suspended the ships
horizontal movement. Hitherto, moreover, he had known nothing
of the sun. Tropical sunlight was a new element. It stirred stag
nant blood and stagnant feelings. For hours in succession he
seemed free from the unceasing drag of gravitation.
The faces of men were different, the faces of the clouds were
different, and so were the faces of the flowers. Nature took on
huge proportions and was immoderate, the vegetation seemed
to swell with a monstrous sap, the weather was heavy as in
the primeval chaos, the climate and atmosphere were dangerously
stimulating at the higher altitudes and mortally enervating in
the plains, there were thirty-eight active volcanoes all behaving
like giant forges fixed in the sky and whose growls could be
heard emerging from the bowels of the earth.
Colour proved even more overwhelming. T h e eye of a
northerner is used to gentle misty hues, assuaging and bene
ficent; but here sight was blinded by the intensity of colouring
and the sharpness of outline. Everything, live matter or dead,
seemed to be in flames, glowing at the core with a red light,
and edged in clear-cut silhouette by violet bordering on black.
The reds, greens, blues, and yellows of blossoms, stuffs, and
insects were like an eruption from hidden craters of colour, and
struck at the spectator as if stabbing him in the retina.

SYNEIDESIS

61

Just as life was enhanced beyond the limits of the compre


hensible so, as Kerkhoven was soon to discover, was death.
Never had he seen such ruthlessness. So far he had witnessed
deaths coming, had recognised it, had fought against it; but
he had not hitherto felt that it was a permanent guest within
his own body. Perhaps as a medical man he should have known
better. Twentieth-century European men are as stuck in their
own egos as flies in amber. They need to go through a melting
process in order to be released. A new concept came to K erk
hovens mind: death in driblets; the gradual ripening of death
within the organism, until it evolves the final death. What did
this signify but that disease, crime, and illusion must be mani
festations of premature death?
23

T h e scientific investigations upon which Kerkhoven and his


colleagues were engaged, often necessitated a journey up country.
T h e specific form o f encephalitis they were studying had broken
out sporadically soon after the communist uprising in Java and
had for five years claimed many victims. Laymen were inclined
to believe that the malady was caused by the bite of a certain
snake. Others, again, held the hypothesis that it had been
introduced by the Chinese and was an ingredient o f the opium
they imported. M any European doctors on the spot spoke of
it as a comatose form o f malignant malaria. After dissecting a
certain number of brains on the post-mortem table, Kerkhoven
became convinced that the trouble was a localised organic
disease. Since he suspected that the infection might arise from
soil or water, he undertook a careful survey, and felt pretty sure
his theory was correct. He, therefore, addressed a memorial to
the Dutch Government on his findings, and suggested that the
people living in the infected areas should be removed to salu
brious localities. Such wholesale deportation and resettlement
would have proved extremely costly, and, since the commission
was not unanimous on the point, Kerkhovens suggestion was
turned down. He was lucky in effecting several cures, but

62

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EXISTENCE

remained sceptical as to the therapeutic value o f the methods


he employed. These cures, however, were bruited far and wide,
so that one day a Malay doctor from Buitenzorg paid him a
visit and requested to be accepted as Kerkhovens pupil. With
a genial smile, Kerkhoven rejected the application, saying:
I m not far enough advanced for that. M y success looms
bigger than is warranted by the facts.
24
He felt he was moving in a dream world as, with his colleagues
or merely attended by a native servant, he travelled into the
interior, skirting the vast, terraced farms, riding through aban
doned towns and temples which the jungle had invaded, looking
on ruins whose beauty o f contour and detail filled him with
amazement. When he stayed to contemplate the age-old statues
o f Hindu gods, the eightarmed Lora-jonggrang who stood upon
the back of a kneeling bull, the colossal figures of the Thousand
Tem ple at Ghandi Seva, the sevenfold enclosures o f the temple
o f Boro-Budur with its seven hundred statues, all these seemed
to him to be works created by a race of giants. His movements
were accompanied by the ghostlike cry of the wild peacock,
which left a trail o f dazzling colours in its wake when it flew
across the path.
But the impression produced upon him by the European
civilisation of Java was most unfavourable. T h e ways of life and
the governmental methods of the West, when imposed upon the
indigenes, might be compared with the attempts o f an unhappy
and seriously diseased individual to convince a healthy and
happy person that his (the sick mans) condition was infinitely
preferable and more advantageous, while making the hale person
as ill and unfortunate as himself. If the desired change could
not be effected by kindness, it was to be effected by force. Still,
it seemed to Kerkhoven that the colonial system in the Dutch
Indies compared favourably, in respect o f leniency and intelli
gence, with what he had read of similar systems in other parts
of the world. Being, however, determined to avoid arousing

SYNEIDESIS

63

animus by criticism, he had as little truck as possible with the


European settlers, planters and high officials. T h e only friends
he made in Java were a young married couple, William and
Mabel Hardy. T h e man was British consul. T h e wife was
exceedingly good looking.
25

T h e customs of the natives proved an inexhaustible source of


interest and cogitation for Kerkhoven. He never tired in his
endeavours to penetrate their inner significance. Other Euro
peans, ignorant and prejudiced, were inclined to look upon such
things as savage superstitions. Kerkhoven was already aware of
the existence o f unknown forces in man and in nature, and,
no more than any other scientific observer, did he need demon
strations to prove so obvious a fact. Nevertheless, he was at
times hard put to it to find the dividing line between outward
custom and that which is mysterious and worthy o f respect in
religion and myth. His observations were jotted down in innu
merable notebooks, which he intended to incorporate into his
big work on Illusion.
A curious custom was brought to his notice when the rainy
season was due and yet failed to set in. Tw o men, armed with
rods, beat each other on the naked flesh until blood was drawn.
When they felt the blood flowing over their skin, they were
convinced that this was a sign of coming rain. T h e natives
believed that the soul was a bird, and mothers were wont to
place their children in a hen-coop as soon as the youngsters
began to toddle, and then proceeded to entice them forth by
calling: cluck, cluck, cluck. T h ey thought that earth, heaven,
and the human body were sibs, and when, therefore, seedtime
was over, the farmer and his wife would pass the night in the
field and have conjugal relations there in order to secure the
fertility of the land. Should an accident occur, or should the
family have a run o f ill-luck, a pot o f water containing a selection
o f herbs would be placed over the fire, and when the concoction
began to boil the mistress o f the household had to inhale the
fumes until she became intoxicated and fell into convulsions.

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Then, in her delirium, with wild gestures and awful grimaces,


she would chase the evil spirit out of the house. A special
day was devoted to casting out devils, the night of the
black moon. Fruits and meat were set at a cross-road, and
then a horn was wound calling the demons to the banquet,
while the men ran hither and thither in the darkness with torches
kindled at the sacred lamp; the women, old folk, and children
who had remained at home would meanwhile make a deafening
noise with clappers and rice-pounders; whereupon the spirits
flocked to the cross-road, and as soon as they had all assembled
round the repast there ensued a silence which nothing disturbed
till sunrise. Crowns of thorns were hung up on the doors on
such nights to warn off friends, for as soon as the evil spirits
were busy over the meal, those who had sick persons on their
hands fetched the sufferers from the places where they were
hid and brought them into the home so that the demon should
not enter in again for every illness has its appropriate demon.
Rice, which is the main constituent of the native diet, is a god,
and the indigenes invariably refer to it with the utmost reverence.
When the harvests have been garnered, a wedding feast is held.
T h e young man is called the Rice Bridegroom, the girl, the
Rice Bride. After the ceremony, the married couple are con
ducted to an elaborately decorated hut where they have to remain
undisturbed for forty days.
26

Since Kerkhovens medical work brought him into daily contact


with the natives, and they were able to enlist his sympathy and
understanding, he could keep his mind free from prejudice and
dislike in relation to the world of their imaginings.
A discovery which was of special significance for himself was
the peace of mind they enjoyed and the fact that they were all
o f one mind, looking upon any mental disturbance or bodily
sickness as a sin that had to be expiated by the whole com
munity, for it constituted a betrayal of the godhead. One day
a man suffering from a painful enlargement of the spleen stepped
forth naked before the assembled villagers, begging the elders

f
SYNEIDESIS

65

and the priests to kill him, since, sick as he was and outcast
from the favour of the gods, he was no longer worthy to live
among them.
Was it not, Kerkhoven asked himself, his friendship with
Irlen far more than his subsequent marriage with Marie, which
was once again pointing out to him the way he should go ? Had
not an unexpected combination of circumstances, the favour
of fortune, provided him with direct confirmation concerning
the law of the biological consciousness, of syneidesis, which the
great brain anatomist in Zurich had discovered and made known ?
He often thought of the evening when he had sat opposite that
man of might, seventy-five years of age, a giant in body as well
as in mind, who, from the throne of his wisdom, contemplated
the human medley, contemplated life and death, with the won
dering smile which is the indisputable prerogative of genius.
One day Kerkhoven said to Mabel Hardy whom he saw almost
daily:
If some one asked me to find a formula which would express
my existence to date, I should say that it had been a preparation
for another life to come, a life whose outlines were already
dimly perceptible. I dont mean by that the life beyond the
grave, but a continuation of the life I have begun on this earth
of ours. Once before, I had to take up life anew. It is quite
clear to me that one cannot expect to come out of the furnace
precisely as one went in.
Such words made a profound impression on Mabel, for all
her dreams were set in that super-world which he had so
cautiously placed in some distant future. Still, she did not take
Kerkhovens methods of expression very seriously. She con
sidered that he was apt to be carried away by mistaken enthusiasm,
and in spite of her devoted belief in him she felt convinced
that he was deceived as to his gifts and capacities, to the detri
ment of those qualities which would really be of value to him
and his work. He had cured her of a profound nervous depression
from which she was suffering in the early days of their acquain
tance, and he had done so without having recourse to any
c

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special arts or methods, almost without her realising what he


was about. O f course he had taken no fee, not being entitled
(even had he wanted) to practise for money under the Dutch
flag. Since then, she had placed him higher than any other
person in her estimation. She looked up to him with a faith
so unquestioning that there was an atmosphere o f childlike
innocence about it. Likewise, her social relationship with him
had something of the girlish fragrance of a maid o f seventeen,
rarely met with in a woman of her years for she was twenty-six
at the time of their first meeting. She was fond of saying:
I cannot look upon it as a chance happening that you and
I have fallen in with one another in this way. I ve been waiting
for you; our meeting was fore-ordained.
For all her devotion to Kerkhoven, she loved her young
husband, who had a fine nobility of character and was by no
means a fool. But Kerkhoven became restless. He recognised
that this woman was making something blossom within him,
which had been dormant for years.

27

M r. and M rs. Hardy returned home in October. Kerkhoven


and his fellow members on the commission, travelled by the
same boat. During the voyage the friendship between Mabel
and Joseph became more tender. Mabels beauty was perhaps
no more than a peculiar kind of prettiness she had a delicately
sculptured face, very English in type. Not only men, but the
women she encountered, were apt to fall under her spell, her
features were so pure, her demeanour was so gentle. Sometimes
when Kerkhoven was sitting by her, he had the impression that
never in all his life had he met so charming a woman; she was
quiet and self-contained, and her smile and her laugh captured
ones love immediately. Like a child ! The witchery she exercised
over him often made him uneasy, and led him into exaggeration.
One afternoon, as they were pacing the promenade deck together,
Kerkhoven blurted o u t:

SYNEIDESIS

67

If I had a grown-up daughter a thing that very well might


be I should feel calmer when I m with you.
Do you lack calm? I never noticed. . .
Well, I ve come to imagine something quite unsuitable in
a man of my years.
You must not always be speaking of your years. W hy should
I be worried with figures, when figures mean nothing to m e?
But I feel the weight of my years.
Quite wrong. W ere you any more buoyant ten years ago,
or twenty? Besides, what has age to do with our friendship?
T h ats neither here nor there. You know it as well as I.
Her large brown eyes looked steadily up at him as if in
petition. What could she be aski'ng of him? T h e same thing
she had begged for all along: that he should not worry, that
he should not doubt either himself or her. She knew that this
was the danger that threatened him, and she was frightened
for his sake.
So long as he had remained single-hearted and had merely
wished to gain her respect, he had preserved his equanimity.
It was flattering to feel that such a womans attention was
focussed upon him. But once he had allowed himself to be
singed by the strangely cool flames, and when his kindly passivity
had changed into shy devotion shy, because he had determined
to renounce his right to love he became divided in his mind,
and it was this state o f inner disunion that Mabel feared and
deplored, for she was guileless to the very depths o f her soul.
Whenever Kerkhoven disclosed his plans and ideas to her,
she was greedy to hear more. Her whole being was afire, filled
with faith and expectancy. He made of her, on such occasions,
a kind of missionary, eager to promote the happiness o f man
kind. Mabel had been reared in strictly Christian principles,
though her people belonged to no particular church or sect.
But her upbringing had cultivated in her an enthusiasm for
anything which suggested the image of Jesus.
Kerkhoven often spoke to her of his past, telling her how
he had started upon his career, o f his first marriage and the

68

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hard struggle he had faced in order to break free, o f his friend


ship with Irlen, o f his two little boys, and of Marie. T o Marie
he was constantly returning, showing the greatness o f her
character, her moral courage, her gracious spirit, her affectionate
ways, her energy of mind, and the depth and stability of their
mutual relations.
I ve always guessed it must be so, said Mabel thoughtfully;
even before I got to know you intimately. Strange, isnt it? I
admire your wife immensely, and quite unreasonably. Pretty hard
on her to have you gone. . . . I should like her and me to become
great friends. There is so much we could give one another.
Kerkhoven regarded his past life as one regards a house one
has rented and which one has left long ago. For many years
he had so completely ceased discussing himself and his private
affairs that to delve into such memories was as difficult as it
would have been for him to report upon the happenings o f an
earlier century which were known to him only through the
writings o f historians. But M abels glowing interest lured his
past out o f him bit by bit. He never looked at her while he was
relating these things. It would seem that he was ashamed to
speak so candidly and frequently about himself. Nevertheless,
such talks did him good. Every woman a man loves is in a
measure a resurrected mother, a saviour.
They agreed to correspond while she was in England. In the
spring, Mabel and her husband looked forward to spending a
holiday on the continent. They had a tiny house on the shores
o f Lake Geneva. As they were parting, Mabel gave Kerkhoven
a photo of herself. When they were shaking hands for the last
time, she turned her head aside in order to hide her tears. He
kept his room for three days, feeling wretched, before he could
make up his mind to send a wire to Marie announcing his safe
arrival at Genoa, and then to continue his journey.
28
After Joseph left for Java Marie having moved into a little
three-roomed flat in Niebuhr Strasse her younger boy, Robert,

. SYNEIDESIS

69

fell ill of a fever. M arie rang up D r. Ellen Ritter, an old friend,


and begged her to come and see the child. She was chief of
the receiving-room at the childrens hospital on Prenzlauer Berg.
A reserved woman as a rule, on this occasion she was com
municative and rather excited because a sad case had come
under her notice that very afternoon. A girl of eight, suffering
from a brain tumour, a jolly little maid whom all the doctors
and nurses were fond of, had been admitted too late and had
died on the operating table. T h e details concerning this childs
family life were o f so harrowing a nature that Marie could
hardly believe her ears.
But such things are impossible, she exclaimed, horrified.
Are you sure its true?
Ellen Ritter shrugged, as much as to imply that she could
tell o f far worse cases.
If you will take the trouble to come to the hospital for one
single hour, youll see a thing or two, my dear, I can assure
you, she said.
Oh, may I ? Certainly I ll come along, cried Marie eagerly.
But the doctor did not take her seriously, and soon changed
the subject.
Tw o days later, at ten in the morning, Marie entered the
receiving-room, and sat petrified for two and a half hours looking
at all Ellen Ritter did with the little patients. A t the end of
that time she had come to a resolution.
No longer could she live on the margin o f horrible things,
knowing they existed and yet doing nothing to help. She knew
that in China, two million people died yearly o f starvation
but then, China is very far away. Besides, two million . . . Can
anyone imagine such a multitude? I f one could, one would
surely fall dead on the spot. Now here, nearby, within reach
o f hands and eyes . . . W hy had she allowed herself to be so
walled in as not to see ?
T h e question was, how to begin. Could she venture to devote
herself to the Service of Man? Real service, not just look see.
T h e daily round, convention, red tape all that sort of thing

SYNEIDESIS
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JOSEPH

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would paralyse her impetus. She would have had a feeling as


if, when the city was in flames, she was applying to the authorities
for permission to put out the fire.
Organised charity appalled her, and yet for the life o f her
she could not see how one individual unaided could do anything
to relieve the mass o f suffering which encompassed her.
How is one to set about doing something when one is the
slave of ones sympathies? she asked Ellen Ritter. Ought one,
in all circumstances, to suppress personal feeling?
T o a certain extent, yes. I should like to say entirely.
But I am an incorrigible individualist, Ellen. Your social
foundations can be sent to perdition for all I care, if a human
being stands before me asking for help. I must be allowed to
love if I am to help. You, o f course, find such a notion old
fashioned and harmful. But how can I feel otherwise than I do?
Come down off the high horse! You wont effect much with
love, said the doctor coldly, nobody gives us any thanks for
our pains. W hats your idea, anyhow?
Well, it seems to me that in such matters example is better
than ostentation. Suppose I take charge o f ten or five or even
three poor little mortals and really save them, I shall have achieved
more than if I harried myself with a hundred and, because of
lack of suitable accommodation and other necessary arrange
ments, failed to do them a haporth o f good. If every one were
o f my opinion thered be far less misery in the world. People
have got to be made to think along these lines.
Incurable optimist, answered Ellen Ritter. People can
only be brought to think rightly at the point of the pistol, not
by example. I m afraid you are still living in the nineteenth
century, my dear. Best look at your calendar and see what year
it is!
In spite o f this discouragement, M aries plans were almost
made up.
29
In addition to the three rooms she had been occupying, Marie
hired three more, which happened to be vacant, on the same

71

storey. A t the hospital, which she now visited almost daily,


ninety per cent of the children who were brought to the receivingroom for examination were seriously ill; tuberculosis, skin
diseases, and hunger-oedema being the commonest maladies.
Such were kept under treatment. Most of them, likewise, had
grave symptoms of mental defect, so that expert treatment in
this direction was requisite. Not wishing to stand about idle,
Marie answered telephone calls and made arrangements for the
transport of the patients. Those who were discharged as not
requiring treatment were in fairly good condition, and beyond
the need of immediate help. But amid the mass o f letters and
reports there were numberless requests from parents and guar
dians, and heartrending descriptions by welfare workers. The
place was an ocean of misery.
One day, when M arie had turned over a pile o f such docu
ments, she asked Ellen whether there would be any objection
to her noting some addresses and making personal enquiry about
the cases.
T ry, if youve courage enough, said the doctor, with her
characteristic laugh. Outside help is always welcome. The
official supply o f funds never goes far enough. Y ou agree with
me, dont you my dear Hansen?
T h e man she addressed was a young doctor who acted as
her assistant. Marie had noticed, to her discomfort, that he took
an unseemly interest in her. He often stood stock-still, staring
at her through his spectacles, as if the sight of her reduced him
to despair. What a nuisance, she thought.
30

Armed with a selection of addresses, Marie started her cam


paign. She visited various quarters of the town, and saw things
and human conditions that made her heart melt within her.
Never shall I be able to laugh again. Never again shall I know
happiness, were the thoughts that haunted her mind. Children
glared at her as though she were the Devil himself. Welfare
work was everywhere looked upon with suspicion and hatred;

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the childrens heads were stuffed with the crudest nonsense,


lies which made them look askance at any help that was offered.
M any a youngster stood gazing up at her, motionless, like a
galvanised corpse, and the childrens vacant stare made Marie
wonder at times whether they were capable of understanding
the simplest language. All of them seemed to have come into
this world with suspicion planted in their minds. Hunger, dirt,
rough ways, despair, were such natural conditions of life, that
they could not conceive of any others. Even among the more
intelligent, there lurked in their eyes an almost animal expression
o f sadness. T h ey dwelt in ill-smelling hovels, crowded together
like sheep in a pen. Their skin was of a greyish-yellow hue,
like that o f certain poisonous mushrooms. When their lips
parted, it was to disclose colourless gums.
No use wasting time in crying my heart out, said Marie
to herself. One has no right to give way to tears, especially
such people as I who have sat aloft in comfort like impudent
idols when all the while these horrors have been going on. I
wonder what sort o f consciences those so-called charity workers
have, that they can actually take a salary for attending to the
most elementary needs of these poor helpless little creatures.
How can one go back to a decent home, and eat and sleep,
after seeing this? Can a woman go on day after day doing what
is necessary for her own children in such circumstances? What
will our youngsters think of us when, later, they come to realise
that their parents have fed them on lies, and have hidden away
a world of misery and madness ?
Marie had intended to succour five or six children, but once
her eyes were opened to the facts it was difficult to impose a
limit. Above all, she would have to be careful not to exceed
the means at her disposal; if she did, that would be the beginning
of the end. She needed assistants who would give their services
freely. W ith Ellen Ritters help she selected two girls: Fraulein
Anna Bertram, the daughter of a member of the Board of
Education; and Grete Kohl, a red-haired, rather wizened little
minx with a heart o f gold. For a time Marie toyed with the idea

SYNEIDESIS

73

of getting Aleid, her daughter by her first marriage, to join in


the work, for the girl had now reached an age when such activities
were within her competence. But Aleids answer proved evasive.
Grandma wont hear of my leaving her. . . . It is very difficult
for me to get away from Dresden just now, because I have
started to . . .
Marie had long ago realised that her daughter was lost to her.
Yes, even when parents have done everything possible for their
offspring, the young people are bound to go their own way.
A problem which provided endless hours of meditation was
how she could make the changed conditions in the home in
telligible to her boys. Robert was five and Johann was nine.
She knew that no one can be so autocratic as a child. A mother
is looked upon as its exclusive possession. Her quandary was
rendered even more difficult by the fact that since Josephs
departure she had come to be on very intimate terms with her
little sons. Would not this newly acquired intimacy come to
grief if, of a sudden, she were to expect her own children to
share her with a pack o f unknown girls and boys? Probably
the best way out o f the dilemma was to use a certain amount
o f cunning, to suggest that for games and frolics of all sorts
the more the merrier. T h e boys were less reluctant than she
had expected. Johann, indeed, showed the keenest enthusiasm,
for his childish vanity was tickled by the idea that he was to
act as guide and helper to his mothers protegees. Robert vacil
lated between curiosity and jealousy; but in the end he came
to look upon the venture as a huge joke. T h e next question
was how best to divide her time between her sons and the new
inmates of her household. She had recently been giving many
hours a day to her children, and if they should feel themselves
neglected they would very naturally harbour a grudge against
her. In that case she would lose on the one hand, in the realm
of blood-ties so to speak, what she gained in the realm of service.
Marie had imagined everything could be settled far more
simply, naturally, and easily. Her mistake was that she had
reckoned only with herself and her desire to help, and had
c*

74

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forgotten to take the other members of the household into


account.
3i
T h e initial impetus would be lacking if she could not look upon
her work as something other than a philanthropical undertaking.
From the outset, her passionate nature had clothed her mission
with a very different character. She detested lukewarmness and
half-measures, so that she could only get into stride if her body
and spirit were one, for this alone would permit her to enter
into action, carry out an idea, fall in love, admire another human
being, with an enthusiasm bordering on intoxication. She be
longed to that category o f women whose spirit wilts when life
denies them exaltation. In addition, Marie was possessed by
an insatiable curiosity, and this needed to be roused if her
sympathies were to be enlisted. Her relations to strangers were
governed by such things as whether she was attracted, whether
she could make them open their hearts to her, whether she
could stir them and they her. All the more so in such circum
stances as the present. She was not, therefore, moved by the
direct pressure o f a peculiarly distressing case, but allowed her
sympathies to be captured by the unconscious appeal o f the
eyes and voice of the child in question, by its personality, its
originality of character, and so on. Thus, her judgment became
clouded, and the difficulty o f deciding engendered conflicts.
Then, it had become plain to her that, in average cases, mere
bodily care would not suffice for her wards, and she herself
would remain unsatisfied. Little had been done when they were
washed and freed from vermin, when they were dressed in clean
clothes and put into clean beds, and when suitable food had
been provided for their hungry little maws. Th ey would have
to be amused, o f course, told stories, taught pleasant games,
sent to kindergarten but even this was only a beginning; mere
details, to salve the protectors conscience. T h e essential thing
was a transformation in her own outlook. She and they lived
in worlds apart. Between her and them there was a great gulf
fixed. This severance did not depend upon caste differences,

SYNEIDESIS

75

upon deep-rooted prejudices, or upon the comfort she had lived


in as contrasted with generations o f oppression and privation
on the other side. T h e chasm was deeper than this, and Marie
could not plumb it. M uch as she puzzled over the matter, the
reason eluded her.
32

T h e first child to come under her roof was a boy of eight. She
had found little Heinz Binder sharing one small room with four
younger brothers and sisters, his mother, and three lodgers who
were out o f work. T h e father was a habitual drunkard, and had
never even tried to earn a livelihood for his family. Since in
his drunken excesses he constituted a danger to his wife and
children, the authorities had secured his entry into an inebriates
home. T h e woman was hard put to it to make a living, for odd
jobs such as she could do were becoming more and more difficult
to find. One day, returning from a fruitless hunt for work, she
made up her mind to kill herself. A neighbour had the four
youngest in charge. Heinz was at school. When he came home
at noon he found his mother hanging by a cord to the windowframe. W ith amazing presence of mind, the boy rushed to the
drawer where the knives were kept and cut the cord. He then
summoned the neighbours. T h e woman was still breathing. An
ambulance took her to the hospital.
Marie went to see Frau Binder there in order to talk over
what could be done for Heinz. She could hardly believe her
eyes when she learned the womans age. Twenty-nine! Y et she
looked not a day under fifty. Tw o of the little ones needed
medical care, and were taken to the childrens hospital, one o f
them suffering from Potts disease, the other from severe
anaemia. Tw o others were made welcome by a chauffeur and
his wife. There remained to be seen what could be done about
Heinz. T h e boy was suspicious, and refused to go along with
Marie. She was wearing a fur coat and gloves, and he could
not fathom what such an unusual apparition could mean. She
took his hand and spoke sofdyjto^him ; but the child began to
grin in a strange way that might signify almost anything:

76

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contempt, incredulity, dismay, astonishment, extreme mistrust.


He wrinkled his forehead; then, using great precautions, he
tapped gently with his forefinger on the face of M aries gold
wrist-watch. In the end, however, he allowed himself to be
carried off.
Her experience with Sabine Samisch was much the same.
T h e girl was ten years o f age, had attempted to commit suicide,
and had, therefore, to be sent for a couple of months to a home
for mental cases. On being discharged, she firmly refused to
go home, and, so Marie was told, had lived for a week with
a coal-chandler in his cellar dwelling. She was one of eight
children, ranging between the ages o f two and fourteen. T h e
mother had been placed in a lunatic asylum the previous summer,
and the household, deprived of its natural caretaker, had gone
to rack and ruin. T he father was a furniture-removal man,
unemployed. But his penniless condition did not prevent him
bringing home a woman most nights. He had five different ones
in close succession. Sometimes the hussy of a night-time would
stay on the next day, and ill-treat the children. Sabine could
have stood nearly all these goings-on, save for the rumpus
raised in the middle o f the night by her fathers return. Then
he would either beat the woman unmercifully so that her screams
awakened the neighbours, or he would insist upon arousing his
own children that they might witness his debauches. One day
Sabine set fire to her bed, having previously poured paraffin
upon it. She was saved from the flames at the last moment. . . .
What could one find in common with such a distracted
creature ? Would not every word one uttered sound hollow and
unmeaning? One would need to be God Himself to bring a
ray of happiness into this troubled countenance. Marie did her
best. But her heart was sore on finding she could not succeed
in attracting the childs attention from the lovely shoes worn
by the beautiful lady.
Next day, leaving her furs behind her, Marie set forth in
a coat that might have been worn by anybody. But no matter
how simply she dressed, she met with the same results. She

SYNEIDESIS

77

had a hard lesson to learn, trying to suit herself to her company,


and reaping scant success.
One morning she was given the name o f a dairyman in the
Kohler Strasse. T h e mans wife had taken in a little boy of
four. After a deal o f questioning, she found that the childs
name was Chaim. Obviously a Jew. He was ragged and hungry,
had evidently run away from home, and heaven alone knew
what he had been up to during all the days o f truancy. T h e
police made enquiries, but the search for Chaims parents
proved fruitless. T h e dairymans wife was genuinely sorry for
the little fellow, but she was poor and had a number of children
of her own, so could not keep Chaim. T h e boy was the shyest
creature Marie had ever met. When she took him by the hand,
he wriggled away and crept under the bed, from whence she
heard him sobbing. Then, quite unexpectedly, he gained con
fidence, looking up at her with velvety eyes. When he reached
M aries flat, he stopped dead as he contemplated the room
which seemed to him like a palace out o f fairyland. M aries
heart went out to him in an instant, and her affection became
even more marked when, a short time after, he was claimed
by his relatives. She had then to fight for him as if he were
her own child.
33

It was exactly a week after Marie had taken Chaim in charge


that the boys mother presented herself and demanded to be
given back her child. Her name was Malke Papier and she had
half a dozen other children who huddled together in one small
attic room in Riickert Strasse. O f course she had every right
to claim her son. Endless had been her enquiries, so she avowed,
and she had walked miles and miles before she was successful
in tracking down his whereabouts. Chaim, however, struck out
with feet and hands, refusing to go. Indeed, no sooner did the
woman enter the room, than a look of terror contorted his
pinched white face, and he ran to Marie, clinging to her skirt.
Marie marvelled at the childs distress, for she knew how
intensely clannish family life is among the Jews, amounting

SYNEIDESIS
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JOSEPH

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to a veritable cult of unity. She was soon to learn the reason


for the boys fear. Because of his Jewish name and appearance,
he had been knocked about and unmercifully teased by the
Christian children o f the locality. In the end, reduced to despair,
the poor little fellow had decided to run away from home and
set out into the wider world. He had become inordinately
attached to Marie, who seemed like a beautiful angel from
heaven. T h e thought that he would be torn away from her
was the greatest misfortune that could happen to him. A t the
first interview with Frau Papier, as has been said above, Marie
was puzzled by the boys refractory behaviour. She considered
that the mother was exercising an elementary right in claiming
her son, and, since the woman seemed a pleasant enough person,
Marie begged that Chaim might be granted a weeks grace
during which he might be brought to reason. This suggestion
apparently satisfied Frau Papier, and with that she took her
departure.
Next evening M arie had to go to the other end o f the town
to see two little girls, ten and eleven years old respectively,
who were the daughters of a cobbler. It was the younger, Hede
by name, who took M aries fancy and who was in greater need
of care. T he home was more like a pig-sty than a human habi
tation. T he father (as is frequent in cases o f destitution) was
a soaker, and unemployed. T h e mother had been laid up in
bed since Christmas. Marie arrived on the scene between eight
and nine for she had been kept late helping Ellen Ritter, and
when she had finished in the receiving room she found Dr.
Hansen waiting for her. He insisted upon accompanying her
part of the way. She had great difficulty in shaking him off.
As she came near the place where the cobbler and his family
lived, her ears were assailed with shouts, screams, cries of
Police and M urder. A mob of men and women were
clustered round the door. Addressing a girl who had nothing
on but a nightgown and a glaring red shawl flung over her
shoulders, Marie enquired what was amiss. In an almost in
comprehensible Berlinese dialect, the slattern replied:

79

Being in the next room, Miss, I could hear everything that


went on. He come home half n hour ago that tight he could
hardly walk. She, poor things been ill, and I could hear her
moaning in agony all by herself in the dark. T h e two kids had
gone to bed, too. Then he come along up, and yelled and bawled,
because he couldnt find the matches and candle. I could hear
him smashing up the home, throwing glasses, plates, and bottles
on to the floor. It made a fine litter I can tell you. At last he
found the bit of candle end and lighted it. And just because
his poor missus was too sick to get up and help him, he started
swearing something horrible. She begged and prayed him to
be quiet, for she really was at the end of her strength, and this
fair set his back up. He got hold of his awl and struck at her
with it, wounding her in the breast and on the arm. T h e girls
sprung out of bed, Kathi running down into the street to cry
for help, while Heda stood by her ma trying to shield her. O f
course the poor, weak kid could do nothing against such a
raging furious madman. He struck at her, too, so that the blood
flowed awful, and she fell of a heap. Then the wife, ill as she
was, crawled as best she could out of her bed and I heard her
groaning as she made for the window. She pulled it open and
threw herself out four storeys high, think o f it and crashed
into the yard just as me and the neighbours was coming along
as quick as may be to get hold of the man. . .
Marie felt the whole affair weighing on her like a nightmare.
Voices came from every direction, bodies pressed upon her, the
air was laden with the stench of sweat and blood, coarse spirits
and tobacco smoke. She was anxious to get to the wounded
child upstairs. Just as at last she reached the door she heard
some one say that the woman was dead. This was denied by
another voice, which declared that she was still breathing but
very near her end. T h e police appearing at this moment, there
was a movement in the crowd which enabled Marie to slip into
the house. Entering the room, she found the drunken cobbler
was being held by four stalwarts. She knelt down by the un
conscious child, and wiped the blood from its mouth and eyes.

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Then, suddenly, the man wrenched himself free and, before


she could escape, his huge fist had come down in a mighty
blow upon her temple. When she regained consciousness, she
found herself lying in an ambulance. She begged the attendant
to be so good as to have her driven home. Grete Kohl, scared
almost out of her wits, undressed her, while Anna Bertram
telephoned for D r. Ritter who arrived within a very few minutes.
T h e shock had sent M aries temperature up, so that it was
over ioo.
W ell have to damp down your zeal a trifle, said the doctor
dryly.
T o which Marie answered, shivering a little as she spoke:
Damp down my zeal as much as you like Ellen, but you
cant make me forget. . . . I know now . . . I know. . . .

34

On the following afternoon Dr. Hansen was announced. Marie


had kept her bed all day, and, since she objected to admitting
the tiresome fellow to terms o f intimacy, she told the maid to
say that her mistress felt much better but was not at home to
callers. Meanwhile, however, Hansen had been making up to
young Johann, and had persuaded the child to take him along
to M others bedroom. Full of apologies, the doctor stood bowing
in the doorway.
Be off with you, Johann, cried Marie, greatly annoyed.
T he boy disappeared, wondering why Mummy was so cross.
D r. Hansen never budged from the threshold. He spoke hardly
above a whisper.
Please, I beg of you to allow me five minutes . . . only five
minutes. I ve been quite ill with anxiety, and could not keep
away any longer. I felt it imperative that I should see you.
What am I to understand by this? asked Marie resentfully,
motioning her visitor to a chair. I fail to catch your drift. Do
you intend to make a nuisance of yourself?
Without noticing M aries reluctant gesture inviting him to
be seated, Dr. Hansen pursued with drooping head:

SYNEIDESIS

81

I can quite understand that it is difficult to grasp what I


am up to. I do not understand myself. I am mad. . . . Absolutely
crazy . . . I . . . I dont want anything . . . except to be permitted
to look at you, to hear the sound of your voice . . . Nothing
more.
Marie contemplated him coldly. His face was lean and flat,
though his chin protruded aggressively. He looked as if he were
being devoured, consumed by some inner demon. He was
repugnant to her. She had no idea how to handle the situation,
and felt very unhappy, for she knew that vexation and trouble
would be the inevitable outcome. Trouble, distress, and sore
ness of heart, bitterness and mutual recrimination this is what
the future holds for us, she thought. Marie knew all the proper
things a woman was expected to do and say in such circum
stances, that she should reprove him, make him listen to reason,
herself appear reasonable and just, try and make him see how
unfairly he was behaving. But she could not do these things,
for her mind was in a state of hopeless confusion; she looked
hither and thither for a way out of the mess, but found none.
In the end, she turned her eyes away from her troublesome
admirer, who stood there with a hang-dog air, his hands con
vulsively clasping one another. She glanced down at the small
piece o f pasteboard on which the name Eugen Hansen was
engraved. Hateful name, hateful card, detestable man, she
thought.
He made as if to go, drawing his limp and lifeless hand
over his forehead as he moved towards the door. From the
passage came the shrill voice of a woman, expostulating; a fat,
guttural, and common voice. Marie recognised it as that of
Frau Papier. In spite o f the agreement to leave her son in peace
for a few days, she had come back to claim him. All of a sudden
M aries compassion was aroused, and, flinging caution to the
winds, confiding in her power to meet any future difficulty, she
made a request of the intruder.
You would do me a great service, Doctor, if you could
deal with that woman. She wants her son back, but the

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child wants to stay here. A day or two ago, she promised to


temporise.
Hansen bowed his head, and soon he could be heard outside,
trying to persuade Malke Papier to be reasonable. Grete Kohl,
likewise, took a hand; then Anna Bertrams voice was joined
to the others. W hile this parleying went on, the door leading
from her room into the childrens day-nursery was gently pushed
ajar and little Chaim s face appeared timidly in the opening.
Gaining courage, he slipped into the room, but stopped in the
middle to raise imploring hands towards Marie. She beckoned
him to her bedside, placed an arm round his shoulders, and
whispered:
Its all right, old chap; no ones going to take you away. No
fear!
The youngster stared up with glowing eyes full o f gratitude
and said proudly:
I ll pray for you, sos you will soon be quite well again.
I know some prayers.
Profoundly moved, Marie kissed the lad on the forehead
and, since the clamour in the passage had abated, she told him
he had better get back to the nursery and his playmates. No
sooner had the door closed upon Chaim, than an overwhelming
sensation of weakness assailed her, and she burst into tears.
35

Thereafter, Malke Papier turned up daily; then, every three or


four days. She berated Marie, threatened to appeal to the police,
hinted that the childs soul was imperilled by further stay under
a Gentile roof, that her son was being hidden away from her,
that those welfare people were being appealed to in order
that a certificate could be furnished proving that Chaim was
neglected in his own home, and so forth. Marie offered the
woman money to keep away. Frau Papier took it, and remained
quiet for three days. Then her unsavoury visits recommenced.
There was nothing for it but to deliver up the child. When
Chaim was informed of the inevitable, he was dumbfounded.

SYNEtDESlS

83

Marie promised him solemnly that she would go to see him


as often as possible. Hardly had he been home a week, than
he went down with a virulent form o f scarlet fever. For days
the child hovered between life and death. In the fourth week
o f his illness suppurative inflammation o f the lymphatic glands
set in. He had been taken to the childrens hospital and had
Ellen Ritters most devoted attention. Dr. Hansen kept Marie
regularly informed as to Chaims progress.
So plastic and so attractive a child was an exceptional specimen.
T h e other youngsters to whom Marie gave asylum were stubborn
and refractory in the extreme. As always, it was not the individual
with whom she fruitlessly endeavoured to deal, but the whole
world to which that individual belonged. And she grew to dread
this world more and more; it filled her with the dismay which
a finely tempered man invariably feels when confronted with
the amorphous mass o f humanity; and when Josephs concept
o f days to come crossed her mind, she began to despair of
the possibility of safeguarding her dreams o f the future from
being crushed under the load of this amorphous mass. These
unmerciful childrens eyes put her in the pillory. She could not
rid herself of the cold horror that beset her; it enveloped her,
it had no end, just as death seemed to have no end. Her weapons
were paltry, her means of assistance were paltry, her words were
paltry, she had nothing to offer, she herself was paltry.
One evening she came into the nursery at bedtime with a
basket o f apples in her hand. Each child received an apple,
and soon there was nothing to be heard but munching and sucking.
Then her eyes fell upon a boy alone in a corner, as if he were
sulking. He was six years old, K urt Muchler by name, son of
a bookbinder who had emigrated to Argentina leaving his family
destitute behind him. Marie approached the child, offered him
his allotted apple, and asked:
W ell, Kurt, old man, whats up?
He shrugged, and at first refused to answer. Then, pointing
to another boy a year older than himself who was fussing about
his bed and laughing knowingly, Kurt said ruefully:

84

JOSEPH

K E R K H O V E N S

THIRD

EXISTENCE

Walter Gieseke says there aint no God, and no Jesus neither,


he says. Its all nonsense, he says.
Marie felt a pang at her heart. She sat down on a low chair
and gathered the thirteen children round her Johann and
Robert were of the company. Then, taking the struggling Walter
by the arm she asked:
How can you know such a thing, little man?
Walter reflected for a moment, and then said:
I just know, and thats about all. If there was a God, things
wouldnt be as they are.
He looked at her, a challenge in his eyes.
W ell, answered Marie dejectedly, all the same it may be
that God is there, only does not show himself to everyone in
the way they expect.
The boy smiled, incredulous.
Yes, he said slyly, but thats where the catch comes
in.
The child had seen too much in the seven years he had been
on earth, he knew too much. . . .
Marie looked at her charges. Ah, such young faces, such frail
and immature bodies, standing before her in their blue-striped
cotton nightgear. Thirteen pairs of eyes looking eagerly to her
for an explanation, sceptical eyes, forming a barricade between
the world of childhood and the world of grown-ups. Their
previous experience was what they appealed to in their minds
against the lies of these grown-ups. That was what made them
utter a No which was, for them, like the sound of the last trump.
N o, they said, we do not agree with you, we do not trust you,
we do not believe you; no, and yet again, no.
For the first time Marie understood. She took the tiny
blasphemer on her lap, stroked his hair, and said:
Perhaps you are right, Walter. Neither you nor I know
anything precise about the matter. But before you and I met,
we, too, did not know anything about one another. I might have
said, theres no little boy in the whole world called Walter
Gieseke. And yet you are here right enough, I can touch you.

SYNEIDESIS

85

I f anybody said that there was no little Walter Gieseke youd


have a fine laugh, wouldnt you ?
T h e children sniggered. Walter looked crestfallen. He felt
as if some one were pulling his leg ; but he could not see how he
could deny the logical sequence of M aries argument, and this
made him angry. Marie, too, was angry. She realised that she had
got out o f her difficulty by a trick, and rather an objectionable
trick at that. Now she was ashamed. She rose, and dragged
Walter into the midst o f his little comrades. A few lines of a
poem she had learned by heart long ago floated through her
mind, and she quoted them aloud with impressive solemnity.
I am in this darkened world,
As a candle none has yet lit;
Be still, contentious heart;
Who stays me, I know well.
T h e children looked up at her, speechless with surprise.
Just surprise, nothing more! It was of no avail to try and get
into touch with their minds.

36

Nor was it o f any avail to try and keep out o f D r. Hansens path,
or to reproach him for his infatuation. He listened humbly,
eagerly, attentively but he refused to leave her in peace, tracking
her down wherever she went. He invariably knew where to find
her, though it was hard to explain how he was so well informed
as to her movements. He rang her up on the vaguest pretexts.
He sent her flowers, which she promptly returned. He wrote
letters, and typed the address so as to make sure she would open
the envelope. Love-letters, composed in an extravagant style,
letters whose tone was hyperbolical, and yet whose language
never overstepped the limits of decorum and respect. He did not
trouble to hide the fact that he had resolved to win her in the
end, even if it meant following her to Greenland and being
clapped into gaol for ten years.
T h e mans completely crazy, she thought and yet she
could not see how to defend herself.

86

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KERKHOVENS

THIRD

EXISTENCE

One Sunday, when, over the telephone, he had clamoured for


an interview, she consented to receive him that same afternoon.
She dreaded the meeting, but she considered that she had the
advantage of him in so far as her mind was untroubled whereas
he was as mad as a hatter. Contrary to expectation, he behaved
with exemplary calmness, though at times his eyes betrayed him.
For one and a half hours he spoke of himself, of his childhood
and adolescence spent among people who had seen better days,
but whose spiritual life had utterly decayed. He told her of his
loneliness, o f the sterility o f his present mode o f existence, of
his scepticism in regard to his fellow-mortals, the world in general,
God, and science. T h e only salvation from such a situation,
in which he was perpetually on the verge o f suicide, he declared
was the strange passion he had conceived for her.
O f course you will say that mine is a typical destiny, seeing
that I am a typical man, he continued without allowing her
time to put in a word. Still, Frau Marie oh, please do not
worry about m y using your name I realise that you could, i f
you chose, squash me like a louse. W hats the good o f me
anyway? But I would like you to reflect that a man such as I,
suffocating beneath customs and conventions, or, if you prefer
under the curse of a career. . . . .
What do you mean, cried Marie in surprise, by the curse
o f a career ?
I mean exactly what I say, the curse o f a career. I know
I am talking to Joseph Kerkhovens w ife ; but what comparison
is there between a Schiller and a penny-a-liner? What part
have we nonentities in the career of a Schiller? Besides, in the
end, every Schiller is an incurable visionary, if not actually a
charlatan who throws dust into peoples eyes. Character? Who
has character? T h e man who can prove his possession of it.
The small fry are ground to powder. But if one of the small fry
aspires towards a star, then you see the picture of Eugen Hansen 1
His voluptuous delight in self-abasement and self-torment
produced on Marie the effect of a personal insult. She could
not but agree that he was right when he described his life as

SYNEIDESIS

87

worthless and himself as a poor creature; but never before


had she had dealings with a man of his kidney. She did not know
what to say. Any argument she might have used seemed to her
as futile as it would be to say to a cripple: You need only pull
yourself together, and you will no longer be lame. Besides,
she had no particular taste for attempting to educate a mental
invalid. She was sorry for Hansen; but compassion is a form of
contempt, and if she showed contempt for him, the man
completely lost control. What especially enraged him was her
being occupied in welfare work. She was risking her nobility
o f mind, her freedom, her feminine personality; in a word all
that raised her above the scum she was trying to help.
I had a dream recently about a precious jewel lying in a box
filled with excrement. I need not explain the bearing o f my
dream.
When he was silent after this outburst, he contemplated her
with the penetrating virile glance which made her icy cold, though
it drove a blush to her cheeks.
Her whole nature remained aloof and critical so far as he was
concerned. She could not help him out o f his gloom and his
despair. In this matter, likewise, she was paltry!
37

She asked herself: W hat is lacking to me? W hat makes me so


weak, so inadequate, so incapable? During nights of lonely
pondering she became aware o f a vacancy within herself, and
had the impression that there was a stony desert where there
ought to have been growth and fruitfulness. Attempting to'
discover when this aridity had begun, she came to the conclusion
that it had always been the same with her. Unquestionably, the
substratum of her life had gradually been charred, with the result
that the germs o f fertility had been killed. T h e spiritual upheaval
and the stir of the senses that had occurred during recent years,
in conjunction with the decisive settlement with Joseph, had
loosened the soil and had liberated her from her selfish absorption
in her own sorrows. T here had ensued a sense o f liberation,

SYNEIDESIS
88

JOSEPH

KERKH O VEN S

THIRD

EXISTENCE

as if she had quitted a room whose walls, ceiling, and floor


consisted exclusively of mirrors. Y et did it not seem as if, by the
remove, she had gained only lawlessness, the arbitrariness o f a
life which she had allowed to approach hers? One can permit
life to come very close, perhaps one ought to; but in that case
one must have the courage of those who are afraid o f nothing,
neither of threats nor humiliations. Instead of that, she had to
struggle against doubt and fear, and was unable to discover
within herself the significance of the new, although that discovery
would have protected her like the wall of a fortress. She craved
for the guidance to which she had become accustomed. Y et on
closer examination she recognised that this craving was not
directed towards the absent Kerkhoven. It went back, rather,
to half-submerged memories, forgotten dreams, suppressed
youthful impulses, questions that had never been answered,
images that had once been vivid and had then paled to a heartfelt
need, a complicated picture, a face hidden in the shadows.
Often she became aware of a strange ardour within her. It
was a feeling as if she had fallen in love with an unknown man,
and this feeling aroused a sense of confusion. She had to acknow
ledge that by degrees everything to which she had looked for
support had crumbled away: devotion to human beings; the
petty details o f domesticity; her love for art; books; even nature,
with which she had so long and so closely been associated.
Y et it was not from personal disillusionment, not out of resignation
and voluntary relinquishment, that she was seeking access into
a new domain which for the time being was as inaccessible as a
landscape in the moon. What happened was happening within
her; and, in a way, in opposition to herself. It came as a com
mission from the epoch to which she belonged, and was charged
by that eras boundless need. Among the persons with whom
we come into contact, there are some who resemble the hands
o f a clock because they point to the spiritual hour. Silently there
is assembled within them what dwells unrecognised within the
breasts of countless thousands as desire and privation. Like these
ordinary persons, she had hitherto lived thoughtless y ; but now

89

she was suffering to the pitch of bodily torment from the aim
lessness of her world, its bald pursuit of narrow aims, its savagery,
its hatred, its bloodthirstiness, and its mendacity. Even while
Joseph was still at her side, she had often experienced this
throttling fear of the world, notwithstanding the straightforward
ness of his will, notwithstanding his readiness to sacrifice himself,
and notwithstanding the power of his intelligence. Whither
Husband? she might have called to him. You seem to me
bewitched. Have you no heaven over your head, nothing to lean
upon outside yourself, must you always rush to extremes?
She had been sorry for him. In a letter she wrote him early that
summer was the passage: Our earthly existence seems to lack
meaning. Mankind seems to have no definite goal. A very little
reflection leads us, whithersoever we turn, to the question, What
is it all about? W hat is the inner meaning? When and where
is fulfilment? L ife as we know it cannot be all there is. That
would be so incredibly stupid!
What drove her to a belief in the inexpressible power so vaguely
adumbrated in the mind of humanity, was a thoroughly chaotic
impulse, sustained on a flood of enthusiasm, which permeated
her entire being. She could find no name for this sentiment;
indeed, she did not venture even to seek a name to describe it.
If she called it G od, she was not any more advanced. God
was a word that had been soiled by millenniums of misuse, had
become suspect and had lost all charm. T h e presiding genius
she imagined for herself, had neither face nor form; it was
merely a ray from the human imagination, a twinkle of starlight
in the night. T h is notion, withdrawing her as it did from a
personal concept o f the deity, paralysed her desire to help the
miserable creatures with whom her present life brought her into
contact. If she could not enfold all these fathers and mothers
and children in her arms and carry them upwards to the godhead,
she must at least raise them into the anteroom of the divine. Her
concept of the divine was not remotely incomprehensible,
as is the idea of God whom man is incapable o f contemplating.
One can give oneself up to the boldest speculations concerning

90

JOSEPH

K E R K H O V E N S

THIRD

EXISTENCE

religion so long as their verisimilitude and content do not need


to be tested in the light of everyday duties and the unceasing
struggle for existence. It is so easy to lapse into gush where
religious speculation is concerned and gush was something
Marie abhorred. Since she kept herself on guard against religious
enthusiasm, it gradually became clear to her why she failed to
penetrate into the childrens minds, why she could not bridge
the chasm which separated her from them at least to outward
seeming, if it could not be bridged in reality. Nevertheless, every
child she brought under her roof was a source of heart-searching
to her. She brought its ultimate destiny, its inheritance, its
family life, its past, to abide with her. She refused to believe
that any case was hopeless, incapable of improvement, innately
wicked. Although human nature as a whole seemed to her immu
table, a childs temperament was still plastic and might be changed
for the good. T h e educational possibilities o f love were occupying
her mind, but only in cloudy formulation. She found herself
unable to fulfil these possibilities. W hy? In the first instance,
Marie held the town responsible. Yes, the town was to blame.
It was a veritable honeycomb o f insalubrious dwellings. It was
like a mammoth brain dissected out to show the convolutions
and bloodvessels; it was a horrible semblance of something in
the nature of organic life, but was really organised death. Clean,
good work was not forthwith acceptable as such; in the best
event, it was talked about; and i f not, was paraded before an
indifferent public. Oh, how Marie wished to get away from it all.
T h e sooner the better. Only then could she make something out
o f her life and character.
But these were not the sole reasons why she did not hit it
off. She was denied grace. She possessed none of that genuinely
great humility which alone could make her undertaking successful.
T h e humility of those who bow their heads in reverence before
any affliction, be it even leprosy or lunacy, malice or murder;
those who have transcended impatience, have got beyond petty
nervous irritability, have become almost care-free; those who
are nothing more than vessels (in the religious sense of the term),

SYNEIDESIS

91

receptive pitchers held in an invisible hand. She knew her own


lack in these respects; or, if she had not known it before, she
now recognised it with pitiless severity. She knew no less clearly
that she was as far from fulfilment as from the lunar landscape.
Before she could reach the goal of her desire, she would need the
key wherewith to unlock the door behind which she was prisoned
as Marie Kerkhoven, a person bearing an ineffaceable stamp.
She would have to blow up, or batter down, the tenement
Marie Kerkhoven. But she shrank from this undertaking
because she clung to the familiar form, because she was afraid
o f the suffering so radical a change would involve, because she
was a captive of self-love.
What was to be done? Where did there exist anyone whose
deeds or personality or destiny would help her to win through ?
Victory was impossible without the aid of a living associate, a
real and palpable mortal, of like substance with herself. This
associate must be found.
38

Her resolution to quit Berlin came to her suddenly. T h e spur


was Eugen Hansen. One evening she had gone to the chemists
and, the warm June night inviting, she took a further stroll in
the park. It was late when she got home, and the household had
gone to bed. On entering the sitting-room and switching on the
light, she found Hansen seated near the window, silent and stiff,
just as if he had not noticed her advent.
Goodness, M arie exclaimed, what on earth are you doing
here ?
Slowly, he turned towards her, a wry smile contorting his
features.
Pray keep calm, Frau M arie, he murmured.
He went on to explain that he had told the maid he would wait
until her mistress returned because he had a very important
message to communicate.
This is really too much, cried Marie wrathfully. Is there
no means of protecting oneself against such intrusions ?

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EXISTENCE

He got up and went to her as she made for the bell, staying her
hand.
You mean to summon your domestics, he said. T h ey ll
arrive too late. All will be over by the time they come. Hansen
pulled a pistol from his pocket, and contemplated it thoughtfully.
A cold shiver ran down M aries back. Certainly the man was
not joking. There was nothing melodramatic about his behaviour;
his dress was slovenly; his whole aspect was gloomy and
indifferent.
You have nothing to fear for yourself, he continued in the
same harsh voice, and with a strained smile twisting his lips,
though I must admit it would make a tidy headline quite
sensational M urder and Suicide in Niebuhr Strasse. A fine
scoop for our newspapers. T h e wife o f the famous physician
Dr. Joseph Kerkhoven the victim of a rejected lover . . .,
and so forth. Still, theres no question o f any such thing really.
M y original plan was to finish with it all before you got back.
I wanted you to see what you had made o f me. Agreed, there
was a streak o f revenge in the idea. Well, I just could not do it
until I had once more, one last time, looked upon your wonderful
face, Marie. Your life is worth a thousand such as mine, and the
best thing for me to do is to lay my worthless carcass at your feet.
The only action possible in such circumstances is for a nitwit
like myself to make some kind of demonstration. . . .
Eugen laid his finger on the trigger, and slowly raised his
eyes towards M aries mouth. Ever since girlhood, she had felt
curiously uneasy and bashful when a man looked at her m outh;
and now, in spite of the horrible suspense, this same feeling crept
shudderingly over her. She moved backward towards the wall,
seeking support. Not that she was anxious or weak! Laying the
palms of her hands against the wall, and throwing her head well
up, she said calmly:
Go ahead, get on with the job. Shoot yourself. W hats all
the talk about? T h e worlds well rid of a worm like you. Shoot,
and have done with it.
Ten seconds o f silence followed this outburst. Hansen looked

SYNEIDESIS

93

like a whipped cur. His arm sank nerveless to his side. He visibly
collapsed. Marie dragged herself to the sofa, and sat down.
She pointed to a chair nearby, and said:
Please be seated. Had you not better hear what I have to
say?
Hansen hesitated, then obeyed. Wisps o f hair clung to his
damp forehead. Marie went on:
If you fancy you can bring pressure to bear on me by that kind
o f blackmail, you are very much mistaken. No use protesting.
Blackmail, I repeat; thats the word for it. Listen. I am not a
woman who can easily be shocked because a man asks her to
sleep with him. Such things are absolutely indifferent to me.
But I dont allow men to force me into consent, see? You needed,
in the first instance, to prove that you were worth having. If
you had blown your brains out, it would have left me as cold as
if you had put a ten-pound note on the table for the pleasure of
a night together. I m not in the least touched, believe me. W hy,
I hardly know you. What is there about you to attract me? So
far you have shown neither consideration nor tender regard
nor manliness. You expect me to give myself to you merely
because youve got a maggot in your head that you want to possess
me. And you come here like a thief in the night to lay hands upon
something that is not given to you spontaneously. No, my friend,
I dont go in for such adventures. Y ou ll get nothing out o f me
by these tactics.
Hansen leaned his elbow on the arm of the chair, and, chin in
hand, listened attentively, feeling utterly crushed.
You are speaking the truth, he said gloomily, staring into
vacancy, but it does not help me in the least. I ask you as I
might ask Joseph Kerkhoven were he present what am I to do ?
How am I to regain in some measure my peace o f mind?
No one can advise you, only yourself. Your own will must
be your master.
Sorry, but thats a platitude.
Really? O f course anything one human being says to another
is subject to misinterpretation.

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EXISTENCE

Ive got relations living in Sweden. Perhaps theyll take me


in. I might have a try for the Rockefeller endowment. . .
Excellent.
If only I could be sure, Frau M arie, that you believed in me,
even to the most insignificant extent; that I was not a mere speck
of dirt in your esteem. . .
Idiocy number two, D r. Hansen. T h e first serious effort
you make to recover from your madness will raise you in my eyes.
I must be able to respect my friends thats an elementary need
o f my character. Once I lose respect, I m at a loss; I, myself,
not the other person.
T ru e?
Absolutely. I f you had asked me, I should have advised you
to go away, to Sweden, to the Mediterranean, to anywhere you
had a fancy for. Y ou must make yourself master of your fate;
you must impose certain duties on yourself; put an end to all
this silly self-hatred, and detestation of the world in general.
Unfortunately, I am not just now a fit counsellor, being myself
at the crossways. M y life is in a state of conflagration. If you
only had realised that fact, your morbid ideas concerning me
would have disappeared.
Hansen meditated for a while, his eyes downcast, studying the
carpet. Then he stood up, and spoke in a different tone altogether.
I ll do my best, to forget you, Frau Marie . . . not you
yourself, but the mistake I have made concerning you. Perhaps,
in your turn you will reproach me with uttering a platitude if I
say, You have made a new man o f me. Can anybody make
new people out of those whom fate brings together ? Is there any
such creature as a new man ? Thank God there is such a woman
as you on earth. That suffices. Y es, he persisted, when Marie
shook her head, yes, that is enough so far as I am concerned.
He went, and Marie remained motionless where she was until
long past midnight. She was inexpressibly tired. Vaguely, she
wondered why. Despairingly she asked herself:
How am I to find strength to carry out what I have it in
mind to do ?

SYNEIDESIS

9S

Again and again, the young doctors question rang in her ears:
Is there any such creature as a new man ?
39

A fortnight later, she took train with her two boys to Diirrwangen,
a little place on the borders of Franconia and Swabia. Here she
intended to stay till the end o f summer, before moving farther
south. T h e sister o f her friend Tina Andenrieth, a warm-hearted
young woman who was married to de Ruyters the automobile
manufacturer, had offered Marie the use o f a country house
in the neighbourhood of Mersburg. She could enter into posses
sion in the autumn, and could convert it into an asylum for waifs
and strays. Herr de Ruyters had even placed a little capital at
her disposal. Marie could not make up her mind, for she still
felt that such an undertaking exceeded her powers. She needed a
period of collection. Besides, she felt uneasy about Joseph and
his movements. Since the end of M ay there had been no news
o f him. From time to time her body yearned for his proximity.
She dreamed that danger threatened him. Bitterness of heart
assailed her when she reflected that a husband had no business
to condemn his wife to so protracted a period o f widowhood.
There were days when she could not recall what he looked like.
A t other times she felt that she could actually hear the deep
tones of his voice, as if he stood close beside her, and spoke loving
words in her ear. T h e children asked impatiently for news of
Daddy. They looked upon his absence as something discredit
able, and hardly believed their mother when she expatiated
upon how wonderful were the adventures and how daring the
exploits he was engaged upon. Marie loved to tell them about
what their father was doing. Such tales made him human, clothed
him with flesh and blood, made him a friend and a husband
such as hitherto she had never possessed. She was happy in the
realisation of all he meant to her. In August she thought: Only
four months to run. In September, three. Tim e moved at a
snails pace. She was thirty-eight years old, but felt so young
that she could still hate old Father Tim e for going slowly.

96

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K E R K H O V E N S

THIRD

EXISTENCE

Meanwhile, as she had said to Eugen Hansen, her life was in a


state of conflagration. Maybe this applied even more to her heart
than to her life. . . .
40
There were two reasons why she had chosen so out-of-the-way
a place for a holiday: childhood memories; and the charm of
the landscape. Her grandparents had lived there, and, as a little
girl, she had often stayed with them in this retired spot. The
frame-house stood just without the walls of the village, as she
remembered it, though strangers were now living in it. This oldworld corner of Germany gave peace to a heart distressed; it
was like a ruin which a kindly growth of ivy had clothed and
softened.
Another attraction had been that M aries teacher, a greybeard,
Kaspar Neidhardt, had lived here for twenty years. He had been
an intimate of M aries grandfather. When the old man was
pensioned off, Martensteig, a barrister o f note, had induced him
to settle in Diirrwangen. T h e latter had even presented Neidhardt
with a cottage, so that the retired pedagogue might pass the
remainder of his days in peace, giving himself up to his philo
sophical and musical pursuits. Marie felt she owed a great deal
to Neidhardt. He had been an influence in her girlhood, a
humanist such as is rarely found in the modern world. She had
corresponded with him regularly until 1925; thereafter she had
almost forgotten him, but during the last days in Berlin his per
sonality had arisen as a figure of reproach before her eyes. She
had, therefore, decided to look him up.
Too late! He was not exactly dead, but he lived on as a smoored
fire. T he old man was hard put to it to remember who she was.
He asked her some quite idiotic questions. Most of his time was
spent in cutting out gilded paper patterns; or he would sit
for hours at a time with half-closed eyes by the bedside of his
grand-daughter. At one time he had been famous as an organist;
but the years had, as it were, buried his love for music, so that
for weeks on end he did not touch the keys. Then, of a sudden,
he would climb the organ-loft of the village church and pour

SYNEIDESIS

97

forth melody as if he were a youngster instead o f being a veteran


of seventy years. These spurts of musical energy were noted by
those who happened to be present, and were retailed to Marie.
She longed to hear him play. Once, when she was a child, she
had heard him play the organ on a Good Friday, and his playing
had made her feel that she ought to die. If she continued to live,
she felt, it would be a mortal sin. She was told by the gossips
in Diirrwangen that he had played the organ only twice during
the previous year, and that requests were o f no avail, one had to
wait till the spirit moved him. In the end, Marie was privileged
to hear him, but by then another vital experience had so taken
possession of her that music, even the most sublime, seemed to
her no more than a forbidden pleasure.

4*
Neidhardts grand-daughter formed the centre of the picture.
As a girl of sixteen she had fallen from a ladder while at play
with some schoolfellows. Since then, she had been bedridden,
unable to move. Johanna was now nearly twenty-three years
old. Day in, day out, the poor girl lay on her back, staring into
vacancy. She ate hardly at all, some days taking merely half a
glass of milk and on others a little honey and water. T h e doctors
could not localise the trouble, but there was evidently a disorder
of the motor and sensory tracts.
For brief spaces Johanna was free from pain, and it was during
one of these interludes that Marie made her acquaintance. T h e
girl was terribly thin, and held her hands crossed upon her
emaciated bosom. Her great, patient eyes moved Marie pro
foundly. But Marie had no idea of the force which resided in
this poor, broken invalid. True, the girl was ill, she was slowly
dying, yet in her way she was showing fortitude and heroism.
Marie felt, however, that there was something above and beyond
these that sustained Johanna.
The pains set in anew during the second week in September.
So fierce were they that for considerable periods the sufferer

98

JOSEPH

KERKH O VEN S

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EXISTENCE

seemed to lose consciousness. Her arms twitched convulsively,


her neck stiffened, her face turned ashen grey. Long ago she had
accustomed herself to do without medicaments, and had made her
grandfather promise to see she was not doped. No plaint ever
passed her lips. On the contrary, while she was enduring terrible
agony, a strange cheerfulness of expression spread over her
face. Marie was not allowed to see her the first day, and the old
man wandered about the house muttering prayers. But on the
evening of the second day Marie was introduced into Johannas
room. T h e petroleum lamp was shaded with a scarf. In one
corner a nursing sister sat as motionless as a statue. Kaspar
Neidhardt stood near the door saying the Lords Prayer. Marie
came to a stop a couple of paces from the bed, as though glued
to the floor. An ecstatic smile lit up the girls features, and with
every access o f pain this extraordinary smile became more ardent.
There was something unearthly about it. Yes, unearthly; and
never before had Marie grasped the real significance o f this
trite expression.
Kindred phenomena are not unknown. We hear of abnormal,
perhaps indeed morbid, spiritual states bordering on mystical
ecstasy, conditions that men of science are as helpless to explain
as the layman. In Johannas case, pain did not make her lose
contact with the world about her; she was not transfigured by
suffering. She was not severed from her earthly environment,
nor was there need to mention the term miracle where she was
concerned. Nevertheless, that smile came from a region beyond
the ordinary. It was o f a quality which, Marie felt sure, betokened
conquest over self, so that the person able to produce such a
smile in such circumstances must have brought about a funda
mental change in the inner being. I do not mean to imply that
Johannas mentality and purpose in life had been suddenly
transformed. That is not the way such things happen. A ll that
had occurred had been a slight deviation into a new path. Marie s
personal troubles were too recent for her to be able to shake off
the burden of dread which weighed her down, and penetrate
to the heart of the mystery before her eyes. But deep within

SYNEIDESIS

99

her she felt a premonition that, on a day to come, she would


know.
Revelation was granted her on the very next day, as she sat
in the church listening to old Neidhardt playing the organ.
He had not closed his eyes all night. Marie had left at eleven,
and Kaspar had stayed by his grand-daughters bedside until the
morning was far advanced. Then he said he would like to go to
church, and his intimates knew what that meant. He probably
needed to pour his heart out in music after witnessing the
torments the invalid girl had gone through. Marie was sitting
at breakfast with her boys, when the sound of the organ floated
into the room from the church a few minutes walk from the
little inn where she had put up. Hastily she rose and made for
the church.
And it came to pass that she closed her heart to the virtue of
the music, defending her soul from it as from something mis
leading, as a temptation; she felt incapable o f penetrating into
the supramundane realm it opened up, and yet the earthly
appeal, she was convinced, meant no more than sensual enjoy
ment. No sensual intoxication, no voluptuous harmonies must be
permitted to interfere with the blossoming of the delicate germ
which she knew was developing within her, but whose scope
and depth she still ignored. I must keep on the alert, she mused.
I must not let my heart be lulled so that my work suffers. I
must be steadfast, must not allow myself to be led astray by that
which lures and weakens and turns me aside from my purpose.
It was hard for her to live up to her resolution, for hers was a
poetical nature very much dependent upon dreams. Not only did
she love music, she understood it; she had never surrendered
to the magic of tone in blind enthusiasm. Beauty was for her
an essential element o f life. Had it not been for art, the world
would have seemed to her a desert. When, as during the years
at Lindow, she had for a time been starved of the sight o f beautiful
pictures and statues, or when she had lacked leisure and energy
to immerse herself in poesy, the sense of privation had been a
spiritual torture. She was amazed, now, to find within herself

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a barrier against such things. This barrier was fashioned by the


self-preservative impulse. She had often found that an overenthusiastic devotion to the beautiful alienates us from our
duties to our fellows, and lulls the conscience to sleep.
Subsequently she was in a bad mood. Her nerves were so
irritable that she could not endure the chatter of the children.
A yearning has taken possession of m e, she thought; it
can be nothing else. But closer self-examination disclosed that
behind the yearning there lurked an obscure feeling, an oppressive
sense o f uncertainty and insecurity, as if she had sustained a
serious loss without yet knowing what it was. Towards evening
she went to see Johanna and would have liked to kneel beside
the girls bed and beseech the invalid to console her. Johanna was
still in the quasi-coma that resulted from excess of pain, but the
convulsive twitchings had ceased. All at once she directed a
spiritualised and radiant glance at Marie a glance full of
compassion, sisterly and clairvoyant. Marie knew instinctively
that danger threatened, that something serious was happening
or had happened to Joseph, something that might have a disastrous
effect upon her life and his. Overwhelmed with anxiety, she
cabled to him for news. Three terrible days passed before he
wired that all was going well. This assurance did not relieve her
anxiety. Almost with terror, she recognised the passionate
intensity of her newly awakened feeling. Once more the defensive
impulse rallied, once more she tried to rescue herself from
the clutches o f the sweet and the benumbing, but this time in
vain.

42

One who lives alone can retain self-command and is answerable


only for himself or herself. Those whose lives are joined in couples
are subject to other laws. T h e twofold being has imposed upon
it restrictions owing to which the paths the members o f the pair
might have chosen had they lived apart are modified, be it only
physically, as by the influence of gravity. Marie realised this on
the first day of her reunion with Joseph Kerkhoven. T h e joy
at seeing one another again and having one another again was

SYNEIDESIS

101

a shattering experience. There was no sign of weakness about


him, no sign of his being effete; she was no longer a prey to
anxiety, no longer did she harbour anothers image in her heart.
There were moments when happiness so overwhelmed her that
she could not resist flinging her arms round his neck and sobbing
on his shoulder; and she was able to forget the gnawing heartache
of the past months when she had to bear alone the sense of her
spiritual insufficiency, and the darkness of the world without.
Yes, for a little while she was able to forget; the blood in her
forgot, the woman in her forgot
Is it right for us to be so young, so mad? she asked wonderingly. Our behaviour strikes me as being almost godless.
Fear of age makes people old, answered Joseph. W e are
the age we appear to be. Godless? Oh, Marie, for this one night
I have sacrificed a year o f my life.
Marie shrank into herself. What he said did not seem straight
forward. There was a hint at exaggeration in his phrase, which
made her uneasy.
Leaving the children with a friend in Stuttgart, she had gone
to meet Kerkhoven at Milan. From there they travelled along the
Ticino valley and put up for a few days at a little place set in
the midst of vine-clad hills. On their long walks, Kerkhoven
talked and Marie talked. Y et it was as if each were keeping
essentials back, were concealing something that actually occupied
the front place o f the mind. M aries intuitive sense very soon
made her aware of this, whereas Kerkhoven noticed nothing.
She could not bring herself to speak o f the terrible spiritual
experiences she had had; perhaps the knowledge that he was
hiding something from her tied her tongue. How could she tell
him o f the crisis she had been through, and from which she had
not yet completely emerged? He seemed to her a trifle more
self-absorbed than he had been. Perhaps he was longing to get
back to work after the enforced leisure of the voyage. He would
have to start anew, but had not yet made up his mind as to where
he should settle and along what lines he was to proceed. He
discussed various projects with h er; but no matter how loquacious

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he was, Marie all the time sensed the presence of that thing he
was hiding from her. She would search his sunburnt face for a
solution to the riddle, and wondered what was the matter with
him.

43
She noticed that he received letters from England at fairly regular
intervals, and that he answered each one as it came. Joseph had
told her how he had made friends with a young married couple
while he was in Java. He mentioned the fact with assumed
indifference, hoping by his tone not to betray the further fact that
his interest in the wife exceeded his interest in the husband.
The first time he mentioned M abels name, Marie thought she
detected an emotional vibration in Josephs voice. T h is made
her suspicious, and she became amazingly cunning and artful
in her questions. She was delighted when he blushed like a
little boy.
Now then, she cried, smiling indulgently, out with it.
Own up. Y ou re in love, eh?
M e, in love? Nonsense.
It would seem so. You dont play the hypocrite well, not
being cut out for the part. I always know when you are not
telling the truth.
Marie, you see things that are not there. U p to your old
tricks, little woman.
In this instance you could easily cure me of m y old tricks
as you call them. Y ou r Mabel has probably given you a picture
o f herself.
M y Mabel? M arie, youre crazy!
Marie laughed heartily.
Well you see, she said, if you were a really good comrade
youd have shown me her picture long ago, without my having
to ask.
Looking a trifle ashamed of himself, Kerkhoven drew the
photo from its hiding-place. Marie contemplated it in silence.
Then she coloured slightly, and said as she handed it back:
Beautiful.

SYNEIDESIS

103

That was all. From this moment she never referred to the
subject again, and her surreptitious observation o f her husband
appeared to cease. Four weeks went by, busy weeks during which
Kerkhoven acquired a place named Seeblick near Steckborn
on the Lake of Constance, wherein to carry out his plans, and
where Marie, with the money the de Ruyters had given her,
installed a pavilion in the park as a centre for her child-welfare
activities. Then, unexpectedly, Mabel Hardy appeared upon the
scene. On her way to Geneva, unaccompanied by her husband,
she had come to Constance and had taken rooms in the Insel
Hotel. She rang up Kerkhoven to tell him she had arrived,
was intending to stay a week, and was expecting him.
Marie was on the rack the whole o f that week. Never had she
known such torture.

44
Every day, Kerkhoven drove over to see Mabel. Though he was
terribly pressed for time, he could always spare two or three
hours for this woman. When he returned from his visits to her
he appeared ten years younger, he was like a winged creature,
all aflame.
An amorous cure seems to have a marvellous effect on you,
said Marie, trying to seem rejoiced. You are so refreshed after
your visits. . .
You simply must get to know her, returned Kerkhoven.
T h eres no objection on my side, I assure you, answered
Marie.
Next day, he took his wife with him. Marie was prepared for
something unusual, in the way of feminine beauty, for she had
seen M abels photo, and knew that no portrait ever does justice
to the original. But the vision which presented itself, far exceeded
expectations. Marie was completely bewildered. She was inex
pressibly sensitive to what is called charm, and she was always
keenly appreciative o f beauty. In this respect she was as lacking
in jealousy or envy as if she were the mother o f all the lovely
and attractive women in the world. Mabel received her
unaffectedly, with an innocent candour which, in some undefin-

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able way, implied that Mabel occupied a subordinate position in


relation to Joseph, that she recognised the limits of her own
privileges and the extent o f M aries rights. Marie was almost
disarmed, although anger and dislike stirred within her. She
could not help feeling that Mabel, good-naturedly and un
consciously, was working to detach husband from wife. Just
when the new alliance between herself and Joseph had been
consolidated, when the past had been atoned for and the future
looked rosy, there cropped up this woman, wits turned by a
romantic ideal o f friendship, to trample upon the young plant
and make everything go awry.
Marie did her utmost to maintain a friendly attitude and to
keep her head cool. I f she lacked shrewdness and foresight, a
quarrel between herself and Joseph would be inevitable. But of
what use are good intentions when ones sense o f dignity has
been outraged, when something akin to a secret understanding
seems to threaten, when one suspects the formation o f a triangle ?
That there could be such a disturber of the peace as this new
comer touched M aries pride, her most sensitive point. During
the further course o f the interview it was borne in upon her
that a conspiracy was going on. W ith her capacity for self-torture,
she was doubtless over-ready to encourage this notion. Still,
it was plain to her that never had Joseph been so talkative, so
cheerful, so lively; and the recognition was intensely painful to
her. She absented herself for a tim e; when she rejoined them,
she had the impression that they had been sitting hand in hand
and had wrenched asunder at her approach. M arie smiled,
and yet she felt troubled. Kerkhovens constrained and excited
manner made her furious, and hurt her profoundly. He seemed
to her crazy, and made her feel uncomfortable. Even Mabel
became suspect. Was she blind? Was she so dense that she did
not see what was happening ? It seemed impossible that a woman
should be so lacking in insight.
Mabel had come on a visit to the Kerkhovens new establish
ment, and when the hired car drew up to fetch her, Joseph took
it as a matter o f course that he should see his guest home.

SYNEIDESIS

ios

Y o u ll come too, wont you? said Mabel.


Marie shook her head, pretexting too much work. But Mrs.
Hardy would not be denied, and in the end Marie yielded to
persuasion, so guileless and charming did the younger woman
appear.
All three sat on the back seat, Kerkhoven in the middle.
Darkness enveloped them as they drove along, and the conver
sation gradually petered out. Marie knew, as if she could see
with her bodily eyes, that Mabel had slipped a hand through
Josephs arm. Awareness came to her as though by electric
transmission; and while she continued to stare in front of her,
ostensibly unmoved, she was hard put to it not to jump out o f
the automobile, so intolerably painful to her were the sensual
radiations which (as she fancied) emanated from the man beside
her. Perhaps her imagination was playing her a trick ; but the pain
she suffered was real enough. Sentiments and judgments were
a matter of good or bad taste so far as Marie was concerned;
and, from the viewpoint o f good or bad taste, such a fleshly
commotion was odious. But was it for her to despise the man
whose masculine quality and power none knew better than she ?
Marie realised that she possessed greater mobility o f thought,
that she had a livelier temperament, a keener faculty for observa
tion, and a shrewder understanding of human characteristics
than her husband. Often, indeed, they had laughed together
over his amusing absences o f mind. But she had never ventured
seriously to criticise him, for he constituted the absolute in her
life, he was her criterion, her unshakable pillar of strength.
Easy enough to get irritated with him because he failed in little
things; his slowness and imperturbability were at times immensely
trying to her patience; but he was consistent, he had form and
substance, so that his strange trueness to type both in his defects
and in his merits endowed him with the secure gait of a sleep
walker or one who is hypnotised. M aries amazing mixture of
imagination and rational faculty made these things plain to her.
Another woman, less well endowed, might have come to grief
in her dealings with such a man as Joseph Kerkhoven.

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EXISTENCE

These thoughts raced through her head as the car slid along
the road which had been whitened by a light fall o f snow. Like
wise, Marie remembered, her husband had remained singularly
free from erotic adventures during the years of their married
life. T h e most beautiful and enticing women had left him cold ;
and if one had laid herself out to attract him, he had treated
her manoeuvres as a huge joke. Marie had never understood
why he was so ascetic, seeing that he was o f a passionate dispo
sition. She was by no means flattered, for she was far from
ascribing his abstinence to the power her own physical charms
might exercise over him. She attributed it, rather, to his tenacious
will, to his obdurate dislike for casual amours a dislike rooted
in his desire to avoid discomfort and to a fervent love for his work.
What were the special qualities that had enabled this English
woman to disturb his circles; what were the characteristics in
her which had transformed him into an ardent young man?
Or was it only the outcome of the surge of sexual feeling
which often occurs at the climacteric? Impossible! He was a
man who squandered nothing, because he had nothing left to
squander.
But this new tie he had formed was exquisitely painful to her.
What was she to do about it? What would be the wisest plan?
Should she magnanimously allow things to take their course
with the smile of one who would remain victress in the end?
There was something shameful about such a scheme, and shrewd
ness of the kind often recoiled upon itself. Should she make scenes,
insist upon her rights? That would be paltry. Anyhow, she
would keep her eyes open, must not allow herself to be taken
by surprise, must maintain a grip on herself.
As things turned out, however, her intentions were shattered
upon the rocks of fact. When the car stopped in front of the
hotel, Kerkhoven jumped out and extended a hand to help
Mabel down. Marie could not recall that he had ever shown such
courtesy to herself. Then he said three or four times: Farewell,
M abel, speaking to her formally as you not thou which
reminded Marie that he had given himself away during the

SYNEIDESIS

107

excursion by addressing Mabel as thou, and that Mabel had


replied with like familiarity. He bade farewell in so gentle a tone,
and his eyes shone the while! M aries heart was sore within her.
What ailed her, she enquired o f herself? Was it nothing but
common jealousy ?
As she and her husband drove back to the sanatorium, Marie
was tongue-tied, conspicuously so. Kerkhoven, too, held his
peace, but in a different fashion, that o f a man whose mind is full
of pleasing images. It was as if Marie were off stage. She was
mute, too, after they got home, mute while they sat at supper
together, as though they were in different worlds. She went to
bed earlier than usual. When he came to rest, after midnight,
having worked for some hours at his book, and when he was
about to switch off the light, she entered his room in her night
gown and sat down on the edge of his bed. He looked at her in
astonishment, although even yet he did not perceive how deeply
moved she was.

45
What bee have you got in your bonnet, Joseph? she began,
and her voice sounded harsh, far harsher than she could have
believed possible. He stared at her and she went on: I mean,
what precisely have you in mind? I should really like to know.
Surely you cannot expect me to continue being a complaisant
onlooker?
Kerkhoven betrayed anxiety.
I dont understand, M arie, he stammered.
You must know what you are up to, said Marie, in the
shrill tone that excitement invariably brought into her voice,
Either you are amusing yourself, in which case I ask you to
put an end to such folly; or you are in earnest, and, if so, I shall
have to clear out.
Marie, what are you talking about? I promise you . . . I
had not the faintest idea that . . . amusing myself . . . in
earnest. . . . But there is no question of one or the other. . .
I recognise that you have not the faintest idea o f what is going

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on. All the more reason for me to put in a timely word, and tell
you how things are shaping themselves.
Things? What things? Please explain.
Marie looked him straight in the eyes, as one would look at
a child which lies when caught red-handed.
I can understand how unpleasant it is for you to be taken
unawares, she cried mockingly. You have always resented
being called to account. But, you see, Joseph, I cannot allow
myself to become the victim of how shall I express it? of
let us say, your thoughtlessness. I refuse to suffer the petty
betrayals and trickeries on the part of my husband that most
women close their eyes to. If you want to be successful in such
arts and wiles, you must get up earlier in the morning!
Kerkhoven was horrified by her whole demeanour. He felt
like a man who had gone to fish a river and who, having settled
in nicely to a good days sport had been informed that he was
fishing in private waters. Such a possibility had never occurred
to him. Never had he imagined that Marie would have raised
objections. There was not the ghost of a reason . . . at least
so he was pleased to think. In this surmise, he was not only
cheating Marie, but himself likewise. T rue he had not been
very observant of her recently, but his lack of observation was
that of a person who ceases to notice a priceless ornament
merely because it is always present for the seeing and is safely
under lock and key behind a glass door. He said with extreme
seriousness:
You are, honestly, barking up the wrong tree, M arie; and its
not so easy to explain. There is nothing between Mabel and
myself to give you a moments uneasiness. Our friendship is
. . . well it is like something out o f a fairy tale. Even the word
friendship does not apply, properly speaking. Mabel is the most
unusual creature its ever been my lot to know. . . .
Good God, man! exclaimed Marie, disconcerted.
I mean, he went on quickly, alarmed at the reaction to his
statement, I mean, from a particular point of view, in her
attitude towards love. Its almost like a plant, a sweet, slumbering

SYNEIDESIS

i o9

emotion. . . . Besides, she is only twenty-five. . . . No, I ll


not deny, there is a quality about her face. . . . Oh Marie,
cant you allow the short, innocent dream to continue?
Marie clasped her hands, and laid her chin on the taut knuckles.
Then, very softly, trying hard to hide her despair:
Short dream, or any other way you choose to describe this
relationship . . . I tell you frankly, I cannot give my consent
to its continuance. I f you want to have a liaison with her, have
it by all means. Go to bed with her if her virtue and her bourgeois
upbringing can permit her to consent. I m nothing loth. W hy
shouldnt you? But I cannot stand your slavish devotion, all
this languishing for love on a background o f fleshly desire, the
store you set upon renunciation. No, thats sloppy, it horrifies
me and disgusts me.
You dont mince your words, anyway, said Kerkhoven,
wounded to the quick.
Precisely! I did not intend to. You and your Farewell
M abel business, just as if you were the tenor in an opera. O f
course youll have been saying, my worthy Marie, she sees
nothing and hears nothing. But I can assure you I m not as
unobservant as you seem to imagine.
She got up, but Kerkhoven pulled her down on to the bed again.
A moment, Marie. You cant go off like this. You must
know need I even say so? that our bond has absolutely
nothing to do with this business. So far as you are concerned,
you are the guiding genius o f my life. . . .
T h ats not true, Joseph. I dont believe you. I dont believe
a word you say any more, said Marie, throwing herself across
the bed and weeping bitterly.
A smile that was half indulgent and wise, and half self-conscious,
flickered round Kerkhovens mouth. He bent over her, stroking
her arms and hair, speaking tender and soothing words. Slowly,
he gathered her to his breast. Soon, she ceased crying. She
clung to him desperately, as if she feared she might fall into an
abyss once she relaxed her hold. Her lips sought his. Her head
span; it seemed to be on fire. He put out the light.

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K ERK H O VEN S

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EXISTENCE

Never had he held her thus, not even on the night o f their
reunion. He was shaken with amazement. No longer was she
merely giving herself to him. This was something outside his
experience, it was a liquefied glow. . . . Nothing remained of
his calm and collected Marie, whose senses were so difficult
to rouse. . . . Women were capable of greater variety in their
love demonstrations than were men. . . . Dim ly, Marie was
aware, amid the empurpled intoxication and joyance of her
passion, that now was the moment to efface for ever the visage
of another woman from her husbands mind if he were not to
behold that in imagination while clasping her, his wife, in his
embrace. Strange, thought Kerkhoven, I ve had to live on this
earth for fifty years before experiencing this miracle. In the
presence of destiny, we are all like little children, and never
grow up. . . .
46
Next day he had a long talk with Mabel. Again and again he
returned to the need for breaking off relationships, o f cutting
the ties of friendship ruthlessly and once for all. Kerkhoven did
not disclose what had taken place between Marie and himself.
There was no need too. Mabel made a shrewd guess. She under
stood. W ith bowed head and trembling lips, she laid her hands
in his, whispering:
You realise . . . I did not want anything . . . I feel myself
bound just as you . . . One has certain obligations . . . Enough
for me to know that you live on this earth. That knowledge
suffices, my dear.
He answered:
I have m y moorings over there, by her side. I stand and fall
with her. Y ou , M abel, were . . . you are . . . how shall I describe
it? There are people who make a new being out of a man . . .
But what are words? Every one I utter is superfluous . . . It
would be an affront to her if I . . . Oh, M abel, can you under
stand? One needs a special kind of language, a language only
spoken by spirits, to express these intangible thoughts and
feelings. . . .

SYNEIDESIS

hi

Yes, a spiritual idiom that is whats needed, affirmed


Mabel softly. And one should love as if there were no present
reality and as though we were bodiless. And we should live as
if there were no death. . . . She bent down swiftly, and kissed
his hand.
Mabel was no more than a grown-up child, with a lively
imagination, and no abiding-place in the realm of reality.
Kerkhoven had long since known this, just as he knew that she
would have crumpled up if he had ever approached her with
intent to satisfy his physical cravings. Now her dreams were
shattered, nor might he any longer dream of her; but as they
parted, though they said no word, his lips and hers spoke of
unending gratitude.
Has she gone? asked Marie next morning.
Yes, she has gone, for good and all.
Th ey looked at one another mutely while the seconds ticked
past. Then Marie drew near to him, and bowed her head.

47
Here we must leave the Kerkhovens private life, and deal with
them in relation to outside events, which will in due course lead
us to the fateful hour when they met Alexander Herzog in the
flesh.
T h ey were brought into contact with him by two remarkable
chains o f circumstances. Although these concatenations were
almost simultaneous, they were nowise inter-related. Y et each
o f them was far-reaching in respect alike o f its causes and its
consequences, and each of them imperiously motioned K erk
hoven towards the solution of problems with which he had been
wrestling inwardly for years. That was why he felt as if a bell
had sounded at the appointed hour.

48
On a day towards the end o f December, Kerkhoven received
the following telegram;

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THIRD

EXISTENCE

M y father, Martin Mordann, is suffering from severe nervous


breakdown. Please wire if you can take him into your sanatorium.
Agnes Mordann.
While scanning the lines mechanically, over and over again
Joseph reflected:
Another piece o f flotsam from a past age. What can I hope
to do with such wreckage? Impossible to patch him u p ; hes
ripe for the grave. W ere I to take him on I could only do a bit
o f botching, and I promised myself never to descend to that
sort of thing. . . .
At this place it seems to me advisable to introduce a parenthesis
for the readers information. Tw enty years earlier, Martin
Mordann had been the banner-bearer of a huge army o f mal
contents, and his fiery articles had brought him renown during
the last days o f the empire. He had risen to celebrity about the
beginning of the century. In him was incorporated the spirit of
uncompromising opposition, of impassioned negation. There
was an undeniable kinship o f ideas between him and Rochefort,
the founder o f the Parisian weekly La Lanterne. Those who
wished to flatter called him the Aretino o f the North. During
the course o f his career as political agitator he had, undoubtedly,
been instrumental in bringing many abuses to light. On the other
hand, his newspaper had proved the focus o f unsavoury scandals
which for three decades had disquieted, and excited the interest
of, the German nation. His pen was dipped in vitriol. His style
was eloquent, but every article breathed fury and satirical
bitterness. His enemies were legion. Especially was his name
execrated among patriotic circles, and their hatred knew no
bounds. Kerkhoven, as he stood musing with the message in
his hand, recalled having read somewhere recently that the man
had been the object of an armed attack in Berlin. M ight it
oot be that the nervous collapse mentioned in the wire was a
sequel to this assault ?
After a while, Kerkhoven decided to accept the fellow as
patient. As a physician, he could not very well refuse his aid.
Tw o days later, Mordann. and his daughter arrived at Seeblick.

SYNEIDESIS

49

113

A fat, plethoric man, clean-shaven, eunuchoid in type, with


burning eyes glaring at you from beneath bushy brows such
was Kerkhovens first view o f the new inmate of Seeblick.
Mordann was a man o f sixty, and, though he was huge, and
corpulent as a hippopotamus, he was as active as an acrobat.
There was an uncanny element in his agility, for it seemed to
conflict with the mans nature. He produced the impression of
deliberately trying to create surprise, fascination, an imposing
presence. Even his voice had unexpected qualities, for it was so
high-pitched and squeaky as to be quite out of keeping with the
massive bulk of flesh. A typical refugee, and of a typically un
wholesome physique, Mordann thoroughly enjoyed the role of
martyr. Still, Kerkhoven was not going to make any deductions
from first impressions.
Agnes was a gaunt, faded woman with bitter eyes and mouth,
a doctor of philosophy. She obviously worshipped her father.
He was the only being in the world whom she trusted. She
looked upon him as a national hero, an apostle of truth, the
victim o f his mission and his beliefs. During recent days he
had shown symptoms o f persecution mania which had alarmed
her. He was suffering from insomnia. Day and night he wrote
endless letters to all and sundry, wherein he tried to justify his
actions. He locked himself into his room, and sat there listening,
trembling, bathed in a chill perspiration. For years before the
recent aggression, his nerves had been on the rack. He had
spent three weeks in a nursing-home to recover from the
attempted assassination, but very soon after his dismissal he
suffered a relapse. T h e doctors advised her to take him to the
south, and not to delay departure.
She was sitting in Kerkhovens consulting-room while she
gave these details o f the case. Evening had drawn in, and from
the lake came the sound of a steamers siren. Agnes, her legs
crossed, smoked uninterruptedly.
Was there any special motive for the assault? asked K erk
hoven. Was it on general political grounds?

04

JOSEPH

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EXISTENCE

She hesitated, and then put a counter-question.


Need we speak about that ?
I ought to know.
Two days earlier our house was broken into. Fathers
writing-table was ransacked, and his library rifled. T h e
burglars did not find what they sought.
And what was that?
Letters.
Letters?
E r . . . family letters.
May I beg you to be a trifle more explicit? I am not putting
you through this catechism out of inquisitiveness.
They are the letters written by Count Brederode to his
mistress.
How did they get into Herr Mordanns hands?
They were offered him for sale.
Compromising documents?
Y . . . es.
Politically speaking?
H m . . . that too.
M ay I ask from which point of view ?
I hardly think that I should answer that.
The more fully informed I am, the better shall I be able to
deal with the case.
Old Count Brederode was mixed up in the separatist
conspiracy. T he Versailles Treaty, the fact that the German
delegates had signed it, converted him into an inveterate enemy
o f the existing regime. He had dealings with the French govern
ment. One of the numerous cases where a man commits high
treason out of love for his country. T he old mans son set his
heart on getting back those letters.
W hy did he not succeed? You must really forgive my
pertinacity, but it is such points which illuminate a patients
symptoms.
Somewhat tartly, Agnes Mordann replied:
M y father, acting on principle, has made it a rule never to

SYNEIDESIS

us

let the tiniest scrap of paper escape him once it has come
into his hands if such papers can serve him as material
for . . .
W ell, material for what?
Same as what legal gentlemen term exhibits. Martin
Mordann is the lawyer and the judge of his epoch. He needs
witnesses and proofs.
But that must mean a terrible accumulation of material.
Undoubtedly.
T h e documents cover the whole field o f his activities, I
suppose. That is to say, many persons in the public eye stand
or fall at his will . . .
Agreed.
How does it work out in practice?
A thoughtful smile spread over her face.
Have you never heard of my fathers celebrated filing cabinets ?
There are more than eighteen thousand names on the index,
with full particulars . . .
Kerkhoven sprang to his feet, and paced the room in con
siderable agitation.
Filing cabinets! Most interesting! A dangerous undertaking
when one reflects that . . .
Ah, but its all tucked away in safe hiding.
Y ou misinterpret me. T h a ts not what I was driving at.
What I mean is that such a possession is a heavy burden for
any mans mind. Perhaps I should be more accurate were
I to describe it as a weight upon the imagination. Its as if a
person had boxes of explosives for years in his house. Every
minute of the day he must have the feeling that at any time
he may blow up the whole neighbourhood, and thus become
the murderer of a lot of innocent people. T h is must be the
key to your fathers trouble. Yes, obviously; and, very inter
esting, too.
Agness eyes followed the doctors figure as it marched up
and down. She was taken aback by what he said, and found it
difficult to grasp the significance of his words.

n6

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EXISTENCE

Well, we shall see, Kerkhoven continued. T h e first thing


to do is to secure him a few nights of quiet sleep. Then . . . w ell
see.

5
Kerkhoven could not rid his mind of those filing cabinets. It
was as if some one had told him o f the habits of a hitherto
unknown and peculiar insect. T h e more he pondered the subject,
the more it intrigued him. Curious kind o f brain, he mused,
strangely fanatical collector, to be able to sit for hours at a stretch
before a writing-table in order to keep a record of the crimes and
offences o f thousands of unsuspecting fellow-mortals. A
monstrous detective, capable o f tripping up almost any public
personality, of paralysing activities, of bringing suspicion upon
men and women just because of a mania for collecting details
of their lives and for using his information at the appropriate
time. Who can escape? Whose life is so clean, whose character
so spotless that there may not be a tiny macule to stain the
shield; who can say frankly, I have absolutely nothing to hide?
A grand keeper o f the secrets o f half Europe; warder of m orals;
an all-powerful policeman buttressed by an elaborate system of
espionage; a creature who, with ant-like diligence, has for decades
hoarded up actual happenings, which, taken singly, were insigni
ficant trifles but which could, when used to advantage act as
a poison and even bring death. Such a man needed to be studied
from his very foundations. O f what nature was the force he
wielded ? What was the feeling of power which had accumulated
within him so that he had become in the course of forty years
a kind of director of public opinion whether for good or bad,
whether to the honour or the detriment of the epoch, mattered
little? Since these machinations now lay behind him, since he
was played out, Mordann was no more than the wraith of his
former self, an empty mask, begging to be cured. Kerkhoven
wondered, why? There were already so many living corpses
haunting the earth that it might be surmised humanity would
have to suffer for the plenitude.

SYNEIDESIS

117

51

Tw o days after Mordann had been admitted to Seeblick, the


head-nurse of the sanatorium, a young woman named Else
Schmidt, came running to her employer with a scared face
saying that the old fellow was furious because the doctor had not
paid him a visit yet.
Being a naughty boy, is he? said Joseph pleasantly. W ell
have to calm him down. Is his daughter with him?
Yes, Doctor.
Please tell her that I wish to see my patient alone.
Mordann occupied the largest room in the house. It had
windows in two walls, being a corner room, and commanded
a fine view of park and lake. T h e first thing to strike the doctors
eyes as he entered was the number of bottles and salves adorning
the dressing table. Every imaginable toilet-water and hair-tonic
stood cheek by jow l with mouth-washes, tooth-pastes and
powders, manicure sets; there were brushes of many sizes,
scissors, knives, boxes of face-powder, perfume sprays. One
might have thought this to be the dressing-room of an actress.
In addition, the place was scrupulously clean and neat. T h e
daughters room, into which Kerkhoven had glanced on the
preceding day, might have been a students den, so untidy and
hugger-mugger did it look with its scattered clothes and books
and note-blocks. Such a contrast gave Kerkhoven food for
thought.
Mordann greeted his host with a surly good-day, not even
taking the trouble to withdraw his hands from his trouser
pockets. Then he said curtly:
No one can accuse you o f worrying your patients with your
assiduity, most worthy doctor. I m not here for my pleasure.
Years ago, in Berlin, they told me about your supercilious ways.
Not much use trying your high and mighty airs on me. Cant
for the life of me understand why my daughter sets such store
on you. I ve never held with you charlatans. Schweninger:
yes, he was fine. But hes the only one. Ever met him? Regular
genius. He took no stock in all this nerve therapeutics, as you

u 8

JOSEPH

K E R K H O V E N S

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EXISTENCE

call it. If Nature did not come to his aid, he just left matters to
take care o f themselves. And what are you proposing to do with
me, Doctor, should you deign to occupy yourself with my
unworthy person ?
T h e typical speech o f a maniac, thought Kerkhoven to him
self. Aloud he said:
You are quite mistaken in thinking I have neglected you.
There are such things as indirect observation and treatment,
and this is often more beneficial than direct intervention.
Medical tarradiddles!
Not very polite, are you ? But I have no intention of measuring
m yself with the extended field o f your experiences, Herr
Mordann. H ows the injury to your head? Any pain?
Yes, especially when weve a spell of wet weather. Then the
pain spreads right down to the eyes. Cant read. C ant write.
Horrible.
Was it a fracture o f the skull?
Seems to me my brains suffering sympathetically.
I have not seen any reason to believe that.
How can you tell off-hand ?
I think it is so, thats all.
Just a glance, and you know, eh? Playing the magician!
Felicitations.
Id like to examine the wound if I may, to see how it has
healed.
W ith a sigh, Mordann sat down, while Kerkhoven palpated
the scalp with its bushy grey hair. His fingers moved along a
fiery scar which ran like a red string from the coronal suture to
the lambdoid suture.
What strange hands you have, observed Mordann, looking
up uneasily into Kerkhovens face.
Strange hands? W hat do you mean? . .
Because they make me f e e l . . . oh, its such a queer feeling . . .
He ducked his head in order to escape the doctors touch,
and leapt to his feet.
A bit of a magician, after all, he cried. You give me the

SYNEIDESIS

11 9

creeps when you touch me . . . I dont like it . . . cant expect


me to play the part of an experimental guinea-pig . . . if you
ever do that again, I ll pack my bags and go . .
I cannot recall that I have asked you to visit me, said
Kerkhoven icily. Better tell me what you expect me to do for
you. Am I to treat you as a guest of the family or as a sick person
needing a physicians care? Once you have decided these
questions, you can stay or go as the fancy pleases you.
Mordann shrugged his shoulders. A queer, bleating laugh
escaped him, and he held his hand before his mouth so that his
decayed teeth might not be noticed.
You are right. I am a detestable creature. D ont take any
thing I say amiss. People have played ducks and drakes with me.
Go ahead. You probably want to ask all manner of questions.
Anyway, I m not denying that you impress me favourably.
W ell, what do you want to know?
T ell me what you can recollect of that dastardly assault.
Had you been warned? Did you know any o f your assailants
personally?
No. It was pitch-dark. A rainy night. Half-past-three in the
morning. I d just come from the Pressmens Club. Drove in a
taxi as far as Halensee, and meant to do the remainder on foot.
For thirty years I had done that when I was getting home late.
That was the only bodily exercise I ever took. You know what it
is to be the slave o f ones pen. M uch to be pitied. Warned, you
ask? O h, yes. Friends had warned me right enough. Besides, I
had received anonymous threats. But I snapped my fingers at
that; bluff so far as I was concerned. I simply dont know what
cowardice means. W ell, I walked along under my umbrella,
pretty quickly as is my wont, when at the junction o f Herbert
and Lynar streets four ruffians told me to stop. T h ey wore
yellow raincoats, and there were four of them mark that well.
Such rascals have to hunt in packs. Too chicken-hearted else.
I could not see their faces, and I had no time to call for help.
Before you could say knife theyd dealt me a whack on the
head that made me feel like kingdom come. I must have lain

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EXISTENCE

there, a mere bundle o f clothes, for ages; and they probably


thought I was done in, the scallywags yes, scallywags, rapscal
lions, murderers! Do you fancy the authorities made any effort
to secure the offenders ? Not a bit o f it. All their sleuth-hound
tactics were nothing but window-dressing. Th ey were deter
mined the affair should be hushed up and forgotten as soon as
possible. Th ats the sort of thanks one gets for trying to keep
the Augean stables o f Germany clean these thirty years, for
showing up the drones of our community, the sycophants, the
bloodsuckers, for bringing a flash-light to bear upon the foul
machinations o f the monarchy and the republic alike, in peace
time and during the war. Gratitude, indeed! Gratitude!
His voice cracked. T h e toneless crowing had nothing human
in it; the mans face had turned ashen yellow, and his forehead
was beaded with perspiration. Kerkhoven was puzzled as to
whether the fellows indignation was genuine or whether he
was becoming delirious. It was a delicate question to decide.
M any would have said that the whole scene was a fake, and
played with great skill. In that case, what was the object? T o
what kind of public did Mordann hope to appeal? It could
surely not have been acted in the hope of deluding a doctor for
whom the patient had scant respect? This was, indeed, a case
out of the ordinary, a new kind of mind for Kerkhoven to
explore.
An obvious feature was the patients fear. T h e assault, alto
gether apart from the wound to his head, must have produced
a tremendous impression, given him a profound moral shock.
But these reflections brought Kerkhoven face to face with further
problems. Was not Mordanns consciousness fundamentally
disordered? Was not the trouble one of those forms of morbid
vanity which destroy the moral sense so that the individual
thus affected becomes an intellectualised automaton? Surely
that was the only theory which could account for the sick mans
utter lack of a sense o f responsibility, of a feeling of culpability
the mania of the imaginative writer who fancies himself to
hold the worlds image in his hands when he has secretly

SYNEIDESIS

121

smashed the mirror in which he has been contemplating it. For


Kerkhoven, these meditations threw much light upon his
patients condition.

52
Wrapped in a shabby dressing-gown, Mordann crouched on the
edge of his bed, while Kerkhoven stood near the window.
I f I am correctly informed, the aggression was connected
with some letters, said the doctor. You must, it seems to me,
have had reason to expect such an assault.
U p went Mordanns head, as he inquired suspiciously:
Hullo, has Agnes been blabbing?
M y dear Sir, I can do nothing for you if you refuse to be
straightforward with m e, snapped Kerkhoven, intentionally
exaggerating the acerbity of his voice.
Mordann made a gesture, as of a cat whose saucer of milk
has been taken away. He gave in.
Very well; just as you like, he murmured, adding after a
moments pause: Better examine my heart, Doctor; that would
be more useful than worrying your head about my private
affairs. I fancy there may be valvular trouble.
O f course. But your private affairs give me indications for
general treatment. Cant tell you much about your heart if I
ignore the kind o f life youve been leading.
Trying to be funny, are you? All right. W hat is it you want
to know?
I should like you to tell me why you refused to hand over
those letters to young Brederode. T h e family, I am sure,
attach a sentimental value to them.
A y, ay, assented Mordann, in his squeaky voice, while
pulling his legs up so as to sit tailor fashion on the bed an
attitude which appeared ludicrous in the extreme, seeing how
corpulent he was.
And they offered a handsome reward, didnt they?
Y ou re right there, hee-hee! Tw enty thousand marks was
the sum they proposed.
I cant help wondering what advantage you thought to reap

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THIRD

EXISTENCE

by holding those letters in custody. Your paper had ceased


publication for more than a twelvemonth. Y ou seemed to have
given up your erstwhile activities, and I cant for the life of me
see you getting into harness again.
Mordann took an ankle in each hand, and looked askance at
his interlocutor.
You think I m a confirmed invalid? he asked anxiously.
Honestly? Am I as good as dead already in your eyes? Come,
tell me the truth. No need to hide anything from m e.
Hysterical bluff, was what Kerkhoven thought o f this speech.
T h e mans mouth hung open, disclosing his unseemly teeth.
I am no hand at absent treatment, said the doctor, and
I do not jum p at a diagnosis, Herr Mordann; nor, since you
know so much about these matters, need I explain to you that
our bodily states are rhythmical. W e all feel this for ourselves,
and when our organism takes an unfavourable turn, one person
will say, Luck is against me just now ; another, Circumstances
have changed. You made a mistake in letting external influences
bring your machine to a standstill. A voluntary decision would
have made an important difference in your affective life.
That may be your view, but I am not a man to abdicate
voluntarily. I detest Fontainebleau.
Quite. T heres your danger point. T o keep to your own
parable, o f what use will the letters be to you in St. Helena ?
M y dear Sir, I m not a person who can be browbeaten.
Give me a sounding thwack on the head? Bon! But bow that
same head before a blackmailer? Never! I d rather bust. . . .
Had they bargained with you before the assault ?
Rather! But . . . well, you see, the documents are irreplace
able, unique. It suited those who had seen the material, it suited
all the wire-pullers, to bespatter my name with filth, to stigmatise
me as a traitor and agitator. But I intend to show the world
where the real traitors and agitators are to be found. Once the
true history o f this period has been published, I shall see to it
that the mask shall be wrenched from the faces of these hypo
crites, these betrayers o f the nation, these perjured privilege-

SYNEIDESIS

123

hunters, these . . . T h e y ve deprived me of my trusty sword,


but they cannot deprive me of my conviction that one of my
successors will raise that sword anew. T h ats how the matter
stands, most honoured Sir.
Kerkhoven could not but admire Mordanns rhetorical
flourishes. He knew that he had before him a genuine tribune of
the people, for whom the spoken word is all-powerful, whose
passionate utterances goad him forward to passionate deeds,
though in the last resort such action is ineffective. T h e sick
man fixed a challenging eye upon his companion, who remained
pensive. T h e bastions he had set up around him were impregnable
because they were not constructed out of solid material, but
were malignant and yielding as a bog. It was a desperate under
taking to try to get nearer such a being, to lure him from his
fastnesses, to wrestle with him, so as to discover of what he
was composed, to reveal how dangerous he could be, to see
how much one had to fear him, and to what extent one could be
gentle and make allowances.
We cannot expect that your presence in my house will
remain a secret, Herr Mordann, said Kerkhoven, rousing
himself from his reverie. A man so well known as yourself . . .
I m afraid the news will spread like wild-fire. T h e attempted
assassination . . . W ell, they are sure to have another try. I
dont see how I can protect you.
What? Do you honestly believe . . . they would venture . . .
But we are on Swiss territory.
D ont set too much store upon that fact. I could give you
examples . . .
Mordann sprang from the bed in one mighty bound, and
stumped up and down the room, snorting vigorously. As he
passed by the dressing-table he seized a phial and sprayed
himself with eau-de-cologne. Meanwhile the strangest sounds
continued to issue from his mouth, inarticulate noises, which
were only stopped by an immense yawn produced by sheer
excitement. Kerkhoven studied his movements with scientific
interest. This manifestation of fear, of a hunted beast, formed

124

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EXISTENCE

a ludicrous and tragical contrast with the I d rather bust of


a few short minutes ago, and revealed the mans duality of
character. But Kerkhoven was prepared. He knew a fair amount
now about his patients personality. After a while, he went over
to Mordann, took him in friendly fashion by the arm, and said:
Please, stand still for a moment.
He pulled Mordanns dressing-gown open, and clapped his
ear to the mans hairy chest. As he listened, he knitted his brows,
perplexed. Bad, he was thinking. Heard at the apex, the
first sound is too loud; there is a diastolic murmur; valvular
insufficiency; bad prognosis. But in such cases a doctor often
keeps his thoughts to himself. Standing up and squarely facing
Mordanns anxious look of enquiry, he said with a reassuring
sm ile:
Nothing wrong with the heart.
Mordann breathed a sigh o f relief.
Yes, and while terminating our first consultation, continued
Kerkhoven cheerfully, I m going to issue my first orders for
your treatment.
And what may they be?
Those letters have got to be given up.
Mordann let out a groan that had the quality of a noise an
animal makes when it is at bay. His eyes turned green, as he
screamed in his queer falsetto voice:
You are in error if you fancy . . .
Those letters are going to be handed over, Kerkhoven
interrupted quietly. I ll give you time to think about it. Abuse
me as much as you like, but the letters will have to be given
back.
He nodded a kindly farewell, turned on his heel and dis
appeared, leaving his patient speechless with amazement.

53
For half an hour thereafter, Mordann stormed round the room
He bellowed for his daughter. As soon as she came, he told her
that they would have to leave at once, that the doctor was an

SYNEIDESIS

125

impossible creature who in the exercise of his profession over


stepped the limits of the permissible.
Go? All right. But where to? asked Agnes, crushed, and
wondering what could have taken place at the interview.
Curiously enough Mordann kept silent as to this. Suddenly
he was seized with a pain in the chest, and panted for breath.
Agnes got the assistant to help in putting the sick man to bed.
He flung the ice-bag petulantly on to the floor, and yelled for
the doctor as if to show what the latter had been responsible
for, as if to take revenge by displaying his condition. Quite
frequently, among those suffering from heart-trouble, this
vengeful spirit may be noticed. Kerkhoven had gone to Friedrichshafen to fetch a patient, Frau Thirriot. She was being
nursed in the hospital, and the doctors at Friedrichshafen had
asked Kerkhoven to take over the case. She was suffering from
a very peculiar form of crossed neurosis.
By the time Kerkhoven got back, Mordann had quieted down.
He begged the doctor to place a hand upon his chest, saying:
You have a talent for making a man as superstitious as an
old woman. But the hearts sound, isnt it? Perfectly sound?
You promise. Only a bit nervy, eh ? Better have an X -R ay made
this afternoon, dont you think?
M any laymen have an amazing respect for scientific apparatus,
and Mordann was no exception. His whole body was poisoned
with nicotine, for he smoked fifteen Havanas a day, and seemed
to have an unquenchable thirst for his favourite beverage, coffee.
Kerkhoven gave the man a sound rating, and Mordann swallowed
the pill with a bitter grimace. He was typical o f those people
who neglect their organism and give it a hell o f a time, while
simultaneously being in love with their bodies. T h ey challenge
nature to do her damndest, and when she leaves them in the lurch
they sniff at her as if she were a traitor. Such persons take short
views, they have no stability of character, they can impose no
restraints. Like all over-intellectualised people, Mordann did
not begin to live until night was at hand. Since his highly nervous
and irritable condition prevented him just now from working,

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EXISTENCE

i.e. from scribbling for hours at a stretch, he evolved grandiose


schemes for his daughters edification, keeping her up till three
or four in the morning, discussing the plan o f making a volume
o f reminiscences which she could take down by hand to his
dictation so soon as he was strong enough for the mental effort.
T h is book was destined, he felt sure, to make history, and
for its publication the world would wait with bated breath.
Since Kerkhoven had broached the subject of the Brederode
letters, old Mordann had known no peace o f mind, but was
constantly worrying his head about them. T h e doctors per
sonality and character fascinated him, though he refused to
admit it for a second, partly out o f the peculiar jealousy so
commonly found in men of Mordanns type, and partly because
he was sceptical of all human activity except, o f course, his
own. He wondered what Kerkhovens motives could be;
why the doctor had insisted upon the restitution of the docu
ments. Such a thing had never happened to him before. T h e
business excited him unduly. He felt it impossible to remain in
doubt and uncertainty. Argumentative by temperament, with
boundless ambition, a morbid need for wielding power and
influence, a passionate desire for self-assertion, Mordann could
not rest until he had discovered the reason why Kerkhoven
had made such a point about returning those letters to the
Brederode family. N ot able to hold out any more, he at length
asked the doctor to come and see him, pretexting a collapse.
Every night he found fresh excuses, so as to enjoy Kerkhovens
company. He displayed obvious signs of delusion and anxiety
states during these interviews.
Perhaps I ve fallen into the hands of a police-informer,
he said to himself. I wonder if he is in the pay of my political
opponents, and hopes to make me innocuous? Means for that
are easily come by. T h ey are spying upon me. T h eyve lured
me into a trap; and were I to make an attempt to escape, I
should be a lost man. Does not Agnes know about this plot?
Maybe shes taking a hand in the game. . . .
T his last suspicion was particularly distressing to him

SYNEIDESIS

127

because there was no evidence that it contained a particle of


truth. During recent years Agnes had become his secretary and
sole confidant, knew of all his comings and goings, had been let
into the secrets o f his life. Food for thought, if you will. On the
other hand, her blind idolisation of him made him feel that his
suspicions were completely unfounded, were mad. T h e fact
that he could harbour such thoughts frightened him for his
sanity.
An obstinate and bitter struggle was thus engendered between
the two men, which led in the end to Kerkhoven being forced
to throw aside reserves and step forth into the open. Agnes,
noting the results of the doctors methods on the patient, was
aghast. One day she stopped him and hissed:
What are you up to? Y o u re killing him. Cant you see that
hes falling away terribly? Is that your object? Is this your
cure ?
Wait for results. Y o u ll soon see, answered Kerkhoven.
He was not so sure of himself as he would fain appear to be.
His experiment was a dangerous one, and none knew that
better than himself.

54

Mordann was absolutely determined not to recognise K erk


hovens moral authority. Kerkhoven, for his part, maintained
that morality had nothing to do with the question, his
aim being merely to relieve a psychical oppression, as a surgeon
removes a foreign body from the tissues. Mordann growled, and
asked derisively:
How so, M r. Magician? I m not keen on mixing up medical
attentions with the care o f my soul. I f I need a priest, I know
where to find one. But Martin Mordann and theological dis
cussion are not compatibles, I assure you.
I can quite understand that. Anyway the cure of souls is
another story and I am using the term soul to cover the
whole field o f the mind, the psyche. Our studies in this realm
are only beginning, so to say. As for theology, since you have

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EXISTENCE

brought up the matter, its as far away from God as . . . well,


as statecraft is from the peace o f nations. I would ask you to be
good enough to allow me to practise m y profession in the
manner which seems right to me.
I ve no objection. But what authority have you for poking
your nose into my private life and notions? W hat you are
asking o f me is neither more nor less than an interference with
my most cherished ideas. Y ou are trying to make me play the:
traitor to the principles of a lifetim e.
I am not surprised to find the eminent writer who is sitting
before me at this instant excogitating arguments calculated to
protect himself against every assault.
Y o u ll never see me licking your hand because you choose
to flatter me. Be a trifle more subtle in the future, most worthy
Sir.
I am not interested in the letters themselves. Th ey are of
importance only as a symptom . . .
What the devil are you driving at? Symptom? A symptom
of what?
A symptom o f error, covering a whole lifetime.
What? What? What? Y ou re enough to drive a man crazy.
Kerkhoven hesitated. Should he make a bold cut, and
introduce the bistoury into this ailing mind? No less delicate
a matter than when a surgeon is about to perform an operation
which is to spell life or death to the patient. A surgeon has such
adjuvants to his skill as chloroform, and local anaesthesia; but
how was a physician to calm and immobilise an alert and
despairing brain? Besides, how could he be sure that his
knowledge sufficed? Medical science was not sacrosanct. Was;
he incapable of making a false diagnosis? Was the life and
death, the kill or cure operation he contemplated not, rather,
a moral assize than an act of salvation? How can mortal man
be sure of his motives, how can he overcome his scruples so as
not to despair o f the issue ?
I see, Herr Mordann, he began slowly, that I shall have
to make clear to you that which your great perspicacity would

SYNEIDESIS

129

doubtless make clear were you not momentarily out of sorts.


I know that the world recognises you to be an outstanding
psychologist, the revealer and discoverer of secrets. This is what
has made you famous, and the glory you have reaped is your
due. But it is likewise the cause of your present affliction. . . .
Now, now, now, what kind of a grotesque are you paint
ing

W eve got to look things squarely in the face, then we can


avoid untoward consequences. . . . The connexion is obvious.
In the course of your career you have come into possession of so
many secrets . . . by legal or illegal means is not for me to
judge . . . besides, it is not really of any consequence how you
came by your knowledge . . . the only thing that matters is the
goal you have in view . . . the goal . . . yes, thats what catches
a m an.. . . You desired power . . . power at any price, power over
individuals, over groups, over whole parties, over the entire
country. Am I right in surmising that you were put upon
during youth and adolescence? If I remember rightly, you once
wrote about the horrors of a helot existence. That gives the
show away. T h e will-to-power strangled and frustrated all
the other impulses, so that your nature, the conformation of
your entire life, your humour became concentrated upon this
one issue. You therefore set yourself to discovering secrets, and,
through your knowledge of these secrets, to become the master,
to dominate the world at large, to be feared, to become the chief
disciplinarian, the headmaster, the person in authority, so that
you could say to yourself: I can destroy you if I will, for I
know your secret. Oh, I understand your line of thought only
too well. One feels as if one were God, the God of Vengeance,
the God of Retribution. No need for . . . what did we say? . . .
for theology. . . . God himself needs no theology to justify His
existence. But you have forgotten to take one thing into account
your human frailty, your capacity for carrying so great a
burden; each of us, and you too, since you are a man as any
other, possesses an instinctive consciousness and a spiritual
consciousness. I m not moralising, never fear. This is a dynamic
E

130

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EXISTENCE

piece of evidence from the point of view of power. W hat I


am in search of is the possibility for reorganising the phenomenon,
Martin Mordann, and making a new man of him. Sixty years
old, you say. Perhaps more than sixty? W eve already had a talk
about the ebb o f the vital rhythm. . . . I have not yet found a
suitable formula to describe these ebbs and flows of vitality.
Human life seems to tend towards a seven-year periodicity. If
a man has been a spiritual spendthrift, it would appear that,
towards the close of the seven-year period, he is peculiarly set
in the direction o f . . . death. When a human being reaches the
sixtieth year of life, a decisive question arises: life henceforward
and its persistence stands upon the biological knowledge one has
gained in the course of previous decades . . . presuming that life
beyond sixty is, really, life, and not one of the many forms of
senile arrest which culminate in the death-agony. That is why
the flaming-up o f genius in elderly persons is so wonderful.
One has merely to think of Titian, of Verdi, of Goethe, of
Tolstoy. . . . Y ou told me that I was trying to make you play
traitor to your ideal. But you have betrayed that ideal long since.
Please dont lose your temper, for I am simply stating a fact.
Y ou played the traitor by throttling intuitive warnings. Did
you never notice that Tim e was turning his back on you? You
must have noticed, but you refused to see. That is my point.
T h e power with which one makes too free is shipwrecked in the
last resort upon the power which remains an ultimate mystery
even for you a power which is not among those in your filing
cabinets, Herr Mordann. If you restore the letters, you will be
acting, so to say, in accordance with a natural process. You
will be completing a symbolical action, against which only the
outworn phenomenal form of Martin Mordann continues to
protest. T h e spirit, I may call it the evil spirit, which cannot
disaccustom itself from playing the rebel not the human
being at all.
Mordann, as he sat at the table, chin on fist, looked like a
gnome, a rueful and tongue-tied gnome. Kerkhoven, clasping
his hands about his knee as he sat opposite his patient cross

SYNEIDESIS

131

legged, had an expectant air. Very softly and insinuatingly he


enquired:
Where have you deposited the letters?
A t a bank in Basle.
Would you consent to my sending a line to young
Brederode. . . .
No, certainly not, never, screamed Mordann, turning a
tortured face towards the doctor. Y ou re crazy to suggest such
a thing. I m not to be browbeaten, take my word for it. You
are trading on your position, to force me into doing what I
do not want to do. You are in their pay. You mean to reduce
me to . . .
I have often noticed, interrupted Kerkhoven coolly, that
professional writers are singularly lacking in imagination. . . .
So I am no more than a scribbler, am I, a miserable penshover who has outlived his day, according to you, cried
Mordann sharply, for his vanity was pricked on its most tender
spot. Yes, I see. According to your theory, if I had not so
voraciously clung to my vision of Power, I might have made a
better use of my knowledge. I might have turned everything
topsy-turvy; not one stone would have been left upon another;
the whole humbugging system would have collapsed ten years
earlier. A t critical moments my first question has always been
whether what had to be destroyed was worth more than what
had to be preserved.
That is precisely your illusion that anything needs to be
destroyed. And please do not take the words amiss you are
arrogant to fancy that you personally can preserve anything. . . .
But, God blast you Sir, I had a mission . . . I was charged
to . .
By whom?
What dyou mean by whom ? Who ever charges a man to
act as he thinks right, to be what he is?
T h ats the crux, said Kerkhoven, bending forward, and
leaning his arms on the table. A man stands at the cross-roads
between freedom and destiny. What a man has to consider is

132

J O S 4( P H

K E R K H O V E N S

th ird

existen ce

how much freedom he will fight for and how much destiny he
w ill accept.
I fail to understand. You are taking me out of m y depth
though I have an inkling. . . . Besides, what have I got out of
it all? Wealth? I have barely enough to live on. Honour? People
rail at me as if I were a mad dog. What rewards, what satis
factions have I had? T h ey are all within myself, and nowhere
else in the wide world. He struck his chest to emphasise the
words within m yself, thereby producing a hollow sound as
though he were beating an empty wooden box.
The awful thing about a man like you, put in Kerkhoven
sadly, is that he is so swathed in the rags of dialectic that he
does not see, does not feel the pullulating life around him, is
not aware of the simple life against which he is constantly
rubbing shoulders. G ive in! Just for once, acknowedge you are
beaten. Itll do you no end of good. A moment ago I spoke of
a lack o f imagination. T h a ts the thing that is killing you a
suicidal spirit . . . a . . . T ry to picture that young fellow
Brederode . . . his feelings under the circumstances . . . I ve had
enquiries made. . . .
Aha! M y prophetic soul. . .
No, no. Nothing like what you are suspecting. I ve made
enquiries, thats all. For my own information, and in order to
guide me in my treatment of you, my patient. W ell, the present
count indulges in a kind o f father-worship, makes a regular
cult of the old mans memory, and the thought that the faintest
breath o f scandal could besmirch this revered picture makes
him ready to commit almost any crime to preserve it from
injury. H ell never believe that his father did wrong, even when
the evidence is written down in black and white before his eyes.
H is fathers incorruptibility has become a dogma. He believes
the letters to be forgeries; and yet he dreads their publication,
lest a slur should thereby come upon his fathers fair name.
C ant you remember his face? He called on you three times.
D id he not leave an impression of genuine honesty behind him ?
Or do such items fail to influence you? T ry to picture the situa

SYNEIDESIS

133

tion: youve on the one hand a fellow-mortal whose founda


tions are threatened, to whom you are in a manner of speaking
able to give an ideal, and on the other hand you have a bundle
of papers in a safe. . . .
I ve no ideals to give to anyone. The worlds not left me any
to bestow.
When I ask you to decide on a certain course, it is not for
his sake, but for your own.
I wont do it. Go to hell. No, no, and again N o , cried
Mordann jumping up.
Kerkhoven seized him round the shoulders to support him,
for the sudden movement coupled with excitement made him
totter. The doctor, too, felt giddy, for the interview had been an
exhausting one. W hen he looked into his patients face he read
the signs of approaching death.

55
In accepting Frau Thirriot as patient in his house, Kerkhoven
could not be expected to foresee what far-reaching consequences
would ensue. It was as if an invisible hand were guiding him,
for other purposes than his own. Notwithstanding all his
experience of the workings o f destiny, the complications in
which he became involved were so formidable that they often
made him shudder. He could not but be reminded of the
remarkable disclosure of the innocence of that Leonhart
Maurizius who had spent nineteen years in gaol and had at
length been set free through the instrumentality of the seventeenyear-old Etzel Andergast. T h e present case concerned a young
couple who had six years before been sentenced to penal
servitude for life; and the revelation that there had been a
terrible miscarriage o f justice came, not from a lad, but from a
woman of forty-five who was suffering from nervous irritability
to a degree which made her practically irresponsible. In a life
like Kerkhovens, subject to the reign of law, decisive occurrences
move in concentric circles.

SYNEIDESIS
134

JOSEPH

K E R K H O V E N S

THIRD

EXISTENCE

Here is the story as it was revealed during the trial. In


December 1925, a pharmaceutical chemist named Karl Imst,
a man in the middle thirties, was arrested, together with his
mistress, Jeanne M allery, on suspicion o f having murdered
Frau Imst, K a rls wife, by administering poison. T h e investi
gation revealed an unusually gloomy picture of married life.
Imst had got to know Selma when he was a student, and had
married her directly after the death of his father who had left
sufficient fortune behind for the young couple to buy a chemists
shop and thus set up in business. From the start, husband and
wife fell out. She complained that Karl was cold and lacking
in tenderness; he accused her of nagging, o f pettiness, o f a
domineering trend. He used her ill; she treated him, if anything,
worse. She picked a quarrel over the merest nothings, and if
her husband was not handy she scolded the maid. Five years
after the wedding a boy was born; but the childs arrival did not
better their relationship. W hen, in despair, he sought his
pleasures away from home, Selma railed at him for being a
debauchee. She also took it into her head to say that during
one of their scenes at night he had suggested she should make
away with herself if life with him was so intolerable. T h e physical
side was no better suited than the temperamental, for she made
such constant demands upon him that he was incompetent to
satisfy her needs. Though she was frigid, her sexual appetite
was insatiable.
One Eastertide, Imst went off for a little holiday, and made
Jeanne M allerys acquaintance. Her home was in Geneva, and
she was a mathematical student at the university there. During
the vacation, she was staying with friends in Langental. A
holiday friendship ripened into passionate love. About this time
the conjugal disputes became so frequent that Karl felt his
home life to be a hell. T he wife had for years been keeping a
diary in which she noted every squabble, every offensive word,
every slight, every act of neglect on the part of her husband.
Since she was a woman of no culture and was scantily endowed
with intelligence, this scribbling mania was a most uncanny

trait. During the subsequent trial, the diary played an important


part as evidence against the accused.
T h e liaison between lovely Jeanne Mallery and Karl Imst
could not long remain a secret, and caused many a scene of
jealousy and spite. During one of these rows, the question of a
divorce was mentioned. Selma agreed that this would be the
only way out of their terrible situation; but the necessary steps
provoked much bitterness and exasperation. Neither spared the
others feelings; neither showed any forbearance or mercy. T h e
child was a bone of contention. Selma wished for complete
separation of child and father, not even consenting to occasional
visits as provided in the statute-book. After wearisome discussions,
endless legal proceedings which were costly both financially
and spiritually, the divorce was decreed in November 1924.
As the guilty party, Karl Imst was not to re-marry until a year
had elapsed, and this decision was pregnant with further worry,
annoyance and tragedy. Since Jeannes companionship had
become essential to him, both as dispenser in his shop and as
home-maker, they set up house together. Tongues immediately
began to wag. In addition, he let himself in for punishment on
account of illegal concubinage.
O f far more disastrous a nature were his meetings with his
divorced wife. T h e pretext for these meetings was the child.
Imst was inordinately fond of it and could not stomach the
thought of separation. W hen he saw his sometime wife, a few
months after the court had pronounced its decision, she pre
sented herself to him under a new light. She appeared greatly
depressed, and her demeanour led Karl to suspect that she
wanted to talk her heart out to him. T h e child had obviously
been coached by Selma, for little Konrad cuddled close to his
father when he took the youngster on his knee, and with
endearing gestures begged him to come back to M um m y.
Selma added her entreaties, saying that she could not bear the
loneliness of her lot, that there was not a soul to befriend her.
When she saw that Karl was listening sympathetically, she
grew bolder and no longer beat about the bush, but came straight

136

JOSEPH

KERKHOVEN'S

THIRD

EXISTENCE

to the point, suggesting the possibility of their marrying once


more. Not now, of course, not immediately, she could well
wait for a year or even for two years; so long as she had a definite
goal before her she would feel that some one at least was coming
to her aid. She even admitted to having vexed him sorely in the
past, that she had often abused and insulted him. Everything
would be different henceforward. At bottom Imst was a tender
hearted creature, and he found it very difficult to stand firm
against such pleading. Like all persons o f weak character, he
easily forgot the evils committed against him, let bygones be
bygones, and readily believed in peoples promises and pledges,
even when these were so preposterous that most would have
regarded them as crazy. Daily visits to his son comfirmed him
in his desire to provide a home for this beloved little being.
He promised Selma that they should contract a second marriage
in order to compensate the child for the suffering caused by the
divorce. On his return to Jeanne, his heart was tom by the
conflict his agreement with Selma naturally raised within him,
and whose full significance he only realised when he saw his
sweetheart again. He felt that he had cheated and betrayed this
faithful and loved woman who had given him the only joy he
had so far known during adult life. He lacked the necessary
strength of will to tell her what he had done. She had a fore
boding that something was amiss. At length, unable to contain
himself any longer, Karl blurted out the truth; and once more
his infirmity of will kept him from pursuing the path he himself
had chosen. Pressed as he was on the one hand by his mistress
and on the other by his wife, by his passion for the former and
by a misdirected sense of duty towards the latter, the ground
seemed all at once to be cut away from under his feet. He
vacillated; life completely lost its savour; he stood irresolute.
Jeanne pleaded the rights of her heart and reminded him of his
past experience with Selma. She became if possible more lavish
in her tokens o f love and loyalty, though determined not to
bring moral pressure to bear on her afflicted lover. Her rival
was less scrupulous. While Jeanne was still begging and praying

SYNEIDESIS

137

Karl not to leave her, Selma had taken counsel and had devised
with her solicitor a plan whereby the younger woman was to
be bought off. Imst, feeling that this high-handed procedure
was more than he could stand, asked his mistress to go away
for a time and stay with some friends of hers in Appenzell. She
yielded to his wishes; but sent appealing letters, urging him
not to forsake her, and telling him that she had no other friend
in the world but Karl Imst. Too late! T h e divorced couple
were married a second time, and Selma with her little son moved
into K arls house.
Jeanne returned one November evening, ill and miserable,
to find her rival installed. What was she to do ? Where could she
go? She asked the maid whether Frau Imst was at home to
visitors, and Selma laid herself out to receive the young woman
in the most friendly fashion. She invited Jeanne to spend the
night under her roof, assuring her that further details could be
arranged when Karl returned from his trip into the country
districts. The upshot was that Jeanne Mallery became, for the
nonce, an inmate o f the house wherein her rival reigned supreme.
Relishing her victory, Selma was quite amenable to the idea of
giving hospitality to Jeanne until the latter had had time to
look round, and make a fresh life for herself. Anyway, for the
time being, the two women concluded a treaty o f peace, sharing
in the housework. In addition, Jeanne took up her job in the
dispensary and the shop, while Selma concentrated upon the
management of the home. So far as Imst was concerned, the
new arrangement seemed to be a boon he had hardly ventured
to hope for.
But the treaty o f peace was no more than a pretence. The
wife, very probably, nurtured a grudge against Jeanne, since she
soon realised that the liaison between her husband and his
mistress continued as undisturbed as if a fresh marriage
had never taken place. Perhaps her intention had been to
put the pair to the test. Certainly, by keeping them under
her eyes, she could nourish her concealed hatred o f her
rival and could foster the self-torment which still revived
E*

138

JOSEPH

K E R K H O V E N S

THIRD

EXISTENCE

in her as nothing else could a semblance o f the life o f the


senses.
One evening, when Karl came home late from business, the
volcano erupted. Selma would listen to no excuses, but over
whelmed her husband with invectives, accusing him of leading
a life of pleasure instead of attending to his duties as husband
and father, of spending his time in pot-houses, and the like
all of which was purely imaginary. K arls dander was roused.
He gave Selma tit for tat, answering that for two years he had
enjoyed peace, and if she was going to begin her old pranks
anew she could pack her trunks and be off. He was not going to
stand her tantrums any longer. Selma was taken aback by so
energetic a speech. She had imagined that she alone could
declare war or ensue peace; now, when in Jeannes presence, she
was spoken to as if she were of no account, an unquenchable
rage began to gnaw at her vitals. In the long run, Imst was sorry
to have lost his temper, but all endeavours at a reconciliation
were wrecked upon the shoals o f Selmas obstinacy and defiance.
A day or two later she was laid up and kept her bed, declaring
that she had a splitting headache, felt giddy, and was suffering
from nausea. Imst, much concerned, asked whether she had
taken anything to account for her condition. She replied in the
negative. He wanted to ring up the doctor. Selma declared that
no doctor was needed. In order to avoid further discussion,
Karl decided to fall in with her wishes, gave her a dose of
pantopon, and ordered a special regimen. During the next two
days, the patients condition improved at times and then became
worse. On the evening o f the third day definite symptoms of
stomach trouble and abdominal trouble were manifest. Selmas
pulse was feeble, she broke into a cold perspiration, had dis
orders of vision, and heart-weakness. Imst sent for a doctor.
Almost the first question the medical man asked was: Has she
taken a drug? Again Selma denied having taken anything.
She declared that she had been seized with illness about three
in the afternoon, and that since then she had felt worse and
worse. No definitive diagnosis was possible. T h e doctor suspected

SYNEIDESIS

139

poison. At eleven that same night Selma died. Next day, the
doctor, supported by Imst, demanded a post-mortem examina
tion. Large quantities of arsenic were found. Tw o days later,
Karl Imst and Jeanne M allery were arrested.

56
Public opinion vacillated between the ideas of murder and
suicide. The men o f law, however, decided that it was a clear
case o f murder, and the whole legal enquiry worked along the
line o f this conviction. There could be no doubt whatever as to
the culpability of the pair. Acting on this theory, the authorities
from the outset treated Karl Imst and Jeanne M allery as
criminals. Th ey were kept under lock and key during the eight
months that the tedious hearings lasted, being allowed no
amenities, neither books, nor clean linen, nor soap, nor better
food than that provided by the prison authorities. When January
came, and there was a cold snap, they were left to shiver in their
cells. Friends of Karl and of Jeanne tried in vain to ameliorate
at least the physical conditions under which the couple languished;
but a deaf ear was turned to supplications. This, however, was
merely the framework o f a systematic torture worthy o f the
M iddle Ages. The examining magistrate brought every imagin
able threat and humiliation to bear in order to extract a con
fession of guilt from one or other of the twain; he set verbal
traps, so that all unbeknowst the statements of to-day might
contradict those o f yesterday. T h e most innocent utterances
were twisted and turned, and in the end they became evidence
against the prisoners; misinterpretation was piled upon mis
interpretation. Imst was suspect because he had not immediately
sent for a doctor; Jeanne was suspect because she had nursed
the sick woman. Suspect, too, was the husbands taciturnity
after the death of his wife; and again suspect, was the fact that
he had spoken so frankly. He was expected to remember every
word he had said, to recall each detail of his comings and goings;
when his memory failed him, this was a sign of his guilt. Was
he excited ? Another sure sign of guilt. Was he calm and collected ?

14

JOSEPH

K E R K H O V E N S

THIRD

EXISTENCE

Guilty again. Three days before the death, Karl had shifted the
position of a piece of furniture in the hall a highly suspicious
action, for was it not performed in order to give more room
when the coffin was taken out? He was suspect because he had
not recognised at once the dangerous condition o f his wife,
because he had not noticed how white and stiff were her hands
towards the end, how blue her nails. Jeanne Mallery was suspect
because she could not recall whether she had given the patient
coffee or tea to calm the pains; when, after long reflection, the
accused stated that she had made coffee that afternoon she was
asked. Why coffee and not tea? She could not remember
who had been the last to leave the shop, nor when and how often
the poison cupboard had been opened. These lapses of memory
were regarded as evidence of her systematic desire to wipe out
and forget the part she had played in the tragedy. The conse
quence was that the case became wrapped in deeper mystery.
A t any time of the day or night and without showing the slightest
consideration for the mental or physical state of the accused,
they would be hauled out o f their cells and asked the same
questions over and over again; at every interview they under
went a process of vivisection. Gradually they were reduced to
such a condition of collapse that they could no longer recall
what had occurred, they could not remember which wholesaler
had furnished them with the poison, where it was usually kept,
how often the orders for it were issued; the course of Selmas
illness and its increasing violence, likewise, grew blurred. Frau
Im sts diary, though much of what she had written was
obviously untrue, proved a valuable source o f information. She,
poor lady, on the face of it, had been shamefully deceived and
betrayed by her husband; she, a noble-minded being, faithful
and loyal in her duties as wife and mother, a victim of her love
for her lawful spouse. T h e reverse of the medal showed a boozer,
and his wanton mistress, the latters aim being to legalise their
immoral relations even at the cost of crime, and Jeanne was
supposed to have induced a feckless man to clear an inconvenient
obstacle out of the path of her ambition.

SYNEIDESIS

141

Such, in the end, was the view taken by the public, the jury,
and the judge. The accused might say what they liked, might
protest their innocence; in vain! In vain, too, was the eloquent
pleading of counsel for the defence. The awful sentence was
pronounced, the verdict given, and Karl Imst and Jeanne M allery
were led to their lifelong entombment. Short of memory as ever,
the outside world soon forgot them.

57
One day when Marie Kerkhoven was talking to the nurse, Else
Schmidt, the latter mentioned the case of Karl Imst and Jeanne
Mallery. She seemed to know every detail. T h e man was her
first cousin. From earliest childhood they had been like brother
and sister. Else was convinced of K arls innocence. She con
sidered that he was quite incapable of committing the crime
for which he had been condemned. Jeanne M allery, too, was
the victim o f a gross miscarriage of justice. T h e thought that
these two were suffering for a wrong they had never done,
haunted the young nurses mind so that it had become an
obsession. Her manifold occupations as sick-nurse were no
more than a futile attempt at distraction. During the prolonged
enquiry, she had succeeded, after unremitting endeavour, in
getting permission to see Karl. This single visit had sufficed
to make her conviction even stronger, were that possible, that
her cousin was innocent. Though several years had now elapsed,
the girl went white with emotion as she related the story to
Marie. She had attended the trial throughout, had kept an
observant eye upon Karl and Jeanne, had watched the witnesses,
had listened to the tirades of the prosecuting counsel, to the
pleadings of the counsel for the defence. It had needed her
utmost self-command, when sentence was pronounced, not to
rise in the court and cry aloud: Stop! Stop! For G o d s sake
do not do this thing. It is you who are the murderers. This
man and woman are innocent. For weeks after the trial she
was very ill. She had in her possession innumerable press-

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cuttings concerning the affair, had copies o f the whole enquiry,


had the evidence given by the experts, and knew her material
by heart, so long had she pored over it.
A t first Marie imagined the young woman to be the victim of
a fixed idea. But Else Schmidt was eminently sensible and
steady-minded. Kerkhoven constantly referred to her calm and
collected ways. T h e more Marie heard of the case, the greater
became her interest, and the profounder her feeling that two
guiltless persons had been wrongfully condemned. In her turn,
she studied the material Else had collected, and her feeling became
conviction. She was inordinately stirred, made the affair her
own; she, in turn, deemed herself personally responsible for the
miscarriage of justice. She knew no peace of mind, for her
thoughts constantly circled around those two in their prison
cells, and she wondered what it must feel like to suffer as they
were suffering, knowing themselves to be innocent. Such
reflections were almost more than she could bear.
But Else, she said one evening, if neither Karl Imst nor
Jeanne M allery had anything to do with the crime, who killed
Selma?
W ho? reiterated the other, her eyes wide with surprise.
Who? How can you ask such a question?
I know, I know, murmured Marie, there were never
more than two explanations. It was either murder or suicide.
Y et it is not clear to me why she should have made away with
herself. O f course she was embittered, was filled with despair.
Above all, she had lost belief in her own self. But life still called
her. . . . And then to take such a resolve. . .
Can you honestly not see any reason? Really? Truthfully?
Y et the motive is plain . . . it is so obvious. . .
T h e two women looked deep into one anothers eyes, and
M arie trembled.
One cannot think such a thing possible, she whispered,
horrified.
Think it right out to its logical conclusion, said Else darkly.
Your conclusion will be the correct one.

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No, no! I dare not. It would be too ghastly, cried Marie


in her distress.
T h e other shrugged, and answered gloomily:
If we had proof . . . so long as we cannot produce the proofs,
theres no hope of a revision of the sentence. But for the life of
me I cannot see how we are to come by the necessary proofs
unless God Almighty intervenes!
Quash the sentence: that was Elses unique aim. She was
indefatigable in her enquiries, corresponded with the barristers
who had acted on behalf o f Karl Imst and Jeanne M allery,
was in communication with the highest legal authorities, with
chemists, with doctors of the law. Her means did not permit of
her taking drastic action. She harboured the secret hope that
M arie would be interested and would win Joseph Kerkhoven
to the cause. If a man of Kerkhovens calibre, backed up by the
weight of a great name, came into the field, he could make
publicity, and that would be a substantial advance. M arie,
possessed of that sacred fire of impatience which characterises
those who still believe in right and justice, talked the matter over
with Joseph. Again and again she returned to the charge, until
he learned to know the details of the case as well as she. He was
even persuaded to study the documents. How well he knew her.
T h e spiritual source o f her action was not hidden from him:
he saw in it an act of transfiguration which enriched his picture
of Marie with fresh features, giving him a new conception o f
her nature. His only reason for hesitating was doubt as to his
own capacity to deal with so thorny a problem.
Outside my range, he said. No knowing where itll lead
me. T o do the thing properly would need the whole of a mans
time, hed have to devote his life to it. Remember what happened
to Etzel Andergast. His intervention nearly did for him. I ts
altogether outside my province, I repeat. One must be cautious
as to what one takes up. . . . Still, I ll think it over. . ..D ont
fear that it will slip from my mind, Marie. Trust m e!
Events, however, took their own course, and swept K erk
hoven into participation far sooner than he had wished or

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expected. Strange and eerie that the man who had become
destiny itself for M arie should be involved in these events, the
man who had awakened her to the full meaning o f life so that,
from being an idle spectator, she had learned to play her part
in it. Not that Kerkhoven intervened of his own free will. He
was forced by circumstances. But the fact that he was drawn
into the matter gave Marie confidence and energy; for a clear
recognition of the inward consistency of what happens to us
steels the heart and strengthens self-confidence.

58
For three years, Emilie Thirriot had been suffering from a
somewhat unusual form of delusion and o f self-torture. She
had a daughter of seventeen; but she believed that the midwife
had substituted this girl for her own baby, who was, as she
imagined, a boy. T h e m idwifes name had long since slipped
from Em ilies memory, for her confinement had taken place in
a nursing-home; but she had a definite mental picture o f the
woman, artificially constructed no doubt, or at any rate no more
than three or four details had remained. She recalled that the
womans cap was adorned with rose-coloured ribbons, and
that she wore Russian boots coming up to the knee. A queer
combination, no doubt but what could one expect from a
woman suffering as Emilie Thirriot suffered ? She had set about
trying to find this midwife. Any papers thrown carelessly in the
street or into dustbins were carefully collected and examined;
she made enquiries at various hospitals, set the police to work,
and, herself, would trapes about the town for days on end, in
felt-soled slippers, hoping to drop upon the person who wore a
cap with pink ribbons and was shod in Russian boots. A t times
she addressed total strangers, and when they turned away she
would follow them, upraiding them. In the end, she was kept
under medical observation, for her sanity was doubted. Since
she was not considered a danger to the public weal, she was
set at liberty, though a young psychiatrist was told off to keep
her under observation. This doctor, after a time, reported that

SYNEIDESIS

14s

the symptoms were becoming worse, and he advised further


institutional treatment. She was living in a two-roomed apart
ment with her daughter, who had a job in a factory. She avoided
having anything to do with the girl, as one shuns infection.
She never looked her daughter in the face; and, when the young
girl entered the room, the afflicted woman would cringe away
into a corner, would go livid, and would tremble. T h e mother
never touched anything that belonged to the girl, be it a dress,
or the chair she usually sat upon, or the bed in which she slept.
O n a certain day, she refused to cook the dinner which they
w^re to share, for, while peeling the potatoes the knife had
slipped and she had cut her finger. In a state of great agitation,
she ran to put the wound under the cold-water tap, and washed
it clean. Long after the blood had ceased to flow, she continued
to cleanse her hand with soap and a brush. Then she threw all
the potatoes into the kitchener, peeled and unpeeled alike,
together with the knife which had cut her, so that everything
was consumed in the fire. Next she noticed that there was a drop
o f blood on the floor. Immediately she seized a pail of water
and a clout, knelt down and, sobbing, scrubbed and rubbed
until all vestige of the stain was effaced. On this, as on many
similar occasions, she gave the impression o f one suffering from
intolerable pricks o f conscience.
T h e medical men, who were called in consultation, could
make neither head nor tail of so perplexing a malady. Anxiety
states became more frequent. She was soon a danger to the girl,
who felt at a loss what to do for her mother when the latter
started to whimper and cry directly they were in one anothers
company. In the end, it was thought desirable to separate the
two women. Frau Thirriots brother went to Colmar and took
his sister home with him to Friedrichshafen. After a time, she
was placed in a clinic, whence, as already stated, Kerkhoven
took her in charge. He immediately recognised that he was
faced by an enigma. This was, indeed, a darkened mind difficult
to delve into, burdened with an anxiety which seemed to be of
age-long standing, an ancestral legacy. He went cautiously to

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work. The questions he asked at the outset touched upon things


quite outside the personality o f his patient and the experiences
of her life. Gradually he came to the conclusion that he had to
do with a deeply buried phenomenon of the world of delusion.
Layer by layer he dug down beneath the surface o f conscious
ness, and once more he was amazed to find that apparently
simple phenomena turned out to be the most entangled and
most shrouded in darkness. By discreet questionings Kerkhoven
slowly aroused in Emilie an interest in herself as the heroine of
a wonderful story; he made her curious as to her past, and as
to the hidden causes for her mental disturbance. He made her
dig for herself not, as is the case with certain analysts of the
mind, with the object o f bringing a lot of rubbish to the light
of day, but in order to provide the woman with material, hitherto
cast aside and unutilised, wherewith to build her personality up
anew.
Her delusion was a terrible one. She fancied that her whole
body was composed o f poison; in especial, her spittle, blood,
breath, and excreta; this poison acted solely upon her daughter.
Without desiring or doing anything she felt convinced that her
doom was to kill her daughter, to-day, to-morrow, a year hence;
that she was destined to become an unwilling murderess, because
o f the horrible properties of her own poisonous nature. For
this reason she had scoured her hands so carefully to rid them
of the cut; for this reason did she put aside the objects she had
touched; she hoped hereby to guard the girl from contamination.
In the higher planes of consciousness the woman was convinced
that she loved her child as a decent mother should; in actual
fact, beneath the cloak of love, there existed an unfathomable
and primitive hatred, packed away from her conscious mind,
but lying there as a source of mental irritation and conflict
between her wish to destroy and her duty as woman and mother.
Her life, as the years passed, had become a martyrdom.
How enigmatical is the darkness which encompasses the
human soul! Could her longing to give birth to a boy and the
disappointment at having a girl be the root cau^e of her derange

SYNEIDESIS

147

ment ? There certainly exist women whose desire for a son is as


implacable as a law o f nature, and who feel that Providence has
betrayed them when the body cheats them in this matter. Her
search for the midwife might, then, be interpreted as a pretext
for putting the blame on to anothers shoulders- an exaggerated
sense o f guilt coupled with an evasion of responsibility being
typical of almost every delusion. Her inability to discover the
guilty person, a shadowy figure, a caricature without face or
name, had switched her morbid mind into the path of selfdestruction, a path which in her case was incredibly devious and
obscure. But perhaps the root of the matter went deeper than her
memories, her mental images, and her impressions; it may have
reached back far beyond the days of her unhappy marriage,
about which she had little to tell, except for hints that she had
married the wrong man (this being the probable explanation of
the changeling delusion). It may have reached back to the
mother who in early childhood had handed her over to the care
o f strangers; it may have reached back for generations, to the
tough-minded peasants and handicraftsmen who had fled from
France after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes and had been
unable to return to their Alsatian homes until the French revolu
tion had taken place. Part of the tribal and national history is
incorporated into every individual life. What a family has
suffered and experienced generation after generation, what
those who thus suffered and experienced took down with them
in silence to the grave, may suddenly and without obvious reason
crop up in a later link o f the chain, nature harshly sacrificing
the individual, who is not consciously aware of what happened
long before to the stock.
Frau Emilie Thirriot was about forty years of age, a chubby,
friendly-looking woman, very tidy in her dress, with nothing
out o f the ordinary in her appearance except her catlike, ambercoloured eyes. These strange eyes of hers would at times assume
the expression one encounters in persons gifted with secondsight. Kerkhoven was quick to notice this peculiarity, and
determined to follow up the clue. A t first, in her morbid

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imaginings, she presented herself to him as foredoomed to


become a murderess, as one of those spectral figures met with
in Grimm s tales, a kobold not devoid of a certain gloomy charm.
Then, with a pendulum swing to the other side, she would
manifest herself as the counterpart, as one of those excessively
rational beings for whom two and two invariably make four,
and who yet are tormented by secret doubts they obstinately
deny entertaining. Such transformations and such apparent
contradictions were no longer a source of wonder to Kerkhoven,
who had long been familiar with the multifariousness of the
human mind. But the special case was peculiar. He seemed to
be witnessing the metamorphosis of a person who was a prey to
delusions, the stripping off of the morbid ego.

59

T h e atmosphere of the Kerkhoven establishment acted most


beneficially upon Emilie. T he house was quiet and isolated, its
inmates were equable and considerate, the rooms cheerful and
full of flowers which Marie renewed daily. All these things
combined to brighten the patients spirits, distracted her thoughts,
kept her from brooding. For years she had ceased to see any
women but her daughter. Nurse Else pleased her greatly, so
gentle and forbearing were the young womans ways. Every
day the invalid waited impatiently for her visit, and while the
girl was in the room Frau Thirriot could not take her eyes off
her. She showed much the same, though a somewhat more
deferential, attachment to Marie since the latter had had a
few friendly talks with her. Indeed, this attachment amounted
to devotion, and the poor womans face would beam with delight
if she caught sight of Marie even at a distance. How she
gradually came to discover that Nurse Else had something on
her mind and was constantly busied with a single thought, it
was impossible to ascertain. Kerkhoven was inclined to believe
that at the first encounter thought transference had been at
work.
One day Marie and Else were sitting in the garden discussing

SYNEIDESIS

i 49

a pamphlet which lay on the table between them. T h e author


was a young lawyer who set out plainly and dryly to give the
whole history of the Imst-Mallery trial. From time to time a
voice was thus raised casting doubt upon the justice of the
condemnation. It was as if the country had a guilty conscience.
In this pamphlet, too, the author led up to the conclusion that
there had been a miscarriage of justice; but he had to admit that
unimpeachable grounds for demanding a retrial were not yet
forthcoming. Else, greatly excited as she invariably became
when this subject was broached, took the booklet and read
aloud the last words. Then she flung the little volume on to the
table again, and a look of despair spread over her features. At
that moment Emilie Thirriot came out of the house, and
advanced towards the tree beneath which Marie and Else were
sitting. She asked whether she might join them. Marie gave
her a friendly nod, and was surprised at the queer expression
with which the woman was contemplating Else. Her face was
vacant and washed out, as if some one had passed a brush over
it and had obliterated all the characteristic traits. But in the
amber-coloured eyes there shone a lurid light, an expression
strangely mingled o f absorption, curiosity, and knowledge, and
beyond any power to control. Else sprang to her feet, and ran
into the house. Marie sadly watched her go, and entirely forgot
the presence of Frau Thirriot until, as if awakening from a
dream, the woman stammered out the w ords:
I know now . . . I know now . . . a woman . . . a man . . .
in prison . . . I see . . .
Marie clutched the edge of the table and stared at the speaker,
whose features and voice suddenly became normal again as
she said:
T h e loveliest thing about your hair is the brown sheen of
it like chestnuts in autumn when they first split their husks.
Do you remember how beautifully shiny they are ?
Marie smiled indulgently, as if a child were in its awkward
way trying to flatter her. She then got up and went in, her heart
and mind torn by conflicting thoughts and feelings. The

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pamphlet lay forgotten on the table. After a while Frau Thirriots


eyes fell upon it. Taking it in hand she began to scan its pages.
Like most half-educated persons she moved her lips as she
read. An onlooker would have been hard put to it to decide
whether the subject made any impression or not. She seemed,
rather, to grow tired than interested.
60
Next time Marie saw Nurse Else, she repeated the words about
the prison which the visionary had stammered forth. For a
minute Else stood speechless. Then, folding her hands, she
whispered:
Oh, if it could only be . . .
Go on. Could only be what?
Do you think it possible that we might, by means o f tele
pathy . . . it seems to me . . the woman has a strange m anner.. . .
Oh, I must speak to the doctor about it. . . . One could never
have expected a neurotic . . . Y e s , I simply must have a talk
with D r. Kerkhoven . . . at once.
Kerkhoven listened attentively. Then he said:
I ve just seen her, and she gave me this pamphlet to return
to you.
Has she read it?
Yes, but she does not seem to have understood much about
it.
Do you think she ought to know the details if we . . .
You mean, if we put her to the test? I fancy not. It wont
be a drawback to the experiment if she knows the facts before
hand, but I do not think it is necessary for her to know. Here
we are dealing with a case of dissociation of consciousness, and
the two states of consciousness are in no way linked with one
another. The best proof of this is that, so far, she has not the
faintest notion of any connexion between the contents of the
book and yourself.
But are we not mistaken in believing that a woman suffering
from so severe a neurosis can possibly have telepathic gifts

SYNEIDESIS

iS i

hidden away within her ? Surely such a thing is seldom met with ?
Seems to me they are two contradictory elements, negative and
positive, respectively.
Th ats a very perspicacious remark, Nurse, and it convinces
me that you have a fine flair for our speciality. It was my first
thought, likewise. But we are not privileged to see Nature at
work in her laboratory. Shes always springing fresh surprises
upon us. Our energies are, certainly, bi-polar. Y et what you call
positive and negative might just as well be a causal relationship,
a masked process o f recovery, just as general paralysis can be
cured by malaria. Understand?
Yes, Doctor; I follow you easily. And do you think we
might venture . . .
Yes, without a qualm.
And suppose we get results. . . . I mean . . . if hitherto un
revealed facts are brought to light . . . how shall we be able to
make a practical use of our knowledge?
Wait and see. There are possibilities. But dont set your
hopes too high. Such experiments are apt to be disappointing.
Besides, the world is sceptical about occult powers. W ell have
to find some one who will be above suspicion as witness, and
who will take down a shorthand report of the proceedings. I
think Fraulein Mordann is just the person we need. W e could
arrange for a first sitting to-night.
Nurse Else clasped her hands on her breast, and walked away
as if treading on air.
61
T h e sitting took place in Kerkhovens study. This was an attic
room, fifty feet by thirty, with huge beams running from one
end to the other. Six tall standing lamps illuminated it, and in
addition there were flood-lights concealed behind the beams
and joists. T h e windows, over which the curtains were now
drawn, had been built high in the walls. Marie and Else sat
together on a carved bench; Agnes Mordann, who after some
hesitation had agreed to act as secretary, took up her position
at a book-strewn table in the middle of the room, where she

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had deposited her scribbling-block and half a dozen finely


pointed pencils. Emilie Thirriot, with anxious mien, crouched
on the extreme edge of a deep leather-covered armchair. Kerk
hoven, after pacing the room for a while, sat down opposite his
patient on a stool near the fireplace.
W e want you, Frau Thirriot, to tell us certain things in
which we are all interested, and Nurse Else especially so, he
began in a voice so low that the woman was forced to attend if
she would catch his words. You must forget where you are,
and go right away from here into a particular house. Can you
find the house? Five people live together in that house. The
husbands name is K arl; the wifes name is Selma; the young
womans name is Jeanne; and then there are the little boy and
a serving-maid. What is happening in this house, Frau Thirriot?
The wife appears to be ill. It is a day in December. T h e sick
woman has gone to bed. Can you tell us what is the matter with
her?
Frau Thirriots gaze wandered away from him towards Else
and M arie; then she looked blankly into vacancy. Again the
washed-out expression came across her lineaments as if a brush
had passed a grey colouring matter over all; again the lurid
light shone in the amber-coloured eyes. She sighed, and bowed
her head twice or thrice.
Ah, that is a long, sad story, she murmured sleepily. They
have not lived happily together. Yes, it was a wretched existence.
W hy did the man marry her again when he had at length got
quit of her? It did not do any one any good. He might at least
have kept Jeanne out of the house. The wife is furious about it,
though she is trying not to show her mortification, and though
she herself arranged matters so. But that was only make-believe.
She is always like that, thinking o f some horrible combination,
and when the inevitable consequences follow, she puts the blame
on others. Ah, she is ill to live w ith.
What happened between man and wife before the wife
took to her bed? asked Kerkhoven.
There was an awful quarrel. Y es . . . wait a minute . . . the

SYNEIDESIS

153

things shes saying to him . . . and he, too, is lashing out with
his tongue. They are fighting like mad. Jeanne is trying to make
peace. Karl is willing to call a truce, but Selma is continuing to
slang him. Outside the room Jeanne says to him: Are you sorry
now for the line you took? Can you see what it has led to? He
takes both her hands in his, and casts his eyes heavenward.
Meanwhile Selma . . . wait, yes, wait a minute . . . shes sitting
at her desk and is scribbling in a book . . . writing, always writing
down these quarrels. Her thoughts, too, are set down. But . . .
why, whats this ? She is writing down false statements . . . lies,
yes. . . . A h , what sort o f a women . . . lies. . . . What is she
doing that for?
Emilie sat silent, and stroked her forehead with her finger
tips. Else was obviously startled, and was about to ask Emilie
a question when Kerkhoven made a sign for her to be still.
Go on talking, Frau Thirriot, he said, we are getting a
clear picture of what you are describing. T h e wife, Selma, writes
a pack of lies down in her diary. Queer! What does she think
to gain by that?
Emilie continued to rub her forehead with her fingers.
She has a plan . . . a mean plan . . . but I cannot see clearly
. . . no, I dont know yet . . . maybe, she herself has nothing
definite in view. . . . She feels that she must rend and destroy
everything she comes into contact with. . . . W hat she would
prefer above all would be to set the house on fire. She is in a
fever. She had made one attempt to put an end to herself and
the child. That was in June. Then she dismissed the idea. She
fancied by such a threat to bring her husband to his knees, for
his pity was readily aroused. Once she tried to poison him.
Her mind is constantly preoccupied with ideas of murder. Ah,
she is torn . . . incurably. . .
T h e speakers face puckered. Her endeavour to see into the
past was costing her an immense amount of energy. Marie and
Else could hardly breathe. Even Agnes Mordann threw away
her cigarette, and looked apprehensively at Frau Thirriot.
L et us, for the moment, confine ourselves to the evening

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SYNEIDESIS

when that dreadful quarrel took place, said Kerkhoven. I


want to know what actually occurred to follow the happenings
hour by hour. I hope this w ill not be too difficult.
I ll see. W ait a b it

Each time she made use o f this phrase, her head sank on her
chest and her eyes were half-veiled by her lids.
A t about what time did the husband get home that night?
I fancy it must have been after half-past-nine. . .
No. Earlier. Seven minutes before the half-hour.
Is there a clock in the room ?
Yes, on the chest of drawers there is an old clock of French
workmanship.
And what time did it mark when the quarrel came to an
end?
A quarter past ten.
Are we in Selmas bedroom?
Her bed is there, yes.
When Karl and Jeanne left her, did she go to bed ?
She undressed___I see her in a white bed-wrap with motherof-pearl buttons.
You see that quite distinctly?
Yes, most distinctly.
Then you will also be able to follow all her subsequent
actions that night.
The company was spell-bound, for it was in the morning
after this night that Selma fell sick.
For a minute or two Frau Thirriot muttered unintelligibly
to herself, and her four auditors leaned forward to catch what
she said. Gradually the words took shape, and this is what they
learned:
We are in Selma Imsts bedroom. An electric lamp is alight
on the bedside table. The house is still. Selma listens and listens.
O f a sudden her bony features are convulsed and she carries on
as though she had gone mad, laying about her with clenched
fists, biting the pillow, sobbing and groaning- all this to attract
her husbands attention, and force him to her side. Nothing

155

stirs in the house. Towards midnight she switches off the light.
She can get no sleep. At half-past one she turns on the light again,
gets up, sits at her desk, writes a few lines in her diary. H ell
be paid back for all he makes me suffer. Fate will punish him ,
is what she scribbles down. [These were the very w ords; and
Emilie had never seen the diary.] Then she creeps back into
bed, and tosses about sleepless till half-past four. Again she
gets up, goes into the kitchen, draws water from the tap, and
makes a pot of tea. W ith the cup full of tea she returns to her
room. Setting the cup down on the night-table, she shuffles
about in her bedroom slippers. From time to time she passes
the fingers of both hands through her hair, and groans softly.
She stops before the mirror, and contemplates her anguished
face. It is now a quarter to six. She goes up to the chest of drawers,
and tries to open the second drawer from the top. It is locked;
and she hunts everywhere for the key, wringing her hands in
despair. At length she finds the key behind the French clock.
Opening the drawer, she flings stockings and handkerchiefs
into the air while she looks and rummages until she lights on a
long, narrow box, wrapped in a square of silk. Lifting the lid,
she discloses a white powder, steps over to the bedside-table,
puts a heaped teaspoonful of the powder into the tea, stirring
the mixture while muttering unintelligible syllables with
twitching lips, and drinks the cup to the dregs. Then she shakes
into a piece of paper as much again as she has already taken,
twists the ends so that it looks like a little sack and stuffs it
away in the table drawer beneath a handful of cotton wool.
She now goes off to the toilet with the box, pours what remains
of the powder into the closet-pan, and pulls the flush. Leaning
down, she looks into the pan to make sure that all the powder
has been washed away. She stands for a while wondering what
to do with the box. This she feels must be cleared out of the way.
Best would be to burn it; but the maid is not yet up, and the
stove has gone out. Tim e presses. A t any moment the pains
may begin. When the maid brings up her morning tea she means
to take the second dose of the powder. Or perhaps she will wait

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till the midday meal, or till the afternoon. She means to do the
thing thoroughly, and not a speck of the powder must be left
in the drawer of the bedside table. Shivering with cold, she
stands hesitant in the unwarmed passage, turning ways and
means over in her mind. Her glance falls upon the little door
in the back o f the stove. She opens it, and pushes the box far
back into the hole. This done, she returns to her room, slips
into bed, lays herself full length with her arms stretched outside
the bedclothes along her flanks. At about half-past six her bowels
begin to burn, and she feels deadly sick. She rings for the maid
whom she can hear at work in the kitchen. . .
62
No words can describe the impression produced by this visionary
reconstruction. T h e big face of the seer with its obliterated
features; the sleepy, drawling voice; the queer way in which she
sat perched on the extreme edge of her commodious chair as if
some one had forced her into that position and were holding
her down; the fleshy hands lying inert in her lap; the retelling
o f events that had taken place six years before as if they were
happening in the present; the revelation of things which no
mortal man knew o f or could have known of; the uncanny
exactitude o f the character portrait, together with Selmas
innermost thoughts and material actions all this was enough
to unnerve the most callous of beings; it worked as though time
and space had suddenly been abolished, as if the past were a
mystification, as if cause and effect were not what they seem
logically to be, and as if life had taken on a totally different
visage. Even Kerkhoven found it hard to preserve the scientific
attitude of a medical practitioner. Every one felt that the fates of
two persons were hanging in the scales of this hour. Moreover,
the sacredness o f judicial norms was proved to be erroneous and
a delusion.
If the box could still be found in the aperture of the stove
into which Selma, according to the visionary, had flung it, this
in itself would be sufficient evidence that not all the facts o f

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the case had been known at the date of the trial, and an appeal
might be lodged for a further hearing. Kerkhoven had the verbal
report of the sitting placed in the hands of the barrister who
had never doubted the innocence of the accused. The latter had
researches made on the spot and, in very fact, the incriminating
object was found exactly where the seer had said it was. The
house still belonged to Imst, but had been uninhabited since the
trial, nobody feeling inclined to become a tenant under that
ill-omened roof. Among the rren o f law and the public alike,
this find created a great stir and excitement. I f it did nothing
else, it at least showed how carelessly and with how prejudiced
a mind the examining magistrate had carried out his duties.
Not only had he failed to ascertain whence the accused had
procured the poison, whether from Im sts own shop or from
some other source; but he had likewise omitted to make a
thorough search o f the house. O f course the box might just as
well have been thrown into the stove-hole by Imst or Jeanne
Mallery. If one chose to be sceptical as to the seers revelations,
this could serve as explanation as well as any other, and by
many it was accepted as probable before more far-reaching
revelations had been made by the medium. One of the most
astounding of these revelations was that Selma Imst, shortly
after the divorce, had had a liaison with a student of Greek
nationality, and no more than twenty years of age. It was at
this time that she took to arsenic as a means whereby her physical
powers for the love-enterprise might be enhanced. In a word,
she had recourse to it as an aphrodisiac. Such an accusation
against a woman whom the judge and the prosecuting counsel
had held up as a model of virtue created a sensation. Enquiries
were made circumspectly and yet assiduously. Unexampled had
been the negligence with which the preliminary examination
had been conducted. Every point of Frau Thirriots disclosures
was confirmed. T h e friend with whom Selma had stayed in
Aarau admitted that the latter had often been visited by a young
man whose name by now had escaped her memory. Anyway, in
the spring of 1926, he had left the district, and no one was able

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to say where he had gone. But the house of this friend, being
searched, a trunk belonging to Selma was found in the attic.
Herein were discovered notes and letters of a highly com
promising character. Among other papers was found the duplicate
o f an anonymous letter, written three days before the end of
the trial, wherein the writer informed the judge that he had
known the dead lady most intimately, and, so far as he was
concerned, it was a clear case of suicide; she had always had
suicidal inclinations, and she invariably threatened to kill herself
if things did not go precisely as she desired. For some inexplicable
reason no attention was paid to this letter at the time o f the
trial. Even counsel for the defence had not deemed it of sufficient
importance to insist upon the writer being found and brought
in as witness. Kerkhoven was convinced that this elusive young
man was mainly responsible for leading Selma Imst into her
mania for taking poison. Maybe he himself had perverted tastes,
and it had tickled his vanity to find that he could enslave a
woman o f such a domineering disposition, in despite of the
considerable difference in age and of her essentially prudish
nature.
Frau Thirriot worked backward, from the end of the tragedy
to the beginning, linking up each motive with the preceding
one. Since she was obviously overtired and there were so many
incidents to be considered, a good deal had to be left in the dark at
the first sitting; one of these points being the matter upon which
so much stress had been laid at the trial concerning the time
when the second dose of poison had been taken the one which
had been stored in a piece of paper and hidden in the bedside
table. Evidently Selma had kept this portion in reserve, in case
the dose first taken was not enough to kill. What unflinching
resolution! H ow demoniacal a clinging to her purpose! It was
obvious that she had laid her scheme, detail by detail. T h e
most awe-inspiring part of Emilies clairvoyance was her own
overwhelming horror whenever she mentioned Selmas name,
though she mitigated the impulse to suicide, speaking of it in
general terms only, as if afraid of being too precise on this

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particular issue. T h e hidden and yet indisputable fact of suicide,


worked upon Em ilies audience to so great an extent that it
appeared inhuman. Nurse Else had suspected this all along,
and Emilies revelation was no more than a confirmation. But
M arie was so greatly shaken that she begged her husband, in
spite of the late hour, to stay with her a little while. She felt
it impossible to go to rest without having talked matters over
with him.
Next day, Emilie Thirriot had several fainting fits, so that,
for the time being, it was impossible to go on with the experiment.
Not until many weeks later did a second seance take place, this
time in the presence of several lawyers and medical experts.
63
First o f all, please tell m e, began Marie ere her husband had
had time to close the door, what you make of it all. Is it credible ?
Do you believe it possible that a human being is capable of
contriving such a plan, and, what is more, carrying it out?
Since you ask, answered Kerkhoven staring at the floor, I
gather that you yourself are . . . He paused, hesitating.
No need to mince your words, cried Marie. She killed
herself in order to take vengeance on her husband and Jeanne
M allery!
Its possible and even probable, he agreed. But that does
not necessarily imply that she also had the intention to get them
involved in a murder charge.
Oh, come now, Joseph, can anyone doubt that she had the
scheme in mind? T h e deliberate, malicious, and devilish business
with the box . . . the way she refused to call in a doctor . . .
the entries in the diary that were intended to bring suspicion
on the two . . . to incriminate the man so as to cast a slur upon
his name. . . . Surely thats enough. And yet you want me to
believe . . .
You asked me whether I believed such a thing possible, but
it seems to me you need no answer from me, said Kerkhoven
smiling. Not very logical of you. Further, you are falling into

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a very common error in ascribing an action to deliberate intent


when it was probably the outcome of an instinctive urge. An
action thus committed may often be far more gruesome than
one that has been carefully thought over. But responsibility in
the latter case is of a different order.
Instinctive urge, indeed! Thats quibbling. A human being
is a united whole, and cant be divided up into a conscious half
and an unconscious half. If you will have me believe that your
science holds evil to be something that need know nothing
about its own existence, then it seems to me that this science of
yours is no more than an idol which has been persuaded by its
priests to make a livelihood out of crime and sin.
Th ats not the point, Marie, said Kerkhoven with the
indulgent smile of a man whose profession demands patience
of him, and who, therefore, keeps himself in hand. Its not a
question of . . .
But it is, it is, interrupted Marie, vigorously shaking her
head at him. T h e picture we have been given shows such a
magnitude of villainy, such arch-cunning, that, twist and turn
the facts as you will, one cannot help asking oneself whether our
ideas of soul, feeling, love, and so forth can have any meaning.
A woman into the bargain! A wom an! a creature of my own se x !
Marie turned about, and leaned her aching forehead against
the cool door-post. She was shaken with sobs. Kerkhoven
walked up and down for a while, deep in meditation. Then he
came near to her, and said with a shaky voice, so profoundly
was he, too, m oved:
I respect your tears, Marie . . . but, honestly, I do not know
what more there is to say . . . except . . . that we have to
take the world as we find it . . . must compromise. Perhaps
one other thing remains to be mentioned. . . . Even in the case
we are discussing . . . agreed, the woman acted with malice
prepense . . . still, reflect for a moment . . . think of the
absolutely crazy amount of energy she needed to carry out her
plan . . . she forgot that it meant her own death . . . in her
absorption in the dream of seeing her husband and his beloved

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brought to book by herself, a corpse, placed under lock and key


by herself, a corpse. . . . Even in death she would still act as
judge, would still rule their lives. . .
Yes, yes, whispered Marie. W ell? What of all that?
I find there is an element of the sublime in it or, if you object
to the word, it is a remarkable phenomenon just as a thunder
storm is a remarkable phenomenon. A t any rate, so far as I am
concerned, I stand dismayed before such an achievement. Quite
recently I was told an extraordinary yarn. A t the hospital in
Alicante a rebellion broke out among the lepers. T h ey over
powered the nurses and attendants, streamed out of the building,
made for a neighbouring village, and demanded of the farmers
the toll of a kiss. I cant think why the story should have come
back to my mind at this instant. But just fancy, those lepers
wanting to be kissed! And imagine this Selma Imst whose last
pleasure it was to know that from the grave she would wield the
sword of revenge and pay those two out for having made her
suffer so acutely.
How could she be absolutely sure? Events might have run
another course.
Thats what makes persons whose impulsive energies guide
them through life so extraordinary. Th ey hardly ever make a
mistake. Its as if they were in league with a god indifferent to
good or evil.
Marie stood with bent head, contemplating her fingers. She
felt cold all over. There was an expression of frightened attention
about her whole person. It was as though she were listening to a
voice which warned her that if she pursued her way along this
road she would be lost. An abyss opened before her. T h e abyss
of knowledge and understanding. How could she avoid going
down into it, seeing that she yearned for knowledge and under
standing just as much as she yearned after the things that could
never be taught or comprehended ?
Vaguely, Kerkhoven surmised what was at work within her.
But he, too, was vacillating. How near he was to sacrificing
the world of reality and to taking up arms on behalf of M aries

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world he was to realise next day in the course of a lengthy dis


cussion with Martin Mordann.
64
Mordann was in bed. He complained that he could hardly
breathe, and that he had a pain round his heart. His forehead
was damp with perspiration. On the invalid table that crossed
the bed lay a scattering of books, letters, manuscripts. The
window was open; and, since he feared the draught, on his head
he wore a grey golf-cap. On the first phalanx of his left thumb
he was wearing an immense signet ring o f great antiquity, a
ring as large as a bishops. There was something paradoxical
and challenging about these various peculiarities. His movements
were jerky, and recalled those of a capricious and ailing woman.
He greeted Kerkhoven with a grin, saying:
So you played about with occultism last night. Oh, I ve heard
all about your goings on. None can accuse my daughter o f being
an adept, but what she told me sounded scatterbrained enough.
I said to her, Y o u ve got a fine bee in your bonnet, my child.
T h eyve been hoaxing you, and youve fallen into the trap.
I had a rare laugh, you may be sure.
It delights me to know that I have procured you some
amusement, Herr Mordann. Unfortunately the sitting itself
was by no means pleasurable.
I know, I know. Y ou want to snatch the prey out o f Dame
Justices tigerish maw. No go; youll never succeed. I know to
my cost. Cases like those of Jean Calas and Dreyfus are not
rarities nowadays. Its no joke playing the part of your Yoltaires
and Zolas, I can tell you. But I never tried to go to work by using
a medium. Highly original. A nice change from healthy reason.
Y ou re right. W eve not met with much success so far by
using our healthy rational faculties, answered Kerkhoven,
laughing.
Mordann scrutinised him through half-closed lids.
Between you and me, Doctor, do you honestly place any
faith in that hum bug?

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163

Kerkhoven sat down on the edge o f the bed, and laid a finger
on his patients pulse.
Hum bug? he enquired. D o you refer to certain unex
plored forces of blood and mind? Granted, a man swims against
the current when he so much as admits there may be something
in it.
W ell, you see, any court of law would send you to blazes.
Its just as if one went to battle armed with a toy sword.
Still, criminal telepathy has now been accepted, though it
is a theory that has yet to be officially recognised.
Good, oh, good, chuckled Mordann. And you actually
believe that a dithering old woman, endowed with so-called
second-sight, is able . . . well, let us say, is able to restate a
conversation I had with Prince Bismarck on M ay sixteenth,
eighteen hundred and ninety three a historic date, mark you.
A private interview. There were no witnesses. Not a soul in the
whole world ever heard a word of it excepting our two selves.
I made some notes about it for my own edification, thats all.
And you believe that this psychopathic witch-wife of yours is
capable of . . .
He had pulled himself up in the bed, and glared at Kerkhoven
with mocking triumph.
Not only do I believe it, but I hold it as not at all improbable.
T h e gift depends upon certain influences, and upon certain
powers of concentration. . . .
Bosh! M y dear doctor, youre enough to send a man over
the edge. . .
Occasionally it does one no harm to be pushed over the
edge, as you say. You are not in a position to judge, because the
appurtenant experience is lacking.
I m not to be caught by such tricks. You and your experience !
A fellow who keeps his eyes skinned and refuses to have dust
thrown into his face is invariably excluded from the congregation,
and comes under the ban o f the Church. T h ats why priests of
all categories lead the large majority o f people by the nose. W hats
the upshot ? What are you asking me to do ? Give up a position

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o f intellectual security and go in for a metaphysical course of


treatment which will make my head buzz, so that I say Y es and
Amen to all your hocus-pocus. T he approved way is first to
discredit the rational faculty, and thereby to bring mankind
down to a lower level. A s if he were not already only too prone
to lapse from his high estate! T he whole thing can be reduced
to the question: How do you reconcile your occultism with
religion ? Or do I err in supposing you to be a believer ?
Maybe that question is the crux of the matter. I cant tell.
Besides it has nothing to do with religion
With what, then?
Obedience; a specific form of obedience; with obedience to
oneself.
Dont understand.
It would take you too far afield, Herr Mordann.
Now my good man you dont need to bother your head
about that. You can take me as far afield as you like. T h e question
is whether you wont get out of breath in the process, not whether
I shall.
You and I live worlds apart; we belong to different epochs
and speak a different idiom.
Thats a new idea to me. Hitherto nothing human was alien
to me.
Agreed. But what of the divine?
Mordann started.
W hats that you say ? W ell, of all the . .
His piercing and horrified eyes wandered round the room.
Then, suddenly, he crumpled up with mirth.
Youre priceless, he cried in glee. I ve caught you neatly.
Saint Darwin and Saint Haeckel must be turning in their graves.
Ultra-modern fog, manufactured by a mystically enlightened
man of science who appeals to the divine when he really means
a lot of conjuring tricks and sorcery!
He gurgled with laughter behind his hands. But all at once
his mirth gave place to a fit o f convulsive coughing, which shook
him in every fibre of his body. Hi arms flapped about aimlessly,

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165

his head waggled on his fat neck, his face went blue, the veins
on his forehead swelled.
Kerkhoven rang for Nurse Else.
Camphor injection! Q uick!
T h e cough seemed as if it wanted to burst the mans chest
open. It produced a sound that was a mixture of barking and a
rattle in the throat, it hissed like the wind from a pair of bellows,
squeaked like a rusty wheel, it was as horrible to listen to as would
be a materialised death-agony, and it penetrated to every corner
o f the house. Kerkhoven got hold o f the sufferers arms, and held
them in the air.
Oh God, hes dying, said a hoarse voice in his ear. Agnes
Mordann stood at his side. She was only half dressed, and had
not stopped to put on slippers but stood in her stockinged feet
close to the bedside, a lighted cigarette held aloft in her left
hand.
Throw that thing away, cried Kerkhoven peremptorily.
Yes, o f course, she answered, flinging the stump out of the
window.
As the nurse returned with the syringe, the coughing ceased
no less abruptly than it had begun. T h e man lay back among his
pillows, eyes closed, fists clenched, breathing irregularly. Agnes
leaned over him.
Do you want anything, Father? she asked. Then, turning
to Kerkhoven, in a hardly audible voice: Is there still hope?
He made a warning gesture and stepped into the middle
o f the room. She followed.
No immediate danger.
Can you save him? Is it in your power to do so? Or is he a
condemned man ?
Kerkhoven knitted his brows.
D o you realise what the world will lose if a man like that
dies? she asked threateningly.
Yes, I know very w ell.
One thing you cannot know, and that is . . . I do not mean
to survive him. . . .

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A dry, sharp laugh escaped her; it sounded queerly like her


fathers. Then she turned and went from the room. Her big
feet in the brown stockings created a singularly unpleasing
impression.

65
A ll this had been strange, uncanny, resembling a scene staged
under strong illumination so that the details stood out with
blinding clearness, until the lights were turned down for a minute
or two when at supper Marie had words with Joseph because he
had allowed young Johann to play truant from school thus, a
family jar blotted out matters of vital interest. For no particular
reason, the boy had pestered his father to let him have a day
off until, in a weak moment, Kerkhoven had consented.
And do you know how he spent the afternoon? queried
M arie snappishly. Playing around that old ruined wall at the
bottom o f the garden. It was a lie about his having a headache.
If you continue to encourage him in such cheating, a pretty mess
youll make of his education. Y o u re simply garnering trouble
for the future. In general, your ideas of bringing up children
are questionable especially for the great Joseph Kerkhoven.
T h e Lord preserve us from applying any of them to the young.
Really, on this issue, your blindness is remarkable.
Kerkhoven looked the culprit he felt, though he could not
resist smiling at the boys choice of a playground. About forty
feet of wall had crashed down with a thundering noise a few nights
before, and on the following day Marie had read in a newspaper
that an earthquake had taken place in Japan at that very moment.
She had got a local mason to give an estimate for the repair, and
was aghast at the amount. On laying down the newspaper she
had said rather peevishly:
A pretty penny that wretched earthquake has let us in fo r!
Whereat he had burst into hearty laughter.
So you are convinced there is a causal connexion between
the earthquake in Japan and the disaster to our w all?
O f course I am. W hy, I even felt the shocks. It happened
about half-past-two in the morning. I woke with a feeling of

SYNEIDESIS

167

desolation upon me, and then came the rumbling and crashing
of the wall falling down. . . .
Kerkhoven thought to him self:
T h ats quite possible. Women are specially sensitive to such
happenings, and Marie perhaps more than any.
Still, that an earthquake and a broken wall could have any
relationship to pedagogical error on his part, seemed to him so
deliciously inconsequent that he could not help teasing Marie
a little about her lack o f logical reasoning. She took his playful
ness amiss, reproaching him with negligence in the fulfilment
of his paternal office. It always fell to her lot to forbid the children
their pleasures, whereas he had a light task of it by weakly
yielding. Naturally the boys felt that Mother was the severe
taskmistress, whereas Father was a dear and one could get round
him.
Cant you see that for yourself, Joseph? Cannot you realise
that in the end the position will become untenable? Y ou, who
display so much wisdom and foresight in other affairs, who are
so unerring in your judgments of men, behave with so little
common sense in regard to your own children that I feel sure
bad will come of it.
You exaggerate, Marie. Honestly, you are grossly
exaggerating.
No, I m not, Joseph. That you can think so please forgive
me if I wound you makes me even more anxious. It is not
worthy of you, and of all your splendid characteristics. Love
purchased at such a price is bought too dear, and becomes a
crime.
She was right, he said to himself. Yes, he understood. Her
thought-processes were so marvellously clear. Y et, curiously
enough, his pride as a man, as a member of the superior sex,
revolted, now and again, against the inexorable logic of her
conclusions. He felt at such times much as a thief taken redhanded, and who is morally indignant when the stolen property
is found in his pocket. Still, as on the present occasion, he
invariably made good resolutions, and promised to amend

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his ways. Yet the good resolutions were merely another form of
weakness, for he knew very well that we are as incapable of
changing our fundamental characteristics as we are of modifying
a law o f nature. Nor could Marie alter her opinion that the
earthquake in Japan was the cause of the garden wall collapsing.
Our conceits and our self-knowledge have about as much relation
to reality as legends have to history.
T he kiss with which Joseph parted from Marie was a token
both of contrition and of protest. T o leave her out of humour
and unreconciled gave him a feeling as if, after putting up at
an inn, he had departed without paying the reckoning. This
alienated him from her, and she must have noticed that during
the wrangle he had only been attending with half his mind.
He was obsessed by the problem o f how to deal with Martin
Mordann. The fat, impish, intelligent face refused to remove
itself from before his mental vision, the face of the rebellious
old swashbuckler who had been forced to lie still. That terrible
coughing fit, too, rang in his ears and prodded him as though it
were the devils pitchfork. And the waxen pale countenance of
the daughter, with her devotion for her hated father, her deter
mination to kill herself if he died as if she were frightened to
go on living delivered of his crushing proximity. Sinister indeed
were these wheels within wheels. Never had a doctor been in
such a quandary, thought Kerkhoven as he paced to and fro
for unending hours in his rambling study; never was a death so
clearly needed as in the old mans case; never had a destiny
reached a more logical end. But how could he deliberately
permit a fellow-mortal to die ? Was he not condemning the man
to death, as Agnes had said with a womans mysterious and
penetrating insight? It is all very well to say in theory that a
patient must be saved by his own endeavours; must take into
his own hands the fate, must accept the responsibility, which
are beyond the scope o f a healer when death has tapped the
invalid on the shoulder. True enough; but the doctor must resist
death, must never join hands with death. The doctor has no
right over life and death. The imperishable soul lies outside the

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domain of human justice. Even if we regard illness as a form of


vice, even if maladies be the outcome of delusion or of crime,
he who arrogates to himself the privileges of executioner when
but one cell in a sick mans body is striving for renewal, is sinning
against the life-force. How strange that this mysteriously lucid
and comprehensive notion which had been formulated by his
friend in Zurich should suddenly and insistently occupy his
mind. The life-force; the vital impetus; the god-body,the godbrain, the divine substance; and, in amplifying counterpart
thereto, the unknown impulse in mans spiritual life, that some
thing which resembles a pulsating heart, the sustainer of the
vital programme, to quote his Zurich friend once more, the
sustainer of syneidesis; the infallible, primary, ineradicable
consciousness of protoplasm and the cell-State.
Eleven oclock had struck before he went to see how Mordann
was progressing. A thick green scarf had been draped round the
bedside lamp. Agnes was sitting by the bed, rigid and wide-eyed.
She took no notice o f Kerkhovens presence, not even changing
the direction of her gaze. He laid his ear to the patients chest
to note the condition of the breathing. The man lay as if asleep.
T h e temperature chart was on the table. T h e last entry, made in
Nurse Elses hand, registered io i . Kerkhoven stood up. His
eyes rested for a long while upon Mordanns face.
Here lay the man of filing-cabinet fame, the rebel, the alarmist,
the indefatigable writer, the master of words. Here lay the dying
tribune of the people. Kerkhovens dreamy and penetrating glance
bored through the skull, and made its way into the illuminated
and busy night of the brain. He saw the convolutions, the tracts
of yellowish-grey fibres quivering like the belts of a machine,
the plexuses, the twitching membranes, the hidden switchboards,
and the cerebro-spinal fluid making its way through narrow
channels. He saw the thoughts scurrying from post to post,
giving danger signals under stress of imminent death; he saw
the brightening and fading of images combining to form a
panorama that recorded sixty febrile years; he saw the dread
that enwrapped all as if in a pale mist; the ambitious dreams,

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flying swift as bullets; the delusions like a viscid black juice


clogging the finest fibrils a vast and admirably organised realm.
Where was there place in this realm for good and evil, truth
and falsehood, right and wrong, the hateful and the lovable?
Where, even, was there place for the utilitarian formula, the
distinction between the desirable and the undesirable? A t this
very instant, the busy activities might cease, or to-morrow,
or three days hence. Within a hundredth o f a second, eternal
rest might come into this walled cosmos, despite its power
(so long as life lasted) o f grasping the infinite. The illumination
would be over; there would be nothing left but darkness, the
darkness of what we call death, which is no less incomprehensible
than what we call life.
That will happen whether I will or not, mused Kerkhoven,
whether I try to hinder it or not. Perhaps I could have postponed
the end; perhaps I have, unconsciously, neglected to do so;
but against that we have the limits set by nature, the demand
that we shall trust our own instinctive promptings so as to be
in harmony with an inner and acknowledged law of existence.
He recalled how he had given the poison to Irlen who was
doomed to die soon and who longed for death: murder committed
for the sake of pity and love. At that time, during his first existence,
he had acted for his friend, the only friend he had ever possessed.
T hat body, too (could he ever forget it), had been the occasion
for precisely such a vision of organic working as he was now
privileged to have. To-night he stood with folded arms by the
bed of an enemy, and was giving death free passage. Mordann
was not, indeed, his enem y; but the enemy of his kind, the enemy
of God. . . .
He slipped softly from the room.
Agnes continued to sit motionless.

66
Next day Nurse Else told Kerkhoven with a look of astonishment
that Agnes Mordann, acting apparently at her fathers bidding,
had gone to Basle. T h e patient had rallied wonderfully after

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171

yesterdays attack. He was remarkably alert, and had dictated a


long letter to his daughter before breakfast. Towards midday,
Agnes got back and the nurse came to tell the doctor that Herr
Mordann wished for an interview, adding:
And theres something queer about them both. Th ey are
having a great altercation.
Kerkhoven made all speed to rejoin his patient. Before entering
the room, he stood for a moment at the door. No sound came
through it. He knocked. No reply being given, he went in. Agnes,
her eyes full of hostility, was standing with her back to the table,
braced up on her hands which clutched the edge fiercely. Mordann
lay in bed staring gloomily before him. Gripped in his hand was
a packet of letters tied with blue tape. He seemed to be cold,
though in spite of the warm March weather all the windows were
shut, and in the Dutch tiled fireplace a cheerful blaze was
crackling. A t times he cowered back among the pillows, for he
hated the noise o f burning wood. Kerkhoven, from hygienic
motives, refused to burn coal in the house; he would use no other
fuel than beech logs. Mordann had complained daily, begging
that his room, at least, might be warmed with a coal fire. He
looked upon these open grates as antediluvian monsters, and
when in one of his more than usually cantankerous moods,
preferred to lie in the cold.
Kerkhoven felt at once that a mighty quarrel had just taken
place. He looked questioningly at Agnes, but for all answer she
shrugged her shoulders.
T ell her to begone, growled Mordann.
I ve got to know what youre up to, whats going on between
you two. I promise not to interfere, I shall not say a w ord ; but I
must be present.
She went excitedly towards the centre window which was
slightly bayed, flopped down on to a chair, rummaged among a
pile of newspapers, selected one, and opened it with ostentatious
rustling.
You see, Doctor, said Mordann tartly, thats all the
thanks you get by having children.

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Thank God you have not got children but only one child,
came like a hiss from Agnes lips.
Right, right, theres something in that, answered the father,
asthmatically.
Silence reigned for a while. Then Mordann enquired in a
harsh voice:
How much longer do you give me . . . to live, Doctor? I
want a straightforward answer. Yes, I want to know the truth.
A short, harrowing laugh came from the window-nook.
Only an ignoramus or a charlatan would venture to give you
precise information as to that, answered Kerkhoven. I am
neither the one nor the other.
That was a capital roar, old lion. But it does not intimidate
me. Its nothing out of the usual. Cowardice, thats what it is.
Pull yourself together, and behave like an honest man.
You place too high a value on my capacity. . . .
Mordann drew himself up into a sitting posture. In his eyes
was a look of anguished pleading.
Look here, man, I urgently need six more weeks of life.
Bring all your talents to bear and use all the remedies your
science suggests to you toxic drugs, philtres, conjurers patter,
anything you like but I must have those six weeks.
Kerkhoven, with a curious movement suggestive of a bird,
rotated his head on his neck, and then asked, showing no
particular desire to know:
M ay I be permitted to enquire to what end ?
Most certainly. Before I m under the sod I want to refute
the lies and calumnies that are current concerning me. You
cant expect me to die peacefully while I m still besmirched
with garbage. I ve got to shut their maws, for they will not mince
their words when I am in the grave. I owe this much to myself,
I owe it to the whole of my past. In a word, I wish to write the
story of my life these last twenty years.
I can understand that very well. But, even if I could prolong
your life beyond the allotted span a thing you can hardly expect
me to do why should you waste this precious breathing-space

SYNEIDESIS

173

in useless discussion, why poison your last few weeks of life with
needless self-justification, with bitterness, hatred, and denun
ciation? T ry to die at peace with yourself and the world.
Damned rot! Have all of you gone stark mad? She, too,
Agnes over there, keeps on telling me not to let myself in for a
posthumous lawsuit, that what I have fought for and succeeded
in bringing about will speak for itself, will bear witness in my
behalf when I am dead. Piffling nonsense! C ant you see ? Is it
impossible to get the fact into your thick heads that all I possess
in the world is my fair name, that I leave nothing behind me
but my unsullied buckler. If those curs get their fangs into my
good name as they have into my person, they may well go in
fear o f the hand which will stretch itself from my tomb to seize
them .
These words, which were shrieked rather than spoken, shook
Kerkhoven profoundly, for they revealed that, besides the mans
persecution mania, Mordann was suffering from a form of
delusion which he had never met with before. Tribune delusion,
paper-immortality delusion; a deluded belief in the perdurability
of the printed word, of a name, as if it were something real, an
actual deed, stood behind these empty shells, this intoxicated
and arrogant desire for power, these filing cabinets with their
eighteen thousand entries. A memorable experience, mused
Kerkhoven; and a memorable moment that had brought such a
man before his very eyes. . . .
N ow you know what is at stake, continued Mordann.
If you can help me to carry my scheme to fruition, I shall . . .
I ve been thinking over the Brederode business . . . and I
say again, if you can keep me going another six weeks, I will
hand over the letters. Martin Mordann is not in the habit of
accepting gifts. I shall pay you for those six weeks, or, even for
five weeks. Y o u ll have the letters. Agnes went to fetch them this
morning. Here they are.
He held out the package, with a horrible and wheedling smile
lighting up his face, using the bundle as though it were an
appetising lure. Agnes could bear the revolting scene no longer.

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She sprang to her feet, let fall the paper, and left the room.
Kerkhoven sat down quietly on his patients bed, and laid a hand
on Mordanns shoulder as if he were trying to calm a person
suffering from delirium.
T ry to be reasonable, Herr Mordann, he said in a kindly
tone which he had so far never been able to introduce into his
voice during intercourse with this patient. How is it possible
that a man of your intelligence can harbour such an extraordinary
superstition? I cannot promise to prolong your life by a second,
once your day has come. You, yourself, alone have the power to
do so. How? By what means? I have already spoken to you about
that.
Frenzy and despair seized the sick man. His tongue clove to
the roof of his mouth. Then he succeeded in mumbling:
Again . . . referring . . . to the divine ? Again to . . . how
did you name it? . . . obedience? You dare to approach me
with that kind of idiotic, obscurantist claptrap ? Go to the d evil!
I never want to set eyes on you again. I ll pay whats owing, and
clear out. . . .
The almost unintelligible words stuck in his throat. Kerkhoven,
filled with pity, rose to depart. Thereupon, flinging back the
bedclothes, Mordann leapt up and scuttled towards the fireplace
on disgustingly hairy legs. Before Kerkhoven could intervene,
the bundle of letters was amid the flames. Mordann tottered on
his spindle shanks, then sank in a heap on to the floor, and
nothing remained of him but a mountain o f flesh covered by a
ludicrous rag o f chequered shirt.
Forty-eight hours later he died, and three days after that all
the newspapers of Europe, with flaming headlines, announced
that Martin Mordann, the famous publicist, had passed away,
the last of the great fighters on behalf of freedom and democracy.

BOOK

TWO

Alexander and Bettina

ALEXANDER

AND

BETTINA

67
M ar tin M o rdann s body was cremated. Agnes took the urn

containing his ashes to Vitznau on the Lake of Lucerne. Three


weeks later, on April 9th, she went for a boating excursion to
Beckenried. T h e boat capsized, and she was drowned. On that
same ninth of April, the great savant in Zurich, Kerkhovens
prop, the man he looked up to most in the world, the leader
in unexplored realms of science and general knowledge, passed
away likewise. Ever since his return from Java, Kerkhoven had
at regular intervals taken a week off so as to see his friend
and to spend many hours at the masters institute for cerebral
anatomy. Kerkhoven had been in Zurich about five days, and
on the eve of the masters death, read aloud the last work
that was ever to be penned by that revered hand. At half-past
one the same night, sitting at his writing-table, the veteran of
seventy-four laid his pen aside for ever and peacefully fell
asleep. A perfect death, unaccompanied by noise and comniotion, by sickness or pain, in the midst of his never completed
and always completed work. Few mourned him, few had heard
of him ; his fame lay in the future. When Kerkhoven stood
contemplating the body, he loved death. Before him was a
magnificent picture of collectedness, peace, and strength.
On that same ninth of April, in the evening, at a party of
friends who had foregathered to commemorate the passing of
this great man, Joseph Kerkhoven met Bettina Herzog for the
first time.

68
'l'his seems an appropriate place to give the reader some infor
mation concerning the dead investigators theories. His prime
interest was the study of disorders of the brain, considered from
the anatomical outlook. Disturbances of the organs rhythmical
working, those of the juices in which the nerve fibrils are bathed;
those that affect the ganglion cells; the changes that may ensue

178

JOSEPH

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EXISTENCE

upon or give rise to mental disorder; the obscure interconnexions


between vascular and nervous functioning; the difficult problem
of heat-stasis; the nature of the process by which substances
pass from within the blood-vessels into the brain tissue and
back again. T h e deceased had contended that some of the
substances which filter from the blood into the brain are noxious
to brain tissue; and these substances, he held, are not introduced
into the human being from without, but are elaborated in his
own organism, are part of his fated biological inheritance
whereby his mind is affected.
Unheard-of perspectives were thus opened up. On the one
hand his theories provided new foundations for diagnosis and
enlarged the field of therapeutic practice beyond anything
dreamed of as possible hitherto; on the other hand it was a
revival o f ancient medical views (another remarkable proof of
the unity of knowledge), of what was known as the humoral
pathology, which the Zurich investigator had deliberately in
corporated into his system. Thus, the human body, set in
motion and guided by an omnipresent spirit or organic being
(which could in the strict sense of the term be styled a super
spirit or super-being), was no longer to be regarded as a more
or less admirably finished machine, as a vitalised automaton,
as a mere product of chemical affinities and reactions.
No, it was something far more than this, something whose
nature was still barely conceivable, a nucleus of energies, a
nucleus interwoven into the universal life, belonging to and
inseparable from eternity. Furthermore, the energies of this
nucleus, according to the masters crowning formula, which
seemed strangely unscientific and anachronistic, were held
together by love. According to one of his latest utterances:
Among the highest of the functions of the central nervous
system, among those upon which human happiness primarily
depends, must be numbered the settlement of accounts be
tween the innermost ego and the all, and between the inner
most ego and the activity or inactivity of particular biological
and physiological forces,

ALEXANDER

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BETTINA

179

69
In a certain sense, Bettina Herzog was in full flight, her stay in
Zurich being no more than a postponed exile. She herself was
convinced of this; so were the two or three friends whom she
had made the journey to see. One of these friends, a young
X -ray specialist, wishing to cheer her up, had persuaded her
to come with him to the party. In a low-ceilinged, overheated
room whose four walls were lined with books, about a dozen
persons had assembled, among them four women.
As Kerkhoven entered, Bettina was overcome by a strange,
tense feeling which was by no means unfamiliar to her. She was
assailed by this feeling whenever she found herself in the same
room with persons from whom a special kind of atmosphere,
either mental or physical, emanated and this, whether the
company was a large one or a small one. T h e longer she was
exposed to the influence, the more intense became her discomfort,
which was the product of an instinctive endeavour to discover
the source of the magnetic attraction.
Scrutinising each face, she at last lighted upon one which she
recognised at once as being the author of her uneasiness. T o
outward appearance the man looked like a wealthy farmer or
landowner. Such persons are often to be found in Switzerland
visiting upper middle-class circles; but, since in the present
instance the gathering was composed exclusively of medical
practitioners and scientific investigators, this surmise would
appear to be incorrect. His chin was masked by a short beard
which in the dim light looked yellowish in colour later, she
found that it was streaked with grey. A man of fine physique, he
sat on a chair that was a great deal too small for him. He had
pushed himself back into the shadows. He had not crossed his
legs, and the attitude he was obliged to assume created an im
pression that he was far from comfortable.
In spite of herself, Bettina could not take her eyes off his hands,
which were broad, bony, and absolutely motionless as they lay
over his knees. Th ey looked like twin animals, cowering, on the
watch, protective.

i8o

JOSEPH

KERKH O VEN S

THIRD

EXISTENCE

He had been introduced to her, but she had failed to catch


the name. She softly enquired of her hostess who the man might
be.
Dr. Joseph Kerkhoven. Have you never heard of him ?
N o, acknowledged Bettina simply.
She caught the sound of his voice as he spoke to his neighbour.
A man with a voice like that . . . was Bettinas innocent
and comforting thought.
But except for an interchange of commonplaces, she did not
speak to Kerkhoven that evening. Though courteous, he was
obviously not a master of words. . . .
70
A few days after the party she went to Dolders for tea, and as
she sat sipping she saw Kerkhoven no more than a few feet away
leaning on the balustrade which framed the terrace. She had a
confused feeling that she had fixed up to meet him here. Again,
as at the party, she was inexplicably alarmed and excited.
Bettina was able to obtain a clearer impression of his personality.
His whole demeanour conveyed a taste for seclusion, a freedom
from inquisitiveness, a severe and weighty reserve, inward peace.
She hoped he would recognise her; and yet she was angry with
herself for having such a wish. I m crazy, she reflected; what do
I want of the man ? A doctor to boot. Doctors did not attract her.
Then he looked in her direction, for a second or two seemed to
be trying to recall her face, and she smiled a greeting towards
him. A spontaneous little nod, not meant to signify more than
a token of recognition. He bowed politely in return. His farmer
like appearance had not led her to expect so courteous a gesture.
After a while he got up rather clumsily and came to her table.
Frau Alexander Herzog, I believe? he asked in that marvel
lous voice which, Bettina thought, was enough of itself to instil
confidence.
With gentle raillery she replied, correcting him :
Yes. Bettina Herzog, Doctor.
He scanned her face closely for a moment, with the penetrating

ALEXANDER

AND

BETTINA

18 1

glance which physicians alone possess. Then he asked if he might


have the pleasure of her company.
This took place at twenty-past five. When he bade her good
night in the hall of the hotel where she was staying and where
they, the only guests apparently, had been talking since they
returned from Dolders, it was five minutes to nine. Bettina,
forgetting she had eaten no evening meal, went straight to her
room, and retired to bed exhausted and in a state of intense
mental upheaval.

71
T h e conversation had started with Kerkhoven asking after
Alexander Herzog and telling Bettina about the profound
impression left on his mind by the lecture he had heard in Frei
burg. He said that the mans tortured appearance was specially
noticeable, and he asked whether there had been any cause to
account for it.
N ot only has been, exclaimed Bettina. The cause still
exists.
She informed him that Alexander Herzog was suffering from
an organic trouble which was due to years upon years of constant
irritation and excitement. When Kerkhoven casually remarked
that she herself was not a brilliant picture of health, he got a
brief glint of grey-green eyes and an apathetic shrug.
Were it otherwise, it would be a miracle, she murmured.
Bettina was ill at ease. She doubted whether it was right to
talk freely. It seemed to her unthinkable. Besides, this man
who was showing her so much sympathy had probably more
than enough of other peoples trials and sorrows to bear and to
relieve. She sat looking at him. Little by little she plucked up
courage, and in the end all signs of hesitation disappeared. She
was unable to explain to herself this urgent need to speak her
heart out. Once started, her story rushed like a torrent which,
after being dammed up for an unbearably long time, breaks
through the banks and sweeps down the valley. And in the
telling, her story seemed to her so incredible, so improbable,
so fantastic, and so mad, that she could not but fear her newly

i 82

JOSEPH

KERKHOVENS

THIRD

EXISTENCE

acquired friend would take her for an hysterical liar. Y et she


could not even now bring herself to recount her experiences in
full detail, to disclose the events in their proper chronological
order, to say precisely what had occasioned them. When she
looked at him to see how he was taking it all, doubt would
assail her anew. For the most part he sat with head sunk and
half-closed eyes his fingers playing with invisible crumbs
on the glass-topped table. Occasionally, he raised his eyes, and
nodded to her encouragingly with an expression which seemed
to say, I knew about that a hundred years ago.
W ell, now youve got a sketchy idea, Bettina said after
talking breathlessly for two hours on end. M y life means Ganna.
Alexander Herzogs fate is Ganna. His and my unhappiness is
Ganna.
Kerkhoven fell into a brown study. After a while he asked
whether Bettina had a letter or other document in Gannas
handwriting. Delving into her bag, she produced an envelope
and handed the contents to him. He held the sheet before him
and contemplated, without reading, the large, pointed, hastily
written words. T h e shape of the letters had something weird
and fanatical about them. Having studied the caligraphy for a
time, he read from the beginning to about half-way through, then
he covered part of the sheet with his large hand and gazed
dreamily in the air while his features darkened. He asked abruptly:
Have you heard from your husband?
Heard from him? No. W hy?
How long is it since you left home ?
Six days. W hy?
He answered with unexpected decision:
I do not think you should have left him at so critical a time.
Bettina went a shade paler, as she whispered:
I simply could not endure it any longer. . .
She was annoyed to find that he was focussing his attention
upon issues which an old and ingrained feeling of defiance
made her loth to face squarely. Anyway not just now. Not at
this juncture. She had played second fiddle long enough. In

ALEXANDER

AND

BETTINA

183

this particular hour she wanted to be the centre of interest.


He guessed the current of her thoughts, but shook his head at
her, saying:
I understand very w ell.
She breathed once more.
Have you any grounds for suspecting? . .
she began,
resolved to turn her back on her own troubles.
In relation to him? T o be sure I have.
What do you think I ought to do?
T h a ts not so easily decided.
D o you think I ve done wrong in confiding my woes to you?
Have I acted without due consideration?
He laid his hand, or, rather, his finger-tips on her arm, and
said:
Please dont get such an idea into your head.
One does not always think before one speaks. Stealing other
peoples time is not my way as a rule.
Please do not bother about that, he answered somewhat
impatiently. W ill it make you easier in your mind if I tell you
I have no time of m y own?
All the more reason to be on guard, exclaimed Bettina,
clasping her hands round her knee. Then she whispered: Queer,
only now do I realise that this has been the most critical moment
))
Always the special case. . . .
She looked up at him enquiringly. Then, in a lighter tone,
he continued:
W e invariably come up against secretions if you w ill
forgive me the pun. There is an organ within you which desires
to put the catastrophe out of sight.
Catastrophe! Is it as bad as that?
I cannot get the notion out of my head. Especially where
Alexander Herzog is concerned.
It seemed to Bettina that her heart stopped beating for a
space. Clearly her narrative had lacked precision, and she had
failed to tell him the most essential points.

184

JOSEPH

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EXISTENCE

Do you think you could do something? she stammered,


aghast at her own temerity.
He smiled somewhat aloofly.
That was a silly question, I know, she went on shyly.
But I cannot help asking myself whether human power is of
any avail.
Human power is not much to boast of, and yet it is limitless.
So far as I can see the case is a peculiar one, although in certain
points it is typical. But . . .
But?
Better not press me too closely. I must think matters over
carefully to begin with. M y information is too scanty. A ll I can
be quite sure about is that this man must be saved. Then ,
seeing how wan and pale Bettina looked, he added: And he
can only be saved if you . .
He looked her through and through. A shiver ran down her
back. She wanted to get up and go right away. He asked in so
muted a voice that she sensed rather than heard the w ords:
Am I right in supposing you have ceased to love him ?
Shaken to her very soul, Bettina sat looking down at the tips
o f her shoes.
That . . . how can one . . . Oh, no . . . such a thing is
not . .
She broke off, and her head bent lower.

72
There was no shadow of doubt in Kerkhovens mind that Bettina
Herzogs longing to see a little of the outside world, to unburden
her heart, to rub shoulders with her fellow-mortals was due to the
twelve years of cloistral seclusion she had led with Alexander.
Yes, from the age of twenty-eight, for close upon twelve years,
she had been tucked away among the Styrian mountains, alone
with Alexander Herzog, and had nearly broken down under the
strain. For months past she had ceased enjoying normal sleep ;
every letter, or wire, or telephone call brought on an orgy
of palpitation (so she expressed it). T o Kerkhovens expert

ALEXANDER

AND

BETTINA

185

vision, hers was obviously a case of profound mental depression.


T o forget, only to forget, was the refrain which ceaselessly
went through her mind day in day out. T o be again with people
who conversed upon neutral or general topics, who were inter
ested in pleasant, cheerful, and beautiful things. T o forget
the horrible, gruesome pall of despair which clung to her home
and poisoned the air she breathed. Kerkhoven considered that
she was exaggerating, for she possessed the mobile imagination
o f an artist. Undoubtedly, he thought, she is exaggerating.
Still, as he watched her, and listened to her, the conviction grew
upon him that his surmise lacked foundation. Her clarity, her
sobriety, the vivid reality of her facts and statements, showed
that she was not guilty of exaggeration. T h e mingling of external
calm with internal fervour reminded him of M aries temperament.
Such a juxtaposition of incompatibles produced a wonderful
impression of vitality. It was the same with Marie. Yes, it all
fits in , he said to himself; I think I m on the right track.
When Bettina further informed him that she was a musician,
had in earlier days composed songs and sonatas which had
been considered good, played the violin, and so forth, he realised
that these artistic gifts sufficiently accounted for her excessive
sensitiveness and emotional excitement. But, proceeding with
her narration, she said:
For long years now I have bidden farewell to music, have
laid my fiddle away, my Guarneri, and it lies in its case on a
shelf like a coffined corpse in a churchyard.
She had no outlet now for her undoubted gifts, and the process
of crippling with which she saw herself menaced had generated
a condition of hypochondria which verged upon melancholia.
Persons of a primitive and animal disposition are able to make
provision for untoward circumstances; but Bettina, whose
senses were so acute, whose development had gone forward
upon so spontaneous a road, was at a loss unless she could find
a saving hand to rescue her. Kerkhoven kept his gaze steadily
fixed upon her while she told him about her life during the last
six months a strange and perilous affair. . . .

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K E R K H O V E N S

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EXISTENCE

Its getting late, he said at last, rising to his feet. You want
rest. During the next few days you may need me. I shall stay
in Zurich till the end o f the week. You can ring me up anytime
between ten and two.
He jotted a telephone number down. She thanked him, much
moved by his generous friendliness, little suspecting how soon
she would require his help and support. T he next day, in the
midst of her sorrow and perplexity, she recalled his words, and
wondered whether the man was a prophet.

73
By the first postal delivery, she received a letter from Alexander
couched in the following term s:
Ever since you left, dear Bettina, I have had the beginnings
o f a manuscript lying on m y work-table. It bears the singular
title: Confessions of an Atheist. I had thought to dig down
to the very roots of m y spiritual existence in the hope of finding
the fundamental error. I think you will agree that, in the absence
o f such an error, so overwhelming a failure, my present situation
would be unaccountable. Y et when I read the thing through
to-day, I recognised that my endeavour was futile. In the course
o f his career, every author has to face up to the fact that, by the
immense use he has to make of words, these come in the end
to lose both meaning and weight. Th ey grow featureless. What
he writes under such conditions, lacks absolute validity, can never
be incontrovertible. Th at is my case now. What I have written
fails to carry conviction, lacks the relentless force o f truth.
As I fluttered the pages from the end backward to the beginning,
each sheet seemed to me a dressed-up piece of putrefaction.
What has it profited me, Bettina, to mould and to forge?
I ve launched a score of books upon an unappreciative public.
What have I accomplished thereby? Has the torture of creation
been to any purpose? Where is the harvest for all I have sown
during the fifty-nine years of my life ? Even from among my most
intimate circle, from my home, I have been unable to exclude
ugliness and a nightmare of horror. A sorry plight for those

ALEXANDER

AND

BETTINA

187

whom I have lured into a deceptive belief in me. What is the


use of building where there are no foundations, of constructing
an edifice which no one will inhabit, in whose very existence no
one believes but myself? M y books are no more than ghosts,
swathes cut in a cornfield of illusion. Waste, waste; nothing
but wasted effort. There exists a disease of creation just as there
is a disease of action, such action which is a flight from the deed
itself. True, there is also a form of creation which is a deed, but
such creation transfigures and is akin to the divine. Into this
holy land the devil does not venture to set foot his breath would
fail him if he tried.
Elemental sadness has overwhelmed me, Bettina. It presses
on me like a strait-waistcoat. No longer is my thought-process
systematic or consistent. Dim ly I am groping for something,
but I am unable to find out what precisely this something is.
Can it be myself? Has m yself been, in days long past and in some
inexplicable way, stolen from me ? I have sought it and claimed
it everywhere, yet never has it been given back to me. It has
been a struggle not to throw the above-mentioned manuscript
in the fire. Y et I cannot bring myself to do it. Perhaps because
I am incapable of drawing the ultimate conclusion. M y ego in
its entirety, spiritual, mental, and physical, is in hopeless disorder.
M y feelings are no longer subject to my control, my sense of
time is disturbed; often it seems to me I am walking on my head.
I have only been playing with puppets, in a darkling world of
house and home, wife and children, debits and credits. Yesterday
I said to myself in a moment of mental stupor: there must be
a profound significance underlying the fact that men who wish
to meet themselves or God must go into the wilderness. Were it
not for our little son Helmut, I do not know what would happen
to me. Right inside me I feel there is a command to do som ething;
but what, it is hard to understand. Your letters are so queer.
What can be the matter? T h ey are so impersonal. One might
think you were writing from China or California. In the night
I ramble from room to room, and wonder why the doors and
windows are all shut. . . .

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74
B y the time Bettina had read this letter, her cheeks and hands
were as cold as ice. Tw o hours were needed for her to regain
sufficient composure to go out. As she was about to leave the
hotel, the porter told her there was a telephone call from Ebenweiler (the village where she had her home). She recognised
her maids voice over the wire.
Oh, M aam, I did not want to worry you, but .. .
Well, what is it, Anna? T ell me quickly.
The masters not been seen these three days. .. .
What ? Not been seen ? D o you mean hes goneon a journey ?
No, M a am. He just went off with his knapsack last Thursday,
without saying a word to any of us, and theres been no news of
him since.
T h e receiver in Bettinas hand seemed as heavy as lead.
Have you made enquiries? Gone to the police? Sent out a
search-party?
Yes, everything possible has been done, M aam.
Does anyone know which way he went?
He was seen in Steinach, and on Saturday afternoon in
Lossachtal. A sportsman . .
In Lossachtal did you say? But that is five hours by rail from
our place. . .
I know, M a am; and w ere all afraid something may have
happened.
I m coming home at once, Anna. G et in touch with the
mayor. Phone to all the towns and villages. Rope in the wireless.
Pull all the strings you possibly can. I ll get back as quickly as
communications allow.
She hooked up the receiver. Her teeth chattered. Pale as wax,
she made enquiries at the office as to when the Vienna air-mail
started. From Vienna she would have another seven hours
train journey. T h e air-liner started at six o clock every morning,
she was informed. H er next thought was that she would hire
a car. That would mean a fifteen hours drive even if she were
lucky enough to persuade a driver to make the journey. A lex

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anders car was out of action, for Ganna had issued a writ o f
attachment. Otherwise this would have served for at least half
the way. Then there was the express which left Zurich at eleven
every night. By taking this, she could reach home the following
afternoon. While making these enquiries, it seemed to her that
her heart must break with impatience. Railway-guide in hand,
she rang up Kerkhoven. She did so as precipitately, as unre
flectingly as one calls up the police when burglars are in the house.
Tw enty minutes later she was receiving him in her room.

75
W hile telling him the news, Bettina ran from window to door,
and from door to window back again, like a wild creature in a
cage. As she did so, she feverishly opened one trunk or the
other, seized this article or that, a gown, a pair of shoes, a book,
meaning to pack, but dropping the things before her purpose
was accomplished. She wanted to show Kerkhoven the letter
she had received that morning, could not find it, searched the
blotter and her bag. Meanwhile Kerkhoven followed her move
ments, fully realising how unhappy she was at the idea that
he would consider her slovenly. As a matter o f fact, he had
been struck by the tidiness of the room, thinking to himself,
this denotes accuracy o f mind and a love of order. One
cannot mistake such signs in the room a woman is living in.
Then she remembered that she had put the letter away in her
suit-case. She handed it to Kerkhoven. He read it with close
attention, several times, for the crabbed hand was not easy to
decipher. When he lighted upon the phrase, go into the
wilderness, he faltered. He sadly shook his head, while the
hand which held the missive sank to his side. Bettina, who
incessantly wrung her hands as she marched to and fro, suddenly
stopped and asked anxiously:
W hats the matter? How does it strike you?
This is so strange, he answered, pressing a certain line in
the letter as if he would fain put his finger through it; mighty

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strange. I too, once . . . the phrase is familiar to me . . . how


well I understand him. . . .
What phrase are you referring to?
The one about going into the wilderness. Ah, how well I
understand . . . an amazing analogy . . .
Bettina stood thoughtfully beside him, looking very small and
pale. With resolute cordiality, Kerkhoven said:
Now my dear lady, please sit down and calm yourself. Stop
wringing your poor hands, and tell me as accurately as you can
the message you received by the phone. Then well talk matters
over quietly.
She looked at him with a tense expression mingled with
grateful trust, a feeling which had grown and blossomed within
her like one of those fabulous plants which spring up for all
men to see under the conjurations of a fakir. Great indeed was
her need for some one in whom she could trust whole-heartedly.
Nothing else in the wide world did she crave for so ardently.
Obedient, she took a chair opposite him and recalled word for
word what the maid had said. Elbow on knee, chin cupped in
his hand, Kerkhoven listened.
Did you, before you left, have words with him? A mis
understanding?
No, nothing of the sort.
Was he put out in any way?
Put out? Good God hes been put out for years. Put out'
is too feeble a phrase. . . .
Yes, a chronic and abnormal lack o f cheerfulness. . . .
This letter shows that well enough. . . . What I meant was . . .
whether there was any reason . . . any unusual reason. . . .
Not that I know of. M erely the daily ration of horror. . . .
she answered with a wry smile.
H es not given to extravagant behaviour, to sudden outbreaks,
to . . . Or . . .?
No, hes not that way inclined. I ve never known a man more
collected, more equable, more nicely balanced than Alexander.
What I should have imagined.

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191

Yes. Still, when one lives under the lash, hunted down by
seven-and-thirty lawyers, with daily visits from the bailiff,
perpetual law-suits, so that one no longer knows whether
one is standing on ones feet or on ones head, with no time to
breathe, with no sense of security, with no hope that things may
improve . . .
Her face puckered, her control broke down, and, a prey to
despair, she screamed:
Oh, why cannot she be killed? W hy cannot she be wiped
from off the face of the earth? W hy not? Oh, why not?
She turned in her seat, pressed her face in her hands, and then
leaned her forehead on the back of the chair. Kerkhoven rose,
and placed his hand on her head. Flushed with shame, Bettina
muttered:
Forgive me, please forgive me. Its a sin to behave like this . . .
and silly into the bargain. But at times I feel I cannot go on
any longer. . . . And now the added anxiety about Alexander
. . . I am scared . . . it frightens me. . . .
Listen to me, said Kerkhoven. You must go home, and
not bother if the hours seem long. Better reserve a sleeper for
the night. I ll give you something quite an inoffensive drug
which will give you a peaceful night. Y o u ll sleep as soundly
as an infant. Bettina smiled at him through her tears. And
if you can bring yourself to believe me, it is my impression that
nothing serious has happened to your husband. I fancy he wanted
to hide his tracks. I mentioned the word analogy a moment
ago. Some day I shall tell you about that. W ell, my supposition
which is almost a certainty rests upon an analogy. . . . He
is in hiding. He needed to free himself from the chain. . . . It
is only what we doctors call a fugue. Can you understand? If
I am right, you ought to have news of him in two or three days.
Bettina, her heart filled with trust, and hope renewed, looked
up at Kerkhoven like a child at its beloved teacher.
Y es, she said. Yes. I am so grateful to you . . . without
you I do not know how I should . . .
There, there, dont worry about that, he interrupted,

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smiling down at her. What I particularly want you to take to


heart is this: possibly, and highly probably, Alexander Herzog
will . . . I mean that all these things cannot fail to have con
sequences . . . he may develop a . . . he may be very depressed,
morbidly so . . . his nerves are on edge. . . . Keep me
informed. Wire to me or give me a call by phone Steckborn,
Seeblick, will find me. I m at your service. If you think it neces
sary, or desirable, that I should come, you need but ask. I would
do a great deal for Alexander Herzog.
Bettina sprang to her feet, holding out both her hands:
Thats the most comforting thing you could have said to m e,
she cried. Now I no longer need despair.

76

Kerkhoven went again to see Bettina in the afternoon. A t tenthirty the same evening he took her to the station. He gave her
detailed instructions as to how she was to act if his prediction
concerning Alexander Herzog proved correct. Nor did he overlook
the fact that she needed to take care of herself, for she was very
weak and her nerves were shaky. Furthermore, with a marvellous
insight into the material and spiritual background, he spoke
o f Ganna Herzog and her destructive and maniacal persecution
of Alexander and Bettina. He told her the story of Karl Imst
and Jeanne Mallery, in order that she might know into what
dark abysses a woman could fall, when disappointment in love
and life had deprived her of ordinary human kindliness. T h e tale
made Bettina shudder.
But in our case things are different, she objected. Alex
ander lived with Ganna for nineteen years. He cared for her
every need, he carried the burden of her, and never turned away
from the sacrifice. She bore three children by him. He is a man
o f mark in the world, and there are many who look up to him.
How can one endure the thought that a mad creature like Ganna
may possess the power to murder him ?
Kerkhoven did not wish to acknowledge that this question
touched the core of his profound psychological interest. He had

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a keen nose for scenting out the unusual. Bettinas appearance,


her way of speaking, of looking about her, of walking, Alexander
Herzogs fugue, the letter he had written to his wife, all these
details made it possible for the physician to sketch in outline
the daimonic figure o f the woman who was capable of bringing
into the lives of these two beings so much unrest, so much pain,
and so much horror. In like cases, by a study o f spiritual effects
he had often been able to argue back to the scope of activity
and the nature o f the person who had produced those effects;
starting from the periphery of the movement and working
towards the centre of the movement. T he proof had nearly always
stood the test. Taking the case before him, contemplating it in
all its ramifications, its shocks, its convulsions, he had to admit
that a hard task lay before him.
Bettina could not help reiterating her thanks. When she had
said Goodbye to him and had taken her place in the train, she
felt a pain at her heart as if she were parting from a friend. He
stood waving his hand until the night swallowed up the last of
the carriages.

77
It was true that none of the household had seen Alexander
Herzog go out. For this reason it was impossible to say which
direction he had taken. When on Wednesday his enigmatical
disappearance was commented upon in the newspapers, several
persons said they had seen him here or there and had recognised
him. The fact that he had started with no more gear than might
be stuffed into a knapsack made it highly probable that he had
gone for a climb and had come to grief in the mountains. Though
search parties were sent out, their efforts proved unfruitful.
He, himself, at a later date, could not recall whether he had
fixed on a definite goal. Mechanically, he went to the station,
and took his place in the first train that happened to stop. At
ten oclock that night he got down, and pursued his journey
in another train. He had fallen off into a doze when, at mid
night, the guard shook him awake again at the place to which
his ticket had been taken. He found himself in a large village

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and put up at the inn. Next morning his head ached so fiercely
that he was obliged to keep his bed, and he did not leave the
hostelry until the afternoon. He was making for the station,
when he changed his mind and walked along the highway ten
miles to a neighbouring market town. Again he sought the shelter
o f an inn. T he information which, after he was found, he fur
nished concerning the first days of his planless wanderings, was
scanty in the extreme. Only fugitive pictures and impressions
remained in his memory.
While he walked, he would at times have the unpleasant
sensation of being double. He felt as though he were walking
beside himself, and philosophised sullenly over his incompre
hensible actions. A reflection that was constantly, though ob
scurely, returning to his mind was that it must be possible to
clear a living body out of the world. This out o f the world
became an obsession. T h e road was fatiguing and lacked dramatic
interest; walking did not come as easily as o f yore. A t times
weariness struck him like a sledge-hammer. He felt wretched
because his buoyancy had gone. I ve got slack, he said to
himself, I ve frittered away too much of my life. One thinks
there are provisions and to spare in the larder, but on opening
the door one finds it bare.
Especially fatiguing was a tramp he took along an endless
valley in the rain. He flung himself down on the wet moss;
his back and his feet ached exquisitely. Only then did he begin
to ask himself what he had in mind to do, whither he meant
to go. A stony radiance gathered round him, and fog was thick
in the air and on the ground. He felt he resembled K ing Lear
on the heath but he had no Fool and no Cordelia to bear him
company. He had lost Cordelia; the Fool followed him like
a shadow. This was a death-dealing Fool, the bitterest Fool the
world had ever known, and it followed him about everywhere
he turned, screaming at him in a hollow, raging, and challenging
voice. Gannas voice. . . .
Another picture, too, dug itself into his brain: he saw himself
climbing up a slope where the trees were felled, and his knap

ALEXANDER

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19s

sack weighed like a heavy rock on his back; the bark had been
stripped off the tree-trunks, which shone in the wet like bars
o f gold ; there was a disused saw-mill in a little hollow ; he crept
into a corner nearby the water-wheel, pushed his sack under
his head and fell into a sleep of exhaustion which lasted twelve
hours.
Somewhere or other he had been driven along in a motor bus,
talking to the peasants, to a schoolteacher, to a man who worked
on the railway. The teacher pleased him greatly, for he proved
to be a serious and reflective young fellow. When once more
he was alone, he remembered a scene he had been the centre
of a few months earlier in a German town. He had delivered
a lecture, and afterwards between eighty and a hundred young
people gathered round him, and assailed him with questions,
the answers to which they declared would be of the utmost
importance to them. Their eager eyes, their alertness, their
bright faces, rose vividly before him. Strange that they should
have chosen him as counsellor and finger-post, him who had
now gone forth to find himself. . . .
A whole day he had rested in a lumbermans hut, and sud
denly at nightfall he went off on tramp again. T h e luminous
sheen upon the mountain-tops had enticed him forth. Over the
peaceful landscape the moon shone down, turning the snow to
a pearly grey. W ith a sensation that almost amounted to greedi
ness he scaled the heights, leaving the mists below, and stepping
upward into the night as into a blue-vaulted cathedral. A goat
track wound among the rocks. For hours he kept to this path,
while the moon hung like a yellow-flamed fruit in the sky, and
threw every blade of grass into relief, each with its clear-cut
shadow. Abruptly the path ceased. He sought it until daybreak.
Clouds gathered, fog descended. He walked a hundred paces
to find himself back at the very spot where he had been before
taking those hundred paces. A dark something rose in front of
him. Was it a wall of rock? A bank of fog? A fellow mortal?
Himself? If it were himself he might be able to discover why
he had lived to the threshold of old age outside himself, without

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a brother, without a friend, without Cordelia; he might have


it explained why a Ganna had to set herself up against him so
as, unscrupulously, to contrapose a caricature to the holy ecstasy
for it was a holy thing which he served. He felt he had a
right to an explanation, to illumination on this point; such a
small mercy, surely he had a right to it; one ray from above,
a sign, a meaning. . . .
Was it permissible to turn back when one was expecting so
great a gift? He crept deeper in among the rocks, he wrapped
himself round in the woollen blanket of fog, he scrambled up
amid the snows, he felt thirsty and slaked his thirst with a
handful of snow, he glanced down at his watch. It had stopped.
An uncanny portent for a man who had, so to say, lived watch
in hand, for a man to whom every passing hour stood as a
witness. He turned to the right, he turned to the left, a flock
o f chamois sprang like ghosts over a ridge; his heart beat wildly,
the solitude resounded like a mighty bell. No, he must not turn
back . . . not turn back. . . .
And he did not turn back.
Towards nightfall two sportsmen returning from the chase
found him lying unconscious among the brushwood. They made
a stretcher as best they could out of branches, and carried him
down to the valley. Since, on coming to, he refused to say who
he was and he had no identity papers upon him, he was conveyed
to the hospital in the nearest town.

an excited and half-demented wire from Ganna which she did


not answer. Telephone calls followed, but Bettina refused to
go to the apparatus. Since, however, she wanted at all cost to
keep the woman away for Gannas presence, Gannas mere
proximity would, Bettina felt, drive her crazy she told the maid
to say that all was going well and good news was to hand. At
noon on Saturday came a wire from the head of the hospital
where Alexander lay. H alf an hour later, Bettina was off in a
hired car. At five, after a four-hour drive, she arrived at the
hospital. Breathless with suspense, she enquired if her husband
could be taken home. She was told that since no specific illness
had been discovered the journey would certainly do the patient
no harm. The somewhat grumpy doctor who was in attendance
was obviously at a loss, and his temper was not of the best as
he added:
He just lies there, and stares blankly before him.
By six she had got Alexander with her in the car, and at half
past ten, in storm and rain, they pulled up at their home in
Ebenweiler. Anna helped to put him to bed. During the long
journey he had not uttered ten words. Wrapped in rugs, he
had sat in the corner, hollow-eyed, gazing into vacancy. Bettina
was so absolutely exhausted, however, that she was glad of the
quiet, and dosed off and on as the car sped along over rough
roads and smooth. A kind o f somnolent indifference enshrouded
her, and she was content to feel his hand in hers.

78
Bettina reached home on Thursday. Little Helmut ran to kiss
her, his face radiant at her return. His first question was,
Wheres Daddy? How could a child of his age be expected
to realise that tragedy was in the air? She immediately got in
touch with the authorities; had notices printed giving a detailed
description of Alexander and had them put up in the neigh
bouring tow ns; sent a dozen telegrams; and got the whole village
on the move. Tw o anguishing days went by; she could not eat,
or sleep, not venturing even to go to bed, On Friday she received

His condition did not greatly improve. At times, after hours of


brooding, he might take a book in hand, but his eyes travelled
over the pages which conveyed no meaning, and soon he would
let the volume slip from his lifeless fingers. T h e food they
brought was pushed aside with every sign of disgust. Occasionally
he would seek Bettinas hand, and press his lips to it. Only
when Helmut, warned by his mother to be very quiet, stole up
to the bed on tip-toe and craned his little head to get a glimpse
o f his father, did Alexander show the flicker of a smile. The

79

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local doctor could make nothing of the case, saying it might


be this or it might be that. He could deal with a straightforward
disease; but the patient was not suffering from an illness to
which a name could be put, which could be looked up in a
medical dictionary, but from some anomalous complaint which
he had never before met with in the course of his practice. No
use prescribing medicines; and, as for questioning the invalid,
that was equally useless for he got no answer. T h e trouble was
mental; but here one was getting on to slippery ground. Really,
a psychological specialist should be called in ; only, if he suggested
such a thing, how would the wife take it ?
On Sunday, the day after she brought Alexander home, she
got into touch with Seeblick. She had twelve minutes conver
sation with Kerkhoven telling him how she had found the
fugitive, describing the apathy into which his senses were
plunged, furnishing particulars with so much precision that the
doctor could not help saying with a note o f gentle raillery:
Y ou ve missed your vocation. Such a report would have done
credit to a medical practitioner.
Bidding her give him another call on Thursday, he promised
to tell her what line o f action he had determined on. When,
on the appointed day, she gave her report, he detected a tone
o f despair in her manner of speaking. Immediately, he proposed
to come if his presence would bring her any peace of mind. For
a second or two she could not answer. Then she said :
Oh, if you really did that. . . .
T h e same feeling which had come over her when, in the
Zurich hotel, he had placed his hand upon her head, flooded
her now.
Very well, came his sonorous voice over the wire, for not
even three hundred miles could dim its resonance, you may
expect me on Thursday.
80
It was necessary to prepare Alexander for Kerkhovens visit,
even though the expectation of it might be disagreeable to him
That evening Bettina took her place by his bedside, and began

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to tell him about her meeting with Joseph Kerkhoven. A t first


she was careful to avoid mentioning that he was the famous
neurologist, confining herself to a description of his charac
teristics. Since Alexander knew that in her impulsive way
Bettina was prone to make sudden friendships with persons
who meant something to her and brought fresh interest into
her life, there was nothing to arouse suspicion when she laid
stress upon the mans congenial and engrossing personality
that is to say, if he was paying any heed at all. She could not
be quite sure on this point, and lest he should notice her anguish
at his dumb inertia, she exaggerated, and painted the picture
in the most vivid colours. Next day she returned to the charge,
mentioning in addition that there was a possibility of D r. K erk
hovens coming to see them at Ebenweiler on his way to Vienna.
O f course she would have to put him up. He had longed for
many years to make Alexanders personal acquaintance:
He has read your works, he loves them and appreciates them.
He heard the lecture you gave in Freiburg. He had much to
tell me concerning that evening, and the impression you left
upon him.
A fleeting look o f curiosity passed over Alexanders face, a
ray o f contentment such as no author can avoid, even though
he be lying on his death-bed, when he learns that his works
are admired. Bettina then went on to expatiate upon the achieve
ments of her new friend in the realms o f science and medicine,
saying that he had by his researches revolutionised the methods
o f neurological therapeutics (here, too, she allowed her tongue
to run away with her). She felt that a misgiving had arisen in
Alexanders mind at this piece o f information; yes, he felt sus
picious. He said nothing, however, and remained as dumb as
before, looking at his hands. Then, suddenly, Bettina wept. He
went pale, and made a gesture as though he wished to take her
in his arms. . . .
81
Bettina met Kerkhovens train.
When I was younger, such a journey would have been

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childs play, he said. At least twice every month I d be all


day travelling and not feel a penny the worse. Nowadays . . . not
that I m tired, not in the very least . . . but my relationship to
time has altered. M aybe that is because one becomes poorer in
this commodity year by year; or may be one comes to realise
ever more keenly the essential futility of life.
I cant picture you tired, said Bettina.
He laughed as he rejoined:
Y ou re not far wrong. I ve always been on the go. Diligence
was wellnigh a vice with me. T o take a rest gave me an uneasy
conscience. A day was a worthless thing unless there had been
a programme o f action, an aim towards which I could strive.
T o spend an hour with persons who did not need me made me
feel as though I were standing before a burned-out house.
Same here, said she.
And its bad, very bad. Not to be encouraged. I ve had to
learn to take a breathing-space. Do you know what it means
to breathe with ones whole being ? Y ou ll have to teach yourself
how to do it.
Willingly, if youll show me the way.
She took him to the room she had prepared for him. They
stepped out on to a little wooden balcony. A magical landscape
stretched before them lake, forest, craggy heights, and a distant
glacier. Kerkhoven could not restrain a cry o f delight.
What a heavenly situation. It makes one want to stay.
Y es, answered Bettina, its lovely now that spring has come,
and on such a day as this. But remember, we have to pay for
it with five or six months of wintry weather when sometimes
for weeks on end theres not a ray of sunshine, the air is damp
and cold, fogs hang about the ground and blot out the view,
never the sight of a fellow-mortal with whom to exchange a
word, always alone with sorrow while ones husband is buried
in his work. . . . But what am I thinking of, she exclaimed,
pulling herself u p ; complaining again? That will never do.
There, there, he assured her soothingly, you dont need
to have any reserves from me. Quite otherwise. Just say any

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thing you please. Itll do you good. If one is for ever on guard
the result is internal stagnation, and a dread of life.
Only too true, terribly true.
She showed him her work-room. Bettina was very proud of
this room, for, in the course of many years, she had collected
a number of beautiful things around her, antique furniture,
Chinese embroideries and vases, landscape paintings, studies of
flowers, rare pieces of porcelain. T h e walls were adorned with
French tapestries woven during the Second Empire, bearing
designs of angels and vignettes of blossoms on a turquoise-blue
background. This was why the place had been christened the
Blue Room. Everything was immaculately clean and orderly,
restful to the eyes, befitting the picture Kerkhoven had
made o f her in his mind. T h e ample writing-table was covered
with papers, and when Bettina was called to the phone (Kerk
hoven noticed with displeasure that it had been placed on her
bedside table), he cast an eye over the documents. T h ey con
sisted of lawyers letters, messages from law courts, summonses,
distress warrants. Bettina came back, visibly paler and agitated.
Kerkhoven did not try to hide what he had done during her
absence, but said:
I ve been indiscreet, as you see. Th ats part of my profession.
And does this load sit on your shoulders then ?
Yes. Alexander has long since left all that to me, apart
altogether from . . . I never have a minutes peace. I fight tooth
and claw for husband, child, home, future. . . . M y cradle-song
did not give me to understand that a large part of my life was
to be spent in fighting lawyers, officials, and a . . . ah, I cannot
find the word to describe . . . And just at this moment, too . . .
She ceased as the door gently opened and Alexander Herzog
stood in the opening, shaven, bathed, dressed. . . .
Oh, Alexander, you darling, she cried surprised and joyful.
Well, you see, I felt I owed it to our guest to give him a
welcome, he said somewhat diffidently, going towards K erk
hoven with outstretched hand.
Delighted to make your acquaintance, answered the doctor.

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82
Bettina left the two men by themselves, while she went to see
about tea. After tea, too, she pretexted other things to do. The
next day, she carried on the same manoeuvre, always finding
an excuse to absent herself. Never allowing the real aim of
Kerkhovens visit to escape her memory, she even denied herself
his company, being content with one short hour a day though
she needed his support and had looked forward greatly to
strengthening their acquaintance. Even under this restricted
regime, he had time to open up before her eyes a world hitherto
unsuspected. He gave her back her poise, her self-assurance,
her self-confidence, her proper pride, and the realisation o f her
own value in the world. She had long been denied the joy of
being treated by a man as his intellectual equal; there was
certainly no priggishness or arrogance on his part in his con
versations with her; any subject which interested her, he was
delighted to thrash out as between comrades. The question of
intellectual equality did not arise where Alexander was con
cerned, for he was the most silent companion imaginable, and
was as tucked away in himself as a nut in the shell. In order
to reach his kernel, one needed first to break through the outer
husk of reserve and this was not an exhilarating occupation for
Bettina. She had no liking for extracting nuts from their shells,
and yet circumstances made it necessary for her to undertake
the job at times.
Kerkhoven used the utmost caution in his talks with Alexander
Herzog. He made no allusion to the authors present state of
health, and avoided a premature penetration of the Ganna
realm. He soon became fairly sure that, through a tragical
enchainment of weaknesses and evasions, Alexander had bur
dened himself with a heavy load of guilt in respect of Bettina;
his sense of guilt oppressed him, and it seemed now beyond
adjustment. What Kerkhoven set himself to do was: unob
trusively to arouse Alexanders attention; to travel along the
authors line o f thought; to present himself to the man whom
he had really come to see as a patient as no more than the

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practising psychologist wishing to exchange ideas with one who


was by profession a psychologist in the realm of imaginary
creations. T h e plan did not turn out badly. Alexander Herzog
produced the impression o f the corpse of a man in a yawning
grave, who is still knuckling the sand out o f his eyes, and who
dares not rise to his feet because he cannot free himself from
the weight of earth beneath which he has been lying. His
admiration for Kerkhoven was almost childlike. T h e isolated,
hidden, ascetic life Herzog had been leading for years, had rent
asunder all familiar ties, and had created within him the notion
o f being forsaken. He kept up a vast correspondence with every
imaginable type of person in Europe and America, people who,
finding themselves in a difficult situation and mental conflict,
turned to him for advice. But personal contacts were few and
far between. He had forgotten what it was to rub shoulders
with his fellow-men, and his intimate friends were for the most
part dead. Increasingly, as the years went by, he came to rely
upon Bettina and his little son for spiritual companionship. Thus
it was extremely hard for him to step out of the narrow circle
which had formed around him, and his work had replaced the
outer world so far as he was concerned. Kerkhoven felt that a
truth and a deep conviction underlay some words Alexander
had written in that letter to Bettina: there exists a disease of
creation. He buried himself in work; made himself invisible
behind his dreams and visions, pictures of a world more real
than the one immediately encompassing him, and hid there
while the Ganna storm howled outside, threatening to smash
to shivers the material existence he led from day to day. But
no one can cut himself off from life, can refuse to live a life
in common with others; in the long run one cannot take refuge
in flight and thus escape visible, palpable reality. When the
earth quakes and the walls of the house are riven, even the
most confirmed anchorite will feel terrified; on looking up he
will perceive that he is sitting amidst ruins; and not only are
objects around him shattered, charred, destroyed, but every
thing within himself likewise. Gone are his illusions; the world

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o f phantoms which he had upbuilded is no more than a rout


o f hobgoblins; the ideas for which he lived are lies; the men
he loved, he has thoughtlessly sacrificed while he spun in the
void. A cataclysm has overtaken him.
Such was Alexanders condition when Kerkhoven appeared
upon the stage. T h e doctor penetrated to the heart of the situation
at the first glance, even though Alexander did not seem inclined
to unburden himself. Aided by his fundamental naivety of soul
and his capacity for self-deception he shuffled out of his mind,
though he knew it well, the aim of Kerkhovens visit, and actually
contrived to believe that it was out of friendliness towards
Bettina that the doctor had come so far afield. From the first
this had given him a twinge of jealousy; impelled by this feeling,
he forgot his own mental disorder, and made up to Kerkhoven
like a woman who wishes to oust a rival. T o his surprise and
delight he found in Kerkhoven a conversational partner; one
who was not only his equal but from certain points of view
was his superior. He could not measure himself with Kerkhoven
where practical experience and insight were concerned; and the
doctors sound judgments, far-reaching vision, precise knowledge
of men of all classes and types, amazed him. What a life the man
must have behind him! And how lightly he carried it. Every
word he spoke was pleasant and genial, with never a trace of
conceit. Nor was it necessary to point your story; he met you
half way, guessing even your thoughts before they were framed
in words, and had the generosity to allow you to speak them
yourself instead of taking the words out of your mouth. Indeed,
it was a treat to converse with such a man. Yes, at last he had
met one with whom he could talk on equal terms, about books,
about pressing problems of the spiritual life, about the experience
of a landscape, about the enigma o f self-observation, and about
that most thorny of all questions, one which had formed the
nucleus of Alexander Herzogs cogitations for years illusion.
Alexander failed to notice how from day to day, from hour
to hour, he was being drawn out of himself more and more.
But Kerkhoven was alive to the fact. This was his purpose.

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Kerkhoven and Bettina wandered along the path bordering


the lake. He had spent the morning in Alexanders company,
and had not yet shaken off the impression the interview had
produced.
A dark and brooding mind; exceptionally so, said the
doctor, and a prey to his instincts in a way I have seldom
met with before. He is full of ideas concerning a settlement
of accounts; perpetually is he driven towards an examination
of conscience. T h ats one side of the medal. And the other?
All his activities are hampered by an unconscious and primitive
urge to postpone decisions, to defer judgment. He cannot break
away from this circle. . . .
A very correct characterisation, admitted Bettina in a sub
dued voice. Still we must not forget the achievement which
lies behind such truths. One is so apt to forget. And by one,
I mean myself. Perhaps a man of his quality can only be accurately
appraised from a distance.
You are right. It is the same with mountain masses which,
they too, can only be appreciated in their totality from afar.
He is undoubtedly a massive whole, weighty and extensive, and
hard to approach. Such as he ought to have no intimates; neither
wife nor child. Their very existence conflicts with what people
speak of as the sanctity of family life. But, I have to admit, he
is highly congenial to my humour. Foolish expression, highly
congenial. M y feeling goes so much wider afield. It has nothing
to do with what you call his achievement. . . . O h, o f course . . .
that too has to be reckoned with . . . I m not a barbarian . . .
but the man has taken my fancy to such an extent . . . I might
even say and please do not misunderstand me he moves me.
. . . I could never have believed, that at my time of life . . . but
there are moments when one actually feels tender towards him
. . . He broke off with a laugh.
W hat you say has given me a great deal of pleasure, and if
I m to be quite honest I must add that I hardly expected things
to be otherwise. I have known . . . have felt like that myself,

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when I flung m yself and my troubles at random on to your


shoulders. You must not mind, for it really is so.
We dont know yet who has won thereby or who is likely
to get the most out o f it, Kerkhoven answered politely and
warily.
Enough of these Chinese formalities, my dear doctor; its
tim e we came to more serious matters. M ay I ask what you think
of Alexander Herzog as a case?
He hesitated a moment before replying:
Not so easy to answer as you may imagine. I ll be frank
with you. His collapse is far more extensive and far more pro
found than might appear on the surface. In addition to the
long-standing organic trouble, I find there is a manic-depressive
state. Accompanying these are cyclothymic vacillations, such as
are characteristic of the artistic temperament, a morbid uprising
o f the soul followed by depression, periods of soaring activity
followed by periods o f paralysis. You need not be frightened.
These symptoms alone are nothing to be so very anxious about.
W hat puzzles me is . . . how to deal with that woman who
weighs on you as on him, though immeasurably heavier upon
him . . . shes like the knife of the guillotine coming down on
the neck of a victim . . . in all my life I ve never met with such
affair. . . . Y et, that notwithstanding, I m faced by a riddle. I
have not spoken to him about G anna; at the merest hint I saw
him shrink back into his shell. He gives me the impression of
being scared to touch upon the topic. It bites deep into him . . .
as if an ulcer were gnawing at his vitals. But to get at this vital
point . . . to throw a light on it . . . He stopped and reflected
for a minute. T ell me, my friend . . . could I persuade you
to . . . Oh, no; thats not your job. . . . I ll have to do it
m yself.
What have you in mind? Please explain.
A gesture, an act which will set him free. A spiritual self
deliverance.
I m all at sea.
We often have recourse to self-portraiture as a means o f

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treatment. Could not we make use of his faculty, his passion


for identifying himself with an object and at the same time
divorcing himself from that same object . . . by these means
to give particular truth precedence over generalised truth . . .
factual truth over detail. . . . Got my idea? If we could persuade
him to write the whole thing down on paper . . . reconstitute
from the start . . . incident by incident . . . year by year. . .
An old peasant woman went by carrying a basket on her head;
she greeted Bettina, country fashion, but looked suspiciously at
the stranger. For a while, Bettinas eyes travelled meditatively
over the lake. After a prolonged silence, she said:
That may be a way out. Yes, maybe thats the solution. . . .
Without speaking any further they strolled back to the garden
gate. Not until reaching this gate was Kerkhoven able to wrench
himself away from his reflections. He contemplated the thick
carpet of moss from which sprang the lofty pines and fir trees.
Then he said:
A beautiful place. A lovely piece of property, an exquisite
possession.
W hich may be filched from us to-morrow or the day after,
cried Bettina bitterly. Perhaps not so speedily as that, but in
the end. . . . Possession is a trifle exaggerated. . . .
That woman? Ganna? Is her hand on this, too?
Where is her hand not, I should like to know? It clutches
at everything.
But you can protect yourself. . . .
Easy to say so; but its to no purpose.
H ow do you manage, then?
One sends in counter-charges. . . .
You have your legal terminology at your finger-tips, it would
seem.
She ignored his playfulness and retorted angrily:
Anyway, I ve kept the home-fires burning so far successfully
by using her own weapons against herself. . . . Could it be
otherwise? Corsaire corsaire et demi? Set a thief to catch a
thief!

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84
T hat evening, after Bettina had withdrawn to her room, the
two men went to the library. Alexander switched off the electric
candles in the chandlier, and kept only a standing lamp alight
He sat down on one side of the huge table which was stacked
with books. Kerkhoven took a chair opposite. He was the first
to speak.
To-morrows my last day. I simply must get back to work;
I ve been away a disgracefully long time.
A pity. M ust you really go? I ll miss you.
Thats a feather in my cap, said Kerkhoven, smiling. I
can honestly say the same of yourself. W e shall certainly meet
again shortly.
I m not so certain. You know, I m a regular cave-bear.
Yes, I know. But nevertheless, five or six weeks hence youll
come on a visit to my place.
Herzog looked up falteringly.
Is that an invitation or a command?
Both. I ve got a job for you, and since you are master of
your time and I am not, whether you will or not, youll have
to consent to returning my visit.
A job, did you say? Y o u re pleased to have your little joke
at my expense.
M ay I talk to you for a moment as if I already had the
privilege of calling m yself your friend?
W hy so solemn? You make me feel quite ashamed of
myself.
Is that really how you feel? Then why dont you speak your
mind frankly to me? W hy cannot you bring yourself to open
your heart, and tell me what is burdening it ? You are perpetually
wrestling with a resolve. W hy hide your true self?
Alexander Herzogs face darkened. He sat brooding, while
his fingers mechanically fluttered the pages of a book. Then
he said:
I am an old man, Dr. Kerkhoven. I hardly like to admit
it, but thats what I am. I can no longer go to confession, man

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to man, eye to eye. T h e inalterability of all that happens . . .


oh, dont I see it, too plainly, too painfully. . . . One cannot
get away from the nature one was born with. One imagines it
brings relief to talk oneself out, to foist on to anothers back
some of the garbage and horror one has accumulated about
oneself in the course of a lifetime. . . . What do you take me
for ? That sort of thing cannot help me.
Kerkhoven shook his head.
In the first place you may be anything you please but you
are not an old man. You dont look a day more than forty-five.
Theres not a grey hair in your head. Amazing. A sort of pig
mentary magic! In the second place, I should like to know
what age has to do with the trust, the confidence, a man owes
again I use the word subject to your sanction a man owes
to his friend ?
You are most kind, D r. Kerkhoven. But you see its all so
difficult. If my room is stuffy and full of smoke, I can open
the window and let the fresh air in. But when ones entire life
is a thing besmirched, when the past, the future, ones heart
and mind and imagination, are smothered in filth and horror
and when, in addition, one has to say to oneself: You did nothing
to prevent it; you took no steps, but quietly looked on while
all was being contaminated; instead of guarding your soul and
heeding its warnings, you have thrown it into the mouth of
Moloch Work and left it there so long that your inmost life
has been scarred and tarnished. In such circumstances, what
hopes can you hold out that the air will be cleaned by opening
a window?
Again Kerkhoven shook his head.
What you say about your work is a delusion. If I failed to
contradict you outright, you would have reason to reproach me.
M y dear Sir, my honoured master, you are to-day a man who
. . . but why waste words? Your conscious mind cannot deceive
you in such a matter. What a man has created out of his thoughts
and his work flows back to him. As to your other point . . . I
am not sure , . . I cannot see clearly. . . . But even here, is it

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not possible that you take an abnormal view, that you are allowing
your eyes to mislead you so that you see a caricature ?
No, my friend. N o! N o! Not alone have the eyes been
affected in the process, but the whole sensory and sensual
apparatus has been drawn in. O f course it is possible that I
am suffering from a sickness affecting both the senses and the
sentiments. . . . M ight well be. . . . But the process by which
they have been made ill that is a terrible reality.
Kerkhoven allowed a few seconds to elapse, before he asked
very softly:
How long did you live with that woman ?
Close on nineteen years.
You had three children by her?
Yes. A son and two daughters.
Children grown u p ?
The eldest is thirty, the youngest sixteen.
On pleasant terms with the children?
Yes. On the whole, good. T he youngest I am specially fond
o f her.
And the two elder ones? Are they a moral support to you?
Hardly. T h eyve been torn between father and mother ever
since earliest childhood. The mother is a volcano o f energy, and
possesses a power for hatred, a lack of joy, and a recklessness
which overpass description. T o a certain extent, the children
had to be sacrificed. In those days they were always having to
make a choice between myself and her. T h ey were never able
to come to a decision, not in their inner being.
W hy did you marry her?
Oh God, why does a man marry? I was twenty-eight. I
had no home, no place I could go to. . . .
Was it love?
I dont know. . . . Oh yes, it was love at least to begin
with. . . .
Hm! A man ought to know, muttered Kerkhoven to him
self. L ets get down to essentials. What sort of love was it?
We must tap the roots. Have you ever tried to find out how it

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began ? The course it took, step by step, social claims, the amount
o f free personal choice. . . . Yes, all these points must be faced
and tracked down. . . . Then, quite suddenly, everything w ill
become clear. . . .
He had risen as he spoke, and now paced up and down the
room, his arms crossed behind his back. Alexander Herzogs
eyes followed him; they were full of disquietude and excitement.

85

Kerkhoven at last came to a halt. Swaying slightly as he stood,


leaning over the table and thus bringing himself closer to
Alexander Herzog, he said:
Perhaps you have now grasped the kind of job I want you
to take over: a clear and comprehensive statement. Nothing in
the nature of a case-history. Certainly not. But a work, a genuine
piece o f work, embodying your relation to reality. A work con
ceived within the framework of your own philosophical outlooks,
your own experience of the instinctive life, your own profound
knowledge. It would be a document, and for you yourself it
would be the solution and a liberation. Your own nature, the
spiritual law of your being, will write it for you or, if you
prefer, it will write itself.
Spellbound, Alexander Herzog sat looking up with great
brown eyes into Kerkhovens face. At length he stammered:
You believe . . . You think that will . . . Pray forgive me,
but your suggestion takes me unawares. . . . Your idea is . . .
Yes, I see . . . might manage something. . .
M y impression is that the fruit has long since been ripe for
the gathering. You need merely stretch forth your hand. I shall
curtail my part in the business, restricting my action to the
functions of a guide. I shall show you where the fruit hangs
ready for you to pluck it. Rightly considered, L ife has presented
you with a mighty gift irrespective o f the attitude you happen
to have taken up towards her. Pain and wretchedness and sorrow,
all men are permitted to go under and get submerged by them,
when their energies for resistance break down; you, alone, may

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not. It is your duty to be the master of the slings of fortune.


T his woman, this Ganna, so far as I can see, seems to me
without a parallel; a creature such as God does not often set
up on two legs. Yet if I were to ask you to describe her now,
in conversation and I admit my curiosity is immense you
might try to make her character comprehensible, to portray this
or the other quality, such and such a mad freak and monstrosity.
But with the best will in the world you would not succeed in
making me see her face and realise with full vividness the species
she belongs to. In the end you would say in despair: only if
a man has lived through it can he realise what it was like.
Surely I need not remind you, of all people, of the miraculous
and mysterious power for character delineation bestowed on the
creative artist. . . . That would be presumption on my part.
N or need I emphasise the point, that there is probably no other
way of ridding yourself of the evil.
Alexander Herzog sprang to his feet.
Where did you get that idea from? he asked in amazement.
Kerkhoven chuckled.
Oh, one just stumbles over an idea now and again . . . he
said quizzically.
Now it was Alexander Herzogs turn to pace the room. There
seemed on the surface to be no logical drift in the words he
muttered as he walked.
Extraordinary . . . as if an angel from heaven . . . and it
never entered my head . . . everything fixed up . . . in two
months . . . in four weeks . . . nothing madder could have
shaped itself in a dream. . .
He spoke as a man intoxicated.
I must not hide from you, said Kerkhoven, breaking in on
the tumult, that I read the letter you sent your wife at Zurich.
There you mentioned a work you had begun Confessions of
an Atheist. Confessions? Well, I havent much use for them.
Too convulsive as a rule, to please me; they contain too much
introverted vanity. Atheist? This is our main bone of conten
tion. Godless, indeed! I ask you, can a man who creates other
human beings, or, if you prefer, draws portraits of his fellow -

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mortals, be a godless man? There is an immense difference


between the gloom of the godless and the melancholy of the
searchers after God. Next time we meet, I shall tell you about
Martin Mordanns death. He died under my roof. Yes, so it
was. His whole life was one continued confession of an atheist
an unintentional confession and a sadder end it has never
been my lot to witness. But you were saying . . .?
Alexander Herzog stared at Kerkhoven absentmindedly. He
had evidently not heard a word.
T h e only thing I m afraid of, he pursued, ignoring the
others interruption, is that such an undertaking will lead into
all the depths and abysses of existence, and that too great a
load of betrayal will ensue. You know what I mean. Ruthless
unveiling . . . pitiless exposure. The writer would need courage
which nothing could appal. . . .
Agreed, so long as he was not frightened at sight o f T ru th

Truth is a relative concept.


What you call betrayal has been, in any event, atoned for
through suffering. At the moment when you get beyond the
mass o f suffering, at that very moment you transcend truth.
The compass which will guide you is fixed in your own breast.
You will not forsake the foundations of your being, your instincts.
.Even if you wished to break loose, you could not do so.
T h ats comforting.
I think so too.
Stone upon stone, I ll have to build up a whole universe. . . .
Clay in the potters hand, dear friend.
And if I am struck with a palsy?
Such a thing is impossible. W ith the first step you will go
forward as on wings.
There are times when a man is frightened of his own creations.
I f I am to set down faithfully my activities and my life, my
errors and sins . . .? how can I, out of this my person, create
a figure of my imagination . . .? Never have I ventured to do
such a thing . . . ordinary human shame and diffidence have
held me back. . . . Is it possible to portray oneself as one really

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is . . .? shall I be able to believe that it is myself . . .? I, myself


. . .? dare I allow the portrait to be that of myself. . .? can a
man venture to put his hand to such an undertaking . . .?
That, too, is intimately interwoven with what you have
suffered. It seems to me, it is merely a question of taking the
plunge. O f course, I am speaking as a layman. Your gaze must
not be allowed to stray on to externals. You will be, so to speak,
hovering twixt heaven and earth, in the void, alone with your
God like Moses on Mount Sinai.
That sounds fine. But I m afraid you over-estimate my
powers. For the moment I am not sure o f my medium; I cannot
imagine how I am to live the hours from morning until nightfall.
It is possible that, having got half-way on my road to Sinai
I shall not be able to go any farther.
Should that happen, and it very well might, seeing how
constantly your life is threatened with disaster in this place,
well, i f it should, you will just pack your trunks and come to
me at Seeblick. Indeed your transfer there would have many
advantages. Y o u and I have so much to talk over. D id I not
warn you that we should meet again in five or six weeks time?
I ll see to it that you get perfect quiet. Y ou will be as hard to
find, as if you were tucked away on a Polynesian Island.
In five or six weeks . . . when I ve got into m y stride . . .
when the charmed circle has been broken. . . .
Just go your own pace, said Kerkhoven with a smile. You
are quite capable of producing in the time a fully fledged drama
o f the whole o f our earthly existence.
Be that as it may, I feel you have done me an immeasurable
service, an invaluable service, replied Alexander Herzog with
bowed head.
There is nothing you could have said that gives me greater
pleasure. Now lets go to bed, and have a good sleep. Both of
us need a rest. Goodnight, Herr Herzog.
He went up to his host meaning to shake hands before
parting, but Alexander was so sunk in thought that the doctor
turned on his heel without disturbing him and made for the

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door. Before he could reach it, Alexander came on hurrying


feet, and clasped hands for a full thirty seconds. Then they
separated for the night.

86
Bettina accompanied Kerkhoven as far as Salzburg, for she had
much to talk over. In addition, this half-holiday from the menace
which unceasingly hovered over her home was a blessed relief.
Ganna Herzog, with the aid o f la .vyers in her pay, was at present
engaged in a campaign with a view to damaging as far as possible
Alexanders fair repute and, o f course, Bettinas into the bar
gain. She threatened him with an action for bigamy, basing her
attack upon a formal error committed in drafting the instrument
o f divorce. Moreover she accused him of embezzlement, because
he was no longer able to comply with her exorbitant demands
for money. Although it was plain enough that he had bled
himself white in the endeavour to provide for his first family,
she was firmly convinced that he had large sums o f money safely
hidden away.
And we have nothing, cried Bettina, absolutely nothing,
not enough even to live on for one month.
But this is madness.
O f course it is madness, but a madness no legal code can
protect one against, said Bettina with flashing eyes.
She sat immersed in her own gloomy thoughts. Then she
reflected that she must make the position clear with regard to
the doctors fees for he, too, had to earn a living. After a while
she swallowed somewhat painfully, and said with a gasp:
I cannot tell you how annoyed I am that the business about
our financial situation should have cropped up just now, before
we had made arrangements with you . . . it looks too much
like an avis au lecteur . . . but I did want to know . . . please
dont be vexed. . . .
Aha! You want to know the length of my bill, Kerkhoven
asked drily.
Yes, please.

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Thats easily done. One hundred thousand Swiss francs.


Her jaw dropped, and he repeated with a self-satisfied smirk,
Yes, one hundred thousand francs or nothing. I could not
take less. And since we are neither of us of a bargaining dis
position, well settle on the nothing. I ll let you know later how
much my out of pocket expenses have been. T h e remainder
I hope you will put to my credit in your book of friendship.
Agreed?
But Bettina was beyond speech.

87
Alexander Herzog got up unusually early. He spent part
o f the morning in the library, foraging among books, and
pondering; tried to write some letters, but tore up the half
finished attempts; put a manuscript block before him on the
writing-table; took some old diaries out of a drawer; went to
the nursery for a talk with Helmut, but did not stay long. Then
before luncheon he strolled into the village. After the meal, he
swallowed a dose of bromide to steady his nerves, read his
letters, which had just been delivered, idly fluttered the pages
o f some books, and thereafter for a time stood motionless at the
window, contemplating his favourite tree, one of those mag
nificent hornbeams which are almost a forest in themselves. As
he looked into the tangle of foliage, a thought crossed his mind
the world of illusion. The world of illusion the term was
like a flash of fire in his brain.
Seating himself at his desk, he picked up his pen and began
to write, with a sense of impending toil, like a man facing a
mountain who, with stern resolve, begins the excavation by
which it is to be tunnelled.
He wrote far into the night. T he task had taken possession
of him. Day followed day, and he went on steadily with his
work. Process interlinked with process, image with image, face
with face; past became present; forgotten days were vividly
recalled; the life he had lived wa* a dark, sweet, thrilling inter

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play of clouds, shadows, confusion, guilt, and pain. T h e writer,


nevertheless, sunk in reverie as he guided the destinies of the
puppets that moved through his dream like satellites round the
controlling orb, remained thoughtful and cool, equally unper
turbed by love and by hate.
Follows what he wrote:

Ganna
or
World of Illusion

M IR R O R O F Y O U T H
S ix in th e Family. She had five sisters, four older than
herself, and one younger. Every one in the town knew the six
Mewis girls. When they were walking in company, they produced
the impression of a little army of amazons a phalanx ranging
from Lydia with her classic beauty to Traude with her graceful
charm. The commander of the army and the father of the six
girls was Professor Johann Gottfried Mewis, a shining light in
the legal faculty, full of vigour, a Barbarossa type. Six daughters
and no son, one o f Dame Natures little jokes. Humorous
prophets declared they would be founders of a new racial stock.
T h eir mother, Alice M ewis, had been one of the Lottelotts of
Diisseldorf. Lottelott and Griinert, United Steelworks. She was
an heiress. T h e family, respected and envied, being in easy
circumstances, had a house to themselves, instead of living in
a flat.
D u c k lin g . As far as bodily advantages were concerned,
there could be no question that Ganna was less gifted than her
sisters. From early days, she had been aware of the fact. The
way people treated her confirmed the information of her lookingglass, and she knew herself to be the ugly duckling among five
swans. W ell, as an ugly duckling, she had to hold her own
against these five arrogant swans. But it would not suffice to
hold her own; she wanted to triumph over them, being ex
tremely ambitious, and filled with dreams of a splendid future.
These were not the ordinary vague fancies of girlhood, but
definite pictures and ideas. She felt predestined for great
things, although the actual path had not yet opened itself
before her.
She was a difficult child to manage, and I have been told
that violent scenes and tantrums were frequent. When she was
ten years old, Professor Mewis used to give her a whipping
twice a week, as a preventive measure, to wean her from lying.
Savage; utterly futile, except to cause Ganna much needless

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pain. What were regarded as Gannas falsehoods were, un


questionably, nothing more than protective fantasies and flights
o f imagination. The whippings made her hard-hearted, and
filled her with vengeful feelings; they made her yell like a stuck
pig. Often, she flung herself on the ground, and thrashed wildly
with arms and legs. This infuriated her father. Once Frau Mewis
had to send for the doctor, because Gannas paroxysm o f fury
seemed unending. Irmgard, the fourth of the daughters, shrugged
her shoulders, and declared the whole thing was put on. Ganna,
she said, was doing her best to simulate an epileptic fit, having
seen such a fit a few days before in a schoolfellow.
I tell the tale as it was told to me. I was likewise informed
that the professor treated her very roughly on another occasion.
Like all tyrants, he was subject to outbursts of wrath, and in
one of these he had shouted at her: Y ou are a nail in my
coffin! Ganna, thereupon, fell on her knees, and lifted her
clasped hands towards him. Her sisters, with shuddering delight,
were listening outside the door, and thenceforward, when they
were alone with Ganna, they nicknamed her Coffin-Nail.
This shows that a duckling among five swans has a poor time
of it. Swans are cruel and pretentious birds.
Shes cocksure she is better than we are, said the sisters,
making common cause against her. Ganna shirked participation
in household tasks, and was therefore held responsible for any
thing that went awry. If a box of handmade paper was m issing;
if the bath overflowed; if a vase was broken; or what not who
was to blame? Ganna, of course. Look at her standing there,
with lowered eyes and the face of a martyr, scorning to defend
herself! How typical! D ont take so much trouble to feign
innocence, Ganna. W e see through your pretences!
They want me to lie! Punctuality was a fetish in the
Mewis household. T he professor had decreed that every one
should turn up for the mid-day meal on the tick. W hat usually
happened was that when the others were already seated Lydia,
Berta, Justine, Irmgard, Traude, the father and the mother, and
old Kummelmann Gannas chair was still empty. It was part

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of the family tradition that Ganna had a strong dislike for regu
lated times and seasons. Professor Mewis made as if he did not
notice his fifth daughters absence, but the muscles of his fore
head twitched. Frau Mewis looked uneasily at the door, and
suffered torments. A t length the missing member of the
family rushed into the room, her face flushed, her eyes suffused,
her hair untidy, and, while the father, tangling his fingers in
his red beard, glared at the late-comer, her sisters, models of
virtue, looked complacently at the tablecloth, fully convinced
that Ganna would now relate one of her customary fables. Poor
Ganna kept them waiting. She stuttered, cleared her throat,
looked so forlorn in her distress that she might have inspired
compassion; but eight pairs o f implacable eyes were fixed upon
her. Not a friendly word, not a helpful glance; and the story
she concocted to excuse her unpunctuality was by no means
ingenious. Beneath the critical glare, her words grew more and
more confused, until at length she dropped her excuses in despair
and seized her soup-spoon. Since at a later date I several times
witnessed such scenes, I have good reason to know that they
always ran much the same course.
T h e upshot was to produce in Ganna the conviction Th ey
want me to lie? She had to tell lies in self-defence. Lying
became as necessary to her as the discharge of ink to a cuttlefish
trying to escape its enemies. Truth did not satisfy them; they
would not believe i t ; it did not help her to a peaceful life. With
the result, that all her experience became a somewhat dis
creditable adventure, and by decrees her spirit ceased to feel
at home in the realm of unadorned reality.
Several Swans leave the Home Pond. About 1895, when
Ganna was seventeen, the elder sisters began to get married off.
One after another, as if through the spread of an infection, they
fell in love, became engaged, wedded, set up households o f their
own, and were not to be seen except in the company of the
respective husbands, whom they treated in public with an almost
unseemly display of affection. T h e memory o f three weddings in
brief succession was inexpressibly painful to Ganna. Her idealistic

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sentiments were mortified by the mingling of love with domes


ticity, of marriage settlements with public and private caresses.
So, at least, I believe. She made no secret of her contempt, of
her feeling that these fine swans had soiled their plumage. I
have seen an entry in the girlish diary she kept in those days.
There she wrote frankly: Nothing would ever induce me to
give myself to a man who seemed to me to fall short in the
spiritual sense. When Lydias husband, a professional womanhunter, made amorous advances to Ganna, she bit his thumb
so savagely that he had to wear a rubber finger-stall for weeks.
Shes a regular little devil, was what he invariably said of her
thenceforward whenever her name was mentioned.
Although the three whitest of the swans had thus been cleared
out of the way, two others remained, and thet.2 were more of
a nuisance to our duckling, being nearer to her in age. Nor
did the married sisters cease from pluming themselves upon
their exemplary behaviour and disposition as contrasted with
the lonely Ganna, backed up in this as they were by their
husbands, who were all well content with the decorousness,
intelligence, and domestic virtues of their spouses.
G a n n a s W o rld a p a r t. -She did not attempt to hit back.
What was not freely accorded her, she provided for herself on
the quiet, and with remarkable cunning. Artfulness is the usual
weapon of one whose reasonable expectations are left unfulfilled.
She even turned her scatterbrainedness to account in the securing
o f minor advantages. A culprit who can make his judges laugh,
predisposes them to clemency. I know persons who are
deliberately foolish because folly has become for them a means
o f livelihood. Gannas blunders were a source of unceasing
amusement to her friends and relatives. She put letters in the
wrong envelopes, confused one name with another, forgot
appointments, mistook times and places, left her umbrella
behind, lost her gloves, went out by the wrong door, answered
malapropos, lost her way when out walking. It was an unceasing
comedy o f errors. Have you heard about Ganna M ewiss
latest escapade? was a stereotyped question in her circle. T h e

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newsmonger would go on to relate how, a day or two before,


on a lovely summer morning, she had gone for a walk in the
woods, carrying under her arm a hairbrush which she believed
to be a copy of Nietzsches Beyond Good and Evil. Priceless,
exclaimed the auditors, and split their sides with laughing. These
little blunders were innocent, amiable. T he best of it was that
she was always ready to laugh at herself for her oddities, with
a laughter so charming that it made people forgive the prepos
terous things she often did in her absence of mind. She lived
in a world apart, which seemed to have been specially fashioned
for her own inhabiting.
Very like her Father. Professor Mewis did not cudgel
his brains about educational problems. When direct orders did
not suffice, there was nothing left but force. T he rebellious
spirit that animated her made him harden his heart against her.
If she were only off our hands, he was wont to say to his
wife; could we but find a husband for her! Frau Mewis shook
her head dubiously. In view of Gannas being so scantily fur
nished with feminine charms, it seemed to her mother that there
was little likelihood of discovering a man who would relieve
Professor Mewis of his daughter. Later she admitted this to
me with a laugh.
Nevertheless the professor was often inclined to think that
Ganna was more his own flesh and blood than the other, the
better-behaved girls. T he sturdy frame, the defiant brow, the
bold glance; the girls insistence upon her rights (real or sup
posed), her dictatorial ways and her hot temper did it not
seem as if Dame Nature had started to make a boy of Ganna,
and had only changed her mind at the last moment? Not one
of her sisters could vie with her in strength or tenacity. W ell,
these were .good points. And there was another. Often when
he was ready to burst from impatience and anger, she suddenly
seemed to him so quaint that he had forthwith to take refuge
in the next room, lest his amusement should become plain to
her, and his authority therefore be undermined.
What her Father meant to her. For her part, she was
H

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afraid of him. He clouded her youth, burdened it, laid it under


a spell. But respect, profound respect, was linked with her dread.
Substantially, she felt that it was good for her to be ruled with
a rod of iron. In childhood she was more keenly aware o f this
than when she was passing from girlhood into womanhood.
Perhaps the feeling was the outcome of the mysterious instinct
which for so many years protects and envelops the souls core, until
the wrappings are gradually burned off by desire and by will.
But even when she was growing up to become a young woman,
she was still at times aware of the obscure menace of her own
temperament, and realised her need to be kept under a tight
hand. Thus she once dreamed that a flaming whip lashed down
at her out of heaven; and the alarm in which she sought to
avoid the blow, helped her across an abyss into whose depths
she would otherwise have sunk to perdition.
Despite her perpetual revolt against her father, and despite
the innumerable wiles to which she had recourse in order to
evade his rule, she had unalloyed regard for his authority, which
her whole being recognised as supreme. Enraged and perturbed
though she was by the corporal punishment he administered
(continued until she was eighteen), a strange sense of volup
tuousness stirred within her whenever he struck her. He alone
was entitled to do this. No other human being in all the world
held such a right over her. When his powerful voice resounded
through the house, and when the inmates cowered in alarm,
her own dread was tinged with gratification. Something within
her said: He is master here, and it is good there should be
a master.
His outbursts of wrath were for her elemental phenomena,
as wonderful as a spouting geyser or a forest fire. Is it possible
for qualities to be used up? Humility, for instance; have we
only a restricted supply of it, and will the sources dry unless
they are incessantly renewed? Never again, I am certain, did
Ganna encounter a man like her father whose presence and
influence made her feel, axiomatically: I am glad that he is
master here, master even over m e! This was her ruin.

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Playing at Literature. Now I come to a ticklish subject.


In those days the cultured classes professed a sanctimonious
interest in written works o f imagination. It was good form to
talk of the modern movement, to have read Germinal and The
Kreutzer Sonata, to be in the know as regards the latest scandal
in theatrical circles; even though it was bad form to show too
intimate an acquaintance with such matters. One must be familiar
with the names of the books and their authors, in order to be
able to play a part in cultured conversation, even though
these names had little more significance than the names of the
dishes in a bill of fare. Young people talked much about life,
though they had never taken up a straightforward attitude
towards it; and they posed as enthusiasts for art when all they
could do in this field was to assume airs of superiority and to
parrot opinions they had read in the newspapers or heard
expressed by one who ranked as an authority.
A man who had some other profession than literature was
not supposed to show undue interest in imaginative creations,
for this would indicate that he was disposed to neglect his proper
avocation. Women, on the other hand, were free to indulge
a literary bent. Since they were the dictators of taste and the
leaders of fashion, their influence promoted a watering-down;
for, like the men, they were specially inclined to admire writers
of the second and third rank. Geniuses, first-rank creators, they
ignored. Those were the days of pinchbeck and of alloy.
As far as Ganna was concerned, however, matters were rather
different.
She imaginatively creates a World. She was confident
of being in the forefront of the true connoisseurs; where un
discovered country is showing on the horizon; where young
and tender fame is beginning to sprout, that, cared for by
devoted hands, it may grow into the strong tree of immortality.
In actual fact, there was something of an illuminate about her.
She was capable of being intoxicated by a work of imagination.
She knew good from bad, and had a contempt for mediocrity.
Tw ice a month she got together a number of friends and

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admirers, male and female, to tell them of her discoveries in


the literary world, and (simultaneously shamefaced and excited)
to read aloud some o f her own compositions. When she did
this last, her voice, usually clear and penetrating, was as muted
and husky as if her larynx had been choked with flour. It having
been bruited abroad that a critic upon the staff of a leading
newspaper had said of her philosophical essays that, though
undisciplined, they bore the unmistakable stamp o f genius, her
adherents rejoiced, although she, who had communicated the
intelligence which delighted them, was inclined to throw cold
water on their joy.
These literary meetings were held in the M ew iss back drawing
room, and had a semi-occult character. None of the other sisters
were allowed to attend them, Ganna taking the precautions of
a priestess who is determined to prevent divine service from
being desecrated by the gaze of the profane. An unqualified
person who had ventured into this holy of holies would have
been stabbed to the heart by a dagger-thrust from Gannas eyes.
Every one in the house knew this, and the young woman was
allowed to do as she pleased.
The meetings were no mere pastime, were not an amusement;
and those who participated in them took them very seriously
indeed. With how much justification could not then be deter
mined. For Ganna they were the higher world, a term which
was current in her circle, though somewhat derisively used. Was
it real, this higher world ? Did it exert an ennobling, an
enlightening influence? Hard to say! Ordinarily it does so;
and a strange light is thrown upon human nature by the fact
that an enthusiasm for imaginative literature and poesy is often
nothing more than the container of an inward vacuum, and
deliquesces into gush when the moment comes for an awakening
to lifes responsibilities. Even if the devotion be genuine, it is
to be turned to practical account, and no moral inferences are
to be drawn. Whether this was to prove so in Gannas case,
remained uncertain. Some day, no doubt, she would reach the
parting of the ways. She was still groping, in search of guiding

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principles, above all on the look-out for a model. No other


individuals could serve her as models, nor could the world of
actual life. Only in books, she fancied, was there to be found
the ideal of which she was in search, a creature like herself,
a phantasmal being full of enthusiasm, confidence, and sincerity.
T h e image fascinated her, it was her own poetical creation; she
fell in love with i t ; it justified her to herself.
As a matter of course a poet or other imaginative writer, if
duly accredited, was for Ganna the true significance of the
universe, the redeemer from the insufferable triviality of the
M ewiss world, from the marsh with the five exemplary swans.
She dreamed of herself as foreordained to play the part of an
Aspasia. But one who is to be an Aspasia, needs a Pericles and
an Athens. Even to be a Rahel Vamhagen, one wants a Goethe.
But where was a Pericles or a Goethe to be found in the unheroic
world of 1898? However, the function of dreams is to transform
the unreal into reality.
Myself. In M ay of this same year I removed from Munich
to Vienna. Shortly before, I had published a novel, The TreasureSeekers, and the book had attracted attention. Noted critics had
praised it beyond its merits, and had commended me for
sounding a new note a foolish phrase which had caught
on. Perhaps they had been impressed by the obscurity of the
contents, had regarded the disorderliness of the exposition as
a mark of genius. To-day I am astonished that it secured so
friendly a recepU n, that the immature work of a man of twentyfive was so favourably regarded.
T h e book achieved what is called a literary rather than a
material success. It did not become a best-seller, or relieve
me from my crushing financial embarrassments. Substantially,
I had run away from M unich, partly to get out of reach of my
creditors; and partly because a love-affair in which I had been
one of the principals had brought me into such discredit that
my best friends cold-shouldered me, and respectable citizens
crossed themselves when I was pointed out to them in the
street. In Vienna I had few acquaintances. No more than half

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a dozen admirers, and one can only count on admirers if one


does not ask them for practical help. It was a puzzle to me
what I was going to live upon in the Austrian capital, since
I had the most casual sources of income, and had no inclination
to earn my bread in the sweat of my brow. Happily I got into
touch with a few persons of means, who not only showed sym
pathy for me, but, having an itch to hobnob with a celebrity
of sorts, were willing to help me out now and again with a loan.
In a quiet quarter behind the Votivkirche, at number 8
Lackierergasse, I rented a huge room, in which the furniture
seemed to have been assembled haphazard from a second-hand
dealers. During the daytime I slept, spending the nights in
company with fellows of my own kidney at cafes or in the
Prater, where at that date there was a pleasure-ground called
Venice in Vienna a ludicrous and monkeyish imitation of
Venetian landscapes, with bridges and canals all complete. On
my way home, very late at night, I sang loudly as I made my
way through the narrow streets, and (like a drunken student)
rattled the point of my stick over the closed shutters of the shops
that I passed.
A day came, however, when I had had enough of the town.
Packing a knapsack, I set off on tramp: across the Moravian
plain, through the southern highlands, in the Bohemian forest,
along the Danube; with no means of transport but Shankss
mare, having rarely more than ten crowns in my pocket, per
fectly content with my own company, but glad now and again
to have a chum to talk to. For instance, there was a young fellow
named Konrad Furst, who had cottoned to me when I first
came to Vienna; like myself, he had literary ambitions, but was
a shallow-pated fellow, whose leading interest in life was amorous
adventure. Still, I valued him for his desire to be my travelling
companion, ascribing this to his admiration for me. I have
always been tickled in my vanity when people make much of
me. Then there was a certain David Muschilow, a red-haired
Jew, dramatic and art critic for the newspapers, who plumed
himself on his incorruptibility and his mordant wit. He was

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not quite so incorruptible as he fancied; and his wit got on my


nerves a little, for I am suspicious of witty people. Nevertheless,
both these men were good comrades. Th ey believed in me,
shared food and money with me, and were ripe for a lark.
O n the whole I was pleased with the change in my sur
roundings, for the fresh air and association with the friendly
Austrian countryfolk gave me the feeling that I had been reborn.
When autumn came to put an end to a gypsy life, I returned
to my sordid diggings in the capital (the room had been kept
at my disposal for a very moderate retaining fee); supplemented
the furnishings by the hire o f a cottage-piano whose keys were
browned with age; and made myself an infernal nuisance to
my neighbours by hammering at it for several hours a day.
Then I was seized by the desire for fresh literary creation,
though I had feared that the sources were dried up. Night after
night, when I returned home after having spent the evening
with my friends, I sat for a couple of hours at my writing-table
and let my imagination roam.
Effect of a Book. Strangely enough it was through her
fathers instrumentality that Ganna made acquaintance with
my Treasure-Seekers. One day a colleague of his at the university
had pressed the book into Professor M ewiss hand, with the
declaration that it was one of those which positively must be
read. Protesting somewhat crabbedly that he never read novels,
the professor nevertheless put the book into his pocket. U n
willingly he turned the pages, was enthralled in spite of himself,
and, having finished the volume, was forced to admit that there
was something in it after all. Being a professor of law, he
had been interested in the account o f a criminal trial though
this was no more than the framework of something more sig
nificant which lay beyond his scope. He could not appreciate
the artistic qualities which the book indubitably possessed. The
impassioned diction and the gloom of the whole setting were
uncongenial to him. Still, to the colleague who had recommended
him the volume he said: Not b ad ; the authors worth watching.
A good deal, this, from a professor of law!

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Ganna saw The Treasure-Seekers by chance when she wan


dered into her fathers study. She knew the name; it had long
been on her list. This was at seven in the evening. She took
it away with her, and by three in the morning she had read
it from cover to cover, had gulped it down whole, with the
eagerness of one who is swallowing an elixir and is afraid lest
a drop should be spilt. W hy this greed? I have often puzzled
over the question. M y book was certainly alien to her, could
not fail to be so, to repel her rather than to attract for its
charm must have been purely literary, and it was comprehensible
only to one who had had kindred experiences. However this
may be, the impression it produced on her was ineffaceable and
unquestionably genuine. Later, she often referred to the matter,
and perhaps she was inclined to exaggerate the strength o f this
first impression much as the winner of the big prize in a lottery
will be apt to declare that his fingers twitched prophetically
when he bought the ticket. There was a foreboding at work,
a conviction o f spiritual kinship. Soon afterwards she came
across my portrait in a publishers catalogue. Cutting it out,
she stuck it up with drawing-pins on the wall beside her book
shelf. As she did this she made a vow (I had the information
from one of her literary associates as well as from herself) never
to rest until she knew me personally. I may mention that the
print in question was extremely flattering. It has been lost; but,
as far as I can remember, it made me look like an idealised
brigand-chief.
A n I n te r m e d ia r y a p p e a rs . During the summer o f 1899,
Ganna learned from one of her girl-friends that I had been
living in Vienna for a year. But he leads a retired life, and it
is not easy to get to know him. Ganna had inflated fancies
about an authors existence, imagining that a craftsman of the
pen must be surrounded by a court, much like a crowned ruler.
She made a wry face when told by those better informed that
I was little more than a pauper. It was disagreeable to her that
her regal imaginings should be disturbed. She would have
written to me, but for her belief that my rooms must be snowed

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under by letters from other admirers. Besides, if the letter should


be ignored, she could not see any other prospect of getting into
touch with me. She reconnoitred my surroundings, and sought
acquaintanceship with various persons who were said to know
me. She told me once that she felt as if she were entering a
fiery circle whenever she came into contact with those who
had been in contact with me. She heard more and more about
me, met people who knew others that I met daily. She envied
these persons, was jealous of them. In the first letters she wrote
me, she told me so. At length, one day when the winter was
far advanced, she visited Frau von Brandeis, an old friend of
her mothers. This lady kept open house, as the phrase goes,
though on a modest scale. I had supped there several times.
Gannas conversation was always the outflow of her most heart
felt thoughts, so the girl made no secret of her longing to meet
me. Frau von Brandeis, herself something o f a bluestocking,
was not likely to misunderstand the nature of the interest. If
that be your chief desire, it will be easy enough to gratify. Come
to supper next Tuesday, and I will invite him too. T h e old
lady told me afterwards that Ganna, exuberantly thankful,
coloured red and white by turns, and kissed her hand without
saying a word.
First Meeting. A peculiarity by which I am still affected
constrains me to do whatever I am asked. It is as if I were
afraid of wounding or even of merely offending those who have
troubled themselves to make the request. Perhaps in many cases
this is merely the outcome o f sloth, which leads me, thought
lessly, to move in the direction of a push. That was why I
unhesitatingly accepted Frau Brandeis invitation, although I
had been unutterably bored at her supper parties on previous
occasions.
I have but a vague memory of the impression Ganna made
on me that evening. There remains the picture o f a young
woman whose dress was somewhat motley in its colouring, and
who was exceedingly restless in her movements. As to whether
she was well-dressed or otherwise, I cannot say. I have no eye

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for such matters. She was fond o f glaring colours, and for
decking herself out with shawls and flounces and furbelows.
A t table she said, with a smile and a side-glance at me, that
she had had an attack of vertigo on the staircase leading to Frau
von Brandeis flat. H er extravagant and hurried way of talking
put me off; but my hostess had warned me that the girl was
wildly enthused at the prospect of meeting me, so I was able
to make allowances for the exuberance of her behaviour. Two
or three times I scrutinised her inconspicuously. She was plain;
her features were too large; she was freckled, with bright blue
eyes; and her cheekbones were unduly prominent: but her
mouth was rendered charming by full, red lips, excellent teeth,
and an agreeably innocent smile. Her unusually small hands
were rather strenuous and masterful in their gestures. She was
aware of this trait, and tried to moderate it.
L et me repeat, however, that my first impression was vague,
and that this picture of her did not form itself clearly in my
mind until after several meetings. T o begin with I was little
interested in Fraulein Ganna M ewis, for I was thinking more
about my work than my actual surroundings. For my part, I
cannot have appeared attractive or amusing, cannot even have
looked like a man o f the world. In those days of poverty, when
I went out in the evening I sported a frock-coat, rusty, shiny
from long wear an antediluvian garment whose defects were
not compensated, but intensified rather, by a flowing and artis
tically tied silk necktie. When the meal was finished, I retired
to the smoking-room, and settled into an uncomfortable chair
(the best I could find). As I had expected, Ganna soon joined
me, and we had a good talk. M uch that she said surprised me.
I forgot her restless, crepitant mobility, as I came to recognise
her originality. All her utterances were characterised by a strange
mingling of folly and penetration. From time to time, the in
fection of a charmingly innocent smile made me smile in
response. What especially struck me was that she was inves
tigatory, appealing, and that she seemed to feel round her as
if in a dream. A strange being, I thought again and again.

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Y et already on the way home I had ceased to think of her at


all. O r when, as happened from time to time, I recalled her
urgent words and glances, and was reminded of the veneration
with which she manifestly regarded me, discomfort overwhelmed
me.
Magical Indications. Next day I received an express letter
from her. W hats the hurry about? was my thought. There
was nothing in the missive to warrant its having been expressed,
but the handwriting was as impulsive as her speech and her
gestures had been. Large, pointed, stormy characters, resembling
a meeting o f rebels against constituted authority. I cannot
remember whether I answered, but to the best of my belief
it was not until I had received a third or a fourth letter that I
troubled to reply. She wrote to me almost daily, and all her
communications were expressed. Only a few lines each time,
but in a finished epistolary style, not in telegraphese. I grinned
over them, thinking: A young woman who is writing to a
professional author feels that she must mind her P s and Q s.
W hat was the content? M oods: her happy amazement at the
new impetus which had entered her life; a request that I
should not thrust her out of my m ind; a greeting because the
weather was so fine; anxiety lest I should be ailing, for she
had had a bad dream. She was fertile in pretexts.
W hy did I at length make up my mind to answer? W ho can
tell? When one is so immoderately admired, one is impression
able. Even the most confirmed misanthrope has a weak spot at
which his vanity can be touched. But I was far from being a
misanthrope. Although I had had my share of unpleasant ex
periences, I did not begin to mistrust people until they had
twisted my neck metaphorically speaking, of course. Maybe
Ganna had never dared to hope for an answer; but as soon
as I began to answer, I gave her the right to expect further
replies. Thus does one commit oneself!
It was my careless way to leave letters lying about. A t this
time I was involved in a liaison with an actress, a charming
young woman, and very shrewd. One day she picked up a letter

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from Ganna, and, my protests notwithstanding, read it with a


sarcastic smile. Then she said.
Youd better watch out!
Why? What do you mean?
I cant explain, but youll have trouble with that girl if you
dont watch out. Just a feeling I ve got, nothing more.
Such was my first warning, which I recall very clearly after
all these years.
One day I happened to meet Frau von Brandeis, who made
a point o f asking whether I had liked Ganna Mewis. She sang
Gannas praises at great length. T he girl was highly intelligent;
an idealist; had a heart of gold; the family was a shrine o f civic
virtues. Buttonholing me, she whispered that it was a lucky man
who could wed one o f Professor M ewiss daughters. T h e for
tunate wooer would be in clover for the rest of his life. Just
think, a simple university professor with so many daughters who
could provide each o f them with a dowry of eighty thousand
crowns! I broke away rather impatiently; but, for all I could
do, the importunate old ladys figures went on singing in my
head. What can you expect? A man who is never sure whether
he will have cash enough to pay the rent of his room when the
month comes round, is naturally tempted, after such a con
versation, to do sums showing how all that money would free
him from financial worries for sixty or seventy years. Silly to
think of it and yet . . .
Meanwhile I had had other meetings with Ganna, and these
were on neutral ground. Complaisance breeds complaisance.
Nor must I conceal the fact that I was better pleased with her
each time. There was something irresistibly stormy in her nature
which set my more placid disposition athrill. T o my way of
thinking she had a remarkably self-contained and unified character.
T h e only thing that continued to alienate me a little was an
undue emphasis in her locutions. One day she said that the
sheen of the work upon which I was then engaged radiated from
my brow. I answered coldly that I liked people with dry hands
and a dry speech that the reverse was intolerable. W ith a

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startled and remorseful look she expressed her whole-hearted


agreement with my sentiments. But even now she overdid it,
like one who uses the loud pedal while playing some simple
air. Then I was touched on the raw when we were out walking
together and she expounded the basic theme of the book I had
on the stocks. Since I had not said a word to a soul about this
matter, I had good reason for being surprised. It was a motif
o f decline and fall exemplified in a particular social stratum
Parsifal in a modern setting.
No one but you could manage it, she said earnestly. No
one in the world but you.
I had all the discomfort o f a housewife who finds that the
cat has got into the storeroom. The door was locked, the win
dows were closed, there was not so much as a mousehole in the
wall, so that the intrusion smells o f sorcery. Divination? Perhaps.
That was Gannas own explanation. What she gave me to under
stand was, that she had lived herself into my thoughts, that
she was my destiny, was a part of me. O f course I may, without
realising it, have picked up a motif that was in the air at the
tim e; or she may have understood a hint I do not remember
to have given. Still, there certainly was something of the sibyl
about Ganna. She was a white w itch ; an energetic and courageous
fairy. It pleased me that with maidenly humility she craved for
my companionship; enjoyed my thrifty conversation, my sparse
instruction. Other women had not spoiled me in these respects.
The Inevitable happens. Thus it came to pass that she
cajoled me into promising to visit her in her home. W e settled
the day and the hour, and Ganna made arrangements suitable
for the reception o f an heir apparent. Orders were issued to
the sisters that none o f them was on any account to disturb her
interview with me. Subsequently Irmgard and Traude com
plained bitterly o f the system of embargoes which Ganna had
established during those early days. They would, they said, have
liked so much to have a talk with me, but Ganna refused to
allow them. When I entered the hall, a figure vanished wraith
like through an open door, and all I had time to glimpse was

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a stare o f astonishment in two dark eyes; and when, conducted


by Ganna, I again passed through the hall, on my way out this
time, another wraith flitted through another door, but now the
inquisitive eyes were blue.
Thenceforward I was a frequent visitor, and Ganna always
entertained me with an admirable afternoon tea. I had made
up my mind that the affair should come to an end when I
resumed my tramping life in the summer; but if I had seriously
wanted to carry out my purpose, I ought not to have told Ganna
my itinerary. Worse still, in my thoughtless communicativeness
I confided to her that in early autumn I was going to meet
a few friends close to the Upper M ond See, where I intended
to immure myself in a farmhouse and finish my book. Bubbling
over with delight she replied that this fitted in admirably with
her own plans. Her mother had rented a small villa close to
the Atter See. She and her sisters would probably be there until
October was well advanced. On her bicycle she would be able
to look me up, for it would only be about half an hours spin.
I was more than a little startled, and cursed myself for having
been so loose-tongued. Y et what could I have done? One must
talk about something; and if one is a little afraid o f stilted topics,
and of answering questions which, however innocently asked,
open up intimate topics, one is thrust back upon hard facts.
It was Gannas little way to cross-examine me. Her eyes brimmed
with tears whenever I showed even the most friendly reserve
or returned evasive answers. She had, she assured me, no one
whom she could trust. In her own family she lived as a stranger;
her sisters were her enemies; her father and mother did not
understand her; she would die o f spiritual starvation unless I
continued to supply her with the manna which alone could
nourish her. Her words touched me to the quick. I had already
seen plainly enough that the role of Cinderella was forced upon
her.
W ill you write to me? she asked, with a hungry look that
was almost irresistible.
I hesitated to promise. She urged, and at length I gave way.

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O h, well, I said, I ll see if I can manage to.


She seized my hand with a grip like that of a famished beast
of prey. Never shall I forget it.
Really and truly, you will write to m e?
I was anxious as I assented, but her charmingly innocent and
happy smile made the pledge seem harmless.
Some belated Marginal Notes. Once more came the
letters. Express letters. Once more the pointed, rebellious
characters marched across the page. Th ey combined to form
words, which spoke o f everlasting devotion, unfailing gratitude,
o f mated souls, and foreordained mutual dependency. I was
taken aback. Were these things so trivial that one could write
about them thus unreservedly and on the spur o f the moment?
But, truth to tell, I read with only half an eye. Often, when
I opened one of her letters, I felt as though it was essential
for me to thrust away the little hand which was gripping me
as if with the claws of a beast of prey. That summer my road
would still have been open before me, if only I had honestly
faced the situation. Instead, I humbugged myself. Freedom is
of inestimable worth. Woe unto him who allows himself to be
tricked out of this precious gift. He will pay for it in tears of
blood. It must be remembered that my mother had died when
I was a very little boy.
Contemplating myself retrospectively it seems to me that a
person like myself can only be understood by those who realise
that he is a typical recluse. M y merits and my defects are alike
rooted in this. I was always as close to truth as a machine-minder
to his machine, and yet I failed to perceive it. I tired myself
out in the endeavour to recognise it; but the images I formed
of it, the experiences it furnished me, were radically transmuted
by the process of galvanisation they underwent in my imagina
tion. Light grew heavy, fair turned dark, warnings fell upon
deaf ears, even pain and pleasure were often no more substantial
than breath upon a window-pane. I was so much introverted,
was plunged in so deep a Rip-van-Winkle slumber, that the
necessity for action was a serious shock to the organism, startling

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the spirit out o f its remote hiding-place and compelling it to


undertake a long journey.
This may explain a good deal. For when, one morning in
September, Ganna dismounted from her bicycle in front o f the
lonely farmhouse where I had rented an attic, and I hastened
downstairs to welcome her, what I saw was not a deeply flushed
face, a blouse wet with perspiration, a confused and wellnigh
febrile glance. It would have repelled me to notice these things.
I saw a creature fashioned by my own imagination. M y dominant
feeling was compassion. It was, perhaps, the transferred com
passion of the poets when they metamorphose a flesh-and-blood
figure into a product o f their own inspiration, and clothe it in
the trappings o f mystery which alone can charm them. A
tortured being, I said to myself; and my heart was enlisted
in her service. A fugitive, a loving woman, came to meet me,
a victim for the sacrifice, a hunted animal in search o f refuge
and a protecting breast, consumed by her own inner fires,
urgently in need o f tenderness and protection. Ought I to have
put up barriers? Ought I to have been cautious and considerate,
saying: Away with you! There is no place for you in my life!
There was a place. T rue, if I felt as I did, if I regarded her as
I did in my mood o f pity and self-sacrifice, during that moment
which was pregnant with the destinies o f thirty years it was
because o f Gannas overmastering will and o f the witchery in her
which had blinded me. But o f these things I was then unaware.
Alm ost a Confession. As we rowed across the lake, whose
banks were made glorious by the autumn fadings, I told her
about my past. I was now twenty-seven, and the story of my
life had been little else than an unending succession o f want
and care. Unless my vision was distorted, every day had been
a sordid struggle for the barest essentials of food, clothing, and
shelter. I did not go into details. W hy trouble her with these
degrading and detestable items? It would have seemed as if I
were making envious complaints. Maybe, too, my reticence was
the outcome o f a conviction that she, who had grown up amid
luxurious surroundings, would never be able to grasp the nature

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of a life of hardship and privation. Besides, I had an obscure


feeling that she would have liked such avowals, to strengthen
hopes I did not wish to nourish. Still, I must have been more
communicative than I intended, for several times her expression
was that o f a mother watching a sick child. I spoke much o f
my lonely tramps, saying that only in the countryside could
I endure solitude, which crushed me in the town. Towns
provided me with nothing more than dry bread, and not always
with that.
I hardly know what has saved me from despair, what has
enabled me to keep my end up through it all. W hy does one
go on foolishly hoping? There seems to be an inner light as
guide. Y et one is often tempted to let oneself slip into the dark
river beside which one has crouched in the attempt to escape
from ones fellows. W hy should one not seek death when ones
mind is filled with horror and disgust? It is strange, Ganna;
it is strange. At times when one craves for death and is ready
to die, there is still a little flame of eagerness for life. Then a
comrade one has forgotten appears. Then one meets a girl one
has never seen before. She smiles as she looks at you, and appears
to know all about your troubles. In the depths of misery, even
the most trifling happiness is of inestimable worth. Such was
the origin of that love-experience into which for three irrecover
able years I plunged as into a bottomless stream, and which,
when its painful end had come, left me even more impoverished
in spirit than I had been before.
What was going on in Ganna ? Thus, or in some such
words, did I talk to Ganna. But her side of the matter? T o
begin with, she was completely swept off her feet. In this con
nexion I must mention something rather ludicrous. Since the
first days of our acquaintance she had kept a memorandum book
about me, filled with thoughts and reflections concerning my
unworthy self, complicated disquisitions upon my character,
and page-long accounts o f the moral content o f my writings.
I did not know of this until much later, and I must confess that
I had a good laugh when she showed me the M S . book. Typical

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Ganna, I said to myself. She is one of those who, when they


fall in love, hasten to provide materials for a doctorial thesis
upon this condition when one feels ones life rising as if on
wings. But at the time when I made this jejune comparison,
I was already in a rather critical mood. Ganna took her notions
o f life out of books, and these notions stood towards reality as
a painted tiger stands towards the real tiger who gets his claws
into your shoulder. Still, what I had told her revolutionised
her ideas of me, and I could not but feel that she no longer
regarded me as utterly out of reach. That she was greatly shaken
by my recital was obvious; but it had become plain to her that
she had something to offer, something which (she hoped) I
should not be disposed to refuse. M y mode of life taught her
that there had been no improvement in my material circum
stances. I lived upon expectations, upon faith in my creative
genius, upon the kindly help o f friends, and upon the calculating
magnanimity of my publisher. In a word, I had no solid economic
basis. M y plans hung in the air, and my brow was furrowed
with anxiety. T he melancholy which often overpowered me could
be read in my eyes.
These considerations had their natural effect in Gannas
ingenious brain. What was the use o f being well off, if . . .?
W hy had the Lottelotts accumulated so much lucre ? T h e reason
was not far to seek. I t was within her power to help the m a n
she loved. Not merely to help him; she could establish him in
his spiritual prerogatives. The jubilation that overwhelmed her,
convinced her that she could hold sway over this man for whom
she wished to conquer the world. I did not fail to understand
her shining eyes and her caressive glances. But patience, Ganna,
patience! Do you wish to confer on him what you call your
wealth unconditionally, unselfishly, to-day, to-morrow, in a
storm o f enthusiasm, regardless o f conventions, settlements
and bonds ? That would be a splendid impulse, no matter whether
it should be practicable or not. Or must you have security,
a pledge; must the mans whole personality, his whole future,
be pawned to you in return for your bounty ?

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True, no such alternatives were explicitly stated; they loomed


vaguely in the background of our conversation. I do not think
Ganna understood the intimate significance of what was at stake.
W hy should not the man pawn himself? This would solve all
difficulties, would clear all obstacles out of the way. If he was
willing, she would make him incredibly happy, would cherish
him as the apple o f her eye, would be his slave, the guardian
of his treasure-house, his muse, the steward o f his renown, the
herald of his greatness. Everything, everything should be his,
declared her flashing eyes, her beseeching glances. Everything
should be his: her dreams, her ambitions, her talents, her life.
But, for my part, I had not yet fully grasped the situation.
The Charm of Novelty. One day she blurted out the whole
thing. Without preliminaries, and with the courage which, shortly
before, had led her to mount a bicycle and start riding without
any instruction in the art. I was perplexed, and for a considerable
time I could not grasp what she was driving at. She was afraid,
at first, to dot the is and cross the t s; and made several fresh
starts, speaking ever more plainly and eloquently of actual
possibilities, as she referred with increasing emotion and in a
spirit o f prophecy to the splendid developments of life and work
opened out by her proposal. Thinking the matter over after all
these years, I cannot but smile, for instinctively she behaved
like a salesman in a shop, who does not begin by producing
his most valuable goods, but shows them towards the end, and
with a feigned reluctance, after he has outwearied his customer
a little. When I had finally seized her drift, I was at a loss for
a seemly answer. I had never expected such an offer. It was as
if some one had asked me to become a settler on the moon.
I laughed at the idea, treating it as preposterous.
Perhaps there is not another man in Europe, I protested,
less fitted than I for married life.
But as the affair proceeded, by degrees her arguments took
effect. T h e first day I was outraged and antagonised; the second,
I was merely annoyed; the third, I was no more than a trifle
reluctant. In the long run I could not withstand her urgency,

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her vows and pleadings, her febrile anxiety to serve me. She
succeeded in convincing me (if not wholly) that she was not
parsimonious, but wanted to give with both hands. There was
no calculation, no chaffering. She was overflowing with tender
ness. Her eagerness to please me, to forestall my wishes, bor
dered on an obsession, and often filled me with shame. Had
I had any inkling that this sentiment of shame was the outcome
o f an unconscious impulse towards self-defence, I might have
acted differently. No doubt she seemed a trifle ridiculous to
me in her visionary schemes; but she was charming as well.
A man can find a woman charming though he does not love
her, being in that perilous condition o f uncertainty when resolves
clash with and neutralise one another. If I surrendered my hand
to her clasp, she sat as if under a spell during which a minute
seemed a joyful eternity; then she would lean forward and
devotedly press my fingers with her lips; whereupon I would
be moved to say D ont do that, please dont ! Such devotion
was new to me. T he woman I had loved, my first love, when
m y passion knew no restraints and I was ready for folly or
crime (and indeed near to crime), had coldly tolerated my
passion, had betrayed me and scandalously exploited me. That
was a wound which still festered. There was a delight in receiving
without having perpetually to give, unthanked and disdained.
Will you or Wont you ? Meanwhile things ran their
course. I did not say Y es and I did not say N o . A yes
would work havoc with my life, would make it like a planetary
system in which the invasion o f a comet from outer space had
suspended gravitation. A no, on the other hand, was difficult
to utter. Not that I lusted after the fleshpots of Egypt, but I
will not deny that I was somewhat weary o f the extant con
ditions o f my life weary of the petpetual difficulty in making
ends meet; o f the embarrassed looks o f my acquaintances when
I asked them for a loan; of the holes in my socks, which there
was no one to darn; o f the frayed sleeves o f my shirts; and of
the daily humiliations I had to endure from those who reserve
their utmost contempt for poverty. I should be glad to be freed

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from bitternesses and mortifications; glad to be able to fall asleep


o nights without racking my brains as to how I was to pay for
permission to use the bed. I should be glad to have no more
pecuniary cares. Ganna was right in believing that the manifold
petty troubles I had to endure would wear me out in time.
But that was no reason for casting sheeps eyes at the groaning
boards o f the well-to-do; at their richly supplied cellars, and
their jealously guarded money-bags. I moved in a different
world.
Nevertheless one o f my gravest defects was that I was almost
invariably overpowered by any one endowed with strength of
will and fixity o f purpose, because these qualities aroused in
me such enduring astonishment that I did not begin to put up
a fight until the person of stouter metal had already laid me
low. Then I persuaded myself that I had done my best, and
was glad to be saved the trouble of further resistance. Thus
Ganna had her way with me. During these days her eyes had
an expression such as can be noticed in Marathon runners who
gaze steadfastly towards the goal, each determined to reach it
before his competitors. W hy did she feel so pressed for time?
I did what I could to restore her peace of mind. She thanked
me in extravagant terms, but looked as if stricken to the heart.
I guessed her to be the slave of her impulses; and unless I
wished her to regard me as a pitiful bungler, I must try to free
her from her prison-house. But in the endeavour to do this,
I was forging my own chains.
One rainy afternoon she sprinted over, panting, on her bicycle,
tore upstairs to my room, flung her arms round me, and looked
at me as if she were about to be sent to the scaffold. Alarmed,
I asked what was the matter. W ith closed eyes, she shook her
head. Then, tearing herself away, she rushed out on to the little
veranda, climbed up the balustrade, turned half round towards
me, and, with a hysterical note in her voice, said:
Unless you make me yours, I shall throw myself into the
lake; I swear it.
Ganna! I exclaimed, imploringly.

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The farm was built on the edge of the water, which plashed
against the west wall. T he plunge of twenty feet might have
had serious consequences, but plainly she was mad enough to
carry out her threat.
Ganna! I called once more.
She looked at me, half appeased, half distraught, and stretched
out her arms. Seizing her by the elbows I said reluctantly:
Drop it, Ganna, please. D ont be so silly.
W ill you or wont you ?
I hardly knew whether to laugh or to show temper.
I will, yes, I w ill, was my hasty answer, for I wished to
end this painful scene, though I felt while speaking as if I-had
unexpectedly drained a cup of poison. She j'umped down from
her perch, fell on her knees in front o f me, and covered my
hands with kisses.
In later days I often thought over this affair, and my invariable
conclusion was that she had, for practical purposes, held a pistol
to my head.
Hands up, or I shall fire that was what it amounted to.
Whether the pistol was loaded or unloaded was irrelevant. Who
could tell? T o threaten with a loaded pistol is bad; but to do
so with an unloaded weapon, to bluff, is perhaps worse. A t the
time, however, I had no suspicion, and the possibility that she
might be bluffing never entered my mind. Besides, bluff is
too coarse a word, even if the pistol was not loaded. For me,
Ganna was a woman in the grip of elemental passions. I cannot
tell whether what moved me was masked selfishness or honest
compassion; but what I said to myself was If I thrust her
away, I shall destroy her. I could not face the responsibility
o f forcing her to an attempt at suicide. I admired her courage,
her resolution, her bold all-or-nothing. Strangely enough, more
over, the scale was turned towards assent by a stirring of my
own senses. W hile I grasped her thin elbows I felt as if I held
her quivering body in my embrace. She seemed to me so delicate,
so fragile. Tenderness and fragility in women has always awakened
my own tender emotion and inflamed my blood. Up till then

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I had done no more than passively resist the onslaught of her


feelings.
Perhaps that imagery o f a hold-up with a pistol is out of
place. So great was the tumult within her that she was no longer
able to distinguish between the warrantable and the unwarrant
able. Impulse, blind impulse, had taken charge. When there
is a rockfall in the mountains, the individual stone does not
deliberate whether it will dash out a wayfarers brains. Gannas
impulsiveness, her inarticulate passion, affected me like one of
the forces of nature.
Fedora. There had been a little colony of us beside the
lake, but we were thinning out as the season advanced. In fact
only two remained: my friend Fedora Remikova, a young
pianist from St. Petersburg; and D r. Eduard Riemann, an
extraordinarily able and well-informed fellow o f about my own
age, philosopher, scholar, and man of the world in easy cir
cumstances. I was more and more drawn to him, for I have
rarely met an individual so clear-headed and straightforward.
T h e two, who were close friends, had both of them been struck
by my wool-gathering wits and my discontent. Having often
seen me in Gannas company, they had come to the conclusion
that she must be the cause of my depression. Fedora had not
hesitated to question me about the matter. M y answers were
evasive, but I said I should like to introduce Fraulein Mewis
to her for I wished to see what impression the girl would
produce on so single-hearted and unprejudiced a person as this
Russian woman. W e arranged for a tea-party, at which Riemann
was also to be present.
T h e affair did not go off very well. Ganna was extremely
nervous. Her feeling was that she had been brought for my
friends to make a searching examination, and her mood was
that o f a criminal in the dock. Her attempts to appear perfectly
at her ease were almost convulsive. Fedora sensed her constraint,
and looked at her sympathetically. In course of conversation,
references were made to a work which at that date was being
widely discussed, Das Buch eines Rembrandtdeutschen, and an

ALEXANDER
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argument ensued between Ganna and Riemann, the latter having


no great admiration for it. I f I remember aright he stigmatised
it as a collection o f paradoxes for the mediocrities of the in
tellectual world. Ganna protested too strenuously. She was no
match for Riemanns extensive knowledge and masterly logic;
but, failing to realise this, she treated the philosopher with the
arrogance o f an opinionated flapper. Riemann smiled good
naturedly. His answers were courteous but devastating. Fedora
said little, but when her eyes encountered mine their expression
was questioning and critical. I admired Gannas courage, her
display of wide reading, and her readiness o f repartee. M y
friends unfavourable judgment o f her distressed me. In my
mind I made common cause with her, as if I myself were being
misunderstood, because an unlucky concatenation of circum
stances had prevented Ganna from showing herself to the best
advantage.
Her failure to produce the desired good impression on Fedora
and Riemann had not escaped her notice, and she tried hard
to improve matters. This was a mistake. T h e Lord knows
why she should have set so much store upon making Fedora
an adherent. She was lacking in fine instinct as far as such
things were concerned, and always behaved as if sympathy could
be enlisted by force. Ganna brought Fedora nosegays plucked
with her own hands, and wrote the most affectionate letters.
T o begin with, she believed that Fedora and I had been con
nected by ties closer than those of mere friendship. When Fedora
rectified this misunderstanding in the dispassionate terms with
which one contradicts a false statement in a newspaper, Ganna
embraced her fervently. This was an unpardonable error. Shortly
afterwards, when Ganna came to say goodbye, the day before
returning to Vienna, Fedora made a big mistake, being foolish
enough to advise Ganna against marrying me.
D ont do it, for his sake at least, if not for your own.
Ganna, eyes flashing with wrath, answered:
W hats in your mind, Fedora? How can you say such a
thing? Alexander and I belong to one another for all eternity.

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Fedora told me this a few days later, with a frosty laugh. I


can still picture her as she stood in the curve of the grand piano,
holding a handkerchief to her mouth. She was morbidly obese,
and was subject to attacks of asthma, which often came on when
she was practising. T o relieve the paroxysms she inhaled the
vapour of a fluid sprinkled on her handkerchief. Although her
figure was shapeless, her appearance did not lack charm, for
her stout body was surmounted by a Bellini head with wise
and penetrating eyes. She asked me:
W hats the actual position between you and Ganna?
Ganna is going to speak to her father about our marriage.
W ith your authority and consent?
Certainly.
But are you quite easy in your mind? No pricks of con
science?
Losing patience, I replied:
You are unjust to Ganna, who has a splendid character.
Really, Fedora, you are ungenerous, as one woman so often is
to another.
Fedora shrugged her shoulders:
These are delicate questions, my friend; extremely delicate.
Next morning I received a letter from her. I kept it for years,
but it got mislaid during the move to Ebenweiler. I know most
of it by heart.
Y ou ought to think twice and thrice before you take the
step you are contemplating. I implore you to wait and reflect
before committing yourself irrevocably. You cannot but love
your own future, love it as a pregnant woman loves her unborn
child. Your responsibility in this respect is heavy, for enormous
things are at stake. Venerate what destiny holds in store for
you. I am sore at heart. W hat disappointment can be keener
than when a friend fails to keep a pledge made to a friend,
which is likewise a pledge made to the world ? I f therefore you
are already definitively engaged,[this will seem to me treasonable,
and I should prefer not to meet you again.
This epistle did not have the effect Fedora had hoped for.

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It estranged m e; and I suspected motives which were incon


sistent with the writers nobility of purpose. The spirit of
contradiction made me take Gannas side. It would not suffice
to reciprocate her affection; I must be m y betrotheds faithful
knight and protector.
Next day I learned that Fedora and Riemann had departed.
Ganna takes a Vow. There is a matter of minor impor
tance which I have omitted to record. Only at that time was
it of moment, owing to my lack o f experience. Tw o evenings
before Ganna was to return to Vienna, we were sitting on the
shore o f the lake. After a long silence, I turned to her and
said:
All right, Ganna, it shall be as you like. But on one con
dition. I want a solemn pledge from you that you will give me
back my freedom if ever I should ask for it.
Ganna, assuming the manner o f an innocent child, who has
been mortified and ill-treated, answered reproachfully:
O f course, Alexander. How could you imagine I should
refuse? I should be unworthy of you in that case.
O f course, Alexander, is not enough, I rej'oined. You
must make me a solemn vow .
Contemplating me with girlish innocence, she raised her right
hand and pledged herself in G ods name. I was satisfied.
You may believe it or not; I was satisfied. I paid no heed
as to how the words might be interpreted or misinterpreted;
to the possible workings of tim e; to the significance of the word
G od in a philosophically enlightened mind such as Gannas.
T h e notion was that of a fool. When did a man genuinely in
love ever want such an assurance? When did a woman who
earnestly desired a man as husband ever refuse to give such
an assurance without a qualm, in the name of sun and moon,
of God Almighty, and all the angels in heaven? T h e years
change the most sacred of oaths into a jest, and memory is an
arch-traitor.
But when she left me that evening, I thought of her most
tenderly. There were moments when I mistook this feeling for

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love. Then I would say to myself: Love is a globule of quick


silver ; to seize it needs half a lifetim e; it divides between finger
and thumb, and you can never pick up the whole of it. Com
radeship was what allured me. Spiritual harmony (thus did I
reason) made love superfluous. There can be nothing wrong
in allowing oneself to be loved without giving love in return,
provided there is some other compensation. I could give tender
ness, tender understanding, tender protection, tender guidance,
tender trust. That was my path, and I was confident it was the
right one. I failed to notice that I was losing my way amid a
casuistry of sentiments.
Astonishment in the Mewis Household. Ganna had
promised me to say nothing about our engagement as yet, but
reticence was too hard for her, and within three days she had
blabbed the news to every one mother, sisters, other relatives,
friends. Frau Mewis made no secret of her consternation. M y
views have changed during the last thirty years, but at that time
the social system to which I belonged seemed to me absurd.
One of the follies of the epoch was that the well-to-do members
o f the middle class were as ready to talk of misalliance as were
the aristocracy. The last to hear of the proposed marriage was
the professor. Frau Mewis was afraid to inform him. If he
refused his consent, there would be violent scenes, and she
would be held accountable. You have been privy to the affair,
her husband would say. You have failed to keep a tight hand
over Ganna. T h e pressure on her was like that of the deep
sea on a sunken ship. It is only a question of time when the
wreck will fall to pieces. T h e more observant of her daughters
had long since begun to notice recurrent symptoms of mental
disorder. Her trouble was that which affects four-fifths of all
women of her station, the malady of lack of regular occupation,
o f a futile position, of automatic childbearing. When Ganna at
length told her father, and, inexplicably, the avowal did not
raise a storm, the old lady breathed freely once more.
I expected he would give her a thrashing, she said to
Irmgard and Traude. An author, a man of no account, with

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neither prospects nor money. Really, your father is a puzzle to


me. >>
I cannot m yself account for the fact that the professor received
Gannas news without an explosion of wrath. No doubt, he had
read my Treasure-Seekers. He did not (as did his wife) regard
me as of absolutely no account in the world. But an author
one is glad to have on ones visiting-list, and an officially recog
nised son-in-law, are not in the same street. Later, with peals
o f laughter, he assured me that he had believed hardly a word
o f Gannas communication, being convinced that the girl had
been letting her fancy run riot. A t any rate he decided not to
take the matter seriously until I approached him with a request
for her hand.
W ell, you have approached m e, he said triumphantly, with
a slap on the shoulders which was so hearty as to be painful.
He gave himself away a little with this immense cordiality, dis
closing how glad he would be to rid himself of Ganna. His
other daughters dominant feeling was stupefaction.
Shes got round Alexander Herzog, and shes got round Dad.
Our Ganna must have bewitched the pair of them.
In the swans language, bewitched denoted what I repre
sented to m yself as Gannas Pythian faculty.
A Suitor. M y conversation with the professor seemed to
me sufficiently important to be recorded in my diary, and I can
reproduce it here.
So you want to marry my daughter?
Its not so much that I want to marry her, as that she wants
to marry me 1
He looked at me open-eyed.
All right, he said, accepting the correction. Let us put
it that you are not averse to the idea.
No, I am not averse to it.
W ell, then, we can come down to hard pan. I suppose you
are able to provide for a wife ?
I m afraid your supposition is ungrounded, Professor. I am
not even able to provide for m yself.

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Engagingly frank. But you have prospects of better times?


Again I must rob you o f an illusion. I see no likelihood of
anything of the kind.
I dont understand. You are already of considerable note as
an author.
That doesnt bring enough grist to my mill, nor will it, so
far as I can see. I have no private means.
What do you live on, then?
Debts.
How much?
About three thousand marks.
T h a ts not a vast sum. You are young, and can look forward
to a pecuniary as well as to a literary success.
Perhaps so, but I dread pecuniary success as an author.
Dread it! W hy?
Because it would be a sign that I had made concessions
to popular taste, to the prevailing fashion. I dont want to make
such concessions.
I respect your determination. But how, in such circumstances,
can you think of marrying m y daughter?
T o be quite open with you, Professor, I could not think of
marrying her unless I knew her to be well off.
This was greeted with a hearty laugh, and the shrewd reply:
You mean, rather, unless you knew me to be well off?
T h a ts right.
A t any rate, youre not shy of the truth.
Truth-telling is my profession. Money is of little moment
to me. I want Ganna for my companion on lifes journey. I
think we shall suit one another. But I shall have to get on without
her if I am expected to provide for her in the ordinary middleclass sense of the term. Ganna knows that as far as earning a
livelihood is concerned, I must be free. I did not come, Sir,
to ask for your daughters hand, although my visit may have
that semblance. I came to give you an unvarnished account o f
my position, since Ganna is absolutely certain that she can only
be happy as my w ife.

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Yes, Ganna. But what about yourself?


I m very much attached to Ganna, and if I marry her shall
do so with great expectations you will understand I am not
now talking o f worldly goods. But for my part, this marriage
is not indispensable to my happiness.
I understand. Still, you surely dont mean to imply that,
with your talents, you have no hope of being able, in due time,
to earn a suitable income?
It is not probable, though of course not impossible. An
author may make money, though he continue to follow his own
bent. W e live in a barbaric age, Professor.
You surprise me! I thought we lived in an era of advanced
and still progressive civilisation.
I think you are under a delusion.
T h e professor did not press his point, but returned to a more
immediate question:
The interest on the capital I shall give my daughter as dowry
will keep the wolf from the door. That is all.
No more is needed.
He rose, shook me warmly by the hand, and said:
W e seem to have come to an understanding, and I can
welcome you as a member of my family.
The same day he had a brief talk with Ganna, who left his
study overjoyed, laughing and weeping at the same time.
Tribal Taboos. Every family is a suction-apparatus. It
greedily sucks in the stranger who is to form a part of it, though,
shy and hesitant, he may resist being thus absorbed into an
alien life. I had to become acquainted with my five sisters-in-lawto be, three brothers-in-law, uncles, aunts, cousins, and family
friends. It took me a good while to get to know them all apart,
and to fit the right names to the right persons. In a play with
a big cast, one has to study ones programme in order to know
which actor is on the boards. I forgot that I was m yself to be
one of the performers, and the initiation into a sort of bloodbrotherhood was tedious. There seemed no good reason why
I should immediately begin to say du to persons I had never

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known before, and I was astonished at the ease with which they
all began to thou me and to expect the same familiarity from
me in return. I was introduced to a number of new conventions,
and found that most o f my manners and customs were a breach
o f these. I was expected to consider them sacrosanct; but during
the first days and weeks I involuntarily came to regard many
o f them as on the same footing as the taboos of a South Sea
village, and I felt like a civilised traveller among primitives. T h e
whole business intimidated me. T h e dinner parties, the family
conclaves, were noisy, tedious, and exhausting. Gradually, how
ever, I became less sensitive. Such a process of adaptation is
usually looked upon as salutary, but I think that in many cases
it is the outcome o f a clouding o f the senses and a blunting
o f the nerves. I was regarded as rough-hewn, and it became
a point of pride with them to put the right polish on me. Gladly,
and perhaps a little flattered, they welcomed me into the kinship;
yet they were afraid of me as a wildling, and confined me in
an invisible cage, the family cage treating me as if I had been
a savage beast trapped in the jungle, exhibited for money at
a fair, and contemplated with alarm even though it has been
so thoroughly tamed as to have no thought o f escape.
These are posthumous observations, and I could supplement
them but for the fear that the harshness of m y present views
may contrast too strongly with my behaviour and my feelings
in those early days. For soon I was wholly theirs, attuned to
my new environment. As a novice I let myself be ensnared,
became subservient to the local interests, played the part that
was expected of me, cultivated a taste for the pleasures they
enjoyed, and soon believed that the South Sea village in which
their activities were carried on was the wide world. Enthusiasm
overpowered me, my judgment being obscured by the luxury
in which I had become a participator. Each of the fine houses
I entered, seemed to me a replica of the imperial court. I looked
upon every bank-manager as an omnipotent being. T h e in
credible dulness o f their social life escaped my notice; and I
failed to detect in their vacant countenances the spiritlessness

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of persons who are blowing soap-bubbles and whose only


aspiration in each case is to blow a bigger one than his neigh
bours. I did not perceive that they had no sense of values; that
all their activities were aimless; that they only stuck to one
another like burrs, and not in virtue of any proper system of
articulations: I did not perceive these things, or, if I perceived
them, it was merely with half an eye, for I allowed myself to
be lulled to sleep. I did not yet understand the law of the kraal,
did not yet realise the sinister power of the kraal, though its
tentacles had already gripped me. In all families it was the sam e:
sisters, brothers, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nephews and
nieces increasing in numbers from year to year every one of
them belonged to the kraal; their weal and woe were those of
the kraal; and those who did not belong to the kraal were out
siders, were suspect, were potential enemies.
What accounted for my fascination? When a mustang is
lassoed, at the touch of the rope on its neck it begins to tremble,
and no longer tries to escape. Was that really my situation?
Was I not, rather, a deserter, a renegade? I did not attempt
to think the matter out, and can honestly say I did not know.
Certainly, I never felt quite sure of myself, and this sense of
insecurity must account for my having brought Riemann to the
M ewiss. It was easy to find a pretext. I had promised Ganna,
her sisters, and the one of the brothers-in-law I liked best, to
read them some chapters of my new book. T h e reading took
place, and I had no reason to complain of a lack of understanding
in my audience. Or was it that Gannas fervour carried me
away, that her obvious delight deceived me as to the impression
I was producing on the others ? Is it not possible that they were
a little like the grown-ups who listen with complaisance to the
lively but fantastic tales of boys who have been playing at Red
Indians? Or were they in the mood o f those who contemplate
the dancing figures of angels and devils thrown on the screen
by the cinema when a trick-film is being reeled off? Anyhow,
in the mind o f one of those present, a mind which had hitherto
been estranged from me, the seed did not fall upon stony

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ground; it struck root. I refer to Irmgard. But this I was not


to learn till years had elapsed.
G u sh . In Ganna, meanwhile, there had been a wonderful
change. No more unruliness, no scenes, the nickname CoffinNail seemed forgotten. She had become an obedient daughter,
an affectionate sister. When her father came home of an evening,
she rushed upstairs to his bedroom for his fur-lined slippers,
and knelt down to unlace his boots. She spent her mornings
in the kitchen, a place she had hitherto shunned as the focus
of the unspiritual, eager to discover what could be concocted
out of flour, oil, greens, sugar, and root-crops. It was very dull,
she would never be able to learn these mysteries, not even how
to boil an egg; but she must make the best of it. Such was the
tribal custom, and initiates had explained to her that a good
housewife must know how to cook. Influenced by contemporary
literature, a faithful disciple of Nietzsche and Stirner, she had
heretofore had the profoundest contempt for family life and the
family traditions. But now the happy sunshine in her breast
gilded everything in the household, even the lowliest of the
domestics. She actually showed extreme consideration for old
Kiimmelmann, with whom she had been at daggers drawn ever
since she could remember.
What on earth have you done to our Ganna? asked her
sisters and her mother. She is a different person!
When they told me how quarrelsome and disobedient she
had always been, and what madcap pranks she had played, I
was incredulous, for the only Ganna I knew was gentle, dreamy,
smiling, and tender.
One thing struck me as extraordinary. U p till now, her mind
had been stuffed with tags of verse, great names, and idealist
ambitions. How had she all at once become capable of remem
bering twenty or thirty birthdays, death-anniversaries, com
memoration days, family jubilees, and the like? Betwixt night
and morning she had discovered in herself a dormant affection
for her remotest relatives, leading her to call on distant cousins
and far-away connexions by marriage. T h e swans declared:
1

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Ganna wants to take her happiness out walking, wants to make


a parade of Alexander Herzog. This was spiteful. Perhaps it
would be juster to say that Ganna was animated by a desire
to make amends. She had so long been regarded as a pickle,
as an enfant terrible, that she now wanted to become a young
woman o f good repute.
I dont know why this new trait disquieted me. There seemed
to me something convulsive in it, something hectic, an un
wholesome mingling o f policy and sentimentalism. It got on
m y nerves, but I lacked courage to say anything to her about
it. When she noticed my uneasiness, she plunged into despair,
and cross-questioned me till I found it necessary to pretend
there was nothing amiss if only to save myself from being
tortured by the unhappiness in her eyes. But there was one
matter concerning which I felt impelled to utter a word of dis
content. There lived in a back street of the inner town an elderly
couple named Schlemm, related somehow or other to an extinct
branch o f the Westphalian Lottelotts (for there were Lottelotts
also in Cologne). These Schlemms were frightful bores: he was
deaf and feeble-minded; she cackled incessantly like a hen.
Ganna paid court to them, agreed with everything they said,
stroked their wrinkled hands, called them U ncle and A unt,
dilated upon their wisdom and their venerable aspect. One day
I allowed m yself to be talked into calling on them, for Ganna
insisted that the old dears one wish was to make my acquain
tance before they died. This was pure fancy on her part, but
I complied with the imaginary desire. I was a puppet, and she
pulled the strings I thought the half hours visit would never
end. But what bothered me most was Gannas tearfulness. I
simply couldnt understand it. W hy so much affect about my
interview with these two dodderers? There seemed no sense
in it.
I m so desperately sorry for them , she said in excuse when
we had come away, and I could not conceal my irritation. Uncle
Schlemm suffers so much from liver-trouble, and Auntie has
cared for him so devotedly these three-and-forty years.

ALEXANDER

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She looked at me piteously with her great blue eyes, and I


was fretted, though I hardly knew why.
The Marriage Settlement. Between Christmas and New
Year, two or three days before the beginning o f 1901 and the
opening of the twentieth century, I went by appointment to
the office o f the M ewiss family solicitor. T h e professor had
arrived before me. There was a barrister present, a man whose
aspect was a strange combination of the ferret and the drillsergeant, and who greeted me ceremoniously. T h e solicitor,
smoking an American cigar, sat upon a leather-covered couch,
where he had made room for himself by shoving aside piles
of legal documents. He handed me a foolscap manuscript to
read the typewriter had not yet come into use for such pur
poses. The amount of the dowry was stated in both words and
figures, but the stipulations as to the respective rights of hus
band and wife in regard to this sum were couched in a German
that was absolutely unintelligible to a layman. There was some
thing about revocability in the event o f a divorce. T h e word
meant nothing to me, and, since I asked no questions about
it, no one thought fit to enlighten me. T h e matter bored me.
I signed, my thought being: T h e professor is an honourable
man. W hy should I hesitate? I deemed it would be ill-bred
to enquire. Twenty-five years later I understood what I had
signed. A quarter o f a century elapsed before I was aware that
I had been diddled. Is the term too harsh? It was done in the
family spirit, and without intentional disloyalty. I could have
asked the meaning o f the unfamiliar term. Or I could have
asked leave to bring a solicitor who would represent my interests.
But this idea never entered my mind. It was the first time I
had had anything to do with men of law. A lawyer, I thought,
is the human incorporation of law, of justice. No harm can come
to me in the office of my prospective father-in-laws solicitor.
I had ultimately to pay for this childlike faith.
Riemann. W ith surprise and discomfort I had become aware
that my former friends were turning me the cold shoulder. Even
Fiirst and Muschilow fobbed me off whenever I proposed a

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meeting. O f course I guessed the reason. T h ey disapproved of


my intended marriage; there was a lot of chatter among them
about Ganna; one of them went so far as to write me an angry
letter in which (like Fedora) he broke off our friendship, and
was impertinent enough to tell me I was throwing m yself away.
I chucked the letter into the fire.
But what touched me on the raw was that for some time
Riemann had been keeping out of m y way. I wanted to have
a talk with him, and, knowing that he spent his evenings at a
chess club of which I was m yself a member, I betook m yself
thither fairly late one night, asked him to come into a room
where we should be alone, and spoke my mind plainly.
I know what you have against m e, I began hotly. Fedora
has poisoned your mind. T he whole thing eludes comprehension.
You hang together like conspirators. What have you against
Ganna? Is it not enough that I am in love with her? Ought I
to have asked your consent to the marriage?
T h e question is not so simple as that, my dear Alexander,
answered Riemann, in the somewhat comic nasal tone habitual
to him. You have a few dozen friends, here and elsewhere,
who have been following your career with definite expectations;
very high expectations indeed. These friends find it hard to
stomach the idea that you should sell yourself as you are doing.
Forgive my bluntness.
Sell myself, Riemann! You cant be in earnest. Sell myself?
W hat a horrible expression to use.
How otherwise can we phrase it? What else can we think?
W e none of us feel that Ganna M ewis is a suitable wife for you.
W hy not?
That is difficult to explain. W e are anxious about your future.
You are taking the wrong turn, which will lead you into an
unsuitable environment. W e are afraid you are acting in defiance
o f your own convictions, of your better self.
There is nothing in the world, Riemann, for which I would
sell myself, to use your own detestable phrase. Surely you know
that, without my protestations.

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Not directly, I agree. Y ou would not sell yourself directly.


How, then, indirectly?
T h e modes of such a sale are often extremely complicated,
and there are no limits to the possibilities for self-deception
I have given the matter long, careful, and frank considera
tion.
I dont doubt your word for a moment, yet still I urge you
to get out of this proposed marriage. Go away from Vienna.
Take the next steamer to India, to South Africa, wherever you
like. If you lack funds, I will gladly provide them. L et me act
as negotiator in breaking off the engagement.
Good God, man, youre talking nonsense. Matters have gone
too far, even if I were willing.
I dont agree.
Its not only that I have entered into a formal engagement,
but I cannot . . . I cannot live without Ganna.
That is another story but I dont believe you now.
I dont know what youre driving at, Riemann; but anyhow
I shant be in chains when I marry. If it doesnt turn out well,
there are always ways and means of getting free.
He contemplated me with benevolent sarcasm, saying:
Alexander, you will never know much about human nature.
Do you really think its so easy as all that to break away from
an unhappy marriage?
Angrily I was about to interrupt him, but he went on making
his own points:
Besides, my dear fellow, have you ever troubled to study
the mother carefully? T o use the mildest terminology, Frau
M ewis is in a condition of unceasing mental irritability. You
have to think of hereditary taint. O f course there are six girls,
and some of them seem healthy enough, but Ganna shows her
mothers least desirable traits. Her mental balance is unstable.
Th at is plain to any one who knows the signs.
T h e implication was distasteful to me, and I thrust the argu
ment aside as has, alas, always been my way with disagreeable
arguments.

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I refuse to think o f such possibilities, I said. They lead


us into waters too deep for human understanding, and tempt
us to usurp G ods craftmanship we who are poor human
bunglers.
We cannot shirk our task there, my friend. In our day, that
has become G ods way of stimulating our advance.
On that fundamental difference we parted. I did not go to
bed, but wandered through the snowy streets for hours, and
then sat till dawn in a suburban tavern frequented by carters
and marketwomen.
Wedding Presents. A number of tables had been placed
side by side for the display of the wedding presents, and Ganna
and I were standing in front of them. There were sofa-cushions
with covers of secessionist design, queerly shaped lamp-shades,
distorted bronze statuettes, metal frogs and other animals as
candlesticks, the Church of St. Stephen and the Tom b o f the
M edici as paper-weights, nymphs with holes in their heads as
scent-bottles, gondolas as table ornaments, photograph frames
bordered with gilt fir-cones. Nor was the practical side o f life
neglected, for there were books, cutlery, table-silver, dinner
services, orders for house-linen and furniture. (We were to
travel for a year before settling down.) I was much edified by
the show. Never before had I seen such an assortment of
valuables for my private use and pleasure. All the things seemed
to me handsome, and of the best quality. True, there was a
sense of unreality about it. What was real to me? Not even
my shirt, not even my pen. Continuous association with persons
who mistook shadow for substance, was extraordinarily fatiguing.
N ay more. I now and again felt that it was killing something
within me, though precisely what I could not tell. But my new
associates, since they mistook shadow for substance, were like
wise impelled, logically enough, to regard substance as shadow.
Such was their nature. Here, at the show of wedding presents,
underneath my foolish pleasure in material acquisitions, I for
the first time began to dread lest Ganna, whom I was to guide
through life, whose life was to be joined to mine, might be a

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participator in these perpetual attempts at partial assassination.


What was the significance of that glow in her eyes, of her obvious
jubilation? No doubt she had a dissociated consciousness, living
partly among ordinary human beings, and partly in the realm
o f the stars. She was a princess about to be married; a being
from the land of faery who had soared into unknown regions
of bliss. She confused persons with things, and things with
persons. When one wakes in the morning with the impression
that one is a rose or a sunlit cloud, one finds it impossible to
take up the threads of life among the unimaginative; one stam
mers, and gives the impression of being more than a little queer.
Spurious Gothic, spurious Baroque, spurious Renaissance what
do such things matter? Th ey were tokens o f affection, signs
of victory.
Look at this. she said ecstatically, Aunt Jettchens gift;
and Uncle Adalberts; and Frau Pfeifers: how sweet of them
to send!
I was infected by Gannas delight, as if she had given me a
magic potion.
The Wedding. The potion was still acting when we were
married, on a snowy day in January. M y memories are those
o f a tumult that lasted for hours. Shrill feminine voices, raucous
masculine voices, the clashing of crockery, the grating of chairlegs on the floor, the popping of champagne corks, the smell
o f roast meat, sweet and sour tastes, incessant coming and
going, verbose congratulatory telegrams, much shaking of hands
(some of which were dry and others clammy, warm or cold,
rough or smooth, mobile or stiff). A marriage ceremony, humili
ating and mortifying, because of the amassing of futile formulas
designed to restrict moral freedom, and resembling those of
prison regulations. T h e sight of Ganna, robed in white, moving
like a sleepwalker, or seated at the table with the self-conscious
and shamefaced simper of the conventional bride. Her mother,
too, laying an arm round my shoulders, guiding me to one o f
the window-seats, and, with rolling eyes and an uncanny smile,
saying strange and unexpected things; m y mother-in-law, a

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spectre at the feast, to whom no one but myself paid the slightest
attention.
Speech after speech. Those of my brothers-in-law were stuffed
with culture and literary allusions; that of one of the professors
colleagues, a member o f the philosophical faculty, who, in a
stentorian voice, sang Gannas praises in terms suitable for the
unveiling of a memorial; then that of an infantry general yes,
a real, live general (I had never sat at table with one before)
who raised his glass to the gifted and agreeable young husband,
and expressed the hope that I should continue to advance along
the paths of science and art.
The whole affair seems to me, in retrospect, to have been
a condensed representation of the manners and customs of the
time. One might call it a matinee showing the Life of an Affluent
Member of the M iddle Class, with the accompaniment of a
slightly intoxicated orchestra of four performers.
But I did not feel myself to be a disinterested spectator. I
was part of the show, a deeply moved and leading member of
the cast. When at length, after the professor had said a few
pithy concluding words, his six daughters, his sons-in-law, and
half a dozen of his grandchildren who had been brought to the
feast for this special purpose, defiled past him and kissed him
by turns on the forehead; when he thereupon stood up in their
midst, towering over them, a semi-royal patriarch and undis
puted chief of the kraal, so that one could not but look forward
for thirty generations, for a thousand years, during which his
personality would be a saga and a symbol; and when Ganna,
overwhelmed by the greatness of this historic moment, flung
herself sobbing into his arms and murmured her thanks for all
he had done in her behalf I, too, was carried away, and venerated
this red-bearded father of the tribe as my patron and protector.
Then came a hasty departure, deep breaths of the fresh winter
air, and the drive to the station, alone with Ganna, who had
now become Ganna Herzog.

E PO CH O F C E R T A IN T IE S
The Problem of Tw in Solitude. We journeyed by long
stages, though with many halts, from the Tyrolese mountains
to Sicily. We were very happy.
Never had I spent more than three days alone with any
one before, neither with one of my comrades nor with a
woman. It was fortunate that I was used to close quarters,
having, as already related, lived in Vienna in a bed-sitting-room.
W e had agreed that our wanderings were to be conducted on
an extremely modest scale. Ganna found it wonderful to have
a husband whose business was done in his own head, and who
could, as far as externals were concerned, bring his ideas into
shape for the printer at any hotel table.
Freedom from pecuniary embarrassment was like a dream. Yet
the dream was not pleasurable and without a tinge of pain.
When a burden one has carried for years is suddenly lifted from
ones shoulders, the sense of relief is not necessarily unalloyed.
There is a struggle for accommodation to the new conditions,
a need to breathe in a different way. I had always had as much
solitude as I wanted. Now I was never alone, whether by day
or by night. Ganna was perpetually on hand, wanting to be
seen and heard, to be cherished and loved. T o give love also.
If love could be shovelled out of the ground, she would have
shovelled it, were it only to convince me that her supply was
inexhaustible.
But all kinds of untoward incidents may occur when husband
and wife are prisoned in a room with two beds, and when the
available wall-space is hampered with piles of trunks. For in
stance, I sit reading a book. Ganna, eager to avoid disturbing
me, moves on tiptoe as she walks about the room. Unfortunately
there is a chair in the way, and she knocks it down with a tre
mendous clatter. O r she drops a tumbler. Or she lets the top
of one of the trunks fall with a bang. A thousand piteous excuses.
How unlucky! But when one has been unlucky, one must be

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petted and consoled. She is continually at war with material


objects. She mislays her purse, and there is a fearful rumpus.
She posts a letter in a private letter-box instead of in a pillar
box, is frightfully sorry, and must be petted to restore her
equanimity. No one but a brute could be vexed with her for
addressing total strangers in a mellifluous voice as if they had
been Uncle and Auntie Schlemm; she was in a brown study.
W hy be angry because, when going out for an afternoon con
stitutional, she takes as many books as she would have needed
if reading for an examination ? What she is doing is ridiculous,
and I laugh at her. She sees that it is ridiculous, and joins in
the laughter. But this does not prevent her doing the same thing
another time. She lives in a world peopled with her own fancies,
and deals with them like the fabled bird that tried to pluck
grapes from a cluster painted by Apelles. I should like to bring
a little order, a little consistency, into her mind; but I find it
a tough job. Ganna is one o f those who cannot gather experience
and guide their actions accordingly. But experience can no more
be passed on from one to another than can pain. It grows plain
to me that her character needs moulding; that it is formless,
and I must give it form. It took me a long time to learn that
the task was beyond m y powers; that she would never be clay
in the hands of the potter. Not because she was too soft or too
hard. Both soft substances and hard can be moulded. But that
which is gelatinous is not plastic; and a fluid, whose only shape
is that of its temporary container, is unaffected by the working
of the potters thumb.
Sweetheart. In her innocence she believed that a woman
could make the man she loved happy by self-sacrificing devotion
that this was all-sufficient. Y et she was incapable of un
reserved self-sacrifice, because her will was persistently rebel
lious. She wanted to surrender her will, but could not; and this
was the germ of disaster. She was an uncontrolled and uncon
trollable force of nature. All through life she was outraged by
any attempt to bridle or sublimate her elemental passions. She
simply could not understand the endeavour. Only through the

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strength of her primitive impulses was she kept in a precarious


poise between a poetic spirituality and the levels of earth. I
felt instinctively that I must not try to rob her of her pristine
simplicity in this respect.
N or was I the man to inaugurate such an educational process.
I had so overwhelming a veneration for the inalterable thus-andno-otherwise of every living creature, that I was afraid o f
meddling with or throwing light upon the obscure and primitive
elements of a fellow-being. But a lover who is unduly cautious
cannot hope to modify his beloved. I was not a master in the
art of love, were it only because my senses were held in thrall
by a sort o f guilty darkness. These things have to be said, for
otherwise the reader would never understand the course taken
by the joint life of myself and Ganna.
Guilt! I dislike the word, and yet from the outset there had
been guilt in my relationship to Ganna. Guilt, because I felt
no passionate desire to possess her, as a counterpart to her
desire to be possessed by me. Only by slow degrees did I realise
this. When it had become clear to me, I had, with a secret terror,
to ward off as best I could Gannas passionate advances. She
misunderstood me. Better so, or she would have fallen headlong
out o f her heaven, and that would have been a responsibility
greater than I could bear. I had to do my best to keep her in
her heaven. It was not difficult. She took refuge in a fiction,
picturing me as Robert Browning and herself as Elisabeth
Barrett. This example of a highly intellectualised union made it
possible for her to interpret as the expression of a metaphysical
tie my increasing dislike for the caresses she craved. I could
not but admire the vigour with which she lived herself into
this work of fiction; and, indeed, my admiration for her had
not waned in the least. I was able to discuss with her all my
plans of work. Very soon after we had begun to live together
she could use the technical terms of pencraft with the ease and
accuracy of one who has been at the job for years. When the
news from Germany made it impossible to doubt that my new
book was having a material as well as a literary success (the

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material success did not bring me in much money, for I had


changed my publisher, and the previous one had made me pay
a forfeit and refund his advances), I noticed that she had lost
the equanimity which had hitherto characterised her. It seemed
as i f she no longer felt sure of me. In reply to frank questioning,
she hesitatingly admitted that this was so.
It behoves me to protect you from the allurements of the
world and the sweets o f fame.
But why, Ganna? I asked in astonishment. What are you
afraid of?
Otherwise I shall have no guarantees for the future.)
Guarantees? What need have you of guarantees?
Obviously the present does not suffice.
But Ganna, I protested, you surely dont want to carry
me about with you in a marsupial pouch, as the female kangaroo
carries its young ?
Yes, that is exactly what I should like to do, she answered,
with a sly though amiable smile.
She did not feel sure enough of me, and longed for guarantees.
W hat could I do but stroke her hair soothingly, and call her
Sweetheart, the most affectionate pet-name in the language.
Banking Account and Necessity. A t Taormina we put
up in a pot-house. It was a filthy place. T he beds were buginfested. As if this were not enough, there were no mosquito-nets,
so we were devoured by mosquitoes. Ganna tried various fumi
gations as soon as the skies darkened and our tormentors set
to work, but the chief result was that we were suffocated for
the rest of the night. By paying two lire more a day we could
have secured habitable quarters, but Ganna would not agree
to this. One of her chief cares in life was to make ends meet.
Making ends meet was one of those spell-binding phrases
which, as the years passed, loomed up ever and again upon
the horizon of our marriage like fireflies at nightfall. T h e notion
o f making ends meet was interwined with that of balance
at the bank. T h e balance at the bank was the biggest, the
most sinister, of the spell-binding fireflies. Her father had im-

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pressed on Ganna that whatever happened she must not impinge


upon her capital, must never spend a farthing more than the
interest upon her dowry. A man who consumes his capital is
capable of any crime, the professor had menacingly declared.
This dictum had been adopted by Ganna as one of her guiding
principles. Her father, who loomed more imposingly as we
receded from Vienna, was the high-priest of her capital, a
revered fetish; his mighty hand was stretched forth to protect
the gilt-edged securities from which the balance at the bank
was derived.
Ganna knew, o f course, that the nice round sum of eighty
thousand crowns had been diminished by the amount required
to pay my debts. She had excogitated a financial scheme whereby
the deduction was to be made good. T h e interest on her capital
(at four and a half per cent) brought in an annual income of
3,600 crowns. O f these we were to spend only 3,000, the re
maining 600 being restored to the capital. A ny excess of expen
diture over income was to be made good by my literary earnings.
This seemed to me an admirable plan, but it involved drawing
the purse-strings tight. Every bug and every mosquito in Signor
Pancrazios hovel helped to cement the system ordained by the
high-priest and to strengthen the foundations of the tabernacle
in which the gilt-edged securities were kept. In the most touching
way, Ganna took endless trouble to persuade me that the con
temptuous tone in which I referred to these sacred securities
was the outcome o f levity and ignorance. She spoke conjuringly
of the ethic of self-denial, and of how it was a moral duty to
wrest from the hands of Destiny the sword wherewith she per
petually threatens the salt of the earth. Immersed in the study
of Plato, holding in uplifted hand the pencil with which she
made marginal notes, her youthful brow furrowed with care,
she would dilate upon avayKt), dread Necessity, before whose
decrees we must all bow. Her words impressed me. I agreed.
In very truth, it was not my money. Although I was entitled
to draw cheques upon the current account, I complied with
Gannas thrifty proposals. I was in the position of a man

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whom pride and self-respect forbid to touch anothers pre


rogatives.
An Elemental? I made an excursion to the top of Etna,
having promised Ganna to return in three days. Losing my way
among the lava-fields, and overtaken by bad weather, I had
to shelter in a shepherds hut. These misadventures delayed
m y return by six hours. Ganna had awaited me in grievous
anxiety. Towards six o clock in the evening she expressed her
alarm to Signor Pancrazio and his people. By eight she was
clamouring for an appeal to the police and the sending of a
rescue expedition of carabinieri. When eleven struck, the com
bined persuasions of her host, the members of his household,
and the German-speaking guests could not restrain her from
putting on her rain-coat and, sobbing as she went, hurrying
along the pitch-dark country road, followed by Pancrazio and
his two sons, who were at length able to induce her to come
back to the inn. On my arrival at about midnight, she screamed
like a madwoman as she threw herself into my arms. T h e Pancrazios, impressed by such violent conjugal affection, treated
her thenceforward with the extreme respect one can find no
where but in Italy. A servantmaid of twenty-four furnished an
explanation for this excess of emotion by suggesting that the
Signora must be expecting. This soon proved to be the case.
When, two days later, Sicily was being powdered by the south
wind with dust from the Sahara, when a yellow blight veiled the
landscape, when Etna began to erupt and the terrified populace
inaugurated processions, Ganna said, with her sibylline gaze:
Now, Alexander, you can understand why I was so anxious.
I felt that these convulsions were at hand.
I wondered how I should be able to cope with such unrestraint
in the future, and was ready enough to believe that there might
be some mysterious connexion between Ganna and the dark
forces of nature. I also tormented my brains in the attempt to
explain how so elfin a being as Ganna could have emerged from
the commonplace surroundings of the M ewis family.
Return to Vienna. Gannas pregnancy was not in the pro

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gramme. W e had decided not to have a child during the first


two years of our marriage. Wandering about the world without
a fixed home is impracticable if you have to trail an infant along
with you. It was in Rome that my wife, trembling with happi
ness, made me the great avowal. No monarch can ever have
had a livelier sense of responsibility than had Ganna in her
expectation of maternity. She sent to Vienna for treatises on
the subject, and dieted herself strictly in accordance with ideas
o f her own. Having discovered a German doctor who practised
in the Italian capital, she had consultations that lasted for hours.
She treated her body with the most affectionate care, walking
on tiptoe both in the hotel and in the streets. Her one thought
was the coming baby. H er one concern was that it should be
beautiful, and also fit to become a person of note, being con
vinced that it lay within her own competence to secure these
goods. She had a peasantwomans faith in maternal impres
sions, and took the utmost care to avoid the sight of anything
ugly or horrible. She went every morning to the Vatican Museum,
to sit with rapt gaze in front of the masterpieces of sculpture
in that famous collection. Having bought a photograph of the
Naples fresco of the recumbent Narcissus, she hung it on the
wall above her bed, and, with autosuggestive intent, contem
plated it just before falling asleep and immediately after waking.
She was confident that her unruly will would exert a powerful
influence upon the development of the embryo in her womb.
I had to feign acceptance of these superstitions, for scepticism
and irony upon so sacred a matter infuriated her. Indeed, she
had no appreciation of irony; could never regard herself as
ludicrous; surrounded her own actions with a nimbus which
acted as armour against irreverence. Besides, there was some
thing more momentous about her pregnancy than about that
of an ordinary woman. It provided the security, the guarantees,
for which she had languished.
Since she did not wish her child to be born in a foreign land,
and wanted to have the members of her family round her on
the great occasion, we returned to Vienna in the autumn,

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The Yellow Room. I dreaded this return. The prospective


claims of the family, the unconcerned way in which they would
sequestrate my person, were a terror to me. I feared a life that
would have to be carried on with no ramparts. If I was once
for all to adopt the career of a respectable middle-class tax-payer,
with a balance at the bank to safeguard him against vicissitudes;
if I was to become the pet and the pride of the Mewis clan,
of the Schlemms and the Lottelotts then Fedora and Riemann
would have been right, then I should have sold myself into
bondage. But Ganna knew how to talk me out of my fears.
She was full of such confidence and enthusiasm in the joys of
a life of tranquil domesticity, that I was ready to comply.
After a long bout of house-hunting we rented a small furnished
flat, ground-floor, opening on the garden. T h e owners had gone
south for the winter. It was in one of the western suburbs, a
long way from where the M ewiss lived. We took these furnished
rooms because Ganna did not want to settle down yet, and we
had not money to spare for the equipment of unfurnished rooms.
Procrastination was for her tantamount to economy. On the
street side, the rooms looked on a winding lane, along which
were ranged bungalows with tiny garden-plots separating them
from the pavement. Every twenty minutes, a steam-tram roared
down the street, and the locomotive was fitted with a mechani
cally worked bell which could be heard clanging in the distance
long before and after the tram passed the house. What had
attracted Ganna to the place was a big room whose wall giving
upon the garden consisted entirely of glass. Thus on this side
the room was well lighted, but, being very deep, it was so dark
at the back that the gas had to be kept burning all day. It was
at one and the same time our reception-room and dining-room,
my study, and my bedroom; for, during the weeks before Gannas
confinement, I slept here on a divan installed between two but
tresses. T h e walls were colour-washed in lemon-yellow, and a
curtain of the same tint divided the room in twain. Beside the
walls left and right were plaster-casts pedestailed on boxes
covered with cretonne. These were mementoes of our visit to

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Rome. One was the Dying Gladiator, the other the Boy with
a Thorn in his Foot.
I have dwelt so long upon the description of this room because
of the momentous part it played in my destiny. W e still know
very little about the influence of rooms upon our moods, thoughts,
and resolves. An inch more or less in height or breadth will
effect a complete change in the feeling of the place. In this
yellow room I was never really at home, for I felt there as if
I was wearing an overcoat bought from an old-clothesman, a
garment much too large for me, which hung round me like
a sack. When I awoke in the night to find the white glimmer
from the snow-covered garden shining through the chinks in
the curtains, I should have liked to go out by the window and
play some boyish prank perhaps bombard the absurd place
with snowballs. Or I wanted a brownie to come, sit down at
the writing-table, and do my work for me; because my book
was at a standstill, and had been for weeks, while the roaring
of the tram and the hideous clangour of the bell had racked
my brain. It is not well to be with a much-occupied woman
when one has a difficult picture to paint, a delicate web to weave.
Nor was I bothered with only one woman; there were many.
During the numerous waking hours of the day there seemed
to be lots of Gannas about, each wanting something different,
each full of herself, each joyfully and excitedly planning, each
with special requests and many of them were strangers to whom
I had to be introduced.
I am allowed Pocket-Money. A layette had to be provided.
Rent must be paid. Servants must get their wages. I needed
a thick overcoat; Ganna, a new cloak. T h e interest on her dowry
did not suffice for these disbursements. W e broke in upon the
capital, and this proved a nightmare to Ganna; we sold some
of the gilt-edged securities, a step she regarded with horror.
I became infected with veneration for the holy of holies. There
is nothing more invasive than money and the money-spirit. On
the first of the month, when I went to the bank in order to
draw the housekeeping money. I felt like a thief. The pay-clerk,

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a lean man wearing gold-rimmed spectacles, was old M ewiss


vice-gerent, and would cross-question me as to my doings.
A man who consumes his capital is capable of any crime.
Gannas little hands kept guard over the bank-balance. The
cashier pushed the notes across the counter, and I seemed to
hear the capital rustling. I counted them timidly; and, as I
put them away in my wallet, it was with the impression that
I had somehow cheated the man in the wire cage, and was
making off with ill-gotten gains. I walked out of the place with
a hang-dog air, and had no peace until I had handed the whole
sum over to Ganna. Ganna kept the accounts. Ganna gave me
m y pocket-money. Yes, my pocket-money, as if I were a boy.
It seemed perfectly natural. What need has a man of money,
when he is provided with food, clothing, and shelter? In
self-defence, I should have liked next month to explain all
this to the pay-clerk. Then he would have regarded me more
leniently.
There is something out of Gear. Arent we going to
have dinner before long? I would ask pettishly, when the clock
in the yellow room struck two.
Very soon, Alexander, said Ganna (one of the multifarious
Gannas), disconcerted. Only half a tick.
But what the slatternly maid-of-all-work proceeded to serve
up would beggar description. Meat roasted to a cinder. Pastry
as hard as a board. Soups whose only title to the name was
that they steamed. All brought in with great zeal, and with much
fussing upon Gannas part.
Gannas fussing, her immense pains, need a paragraph, if not
a chapter, to themselves. Think o f a storm of energy, which
has no result, but is dissipated in the void. Wellnigh scientific
thoroughness, the best intentions in the world, and the upshot
like that o f using a blacksmiths hammer to swat a fly upon
a window-pane. Every movement has been carefully coordinated,
the procedure is radical, but (as any one but Ganna would have
foreseen) the window-pane is shattered to smithereens. Ganna
is amazed at the smash. She stands at the stove, wearing an

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apron, stirring eggs and flour with a spoon; on the sideboard


lies open a volume of H olderlins poems, to which she is dreamily
paying far more attention than to her cookery. When the neg
lected pancake has been burned underneath and has stuck to
the pan, she finds nothing better to do than wrangle with the
maid. I, who can put my finger on the core of the trouble, say
sententiously:
Look here, Ganna, reading Holderlin and making pancakes
are incompatible; you cant have it both ways, and must choose
one or the other.
Ganna admits that I am right, but finds it hard to follow
my rede, being simultaneously full of the divine afflatus and
of practical purpose. Without exaggeration, one may say that
she sweats endeavour. When she wishes to do something for
me, distance and disagreeables count as nothing. But everything
is wrecked by her trying to do too many things at once. I f she
wants to secure me quiet for my work, she invariable upsets
a chair in the process (I speak symbolically). T h e house is
possessed by little devils, who have a down on her. Her excess
of zeal mars whatever she attempts. I am interested in this zeal,
and admire it greatly; but misdirected zeal is not the atmosphere
in which domestic tranquillity thrives. I feel as if I were in a
ship incompetently steered, so that it continually wallows in the
trough o f the sea.
Then there was incessant trouble with the servants. Our first
maid stayed six days; the second, three; the third, a fortnight;
and of those that followed, the longest incumbency lasted three
weeks. Ganna could not account for this perpetual flitting; and
to me, also, at first, it was an enigma. Only by slow degrees
did a light dawn on me. I discovered that, under Gannas sway,
every mistake was regarded as a crime. It was extraordinary.
I f a woman came to do the washing, she departed under sus
picion o f being a thief. Another with some slightly unusual
characteristics was looked upon as a devastator. Since Ganna
had not the ghost of a notion how to make a bed or polish a
door-handle, her orders on such subjects were treated with

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silent contempt. She never knew how much time was needed
to do a particular piece of work properly, with the result that
either she demanded the impossible or else she was humbugged.
She did not understand the speech or the mentality of common
folk. Her own rather stilted language took her servants aback,
and they mistrusted her. At one moment, butter would not melt
in her mouth; and the next, she would speak roughly to under
lings. T he middle-class arrogance and the literary culture of this
daughter of the M ewiss made it impossible for her to consider
servingfolk as o f the same flesh and blood as herself. Directly
the slightest clash occurred, she was in a fury, and her eyes
blazed. A t first I was able to intervene as peacemaker, but after
a time, when I attempted to do so, her wrath was directed
against me. I was compelled to let matters take their course,
for otherwise the skirmishing in the household would have been
too exhausting.
One of these maids, Resi, was able to twist Ganna round her
fingers, by the grossest flattery. Then came an evening when
the young woman cleared out the contents of the linen-cupboard
and vanished. A certain Kathi had several followers, and when
Ganna caught one o f them in the kitchen there was a terrible
hubbub. Pepi was taken into custody by the police, upon sus
picion of arson at a previous mistresss. Hanna proved to be
syphilitic. When we discharged her, her fancy man forced his
way into the house and threatened me with a revolver. Occa
sionally we employed charwomen, as dirty and untidy as if they
had been rounded up from a slum in a police raid. Some of
our domestics made a practice of carrying off flour, rice, and
pots o f jam under their skirts. T h e whole morning, our rooms
stank o f burnt milk. Maids-of-all-work came and maids-of-allwork went. Ganna spent innumerable hours at registry-offices.
In the evening after such a visit she would return radiant,
declaring she had discovered a pearl. Tw o days later, the pearl
would turn out to be a rotten pea. At times Ganna was dis
couraged, and I had to comfort her. Now and again, one of
her sisters would come to lend a hand not without malicious

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joy. T h ey took a black view of our future. Ganna may know


a lot about books, but she is completely ignorant of practical
life. Such, plainly enough, were their unspoken thoughts.
The Hermitage. When Gannas labour-pains began, I
bolted. I know I ought to be ashamed of having to make this
confession, but I was driven away by my weariness with domes
ticity. I spent the whole afternoon among the wild beasts at
Schonbrunn. M y flesh was creeping. I had heard Gannas yells.
Th ey were much more violent than those of other women in
labour. Her temperament made her protest savagely against pain.
This was a defensive reaction. W hy should I suffer, I, daughter
o f Professor Mewis, wife of Alexander Herzog? Her protest,
her defensive reaction, was useless. She had to suffer. I suffered
with her, but did not want to be within sight or sound of her
suffering. Men are apt to be cowardly on these occasions, but
something more than this ordinary male cowardice made me
run away; I was sore at heart because it had not been passion
on my side which had led to her present suffering.
W hen I got home, it was to find a dark hairy creature lying
upon white linen. A son, as Ganna had foretold, but not, so far,
showing any resemblance to Narcissus. In a bed which had been
beautifully tidied up, lay Ganna, her auburn locks covered by
a cap with blue ribbons. W ith a happy smile, she stretched out
one of her little hands towards me, and said:
D ont you think hes lovely?
Yes, lovely, I replied, though I fancy I must have looked
rather stupid.
W hen the baby was put to her breast, her eyes filled with
tears, and she seemed to be thinking that never before had a
woman given birth to and suckled a child. W ell, I said to
m yself unsympathetically, we go on doing these things just
as our primitive forefathers did. T o the hairy amphibian we
gave the name of Ferdinand or Ferry for short. As babies go,
he was indeed exceptionally good-looking. In this respect, too,
Ganna had got her way.
More and more often, now, did I ask myself what had made

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me perpetually subject to her will. I am not myself lacking in


will-power; being weak of will only insofar as it is my disposition
to shun any misapplication of energy. When our tenancy of the
dwelling with the yellow room came to an end in the spring,
we moved to a place where the foxes barked goodnight to one
another. It was an inn called The Hermitage, and since then
it has (thanks be) disappeared from the face of the earth. A
gloomy hole it was, far worse than Signor Pancrazios tavern.
It reminded me of the murder-den in the folk-tale, where the
guests were done to death and buried in the cellar. Its one
advantage (decisive for Ganna) was that it was cheap. Also she
had had more than enough of her sisters tutelage, and was
weary of the unceasing trouble with servants. So we would go
to this romantic hovel! Ganna said the time had at length come
for her to give renewed attention to her higher duties. The
resolve seemed to me timely, so I offered no objection. True,
I had no very definite idea what these higher duties were. Still,
I supposed that she herself knew !
I did my work in a gloomy cell with a leaky roof. When the
weather was fine, the racket made by excursionists in the garden
tore my thoughts to tatters; and, at any odd time, Gannas
disputes with the nurse had the same effect. What had been
the use of it all, if I were now to live like a vagrant? A balance
at the bank, I decided, resembled pate de foie gras; to eat it
when fresh is bad form. The nurse I have just mentioned,
Oprcek by name, was crazy. She lulled the child to sleep with
smutty songs; and, when Ganna took her to task, she flatly
denied having done so, pulled her skirts above her knees, and
muttered Tsech maledictions.
I remember a night when I was awakened by my little sons
piercing cries. Ganna, in great excitement, was flapping about
the room and was making infusion of camomile by the light
o f a candle much in need of snuffing. Oprcek was holding a
pillow with the baby on it in her arms, singing the most dis
gusting songs, and dancing a nigger dance. Ganna begged me
to fetch a doctor. It was a long step to the nearest medicos,

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but my wifes anxiety got the better of my sleepiness. I dressed,


and set forth into the dark. While I was footing it to the out
skirts of the city, I wondered what evil concatenation of cir
cumstances had driven me out on such a mission when the wind
was blowing hard and the rain was falling in torrents. I have
never been able to forget that hour.
The Other Side of the Shield. In the autumn, at length,
we settled down. W e rented the top storey of a fine villa on
the edge of the thirteenth district. The place had to be furnished
throughout, and the consequent depletion of the bank balance
was terrific. Ganna had many sleepless nights.
T h e house belonged to an elderly married couple named
Ohnegroll [Lackspite], Never was a name more preposterously
misapplied. The husband was malicious and ill-tempered; the
wife, a Fury. In the garden were flower-beds tenanted by terra
cotta gnomes with conical hats. Every day these statuettes
annoyed me as much as if they had picked my pocket. A garret
served me as study and often as bedroom. It commanded a viewover what had once been a field of grass, where throughout
the day a merry-go-round revolved, to the accompaniment of
a piano-organ. In the evenings, however, the place was perfectly
quiet, and my work went on undisturbed through the winter.
When spring returned the lust for travel took possession of
me. Ganna would not leave the baby, so I arranged matters
with Konrad Fiirst, and we journeyed south. In Ferrara, my
travelling-companions money ran out; I had to finance him,
and by the time we got home he was seven hundred crowns
in my debt. Less than a week after our return, he wrote asking
me to meet him at a cafe and, when I kept the appointment,
he implored me (with tears in his voice) to lend him an additional
thousand. It was a debt of honour ; he had lost the money
at the card-table, and if he did not settle on the morrow he
would have to blow out his brains. I answered coldly that such
rodomontade did not impose on me; still, I was willing to help
him out of his scrape on the understanding that thenceforward
we should be strangers. The breach would cause me no sorrow,

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for I had grown weary of Fiirst, of his frivolous mode of life,


and his aristocratic airs.
Since I was expecting a large remittance from my publisher,
I thought I should be able to make good the deficiency in our
bank balance before Ganna discovered it. The publisher, how
ever, was behind time, and I had to explain matters to my wife.
I was prepared for a fit of temper, but not for such an outburst
of wrath as actually ensued. For a little while, she stared at
me, speechless. Then:
But, Alexander! she stuttered, her lips blue. But Alexander!
she repeated.
She had the aspect of one whose most cherished ideals have
collapsed. She stamped up and down the room; tore the cloth
off the table; thrust chairs out of the way with her knees; clasped
her hands to her temples; and then began to rail at me like a
fishwife. How could I have such a rascal for a friend? A man
who would trade upon the good-nature of one who had a
family to support! She would not sit quiet under such rascality,
but would write the swindler a letter he would not forget in
a hurry, and would not be likely to stick up on the looking-glass
above his mantelpiece! And so on, and so forth.
She had good reason to be angry. She pinched and pared
wherever she could; looked at each crown three or four times
before paying it away; haggled in the market over the price of
vegetables; would not buy herself a new pair of shoes until the
old ones had split in several places. Still, she ought not to have
stormed at me as she did, and the only result was to make me
lose the sense of guilt which had previously afflicted me. Although
she soon calmed down, and came with tears of penitence to beg
my forgiveness, she had planted a sting which remained in my
flesh. She had shown me the other side of the shield. There
was an obverse to her charmingly innocent smile.
A t a Concert. As when threads are floating upon a turbid
fluid and slowly coalesce to form controlled figures, so did
Gannas discontent make her life opaque, her relation to people
and things anomalous. Certain recurrent scenes and clashes

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were typical of this, and have been deeply graven in my memory.


Here is one instance. I have got tickets for the philharmonic
concert, which begins at seven. Three quarters of an hour must
be allowed for the drive to the concert-hall. A t a quarter to six
I remind Ganna that it is time to dress. She is in a long chair
on the veranda, ostensibly reading, but letting her thoughts
wander. The book is about the esoteric significance of the preRaphaelite movement. In the other hand, as usual when reading,
she holds a pencil for making marginal notes.
A ll right, she says, with a start; I ll go directly.
She lays down her book on the leaded veranda where it
remains (to be found next morning drenched with rain), and
hurries off into the bedroom. Ten minutes pass, and another
ten. I, who have been ready some time, in hat and coat, am
watching the clock. A t last I pluck up courage to go and see
what has become of Ganna. I find her in the bathroom, stripped
to the waist, engaged in washing her hair at ten minutes past
s ix ! M y temper gives way. Ganna says:
For G ods sake dont get cross, Alexander, and dont try
to hurry me. I m being as quick as I can.
She is the victim of circumstances! Her best intentions are
frustrated by the malice of chance!
Everyone is against poor Ganna. Even you!
Amid sighs, pantings, and complaints, she is ready at twentyfive to seven. But she must have just a look into the nursery,
take an impassioned farewell of Ferry, for the umteenth time
give needless directions to the nurse, and then we rush off to
the tramway halt.
There we have to wait ten minutes, Ganna with a wounded
air and compressed lips. As soon as she has taken her place in
the tramcar, she discovers she has forgotten to bring her satchel
containing her money and the opera-glasses. Recriminations:
It happened because you would hurry me so. You oughtnt
to treat me like that, seeing all the trouble I take for your com
fort and to please you.
I dislike having this sort of wrangle before strangers. Ganna

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does not mind in the least. It is one o f her sovereign prero


gatives. W hy do I answer her, when I had much better hold
my tongue ? I am desperately sorry for her, but really she tor
ments herself needlessly. I try to appease her, for I feel bad
when she is in a quarrelsome mood. I suppose it is her witchery
that makes me so pliable.
When we reach the hall we have to wait in the corridor till
the next interval. I go on talking to her in the attempt to persuade
her that she is in the wrong this being the surest way of
strengthening her conviction that she is in the right. Still, by
now her anger has degenerated into aimless babble.
When we are admitted, she takes her seat with an air at once
resigned and enthusiastic. Music stimulates her like a glass of
brandy. I have long since realised that she is as unmusical as
a block of wood; that she has no grasp of the structure of a
musical composition, of its general trend, its successive motifs;
that she does not know good music from bad, whether music
has any substance in it or not; that you could palm off on her
the overture to a light opera as a Bruckner symphony, and she
would immediately begin to gush about its nobility and
sincerity but this knowledge does not make me doubt that
she is genuinely and strongly moved by music. I feel Ganna
to be a part of myself. I can no otherwise; did I cease to do so,
it would be all up with me. From time to time, of course, the
sight of her intoxication with what I know to be second-rate
music makes me feel ashamed for her, offends my critical sense;
but then I have only to remind myself with what rapt and helpful
enthusiasm she listens to me hour after hour when I read my
own writings aloud to her, how I sense the leaping in her blood
and the delight in her heart as I do so. By this intoxication I
am gratified; why, then, should I despise it when it is shown
for others creative work? Unless I am to hold that interest in
any one but myself must be fallacious!
Social Intercourse. I had lost touch with most of the
friends and acquaintances of the days before my marriage. In
some instances the relationship had died a natural death; in

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others, my old associates had entered official or business life;


in others, finally, they had dropped into the intellectual under
world. A good many people were inclined to stigmatise me as
a cold-blooded exploiter of my fellows, as one who sucked them
dry and threw them away. Especially prone to say this were
those who had wanted to do as much to me. There lurks in all
of us a cannibal appetite. If you give part of yourself to any
one, he wants the whole; and should you resist being devoured,
the would-be eater says you are disloyal. I was also considered
arrogant. In actual fact, I was, and still am, extremely shy. But
it was true that I could not endure the self-satisfied ignorance
of the philistine about my personality and my doings, the way
in which he regarded me with an overweening tolerance, like
that of a neighbour who surrounds his garden plot with a wall
high and strong enough to resist a bombardment.
Ganna was always preaching to me about the need for being
on ordinary terms with ordinary mortals. She said I must come
out of my ivory tower.
You must mix with your fellows, she insisted. You need
to gather every-day impressions.
I had no objection to mixing with my fellow s; but she meant
the sort of fellows who were at home one evening a month,
who gave crushes and wanted to have persons of note on show.
Her ambition was to see me take my proper place in the
great world, meaning by this the circle of intellectuals, busi
ness folk, and financiers in which her family had moved during
her girlhood. She was proud of being Frau Alexander Herzog,
and wanted to enjoy the advantages of her social station. Every
invitation to a dinner, a dance, or an evening party was an
honourable confirmation of this rank. She had, however, no
critical sense which might have enabled her to understand the
real status of the society in which she mixed with so much
content. When she heard her name whispered as she passed,
she tingled with delight, thrilled to the roots of her hair. If
a barrister or a university instructor kissed her hand, she beamed.
When an official of fairly high standing took her in to dinner,

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she was as excited by the honour as a girl training for the stage
to whom an important role has unexpectedly been assigned.
I was perfectly willing to bestow upon these celebrities the
veneration which Ganna believed to be their due. I knew m yself
to be of no particular account, for I did not suffer from swelled
head. Such intellectual achievements as have been placed to my
credit never made me think too much of myself. I believed that
Ganna knew the ropes; that (to vary the metaphor) she would
find her own level and help me to find mine. I allowed myself
to be drawn into the vortex, and meekly followed her into the
best houses, as she called them seriously, and I (in m y secret
thoughts) with an inevitable tang of sarcasm. It occurred to
me, however, from time to time, that it behoved us to repay
all this hospitality in kind. One could not go on for ever accepting,
and give nothing in return. But Ganna declared that this was
not expected from artists and men of letters. Since her statement
suited my inclination, I believed what she said, thus placing
myself on the same level as the famous tenor who was only
invited because his name appeared so frequently in the news
papers; or at a lower level, since the tenor would occasionally
pay for being invited by singing without fee. Besides, it would
have been difficult for us to give dinner parties, inasmuch as
we kept a very bad table When Ganna gave a family party, as
she did sometimes, I was aware that my relatives-in-law were
often hard put to it not to show disgust at the taste and suspicion
concerning the ingredients o f a dish. Ganna had not the remotest
idea that there was anything wrong with the food served at
home. For her, eating was equivalent to stoking an engine; and
she consumed an underboiled potato with as much relish or
contented lack of relish as she consumed a pineapple.
One evening we went to an at home at Bugattos. This
individual was much courted at the time, being a banker of
note and a power in the financial world. I can recall being
troubled by a good many disagreeable feelings. Ganna, how
ever, was in her element, surrounded by a circle of professors,
doctors, barristers, councillors of one sort and another, industrial

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magnates, and their womenfolk. She was advancing extravagant


opinions, and was defending them with the utmost zeal. T h ey were
highly contentious, were paradoxes for the most part, were not
her original thoughts, but culled from books and periodicals; yet
unquestionably she was making an impression, and was highly
pleased with her success. A very original young woman, her
hearers were obviously thinking. Her success pleased me like
wise, since I knew it would put her in a good humour for days.
When her brilliant qualities had been publicly recognised, she
was much easier to get on with. T h e only thing that dis
gruntled me was that she spoke of my husband far too often.
I dislike this possessive prefix.
Nevertheless I was becoming intolerably bored. I hated having
to sit for an indefinite time listening to vacant chatter, particularly
to Gannas obsequious verborrhoea. It was growing plain to me
that she was making an exhibition of herself. The way she
rattled on, her provincial coquetry, her giddy-patedness, were
an increasing distress to me. Was she too dull-witted to see
that she was putting me to shame; to grasp the ambiguity of
my position; to realise that she was going too far with her parade
of knowledge; to understand how offensive was her adulation
of women because they wore costly jewels and fine dresses, of
men because they had large incomes and used titles before their
names? No, she had absolutely no idea. She went on frothing
like yeast, and rejoicing in her facile triumphs. Tw o or three
times I went up to her, and hinted that it was time to go. W ith
looks, not words, she begged that we should stay on, since she
was enjoying herself so much. When we finally got away, she
asked me, on the return journey:
Alexander, what have I done to annoy you? W hy are you
out of humour? I should have had such a glorious evening, had
it not been for your moodiness. Every one else was charming
to m e.
She did not understand, so what more was there to say? But
she had plenty more to say, and went on arguing about the
matter, until I lost my temper, answered angrily, and thus put

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myself in the wrong. That was what Ganna had been waiting
for, and she vengefully turned the advantage to account.
You systematically make enemies o f people, so it is not to
be wondered at if the sales of your books are unsatisfactory.
A venomous remark, which did not hurt me any less because
it confused too distinct issues. T he wrangle continued after we
got home, lasted so long that at two in the morning the Ohnegrolls, who slept in the room beneath ours, knocked on the
ceiling with a broom-handle. This infuriated Ganna yet more.
She went on berating me, no longer in the mellifluous tones
she had used in Bugattos drawing-room when talking to dig
nitaries and the wealthy, but in the litigious bellow of a termagant
who will use any possible rhetorical device to browbeat an
adversary. T he absurd, the astonishing thing is that I was brow
beaten! When I recall the matter after these many years, I
cannot but think that her elfin ways must explain my weakness,
a blind impulse that dulled my wits.
The Hothouse of the Feelings. I think with horror of the
days when Ferry was out of sorts. If the child had the slightest
rise in temperature, Ganna was almost beside herself. T h e nurse
was severely cross-questioned. Had there been the slightest
error, of omission or commission, whether in diet or other
respects, there was a tremendous row, and she would be given
notice. (When the boys temperature came down, notice would
be withdrawn.) Images of all conceivable diseases from which
a child might suffer, chased one another through Gannas mind,
and these possible dangers drove her crazy. Still, danger can
be avoided if its oncoming is recognised in time and if its causes
are averted. According to Gannas philosophy, human beings
make their own fortune and misfortune, wield over themselves
powers of life and death. One who is guided by skilled medical
advice and acts in accordance with the wisdom of science, cannot
suffer serious mishap. Microbes she regarded as the gravest
among threatening dangers, and she conducted the fight against
them after the manner of a flea-hunt. One would be all right
if one had learned from doctors and bacteriologists the art by

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which they tamed and drilled these mischievous and unruly


creatures. In the case of almost every illness Ganna was able
to tell you how you had got it and who was to blame for you
or others were always to blame. If she had an attack of rheu
matism, she remembered how, weeks ago, when we had gone
to visit Aunt Clara, I had persuaded her not to wear her furlined coat. Ganna kept a close watch upon natures workings.
She believed in doctors as a pious Catholic believes in the
Blessed Sacrament. At the least sign of disorder, she sent for
our family physician, or, more likely, consulted the appro
priate specialist. In her eyes, every qualified practitioner was
a deity. Woe to the deity, however, if he did not effect a speedy
cure. Then she committed blasphemy, and, a typical pagan
savage, ran from the first god to another.
I often protested against this doctor-fetishism, but in vain.
It was the outcome of the excess of her feelings, which were
cultivated in a hothouse, until they flourished so luxuriously as
to overgrow everything. For her feelings were the mirror and
the measure of all things. T o try and stay their course was as
fruitless as to beg a hurricane to blow from another quarter.
I came to dread her lack of moderation. Since my own energy was
directed into another field, it failed me when I wanted to use
it to control her. Often I thought it better to close my eyes
rather than see something I did not want to see. The more
burdensome the reality became to me, the more did I seek relief
in painting a fancy picture of Ganna. She is a daimonic creature,
I said to myself; an elemental. This conception of her took
enduring possession of me. Daimonic, elemental in this
connexion, the words really mean little. They are empty terms,
false coins; attempts to explain the inexplicable by the sup
posititious working of unknown spiritual forces. But at this time,
Ganna was not as yet completely out of gear, and I could have
made her machinery run more smoothly had I been more
watchful and had I been of sterner stuff.
Snapshots of Ganna. Even in those early days, however,
it was extraordinarily difficult to escape being influenced by some

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of her ensnaring characteristics; her droll fits of forgetfulness,


her foolish little blunders, her way of living in a dream. They
still had the charm of youth, and were embellished by her
persistent happiness.
She is lying on the sofa in her bedroom (abominably untidy,
as ever), reading Goethes Italian Journey, underlining freely,
and making marginal notes. In the nursery, the infant is squalling,
my daughter Elisabeth, for there has been an addition to the
family; in the sitting-room, Ferry is banging away on the key
board of the piano; in the passage, the cook and the housemaid
are disputing hammer-and-tongs; on the veranda of the floor
beneath, Frau Ohnegroll is scolding some one in a voice like
that of a barking cur. None of this racket disturbs Ganna. She
does not hear it. Her mind is elsewhere. Then, recalled to
realities for a moment, she catches sight of a rose I gave her
the day before. She smiles, jumps up, and carries the glass
containing the rose to the toilet-table, turning the mirror so
that, when she lies down again, she can see the image as well
as the actual rose. Now she has two roses.
Again, it is M ay. No matter how wet or cold the weather
is, the notion of M ay is inseparably connected in Gannas
mind with the notions of sunshine and blue sky. There
fore, although an icy wind is blowing and there are heavy
showers every few minutes, she sallies forth in a light summer
dress, carrying only a small parasol to protect herself from the
wet. She passes a fruit-stall, and notices the first cherries of
the season. Splendid, she thinks; I ll buy Alexander some
cherries. She gets a pound, in a paper bag. The bag is defective,
has a hole in one of the bottom corners. Since she is alone,
there is no one to hurry or bother her, and she can moon
along enjoying this fabulous M ay weather to her hearts content
while, one after another, her cherries drop out of the bag,
and at regular intervals the pavement behind her is besprinkled
with them. Most of the passers-by grin at her and say nothing,
but at length a kindly woman draws her attention to what is
happening. Horror! Luckily, however, the street has not been

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thronged, so she retraces her steps and picks up the cherries


that have not been squashed flat!
An unpractical, clumsy, touching woman, this Ganna of mine.
A Ganna who must be cherished, must be protected from wounds
and other injuries. If only one were safe from disastrous erup
tions that may explode at any time out of the volcanic
depths.
Don Quixote in Petticoats. As time went on, I got to like
Irmgard better and better. Our conversations, which had been
casual at first, became serious, and were soon carried on during
long walks we took together for, in contrast with Ganna,
Irmgard was a grand walker. She also differed from her sister
in being free from self-conceit, and was grateful to me for taking
pains to give her more joy in life and to strengthen her selfconfidence. Though of strong character, she was both diffident
and cheerless, having had experiences which had damped her
courage. She was pretty in her own peculiar way, reminding
me of the figurines of some of the Egyptian princesses.
As circumstances were, we might have been expected to fall
in love with one another. This did not happen, owing, I suppose,
to a spell cast over both of us by Ganna. Irmgard had oldfashioned and strait-laced notions about conjugal fidelity, and
the thought of a love-affair with her sisters husband would have
been revolting to her. Nor did I venture to overstep the charmed
circle. T o arouse Gannas suspicion would have started a con
flagration. But indeed we were not perfectly sure of ourselves,
and this kept us watchful. When Irmgard spoke of our relations,
she trembled like a child in the dark, and I myself was not in
much better case. We continually assured one another of the
purity of our feelings, and were so restrained that every hand
shake was deliberately cold, as if Ganna had been looking on.
Always when Irmgard and I were together, Ganna was an in
visible third, present in our minds, keeping sentinel lest she
should be robbed of a glance, an aroma, a smile, a thought.
It was perhaps nothing more than feminine curiosity, with
a tinge of jealousy in it, which led Irmgard to ask me, one day,
K

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what attracted me to Ganna. She had given much thought to


the matter, without discovering the explanation. I did not know
how to answer, so I said :
Cant you see that Ganna is the ordering principle in my
life?
Ganna a principle of order? Ganna?
I saw that it would be difficult to make Irmgard understand
what was in m y mind. After a little further reflection, I was
able for the first time to give a name to the image I had formed
o f Ganna.
She is a new type, I said; a feminine Don Quixote.
Irmgard shook her head. She knew Ganna, and the jump
from Coffin-Nail to an idealist woman tilting at windmills
was too wide for her. Hesitatingly she protested that I must
be letting my imagination, the lively imagination of a writer,
construct a picture of a non-existent being.
I dissented.
A few days later, Ganna came to Irmgard, planted herself
squarely in front of her sister, and said, in the tone of a policeman
making an arrest:
I forbid you to flirt with my husband!
Irmgard answered indignantly:
I know Alexander is your husband, but I did not know you
regarded him as your prisoner!
Get a husband for yourself, and leave mine to me, went
on Ganna.
Telling me about the interview afterwards, Irmgard said that
Gannas tone was that of a costermongers wife defending the
barrow when there is a commotion in the street.
Your attempts to make up to him behind my back are posi
tively scandalous, screamed Ganna.
Irmgard laughed, and pointed to the door.
Go home, if you wish to make a scene about scandalous
behaviour, she said. As far as I can understand, you have
come to me to complain about Alexander. I am not his nursery
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Thus Irmgard kept a bold front; but after Ganna had departed
in a rage, she burst into tears.
When she related these incidents to me, she asked, somewhat
acidly:
W hat do you think now of your theory that Ganna is a
feminine Don Quixote? Can you show me the element of
sublimity in the folly of her present attitude?
Y ou must not judge Ganna by particular actions, I rejoined.
You only understand her as a whole, as a person whose character
lacks restraint. Her errors, her passions, her fallacious inferences,
are the outcome o f something grand in her. W hy not call it
splendid folly ? Y our sisters have always made mock of her.
T h e ludicrous in her lies very deep, in the region where she
fights phantoms. For her, everything becomes a phantom: human
beings, the world, you, I, her own self. She has no sense of
reality.
Irmgard looked at me reflectively.
Poor Alexander, she whispered.
W hy do you say Poor Alexander ?
I only meant . . .
Go on.
I only meant that perhaps you are the one who has no sense
of reality!
Real Human Values. I notice that Ganna is extremely
disquieted. She listens, she spies, she looks at me with the
searching glance of the forsaken lover on the stage. She sets
verbal traps, in the hope that I shall betray myself. When these
fail, she tries heavy artillery.
I am the most miserable woman in the world, she exclaims,
tramping to and fro in the room as if she would like to knock
down the walls.
You are seeing ghosts, Ganna. The unhappiness is a figment.
Irmgard is far too conscientious to become involved in the sort
of liaison you are talking about.
Irmgard? She would wade through slaughter to get anything
she wants!

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Ganna, you misjudge her.


What about yourself? Would you play me false?
I havent the remotest inclination to do anything o f the
kind.
She flings herself into my arms.
Honestly? You swear it? You swear that you have not an
intimacy with her?
I burst out laughing. What she says is so crude. I feel as if
she had slapped my face, and laughter is my only possible
defence. She takes my hand in both hers, scrutinises the palm,
and says, as if longing to mitigate the harshness of m y con
demnation :
The line o f the heart is very faint. Have you no heart,
Alexander?
Perhaps not, I rejoin. But what you are talking about
seems to me concerned, rather, with the line of the head.
Is that so? she answers, greatly relieved. I thank God
for it.
She draws the inference that perhaps she ought to enhance
her charms, to make herself more alluring. She therefore buys
a costly bottle o f a fashionable scent, and forthwith empties a
whole teaspoonful of it on herself, never realising that one can
have too much of a good thing.
I am not sufficiently refined, she complains, with an under
tone of pride; I have no talent for playing the part of a
cocotte.
O f course you havent, Ganna, I chime in heartily; but I
seize the opportunity of adding that one need not be a cocotte
to avoid looking like a draggle-tail when one is at home. She
takes the hint, and promptly spends thirty-five crowns on the
purchase of a spurious kimono (Austrian not Japanese), which
makes her look like Sarastro in the Magic Flute. But the slippers
she wears when she sports this gorgeous robe are greasy, and
down at heel; while, since she never fastens up her stockings
unless she is dressed to go out, the upper ends of them hang
down from beneath the lower edge of the kimono like empty

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sausage-skins. Sensing my unvoiced disapproval, she says


pettishly:
Oh, I know my stockings are down, for my suspenders need
mending; but that has nothing to do with real human values.
O f course not, and I had said nothing of the sort. But real
human values are not a secret fund upon which one can only
draw in sublime moments; and which in other respects warrant
the wearing of a sham kimono, ragged slippers, and trailing
stockings.
A C r y in the Night. A t this period, matters took the
following course with Ganna. If, in the daytime, we had had
a quarrel or a serious difference of opinion, her bitterness and
dissatisfaction would become intensified during sleep, and would
find vent in an explosion. She would wake up with a yell, not
usually repeated, which rang through the house and aroused all
the inmates. By degrees this cry in the night, from being no
more than startlingly unpleasant, came to overcast my life with
gloom. When it sounded, I woke up with a pang as if a knitting
needle had been driven through my brain from ear to ear. Then
I leaned over her in the darkness, and did my best to soothe
her. (Later, we decided to sleep in separate rooms. Then, if
startled by the cry, I would jump up and hasten to her bedside,
with a cold shiver running down my back. Often I had an angry
suspicion that the hideous yell had been uttered in order to
summon me; not of set purpose; but because she did not wish
to be alone, wished to convince me that I must not forsake her,
and herself that she still played a large part in my life; because
she was jealous of my sleep. But who could fathom her motives ?)
She would tell me the dream which had culminated in the cry.
T h ey were strange dreams as a rule; the dreams of one with
a passion for self-torment, and who was in despair because fate
had cheated her; gloomy and primitive dreams, abstruse like
everything that went on in her mind below the level of waking
consciousness. For instance: she had dreamed of Irmgard, who
stood before her red-haired and with a blood-stained mouth;
blood-stained because Irmgard held Gannas heart in her hand

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and was biting pieces out of it as if it had been a red-cheeked


apple.
The woman I was holding in my arms, the woman I wanted
to console, was for me the mother o f my children, rather than
my wife. Her accumulated sufferings, plaints, and reproaches
poured forth like a cataract. In her febrile eloquence, hundreds
swelled into thousands, what happened yesterday was confused
with incidents o f long ago, fact and half-fact with fancy; and
when I had refuted one accusation, she would revive a charge
I had already dealt with thrice over. It was as uncanny as when,
without knowing or having looked at the pattern of a carpet,
one fingers the confused threads at the back. Her brain was
a reservoir for the turbid waters which had been running into
it for days and were now overflowing. Irmgard, Irmgard, and
again Irmgard. Where had I met her, how long had we been
together, and what had we talked about?
If you betray me, Alexander, I dont know what will happen,
except that I shall certainly kill myself.
Then she would blame me for undermining her authority
over the servants.
But Ganna, you have no authority.
You countermand my orders.
Certainly, when they are contradictory.
Did you not stand by inert yesterday when the governess
was so impudent to m e?
I could not possibly support you. You treated her as if she
were a dog.
This answer enraged her, and she began to rail against me
more furiously than ever. T he turbid flood continued to pour
out of the reservoir; while I, listening as I stared into the dark
ness, felt as if my head were going to burst.
Next came the turn of the budget. I never made my pocketmoney suffice. Our capital was melting away year by year. That
rascal Fiirst had not repaid a farthing of what he owed. Did I
wish to reduce the children to penury? Then, I was so cold,
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Ganna, Ganna, how can you possibly say such a thing as


that I am unloving?
Yes, you are. You break away from me whenever you have
the chance. Accept invitations from your aristocratic acquain
tances, though I am not included in the invitation. Are
you ashamed of me, Alexander? I f you are, please say so
frankly.
Everything seemed spinning round me.
D o settle down to sleep again, dear.
Th at was all I could say.
The Father dies and the Mother goes mad. In the
summer of 1905, Professor Mewis died from a heart attack.
Gannas sorrow was beyond bounds. Hitherto fate had treated
her so leniently that death had almost escaped her notice. W hy
should the sword fall, and so suddenly, upon the consecrated
head of the Mewis family? She began to idolise the deceased;
to collect relics, photographs of him; to fill a notebook with
his sayings. She wove a legend, and had it in mind to write
a biography. T o her sisters annoyance she declared that she
had been his favourite daughter, and sincerely believed her own
assertion.
Anyhow this god of her worship, the man with the heavy
hand, was no more. T h e mere mention of his name, while he
lived, had continued to produce a strong impression on her.
T h e idolatry I have described was her last token of respect for
him. N ow that he was gone, there was no embodied authority
before which she must bow.
Soon after the professors death, his widows mind gave way,
and for several months every year she had to be put under
restraint. Her incipient mania had free outlet now that her
husbands controlling hand was withdrawn. Ganna visited her
mother at the asylum once or twice a week, and always pestered
me to accompany her. Once I complied. W e were shown into
a room with barred windows. T h e madwoman sat in an arm
chair, fiercely tearing a newspaper into tiny pieces. She was
never content unless she was tearing up or destroying: news

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papers, letters, a book, an article o f clothing. Sometimes she


would smear the walls with excrement.
She showed no pleasure at our coming. With gleaming eyes
and raucous voice, she told us that she was being illegally
detained, and that she had written about it to His Majesty the
Emperor. Ganna sprang affectionately to her side, but my own
lips were sealed. Though I had liked the old lady well enough
in her quiet days, I found her repugnant in her present malady.
Sickness of mind does not arouse sympathy like sickness of b o d y;
but, rather, dread and repugnance. It was a terrible thought to
me that the blood of this deranged woman flowed in the veins
o f my children.
Is he always so glib of tongue, this husband of yours? she
said sarcastically to her daughter, or has he become so through
living with you ?
Ganna regarded this as a paean upon me and our marriage!
Next the patient began to talk in extravagant terms about
the merits of my last book, and to declare that all the inmates
o f the asylum had read it with great enthusiasm. I could listen
no longer.
Let us go, Ganna, I urged. When we reached the door,
I said a brusque goodbye, and bolted.
Conflicting Tempos. A conflict of tempos affected our
nerves, our moods, our very embraces. It showed itself, of
course, most plainly in our gait.
Come for a walk with me, says Ganna. Never mind if
youve made another appointment. Come with me.
I comply, but the enterprise, begun so gladly, ends in wrangling
and discontent. She has no capacity for active exercise, though
she will not acknowledge the fact, and reproaches me for deli
berately tiring her out in order to prove her incompetence. I
ignore this horrible accusation; I cannot answer all her charges;
the attempt to reason with Gann^ would drive me crazy. It
would be charming to have a country walk with her, but the
pleasure in the prospect evaporates during the preliminaries.
She is never ready at the stipulated time. I like to walk without

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impedimenta; she lugs along with her all kinds o f things she
considers indispensable a book; a thick cloak; a rug, in case
we want to lie down; an umbrella, though there is not a cloud
in the sky; a big hand-bag containing food, notebook, facecream; a straw hat hanging by its chin-band over her arm. O f
course she cannot carry all this herself, so I must take my share
o f the load. I want to walk for exercise, she wants to revel in
the expedition. Enthusiastic comment on the landscape bores,
m e; she dilates upon the beauties of every hill within sight. In
her ecstasy she links her arm in mine; but since this forces
me to keep step with her and to mind my paces as if I were
an invalid, I impatiently unhitch and press on ahead. (I am a
quick walker as I am a quick breather, a quick eater, a quick
liver. How, then, can we keep pace? There is organic incom
patibility.)
This leads to recriminations.
Surely a woman who has borne you two children and has
suckled each of them for eight months, needs some consideration ?
Her husband should not bustle her about so heartlessly as you
bustle me.
It is true that I am inconsiderate, that I behave in a way
which brings her bodily weakness home to her; that I lack
chivalry. But I wish she had left out that bit about bearing chil
dren. In her view, to bear children and to nurse them at the
breast are what for a military commander the winning of battles
is praiseworthy deeds for which she must be honoured with
the crown of the Mater Dolorosa. She talks as if children were
only begotten through some uncanny malice on the part of the
male; and as if the woman who brings them into the world,,
an innocent victim, were entitled to levy tribute on him for the
rest of her life because of his despicable breach of trust. As soon
as Ganna has erected such an argumentative bastion as this, she
continues her advance at the storming-pace. She questions
heaven.
W hy should it be my lot, of all people in the world, to have
a ruthless egoist as my life-companion; I who (God be my
K*

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witness) am so absurdly moderate in my demands that I have


long since ceased to expect anything for myself; I who am left
in solitude at home day after day, while he seeks distraction
elsewhere?
It may be true, Ganna, it may all be true, what you are
saying, but do stop railing at me. Cant you see how you are
making every one stare at us? Do stop!
But she does not stop, neither on the way home, nor at supper.
There is an unceasing douche of complaints, which I receive
in silence, unless my temper gets the better of me and I lash
out in reply. I cannot always control myself; but, above all,
I cannot control Ganna. W e feel differently; we look at things
differently; there is a perpetual conflict between our respective
tempos. When such a foolish dispute has raged for hours, my
only resource is, at long last, to sit down at the piano, open
a sheet of music, and, with clumsy, untrained fingers, murdering
the composition, begin to hammer out one of Chopins Preludes
or one o f the pieces in Schumanns Carnival.
Instantly Ganna is transformed. Leaning back rapturously
in an armchair she listens with the widely opened eyes of a
child at prayer. W hat has induced me to try to charm her with
my prentice hand at the keyboard? Perhaps I do it because
thus only can our conflict of tempos be resolved into an un
rhythmical chaos; because I know that she will then ask my
forgiveness, will kneel beside me and caress me. T h e difference
between us is still there, but she can forget it in a moment as
only angels or devils can forget. I cannot forget. Alas, I can
never forget, and my mood grows gloomier and gloomier as
the months pass.
The Mystical Tie. During the period when Irmgard had
become engaged to a man named Leitner, a mining engineer,
I made the following entry in my journal:
For Irmgard I was only a resting-place, a peg on which she
could temporarily hang her longing. Since she gave me up, it
has been as if she had given herself up, as if she had withered
and faded. Not even a god can help those who abandon them

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selves. Only a winged soul keeps young. For such a soul, love
is innate. It does not need to receive love, but gives forth love
from its surplus store; its trouble is not lack, but superabundance.
A gain :
There is a sorrow so intense that one longs to stretch oneself
at full length on the ground and weep; so intense that when
one speaks, it is with a wounded tongue; so intense that the
air weighs on ones shoulders like an alp. Y et things have but
taken their natural course. It is lovely when two human beings
walk freely side by side, and belong to one another in imagination.
Then there is a bitter-sweet flavour even in the pain of loss,
and what has slipped away indefinitely and without perturba
tions has been midway between passion and a brotherly-sisterly
affection; has not even been shattered, for it remains enshrined
as a golden memory. Night after night, I have anxiety dreams!
Yesterday evening in the park, when we bade farewell to one
another, speaking freely for what was to be the last time, and
when she was standing before me pale and motionless, a shootingstar flashed across the sky.
Traude having married a Berlinese manufacturer called
Heckenast, Irmgard felt uneasy and lonely in the nest. It was
natural, therefore, that she should listen favourably to Leitners
wooing, for the man was a good fellow, and intelligent. M y
own feeling for her was as strong as ever, although at this time
I had begun to enter into close relationships with other women.
Irmgards image was very dear to me. I was extremely depen
dent on women. When I lacked the experience o f erotic intoxi
cation, the bewitching entanglement o f the senses, I felt only
half alive. Irmgard knew this well enough, and had never made
any claim upon me. On the evening mentioned in the last extract
from my diary, after a long silence I grasped her hand and kissed
it fervently. She drew back in alarm. Then she asked, almost
as if talking to herself:
How do things really stand between you and Ganna?
No change. There can be no change.
Have you never thought of a separation?

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I shook my head, saying:


No, never. That would be almost a life-or-death matter.
But you are unfaithful to her, and yet you cohabit with her,
she said, with a touch of contempt. You have had a second
child by her. What can you be thinking about?
Oh, I admit the justice o f your criticism, I answered sadly;
but my marriage, my relationship to Ganna, lies above the level
o f discussion. T h e children apart, there is something that makes
separation impossible. . . . I cant explain it. You must accept
it as a fact.
Then you are only playing with those others?
Nonsense, Irmgard. You know well enough that I dont play
with anybody. W hat youve got to understand is that there is
a mystical tie between myself and Ganna.
Is that so? rejoined Irmgard dubiously. She did not believe
me, but she had neither the energy nor the wish to undermine
my faith in the mystical tie. Y et she was mistaken in her
scepticism. T h e mystical tie was real enough, compounded of
a sense o f guilt and o f a fear of ghosts. It was also permeated
b y a sense of overshadowing doom, for I believe myself to be
one of those who, half consciously, half unconsciously, carry
their destiny about with them as part of the living substance
o f their present selves.
Gannas Tolerance. If I remember aright, the end of
sexual intimacy between Ganna and myself began when we
left the Ohnegrolls. T he flat had become too small for us, so
we rented part of a house on the northern outskirts of the city
among vineyards at the foot of the Kahlenberg. A t first only
half of the storey we wanted was free. W e moved in November,
and until M ay I had to take refuge with my work in an attic,
once more. T his did not trouble me. I slept under the roof
as if I had been in a world of my own. T h e ceiling was so low
that I could touch it with upstretched hand. When I had bolted
the iron door behind me, I was completely alone with my
imaginative constructions. T h e descent six months later to the
part of the house where my family was quartered, was distasteful.

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though even then I had a room well away from the rest of them.
There was an increasing lack of repose about Ganna. She was
at war with every one. She quarrelled even with the in-dwelling
owners of the place: because the day assigned for the use of
the laundry did not suit her; because the main door was closed
too early; because they had scolded her cook; because there
was gossip about us among the neighbours; or what not. Always
there was a grievance. Perpetually I had to mediate, compose
differences, apologise. On fine evenings, the guests in the vine
yard taverns made a damnable row. W hat could I do but flee
from the house when its atmosphere became intolerable ?
As soon as Ganna came to realise that I was unfaithful to
her, it was a great distress to her. Still, I have never learned
what was really going on within her at this period. I often found
her in tears; sometimes she flashed out at m e; now and again
it seemed to me that she had accepted the situation, and had
decided to tolerate my lapses, much as so many working-class
women put up with a husbands spending his evenings in a
pothouse. Since, for her sake, I was as discreet as possible in
my amours, she could console herself with the fact that she did
not know the woman in the case. Anyhow it was only a mis
tress. She herself remained the lawful wife. No casual loveaffairs o f mine should shake her dominant position in this respect.
She also cherished the delusion that, in a sense, she retained
the supervision of m y liaisons. Whenever a new woman entered
m y life, began to engross m y thoughts and affections, Gannas
first endeavour was to find out how dangerous this rival might
be, to what extent the invader challenged the wifes rights of
possession. Her general behaviour was guided in accordance with
the principles o f a sovereign domestic policy. A man such as
I, she said (and it was often repeated to me), would be spiritually
impoverished if he lacked a succession of fresh experiences. It
was essential to the fostering of my creative imagination that
I should not be allowed to stagnate in the fam ily; and I toiled
so incessantly that I needed occasional distraction. The upshot
was (had I clearly understood, though I closed my eyes to a

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clear understanding o f this matter) that she aimed at a sort of


literary investment o f my amorous experiences, which were
regarded in the light o f capital. W hat was expended in passion,
time, and money (travelling and presents, for instance), was to
produce interest in the form of imaginative creations. Every stir
o f my emotions, every impetus, could be transformed into the
materials for a book; the book would be printed and paid for;
if the sales were good, there would be a rich return on the outlay.
Such was Gannas insight. One must have insight, she said;
but she begged me, for her sake, not to give too much of myself
-as if her book-keeping balance would be unfavourably affected
by erotic extravagance on my part. These women are vampires,
and would like to suck the blood out of your body, she said
warningly; and, to convince me that such vampire-women had
practised their blood-sucking ways in all ages, she read me suit
able extracts from Gorres Christliche Mystik.
Let any one who is disposed to smile at this, bear in mind
that it happened over a smouldering abyss, in which there
was hidden a very different Ganna, gloomy as the Fates.
Claudia Frohmann. Whether Gannas attitude was one of
angry submission to the inevitable or one of a complaisantly
simulated blindness, depended a good deal upon the characteristics
and behaviour of my lady-friend o f the moment. Thus she took
quite a fancy to a handsome Belgian woman named Yvonne
who, in rare visits to our house, treated her with the utmost
consideration. A remark of Yvonnes had come to Gannas ears
and had charmed my wife, probably because she did not under
stand its esoteric meaning. I should never try to estrange
Alexander Herzog from his wife, for that would sow the seeds
o f irreparable disaster. Yvonne could not have known that her
utterance was prophetic. She admitted to me, once, that Ganna
was the most disquieting person she had ever encountered.
Occasionally she would wrench herself out of my arms as if
Gannas little hand had seized her by the throat. When I pro
posed to travel with her, anywhere she liked and for as long as
she liked, she quaked with fear, and pantingly replied:

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For G ods sake, no. Y ou must not leave her. Even if you
came away with me, I should always feel that you were with
her.
As far as Yvonne was concerned, Ganna had no uneasiness.
M y sister-in-law Justine informed me one day that Ganna had
said to her with a furtive smile: Just fancy; he has an intimacy
now with a Belgian countess! Even Justine, who was rather
dull-witted, found this snobbishness unpleasing. For m y part,
I was saddened and revolted by it. Y et there was no remedy.
I was content to avoid scenes, which embittered my life with
Ganna.
Such scenes, however, were intolerably frequent during my
liaison with Claudia Frohmann, a woman of exceptional charm,
though by no means beautiful; so agreeable, so witty, so sensitive
and yet so bright and cheerful, that I fell over head and ears
in love with her at first sight. It was a love of the nerves and
the skin, but more stimulating to me than any of my previous
amours, for she was full of surprises, of mysteries which chal
lenged m y self-control. But Ganna would allow me no veils to
conceal my nakedness from her piercing gaze. As soon as she
was on the track o f one o f my lapses, she would not rest
content without a full confession. It was only on such terms
that I could purchase her tolerance. Her reward was that she
must be in the know, lest some outsider should be able to tell
tales her ignorance o f which would make her feel like a fool.
From the outset she had an ineradicable mistrust of Claudia,
this being determined, partly by her sensing the young womans
instinctive dislike o f herself, partly because she recognised the
intensity of the fascination Claudia exerted over me, and partly
because even she could not escape the lure of Claudias modernity
and refinement. Still, she had contented herself with the know
ledge that she herself was the stronger, that she herself held
the trump-cards. W hat mortified her beyond endurance (as I
can very well understand) was that the Frohmanns, who were
popular and o f good standing, boycotted her socially. D ay after
day, I went to their hospitable house a house from which she

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was excluded. There seemed to be a collective animus against


her, and I found this extremely distressing. For once in a way
I could see Ganna objectively, as she appeared to strangers, as
a neutral figure. And this figure had to me the look o f a cari
cature. M y own position was extremely awkward. Although the
Frohmanns never said to me in so many words W e really
cannot endure Frau H erzog, their feeling was plain enough.
I ought to have sheltered Ganna, to have shunned their com
pany. I did not do so, and thus I betrayed her. When I reproached
Claudia, she shrugged her shoulders, and then went on to explain
that she had once been present, at a hall in a working-class
quarter, where I was to tell the children some fairy-tales. Ganna,
who had come to listen, bringing with her the eight-year-old
Ferry, pushed the little lad in front of her as she elbowed her
way through the crowd, saying in tones loud enough for every
one to hear: Go to the front row. Its your right, since Daddy
is lecturing. Then she had turned to one of the ladies on the
committee and demanded a glass o f milk for my husband ;
my husband always needs it when he is lecturing, to keep up
his strength. By the time the milk had been procured, I was
already on the platform. Ganna seized the glass and handed
it up to me with the devoted air of a slave-girl. Ever since,
declared Claudia, she had had goose-flesh on hearing the name
o f Ganna Herzog.
I remembered the incident well, and I tingled with shame
when Claudia referred to it. All the same, I defended Ganna,
saying that those who did not know her intimately were prone
to misunderstand her. She was unworldly; but was a most
affectionate mother, and profoundly devoted to myself. Claudia
remained silent, and I saw that she could not forgive me for
having such a wife as Ganna. T he two women were chemically,
temperamentally, incompatible. Once, when her defences were
down, Claudia told me that she might have been less ready to
yield to my love-making had she not been so sorry for me
because I was unequally yoked with Ganna. At that time I
could not understand her words. People dont know the real

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Ganna, was my thought. As if I m yself had known the real


G anna!
I could not take it amiss that Ganna should speak ill of Claudia
and of the Frohmanns in general. For her, they were a hostile
clique. It was at about this date that she began to make frequent
use of the word clique, which for her denoted a set of people
who were a thoroughly bad lo t; cold-hearted, envious, calumnious,
and making it their chief aim in life to injure the poor lamb,
Ganna. By degrees she became so much incensed against Claudia,
that I began to be afraid of what she might do in a tantrum
to tarnish the girls reputation, and perhaps (in view of Claudias
extreme sensitiveness of disposition) to wreck her detested rivals
peace of mind. I would spend hour after hour of the night,
fruitlessly endeavouring to mitigate Gannas detestation for
Claudia. Unfortunately in the end a clash occurred through
which Claudia was lost to me for ever.
One July afternoon I had persuaded my beloved to come to
my study, where I wished to read aloud something I had written.
Ganna and the children were out for the day, and I was sure
we should be undisturbed. However, when Claudia came, there
was no question of the reading. The weather was frightfully
hot. She had a bad headache. She took down her hair, and
crouched apathetically in a corner of the study; I sat in front
of her, holding her hand, and talking in low tones. She was
subject to fits of depression; of which I could sometimes rid
her in this way.
T h e door opened, and Ganna stood upon the threshold,
Claudias face turned as whi,te as a sheet. Literally, I think,
her heart stopped beating for a few seconds. I sprang to my
feet, and stared at Ganna. In her flashing eyes I could read
fierce triumph: So I have caught you at last! There had been
no misconduct. There was nothing to justify suspicion, unless
it was that Claudia had taken her hair down. That speaks
volumes, said Ganna next day. Anyhow, for Ganna the situation
was plain enough. She had caught us red-handed. Still, she
did not venture to raise a clamour. M y expression was unpro-

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pitious. Turning on her heel, she went out, slamming the door
behind her so violently that some o f the books in the shelves
fell down. Claudia, still deadly pale, whispered, You shouldnt
have exposed me to this ; put up her hair as quickly as she
could; gathered her belongings; and went out through the other
door to the ante-room and the staircase.
I sat there with one thought in my mind: Its all over now !
A t nightfall, Ganna came in, very quietly. Not a word of reproach
did she utter. She sat down behind me, and stroked my hair
gently with her slender little hands. What was passing through
her mind? Was she delighted at having put Claudia to rout,
and at being alone with me once more? Obviously, she had
nothing to fear if all these love-episodes ended in her being
left alone with me, mistress of the field. She would see to it
that after every amorous campaign I should come back to her
repentant; injured or uninjured; but preferably injured, for then
she could nurse me back to health. She was the lawful wife, who
could declare with radiant happiness: The woman is not yet
bom that can take him away from me; and if one should ever
be born, then woe unto her!
The Moral Postulate. If friends who read this shake their
heads in surprise and disapproval, let me assure them that I
fully understand their sentiments. I can hear them asking: How
could you behave like that? Had you no eyes for the dangers
that were threatening? Was it compatible with your sense of
loyalty and decency thus to bring increasing mental distress upon
your wife and to undermine her sense of security ? For, that you
distressed her cannot be doubted, although, with her incurable
optimism, she might be able to feign indifference even in her
secret self-communings. Your relationship with her was falsified,
your existence was rotten to the core. How could you go on
leading such a life?
But those who should arraign me in such terms would be
confounding the picture I am drawing here with my vision of
m y life at the time it was being lived. How hard do I find it to
ignore, more or less, the experiences of the subsequent twenty

ALEXANDER

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years, so as to revive the outlooks of those days. Fate often


deals with us like the author of a detective novel. Piece by piece,
step by step, there is disclosed something which in its entirety
remains hidden until the final revelations; and the astonishment
we then feel arises only because our insight and our judgment
have been tricked.
I had invincible faith in Ganna. Although my liaisons with
other women became more and more frequent, and I could
never resist the lure of the senses, I remained attached to her
in a way which was enigmatic even to myself; and the tie that
bound us, which on her side worked like an elemental force,
was an iron law that determined my behaviour. Impossible to
work against it; impossible any attempt to sever it. Relations
with other women could never be more than temporary aber
rations. I assured her of this often enough, thus confirming her
feeling of security, and making her unruly. But however boldly
she overstepped the bounds (and she did so more boldly as year
followed year), nothing shook my confidence in her, nothing
reduced my admiration for her merits, my faith in her intel
lectual and spiritual comradeship above all since I often failed
to notice such infringements or to understand their nature.
For instance, without my knowledge or consent, she published
in a German weekly a lengthy article on me and my writings
an intelligent and readable essay, though too richly inter
spersed with the aesthetic flourishes of the period. Some of my
friends were critical, not of the contents, but of an authors wife
venturing to assume the role of his interpreter. I demurred,
saying that the article was brilliantly penned (here I exaggerated),
and asking what was there to hinder a wife from taking an
objective and dignified view of her husbands literary activities.
I will not pretend that I was satisfied as to the soundness of
my arguments, but I could not leave Ganna in the lurch.
Still more surprised were my intimates when my book The
Seven Dances of Death, at which I had been working for four
years, was published with a dedication to Ganna a dedication
which acknowledged her helpful understanding besides expres

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sing my affection for her as wife and companion. This testimony


was absolutely sincere. I have never written a line in which
I was false to my true self, have never been able to touch up
a feeling. The dedication was a free g ift; and yet such ostensibly
free gifts are sometimes mysteriously extorted, if only by the
dumb expectation of, the unexpressed demand for, a return in
kind. Besides, the real Ganna and the Ganna of my imagination
were totally different beings. They were fused now and again
by gratitude, or by what I regarded as such, though it was an
obscure sentiment of duty mingled with a sense of guilt. For
I was persistently tormented by this sense of guilt. It seems
inconceivable that I should have felt guilty, since, if I had done
any wrong, if I owed any gratitude, I had atoned and had dis
charged my debt day after day and year after year with my
whole personality. It was as if one who has long since been
tried and discharged as not guilty should (as sometimes happens)
continue to pester the public prosecutor with proofs of his
innocence. M y guilt complex made me sanctify marriage with
moral postulates with which I made no attempt to comply; it
made me idealise Ganna preposterously, and write her the most
affectionate letters when (as frequently happened) I was away
from home. In the realm of poesy, I fabled a supramundane
tie between us, while failing to see that the actual man Alexander
Herzog no longer had any firm ground to stand on. I elevated
Ganna into a principle, an idea; she and the children were one,
were three hearts that beat in tune with mine and to whose
service I must devote my life. Ganna knew this and built upon
it. The foundation seemed to her strong enough for anything.
Exhaustion of the Capital. O f the handsome dowry,
scarcely a tenth remained, and money troubles made Ganna
sleepless. Like the last pieces of wood thrown upon a dying
fire, the depleted bank balance threw a flickering light upon
a frivolous mode of life, an unwarrantable confidence in princely
revenues, in a word, upon a thriftless domestic economy. No
doubt I made a considerable income by my writings, but not

ALEXANDER

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enough to cover our expenses. M y expectations from this source


were always greatly in excess of the results. There was no
prospect of that reconstitution of the dowry the thought of
which had been Gannas consolation when we first broke in
upon the capital.
A careworn accountant, therefore, she spent her days bending
with furrowed brows over the huge housekeeping book, adding
up column after column of refractory figures. In addition to
the large sums that had to be paid out for rent, wages, travelling,
insurance, food, and clothing, there were innumerable minor
disbursements for soap, string, tram-fares, charity, postage,
cobbling every farthing was scrupulously entered.
Ganna, youre giving yourself a lot of trouble for nothing.
W hy on earth dont you simply put aside a lump sum every
week for petty cash?
She would not do it. Ganna had no faculty for taking a general
view, could not see the wood for the trees, and covered up her
incapacity by undue attention to detail. She had to burden her
head with a thousand trifles, and if this led to confusion it was
pardonable in a woman who always took a volume of Nietzsche
or Novalis to bed with her, and dreaded lest the trivial round
might paralyse her faculty for sublime flights. Unfortunately,
as an outcome of these worries, she often forgot what was due
to me and to her own self-respect. She berated me as if I were
a servant whenever I spent money in a way she considered
extravagant. Well, the financial outlook was indeed threatening;
the wolf was already at the door. I had a very dear friend in
Berlin, a man with great talent, but in dire poverty. I gave him
pecuniary help from time to time; trifling sums. Ganna was
outraged by my doing this. I ought to leave such luxuries
to richer persons, who could afford them. She quoted proverbs:
Charity begins at home ; and Dear is my shirt, but dearer
is my skin. I ought to think of my family first. W ith the seven
teen hundred crowns which that rascally friend of yours, Fiirst,
still owes, she could have taken the children to the seaside for
the summer, and they urgently need change of air.

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It seems to me that the need is not so urgent as you make


out. As far as I can see, the children are in splendid health.
Have you forgotten, replied Ganna angrily, how D r. Blau
said that Elisabeth had a tendency to bronchitis?
Dr. Blau? M y dear Ganna, for the sum you waste on doctors
fees, you could not only go to Biarritz, but could buy yourself
half a dozen Paris frocks instead of always wearing arty dresses
of your own designing, which make you look like a frump.
You dare to reproach me for dressing simply? You think
that when we are so near ruin I ought to wear Paris frocks ? That
I shouldnt send for a doctor when the children are ill? O f
course I know you could see them suffer and never turn a
hair!
What could I answer? That I should not be so ready as she
was to send for Dr. Blau or D r. Roth, because I had more faith
in the healing force of nature than in medical prescriptions?
Useless to talk in that way to Ganna, to whom fact and expe
rience were of no moment, whose actions were guided by un
reasoning impulses which produced short-circuits in her mind
and threw the whole illuminating apparatus out of gear.
When she brings me the housekeeping book, holding it out
to me solemnly as if it were the Tables of the Law, or when
she delivers a crushing record of my economic sins, I am no
longer a creative spirit, no longer a Pericles with his Aspasia.
I have become for her the conscienceless devourer of her dowry,
o f the sacrosanct capital which Mewis, the father of the tribe,
had provided for her and her children as a lifelong usufruct.
With passionate loquacity she boasts of saving at least a hundred
crowns a month by the discovery of a cheaper source for the
supply of fruit and vegetables, and fails to see that thrice as
much as this alleged saving is squandered through the incapacity
and disobedience of her domestics. But I dare not hint at this,
for I should only fan the flames of her wrath. I am in a blind
alley. Often and often I think: Oh, Ganna, what am I to do
that your mind may be at rest once more, and your intelligence
clear? There was no hope of such a recovery, and if there

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had been it would have been dashed by subsequent events.


Ganna was now thirty-two. Few persons are modifiable after
this age, and she was less so than most by dispositions and
inheritance.
A Field looms on the Horizon. At that time it was the
custom for women of the cultured middle class to parade a
monkeyish affection for their children. There was much solemn
discussion about the advantages of hardening young folk
instead of coddling them, about nursery hygiene, about
educational methods at lectures and debates as well as in
private. One might have hoped that the offspring of these wellto-do ladies, whose means enabled them to put their fads into
practice, would have developed into a generation of new types,
morally and physically competent to bring a better human race
into being. It cannot be said, however, that there are as yet any
signs of such a hopeful dawn.
Ganna had refused to send the children to school. Th ey were
to have private tuition, always a costly affair. She considered,
however, that every schoolroom was a focus of infection; and,
over and above this, she was fiercely opposed to the prevailing
methods of instruction. Teaching must always be individual,
never collective; the peculiarities of each child must be taken
into account; a harmonious development of the personality could
not otherwise be achieved. A ll very fine, but where were the
institutions in which these theories could be applied ? For me,
the new educationists were suspect. Their idolisation of the child
of those days has been responsible for the unruliness of the
present grown-ups.
I told Ganna she must bear in mind that one of the main
objects of education must be to produce a community-sense in
children; that if they were unduly protected from the need for
sacrifice and subordination, were invariably sheltered from the
harshnesses and jolts of life, they would become unsocial egoists;
and a day of reckoning would arrive when they would be at a
grievous disadvantage, a prey to shame and vengeance, as com
pared with the millions who had been exposed to hard knocks.

ALEXANDER
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I might as well have talked to the wind. T o Ganna and such


as she, the world must seem inalterable, since they have no
faculty for internal transformation. She let her fancy riot con
cerning the tyranny of schoolmasters and schoolmistresses, whose
aim, she said, was, not to instil knowledge and promote culture,
but to act as censors and as the watchdogs of conventional
morality. Were not the papers full o f accounts of child-suicides ?
She would not have Ferry and Elisabeth put into strait-waistcoats.
Your schools are penitentiaries, she shouted, with the
fanaticism of a revivalist preacher. I would rather be hanged,
drawn, and quartered, than condemn my children to a life in
such institutions. M y children! Oh Ganna, Ganna! M y
house, m y husband, m y children. For you this unhappy
pronoun was the alpha and omega of life.
What did she intend to do? Ferry was nearly ten, and some
thing must be decided on his behalf. He could no longer be
kept from association with lads of his own age as if he were
a prince of the blood. What about Elisabeth? The children had
been brought up in a hothouse, but it was time to break the
glass walls and give them a breath of fresh air. T o my way of
thinking, I was fighting Ganna in secret for the childrens souls.
T h e issue was decided, not by love or the will to love, but by
what I term a persons atmosphere. No one had yet been
able to discover how the fathers blood and the mothers mingle
to form the childrens heritage and fashion their destiny; it was
still uncertain whether father and mother contributed more
than arrogant pretensions. For all we then knew, heredity might
be a myth, but the influence of environment was indisputable.
Gannas coddling of Ferry and Elisabeth was a danger to them.
But was I myself so far from coddling them as to have any
right to pass judgment upon Ganna ? I had a soft way of saying
to myself, You cant be too loving as if the love one bestows
were a panacea to render the recipient immune to unhappiness
and suffering; as if experience had not taught me that when,
in a frost we take off a warm overcoat, we feel the cold more
than if we had not been wearing it.

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One fine day, Ganna was moving along through the streets
of our suburb when she happened upon a fenced field where
the grass was growing heavenward and waving in the breeze
like a green flag. A thought flashed into her mind: This is
where the children must have their school. A pregnant hour!
Instantly there rose before her minds eye what might be done
with the place: well-built frame-houses, open sheds for the
classes, adequately ventilated dormitories for the boarders, an
assembly room, a lawn-tennis ground, a gymnasium. W hy should
she not have such a place built according to her designs ? It was
only a question of funds.
Within a few minutes, as she stood rooted to the spot, and
looked affectionately at her discovery, the following considera
tions passed through her mind. What do moneyed people exist
for, except to provide money? Those who supplied what was
needed would have a share in the profits, and the capital could
be repaid if the undertaking were successful. Found a jointstock company; establish a school community. A splendid field
like this was a fine property in itself, but perhaps it was going
cheap. Within a few years, the site would have increased so
much in value that the increment would defray the prime cost
o f the scheme, in the very unlikely event of its not being a
paying educational proposition. But pupils would flock hither
from Austria and Germany, if propaganda were carried out on
the grand scale. Alexanders literary connexions would secure
publicity. The venture would be a gold-mine. She would keep
the field as her own property. What would the price be? Sixty,
perhaps seventy thousand. T h e district was developing, and in
a few years the site would be worth half a million. This would
secure for me an independent life, and free me from pecuniary
cares in my old age. Meanwhile the children at this open-air
school would have a heavenly time of it.
Ganna saw no difficulties. She did not remember stories she
must have read in childhood, that of Alnaschar, The Barbers
Fifth Brother, in the Arabian Nights Entertainments, and L a
Fontaines fable of Pierrette et le Pot-au-Lait^

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It is a psychological enigma that persons of Gannas tem


perament may be favoured by fortune for a long time, until
the tension between dream and reality leads to catastrophe. On
a closer view, however, we see that their foundations are weakened
from the start by the cleavage in their motives. T h ey try to
insure themselves against failure and to drown the warning
voices o f intelligence and conscience by buttressing their imme
diate purpose with a remoter one which seems to them un
selfish. Thus, however, instead of (as they think) multiplying
the sources o f energy, they dissipate their forces; and, while
hoping to keep paths of escape open, they barricade these. That
is what happened to poor Ganna when, with her usual im
petuosity, she set out, not only to conjure up from the ground
an educational paradise for her own children; but simultaneously,
b y means of a grandiose speculation, to secure her beloved
husband against the shafts o f fate. The combination of the two
schemes frustrated both, transformed both into illusion.
Foundation of the School and what it involved. L et
us follow her next steps in the matter. T h ey were both bold
and practical. She learned that the field belonged to a Frau
Nussberger, widow o f a vinegrower. She called on the old lady
in due form, was told that the field was in the market, and that
the price was a hundred and twenty thousand. Ganna posed
as the representative o f a group, and began to bargain. She had
the impression that the owner would be stiff about the price,
but there was a mortgage o f forty thousand which could be left
unredeemed, and this reduced the amount of cash needed to
eighty thousand. T h e same day she went to see her friend D r.
Pauli, who liked and respected her. He was one of the leading
barristers in Vienna, and a man of influence. She expounded
her scheme, in which he was greatly interested, and he promised
to help. How was the field to be had? Here Ganna was already
informed. Frau Nussberger wanted hard cash. Further nego
tiations showed, however, that a comparatively small amount
o f ready money would suffice, if adequate security were given
for the payment of the balance. Ganna devoted all her powers

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of persuasion to reducing the amount of spot cash. Relatives


were called in, daughters, grand-sons, sons-in-law, the whole
Nussberger clan, all expecting to make their bit out o f the deal.
Interminable discussions. She succeeded in reducing the sum
immediately required to two thousand crowns a remarkable
achievement. But where were the two thousand to be had? It
was out o f the question to take them from our own bank balance,
which was our last stand-by. Some person o f means must be
found who would be sufficiently interested in the great scheme
to take the risk and supply what was needed. D r. Pauli had
persuaded some of his friends to participate in the founding
of the school community, and one of them was willing to
advance the deposit. Gannas masterstroke was that she per
suaded the interested parties to allow her to have the title-deeds
to the field made out in her name instead of in that of the school
community. She once tried to explain to me how she had
managed this, but I have no talent for such matters, and the
explanation was too complicated for me to understand. M y chief
wonder was that she showed such a head for business, and I
could only think that the gift had been inborn.
Now progress was rapid. T h e number of participators, all
persons of means, increased day by day. I was amazed to find
how many parents there were who wanted to save their children
from the disagreeable strictness of the ordinary school education,
and who had a lot to say about liberty, a minimum programme,
and modern principles. T h ey were manifestly well informed
concerning the snares that beset our path through life, and
jum ped at the chance of securing (by paying an appropriate
premium) a privileged educational position for children whom
teachers of the old school would have stigmatised as slothful.
Even greater was my astonishment at Gannas indefatigable
zeal and her seeming efficiency. Adjoining the field was a country
house with a spacious garden. From the first, Ganna had noticed
this with the keenly observant eyes o f a military commander.
It was to let. She rented it, intending to buy it later. Thus
with house and field her preliminary requirements for a boarding

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school were already satisfied. Exciting negotiations went on,


mostly at our flat. In retrospect I seem to myself to have been
like a man who has got mixed up in a street row, and is eager
to find out what was the origin o f the dispute. Gannas reports
became more and more confusing. She had no time for tranquil
conversation. Early in the morning she rushed off into town,
to return late in the afternoon, tired, breathless, and famished.
Then she had a lot of writing to do. Dozens o f letters every
d ay; prospectuses which must be sent to the printer; newspaper
articles; pedagogical essays; pronunciamentos in the name of
the school community; requests to the Board of Education;
curricula for the classes; plans for the economic side of the
affair. She showed staying-power, circumspection, and manysidedness beyond what I could have believed possible. H er room
became an office. T h e servants did as they liked, while Ferry
and Elisabeth were left entirely to themselves. I fled the house
during the day. When I got home in the evenings, it was to
find all the rooms packed with strangers. Lawyers, officials,
school-teachers, journalists, female enthusiasts, place-hunters
o f dubious character, thronged the dwelling, consumed bread
and butter, drank vast quantities of beer, wine, brandy, and
tea, argued loudly and at great length, and inquisitively scanned
the books and M S S . in my library. There was always somebody
at the telephone, most often Ganna. Telegrams galore. Tedious
reports were read, and delegations were elected to wait on the
authorities.
The school community began its activities; the share capital
had been subscribed when the first rebellion broke out. Ganna,
said the dissentients, had exceeded her competence. She had
acted in defiance of the articles of association; had encroached;
had made injudicious appointments, putting square pegs into
round holes. For instance, she had chosen for headmaster a
handsome young fellow, Borngraber by name, who had nothing
better to recommend him than some turgid testimonials and
his ingratiating manners. Soon it became apparent that the man
was a bad egg, and was intriguing against her. I dont really

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know the details, and can only be guided by what I heard from
Ganna. W ith her fearlessness o f the trite, she said: I have
warmed a viper in my bosom. But this viper was not the only
one of the crowd to turn against her. Every day there were fresh
adversaries, tale-bearers, traitors, conspirators. Borngraber
became the centre of a faction. So did Ganna. This feud was
not the best way o f starting a sound educational enterprise.
What on earth has gone wrong? I wondered. Ganna would
not hurt a fly. W hy, then, are these people so angry with her?
Various persons came to me with complaints and accusations.
It was all beyond me, so I asked Ganna to throw light upon
what I had been told. According to her, she was a victim of
envy and malice, and the rival clique was trying to wrest the
direction of affairs from her hands. I must espouse her cause.
M y word would be decisive. If I threw my weight into the
scales, none of them would venture to side against her.
I did not agree that my word would carry so much weight,
but I wanted to help her if I could, for I felt as if she had
a pack of hounds baying on her trail. She was terribly distressed.
She was sacrificing herself for great ideas, and this was her
reward! Easily recognisable became the figure of the female
Don Quixote in a hostile world. Something must be done. I
discussed matters with the teachers, with the perfidious Born
graber, with Dr. Pauli, with an aulic councillor who was honorary
patron o f the school and whom Ganna trusted. M y intervention
was futile. I did not know myself in this contentious atmosphere.
A medley of irritated voices unnerves me. I am not cut out for
the part of mediator, for I cannot decide between the contending
parties.
Some of the disputants informed me that Ganna had given
me erroneous reports upon certain vital points. When she became
aware that I had vacillated, she railed against me.
What am I to do, Ganna? I asked in despair. Th ey are
all buzzing round me like angry wasps.
I visited the chairman of the board of directors, Privy Coun
cillor Schonpflug. I found the man congenial, but he said:

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ALEXANDER

Y ou must excuse me for expressing the opinion that Frau


Herzogs behaviour is not perfectly straightforward.
I answered curtly that there could be no possible ground for
suspicion as to my w ifes absolute sincerity. When I told Ganna
about that, she asked me to embody m y opinion in a short
memorial to the board of directors.
That will stop the mouths of my enemies.
I could not refuse. Had I done so, I should never have had
another hours domestic peace. A ll the same, I was exposing
myself to the danger of being proved a liar, for Ganna was
eminently capable o f self-deception when excited, and might be
less innocent than she supposed. However, I penned a con
vincing declaration of her singlemindedness and of the moral
sublimity o f her doings. Then I fled for safety to Ebenweiler,
and stayed there for several weeks.
Tragedy of the Male. Before I relate the progress and
the conclusion o f the school affair, which grew continually more
irksome and offensive, I shall refer to my own experiences during
these years before the war and the earlier part of the war; two
o f these experiences having been especially noteworthy, because
o f the marked influence they had on the configuration of the
future. One was the birth of my daughter Doris. T h e other
was the gift of a house yes, a whole house, standing in its
own grounds, bestowed on me by a young married couple with
whom for some years I had been on the most cordial terms. I
had spoken to both o f them more than once about the difficulty
of securing in a flat the quiet and other conditions needful for
literary work. I could not concentrate, with the result that my
days were wasted and my nights often disturbed. In the most
magnanimous way they offered me the sum needed to build
a country residence. This offer seemed too good to be true,
and took my breath away, so that I dared neither refuse nor
accept. T h e thing was unexampled. I wondered whether I had
the right to grasp at the skirts of happy chance. Surely to do
so would be to trade upon my friends? How allow any one to
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by the giver; how show gratitude for it, since gratitude which
one cannot reciprocate becomes a burden? I was not equipped
with the open maw of those men of genius (and, indeed, I did
not deem myself a genius) who take the help of their admirers
as a matter o f course. For that, I was too much permeated with
the bourgeois spirit of pacts and contracts and tit for tat. T h e
formulas of nothing for nothing, and value for value received,
were constituents o f my blood. I could not imagine there was
any service I had done my friends which would warrant their
making so princely a return.
Ganna had no scruples. It seemed to her perfectly natural
that people should spoil me a little. When they did so, she said,
they were only paying back some of the abundance I had given
them.
Nonsense! I rejoined uneasily. There are thousands of
my sort. Ninety per cent of them drop into the gutter. One
may consider oneself well off if one has enough to eat and a
bed to sleep in. W hat am I that I should expect to live in Luxury
T ow n? W e are too brazen in our demand for security.
Ganna protested vigorously. She was the child of a luxuriant
and pretentious epoch, in which spiritual values and mental work
had their quotation on the stock exchange like ordinary shares.
Although she did not say so in plain words, she thought a great
deal more of me because I was a man to whom people could
give a house in this casual way. Nothing of the sort had hap
pened since the days of the M edici. She sang hosannas about
the great event to all the winds of heaven, and when I urged
discretion she did not understand me.
Anyhow, we now had a neutral territory, where we could act
in common to further our joint interests. There was occupation
for Ganna. She had to be filled with fuel like a stove, and could
then do twenty things at once, all of them with the same fervour.
W hen we were discussing the plans for the house, were looking
for a site, were negotiating with the architect, examining designs,
buying furniture and other essentials for my part, too, I shook
off the passivity which had taken possession of me in all matters

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that concerned her, and at least allowed m yself to be swept away


by the stream. Lest she should become aware that I was still
in a sense passive, that I was only driftwood in the rush of her
impetuosity, I sometimes stroked the little hand which gave me
sweets, and tried to persuade myself that I was something more
than flotsam. T h e weaker party in a marriage has plenty of
chances of showing lack of character.
Ganna did not need much cunning or pains to induce me
to have the title-deeds of this house, which had been given
specially to me as a place for study and a home of refuge made
out in our joint names. Thus in due form Ganna became co
proprietor of the villa. It never occurred to me that in agreeing,
I surrendered my first and only guarantee of independence; that
I confirmed Ganna in her sense o f ownership an ownership
which gave her sway over, not only the house and grounds, but
my body and my soul.
So far, however, I was no more than outwardly affected. In
retrospect I seem during these years to have been walking along
a deep lane, from which a view of the surrounding landscape
was obtainable only at long intervals. I sensed the approach of
great events. The thundercloud was still below the horizon, but
gave forth electrical radiations, which made me uneasy, as birds
are before a storm. T h e country and its inhabitants were under
an evil spell; I had an uncanny feeling when, late in the evening,
I strolled through the streets of a German town where I was
staying; I suffered like a sleeper who dreams that his house is
on fire. It seemed to me that I was being summoned to work
in new and unfamiliar spheres; that what I had hitherto achieved
was scarcely worth considering; it was inadequate, not wide
enough in its appeal, and couched in obsolete forms. I felt that
people were waiting for me to deliver my message; felt, but
did not know. I was still far from the border I had to cross,
far from my true self. Unless I could break the crust that
enveloped me, I should be stifled by it.
M y senses were involved in the conflagration. Furious appetite
alternated with satiety. No woman satisfied me, none could give

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me what I vaguely sought: an image of my own nature; ultimate


peace from the stirrings of my blood. I raced from one to
another, and often my feeling was that I had to open each new
conquest like a box with unknown contents, or to peel her like
a fruit which thereafter one throws away in disgust. This was
not the outcome of unqualified lust. Perhaps there was an element
of misunderstanding, which leads us to confound shadow with
substance, and to content oneself with the former because the
latter fails to satisfy. Maybe it was the outcome o f the tragedy
o f the male, who is in search of the chilly region of symbolism,
and on the way forgets his imaginative yearnings in the embraces
of warm-blooded lamiae.
In the days after the assassination of the heir to the Austrian
throne, I was with Ganna and the children at Ebenweiler, in
the farmhouse where we had spent nine summers. I had arranged
with my lady-friend of the moment (a handsome young widow,
timid and spoiled) that she was also to spend part of the hot
season at Ebenweiler. T he scheme was frustrated by the political
situation. M y friend was in the Engadine, and, since the trains
were overcrowded and travelling was risky, she decided to stay
there. She had a morbid aversion for letter-writing. As she
neither came nor sent word, I was full of wrath with her for
breaking tryst. T h e heat was tropical that July, and this, in
conjunction with the rumours of impending disaster, the general
sense of anxious expectation, and the manifest imminence
of a catastrophe, increased my irritability, so that I wrote an
angry letter to the Engadine, breaking off our relations. The
same afternoon I sought out Ganna and flung m yself into her
arms with a sort of vengeful impetuosity. I did not utter a word,
and I kept my eyes closed. I must have looked like an assassin!
Nevertheless, by one of natures mysterious workings, the fruit
of this despairing and uncontrolled embrace was a child who
showed exceptional internal harmony and poise. M aybe for the
very reason that I desired, not Ganna, but another woman! As
far as Ganna was concerned, I doubt if she detected anything
peculiar except that it was peculiar for us to have conjugal

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relations at all. From top to toe she was enwrapped in her own
ego as the silkworm pupa is enwrapped in its self-spun cocoon.
But in my own memory every moment o f this cohabitation is
deeply graven. I recall distinctly the disorder of Gannas reddishbrown hair, illuminated from time to time by the lurid blue
o f lightning-flashes for a thunderstorm was raging; I recall a
great bunch o f alpine roses that stood in front of the mirror;
places in the ceiling where the whitewashed plaster had fallen
aw ay; the cry o f a bird that perched for a moment on the window
sill ; the loud rustling of the leaves o f the old hornbeam; a spider
that ran across the pillow . . .
When my daughter Doris was born, Ganna and I were already
settled in the new house.
Truth Dawns. -Not until then did the troubles connected
with the school community attain the dimensions of a catas
trophe, profoundly affecting my life and Gannas. T h e main
dispute arose out o f the fact that Ganna obstinately refused to
transfer the legal ownership of the field to the company. The
shareholders considered it intolerable that the chief site upon
which the school buildings had been erected should be in private
hands, and that the owner, though a member of the concern,
should draw a considerable sum as rent. A t stormy meetings,
Ganna was given to understand that this arrangement was both
immoral and unbusinesslike. It made a very bad impression,
said the critics, that she should pose as the idealist who had
founded the undertaking while grasping at the lions share of
the material advantages. Persons who feel they are being done
out of profits which they ought to be making, are apt to be
peculiarly harsh in their strictures upon those who want to
secure tangible as well as moral gains. Either you are a
trader, they say, or else you are a priest. You cant have it
both ways. T h e heads o f the opposing faction went so far as
to declare Gannas position radically unsound. Their contention
was that she had got possession o f the field by a shady deal,
and that they had proofs.
Ganna was furious, and the world became for her a gloomy

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place. She vowed she would rather perish than surrender the
field. Not a square foot, not a blade of grass, would she hand
over. It was inevitable that our children, for whose sake the
enterprise had been inaugurated, should become aware that
their mother was unpopular. There was no question of their
occupying the preferential status of which Ganna had dreamed;
but it does not seem to me that there was any ground for her
lachrymose contention that they were treated worse than the
other pupils, and suffered spiritual damage. I told her that it
seemed to me a very good thing if they were brought into contact
with the harsh realities of life. This made Ganna exceeding
w ro th :
Y ou dare to find excuses for those scoundrels, she said,
spitting fire. A weakling, as usual. Every one knows that you
turn against your unhappy wife when you have a chance. God
will punish you.
What a way to attack me! I had never turned against her.
As for G ods punishments, what did she know about them?
She only called upon the name of God for purposes of male
diction. For her, God was Ganna Herzogs special constable,
volleying His thunderbolts at evildoers who committed crimes
against His beloved Ganna.
She intruded into the classrooms to tell the teachers home
truths. Naturally this did not better the situation. Ferry rebelled
against going to school any more; the mother had sinned, and
the childrens teeth were set on edge. She could now find no
epithets vile enough for the description of the teaching which
hitherto she had extolled. T h e teachers, who had all been
Froebels and Pestalozzis, now became depraved rascals. Any
means were acceptable to her in the attempt to oust Borngraber
from the headmastership, though for a time she had certainly
been a little in love with him. She conspired with the school
servants and the charwomen. Day after day, she hobnobbed with
persons in whom the name of Herzog had long ceased to inspire
respect. Association with them was a continual source of friction
and exhaustion. Like every one with an axe to grind, she was

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a prey to inciters and talebearers. It seemed to me impossible


that she could keep her hands clean.
Our home life went from bad to worse. She was tired out
in the evening when she came back from the fighting front,
and for supper gulped down the hotted-up remnants o f the
mid-day meal without tasting them or knowing what she ate.
Then she rushed off to the nursery, where the sluices of her
accumulated maternal tenderness were opened; for, since its
display was restricted to this brief period of the day, she tried
to make up by intensity what was lacking in steadfastness, and
ignored circumstances which might lead her darlings to regard
her in any other light than that cast by the momentary outburst
of affection. Y et if either of the children did anything to arouse
her impatience or failed to yield to one of her caprices, she
would fiercely scold the very person she had just been fondling.
As for contradiction, which Ganna could never bear from any
one, when it came from the children, it made her foam at the
mouth.
I f the telephone-bell rang, she shuffled out into the passage
in her down-at-heel slippers, and her reiterated hulloing was
a sore trial to m y nerves. Ten or twenty times she would shout
Hullo into the mouthpiece, with a long-drawn-out stress upon
the last syllable, as if she were a huntsman shouting to another
in the forest. I always knew whether the person at the farther
end of the wire was one who wanted to get something out of
her, or one out of whom she wanted to get something. In the
former case her voice was sharp, acerb, and masterful; in the
latter, it was sugary, beseeching, and servile.
After supper and the visit to the nursery, it was her way to
come to my study to do her hair, an occupation which lasted
an inordinate time, while she dreamed, built castles in Spain,
or brooded over grievances. T he comb rustled through her
reddish-brown locks, while her blue eyes, widely opened, stared
into the void. What might be amiss, no one could guess; she
hardly knew herself; but her expression of unfathomable suf
ferings touched me to the quick. Then, when I thought she

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was about to go to bed, to seek repose for her tortured spirit,


something forgotten would occur to her, and she would seat
herself at the writing-table to pen an article or letter filling many
pages. Next day it was usually found to be of no moment.
One of the characteristics of hell is that it always contains
higher grades of pain and horror than one has previously
experienced. When we think that nothing worse can happen,
we are still only in the anteroom, and a worse circle of the
inferno opens. Such was my situation when Ferry and Elisabeth
had to leave the school community and go to one of the State
educational institutions. I dont know to this day whether they
left voluntarily or were expelled. Ganna declared that they were
expelled as an act of vengeance, and I took her word for it,
having no inclination to provide fresh material for quarrels by
trying to discover the truth. T h e heads of the State educational
institutions looked askance at any one coming from the com
munity school. Ganna was in great trouble when the various
high schools refused to admit Ferry in the middle of a term;
and still greater was her indignation when she was told that
the boys acquirements were not adequate to his years.
I was myself greatly distressed. I felt responsible for m y sons
education, but how could I fulfil my responsibilities when Ganna
had usurped them, constituting herself a supreme court against
which there was no appeal ? Now was to be made plain what she
had wanted to have the boy spared: mental insecurity, educa
tional arbitrariness. I had no time to wrestle with her, no time
for an attempt to secure on her behalf what she demanded from
me and from the world as an unchallengeable right. No, I lacked
both time and energy to argue with her and make her see the
error of her ways. I thought (perhaps foolishly, perhaps pre
sumptuously) that Providence intended me to devote myself to
other purposes. Gannas world was a world of unqualified liberty;
and to serve her without challenge was the only way to happiness
of a kind. I can recall hours when, as if my salvation depended
on it, I tried to overcome her stubbornness; to make her gentler,
urbaner, more perspicacious. But the endeavour was like the

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attempt to mould a face out of water. She once said to me, in


a rare mood of contrition:
For you I ought to be a saint, but I cannot become saintly
without mortal sin.
I have never forgotten this distressing, nay dreadful utterance.
A n abyss had suddenly opened, at the bottom of which I per
ceived Ganna fighting ghosts.
What of myself? What was my position? A poor mortal in
fates grip. T he war seized me, rent me in sunder as a storm
w ill split the ice that covers a lake, set me flowing and over
flowing. From being a quiet dreamer, a frozen dreamer, I became
a fully awakened man whose breast was filled with the experiences
and sufferings of many. Sleep and repose forsook me. I abandoned
m y strong isolation; tried to help and to serve; sought for a soul,
and should have perished from despair had I not at length
discovered one in Bettina Merck.
Ganna noticed nothing. W e never discussed these matters,
had no opportunity for serious discussion, so immersed was she
in her own affairs. There was something uncanny in the small
extent to which the worldwide catastrophe affected her. Her
participation in the events which were shaking five continents
to their foundations was no more active than that of a little girl
who is seized with incredulous wonder when the skies are red
dened by a distant conflagration. She was never fully convinced
that the tidings of disaster which continually came to hand were
based upon hard facts. There was a routinist quality in her
alarms, as if war news were fictional, the outcome of a universal
conspiracy to tell these horrible stories; whereas the palpable,
the veritable world, Gannas world, the world of Ganna the
child, had no connexion whatever with these fabulous happen
ings.
I volunteered for active service during the first weeks of the
war. At that time, no decent fellow bothered to think whether
his countrys side in the war was right or wrong, and none of
us knew the fundamental significance of war. One was part of
a whole. This whole was, or at any rate seemed to be, a living

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organism; was aware of itself as nation, as fatherland, as the


focus of being and becoming. Making a plausible excuse to
Ganna, I took the night train to Vienna, and went to the Con
sulate. The consul, who knew me personally, said that there
was such a rush of volunteers that I was not needed, and had
better go quietly home. However, I insisted upon being medically
examined. The doctor found me unfit, because I had a cardiac
neurosis. Considerably disappointed, I returned to Ebenweiler
and told Ganna what I had done. She was beside herself with
indignation.
How could you dream of such a thing, Alexander; you, the
father of children under age, you, with a family to support; have
you no conscience ?
Now it was my turn to be indignant. I fancy I came to realise,
that day, that my explanation of Ganna as a feminine Don
Quixote had, after all, been a mere expedient, and that the real
Ganna was nothing of the kind.
W hats wrong with your heart ? she went on excitedly, when
I told her of the doctors report. Nothing serious, I believe,
except that you dont take reasonable care o f yourself. You
smoke too much and sleep too little, as I have often told you.
No, Ganna, I answered. Y ou ve got hold of the wrong
end of the stick. Living means to wear out ones heart. I ve
worried too much. Have you never learned that worry does
much more harm than too much tobacco and too little sleep?
She was greatly mortified, wanted to know what I had had
to worry about, demanded particular instances. I could not give
her any. What would have been the use? She would have con
tested each, and we should have talked for hours without con
vincing one another. Still, she pressed her point, and at length
said:
Alexander, have I given you any cause for complaint ? Surely
I ve been a good wife to you?
Certainly, Ganna, you have been, and are, a good wife to
me.
Honour bright?

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How can you be so foolish as to ask for my word of honour


about such a matter? T h e very idea is childish.
Never before had I had so strong a conviction that she was
a slave to abstract formulas, a devotee of despiritualised concepts,
in love with her own picture of herself a picture no longer
animated by any living characteristics.
Gannas Testam ent. -Meanwhile, things had gone so far
that the school company had demanded from Ganna the sur
render of the field, under threat of prosecution if she refused.
She could name her own price, so long as it was reasonable.
Hard for Ganna to decide what would be reasonable in this
matter! In her visions by day and her dreams by night she had
built upon a steady increment in the value of the site; this
increment was to make me independent of financial cares
though I had no inclination to be freed from them in such a
way. W ith an almost incomprehensible tenderness she clung
to what she called her dear little field, smiling as she spoke
o f it, with an expression no less beatific than when she was
suckling our little Doris. What goes on in the mind of such a
woman as Ganna? W ho can tell?
But the pressure brought to bear on her was too strong, and
it broke her nerve. Vacillating between defiance and weakness,
possessive greed on the one hand and dread on the other,
between bitterness and the craze for speculation, she could not
decide. She asked all and sundry what she had better do her
sisters, her brothers-in-law, her servants, her tradespeople, the
gardener , but if any of them advised her contrary to her
secret wishes, she was put out, and replied by lengthy expositions
o f her standpoint and of the charms o f the field.
She called a special meeting of the shareholders. There were
tedious discussions, angry disputes. In the end, Ganna promised
to come to a decision next day. Then she sent the board of
directors a registered letter in which she stated a price. The
instant the missive had been posted, she repented, and wrote
to cancel the offer. Th ey will think me a perfect fool, she
exclaimed. The site is worth at least thrice as much, and they

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are all well-to-do people. I wont let myself be bullied into


parting for a song. I warned her, saying that, although I under
stood very little about the matter, she seemed to me to be playing
a dangerous game. Further negotiations and quarrels, then a
deadlock. Her brothers-in-law urged moderation. T h e directors
had made her an offer which D r. Pauli considered a very hand
some one, and he strongly advised her to accept. Nothing would
induce her to do so; she was being skinned. Her price was much
higher. A long argument would sometimes make her admit that
her demand was extortionate, but an hour afterwards she
was back upon the old platform, and would not abate a crown.
She ran from pillar to post, talked interminably to her supporters,
railed at all who were not of her way of thinking, wasted her
friends time, dilated upon the intrigues that were going on to
intimidate her, spoke of the vast sums of which her enemies
were trying to rob her, asked every one unceasingly: Shall I
or shall I not? A t this price or at that? Under these conditions
or those? Shall I or shall I not regret it if I accept their offer?
Would it not be a crime committed against my husband and
my children if I were to sacrifice my beloved field to that scum ?
She could think of nothing else, neglecting her person, her
household duties, myself, the children. She was hardly ever at
home for a meal. Sometimes she would sit down on a seat in
the park and munch an apple, or would rest a while in a shelter
containing penny-in-the-slot machines while she listened with
bedewed eyes to the noise of a gramophone as if it had been the
philharmonic orchestra. Her vacillations, her troubles, her rest
lessness, her wrangles, her confused arguments, the garbage of
a dispute carried on by unworthy means all recoiled upon me.
I was to have the last word. But I knew from long experience
that this last word would only be penultimate. Every evening
and far on into the night she sang the same song with its weari
some refrain, that the whole business was being done for me,
that she was fighting only for my sake. I ought to recognise
that much, at least. If you will admit it, I will drop the affair.
D o you admit it? D o you admit it? Pure echolalia crazy

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repetition. What was I to answer? I knew she would not drop


the affair, whatever I recognised or admitted.
The unending talk became insufferable: the involved pseudolegal expositions; the casting of unwarrantable suspicion upon
persons who were either well-disposed towards her, or were at
least free from the unsavoury motive which animated Ganna
for all that she wanted was to make money. I was sick of the
unappetising compost of profit and spirituality. The affair of
the field had raised a lot of dust, and I found it eminently dis
tasteful to have my name mentioned in this connexion. Councillor
Schonpflug spoke to me in the club, imploring me to restrain
Ganna from further follies; otherwise legal proceedings would
have to be taken, and perhaps the case would even come into
the criminal courts. It was horrible, debasing; I must put an
end to it.
One morning, when I was ready to go out, I went to Gannas
bedroom to say goodbye. She had just come from the bath,
wrapped in a red-and-white check peignoir. The instant she
caught sight o f me she began to harp on the usual string. At
noon she was to have an interview with D r. Pauli. Would I
come? I could be o f the greatest help to her. If you come,
I shall never forget your kindness. Y es, I thought, and
if I dont come, you will never forgive me.
O f late, I had been cold towards her, for I cannot assume
kindliness when my feelings take another turn. I had grown
morose, laconic, distant. I reproached myself for my lack of
warmth, but my heart was chilled, and I could not find a word
to bridge the chasm that had yawned between us. Not even
now, for I detested discussions in a lawyers office. With a shrug
o f the shoulders I said:
Sorry, but its impossible.
Ganna instantly assumed the offensive. M y first impulse was
to ignore her railing, and depart. But her words stuck like glue,
and hampered my movements.
It is scandalous that you wont help me, when I have sacri
ficed so much for you.

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But Ganna, I never asked you to sacrifice yourself for me


in that way. You could have done much more for me as house
wife and by attending to your maternal duties.
At this, her temper went up like a rocket.
W hat ingratitude. I bleed m yself white for a man like you,
a monster like you, and get no thanks for it.
You have no reason to expect gratitude, I answered, with
a calm that might have brought Ganna to her senses, but had
no effect on her; any more than I expected such a life as you
have led me.
Ganna laughed contemptuously.
What sort of life would you have led, but for me? You would
have gone hungry to the end o f your days; surely you know
that?
I dont know what sort of life I should have led, but for
you. What I do know is that life with you under present con
ditions has become intolerable. Either you will make an end
o f this affair o f the field and will sell it, or else I shall go my
own way and shall get a divorce.
Hardly had the ominous word been uttered, than Gannas
features were convulsed. I had never used it before, and she
had never expected to hear it from me, for she felt as sure
of me, felt me to be as much a part of herself, as if I had
been one of her own limbs. I was for her a basic certainty.
Maybe the word divorce lurked in some closed chamber of
her mind, as high explosives can be hidden in a cellar. She
uttered a horrible yell, which lasted fifteen seconds or more,
and ran frantically up and down the room. She was beside
herself with agitation. Y et I could not help feeling that she
found this complete loss of self-control agreeable. It was tinged
with pleasurable expectation, such as an epileptic is said to
experience just before the onset of a fit. While with frantic
movements she was tearing off the peignoir, she overwhelmed
me with a flood o f crazy invectives. Again and again she flung
at me the word of terror, Divorce. It came as a question, a
shout, a scream, a howl, while her eyes flashed and her fingers

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looked like a birds claws. I silently endured this dreadful out


burst, which revealed to me a new Ganna; but she, though
stark naked, ran to the window and leaned over the metal balus
trade as if about to fling herself down. In a flash there came
back to me the scene upon the veranda of the farmhouse beside
the Mondsee, sixteen years before, when she had mastered me
by the same trick. People like Ganna, I sadly reflected, hold
sway over others by the eternal recurrence of the similar; they
may forget in the intervals, but their true nature crops up again
in times of stress. Grieved and angry though I was, I remained
calm. She will not do it, I thought; and even if she does,
there is little danger. The fall will be no more than a dozen
feet; she will come down on the turf; at most she will break
two or three ribs. But the situation was made grimly ludicrous
by my certainty that what she did was no more than a theatrical
display, that she had no serious thought of suicide. N ow my
own temper gave way, and I lost control as I had not lost it
for years. The pot boiled over. W ith a bound, I reached the
window, seized her by the shoulders, flung her on the bed,
and pummelled her savagely with my bare fists. Even to-day
I cannot conceive what possessed me. I thrashed her as if I
had been a drunken wife-beater, as if I had been a rough carter.
I, Alexander Herzog, gave m y wife a sound drubbing. Ganna
was passive. This disarmed me. Because she took it all so quietly,
I desisted, ran off to my study, locked myself in, flung myself
into an armchair, and brooded over my unhappiness.
What was Ganna doing meanwhile? I learned this later, by
chance. I found a sealed envelope upon her writing-desk, en
dorsed in menacingly large letters with the words M y Testa
ment. In astonishment, I asked her when and why she had
made a will. She answered, tearfully, that she had written this
testament (last, solemn words, not a will in the legal sense)
in the very hour when I had beaten her. I earnestly begged her
to make no further references to so painful a matter. But she
insisted on telling me of her despair, and of how she had sworn
to dispose of the field that very day.

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Thenceforward there was a private legend in our house, a


legend that was used against me like a dagger-thrust. Ganna
persistently cherished the illusion that I had interfered when
she was about to make me a millionaire. This fiction was her
mainstay under all subsequent bludgeonings of destiny. She
resembled conquered nations and political parties hungry for
power, which cannot exist without a scapegoat. There is no
difficulty in finding scapegoats, for practical action is impossible
without divided responsibility.
Burdened by Ganna with this moral mortgage, and prepared
(with my usual complaisance) to pay the interest she demanded,
I opened a new chapter in my life, the new chapter to which
all I have as yet written is the prelude.

ALEXANDER

B E G IN N IN G O F T H E E N D
Whatever creeps and crawls, is driven to the pastures
by Gods scourge. H e r a c l i t u s .
I become acquainted with Bettina. I met Bettina Merck
at the house of some friends named Waldbauer, a young married
couple. T h e husbands specialty was the history of art. Bettina
was then five-and-twenty. I was forty-two. She had been married
seven years, and had two children, both daughters. M erck, who
was little older than his wife, was head of a large china-manufactory, having inherited the place from his father. Bettinas
father had been a famous composer and conductor, whose
musical gifts she shared. On friendly terms with Kainz and
M ahler, he is still remembered as one of the last sustainers of
the Old-Austrian tradition. M any of his songs have become
folk-songs, and live on in popular memory detached from the
name of the composer. I knew him personally, and had a very
distinct memory of him as a refined and gentle creature. He
had a peculiar vein o f amiable humour, and perhaps amiability
had been his salient characteristic. When I said as much,
Bettinas eyes shone. She had been devoted to her father, and
revered his memory.
What especially struck me about her that first evening was
a sort of laughing verve. Strangely enough I was a little alienated
by it, for it seemed out of keeping with the times and the general
condition of the world. Shes just like her father, was my carp
ing thought; always frivolous, always in triple time. Anything
amusing that was said, brought from her a hearty response o f fullthroated laughter. At times the room was filled with her laughter,
which was contagious, spreading to other members of the company
as if by radiation. This, too, troubled me. W hy? As a child I
had been liable to attacks o f weltschmerz if I saw another boy
eating bread and butter when I had none. When I slowly thawed,
and kindled in response to her cheerfulness, it was with the

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prim reserve of a schoolmaster who, when conversing with an


unduly vivacious pupil, must keep a watchful eye upon his own
dignity.
A few days later we met in a tramcar, and promptly began
a talk. As before, I felt her cheerfulness to be a challenge, for
it contrasted strongly with my own mood and with that of most
of my associates. I had a foolish feeling that she wanted to
bounce me. Foolish, I repeat, for there was no such thought
in her mind. I recall how I stared after her in amazement when
she left the car and walked across the road. It was her springing,
dancing gait which astonished me. Is one justified in walking
like that nowadays? was my thought, wrapping myself once
more in my ridiculous disapproval as if in a fur rug which one
had cast aside for a time, dubiously, because the air had grown
a trifle warmer.
I cannot remember how it happened that soon afterwards we
began to go for walks together. I think I must have taken the
initiative, and must have made the appointment by telephone.
Y et I dont now recall what led me to do this. It often happens
that trifling incidents leading to extremely important decisions
remain obscure and undiscoverable. Perhaps the timbre of her
voice, a glance, a movement of her hands, a smile, something
she said, may have determined my course of action; I cannot
tell. Nor can I remember how soon it was after I first met her
that I gave her the proofs of my new novel to read, the first
of my books to have a wide and lasting success. T h e scene was
laid in a German town of moderate size, of which it gave a
circumscribed picture; the characters were treated in a balladesque
style; it was in a gloomy vein, like most of my works; but its
success showed that it made a popular appeal. It was a tribute
to my German homeland; a concrete expression of gratitude
to the German nation; in a sense, a war-gift, since I could not
take up arms in my countrys defence.
As already said, I do not remember the circumstances in which
I gave Bettina the book, but I have a fairly clear recollection
of what she said after reading it, for this was different from

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what I had expected. I had hoped it would arouse her enthusiasm.


M y vanity as author made me all the readier to believe this
because I knew she had liked my earlier writings, and I reckoned
her among the inner circle o f my admirers. T h e fact had over
come my first antagonism to her let me admit this frankly,
although it does not bear witness to the dispassionateness of
my judgment. Now, however, I encountered, instead o f the
enthusiastic admiration I had hoped for, a dry aloofness which
upset me considerably. She was the first woman I had encoun
tered who approached my work in a critical spirit. Ganna, who
had no standard of comparison, and was prone to be lavish in
her use o f superlatives, had spoiled me, no doubt, so that it
was natural I should find Bettinas courageous reserve extremely
trying. She said that many parts of the book had moved her,
that she had found most of the characters true to life; but that
on the whole she considered the work ponderous, not in the
realm of thought but in that of feeling, and structurally; that
my style was rather confused and barbarous. These criticisms
were sound; but naturally an author in such circumstances wants
to justify himself or to explain, and I still see the marked interest
and attention in her greenish-grey eyes as I expounded my
views. She had a quick intelligence, a marvellous power of
imaginative insight; and I was particularly struck by her keen
understanding o f my feeling for rhythm in its most subtle shades
and oscillations. Y et she could not endure the petty-bourgeois
world which this book depicted; it seemed to her a queer place,
full of embryos and ghosts, lacking impetus, and in erotic matters
dull, vaporous, and constrained. She took the opportunity of
referring to the converse of the Austrian, to that which it was
now the fashion to extol as truly German, to that which she
and her friends spoke of as the New German; and she also
mentioned, as an attitude she disliked, that o f the hard-shelled
Prussians who had a contempt for Austrian lucidity, gentleness
and urbanity. Listening to her and looking at her, I said to
myself: You are not merely the daughter of an artist, but are
an artist yourself. It was true. She was an artist to her finger

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tips, and through and through, with an energy and an inward


consistency that astonished me considering her sex. What reason
for surprise that she speedily became my confidant and comrade ?
T h e ties that we formed were inevitable, in view of our respective
temperaments and my peculiar position at the time.
Now I come to a strange point. It was long before I was clear
in my own mind as to my relationship to Bettina. I did not
even know whether I liked her or not. When, very gradually,
in my heedless way, I discovered that I was very fond of her,
I also discovered, to my amazement, that I was not in the least
in love with her. Even when, at length, this fondness had taken
possession of my body, my soul, my heart, my brain, my whole
personality, I still believed that there would be nothing more
than a sublime companionship, bearing with it no responsibilities,
no obligations. What did this signify? Such a thing had never
happened to me before. Perhaps the reason was that there was
nothing enigmatic or covetous about her, no desire to conquer
and bind, no demand for pledges and vows; that she simply
relied upon my friendship, patiently awaiting the upshot. A n
other part of the explanation may have been that she was never
clutching or greedy, that she was not obsessed by ulterior aims,
and that she had so strange and glorious an idea of what happi
ness gives and ensures. I am convinced it was this, her levity,
as I had thought it in a bad sense, but which now became levity
in a good sense, her levity and verve, entered into my life as
an entirely new and influential element. In the case of others
I had known, there had always been something uncongenial,
their outlooks, their character, their tastes, their conception
of 1ife in general; these became shallows on which the promise
of mutual liking was stranded. In her, there were no shallows.
. . . W e did not merely get on well with one another, but
drew closer together day by day. It was as if after spending
many years beneath cloudy skies that filled the mind with gloom,
one had moved to a sunny clime. I could not but wonder, Will
this glorious weather last? Can it possibly last? W ill she not
imbibe the poison of my sadness?

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A November Evening. For a long time Bettina refused to


enter my house. There were many who had described me as
a man who devoured a virgin every morning for breakfast, and
her self-respect forbade her to come like a dog when I whistled.
A t least that is how, subsequently, when in a light-hearted mood,
she explained her reluctance. She was also annoyed because,
when I first asked her to come, I made no mention of her
husband. Then we had a formal evening party, at which Paul
and Bettina Merck, the Waldbauers, and others of their circle,
were among the guests. T rue, they did not thaw until Ganna,
who among them was in an uncongenial element, had withdrawn.
Bettina did not like our house. She did not say so, but I felt
it. She was chilled, as soon as she crossed the threshold. Some
times I asked her what was the matter, but she merely shook
her head, and would give no articulate answer. I knew her tastes
were sober, and could understand her being repelled by our
rather fantastic furnishings; but it soon became plain to me that
this was not the chief trouble. There was an instinctive antagonism
between her and the mistress o f the establishment. In fact, she
could not hide from me that she found Ganna incomprehensible
and uncongenial; and when, in my talks with her, I spoke of
Gannas character and temperament, dilating upon the intel
lectual and moral qualities by which Ganna was distinguished,
Bettina listened attentively, eagerly, but without a syllable of
comment.
Y et I knew Bettina to be a keen observer, so that often, when
we had seen something together, and afterwards she described
a number of details I had never noticed, but which she had
accurately and swiftly perceived, I felt like a raw youth. Yet
she was not one of those gifted persons who plume themselves
on their gifts. She knew how to hold her tongue, and was often
silent until the need for speech became urgent. So observant
was she, however, that she saw and heard many things which,
for one reason or another, she had decided not to see or hear.
An excellent description of her character could have been based
upon what she noticed or chose to ignore. For example, like

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all our friends and acquaintances, Bettina knew, not only that
Gannas attitude towards my playing her false (Bettina called
it playing false, though the term was hardly fair in view of
the openness of my lapses) was one of perfect equanimity, but
that my wife actually gloried in it, because of her conviction
that she herself was the lawful spouse as compared with those
other women who were merely concubines upon whom for a
space I bestowed my fickle favours. Bettina knew this, but sup
pressed the knowledge, partly for the sake of all women, since
my conduct and that of my light of loves was a humiliation
for her sex, and partly for the sake of Ganna. She opined that
those who failed to ignore the depths to which human beings
can descend, were casting a slur upon their fellows. I, who at
that time had the usual corrupt outlook of a libertine, shrugged
m y shoulders, and considered Gannas tolerance an estimable
trait.
Unfortunately (unfortunately for me, since I strongly desired
Bettina to respect Ganna), the following incident took place in
Bettinas presence. Ganna, who suspected that the piano-teacher
was skimping Elisabeths music-lessons, had told the housemaid
to keep an eye on the clock. Informed that the lesson had been
eight minutes short of the stipulated hour, Ganna rushed out
into the passage (where Bettina was putting on her cloak) and
gave the disconcerted Fraulein a tongue-lashing.
I pay you for the punctual discharge of your duties. Not
only must you come at the proper time, but you are cheating
if you leave before the hour is up. Unless you can give full
measure, you neednt trouble to come again.
I had grown accustomed to such scenes and was callous; but
Bettina, more sensitive, turned deadly pale. I pay you for
so and so. How horrible that one woman should speak like that
to another! A t a later date, when Bettina and I were talking
over the affair, she told me she had been hard put to it not to
tell Ganna to mind her manners. I had been comparatively
unconcerned by my w ifes tantrum. Ganna is what she is,
I said to myself (and others). One must take the rough with

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the smooth. Thus, in my turn, I suppressed my knowledge


o f much that went on.
Y et I could not but realise that a gradual change in the situa
tion was in progress. For some tim e it had been impossible for
me to treat Ganna with the frankness which, during the worst
storms of our marriage, had still sustained in me the illusion of
its irrefragable unity, and had preserved Gannas belief that she
was the dominant feminine personality in my life. I kept out
o f her way, lowered my eyes when with her, was cold and stand
offish. Above all (and this was new in our life together), I was
persistently untender, never caressed her, though always, up till
now, there had been an alms of tenderness for poor Ganna.
A t length this consolation, this form of bribery and corruption,
had become impossible to me. Bettinas arrival upon the scene
made it impossible. I dont mean for a moment that she con
sciously stood in the way. But her sincerity was so outstanding
that it infected me, and made me strive to be equally sincere.
One evening in November lives in my memory as horrible.
I came home late, after a delightful experience. Bettina had
been playing the violin to me, for the first time during the seven
months since we met. She played a violin Suite by Bach, and
ended up with the great Chaconne. So full of melody, of energy
and fire, that m y pulses were sympathetically stirred as if I had
myself been interpreting the music. A memorable hour, which
had disclosed a hidden and profounder Bettina behind the
cheerful child o f this world who was already known to me.
I entered the hall in my house, the hall which was also our
dining-room. Its whitewashed walls stared soberly at me, and
the foolishly twisted electric-light brackets threatened me like
extended arms. I had intended to run up to the night nursery
for a glance at the sleeping little Doris, to swallow a mouthful
or two, and then go to work in my study. But at the diningtable Ganna was seated, her eyes fiercely reproachful, her lips
twitching, her arms folded, a silent statue of complaint and
accusation.
T h e wiser course would have been to take no notice, to say

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goodnight and retire to my den. Instead, I stayed, and gave


her an opening for cross-questions.
W hy are you so late? Where have you been?
O f course she knew well enough where I had b een ! She
went o n :
What has happened to you, Alexander? Have you forgotten
me completely? Am I nothing to you, now?
Then, with increasing bitterness:
Your whole time is given to that woman. You make a
parade o f going about with her. T h e veriest strangers are
talking o f it.
I was silent, as I walked up and down the room and stared
gloomily into the corners when I turned. Ganna continued:
You cannot say that I have ever put obstacles in the way
o f your living your own life. But for that very reason I am now
being tortured to death.
M y sustained silence irritated her beyond endurance. She
wrung her hands.
I cannot understand your behaviour, Alexander. Such a man
as you! She twists you round her fingers. Have you no com
passion for m e?
Another evening wasted, was my thought. But if I go
away now, with a cordial Goodnight, she will be all right to
morrow, for she has a short memory.
I was infirm of purpose. I could not clear out, and thus put
an end to the deplorable scene, nip it in the bud. W hy not?
I was too cowardly! L et me explain. Ganna had a most dis
quieting effect upon my imagination. No one could rival her
there, and it was the secret o f her power over me her power
which grew and grew. She knew this, and traded on it. She
knew that I could never summon up heart to leave her alone
there, brooding. So long as I was within reach or within call
she could work up a catastrophe, however short her memory
might be. I pictured this catastrophe, though I did not know
what form it would take. She might break a looking-glass, might
call the servants out of bed, might even attempt to do herself

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a mischief. W ith her, anything was possible. Between one minute


and the next, she would deliberately switch off her power of
judgment, and then she ceased to be accountable for her actions.
She would not shrink from making a public scandal. In Eben
weiler, at the climax o f one of our quarrels, she had fled from
the house on a stormy night, and I had had to call up some of
the countrymen to search for her in the mountains. If that sort
o f thing should happen, the peace o f mind needful for m y work
(always an unstable peace ) would be troubled for weeks to
come. M y usual impulse when danger threatened was to patch
things up until whatever work I happened to be doing was
finished; then we should be able to come to terms. I was, of
course, humbugging myself, for such work as mine is never
finished. Before one book is completed, another is on the stocks;
a new creative undertaking is afloat, and there can be no pause
for negotiations. It had become almost a fixed idea with me
that my presence was the only way of preventing Ganna from
planning an attempt on my life for my work was my life. (To
some extent this idea proved correct in the sequel.) At the same
time I knew that it was my presence which stirred her courage to
frenzy. I was on the horns of a dilem m a! What man of feeling
can bring himself to leave a woman alone in her hour of trouble,
when he knows that if he does so he will devastate her life,
withdraw the props that buttress it ?
Thus I sacrificed myself to her whimsies. T o avoid what my
imagination pictured as worse, I accepted an intolerable burden,
and faced a volcanic eruption. Ganna poured forth a flood of
invectives against Bettina. I lost self-command, and tried to
shout her down. She scored the trick, for nothing could minister
to her vengefulness more successfully than to throw me off my
balance. We slanged one another to our hearts content, evil
words flying to and fro like poisoned arrows. Then the inner
door was quietly opened. Startled out of sleep, Elisabeth had
come down in her nightie and was standing on the threshold.
Drowsily, but profoundly distressed, she contemplated her
parents. The memory of the childs astonished and reproachful

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look still makes me blush. I took her in my arms and, petting


her silently, carried her back to bed. When I returned to Ganna,
she was dissolved in tears. She could weep. Alas, I could not
find that solace.
Ganna defends the Fortress by a Sally. A whipped dog
could not suffer more than Ganna. It seems to her that the
world has gone crazy for I am her world. She cannot grasp
what has happened, and feels as if her heart were being slowly
cut out of her breast. A t nights she lies sleepless and brooding.
By day her tear-dimmed eyes appear to see nothing. She ponders
unceasingly in the attempt to discover what she can have done
amiss; but, with the best will in the world, she cannot see that
she has erred. Her intentions (so she believes) have always been
good, and she has unfailingly done her duty. Surely people
should have compassion on her, as a poor, weak woman with
a burden too heavy for her. Because, in her view, I have no
bowels o f compassion, everything has gone awry. She declares
that I must be under an evil spell, for otherwise I could never
forget her love, could never forget that no other woman in the
world is so devoted to me as she. She has, indeed, an inalterable
conviction that I shall never forsake her; have I not sworn
it a thousand times ? W hy then do I not take her by the hand
to lead her out of the maze of sorrows? She builds hope for
herself upon the fancy that I am only putting her love to the
test. Still, she exclaims with the charmingly innocent smile
which lights up her face now and again, I need not be quite
so drastic in my methods; I need not positively break her heart.
Could I not give her a hint from time to time that she will be
my very own Ganna once more, when she has stood the test?
Could I not take her out for a walk? Could I not show her a
little tenderness, as I used to do? She wonders why men are
so stupid, men who could manage women easily, and always
go the wrong way to work. But this philosophical amazement
at the stupidity of my sex, does not ease her smart.
W hy has there suddenly arisen so much excitement, so much
dread, so profound a sense of loss, when for years upon years

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she has been tolerant of my lapses, as she has been accustomed


to call them? Because she is shrewd enough to realise that
there is an inexplicable difference this time. But what is
there anomalous about Bettina Merck, she asks herself, and
asks me, too, sometimes? She studies Bettina, tries to take a
just and dispassionate view, and fails to understand what
peculiar charm I find in my latest flame. T o her way of
thinking, Bettina is distinguished neither by beauty nor by
intelligence. I f there were exceptional intelligence, she could
understand. Besides, Bettina lacks the grace of early youth. She
is getting on, as the phrase goes. Obviously, then, Ganna
argues, subtle arts must be at work; arts which I am too simple
and straightforward to withstand.
Bettina Merck must be a clever woman to bamboozle
Alexander. I wish I could be equally clever, but I am too
honourable to use such tricks. Besides, she is profligate, and
does not care in the least what people think. Or it may be she
succeeds because she has such an easy time of it. The Mercks
are well-to-do people, and the husband is away at the office
all day, so that the wife can spend as much time and money as
she likes upon dressmakers, hairdressers, and so on. I, on the
other hand, have to pinch and peel; I have no time to cultivate
my bodily graces. I have always known that to keep a man at
her beck and call, a woman must continually appeal to his senses,
must be corrupt, heartless, must stick at nothing.
I record these reflections of Gannas, as they became known
to me, partly from her occasional outspoken utterances or hints,
and partly from my own intuitive insight into her mental
workings. Their interest lies in their twofoldedness, their con
trasted lights and shades, shrewdness and stupidity, fear and
hatred, folly and savagery, suspicion and sense of insecurity.
Had her thoughts been less fragmentary, her feelings more
consecutive, this experience would have crushed her. But her
disconnectedness extended even to her sufferings, so that at
intervals she was peaceful and contented as corks bob up to
the surface again and again in troubled waters. True, the periods

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grew shorter and shorter in which she was able to dream herself
out of the present and to contemplate the future without dismay.
She sustained shock after shock, as life showed her its teeth.
She was smitten to the heart when she learned that I had read
aloud parts of my new book to Bettinas circle. It aroused in
her a fiercer jealousy, far worse than physical jealousy could
be, that I had not asked her to be present on the occasion. She
had the terrible feeling of being shut out. Y et matters had
reached such a pass that I did not want Ganna as a member
o f my audience, because my friends did not want her there.
T h ey could not endure her; she did not fit in; did not under
stand their ways, was hopelessly out of tune with them. O f
course they did not say so, but I could not fail to be aware of
it. I suffered with Ganna, suffered because she suffered; but
what could I do about it? The discord would have been in
tolerable, to have Ganna and Bettina in the same room, and
myself between them, no more than a voice. In the attempt to
console her, I took refuge in a lie, telling her that her feelings
and her judgment were of such moment to me that I needed
her alone with me. T h e presence of others would interfere with
out mutual contact. Although she only half believed me, per
haps this subterfuge helped to assuage her disappointment for
a time. Since, however, the relief could be no more than
temporary, my falsehood was crueller and more treacherous
than the naked truth would have been.
Had Ganna had a little more knowledge of the world, had
she possessed only a trifle more self-control, my friends would
not have found it so hard to make allowances for her queer,
impulsive, and unmannerly behaviour. (I myself, at this date,
closed my eyes to some of her more sinister qualities.) But she
did everything possible to make herself hated, nay dreaded. Her
tiny hands could rend like the claws of a beast of prey; her
tiny feet could trample mercilessly upon others feelings. One
day she rang up Paul Merck on the phone, told him she had
heard that his children were suffering from chickenpox, and
that in these circumstances all communications between the

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two families had better be cut off. She ended with the unpar
donable words :
I must urgently request you, Herr Merck, to forbid your
w ifes meeting my husband so long as there is any danger of
infection.
Paul Merck, being a well-bred man, could hardly believe his
ears.
You must excuse me, Frau Herzog, he said, but I am
not accustomed to forbid my wife anything. She judges for
herself.
He hung up the receiver as if it had been red-hot, seized a
thick pamphlet, and tore it to pieces in his rage. (I had the
information from Bettina.)
When the story came to my ears, my flesh crept, and the
next time I met Merck I did what I could to find excuses for
Gannas rudeness. I went on to say what a remarkable
woman she really was, dilated on her merits in terms that made
Paul and Bettina stare at me aghast. T h ey were silent during
my tirade, until Merck found it impossible to stifle a sceptical
chuckle, which served only to inflame my advocacy. Bettinas
face was unmoved, betraying no more doubt or curiosity than
if I had been talking of a woman at the antipodes, of some one
she had never met and was never likely to meet.
Ganna, however, had made up her mind to talk matters over
with Bettina, who might perhaps see a way out of the impasse.
Ganna felt as if she were about to put her head into a lions
mouth, but had enough self-confidence to be hopeful of the
result, and therefore made a formal appointment. Bettina looked
forward to the interview with a palpitating heart, but showed
no sign of agitation, receiving Ganna as courteously as any other
guest. Very soon afterwards she gave me a sketchy account of
what had taken place, but did not fill in the details till
months had passed, when the depressing first effects had
worn off.
A charmingly laid tea-table, well-made tea of delicious quality,
plates of thin bread and butter the butter thin as well as the

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bread, as rationing conditions dictated. But for Ganna it was


a banquet. She was underfed, anxious, and tired. Her dress was
at least three years old, and when new had not been much to
boast of. Bettina felt very sorry for her, pressed food on her,
and poured out cup after cup of tea. Ganna enjoyed the meal.
As she ate and drank, her eyes roved about the room, and she
reluctantly admitted how tastefully it was furnished.
Yes, you certainly have excellent taste. But this sort of thing
takes up a lot of time.
W ell, that doesnt matter, if one has the time to spare.
No, but it leads one to pursue ones own interests too
exclusively, said Ganna didactically a thrust which had been
carefully prepared.
That depends what sort of interests you mean.
Ganna laughed harshly:
I mean that most of your interest is concentrated upon beauty
culture.
Bettina was surprised at Gannas insight.
I see in Alexander how alluring these petty externals may
prove, went on Ganna, and how contagious is devotion to
them. Since he met you, none of his suits are good enough for
him, though he used not to bother about such things. Now there
is only one shop where he can buy a necktie fit to wear, and
he must have the crease in his trousers freshened every week.
It seems to me absurd!
Such matters were not absurd to Bettina, but she was civil
enough to join in her guests somewhat forced cachinnation.
T o Gannas way of thinking the moment seemed to have come
for the blow she had planned:
But you must not imagine, Frau M erck, she said in a
cutting tone, that these demi-mondaine arts will enable you
to capture my husband. Others have tried the same methods
in vain. Simply out of the goodness of my heart I will tell you
that the foundations of my marriage to Alexander are so well
and truly laid, that nothing can shake them. Come what may,
he will never dream of our separating. I am quite easy in my

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mind about that, but I should be sorry for you to entertain


false hopes.
Bettina had to pull herself together. Never had she had such
a shower-bath of abominations poured upon her head. Her first
impulse was to answer in kind, to shout back:
Woman, what on earth are you talking about ? Decent people
neither do such things nor speak of them .
She managed, however, to keep her temper, and to answer
with a smile:
Your first impulse was right, Frau Ganna. You had no need
to say anything of the sort to me. N o one is planning to capture
your husband.
Ganna laughed scornfully.
No one had better try, she said, and rose to take leave.
Bettina saw her into the passage and helped her on with her
cloak, sending a pleasant message to the children. Ganna was
touched, and said farewell with thanks for a pleasant visit,
without the ghost of a notion how foolishly and rudely she had
behaved. On the contrary, she held her head high, and con
gratulated herself upon her victory.
Bettina, left alone, felt sick and giddy. She opened the window,
for a breath of untainted air. Her feet were icy cold, her finger
nails blue. She felt frozen to the marrow. Going into the bed
room, she undressed and tumbled into bed. This horrible day
had been spent in the kingdom of death. She must escape from
the memory of it. A week elapsed before she could tell me about
the visit, and even then she shivered as she spoke.
Circe.- Since all my previous liaisons had come to an end
peacefully within a year or two, Ganna, despite her uneasiness,
confidently expected the same issue to my relationship with
Bettina. But when her expectations remained unfulfilled, her
balance was completely upset. Gloomy ancient superstitions
came to life in her, and sometimes quite seriously she gave
utterance to the belief that Bettina must have administered a
love-potion. Anyhow, her sense of the danger that I might
become the lasting thrall of this latest rival grew so poignant,

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that she sought ways and means for delivering me from Bettinas
supposed nets. Upon this foundation she built one of those
indestructible fictions with whose aid she was wont to keep her
head above the water. I must be suffering from a reluctantly
endured sexual slavery, must be tormented by the longing to
escape from the bonds of the heartless Circe and to return to
the arms of my true-love, Ganna. But Circe, the cruel deceiver,
would not allow this; she threw me into an enchanted slumber
with her philtre, robbing me of my virility so that I repudiated
Ganna for her sake, which was all the easier because the sorceress
was able to make Gannas virtues assume the semblance of vices.
But Ganna was not satisfied with this fairly harmless perversion
of the truth. She gradually managed to convince herself that
Bettina must have had a hand in bringing about the forced sale
of the school-field and not Bettina alone, but the whole Waldbauer clique had been a party to the machinations, for the
main object of these people and their hangers-on had been to
calumniate Ganna, to estrange me from her, and thus to lay
her low.
Refutation of these absurdities was fruitless. The notion
gathered strength, became affiliated with other delusions, made
the air I had to breathe asphyxiating and the skies overhead
gloomier and gloomier.
M y Fault and Bettinas. I ought to write a great deal more
about Bettina, but the task is difficult. Every image of her seems
to me so close that to sketch it in outline is impossible, and I
must confine myself to showing step by step what changes she
produced in my inner and outer life. I think this will give a
clearer idea of her nature and personality than if I were to write
at considerable length about her qualities, her appearance, or
her changing moods. The person with whom one is really living
in intimate contact becomes invisible, just as one is invisible
to oneself; one has only intimations of a presence, in which
one has become immersed, and in whose being one is oneself
in turn revealed. In such circumstances the word love ceases
to have any definite meaning.

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Manifestly I must from the outset have had occasion to think


a good deal about Bettinas marriage. Although we did not dis
cuss the matter in set terms, it seemed to me indubitable that
she would never debase herself to half-measures or insincerity.
By degrees I came to understand how things were between
herself and Paul. Fundamentally, their relationship was em
bryonic. They had grown very fond of one another when quite
young, and had entered into what was intended to be a sort
of trial-marriage. It had not turned out badly. During the early
days there had been minor storms. Then they had sworn a
treaty of friendship, and now lived in cordial mutual under
standing. Recently both had felt that their relations were tending
towards new order and clarification. T h ey often spoke of this
frankly and cheerfully. Bettina had no private means. I entered
marriage as a pauper, she once told m e; and if needs must,
I shall depart from it in the same condition. Another time:
Marriage is not an almshouse. Husband and wife are unified
for their childrens sake; apart from the children, what per
manent tie need there be between myself and the man who has
possessed me, when he no longer wants me or I no longer want
him? T o be free was the first requisite in life. M any of her
friends considered that she trusted too much to the favour of
fortune. T o her, this phrase seemed pretentious. T o put the
matter simply, she did not worry about the future, was not
afraid of what life would bring. She did not need a man to
support her, and had a contempt for security.
The months in Vienna were disorganising for both of us. By
now, our senses had been blunted to the news of the massmurders on the fighting fronts. Faith in the justice of our cause
had been undermined and was crumbling. Intimates, who had
gone to the fight in a rush of enthusiasm, were returning ruined
in body and mind, unfitted for any occupation, lost beings. M y
half-brother, to whom in childhood I had been deeply attached,
had fallen in the battle of the Somme. No letter, no word of
greeting; the silence of death. T h e lies which were being told
by both groups of belligerents in order to maintain the war-

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spirit were sickening. Nothing could exceed the impudence with


which profiteers flaunted their ill-gotten gains. While they danced
and drabbed night after night, the mothers of half-starved chil
dren stood in queues day after day outside the butchers and
bakers shops. Often of an evening I would go for a walk with
Bettina through the unlighted suburban streets, our hearts
numbed by the signs of universal misery. Once more I applied
for combatant service, but the futility of the endeavour was made
plain even to myself by a long and severe attack of biliary colic.
I dont know how I could have endured my life but for Bettina,
and her sympathetic understanding of my work.
Are we justified in finding so much satisfaction in one an
other? I asked her in perplexity. Are not we challenging fate
by doing so? Tw o poor mortals, who strive for a moments
happiness amid the gloom as if the awakening, when it comes,
would not be worse than ever!
Bettina could not agree. In all humility, she could not agree.
There was a bird of ill-omen that hooted o nights in the garden
behind her house. In imitation of its cry, she had named it
Giglaijo ; and when she heard it, her blood froze. But she
had a blessed capacity for forgetting the evil and the hateful.
When the new shoots began to thrust up through the soil and
the sun to rise higher in the sky, she revived at the coming of
spring after the chill of winter. But she had her hours of sadness,
and the dark hours of the cheerful are often darker than those
of persons who by temperament lack brightness.
When the summer began, we were able to get away from the
melancholy town. It had become a fixed usage with us to go
to Ebenweiler at the opening of June and to stay there till the
middle of September. Ganna did not arrive with the children
until July, when the school holidays began, and the weeks
Bettina and I had to ourselves were an island of the blest in
the wide sea of the year. In the valley which had become so
homelike, we could forget that the world was in flames. Not
that we mocked at the great assize; but nature, in her sublime
grace, condoned it. When the thunder of the heavy guns was

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heard far away to the south, it sounded like the muttering of


G ods wrath against those who were desecrating His earth; the
ice-clad peaks were like barred doors by which the march of
death was stayed. Everything belonged to us twain: the forests,
the lake, the rivulets, the bridges, the white paths. There were
starlit evenings when the tremulous firmament threw its golden
sparkles upon our couch of love; and there were wet nights
when the flames of hate upon earth seemed to have been
quenched. I wandered to and fro from my house to Bettinas
and from Bettinas back to mine at all hours of the day and the
night: in the evening, when the cows were driven to be watered;
in the morning, when the peasants were hammering their scythes.
T he day was called Bettina, the night was called Bettina, life
was called Bettina.
But when Ganna came, we had to pay for those weeks of
ecstasy. She arrived with numberless trunks, hold-alls, and bags;
each child had its own toys; she brought books for every con
ceivable mood, enough reading matter to last for five years
solitary confinement. When I uttered a reproachful word or two
concerning this excess of baggage, she had a ready answer.
Where were all her dresses, her hats, her fourteen pairs of shoes ?
She had not troubled to bring these. But surely she had done
well to bring a long chair for herself? And her Schopenhauer.
What sort of a husband was I, wishful to restrict his wife, in
matters intellectual, to a diet of bread and water ?
I had often begged her to keep away from Ebenweiler. She
had a delightful house in the outskirts of Vienna. W hy was she
not content to send the children with the nurse, who, under
my supervision, would look after them all right ? This suggestion
was angrily received. She would not be thrust out of my life.
Was she not my lawful spouse? Do you want me to make
things easier for you and your mistress, so that people may
believe I have abdicated? I will not be so complaisant as that!
As for the nature of your relations with her, it is an open secret!
In the first summer of our intimacy, Bettina rented a cottage
less than a mile from our farmhouse. It was rash of her to

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establish herself so near Ganna, but she had taken a fancy for
the cottage, and it was not until the fourth summer that she
could bring herself to choose a different one at the other end
of the valley. Also we realised too late that we had made a mis
take in having our love-nest at Ebenweiler, where I had become
a marked figure through years of summer-residence. But I was
fond of this nook in the mountains, and it provided so perfectly
the environment I needed as a contemplative and creative writer.
No other summer resort would have suited me as well; and,
had we found one, Ganna would certainly have hunted us out
there. If I was well known at Ebenweiler, I was also liked there,
and perhaps, it was there, after all, I could best hope to escape
being anathematised for my free union with Bettina.
Ganna, however, was quick to seize her opportunity, to make
the most she could of our open challenge to respectability. She
assumed the airs of a martyr in order to arouse compassion.
Had she been less sedulous to create a Ganna-party, she
would have had more adherents; but, as usual, she over-acted
her role. Still, there was an obvious tendency to cold-shoulder
Bettina. Calumnious tongues did their evil work. Every other
day, almost, Ganna sent her a dictatorial letter or an imperious
message. Bettina ignored all this, and walked as if on wings;
but some of the mud splashed her ankles. She did not seem to
notice that she was being cu t; or, if it wounded her for a moment,
the sight of a lovely flower-bed, or an hours violin-playing,
would enable her to forget. She was not one to lower her eyes
humbly. Gossip was nothing to her. An acquaintance urged
discretion. W hy did she go about with me so openly? W hy
shouldnt I? she answered. How otherwise would people
become accustomed to the situation?
Still, this publicity was our danger-point. We ought to have
been more discreet. It was a mistake to slap Gannas face as
we did. Naturally she grew bitter. We were running up a debt,
which we should have to pay in after years, with usurious
interest. If there persisted in Ganna any remnants of womanly
self-respect, we stripped her of them unheeding, and in the
M

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intoxication o f our love for one another we were deaf to the


voice o f reason. No doubt I had long since despaired o f the
attempt to make a companion of Ganna; but had I not been
remiss for fifteen, sixteen, or seventeen years? Should I not have
cleared the decks, by force or in kindness, should I not have
made every conceivable sacrifice in order to break away from
her; instead of (a weakling, a coward, and animated by a mis
taken sense o f duty) continuing to trapes about by the side of
a woman between whom and me there had long ceased to be
anything in common? As for Bettina, in her pride, in her aloof
ness from all that was turbid, involved, enigmatical, and gloomy,
she closed her eyes and shrugged her shoulders as she went
her own way. That was bold, that was strong, that was nobly
defiant; and yet it was mistaken, and sowed the seeds of disaster.
Human beings have to live among their fellows. T h e truth
o f each one of us is only the truth of his own circle of associates.
What is general to the species, what is universal in the way
o f qualities, shows itself in the particular only through a prism
where it is dispersed into its elements. Observed experience is
very different from experience personally undergone, and the
difference, the contrast, can never be obliterated, for the ego
and the not-ego have been foes since the world began.
The Case of Klothilde Haar. What finally dashed my
hopes of living at peace with Ganna was, indisputably, the
Klothilde Haar business. T h e months before the summer of
1919, the last during which I was running a joint household
with Ganna, were a nightmare.
When the Austrian monarchy collapsed and had been torn
to shreds; when Germany was in the throes o f revolution; when
the towns were being poisoned by the odour of the corpses that
were rotting on the battlefields, and influenza as virulent as
bubonic plague was threatening to sweep away what young lives
remained; when want was turning the desperate into criminals,
and was making bandits of those who had been willing to throw
away their lives in defence of their country; when in the East
a new world had arisen, and in the West the old one was com

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mitting suicide in the form of what were called peace treaties


while all these changes were in progress, Ganna, in her little
domestic State, was turning things topsy-turvy, was heaping
dissension upon dissension, and was transforming the lives of
her daily associates into a private h ell; for no better reason than
that she was a prey to the delusion that Klothilde Haar was a
creature of mine and Bettinas, commissioned and paid by us
to drive her, Ganna, out.
This woman Haar had entered our household after the birth
o f Doris. She was in the middle thirties, cold, morose, rather
slothful, and not altogether to be trusted. A t first, however,
Ganna could not praise her too highly, chiefly because Klothilde
idolised our little daughter. Such a crazy passion for their charges
is not uncommon in nurses. Otherwise, she had no tender feeling
for any one on earth.
I had of late years found it necessary to take over the house
keeping, because Ganna could not cope with its difficulties. I
had made the mistake of giving Klothilde certain privileges
which were a mortification to Ganna. For instance, the nurse
kept the key of the storeroom, and was accountable to me for
the flour, sugar, rice, and butter which she bought in accordance
with my directions. I could not watch idly while the children
were being underfed. Ganna was too unpractical to buy a pound
o f butter when it was needed.
When I found that Klothilde was in touch with surreptitious
dealers, and she proposed to turn these relationships to advantage
for the household, I closed with the offer, and did not haggle
about prices. This was enough to enrage Ganna, who, herself
ascetic, regarded expenditure upon food and drink beyond what
was barely necessary to satisfy hunger and quench thirst as
superfluous if not positively criminal. A further trouble was that
Klothildes go-between in the clandestine traffic was her lover,
a man named Wiist, who had succeeded in keeping away from
the front while the war lasted, and was now, like so many others,
in search of a job. After dark he would smuggle into the house
whatever he had been able to shark up during the day; then

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Klothilde handed me the bill, usually a stiff one, to tell the


truth; and the long prices were not made any shorter by the
womans spiteful grin.
The bringing of Wiist and his shady doings into the affair
was a severe irritant to Ganna. She used the most opprobrious
terms in addressing Klothilde. Nor was the latter mealy-mouthed
in her replies. At length the friction became so severe that the
maid threatened to lodge a complaint of defamation against her
mistress. I said angrily to Ganna:
You must not let matters go to the length of a public
scandal.
Ganna rejoined:
That thievish woman will never carry out her threat. You
neednt think she will renounce the fat pickings you have been
fool enough to put in her w ay.
Klothilde, who was a confirmed eavesdropper, took a sadistic
delight in such scenes. So intense was her hatred of Ganna that
she clung to her situation, if only to feast her eyes upon her
enemys torments. For my part, I did not wish to send her
packing, for at that juncture faithful service was so difficult to
secure that I might have found it extremely hard to replace her
by any one equally devoted to Doris; besides, she cooked well,
and kept the house going after a fashion.
Clashes between Ganna and Klothilde became more frequent.
Sometimes there would be a thundering row late at night, the
wrangling voices penetrating to my study, so that I had to plug
my ears with cotton-wool. When, after dark, Herr WTiist slipped
into the passage with his spoils, Ganna, who had been on the
watch for him, would receive him with volleys of abuse. One
day when I was out, the fellow was so much angered by the rough
side of her tongue that he made as if he were about to assault
her. Ferry rushed to protect his mother, and, being a strong
lad, and having seized his adversary by the throat, brought him
to the ground. The two continued to wrestle on the floor, while
Ganna telephoned for the police. She ordered Klothilde out of
the house, but Klothilde refused to budge without a written

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exoneration, since Ganna had accused her of stealing some eggs.


Meanwhile I had come in, and the alleged culprit appealed to
me.
As far as I can remember, I said, the eggs were used in
the ordinary way.
Ganna boiled over with wrath, and yelled like a dog whose
tail has been trodden on.
Did it ever before happen to a wife that her husband should
be in league with a thievish maid and the womans souteneur?
This is to put a worse affront on me than your daily outrages.
But I have long known Bettina Merck to be the soul of the
conspiracy. She planted Klothilde Haar and Wiist in the house
to make my life more of a burden to me than it was already.
Y ou neednt pretend incredulity. W hy, its the talk of the tow n!
Ganna! I exclaimed, taking her by the shoulders and giving
her a good shake.
I drew her into the adjoining room.
Ganna, be reasonable. Surely youre not in earnest?
In earnest? O f course I am. I have proof.
Proof? How can you have proof of anything so absurd?
W hat is your proof?
She stood facing me, tongue-tied.
As to the talk o f the town, the Haar business certainly
became the talk of the neighbourhood. One night a stone was
flung through the window of Gannas bedroom. Another, the
front door was smeared with dung. When I passed through a
knot o f men in the road, some one shouted after me in a shrill
voice:
W hy the hell dont you knock her foul tongue down her
throat?
When I had closed the front door behind me, the sound of
the objurgation seemed to echo through the house.
I went to my study and sat down to write, but on the blank
page I fancied I could read the words:
W hy the hell dont you knock her foul tongue down her
throat?

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Verses. I could not bring m yself to talk to Bettina about


this matter, for shame sealed my lips. T o criticise Ganna would
have implied self-criticism. Still, I am far from supposing that
Bettina knew nothing about it. She must have known, not from
listening to gossip (which was never her way), but from my
silence, which to her was eloquent. I am not good at conceal
ment. As the saying goes, I wear my heart upon my sleeve ;
and my friends have often made merry over my futile attempts
to hide something. M y moods, my experiences, my very thoughts,
were plain to all who cared to read; and Bettina, with her fine
perceptions, read them the instant I had crossed the threshold.
She never questioned me. That would have served no useful
purpose. W hat she wanted was to help me in my troubles. She
did not think that two persons who loved one another should
always be talking to one another about their sorrows and diffi
culties. T he better course was to coax them away. For her, even
in those gloomy days, the sky was never wholly overcast; there
were rifts in the clouds, rifts through which the sun shone. If
we pulled ourselves together, followed our good genius, were
not pretentious, the powers that ruled us would not be lastingly
ungracious. Fiddle in hand, it was even possible to charm out
of them things which made life still worth living.
I find it hard to express all that this meant to me her faith
in the future, in our ability to reach the goal, in the victory
of an energetic will over gloom and peril. I contemplated her
with admiration, and even with envy. She was surrounded by
persons who were eager to oblige h er; and she sought out others
who were in need of help: a poor woman who made a living
by going out to do needlework, who was half-starved, and for
whom she found jo b s ; a young artist to whom she gave letters
of introduction; a friend who had been invalided home from
the front, whom she cared for and provided with food. She was
unceasingly busied in helpful activities, not with the pose of
being a Good Samaritan (which was foreign to her tempera
ment), but making a sport of them, as it were, trying to compensate
people for the disfavours of fortune, and not letting her left hand

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know what her right hand was doing. Y et I never knew any
one who was so frequently and so spitefully misunderstood as
she, with her cheerfulness and her smiling straightforwardness.
This often puzzled me. Perhaps it was because she was a little
too ready of speech, too sure of herself; and because she would
not allow herself to be led by the nose, but valiantly pursued
the truth as she saw it. Naturally this mortified many persons.
What a comfort to have some one with whom one can associate
without unceasing contention. She had invariably so much to
tell me about the days doings, when we met in the evening,
and there was generally enough food for conversation until far
on into the night.
During this period I wrote a number o f sonnets addressed
to her, and will incorporate three o f them here:

I
I dreamed of thee mid lovely flowers wild,
And in a landscape twixt the sun and moon,
Which, like Diana, on thee gently smiled,
Dianas smile itself a gracious boon.
O f Terra thou a happy confidant,
A trusty heart, a handmaid true and tried.
When dream had passed and day was vigilant,
Becamest thou at dawn my chosen guide.
T h y merit this, that deed should follow deed,
With proud rejection of accustomed pain;
Resistance, too, of darkness slothful reign,
O f thriftless effort and of restless speed.
Thus art thou to my nature strangely kin;
In every form thou hast, a spirit twin.
II
If thee as sister I have known so late,
So late have chosen thee as greatest friend,
Not until now have recognised my mate,
Nor wedded thee until this summers end;

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I suffer much for having been so slow:


Too swift, too swift, the passing of the years,
As flight of bird when the storm-wind doth blow;
And short, ah short, lifes evening, sad with tears.
Thy youth, methinks, must loathe my many scars,
October blasts will surely chill thy May?
Athwart a desert ran my lifes highway;
Past sheaves and flowers led thy pilot-stars,
But, still uninjured, I can upward climb;
The love that binds us can defy harsh time.

Ill

Thou stone I lift, what hidest thou from me?


I seek thee, God, but cannot see thy face.
0 sun and moon and stars and beast and tree,
You show yourselves, then vanish without trace.
But thou, with soul that calls to me as mate,
Thou holdst me in thine arms. O f wind the sough
Perhaps thou art; thy name irradiate
Maybe an empty sound and ghostly stuff.
1 deem myself with thee perhaps deceived
By images unreal as those in glass.
The heart I love (unhappy wight, bereaved),
I fear its substance tenuous as gas.
Nor no, nor yes. The oracles are dumb.
Before this mystery, my sense is numb.
The Resolve. That autumn came the great change in my
life.
On a balmy October day we had been for a long tramp in
the hills. Returning, we sat on a bench near the village street,
rejoicing in the loneliness which had descended upon this
beloved summer resort with the coming of autumn. After a
prolonged silence, during which we had been looking across the
meadows wreathed in the mists of evening, Bettina said:

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Alexander, have you considered what we had better do next


winter?
I looked at her dumbfounded, for at first I did not understand
her drift.
What need is there for any change? I enquired.
If you see no need for a change, dear, please forget my
question, she said, with downcast eyes.
I realised that she was not talking at random, but of some
thing serious; and guessed what the something was, for I
had a guilty conscience, which prompted me. I muttered:
O f course I see what you mean. . . . I have been thinking
about the matter a good deal of late. . .
Then I broke off. Bettina continued, feeling her way:
Does it seem right to you that we should go on living with
a bandage over our eyes? That you should return to live with
Ganna year after year? I dont know . . .
She paused, and for a second or two my heart stopped beating.
What dont you know? I asked Bettina.
Taking her courage in both hands, she whispered:
I dont know whether I can go on living as we do. I m afraid
not.
I stared at the ground, and my lips formed words that still
seemed unmeaning to me:
You think I ought to leave Ganna?
Bettina had never spoken of it before, but during the last few
days I had come to feel that she was waiting for this decisive
step, as the sole means of deliverance. She had not, hitherto,
been able to bring her thought to utterance. Even now, it was
in gestures, in looks, more than in words, that her wishes, her
sense of an inevitable necessity, found expression. I felt that
I must not fail her, for our whole relationship was at stake.
What about the children? I asked.
The children, yes. They make it hard. Yet I cannot forget
that two of them are almost grown up, have grown up under
your guidance.
But Doris still has need of me, Bettina.

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True, but why should she lose you? W hy should not she
spend most of her time with us?
I did not wholly take in her words; and what I did under
stand of them, filled me with remorse. How much I had to
make good to my children! What is worse for young people
than the continued presence of a mother who is never composed,
is always agitated, at odds with herself, at war with mankind,
knowing nothing about her fellow-creatures ? Defensive impulses
are rife in them; her affection is burdensome, her punishments
seem sheer brutality; they become animated by secret resistances,
and have no good will to meet her wishes; the core of their
nature, instead of developing freely, is confined within a hard
shell of protective reactions. Was I now to leave them to her
tender mercies, when there was nothing but my presence to
save them from the worst ?
Bettina said gently:
I have made no more than a suggestion. The matter is in
your hands. During these four years, you have ripened some
thing within me, and I can no longer endure the open secret
o f our liaison. T he position is a false one, and there is no
justification for it.
You dont need to tell me that, Bettina. I know. But Ganna
will never agree to a divorce.
I am not thinking of divorce, she answered; but of some
thing, my dear, which will establish our relations on a clean and
frank footing. That to begin with, anyway.
W hat? I exclaimed. You would face it out before the
world?
She smiled, in sufficient answer.
But if I take no steps to get a divorce, I persisted, do you
know what lies before us ?
She nodded. Long since, she had contemplated that issue
without flinching.
Where should we live? In Vienna? Out of the question. She
would m a k e the position impossible. If you think otherwise,
you dont know h er!

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Bettina had thought it all out, and developed her plans. We


should stay on in Ebenweiler, a nook remote from the world.
A roomy and comfortable villa could be rented from a certain
Frau Wrabetz, at a reasonable price for the winter. It would
be too costly for us during the season, and we should have
to remove to a farm; but we could return to it the following
winter. She put the scheme before me with tranquil confidence,
like one explaining matters to an intelligent child, and yet not so
as to wound my pride, for she managed to convey the impression
all the time that I was taking the initiative.
I was of two minds, torn between conflicting visions: one
gloriously happy, and one overcast with gloom. M y will was
palsied. How at forty-six could I start life anew, rebuilding it
so thoroughly that no stone of the old life would be left standing
upon another? Instinctively I sought for counter-arguments.
Tim idly I hinted that she herself was not free. This she swept
aside with one of those gestures which made words needless.
It implied :
I shall be free whenever the day comes on which I must be
free for your sake.
This helped me to make up my mind, and I said :
All right, I will write to Ganna to-day.
I read dissent in her expression, and asked what was amiss.
But, Alexander, the objection is plain. You must speak to
Ganna, not write.
Agreed, I replied. But surely it will be better to break it
to her by letter. Besides, it will help her if she sees in black
and white that there is no question of divorce ?
M y timidity puzzled Bettina.
Surely you are master of your own life? Who else has any
right to be?
Still, it will come as a frightful shock to Ganna!
I think you will make a mistake, a dangerous one, if you
encourage false hopes in Ganna. You should not bind yourself
by any written pledge against divorce.
She never said anything stronger than I think when such

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problems were being discussed; but experience had convinced


me that what she thought was almost invariably right, and
pointed to the best way out of a difficulty.
I think you should return to Vienna and see Ganna, were
it only for the convenience of settling up matters in your house.
She went on to explain that a friend of hers and mine could put
me up for a few days. This would make my breach with Ganna
less glaring than if I went to stay at a hotel.
That part of the plan alarmed me once more. It seemed so
sudden, so irrevocable. As if what we had in view could be
anything else than irrevocable! If Alexander and Bettina were
at length to set up house together, Alexander could not possibly
in the interim return to his old home and live there as Gannas
husband.
If you did that, she would never believe you were in earnest.
O f course you are right, Bettina. There must be no shilly
shallying.
All the same, I tacitly went my own way. I lacked courage to
follow her counsel, and to accost Ganna in the flesh, without
warning her by letter of what was afoot. Not for me, like my
namesake of Macedon, to cut the Gordian knot! Bettinas
intentions were translucent. She wanted to make me happy;
to be happy with me; to help me free myself from a heavy
burden. But for my part, I was taken by surprise. I had never
contemplated the possibility of breaking away from Ganna
openly, although I had long since come to recognise that our life
together was a failure. No doubt my ingrained unwillingness to
take decisive action had always held me back from effective
resolve. One of the dichotomous classifications of human beings
is into persons of action and those who stay put. Most emphati
cally, I belong to the latter category. In me, this trend is associated
with a measure of fatalism, which it would be unjust to stigma
tise as infirmity of purpose, although it is undoubtedly tinged by
weaker qualities, such as a love of comfort and an undue inclina
tion to become confirmed in my habits. For persons of this type,
the new always assumes an alarming aspect. Above all, no

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change; no fresh struggles to break the daily routine: the familiar


frictions already give me more trouble than enough. A philistine
attachment to material things played its part. The house had
become a harbour of refuge; I liked the bed in which I was
accustomed to sleep; I liked the familiar writing-table, mahogany
showing at the edges, a green-baize cover spotted with ink, and
on it a dozen objects endeared by association. Then there were
stronger affective ties; there was little Doris, who was passionately
attached to me, so that her life circled round mine. She was only
four. How was the poor child to be made to understand that her
father was going away to live in another house with another wife
than M um m y ? Would not she cease to love me ? Would not she
forget me ? Would not her forgetting me leave a scar in my mind ?
Such thoughts, however, saddening though they were, were
but the framework of my dread of Ganna. This dread over
shadowed me so much that I dared not confess it frankly to
Bettina. The thought of Ganna was a nightmare, was omni
present. Perhaps custom played its part; the daily round of
contention, the carrying of a burden and the settlement of a claim
all that I looked upon as my duty, and, even now, after
these many years, regarded as a mystical bond. Bold plans of
flight stormed through my head. Would not that be the best way
of escaping one woman to join the other ? In my state of mental
confusion, Bettinas lucid insistence upon one thing or the
other, seemed to me a savage onslaught upon my existence.
Had she not been the person I most dearly loved in all the
world, the person whose loss would have been unbearable, I
should, during these first days of vacillation, probably have
refused to comply, and should (crushed, doubtless, and broken)
have returned to live in hell with Ganna. If only Ganna were a
reasonable woman, I mused; open to persuasion, modifiable
by argument, in touch with the world of ordinary mortals;
how lovely it would be to live with Bettina, how joyful and
light-hearted I should at length become! But the need for an
explanation with Ganna was a horror to me.
At length, however, I made up my mind. When a person of

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the inert category decides at long last for action, he moves


amid events with the assured gait of a sleepwalker, and even
his mistakes may be helpful. Since, moreover, it is natural for an
author to believe that what he writes must be more convincing
than what he says by word of mouth, while the penning of a
letter soothes his nerves without any risk of the jarring inter
vention of the person whom he is addressing, I sat down and
wrote at considerable length to Ganna. First things first. It was
impossible, I said, that matters could be allowed to continue in
their present course. For years I had been subject to unceasing
stresses, and there must be a radical change. I earnestly hoped
that Ganna would help me, and not make difficulties. I ended
with a solemn assurance that neither Bettina nor I had any thought
o f a divorce, but merely wished to live together openly in a free
union. This insincere attempt to soften the blow was, as Bettina
had foreseen, a serious blunder, the root cause of all the misery
that ensued.
A few days afterwards, I returned to Vienna, becoming the
guest of Baroness Hebenstreit, a young war-widow and a friend
o f Bettinas. I found it disagreeable to be thus a casual visitor
in the town where I had a home of my own and children. Ganna
regarded it as an unpardonable insult.
A Shoreless Sea. T h e whole affair seemed incredible to
her. Oh yes, she had read the letter, twice,five times, ten times;
but what did a letter amount to? She needed something positive.
A letter was not positive evidence. A letter could be recalled.
A letter might have been written under alien influence, under
irresistible coercion. (Thenceforward the notion of alien influence,
of irresistible coercion, became firmly established in her mind,
and was the starting-point of much of the ensuing disaster.)
In a postscript I had written that I was leaving for Vienna on
Monday and would call on her Tuesday afternoon. C all ?
C razy! Did a man call on his own wife, call at his own house ?
On Monday evening I telephoned to her to give her my address.
Now she had positive evidence I was not coming home. Her
last illusion crashed.

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When she had recovered from the shock, she began to think
about what she would tell her friends, her brothers-in-law,
her sisters, her mother, the children, the servants. What was
happening was something worse than misfortune; it was inex
piable disgrace. She could not conceive how, under the shadow
of this disgrace, she would be able to meet peoples eyes! Although
she tried to console herself with the belief that the trouble would
last only a few days, still she had to face the terrible fact that I
had taken refuge among strangers. T h e strangers would pass the
news on to other strangers. This would mean that she had been
slighted.
T o avert gossip, she telephoned to a number of acquaintances
(who were greatly astonished to learn that I had returned from the
country earlier than had been expected) that our house was under
repair, and that, in the circumstances, Frau von Hebenstreit had
been good enough to put me up for a few days. Although, as a
part of each of these phone calls, she asked some question or
gave some additional information, introducing her main point
as an irrelevant detail, the people at the other end of the wire
drew their own conclusions, and she started the very gossip she
had wanted to avoid. She took the same path as far as the children
were concerned, in the endeavour to correct fate and to hush
up the truth. The children did not believe her. Naturally they
understood there must be something amiss when Daddy went to
stay in another house instead of coming home. Probably they had
been expecting trouble of this sort for a long time.
When I was made aware of these devices, I perceived as clearly
as if I had actually been present how she was going about the
house furtively, talking in whispers instead of in her natural
voice; how the Ganna full of forebodings was assuming the mask
of a confident Ganna, one of them a figure to commiserate, and
the other enough to provoke anger; how every time the telephone
bell rang she must be rushing to the instrument with eyes widely
opened in expectation; how at certain times of the day she would
incessantly pace to and fro in my study, conjuring up my figure
at the writing-table, looking at this spectre reproachfully, and

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from time to time muttering the stereotyped objurgations I


had so often heard: That woman. . . God will punish her. . . .
He will visit it upon her children. . . . He will destroy her.
Then there was the other Ganna, unruffled by such fury; the
distressful Ganna, whose tears streamed down, while she wiped
them away with clenched fists. When, at the appointed hour,
I opened the front door and entered, she flung herself into my
arms with a stifled cry.
It would be unending to describe, even in outline, all the
conversations between Ganna and myself at this juncture. They
were staged in the study, on the terrace, in the garden, in her
bedroom, in the street. They went on day after day, almost without
cessation, morning, noon, and night. T o summarise, they were
fatiguing and futile attempts of two persons to induce one another
to do things which were beyond the power of either. One of
them wanted to tear a band in sunder; the other, having noticed
that it was worn into holes, wanted to patch and darn it. One
of them wished to forsake a cold hearth; the other insisted that
the fire was still burning brightly, a sacred fire, which it would be
criminal to extinguish. One wished to close the account, since
all the money had been spent; the other wished to keep it open,
and clamoured for further credit. Conversations as old as the
hills, as barren as gravel, as painful as toothache. But in this case,
Gannas peculiarities gave them a new meaning and far-reaching
importance.
I came with the kindliest intentions. Hoping to induce her to
agree to a separation, I was as good-natured as possible. I spoke
of the nineteen years we had lived together, and how these years
made it incumbent upon her to avoid light-heartedly poisoning
the remembrance of them. Ganna agreed, but added that this
was my duty no less. I referred to the appreciation she had always
shown for my work.
Certainly, answered Ganna. I have never ceased to
love and admire your work; but is not that a reason why you
should refrain from a step which would involve my mental
ruin?

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How can you know that ? I burst in. Are you not presuming
e?. your power to read the future ?
M y feelings tell m e, she said, as if she had the foreknowledge
of the Parcae. Never have they deceived me, in matters where
my welfare and my road were at stake.
She did not understand. She did not want to understand. W e
made no progress.
I gave a pledge, saying:
You will never lose my friendship, if, in this momentous
hour, you are equal to the occasion.
She was shaken. She wept.
What you ask of me is so hard, she moaned; so frightfully
hard.
O f course it is hard, I replied. But you must not deprive
me of the right to manage my own life as I think best. This much,
at least, you must have learned from me, that ones vocation,
ones course through life, cannot be arbitrarily determined by
another.
She assented with a sob, but in the same breath took refuge in
the argument that she had to fight for the sake of her children.
I ventured to point out that they were my children too.
In your blind following of impulse, you pay no heed to that!
Mastering my temper, I replied:
Anyhow, your children will not be taken away from you.
Nor do I wish to be cut off from my children. For their sake you
must control yourself. Th ey have already suffered too much
from witnessing our quarrels.
Your fault! Your fault, she exclaimed, weeping.
M y fault, perhaps, I admitted; although it is never fair
to say that one party is exclusively to blame in such matters.
It takes two to pick a quarrel. No matter for that, now. What I
want you to understand is that I shall never get over my disap
pointment unless you are great enough to yield. You have within
you all the elements of goodness and greatness; you love poetry,
pictures, wisdom. I have unfailingly believed in you. Are you
going now to convince me that my faith was wrong ?

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She looked at me in despair, saying:


I am so utterly alone in the world.
T o be alone will give you strength, I answered jesuitically.
I need you, but at a distance, which will lighten the shadows
of the bad times we have had together, which, in retrospect, will
gild the past.
She was profoundly moved. Giving me her hand to hold, she
vowed, with a tremor in her voice, that she would comply in
all respects.
You dont know yet, Alexander, what sacrifices I am capable
o f.
I kissed her forehead gratefully, overlooking that my attempts
to persuade her served only to convince her that she ought not
to part from a man who said such lovely things to her.
What ought I to do? T ell me what I ought to do? she
whimpered.
Surely there can be no doubt about that?
Gladly I would shed my blood for you to the last drop. But
there is one thing you must never ask of me a divorce.
I am not asking that. All I ask is that you should loosen your
grip; should accept the new state of affairs with dignity; and
not burden me with a responsibility which really belongs to
you.
I ought never to have said that, for when I did so I was heed
lessly giving the prescription of the medicine with which I was
slowly poisoned.
I have always been a true friend to you, she resumed;
there is nothing petty about me, though there may be about
others, who hurt me for no reason.
For no reason, Ganna? Now you are tearing down what we
have so laboriously been building up.
Because you are thinking of divorce, she sighed; and a
divorce would kill me.
She looked at me savagely, and, in my folly, it seemed to me a
suitable moment for reminding her of the oath she had sworn
nineteen years before at the lakeside.

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Have you forgotten, Ganna, your vow to give me back my


freedom at any time I might ask for it?
Forgotten? O f course not! she answered, sobbing.
W ell, is such a pledge to have no meaning?
She was dismayed, for though she knew well enough that the
oath of an inexperienced girl could have no real significance, it
was not for her to negate its moral importance.
You cannot justly deny that I have kept my word, she said
after a while, with a martyrised expression, and carefully avoiding
the use of the word oath. Or, libertine that you are, do you
honestly think I have given you any ground for complaint in
that respect?
We were afloat on a shoreless sea. Ganna seemed to be never
weary of these discussions, which were her delight, her torment,
her stimulus, her hope. She could have gone on talking to all
eternity. In order to protract the argument she would, at critical
moments, seem to give way; and then, an hour later, withdraw
her concessions. When I left in the evening, she would accom
pany me, often for a long distance, trying to keep step in order
to refute my old complaint that she walked too slowly; while
(breathless in consequence) she panted forth a spate of reasons
real and fancied, promises, charges, and enumerations of my sins
in new and ever-new wordings.
I cannot think what you see in that Bettina of yours. After
all, shes only a woman, and I m just as good as she. If you
would but tell me whats her special attraction, perhaps I could
attract you in the same way. It must be a trick of some sort, and
I can learn it, for I am docile.
Night after night, I was almost dead from fatigue when I
dropped into bed.
The Counterpart. Bettina returned to Vienna a week after
me, to dismantle her rooms. One evening I went to see her at
the flat, and found her in the already half emptied dining-room.
She was wearing a fur-lined cloak, for there was neither coal nor
wood in the place, and the weather had turned cold. Her children
had already been sent to Frau W rabetz villa at Ebenweiler.

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I kept on my overcoat likewise. There was no need to tell her


all I had been going through. The mere sight of me conveyed
enough information. I asked after Paul.
Gone away.
W here?
T o the factory.
She conveyed a sense of tension as in a violin string which has
been too tightly stretched.
He left by the five-thirty this afternoon. I saw him off at the
station. Are you cold?
Icy, I answered.
She ran into her bedroom and came back with four pairs of
trees which she had taken out of shoes previously packed. Kneeling
in front of the stove, she made a blaze with some old newspapers
and threw in the trees. Since they were hard-wood, they burned
well, and warmed us a little.
If we burn the chairs and tables too, I said, we shall be
quite cosy!
She smiled absent-mindedly, and I felt anxious about her,
fancying she must have had a quarrel with her husband.
Have you had any trouble, you and Paul?
Trouble? Not a bit of it.
Tell me, dear, how did he take our proposal?
She didnt answer immediately, running to collect a lot of
old boxes in order to keep the fire in. Then, with a break in her
voice and tears running down her face, she said:
At noon to-day, we agreed upon a separation.
I stared at her in amazement, thinking: How quickly and
easily such matters can be settled among reasonable people!
What about the children? I asked.
Oh, o f course he has agreed to my keeping them. I stared
at her, wonderingly and enviously.
Phantoms and Fictions. One sleepless night, Ganna had
a brain-wave. Early in the morning she sent me a note by special
messenger. Would I come at once ? She had thought of a way out
of our difficulties. What was this wonderful scheme? I could

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scarcely believe my ears. W e were all three to live together,


myself as husband with two wives. This was a serious proposal!
Are you dreaming, Ganna, to think such a thing possible?
W ere not in Cuckoo-Cloudland, and the idea is not worth
discussing.
She was annoyed.
W hy not? she asked. Have you forgotten Count von
Gleichen?
Really, Ganna, I replied, with considerable irritation,
these instances from the world of fable do not help us.
World of fable ? Not a bit of it. I give you a historical instance,
and you talk about fables. True, that was a long time ago; but
surely we are moderns?
Cut out the modern, please, if by modernity you mean an
unappetising hotch-potch of feelings and a preposterous
situation.
M uch piqued, Ganna rejoined:
Really, Alexander, I did not expect to find you so middleclass in your outlook, afraid to realise in your own life the ideals
you have proclaimed in your novels.
I could not recall having ever idealised Count von Gleichen,
but Ganna insisted that I had done so. She emphasised the
advantages of her plan, stumping up and down the room. She
had not yet tidied her hair, and she was wearing a grey knitted
slip-on, with sleeves to the wrists. She talked interminably.
W ith good will, everything becomes possible. The sacrifices
must not be all on one side. M y rights take precedence. Bettina
must curb her selfishness. Is there not room in the house for us
all?
I made no answer, but fluttered the pages of a book I pretended
to be looking at.
Let me have a talk with her about it, went on Ganna eagerly.
If she has any good in her, she will agree.
Bettina was to be the ostensible head of the house, for this
position would tickle her vanity. She, Ganna, would be the real
housekeeper.

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If any disputes should arise not that there will be any, for
I shall be as good as gold but if any disputes should arise, you,
Alexander, w ill be the arbiter.
I do not know, even now, whether Ganna took her Countvon-Gleichen idyl seriously. It would be waste of time to enquire,
for she could not distinguish between dream life and real; and
when she let her fancy run riot it was not guided by the vestiges
o f logic which may be found even in the wildest dreams. The
happenings in that imaginary world o f hers were the product
o f a waking delirium. Day after day she returned to the charge
with her wish-fulfilment dream of a triple union, and she fashioned
the most elaborate arguments in its favour. As for my stubborn
resistance to the scheme, that must be the outcome of Bettinas
counter-suggestions. O f course I should have been ashamed to
breathe a syllable about the crazy notion to Bettina; and I could
never have been so base as to betray the foolish imaginings of
the woman I had lived with so long to the woman I hoped to
live with henceforward.
When Ganna at length realised that her efforts in this direction
were unavailing, her view was that her noblest intentions had
been wilfully frustrated. I f those to whom she had unselfishly
offered her hand, refused to make peace, they must have weighty
reasons, and were probably aiming at Gannas ruin. How natural
the suspicion that Bettina M ercks real object was to get possession
o f the house! T he wicked design dated from long since, when
Bettina had planted Klothilde Haar upon the innocent Ganna.
Circe had twisted me round her fingers, for I was hopelessly
pliable, and had become a party to the fell design. Having
secured the house, Bettina would be its sole mistress, and,
having sent Ganna into exile, would lead a princely life there.
That was what would happen to poor Ganna, unless she took active
measures to prevent it. So vividly did this picture of Bettina
triumphantly installed in Alexander Herzogs house present itself
to Ganna, that she often groaned loudly and gnashed her teeth.
When informed that Bettina and Paul had agreed to a friendly
separation, instead o f looking upon this as an example to follow,

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she regarded it as a confirmation of her worst suspicions and as


part o f the conspiracy. T h e solid ground o f reality had slipped
from under her feet; but reality was superfluous to her, for, in
her aloofness from the world, she mistook her fancies for
actualities. Her ownership o f the house was threatened. T h e
house! This notion swelled, as notions and images often do in
dreams; the notion of ownership, of a place where she had taken
root, o f absolute security.
Accordingly, she felt more and more ready to fulfil what she
regarded as her heroic offer to share her dearest possessions,
husband and home, with her arch-enemy. She had made the
proposal in the hope of averting my departure, and when her offer
was contemptuously rejected she had at least the gratification o f
having convinced herself of her own nobility.
Everything transformed itself in Gannas mind to suit Gannas
fancy. She had no doubt that she had been a model w ife; the
impersonation of amenability, punctuality, and order. Though
endowed with these virtues, she had been calumniated to me. Her
enemies had defamed her to me until I had felt impelled to
break away. The same enemies who had had Klothilde Haar in
their pay. T h e same enemies whose machinations had prevented
her making me a millionaire by means of the school field. Ganna
also succeeded in persuading herself that we had lived together
like turtle-doves for nineteen years, that no cloud had ever
darkened the heaven of our conjugal happiness. This conviction
hardened into a legend resembling many of those which disfigure
our school history-books.
Since, however, something had obviously gone wrong with
this turtle-dove existence, and since, no less obviously, the fault
was not Gannas, some one else must be to blame. T h e culprit
must be exposed and tracked down by an unremitting hunt.
Phantoms and fictions, woven out of thin air, multiplied unceas
ingly. Words and deeds of long ago were misinterpreted; opinions
were twisted aw ry; matters that had no bearing one upon the
other were speciously shown to be interrelated. A number of
envious, malicious, mendacious and mischief-making persons

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were projected upon the screen of the past; and, surrounded by


these malignants, walked the serene figure of Ganna, as guardian
angel of her beloved Alexander.
Day after day this film was turned for my edification, and day
after day I was asked to bear witness to the truth o f the picture.
W hy did I stay on; why did I look and listen? W hy did I not
pack my traps and clear out forthwith? Hard to say! I think
there must be something radically wrong in my make-up. I find
it impossible to pursue my course when this means leaving
spiritual devastation behind me. Not because I am a softy,
not because I am excessively tender-hearted. M y self-preservative
impulse is fairly strong. I am not unduly open-handed, not over
ready to help, not a pigeon for every ones plucking. When I
am asked to make sacrifices, I look twice and thrice before com
plying. There is something else the matter with me. Not, indeed,
one thing; for the flaw is stratified.
First of all, I have ingrained in my nervous system a sense of
the simultaneity of all happenings. As a necessary outcome of
the excessive spiritual sensibility therewith associated, I tend to
transfer myself into periods other than the actual present, and
imaginatively to project myself into the personalities o f those
with whom I come in contact. Owing to this transmutation, it
is as if I actually saw, heard, smelt, tasted, and touched what these
others are seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching, with
a greater expenditure of energy than if my own senses were being
directly stimulated, or if I were faced by concrete difficulties. In
this way I come to resemble a surgeon who cannot bring himself
to perform an operation he knows to be indispensable, and who,
instead of anaesthetising his patient and getting to work,
numbs his own conscience by giving himself a hypodermic of
morphine.
Next, I have within me a moral law ; there speaks to me a higher
voice whose utterances I cannot ignore. Here was this wife o f mine.
No matter what her defects might b e ; no matter that she might
have made her own bed; no matter whether I, Bettina, or the
world at large might or might not approve her doings and her

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character still, I was linked to her; long ago I had pledged myself
to h e r; I was responsible for her, whatever might be said to the
contrary; I had had three children by her; without me, she would
have no aim, no grip, and would be lost in the wilderness. In
such circumstances, was I really going to play the deserter?
Could I shake the dust off my feet and begin a new life ( a new
life, what a fools paradise it is!) without having completely
shed the trammels o f the old ? But for that, I must sweep away the
phantoms and the fictions. It seemed possible. I did not yet know
that these phantoms and fictions had a terrible tenacity, and a
frightful power for growth that, like the jinnee in the Arabian
Nights when liberated from the brass bottle, they would swell
till the sky was overcast. No, I could not break away. I was not
cold-blooded, not brutal enough. I wanted to save part of Ganna
for myself out of the wreckage. A memory, a sense of gratitude,
a feeling of respect.
Joy lost, A ll lost! Since week followed week, and, despite
my best endeavours, it proved impossible to come to terms with
Ganna, I decided to break the threads, and go to Ebenweiler,
where Bettina was awaiting me. I packed books, manuscripts,
clothes, underlinen; Ganna watching me in consternation, while
the children, perplexed and downcast, ventured a question now
and again. T h e hour of departure arrived, and Ganna came to the
station. What could be said to mitigate the pain of this leavetaking? Ganna talked and talked, almost inarticulately. She was
afraid of my catching cold, of a railway accident; everything was
so uncertain now; I must be careful about my diet: talk, talk,
talk until the train started. Even then, she ran along the platform,
waving her hand. T h e picture stays with me. It was characteristic
of Ganna.
Seventeen hours in the train. T h e Austrian railway traffic was
still much disordered. T he compartment was dirty; the carriage
shook like a diligence on a rough road; the window-glass had been
broken, and the window boarded up; the roof was leaky; the
lamps past work. Looking out into the gathering darkness, I
seemed to see Ganna running beside the train and waving her

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hand. In the night she stood at the door of the compartment


begging to be let in, her voice choked with tears.
Ebenweiler next morning, under snow glistening in the sun
shine. T h e familiar landscape hac^a new visage, its tranquil
charm having given place to majesty. Bettina was waiting for me
on the platform, her cheeks reddened by the cold, -her greyishgreen eyes radiant with happiness. We drove in a sleigh to the
villa, half-buried beneath the snows. Christmas weather!
I had never dreamed how peaceful, how fascinating, a properly
ordered household could be. Such a thing was outside the range
o f my previous experience. That winter I began a lengthy spell
o f hard mental work, which I was able to carry on despite the
distresses I am about to describe. I was sheltered and safeguarded.
Partly by the landscape, which was soothing to my ruffled nerves;
but above all by Bettinas far-seeing, noiseless, cherishing, and
apparently effortless care for my well-being and tranquillity.
She made me feel as if I were safely hidden away in the interior of
the mountain on whose slopes we were living. The clamour of the
world and the contentiousness of Ganna might have been a
thousand years, a thousand miles away. In the ecstasy of the first
few months I felt as if m y dream of twin souls fused into one had
at length been realised.
Bettinas two little girls were at the outset rather shy of the
new head of the family. One of the hardest things to find out for
us grown-ups is what children think of us. W ith mingled distrust
and reserve, these two were waiting to see how things would shape
themselves. M y insatiable demand for quiet, my sensitiveness to
noise, were for them what muzzle and lead are for puppies that
want to romp untrammelled. They might reasonably have com
plained that I was always trying to check their exuberance. They
did not complain. But they took me rather seriously, and I know
that I was the topic o f earnest talks they had before going to sleep
at night.
What troubled me most was that, notwithstanding the
favourable change in the outward complexion of my life, I could
not find joy. Or, rather, joy could not find me. When she came to

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call, I announced that I was not at home. No matter how long


she might stand at the door, I would not let her in. This was a
great disappointment to Bettina, the first in our life together;
and the disappointment became more bitter month by month.
It was inevitable that she should ask herself why she was unable
to help me to soar, as she had hoped. But how can any one soar
who is doing all he can to make himself heavier instead of lighter ?
She had expected to be a lamp for m e; but how can any one be a
lamp for a man who blows out the flame because he feels more
comfortable in the dark ? I was touched to notice that, whenever
my spirits rose, whenever I smiled, the day became for her a
red-letter day. If I smiled, her heart leaped with delight.
Y et it became less and less possible for me to smile. Fortunate,
indeed, that Bettina had so much inward provision of material
for smiles although there was a risk now that the sources might
run dry. In a community where every one wooed my favour, and
all looked on me with friendly eyes, I tended to become taciturn,
to brood, to play the hermit. This was Bettinas one dread
in life darkened skies, a perpetual succession of days without
laughter or smiles. In such conditions, her violin meant nothing
to her, music made no appeal, melody ceased to well up within
her, the world was dumb. In an unguarded hour, she told me so,
though hesitatingly, and I saw dread in her eyes. M y colossal
stupidity is proved by its having been necessary for her to tell
me. I saw what was at stake, and that I must never allow Bettina
to be parched by my dreariness. At any cost, I must achieve joy.
Since it was Ganna who stood between me and jo y ; since it was
because of Ganna that I could no longer laugh or smile, Ganna
must be induced to restore my possibilities of cheerfulness, my
freedom from care, my good spirits. T h is must be effected at
any cost, for otherwise I should lose Bettina, which would mean
that I should lose all.
But one who sits on a powder-barrel after the fuse has been
lighted, finds it hard to laugh or smile.
Alarum s and Excursions. The first of my troubles came
from Gannas letters, each of them running to six, eight, or ten

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pages. Compared with them, a shower of lava-drops would have


been refreshing. Ganna stretched her arms across the two hundred
miles by which we were separated, and tried to drag me back to
her side. Her words resounded across the same distance, demand
ing help, advice, consolation; in the name of the children, of
the law, of imperishable love. What was not written in plain
words, rustled, screamed, clamoured, and sobbed from between
the lines; lurked behind the pointed, headstrong, crazy writing.
Complaints about how sad it was to live in a house whose master
was absent. Is there no way out, Alexander ? Must I be trampled
on like this? Doris, she said, was pining for her daddy. It was
very hard to keep Ferry and Elisabeth in order; now that they
were growing up, they needed a man to hold sway over them;
could I reconcile it with the promptings o f conscience to leave
them to their own devices at so critical an age and in such
troublous times? Dreams, forebodings, bugaboo stories. Pin
pricks of one kind and another. M r. A . or M rs. B. had expressed
astonishment at the behaviour of a man whom, up till now, he
or she had regarded with the utmost respect. Her sisters were so
kind to her in her troubles; every one sympathised with her
most keenly; people were exceedingly considerate.
Then the house, the beloved house, began to intrude into the
correspondence, with devastating effect. A water-pipe had burst,
flooding the hall. Something had gone wrong with the discon
nexion o f the sink; the sanitary inspector had complained; the
effluvium was a danger to the childrens health. One o f the
chimneys had been blown down in a storm. A stove was needed
in Doriss room, for the central heating was inadequate, and there
was a shortage of coke. The carpenter had sent in his bill, and
she could not spare enough of the housekeeping money to settle
it. She was in debt to the tradespeople, who kept on dunning her
until she was driven to despair. What was she to say to them ?
M y husband is travelling. He will be back soon. Then you will
be paid. But they did not believe her, and were rude.
This brings me to Gannas dealings with money, the most
undesirable among her character-traits. Since we were then

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passing through the inflation period, the spectre loomed


gigantic.
She found it impossible to adapt herself to the devaluation
of the currency, and was horrified at the figures she had to enter
in her housekeeping book; two hundred crowns for a kilogram
o f butter; fifty crowns per dozen for eggs; five hundred crowns
for a pair of shoes; two thousand crowns spent upon tutors
salary and servants wages. Ganna fighting with money that
ceased to be really money, that melted away in her fingers while
pretending to be more and more, that mocked her with enormous
figures of a standard which had no stability was a Ganna reduced
to despair, a Ganna whose foundations had been shattered, a
Ganna whose calculations had become mere panic. As week
followed week, hundreds swelled to thousands, thousands swelled
to tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions. When a
fowl cost eighty thousand crowns, a telegram to me ten thousand,
and when the butchers bill for the month was a million and a
half, she collapsed under the burden of such figures. It seemed to
her sheer nonsense. Since for her money and moneys worth
had been sacrosanct, the only certainties in an uncertain world,
she was in the position of a fervent believer to whom some one
has given (supposing such a thing possible) convincing proof that
there is no God. No firm standing-ground remained. Natural
laws had been abrogated. The result was a permanent anxietystate, like that of a nightmare which partly accounts for the
disastrous developments that ensued. She became obsessed
with the notion that the otherwise unaccountable revolution in
values would never have occurred if I had not forsaken her. It
gave her a perverse and delusive satisfaction to believe that my
faithlessness, my supposed treachery, explained the misfortunes
of the nation and the collapse of capitalism.
This crazy idea peeped out in every letter. They were full of
facts and figures. No amount of money sufficed her. Others
looked ahead, accumulated reserves, took precautions; Ganna
was invariably caught unawares. She had no sense of time, but
lived from moment to moment. Stranger still, she did not really

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live between the moments, but persisted without spirit or


sense from one pulse of time to the next, so that her breath
less flurry was no better than an unceasing decline into non
existence.
Under stress of want, her old belief in sorcery revived. She had
some bank-managers on her visiting-list. For her, a bank-manager
was a wizard, who could work miracles with money. These war
locks must know the innermost secrets o f the witches sabbath
in the money market. She pestered them for tips, and sent me
cipher despatches containing the names of securities I was to
buy. In this way she was helping me, and she was convinced
I must be making vast sums by the speculations I was supposed
to be carrying on under her inspired guidance. With this delusion
soon became associated an ineradicable belief that Bettina and
I were squandering a fortune in wanton luxury, whereas she,
despised and rejected, Ganna-Genevieve of Brabant, must
suffer the direst poverty.
The riot of figures in Gannas letters tormented me like horse
flies in summer. I should have kept her amply supplied with
funds, had I had funds to supply. Neither Bettina nor I was
interested in the counters we call money. Again and again,
I sent what we could spare, and more, suiting the amount to the
greatness of the need. Meanwhile, however, the collapse of the
German mark had made vast inroads upon my income, which
had now (as far as real values were concerned) become derisory.
It was reckoned in figures whose concluding noughts meandered
across the page, but the purchasing power of this huge sum
was far less than had been that of the moderate amount in earlier
years. Had it not been for some foreign royalties, I should not
have been able to pay my way. Still, of the shadow money I
sent a large proportion to Ganna. It was too little. When the
inflation period was over, her financial ship was leaking so badly
that it threatened to founder at short notice. Her frantic appeals
for aid disturbed the quiet of my study. I continued to respond
to these appeals, as generously as possible, ignoring the needs
of what was now my real household; but nothing I could send

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sufficed Ganna. Every warning that thrift was essential was


regarded as an insult. She wrote back that I was withholding an
abundance, which I lavished upon myself and Bettina. If I
managed now and again to provide her with a considerable sum,
it was she who did the lavishing, prompted by her optimist
conviction that I could tap inexhaustible springs; and when her
funds ran out (as they always did far sooner than she had
expected), she was utterly at a loss, sat in despair contemplating
her red-lined account books, fingering the piles of unpaid bills,
hunting in pockets and drawers, insisting that she must have
been robbed and ending by the despatch of another begging
letter to me.
Playing with the mammoth figures, to which by this time she
was accustomed, had become agreeable like the attempt to solve
a cross-word puzzle. The millions and the billions gratified her
craving for the unlimited, her feverish love of speculation. Cal
culating with these preposterous sums was like playing at magic or
astrology. Substantial values no longer mattered; the semblance
was there, bewitching in its magnitude. When prices had climbed
to incredible heights, she found consolation in the hope that
(although in another water-tight compartment of her visions
I was a Croesus) it would become impossible for me to maintain
two wives and two households, and that I should therefore be
forced to return to the bosom of my rightful family. This was not
a mere wish, not simply a play of fancy; it was a firm conviction.
She considered my homecoming imminent. T h e evil days of
trial, disgrace, and abandonment would soon end, for ever.
A Mental Morass. She would not accept her fate. Her
temperament was fundamentally rebellious. I learned that shortly
before her mothers death (which took place at this juncture), she
had had a violent quarrel with the poor octogenarian because the
old lady had reproached her for her lack of humility. The word
touched her on the raw.
Humility, Mother? Do you think your humility has done
you much good?
Ganna was forty-four when her mother died, and this death

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removed the only person who might still have exercised authority
over her.
One day she said to herself: I will no longer be financially
dependent upon that heartless husband of mine. Speculation
was rife. Phantom money could be picked up by handfuls in the
streets. After talking matters over with a number of so-called
friends and reputed experts, Ganna decided to found a film
periodical. The cinema had become the rage, and, as far as its
spiritual side was concerned, there was a manifest kinship
between Gannas mental processes and the technique of the
movies. Illusion was the essential feature of both. T o Ganna,
illusion was irresistibly attractive in all its forms: hocus-pocus,
astrology, mazdasnan, cheiromancy. They supplied her with
ample opportunities both for self-assertion and for self-efface
ment; for contemplating the whole created universe as a divine
fraud.
As in the case of the school, a financier was speedily forth
coming. The owner of a printing establishment. People were
eager to rid themselves of the spurious money which was so
abundant, in the hope of getting genuine money at a premium
in return, and with this end in view they grasped at every chance.
Ganna did not tell me that she had invested a considerable amount
of her own money (or, rather, of mine) in the scheme. The
exploiters and projectors who were her associates would be able
to fleece her whenever they pleased. Pending this disagreeable
but unforeseen eventuality, she would continue to regard them
as public benefactors. More and more she had come to believe
that suitable contacts were the prime requisites for success in
the literary world, so she hunted up persons of repute among
them, my own intimates and was very angry with any of them
who fobbed her off with unmeaning courtesies instead of giving
solid help. Being prone to extremes, she would then swing over
from admiration to contempt, regarding as a worthless wight one
whom the day before she had extolled as an exemplar of the
virtues. She was editor, sub, book-keeper, and business manager
rolled into one, writing until her fingers were sore, and running

ALEXANDER

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38S

hither and thither until so tired that she could scarcely set one
foot before the other. On the morning when the first issue was
published, she hurried from newspaper shop to newspaper shop,
from kiosk to kiosk, asking how the sales were going, and giving
hints as to the way in which these could best be pushed. She
ignored the astonished or compassionate glances which reminded
her of her true position.
A film periodical well, she would not lose caste by founding
one. Get busy! was my thought. You will learn by experience.
But the shady financial side o f the enterprise caused me grave
anxiety. There was too much make one hand wash the other
about it to please me; too much you scratch my back and I
will scratch yours. It was borne in on me that the whole affair
had an unsavoury smell, and that my own reputation for fair
dealing was likely to be tarnished by it. I received hints and plain
warnings. I felt as if I were in a room where improprieties were
going on behind a screen. In such circumstances one listens
uneasily without knowing what is really afoot.
The worst feature of the affair was the content of the periodical.
Gannas contributions were hastily penned short stories of
incredible triteness. One of them was a malicious caricature of
a woman widely known for philanthropic activities whom
Ganna, for some inscrutable reason, regarded as her deadly foe.
Then there were the wretched, not to say, infamous productions
o f certain scribblers male and female whom Ganna had taken
under her wing, and for whom she was now able to provide
a chance of getting their lucubrations printed and (it was to be
hoped) paid for. Finally, the advertisements, which were to
provide the financial foundation; the acknowledged advertise
ments and the disguised puffs usual in such publications.
T h e name of the responsible editor was Herzog my name
as well as Gannas. Stacks of the unsold returns leaned against
every wall of every room in her house, and when little Doris
had nothing better to do, she fluttered the pages as those of a
picture-book. Once, when the child was staying with me, I found
her reading the rag, and I snatched it out of her hands. M y head
N

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seemed to be encircled with an iron band; I was bogged up to the


knees.
Ganna and the Meaning of Words. During the first
winter Doris came to stay with me at Ebenweiler, affectionate as
ever, for affection was the key-note of her character. Prolonged
negotiation had been required before Ganna would agree to
this visit. When, in subsequent summers and winters, I wanted
Doris to spend the holidays with me, Ganna made many diffi
culties. It was too risky, she declared, demanding safeguards
and imposing conditions. She had persuaded herself, and tried
to persuade me, that the child could only thrive under her care;
that nothing could compensate for the lack of Gannas watchful
ness and devotion. M y intentions were doubtless excellent, but I
lacked the moral faculty to carry them into effect. I was under the
influence of a person whom Ganna had the best of reasons for
mistrusting. She assured every one who would listen that it was
impossible for her to allow her darling child to associate with a
woman who was living in an immoral intimacy with me. She chose
to forget that it was through her own fault that this immoral
intimacy had come about. T h e upshot was shameful in the
extreme, and led to a perpetual chaffering between Ganna and
myself as to the terms on which Doris could be allowed to visit
me.
When Doris was laid up with a slight cold, Ganna would report
severe tonsillitis and high fever, in the hope that alarm would
bring me post-haste to Vienna. She wanted to stir me up, to
make my conscience uneasy, lest I should forget her in the
companionship of the detested Bettina. You can hardly be
surprised, she wrote, that the children are so often ailing,
since you withhold from their mother the funds needed to safe
guard them against illness. T o this I replied that even during
the worst months of the inflation period I had managed to keep
her well supplied, and I mentioned the amount, not in millions
o f Austrian crowns, but in Swiss francs. Her answer was the
stormy cry of some one who has been cheated, for her firm
conviction was that she was being cheated of whatever it cost me

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to live with Bettina. There was, she declared, no reason why


she should be rationed, she had been nowise to blame, her
demands were justified before God and before men.
One o f her supreme difficulties was that words had no precise
meaning for her. She produced them by an alchemical process
o f her own devising which was not guided by reason. Her verbal
associations were arbitrary. I had watched her development for
two decades, and all the time her vocabulary had developed along
its own peculiar lines. She could not distinguish between good
and bad, never noticing whether there was a bridge between them,
or whether they were severed by an unfathomable abyss. Lyrical
enthusiasm and poisonous brew, beseechings and threats, true
and false, fondness and dislike, sentiment and business all
hopelessly confounded. Hyperbolical style side by side with
the coldest calculations. O f four successive sentences, the first
would be an outburst of self-pity, the second a plaint, the third
a demand for money, and the fourth a declaration of love. While
penning gush about one of my books, she would interpolate
an attempt to use the children as pawns in her game; would
ask, plainly or under a mask, tangible compensation for her
willingness to allow them to stay with me a while. Above all,
she would ask me to see her often for a friendly talk, and
would repeatedly insist upon the renewal of the pledge that I
had no thought of trying to get a divorce. I had to bare my breast
to this storm.
Thumbnail Sketches. Bettina and I go for a walk in the
starlight. T h e lake gleams, the sky looks like a dark curtain
pierced with numberless holes, a curtain that hangs in front of
a silver-blue fire. T h e M ilky W ay is a huge arch of silver spangles.
So quiet is the world that we have a foretaste of the blessed
tranquillity of death. Gannas wild and whirling words, Gannas
alarums and excursions, are shut away from us by doors of steel.
One who could see Bettina and me, standing arm in arm, might
think us immersed in prayer.
There are mornings when we toboggan down the slopes,
which are covered with freshly fallen snow like a fairy carpet.

ALEXANDER
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There are dark woods on either hand. The air is filled with the
merry laughter of Bettinas two daughters, who will soon have
to return to their father in Vienna, to attend high school there.
Then we stroll across the frozen lake, which drones menacingly
in the night, with a note that makes us think of the sighing of
some huge saurian of bygone days. Wooden sleighs, drawn by
oxen, glide swiftly over the smooth surface. The skis of the
accompanying peasants make a noise like the tearing of paper.
In the early days o f spring, it is as if nature angrily stripped
off a garment that had become too tight. Torrents flow down
the rocky channels worn during thousands of years; avalanches
fall with a thunderous roar; heather and hepatica thrust up
shyly from the moss and the grass; the season of irresistible
growth has begun; March has a different odour from February,
April from M arch; we make excursions through the forest,
visiting nearby valleys as if on a tour of inspection through our
realm. Often Bettina suddenly grasps me by the hand and, face
close to mine, looks at me fixedly and asks:
Are you content, Alexander? T ell me, are you happy?
I nod a thankful affirmation. What else can I do? Life would
otherwise be unbearable to us both, as worthless as a scrap of
rusty iron.
In the Charmed Circle. For years, divorce loomed as the
desirable issue; by degrees it became clearly visible as the neces
sary escape from an otherwise intolerable situation. There is a
demand that things should be set in order, a demand that comes
from the sphere of social life, independent of craving for
individual liberty. No hypocrisy about this matter was permissible,
no attitude of organised arrogance. There became active within
me a longing in which my sense of self-respect and my feeling
o f social duty were jointly incorporated; together with that con
viction of undischarged obligations to Bettina, obligations
which (in anxious hours of meditation) I described as the accu
mulated tithes of joy or as internal reparations.
That was the immediate requisite in the struggle with Ganna.
If the person who had burdened us with too heavy a load could

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be induced to remove it, to take off the halter, and restore freedom
of movement, the panting wretches would be able to breathe
easily once more. But Ganna could not be induced to agree to
a divorce. Her first objection was that divorce was impossible
unless, after as before, she could be sure of my friendship. O f
course, I said, there was no doubt about that. In reality the
difficulty was insuperable. How could I guarantee the persistence
of my friendship, as Ganna understood the term? By a sealed
bond! I must give a written pledge, committing myself for all
time. So foolish was I, that I argued the point. Instead of saying
Y es without demur, and penning the stipulated document
forthwith (which would, after all, have only led to the emergence
of a new and perhaps more preposterous claim), I honestly
tried to convince her that the wish for a documentary pledge of
lifelong friendship was absurd, that friendship must be wooed
and safeguarded, and that it could not be embodied in a formal
contract, like the lease o f a house. Ganna was impervious to
argument. All that penetrated her understanding was my refusal,
which was a proof of my ill-will. All I wanted was to make her
give way. People were continually playing upon the pliability of
her disposition more than others! L et me remind you of your
undertaking, of the letter you wrote me in October 1919. I
could not deny having written that foolish screed as, in my
anger, I called it. Thereupon her wrath boiled over.
Never, never, would you point a dagger at my breast, were
you not hypnotised by your mistress. She orders you about as
she pleases.
I could not repress a smile when Ganna spoke of Bettinas
orders. Ganna misinterpreted the smile, regarding it as an
acknowledgment o f guilt.
There can be no question but that you have promised to
divorce me, for Bettinas sake. O f course, I cant prove it, but I
know thats what she expects of you as a return. I shall show
M y Lady Merck that she has miscalculated. I m not so pliable
as she imagines, and shell find shes struck a snag.
Y et this time, too, it was by no means Gannas intention to

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confront me with a definitive refusal. She wanted to bargain, and


for that she must keep me in suspense. Bargaining and suspense
would ensure my being within call. Still, if I could be just,
with the justice that is possible to none but God, I should have
to admit that love for me was also a motive a cruel love, a love
that belonged to the realm of darkness rather than to the realm
o f light, but still love, as it shows itself in such a heart as Gannas.
Naturally cruelty and gloom were more obvious to me than love
in the good sense of the term ; but she was suffering just as much
as I (or, at least, so I fancied); and I was therefore patient and
considerate. She invariably supposed that when I was vexed, it
was on her account; and that when I was antagonistic, it was as
a reaction to her antagonism; thus in either case she could gratify
herself with the thought of being my partner in the game. For
that reason she fooled me with promises, repudiating to-day the
agreement of yesterday and retracting a thousand times what
she had solemnly assured me a thousand times before. I f she
wired, Come, everything can be satisfactorily arranged, and
I came full o f hope, it was to find once more that nothing could
be arranged; yet the failure, she was sure, was not due to sabotage
on her part, but (she sincerely believed) to a lack of good will on
mine.
I m not ready, she would say in August; you must give
me another three months.
I gave her three months respite.
In November:
I cant make up my mind yet. You mustnt put a pistol to
my head. Matters are still too uncertain for me to come to a
decision. But I give you my word of honour to comply with your
wishes next M arch.
In M arch:
I will think it all over very seriously. Still, I can tell you this
much already, that you are not in a position to support two wives.
It is my duty to save you from ruin.
Subterfuges, Ganna. We must find a basis for agreement.
Surely that is possible?

ALEXANDER

AND

BETTIN A

391

I have been humbugged so often. Do you want to force me


to betray my children?
Ganna, you know, or you ought to know by this time, that
I am not the man to leave my children in the lurch.
Not you, Alexander, but your mistress. In that respect I
want safeguards which you do not seem able to provide.
W hat safeguards, Ganna? Can I do more than pledge you
my body and my life ?
It was futile. Ganna clung tenaciously to her pound o f flesh.
She was under an obsession; but behind the obsession gesticu
lated and machinated a crafty, pettifogging attorney. I shut my
eyes to this, and would see only the murmuring sleepwalker,
the unhappy woman caught in a snare, the tormented tormentor,
the lonely woman Ganna, to whom I owed atonement, whom
I must compensate for my breach of the moral law. Ganna
the anxious mother, the disappointed companion, the ill-treated
wife, the woman who could not face reality hid from me Ganna
the fury, Ganna the sharp practitioner. I, too, was a dreamer.
I, too, was hallucinated. I, too, moved within a charmed circle.
Lawyers take a Hand in the Game. M y friends advised
me to consult a lawyer. They were anxious about my condition
because I had grown so irritable. I was now over fifty, and the
strain I was enduring was perhaps too much for me. I was
recommended to Herr Chmelius, a solicitor of repute, whom I
had met and liked in private life, and who, it now transpired,
had been instrumental in securing a speedy divorce for Bettina
from Paul Merck. Bettina, however, had never mentioned his
name to me. She had, in fact, a prejudice against lawyers. Nor
had I, for my part, hitherto had anything to do with the members
of this tribe. It was to be different henceforward.
I arranged, to begin with, that Chmelius was to be Gannas
financial adviser, and to keep watch on her expenditure, for her
demands were becoming so exorbitant that I could not cope
with them. Ganna, at first, refused to have anything to do with
Chmelius as controller of the finances, having learned that four
years earlier he had acted for Bettina, and scenting a conspiracy.

392

JOSEPH

K E R K H O V E N S

THIRD

ALEXANDER

EXISTENCE

AND

393

no consideration for anothers time, she expected everyone


engaged upon her affairs to make them his exclusive concern,
and berated him like an idle schoolboy if he rebelled against this
monopolisation. Furthermore, even though she was gratified
at having special allowances made for her impecuniosity, she
could not free her mind from the suspicion that cheap work or
gratis work must be scamped work. In this divided mood, she
grew continually more tempestuous, excitable, quarrelsome,
muddle-headed. All her acquaintances were classified in two
categories: supporters and adversaries. Between the opposing
armies, as those who would lead her and her friends to