Double Loving. Novellas from Estonia
Elisàr von Kupffer, 1901 / 1903
In six novels, Elisàr von Kupffer shows how people often have to choose between two people in their love or have to endure that the loved one is also loved by someone else. Including a gay coming-out story His Riddle of Love (Sein Rätsel der Liebe), which is likely to be one of the first in the German-speaking world.
In his posthumously (1943) autobiography From a True Life (Aus einem wahrhaften Leben), Elisàr von Kupffer describes his becoming and his view of life. Eduard von Mayer has the autobiography, written before 1920, supplemented with an article The Path of Love (Der Weg der Liebe), which was probably written around 1940. In it, Elisàr von Kupffer describes his „love affairs”: his lifelong relationship with Eduard von Mayer, his „kinship” with women and his enthusiastic dealings with boys and young men. He also says in it that he is not homosexual! It can be assumed that he means men who have solid male-male sex; in contrast, he sees himself as being more in an amorous friendship. With women this was probably platonic, with boys and young men the joy of the childlike, unbiased reactions to his attentions of all kinds.
Double loving can be read as a preliminary stage to Clarism, the liberation of Eros from all social constraints of his youth and the stringent evangelical attitude to life of his parents.
Die weisse Lilie – The White Lily
Kein Hymnus flutet
fürs grosse Herz,
Das still verblutet
Am kleinen Schmerz.
No hymn floods for the big heart, that bleeds to death silently on the little pain.
Elisàr von Kupffer: «Leben und Lieben»
Summary: Walter, an old man, tells the story of his great love for Lily. He knew Lily from when he was a student in town. For health reasons, he moved to the countryside and became the estate manager of a baron who rarely lived on the estate. Baroness Cornelia, the owner's sister, lived there alone. She took a liking to the estate manager and made advances to him. That would be a social advancement for Walter, but he explains to her that he can never love her like his chosen Lily. He marries Lily and she moves in with him. Baroness Cornelia, deeply offended, tries to drive a wedge between the young couple. After the birth of the second child, Lily does not recover and is terminally ill in bed. Before she dies, the baroness comes by and the two women ask each other for forgiveness.
Arma und Ssilma – Arma and Ssilma
Was dem Leben dient, ist gut; was aber
das Leben hasst und mindert, ist böse.
What serves life is good; but what life hates and diminishes, is evil.
Eduard von Mayer: Bücher Kains, IX.
Summary: Arma and Ssilma are two happy women in still pagan Estonia. They are the wives of Olemar, the elder's son. It is the time of the conquest by the Christian order of the Teutonic Knights, the men in iron. Ssilma decides to go into battle at the side of her husband while defending her country. The Estonians are defeated by the men in iron. With baptism in a river, grace is granted to the vanquished. Ollemar is made eldest of the Estonians, but he is only allowed to have one wife. The knights determine that this is Ssilma. Arma is being held back as spoils of war. A knight, no longer in iron, humiliates and humiliates them. She catches a dagger and stabs him in the back. He still has the strength to strangle Arma. The Estonians come back in the night and take revenge on the knights who have taken off their armor. Ollemar finds Arma's body. A runaway horse kicks him with the hoof and he dies too. A pyre is prepared for the pagan burial of the two. Ssilma doesn't want to live either and lies down next to them. The ashes enclosed in an urn are buried on a hill, so that they are reunited in death.
Die süsse Rache – The Sweet Revenge
Siehe! die Klinge lässt sich biegen von
starker Hand; aber sie schnellt zurück und
erschlägt was ihren Weg kreuzt.
Please refer! the blade can be bent from strong hand; but it snaps back and slays what crosses their path.
Eduard von Mayer: Bücher Kains IX
Summary: Julia, the only daughter of the proud German baron at Rakwere Castle, and Hans Kerro, the son of the Estonian-born steward, were playmates in their childhood because children do not know differences in class. As young adults they continued to be friends and rode out with. One day Julia's distant cousin comes to the castle. He has the opinion that Hans is the groom who prepares the horses for a ride together at Julia's behest, although Julia actually wanted to go out with Hans. Giulia uses the misunderstanding to test Hans. After the cousin has left again, Julia and Hans ride out together again. A horse runs away and she falls into his arms. It's like a sign and the two kiss and confess their love ...
Wenn es schneit … – When it snows …
… da erwacht wie ein süsser Kobold
die Regung der Sinne … denn das Leben
ist doch stärker als alle Unwahrheit der
... wakes up like a cute goblin the movement of the senses ... because life is stronger than all untruths of education.
Summary: During the winter days, a young gentleman visits a manor house where Ms. Antony lives with her daughter Herta and her son Herbert. You feel safe in the cozy warmth of the castle. If you live secluded and alone in the country, every visit is welcome. The very young lady, but also the still young, widowed Frau Antony, wants attention, as does the boy with his naughty behavior and pranks. There is talk of this and that, also about the relationship between man and woman. Are these signs of making love, real feelings, or just a pastime? You go on a sleigh ride, for which the lady of the house invites the guest to come in the sleigh in an unusual way. The daughter feels set back. Fortunately, a letter arrives to the guest, the saving opportunity to say goodbye to the castle ...
Sein Rätsel der Liebe – His riddle of love
… la nature ne désavoue, ne répudie
rien de ce qui nos béatifie …
... nature does not disavow, does not repudiate nothing that beatifies us ...
Georges Eekhoud: Escal-Vigor III. 1.
Honni soit qui mal y pense!
„Do you like the book I gave you the other day?“, asked Alfred, casting an almost tentative warm look at the young girl who was standing by his side.
„Oh ... you mean the story where the two heroes fight over the girl who is actually her sister? Yes – I liked it“, replied Hedwig, a little distractedly.
„And which of the two do you like more, Ippolito the wild and fiery or Alessandro the prudent?“
„Ippolito“, she said with an easy smile ... „Ippolito …“
„Not true?!“ It came like an exclamation from the young man's deepest heart. She thought the same just like him! Yes, he too was enthusiastic about Ippolito, the beautiful, passionate Ippolito. He did not speak of the coveted Katherina, she did not stand in bright colors in front of his soul.
He was glad that he agreed with Hedwig, because – he loved Hedwig. It almost seemed to him as if she looked like Ippolito. She had dark hair, dark eyes, a sensual, somewhat broad mouth and a rather strong voluptuous than delicate figure. – If only she hadn't been so cold! She didn't come towards him at all, although he was looking for it, waiting for it.
And now and then Hedwig also glanced at her young companion. He was so delicate, his gray-blond, wavy hair fell lightly on his clear forehead; from the witty, oval, somewhat pale face looked gray, dreamy eyes that had brownish spots and sometimes a greenish tinge. There was a light, golden fluff above the full red lips. She looked at him more with curious admiration than deepest warmth. He was pretty, almost beautiful – yes ... but ...
It also seemed that he was interested in her; he went to see her, he liked to chat with her, but mostly very cleverly, very ideally, or in forced jokes. Then he looked at her so deeply melancholy that she wasn't sure why. It was more her mind or spirit that preoccupied him than her heart. When he was there, she spoke to him without being bored; but when he was gone, she felt no burning desire for him.
Since there was not very much youthful intercourse in her house – they lived mostly in the country – she was comfortable with him; but her blood hardly roused. At times it struck me as strange, for he was a young man and handsome too. But it was just the way it was. As a result, she got used to uninhibited dealings with him and talked to him about things about which she would otherwise never have been able to talk so freely with a young man. Even love was their subject, but the conversation about love always remained, even when they considered their own person; a particular case was then accepted and discussed, but no personal explanation was ever given. And yet Alfred asked for it. But why didn't he? Yes why? If he had known himself! He often said to himself, today you have to confess your love to her; and when they went for a walk together in the secluded corridors of the palace garden, the strangest and most distant and obvious conversations ensued, but not a confession of love. Then why was he so discouraged? Couldn't he be as successful as another? Maybe rather? Hedwig had admitted to him in a joking conversation that she thought he was – pretty. And she thought he was clever and witty too. What more did he want?
How often did the best of opportunities slip by without him having found the right word! Today, too, they wandered undisturbed on the winding paths of the small park, which were sometimes quite hidden. Occasionally some fir trees stretched their dark branches with the light green tips from one side to the other, as if they wanted to come very close together; then Alfred and Hedwig also had to approach, often their arms brushed against each other and he felt wonderful. There was something lusciously imperious about her that appealed to him, it made him want to kiss her.
What could happen if he suddenly threw his arms around her neck and ...! She just threw a questioning look at him and met his, who was deeply wistful and sad again. He stretched his yellow silk gloves and said nothing. But then he feared that the silence might last too long and cause her to give up the promenade, and he had an unconsciously strong desire to extend this wandering as much as possible, because he always believed that he would be able to speak. Then, in his excitement, it occurred to him that he had pocketed two poems in order to say through them what he otherwise could not find the introductory words for. There were two poems, one of which dealt with love in general, the other celebrated the special love for Hedwig. You know what tones and colors young lovers use.
„Oh, I wanted to show you something – two poems ... one“, he corrected himself against his will. „I don't know if you are interested.“
„Oh yes.“ She smiled pleasantly, then she was a bit taken aback when she noticed the blush on his face. His delicate skin betrayed the undulations in the depths only too easily. He noticed her astonishment and thought he had seen through ... He had taken out the one poem with the general verses and handed it to her; but he bit his lip in anger at his brittleness. She took the sheet of paper, read it, and he thought she must understand him now ... How surprised he was when she gave it back to him with a calm glance.
„Very pretty!“ said Hedwig, „but I think you are playing with your suffering with the world.“
Was that an answer! He suffered so much and she said he was playing with his suffering! It offended him that she still understood so little. Couldn't she understand how much the uncertainty troubled him? and she still found no word of concession? So she didn't love him? And yet this friendliness in view when she looked at him! Wasn't that love? Oh, this eternal torment of courtship! What else did she expect from him? If he confessed his love to her and she pushed him back? He was dishonored to think that such a fact would have humiliated him forever in front of his eyes ...
„Why don't you want to believe that I'm really not happy, that I have a reason to be, perhaps very significant reasons?“
„You?!“ Hedwig smiled heartily, incredulously. „What should make you unhappy? Why then? You can pursue all of your dreams. You ... you just want to make yourself interesting.“
Her laughter amazed him; he couldn't find any more words. He felt genuinely desperate right now, like a mute who wanted to talk and couldn't.
„You won't believe me that you are indeed as deeply unhappy as you say you are. If you forget this intention, you will look quite different. Yes sir. But you think you are making an impression on the ladies.“
„Oh no! No.“
They had come near the house. The gray castle walls looked out over the green of the fir trees. A small open space was on the path, surrounded by oaks and white poplars. The midday sun rested with comforting warmth in the branches and on the square.
Several guests had arrived. A group of younger men and women just stepped onto the square. Hedwig hurried cheerfully to meet them.
„Good afternoon, His Baron!“
With a polite bow, Roman von Ribberg shook her offered hand. Alfred also welcomed Roman, whom he already knew. Soon the conversation went back and forth jokingly. Roman had joined Hedwig and the two of them had an excellent conversation without touching on a serious subject.
Alfred stood by silently and looked at the others with deep displeasure. He would have liked to have had a good chat, but the words got stuck in his throat; he wasn't sure what to say either. Why was Hedwig able to speak so flirtatiously now? Was it love that made her self-conscious about talking to him – how he became? But was it embarrassment when she talked so calmly about him and with him? Now all pity was gone from her features. How she looked at Roman! He nurtured resentment against the elegant young man. And in doing so he began to study it, because he wanted to find out what was so captivating about him and whether it was justified, probable that she might prefer Roman over him.
Indeed, Roman had a stately slim figure who looked particularly elegant in the black suit. A dark beard with tips turned upwards covered the upper lip. He just smiled at the corner of his mouth while a slight crease formed in his cheek. The hair was barely parted on the side and was blackish brown. The eyes seemed to hide some things behind the assumed gaze of social equanimity. The skin was tanned. His face wasn't a regular oval, the lower cheekbones maybe too wide, but he looked interesting – more than interesting. And where hadn't he been! What could he not tell everything and even more half-secretly hint at! He – Alfred – knew nothing about the world, actually only himself ... At least that was what he believed. A deep envy crept into his soul. Why was it impossible for him to walk around as freely as that one? Was it his fault that he just stayed at home! Oh, he longed so much to see the world! If only it hadn't been love! that love that made him so unhappy. He almost lost himself in his gloomy and fantastic thoughts, regardless of the fact that he was surrounded by people.
Hedwig now turned to someone else who approached her. Her eyes were almost sparkling with animation. Alfred saw the opportunity. It was no longer like this. He took heart and, as much as it was to overcome, approached Roman to start a conversation.
„How did you like it in Rome?“
„In Rome?“ Roman looked at him with big eyes. Did this question affect him so strangely at the moment? It almost sounded like a question of conscience here.
And Alfred's cheeks rose red when he had asked the question and saw the searching glances on him. He felt like a schoolboy at the moment; he wasn't far from it either. Alfred felt as if he had hurt the other with the question, as if he had done something stupid.
„O – you just have to get used to Italy and especially to Rome.“ Apparently he was indulging in Alfred's self-consciousness. He checked his features like an artist looking for a model on the Spanish Steps.
Alfred showed no indignation at this; Roman probably noticed this and allowed himself to make a few remarks about the south.
„Did you see the Pope too?“
Roman smiled. It almost seemed strange to him to answer all the naive, curious and at the same time enthusiastic questions in this place, which was actually intended for the game of croquet and superficial chatter, while one talked about, joked and did everything else, only not getting serious. Alfred seemed to him like a boy who stands with genuine curiosity in front of a strange thing and quite forgets that he has come to disperse, to have fun. It fascinated Roman, because he loved the fresh, own way and he wanted to get to know him better. To do this, he had to put him to the test. And looking at him quickly, he noticed the outer nature of Alfred today, the quiet, dreamlike look, the soft features, the slight twitching of his facial muscles and the change in his skin color.
„You frequent here?“ He asked suddenly, deliberately.
Alfred was embarrassed. „Yes –“
Roman turned back to Hedwig and began to court her – not without intention. But with which one?
Alfred also watched him with silent discomfort. On the one hand, he was extremely annoyed that Roman Hedwig took up so much and that Hedwig returned all the apparent homage and chatter with a lovable smile and lively words. Now she knew how to speak! And when she talked to him, the conversation stopped so often that she smiled so pityingly that he was inclined to mistake it for the melancholy of love. But now? Now! No, these women! ... On the other hand, the same novel that alienated her had made no small impression on him. There was almost something mysterious about his being and not at all the usual appearance of the gallant gentlemen from society, he was neither defiantly dashing, nor boyish sloppy, nor graceful. In addition, there was a kind of halo in Alfred's eyes. Roman had been in Italy and the Orient for a long time. What couldn’t Roman know all that he had only a vague idea of? He would have liked to hear more from him, and it annoyed him even more that Roman only had eyes and ears for Hedwig, with whom he only talked in a superficial, flirtatious manner. In dark jealousy, he was not happy for a moment of his life. He felt so abandoned and set back that he wished he was far away to the most lonely corner of the world.
Alfred had often sought refuge in the intoxication of faith and prayer because he found it neither outside of himself nor in himself. The innate brittleness and the sensitive sense of shame of his nature made him a mimosa that closed against the harsh wind outside. And he missed the sun, which would have opened its blossom in full abundance.
When it was evening and people began to dance after the table had been lifted, Alfred stood stiffly at a door of the hall and watched the goings-on melancholy. It was only a small group of young men and women, but they enjoyed themselves quite well. Alfred saw, callously, the smiles on the faces and lips, which moved as if they had a world of secrets to reveal: he knew, after all, that they were just vain phrases.
„You don't dance at all?“ Asked Roman, who had been keeping an eye on him.
„No. I don't enjoy it.“
„So. I thought you would ask the daughter of the house sometime.“
„No thanks, I don't dance. Incidentally, Miss von Küllen will have no desire for it; there are other cavaliers here.“
„So – so ... But at least one wonders when a young man your age neglects this rapprochement.“
„Do you think it's the only one?“
„At least pretty much the only one where it is possible for us to come into contact so closely with a young lady who is otherwise not very close to us.“ Roman looked at him so strangely with his dark eyes that Alfred lowered his head a little. „Very few can explain something like that.“
Could Roman do it? He looked searchingly into the oval, spiritual face with the rich blond hair, but their eyes never met. Alfred was silent and did not express any displeasure, and as soon as the novel had gone on, he left the hall.
He felt so cramped, haunted, that the need for tears constricted his throat. Why was he like that? Why was he so lonely, so sad and the others so cheerful and joyful? – Why? Why? He no longer understood himself. He blamed Roman for his sadness and annoyance – Roman and Hedwig …
* * *
Days passed in which Alfred indulged in wistful contemplations. Hedwig didn't love him after all; she did not understand him. What could it become! More than ever he wanted to go out into the world, and yet he did not feel the courage to go alone and freely into a foreign country. The present constrained him, but he shied away from the future, and then he longed for the future again. Up until now he had not had to fight with others in the struggle for existence; he only knew the fight in witty quarrels and contradictions. But who should help him? He was the man to do it himself – to have to do it.
Roman, on the other hand, knew life and was so rich that he could get to know it without too much privation. He lived mostly abroad, in the sunny south. When he returned to his Nordic homeland, it was a very negative pleasure that he prepared for himself. The world and life had matured him, made him a connoisseur. He knew how to fob people off with words and controlled his emotions outwardly so that he could give himself different. He knew how to be superficial and serious and thereby do justice to many. The women believed that he was worshiping them and the men thought that he was a bon vivant. He had first been the secretary of the embassy, but then broke away from it to devote himself entirely to his art-historical studies. If you add his distinguished nature to this, then he was probably the man to become interesting to women and to attract the covetous glances of the hopeful ladies' world.
Hedwig, too, might think it was an acceptable match, for she wasn't seriously thinking of Alfred, the handsome, good boy. But as is often the case; you don't know the people, because it is so easy to just know yourself – and even that is rarely the case! – yes, the majority only know what is presented to them every day in all variations. The viable coin, no matter how dirty – and counterfeit – will always find someone who desires it. But the most beautiful coin, when it is newly minted, meets the mistrust of the ignorant. And how many are not ignorant of life ?!
Hedwig's birthday was celebrated. Of course, Roman and Alfred were also invited. Alfred wavered; he actually dreaded the evening of the feast day. What would he do there? Of course there would be more people present than lately; Hedwig wouldn't have time for him; he would have to watch all the hustle and bustle again; he would even have to force himself to participate or play an unbearable role. And then Roman? ... How should he meet him? He feared that Hedwig would become even more inwardly alienated from him if he saw her in the orbit of society. But how should he cancel? Under what pretext? And then he was tempted again to observe for himself how everything would turn out. He did appear briefly on the evening of the festivities, albeit in the most tortured mood.
Roman had also appeared. Both greeted each other very differently. Alfred gently held out his hand without looking at him; Roman, on the other hand, squeezed the soft hand so tightly that he saw a twitch in Alfred's pale features.
Roman was not a fan of such social and dance evenings either, but he went along with them every now and then, only to withdraw into his accustomed life with greater enjoyment.
When they wanted to go to dinner, Roman Hedwig asked to be allowed to accompany her and she accepted his table neighbor with a satisfied laugh. Alfred had followed them with his eyes; he too would have liked to do it, but he never found the courage to do so. The thought of offering Hedwig his company and showing her in front of everyone was just a wish. If she refused him – perhaps on the pretext that she had already given her promise – no matter what, he would have felt dishonored. But she could have met him, made him understand that she was expecting it. But she didn't – she didn't love him. Right now he hated both of them, Roman and Hedwig.
They sat across from each other at the blackboard. Alfred was very distracted and hardly entertained his neighbor; may she think he was boring! He kept looking over at Roman and Hedwig. Then he stammered between some general remarks that he peeked into his mind.
He was particularly confused when he occasionally saw Roman's gaze drawn on him. What could he think of him ?! You had to look at his confusion.
He threw down his wine and hit the glass. The clanking sound continued to tremble inside him. The monotonous babble of voices continued and the ugly sound of the knives and forks faded.
Alfred hastily spoke a few words of celebration, then walked around the long table and wanted to toast with Hedwig, but he caught on the back of Roman's chair and spilled the wine, blushing deeply.
„It doesn't matter,“ said Roman in a benevolent voice.
„It doesn't seem to be going to be really lucky,“ remarked Hedwig with a smile while they clinked glasses.
„Who shouldn't spill his wine in front of you, madam!“
While Roman said this with his elegant serenity, his eyes met young Alfred, who blushed even more deeply. Alfred stood as if he still had to make an apology.
„Don't worry about that,“ said Roman, „now this ugly tailcoat has at least been given a noble consecration.“
Alfred was very grateful to Roman for taking it so jokingly, but he felt even more uncomfortable than before.
The table was lifted and the dance came back into its right hand.
Alfred watched for a while. The slight flirtatious laughter of the adorned beautiful and unattractive seemed to betray a sensual play that made him uncomfortable. And she – she smiled pleasantly! ...
The sultry spell became unbearable to him. He went into the next drawing room.
Then Roman entered and approached him.
„You're not dancing again?“
„No ... I don't like it.“
„Really – and why?“ Roman had already noticed that Alfred did not reject such questions harshly on his part, as many a gentleman would otherwise have done.
„Why? ... I can't stand it.“
„And all these young women take it so well.“
„Yes – the ladies! ...“
„You may be angry with me for being so intrusive, but I am interested.“
„Oh no. Moreover – I hate this dancing past the goal, this wooing, fleeing and seeking out ... It seems to me like a hypocrisy of good morals.“
„How serious thoughts! on a dance evening.“
„Why should I? Nobody misses me there.“
„Do you know that exactly?“ Roman looked at him searchingly and this time their eyes met. Alfred was embarrassed.
„But if someone missed you, wanted a dance with you, wouldn't you say no?“
„Then…. But that's not even mentioned.“
„Yes… I asked Miss Hedwig to go to the next Française and would like you to be my face. Don't you want to hire a lady?“
„I? Yes but …“
„I know you would rather have asked Miss Hedwig. Unfortunately it had failed so far, and I had to pay attention to the daughter of the house.“
Alfred gave Roman a big look, then said uneasily and hesitantly: „I don't want to.“
„But if I ask you to?“ Roman's voice no longer had the gallant, social tone; it sounded warm and pleading.
„I want to try it.“ And with that, Alfred hesitantly followed him.
When they entered the large hall, Roman asked: „After this dance we might meet outside on the balcony?“
„Yes …“, replied Alfred, who was dazed.
In the hall, Roman led him to a lady whom he asked to dance. The music started. Alfred tried to imitate the characters as he saw them in Roman – several couples were dancing across from each other at the same time – he entertained his lady with the usual remarks, and he also wrested them with difficulty. Now he had to make a figure with Hedwig, she looked at him smiling like a clumsy boy; he saw no understanding look in her eyes, her hands barely noticeably interlocked; hers was damp. Now he had to change hands with Roman, that was a lot of pressure! One quick look, one deep look!
„They are coming?“
Alfred didn't think about it so quickly; he was already at the side of his lady, to whom he forgot to pay a compliment. Roman smiled. Hedwig misunderstood this smile. She thought it was superiority and it was only pleasure.
„How did you manage to get him to dance, His Baron? Mr. Alfred is so weirdly stupid for a young man.“ And she laughed so that her teeth shimmered between her long red lips.
„Very simple, madam, you just have to understand how to ask.“
„Oh, you scoffers! A gentleman you have to ask to dance! You will embarrass our young friend very much. But it may be beneficial.“
„Certainly, madam“, replied Roman ironically. „I have a good knowledge of people.“
„Yes, you always brag about that. No wonder, if you have so adventurous in the world and can make yourself interesting. But are you never mistaken?“ She smiled mischievously, belligerently.
„You mean in you? You will become a lady of the world who sacrifices many things to her high standards ... Oh, so many poor man's hearts – and those who want to be!“
She had to laugh a lot because he was last on an intentionally pathetic tone.
The dance was over and Alfred hurried out on the balcony. The warm air of the summer night was a refreshment for him after the dull sultriness in the hall. He breathed a sigh of relief in the lonely semi-darkness. His heart was beating violently and he felt unspeakably dull. He could have been all alone for the rest of the night. Would you miss him inside? He didn't feel like talking socially. But Roman? ... Maybe he forgot about him. How strange! He had to think of him ...
Suddenly a hand came to rest on his shoulder.
„You are not angry with me, are you?“
Alfred turned and saw Roman's shadowed face. A soft beam of light fell on Alfred's blond hair and heated cheeks.
„I thought you'd be angry with me if I was competing with you. Forgive me for speaking openly about this to you – but ... you will allow us to be on friendly terms?“
Alfred was so surprised and disconcerted that he couldn't find the right answer.
„Or do they still distrust me – unwillingness?“
„No – no“, Alfred stammered, letting the friend seeker hold his hand.
“I assure you that nothing is up to your wishes. – And I can therefore assume that there is no longer a shadow of suspicion between us?“
Alfred felt more and more that he had not quite correctly judged his supposed rival. He left his hand in the Romans and was silent.
„So I can hope that they will consider me their friend? Even if ten years or even more should lie between us, that doesn't matter.“
„No, certainly not ... Herr von …" He choked his name almost entirely. „Thank you. But we have known each other for some time – why this formality? Just call me Roman and allow me – to call you Alfred.“
“You are very cautious, and you are doing the right thing. You can't be too careful when choosing your friends.“
These words astonished Alfred even more. He just offered him friendship and at the same time warned him against carelessly forgiving his friendship!
„Actually, I've never had a boyfriend.“
„What word is more abused than this“, put in Roman eagerly. „But don't we want to take a walk through the garden? The evening is wonderful, and someone here can disturb us at any moment.“
„Gladly.“ It was fine with Alfred; he felt a little easier and he didn't want to go into it. The walk with the interesting man had a charm of its own for him. He wanted to know a lot. They went down the stairs and into the dark corridors. The leaves of the ash trees trembled imperceptibly. The sky was clear and only in the zenith and in the north could you see individual larger stars. A glow worm shone here and there, hidden deep in the grass.
„Oh how beautiful it must be“, said Alfred with a slight sigh, „how beautiful when the earth has been in such blooming condition for a long time! If you don't, as with us in the north, frozen in snow and ice for as long as you can. How long will it last and the leaves will fall off!“
„You can already see autumn coming, when spring has come true! Such melancholy is harmful.“
„It could be. But aren't people also different when nature is different? Those who don't belong suffer from it.“
„Of course, of course ... But part of the blame is ours. We go through life so blindly.“
„What do you mean?“ Alfred asked briskly, who thawed more and more so that he almost forgot the floor that he had just left.
„People don't take what life offers them, what they are meant to do, they definitely want to hunt for something that is not their part – and then you call yourself unhappy when it doesn't come out that way. Our actions are mostly inappropriate – sometimes through coercion.“
„For example?“ Alfred became even more lively.
„We understand everything best through us – in ourselves. But I don't know if I can talk to you so openly? …“
„If you give your express permission.“
The polite and devoted tone captivated Alfred completely. „Certainly. I've long since wanted to be able to talk to them in a human way.“
„And they thought I was a monster.“ He laughed amused. „Alfred, how warm it touched the addressee! – You think you love Hedwig, don't you?“
If the rising moon had a brighter light, Roman would have noticed the sudden blush in Alfred's features, but he thought it well and noticed the twitching in the corners of his mouth.
„You feel the movement that is called love and you don't know anything else than that you have to love the girl. Hedwig is pretty – yes ... But you do little or nothing to achieve the purpose of love, which is to be loved again.“
„They expect Hedwig to meet them. What girl does that! Well, yes, it happens, but also not in the long run, without the man whom the woman loves, at least to other women who are the man. And you? They flee each other. You cling to the one ideal. You want to be desired by him. For example: You flee the dance and look on sad, sullen. Instead of courting other women and thereby checking whether the beloved betrays jealousy, wait aside whether happiness is after them and curse the women – the dance. Women are just women – that is their whole fault. – But you didn't say yourself that you don't like dancing, advertising, fleeing and choosing ... Did I hurt you? Should I be silent?“
„No, no“, said Alfred hastily, nervously.
Roman knew what he was doing. „You seem unhappy – when you look into your eyes, one sometimes thinks that you have to hide the deepest sorrow ... And what is it ?!“
„Oh, I don't know myself why it has to be like this, why I am like this! Of course it's stupid of me.“
„That is very simply said, dear Alfred. But you will stay the same until you recognize yourself. They abhor flirting with women who can be chosen – wooing them in order to be able to accept or fail. That soaks you, you don't want that. Oh well. But if someone came to you and asked, did you feel so uncomfortable?“
Alfred was silent. He bowed his head.
„Your silence is an answer to me. When you complied with my request today, did it hurt you?“
„No-n …“ He was getting more and more restless.
„The women feel that you are withdrawing from their spell and that is why they don’t give them any favors. They punish the young man who avoids soliciting them with indifference. No matter how beautiful or lovable he is, they prefer an ugly gentleman to him. And you suffer from it!“
Alfred took a deep breath: „Are you saying that I am inhuman?“
„And that would upset you because you're so used to it. Let yourself be taught by a friend who knows life.“ Roman was thoughtful, he pondered what words to put what was on his mind.
Alfred was feverishly excited.
„There are more things between heaven and earth than our school wisdom dreams of – yes – and how should you know more than your society has taught you, in the enclosed circle! in a circle that no longer even knows where it is hypocritical.“
„You don't want to tell me how boyish, how childlike I seem to you, how you despise me.“
„Not a moment! No, no they shouldn't think that!“ Roman's affirmation was almost passionate. «Here man – here woman! that's what they say – but it's not like that. How nature merges, the plant into the animal ... You noticed a small flower around here – in swampy places – which closes when small insects get in and kill them?“
„Well, there are multiple transitions in humans too. What looks like a plant on the outside is almost an animal in its needs. What seems to be a man here is in his perception not only what is generally called male – but also female.“
Alfred's cheeks glowed. A tremor went through his limbs. The night wind now gently brushed his uncovered head. Every now and then there was a vacancy and the light of the rising moon groped over the small lawns with the ornamental beds.
„They ask for Hedwig and yet she stays away from them immediately. Or is it not so?“
„I don't know ... I think …"
„Dear Alfred – I know what just alienates you; I'm not talking to you like that for nothing. There was a world, and there is still one today, in which that is not so incomprehensibly strange. You want to be desired yourself, you value and look after your appearance, and you are still young ... But that is more of a female desire; that is what your happiness lacks.“
„I don't know what to think of myself!“
„That you are a lovable young man who would like to be coveted for the sake of his advantages, because he only feels that way, feels because nature created him that way.“
What had tormented Alfred for so long now became understandable to him, although the realization itself alienated him. „But what am I supposed to! …"
„It is true, Alfred, you would not be the first and last to perish as a result of this fine nature, because the blunt delusion of ignorance haunts you here. If knowledge had remained closed to them, happiness would not have come to them because nature also rules blindly; and as you have mastered your feelings up to now, so would you continue to do so. One day they would have recognized each other after all, and then - then maybe there would have been no way out. How many marriages were not so broken happiness!“
„And now – now! ... Oh, I'm miserable!“
They had arrived at an arbor that was on the edge of the garden. Beyond that lay the field and still further away the forest – everything in deep silence, in violet penumbra and yellowish light; only the quail snarled in the field – Alfred rushed into the arbor, sat down on the bench and buried his poem in his arms while he wept bitterly. Roman stood next to him for a while and was silent, then he ran his hand over Alfred's head.
„Alfred! Alfred! Listen!“
„Alfred, you shouldn't be unhappy – if you only want ... just listen to me! You should think about it. I understand you. It had to come like this. I too have had bitter experiences.“
Alfred heard, but still did not move.
„If you don't listen, I have to believe that you resent me – hate me.“
„Oh, I am miserable!“
„No, you shouldn't be.“ He leaned over to him and said in a half-whisper: „If only you want, Alfred – I'm wealthy – what I can do is at your command. We can leave here if you want – to the south, to Italy, to Rome, to the Orient, wherever you want. There is another world there too. No cruel laws persecute you there. You wanted to go there? I want to tell you how it is there.“
Gradually Alfred straightened his head. A moment of silence. „And I thought, Roman, you were my enemy!“
It drew like life into Alfred's soul. He should go to the world he longed for! But alone?
„Oh you!“ Said Roman, taking hold of both wrists. „You don't know how I learned to play here. I can do it now. And in spite of everything, I love the world. I know I have many enemies, but I still love the world. I know many would say: you should rather die, but I laugh at them and live and love life –, of course you couldn't have known; but I suspected it, I wanted to test you. And see, I succeeded! So do you want to take it, do you want to go out? At first it will be a stranger to you outside ... But say, weren't you a stranger here in the end? At your age you are otherwise not a hypochondriac and world enemy. Do you want?“
Alfred took a deep breath again. „But ... you? He asked hesitantly.
„I? – If you allow, we will go together.“
„Together … ! So not alone. Yes – but …“ Alfred stammered, as if he were pondering whether he could accept something like that.
„No buts! If you only want, there is no but.“
„I want to get used to the thought.“
„Who can be advertised now!“ Said Roman jokingly. „But now we want to seal the contract.“ He always held his hands and kissed him on the mouth. A wave of warm blood trembled through Alfred's body; he suddenly felt safe, as if someone had taken a bad judgment from him. He let it happen as if in a dream that Roman pulled him to his knees.
„Do you forgive me, Alfred?“
Instead of answering, Alfred laid his head on Roman's shoulder. For a while he sat half-lying like this; Roman kissed his hot cheek.
„Poor boy! You have certainly tormented yourself a lot. And why? Why?“ He spoke the last words barely audibly to himself. A gust of wind ripped through the acacia leaves. Alfred straightened up, startled.
„It's nothing. Only nature whispers – it understands us. Are you afraid of people? That should also be different. You have found yourself – you will find your world.“
„Oh Roman, how thank you! ... That I was so stupid!“
„How should you! You also had to be advertised.“
Roman was happy to have found a younger, handsome, and equal friend; more than once he had given his inclination to unworthy people.
„Alfred – we belong together now?“
„Yes, – but mine?“
„You are of age now and can do as you please. You don't need money; I have that.“
„Come on!“ Said Roman after a pause. „Let's go! We have been staying for a long time, although it has passed all too quickly. But brave now! You no longer fight alone against everyone – against yourself. Now you want to find the courage to be cheerful like me.“
They went back through the corridors. The moon was full and shining in the sky. The familiar places appeared to Alfred like a dead home that looked again after many years.
„You're alive, Alfred,“ said Roman cheerfully, and squeezed his arm tighter.
Now Alfred smiled too.
„And the Madam will no longer torment you so innocently?“
„Gracious? Ha! I have never been able to pronounce the word. I'm not a slave.“
„Yes, dearest, anyone who deals with women has to learn to flatter and humble boast, otherwise they will be punished with disgrace, like you.“
They went up to the balcony. Hedwig was standing there with a gentleman.
„Ah, you there, His Baron! and Mr. Alfred!“
„Yes, we made up for what we had long since neglected: we made friends. Mr. Alfred will accompany me abroad.“
„So so! …“ Hedwig was not a little astonished. Alfred won in her eyes. Why did the man of the world connect them with such boyish dreamers ?!
„Yes, yes, it is so, madam. Isn't it, Alfred?“
„Yes. And I'm very happy.“
Weib um Weib – Woman for Woman
Ersatz für manches bietet die Welt,
für Liebe bietet sie nichts.
The world offers a substitute for many things, it offers nothing for love.
August Graf von Platen, Gaselen 133
Summary: Baroness Nataly von Harder, a young and witty woman who had mourned her husband for a year, now wanted to live in the world again, insofar as one could speak of such in the small university town. She gave an evening reception, among the guests Walter, a young, attractive professor. But nobody knew more about his family situation. Didn't he have any interests other than science and his books? Was he an enemy of the female sex? Had he been through an unhappy love? But that was not the case at all. He, Robert Walter, had studied medicine for a semester and knew that health came first. That is why he had decided to marry a healthy girl of simple origin who would not interfere with his scientific work. He had met her on the beach; she was beautiful and healthy. Jula, his wife, was of Estonian origin, the daughter of a farmer. She took care of the house for him and she was his wife. He spoke to her in ungrammatical German. But she was not the right person to participate in social life. That was his secret. The Baroness had told him that they were going to the sea in the summer. So he decided to go there too. He encourages his wife to travel as well, in company with a young man to whom she is in a friendly connected. At the seaside he meets the Baroness and they begin to see each other regularly. After the summer he proposes to his wife to get a divorce. She agrees. Now he can marry the baroness. But the magic doesn't last long: the man, who is now subject to the accusations of the Baroness, is increasingly locking himself in and delving into his scientific research on the Scythians.
Next summer, Baroness Nataly goes to the sea alone. She stays away for a long time. Then she received the message that her husband had suddenly died. In his death room lies the story of the Scythians and underneath he wrote: „My work is finished.“ Nataly puts on mourning, she elegantly wraps the black veil around her slender neck and her eyes shimmer moist with enchanting melancholy.