A Newyear`s Eve Confession part 4

“The devil!” exclaimed the old soldier in surprise; “then you were the cause of that touching farewell letter that Bianca sent me—in which she declared that she must give me up—although her heart would break? “Yes, I was the cause of it,” said his friend. “But listen, there is more to tell. I had thought to purchase peace with that money, but the peace did not come. The wild thoughts ran riot all the more madly in my brain. I buried myself in my work—it was just about that time that I was working out the plan of my book on the `Immortality of the Idea`—but still could not find peace.

And thus the year passed and New Year`s Eve came round again. Again we sat together here, she and I. You were at home this time, but you lay sleeping on the sofa in the next room. A merry Casino dinner had tired you. And as I sat beside her, and my eyes rested on her pale face, then memory came over me with irresistible power. Once more I would feel her head on my breast, once more I would kiss her—and then—the end, if need be. Our eyes met for an instant; I seemed to see a secret understanding, an answer in her glance. I could control myself no longer; I fell at her feet and buried my burning face in her lap.

“I lay there motionless for two seconds perhaps, then I felt her soft hand rest cool upon my head, and her voice, soft and gentle, spoke the words: `Be brave, dear friend; yes, be brave—do not deceive the man sleeping so trustfully in the next room.` I sprang up and gazed about, bewildered. She took a book from the table and handed it to me. I understood, opened it at random, and began to read aloud. I do not know what it was I read, the letters danced before my eyes. But the storm within my soul began to abate, and when twelve o`clock struck, and you came in sleepily for the New Year`s wishes, it was as if that moment of sin lay far, far behind me, in days that had long passed.

“Since that day I have been calmer. I knew that she did not return my love, and that I had only pity to hope from her. Years passed, your children grew up and married, we three grew old together. You gave up your wild life, forgot the other women, and lived for one alone, as I did. It was not possible that I should ever cease to love her, but my love took on another shape; earthly desires faded, and a bond of the spirit grew up between us.

Philosophizing Together

You have often laughed when you heard us philosophizing together. But if you had known how close were our souls at such moments you would have been very jealous. And now she is dead, and before the next New Year`s Eve comes round we two may follow her. It is, therefore, high time that I rid myself of this secret and say to you, `Franz, I sinned against you once, forgive me.` ”

He held out an imploring hand toward his friend; but the other answered, grumbling: “Nonsense. There is nothing to forgive. What you told me there, I knew it long ago. She confessed it herself forty years ago. And now I will tell you why I ran after other women until I was an old man—because she told me then that you were the one and only love of her fife.”
The friend stared at him without speaking, and the hoarse clock began to strike—midnight.

Read More about The Story of Abou Hassan the Wag or the Sleeper Awakened part 11


A Newyear`s Eve Confession part 3

The old soldier murmured something and lit his pipe.

“No, she was as pure as God`s angels,” continued the other. “It is you and I who are the guilty ones. Listen to me. It is now forty-three years ago; you had just been ordered here as captain to Berlin, and I Wits teaching at the University. You were a gay bird then, as you know.”

“Him,” remarked the host, raising his trembling old hand to his mustache.
“There was a beautiful actress with great black eyes and little white teeth—do you remember?”

“Do I? Bianca was her name,” answered the other as a faded smile flashed over his weather beaten, self indulgent face. Those little white teeth could bite, I can tell you.”

“You deceived your wife, and she suspected it. But she said nothing and suffered in silence. She was the first woman who had come into my life since my mother`s death. She came into it like a shining star, and I gazed up to her in adoration as one might adore a star. I found the courage to ask her about her trouble. She smiled and said that she was not feeling quite strong yet—you remember it was shortly after the birth of your Paul. Then came New Year`s Eve—forty three years ago tonight. I came in at eight o`clock as usual. She sat over her embroidery and I read aloud to her while we waited for you.

Terrible Silence

One hour after another passed and still you did not come. I saw that she grew more and more uneasy, and began to tremble. I trembled with her. I knew where you were, and I feared you might forget the hour of midnight in the arms of that woman. She had dropped her work, I read no longer. A terrible silence weighed upon us. Then I saw a tear gather under her eyelid and drop slowly down upon the embroidery in her lap. I sprang up to go out and look for you. I felt myself capable of tearing you away from that woman by force. But at the same moment she sprang up also from her seat—this very same place where I am sitting now.

“ `Where are you going?` she cried, terror in every feature. I am going to fetch Franz,` I said. And then she screamed aloud: Tor God`s sake, you stay with me at least—don`t you forsake me also.`

“And she hurried to me, laid both hands on my shoulders and buried her tear be dewed face on my breast. I trembled in every fiber, no woman had ever stood so near me before. But I controlled myself, and soothed and comforted her—she was so sadly in need of comfort. You came in soon after. You did not notice my emotion, your cheeks were burning, your eyes heavy with the fatigue of love. Since that evening a change had come over me, a change that frightened me.

When I had felt her soft arms around my neck, when I had felt the fragrance of her hair, the shining star fell from its heaven, and—a woman stood before me, beautiful, breathing love. I called myself a villain, a betrayer, and to sooth my conscience somewhat I set about separating you from your mistress. Fortunately I had some money at my disposal. She was satisfied with the sum I offered her, and—”

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A Newyear`s Eve Confession part 2

My two old gentlemen sat half in the shadow of the green lampshade, moldering ruins both, from long past days, bowed and trembling, gazing before them with the dull glance of the dimming eyes of age. One, the host, is evidently an old officer, as you would recognize at once from his carefully wound cravat, his pointed, sharply cut mustache, and his martial eyebrows. He sits holding the handle of his roller chair like a crutch tightly clasped in both hands. He is motionless except for his jaws, which move up and down ceaselessly with the motion of chewing.

The other, who sits near him on the sofa, a tall, spare figure, his narrow shoulders crowned by the high domed head of a thinker, draws occasional thin puffs of smoke from a long pipe which is just about to go out. Among the myriad wrinkles of his smooth shaven, dried up face, framed in a wreath of snow white curls, there lurked a quiet, gentle smile, a smile which the peace of resignation alone can bring to the face of age.

The two were silent. In the perfect stillness of the room the soft bubbling of the burning oil mingled with the soft bubbling of the tobacco juice. Then, from the darkness of the background, the hanging clock began to announce hoarsely the eleven hour. “This is the hour when she would begin to make the punch,” said the man with the domed forehead. His voice soft, with a slight vibration.

“Yes, this is the time,” repeated the other. The sound of his speech was hard, as if the rattle of command still lingered in it.

“I did not think it would be so desolate without her,” said the first speaker again.

The host nodded, his jaws moving.

“She made the New Year`s punch for us four and forty times,” continued his friend.

“Yes, it`s as long as that since we moved to Berlin, and you became our friend,” said the old soldier.

“Last year at this time we were all so jolly together,” said the other.

“She sat in the armchair there, knitting socks for Paul`s eldest. She worked busily, saying she must finish it by twelve o`clock. And she did finish it. Then we drank our punch and spoke quite calmly of death. And two months later they carried her away. As you know, I have written a fat book on the `Immortality of the Idea.` You never cared much about it—I don`t care for it myself now that your wife is dead. The entire Idea of the Universe means nothing to me now.”

Husband of Dead Woman

“Yes, she was a good wife,” said the husband of the dead woman; “she cared for me well. When I had to go out for service at five o`clock in the morning, she was always up before me to look after my coffee. Of course she had her faults. When she got into philosophizing with you—him.”

“You never understood her,” murmured the other, the corners of his mouth trembling in controlled resentment. But the glance that rested long on his friend`s face was gentle and sad, as if a secret guilt pressed upon his soul.

After a renewed pause, he began:

“Franz, there is something I want to tell you, something that has long troubled me, something that I do not want to carry with me to my grave.”

“Well, fire away,” said the host, taking up the long pipe that stood beside his chair.

“There was once—something—between your wife and me.”

The host let his pipe fall back again, and stared at his friend with wide opened eyes.

“No jokes, please, doctor,” he said finally.

“It is bitter earnest, Franz,” replied the other. “I have carried it about with me these forty years, but now it is high time to have It out with you.”

“Do you mean to say that the dead woman was untrue to me?” cried the husband angrily.

“For shame, Franz,” said his friend with a soft, sad smile.

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A Newyear`s Eve Confession part 1

Hermann Sudermann (1857 – 1928)

Sudermann was born in East Prussia in 1857, and educated at the Universities of Konigsberg and Berlin. He was one of the foremost leaders of the dramatic movement of the nineties, though today he is regarded as definitely belonging to the past. But his stories of East Prussian and Lithuanian life, and his novels, are written with a fine imaginative power, and are still read both in Germany and abroad.

The present version, translated by Grace I. Colbron, is reprinted by permission of the publisher, from Short Story Classics, published and copyright by P. F. Collier`s Sons, New York, 1907.

A New year`s Eve Confession

Thanks be to God, dear Lady, that I may once more sit beside you for a peaceful chat. The holiday tumult is past, and you have a little leisure for me again.

Oh, this Christmas season! I believe that it was invented by some rail demon expressly to annoy us poor bachelors, to show us the more clearly all the desolation of our homeless existence. For others a source Of joy, it is for us a torture. Of course, I know, we are not all entirely lonely—for us also the joy of making others happy may blossom, that Joy up on which rests the whole secret of the blessed holiday mood. But the pleasure of joining in the happiness of others is tainted for us by n touch of self irony partly, and also by that bitter longing to which—in interest to homesickness—I would give the name of “marriage sickness.”

Why didn`t I come to pour out my heart to you? you ask, you pitying doula, you—you that can give of your sympathy in the same rich that others of your sex save for their dainty malices. There`s it reason. You remember what Speidel says in his delightful Lonely Sparrows, which you sent me the day after Christmas, with a true | inception of my state of mind? “The bachelor by instinct,” he says, ”docs not desire comfort. Once he is unhappy, he wishes to have the hill enjoyment of his unhappiness.”

Besides the “lonely sparrow” whom Speidel portrays, there is flint her sort of bachelor, the so called “friend of the family.” By this do not mean those professional wreckers of homes, in whose eyes the Mrpctlt glitters as they settle down comfortably at the hospitable hunt stone. I mean the good uncle, papa`s former school friend, who rocks the baby on his knee while he reads the magazine essays to mamma, carefully omitting all the doubtful portions.

I know men who give up their entire lives to the service of some family whose friendship they have won—men who live on without desire by the side of a beautiful woman whom in their hearts they secretly adore.

You doubt me? Oh, it is the words “without desire” that disturb you? You are right, perhaps. In the depth of even the tamest heart some wild desire lies, but—understand me here—it lies bound in chains.

As an instance I would like to tell you about a conversation which took place day before yesterday, on New Year`s Eve, between two old, two very old, gentlemen. It is my secret how I came to know of this conversation, and I ask you not to let it go any further. May I begin, then?

Picture to yourself, as a setting for my story, a high ceilinged room, old fashioned in furnishings, lighted by a green shaded, impertinently bright hanging lamp of the sort our parents had in use before the era of petroleum. The cone of light that goes out from the flame falls upon a round, white clothed table, upon which stands the various ingredients for a New Year`s punch, while several drops of oil show out broadly in the center of the table.

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