CARL AND ANNA
By LEONHARD FRANK
Translated by L. W. LOCKHART
The other persons in the building made the position clearer. Carl was, for them, Ann's man. To the boys and girls he was "Herr Richard". The store-keepers from whom they got bread, fruit, and meat, said to Anna how pleased they were that the dead man had come back. The family in the room by the side of theirs would say "Herr Richard" to him morning and night. Marie was "a little in love" with him. "Not so very much." To her he was Richard. To all the others he was Herr Richard. Anna herself made use of the name Richard. And she not only made use of the name, but little by little it became natural, part of her feeling for him.
There was no longer any need for her to go to the works. Carl had got work. Every Saturday his money was handed over to the last pfennig. Then it was his way to make his belt tighter and put out his hand like a boy, for her to give him his pocket money.
Anna's bed was wide : there was room for two. His place was by the wall.
She go up quietly in the morning and made the early meal. As it had been in the past.
She had kept the promise which she had not put into words : she was in her third month.
He would not let her do any lifting or moving. After his work he went up and down the steps, got the wood and coal and potatoes, and gave the floor a wash.
There are persons who become and keep good, so long as things go well with them ; and women who become strangely good to look at when they are happily in love, who have ever in their eyes and faces a bright flame, deeply burning, so that no one goes by them in the street without seeing and being conscious of it.
A hundred times a day there was a song in Anna's heart -- when she saw her man, when her thoughts were on him, when the memory came to her of something he had said, a look he had given her, the fact that she was going to have his baby. Her days were a song.
His feeling for her was violent, and at the same time kind and full of care, like the love of a mother. In the house, in the street, in the works, on the way there and back, he saw and was conscious only of Anna. His existence was Anna. The form of Anna was in his blood. He was quiet with it all : he had her love.
At night he was at work on the last stages of a little invention--an apparatus for the better operation of a turner's machine--it had been tested, and he had made two or three hundred marks out of it. For the baby that was coming.
On the way back at night, the thought that Anna would be there was like a stretch of clear blue water within him. He was conscious of this all the time. And when she was not there, when she was not in the room, she was not the less present. She was there in the way a glass was by the gas-cooker, the way a pot was hanging, the way her stitching basket was on the window-shelf.
When she came in, he made no motion, but his eyes were on her everywhere she went. When the loose hair about her face was moved by a breath of air, he was happy. She was conscious of it all. When she was getting the meal ready, she put her hand softly on his hand and arm as she went by.
"Where have you been, Anna ?" It was like music when she said with the voice that was so much in harmony with herself :
"I've been to the shoemaker's. In my opinion he'll do our boots well, Richard."
That seemed to him as though she had said, "My love for you is dearer than existence itself." His love for her was a thousand times greater than his love of existence. Till the time he came back existence for him had been one long unrest, full of the pain of living only for himself, cared for by no one.
What made these two different from those round them, and put them on a higher level, was that they were conscious that they were happy. Out of this had come the present, with its deep feeling, its inner love, made conscious by a look.
There experience of the physical, the kisses of the night, was in harmony with the inner light of their love. And for them, there came no parting. Their coming together made clear the secret of existence and took them to its highest point.
In the light of such love the smallest details were important. A narrow fold of her cotton dress, from which the color had been taken out by the sun, giving the outline of the lower part of her body, had in it for him the measure of his love.
They did not say much. They were not great talkers. They had the full, serious heartbeat of living, the step weighted with purpose, the bright face. They had so much.
Anna, who had a place for everything, would sometimes put her stitching from her, dropping it on the floor. And they would get up together. "Aha, let's go out !"
The town was theirs with its men and women, the fields round it, the air, the woods, because they had one another.
After one of their walks, which had taken them by the chief railway line--the straight supports of the electric-wires, stretching out into the distance had some strange attraction for them--Marie came to their room crying.
Her sister's man had come back for a rest from the war, had taken a long look at the automobile worker's little son, been given her sister's story, and without saying a word in answer, had gone out of the door and taken a train straight back to the Front.
The three were seated at the table under the light. Marie was crying. She put out her hand. Anna took the linen cloth from her pocket and gave it to her.
"We had no idea he would take it like that." Anna gave Carl a look, and then Marie.
"What was the right thing for him to do ?" Her heart was in her throat. She put the question to herself, why ?
"She was married to him."
"When Frau Mozer's man came back, the man she was living with -- Fritz -- went off. Which was right. Or take Herr Hauslar. He has been back three weeks, but the man from the post office is living with them till he is able to get another room. "They are all three living together in the one room," said Marie, going on crying.
"But Herr Leinert was so violent that his woman was almost dead when he had done with her. And now they are parted. It is more serious than you make it seem, Marie, more serious."
"It is in part our way of living, our way of living is part of the trouble. . . . But he'll come back. And I will put my arms round his neck, Anna. I will !"
"All three are living together, you say, all three in one room ?" She was looking at him. So far he had not said a word. His eyes were not in the room. Why were her heart-beats so quick ?
"I will put my arms round his neck. And then he will be kind as before." Her sweet face was smiling again. The little hollow came back.
"Richard, I'm going to make some coffee. May I, Anna ?"
So frequently Marie was the one to be laughing again before the others had got over being sad, or she was crying when the others were laughing with amusement at something which was said. Her reaction to events was quick and violent. And as quickly, her bright humor came back, like a cork that goes up and down with every wave, but comes safe through the worst weather.
His eyes were in the steppe between Europe and Asia. Anna put her hand on her throat where her heart-beats were so quick.
A small grip-apparatus was screwed to the window-shelf. He did the rough work, for which a turner's machine was needed, in the works, but the rubbing down and forming he did in the room at night. He was making the full-size design from which the others would be copied. It was smaller than a boy's hand when it is shut
From the way he at last got up, put out the parts of his design on the widow-shelf, made a selection from his instruments and got started on the work, Anna was certain that he would give in only to death.
A little cold feeling went through them. It seemed to them they were brushed by the wings of chance. And resting that night, they were at one in their hearts, kept together by a power which was able to give them living force or death, but not to make a division between them. Then had no thought of wrong-doing.
Eight days later Marie's sister had news from the authorities of the death of her man six days before.
A number of persons living in the building,who had said no unkind word about her before, were ready now to say things against her. Cruel things were said about her in a loud voice when she went out. She had sent her man to his death. She got angry letters. The automobile worker, conscious of the wrong he had done, kept his eyes stiffly in front of him when he went across the square, morning and night. Up in their room they said only what was necessary. The woman did her work. some weeks have to go by after such a sad event, before normal existence is possible again.
In a short time the persons living round about were again making a friendly motion of the head when they went by the automobile-worker on the steps, and only from time to time was it pointed out to Marie's sister what sort of a woman she was ; for example when she put forward her right to the wash-house, the use of which had ever been a cause of trouble between the different groups.
The war between the two boys and the other boys and girls went on longer. Two or three times a day they would have a fight on their mother's account because of the cry which came from every door and angle of the square :
"Your mother is a bad woman !"
Anna was by the open drawer. She had been resting on the day-bed, had suddenly got up and gone to the drawer, and was waiting there, looking in, not certain why.
But when she took the old post card in her hand, on which the military authorities had sent her the news four years before of Richard's death, a sudden burning pain went through her body. She was reading automatically.
But he may be in now any minute, was her thought and the feeling of quiet and rest came down on her like rain on a warm day. "No doubt you have knowledge of everything I did before I was married, as a girl, or as a baby ?"
It was quite clear in her memory the time she had said that. . . . Yes, he had knowledge of everything. More complete than any other person on earth, more complete than she had had about herself. And all because his love for her was so great. Her only desire was for him ; all her days only him. Nothing but that was possible, nothing but that was to be given a thought.
There had been something years and years back in the far-off past. ". . . death at the Front on the 4th September, 1914." This was the only sign of what had been -- this post card. Was that true ? But he had said the military authorities were wrong. . . . What had they been wrong about ? What about ? That it was the man she was married to ? Or what ?
Suddenly she was so tired in her head and legs that she had to put her hand on the edges of the furniture for support in order to get to the day-bed. Dropping on to it, she quickly went to sleep.
Six went by, and seven. She was in a deep sleep, conscious of nothing, her muscles and legs resting loosely. The postman gave the brass door-piece a little touch, and sent a letter through the hole.
In that hundredth part of a second came the start of her sleep experience,putting an end to her rest as the quiet is put an end to by the first sound of thunder. She go up suddenly, in great fear, and went to the door. On the floor was a letter from Richard. She was not able to take up the letter because it was fixed with four small nails.
Now it's not possible for me to have a look at it. That's a good thing. Not possible to have a look at it. He will have to take the nails out himself. He'll be here any minute. . . . But if he had a look at it everything will be at an end. How cruel ! Everything at an end -- everything !
She go the nail grippers, went down on her knees, took out three nails, then three more long nails. But there were four nails in the letter as before. That's a good thing ! It isn't possible for anyone to get the letter unfixed. Certain of that, she went back to the bed to go on sleeping, and came awake.
Yes, it was only in my sleep that the letter was nailed down. It's there on the floor. I was only sleeping -- all that is necessary to do is to go across the room and take it up. She went over to the door, had a look down at the letter, and at the same time saw Richard in front of an unending wall of light, sensed but not seen. "That's a wall of nothing," she said.
Richard had no head, was looking a her with eyes that were not there, and was talking with a mouth that had no substance : "Give me the fork."
She gave him the fork with the one point shorter than the others. Richard was seated at the table, without a head, and cutting his bread into long fingers.
That's only in my sleep again. It's disgusting ; I will not go on with it. I will come awake. Come awake ! I will ! Working with feeble muscles, she got herself free from thick, strong bands of rubber, with a low cry of pain, went in two quick steps to the letter, go the cover open, and then so violent were her feelings, so great the pain in her heart, that she was unable to take in the words.
She was resting as before on the bed, in a deep sleep, her hands under her chin. Richard was seated at the table, without a head. His mouth was working He was smiling, and looking at her, he said : "Don't be unhappy. I see it all. It had to be like that. Go on with your sleep a little longer."
A great quiet came over her. It seemed as though she was going off to sleep again, and in her sleep she was conscious of the deep pleasure of sleep.
As the letter was dropped on the floor she came awake. The start of it all had been when the postman made a noise on the brass door-piece a tenth of a second earlier, but to that part of her brain which was conscious in sleep it seemed to have gone on for hours.
At the sound, she came out of her sleep, and there came to her ears the noise of the nailed shoes of the postman on the wood steps as he went down. At the same minute the memory came to her that in her sleep she had had a letter from Richard.
The vibrations of her heart were stopped. In the belief that she was sleeping as before, she put her hands up to her throat in fear. A letter was on the floor.
The cover had Dutch stamps on it, and was marked with red pencil and the rubber stamps of a number of government authorities, and it had a strong chemical smell. It was open.
Before she was married, Anna had one day had a dream that a letter was sent her by her mother, who was living in a house for old persons, and had not sent word for years. When she came out of her sleep, the letter was there in the box.
Her first impulse was to put the letter into the fire without reading it. She went to the gas-cooker, her feelings dead with fear.
"Dear Anna -- I am not certain so far if I have been taken prisoner by the English or the Japanese. I'm on a ship. They put us in the coal-hole, and it's very warm, sticky work. The other ship went on to a mine yesterday ; there were only two bursts of noise, and that was the end of the ship ; nothing more to be seen. but there was a smell for hours after. Then we would not ever have seen one another again. Today we are steaming on again. Through mine fields all the time. We are all of us without news where we are going. I will give this letter to a Dutchman, because they are going to let him go home. If you ever get it, dear old Anna, be certain my love for you is as strong as in the old days, and I would be so happy to be back with our at last in our little room. But the food is good and we do not go short."
The letter had been penned there months before. She became quiet and cold as ice, as a man suddenly becomes quiet in the middle of his shock, when a burst of light in thunder has come before his eyes.
The letter had a strong smell, stronger than that of the cover, and she had the feeling of being ill, as though her stomach were full of bad water. She put the letter on the shelf, by the bottles of fruit. It came out a little over the edge. With great care she gave it a push with her first finger, so that the two edges were level.
The child made a move inside her. She had to go down quickly to the store. Richard would be back any minute. . . . Would the store be open now ? Richard was so in need of food when he came in. But that letter had come. A letter from Richard. Possibly she would be able to get some eggs. Yes, we would not ever have seen one another again if he had been on that ship. . . . The milk-place was generally open later that the others. She had got to the first floor when, turning back, she went up the steps again, got the door unlocked and went through the letter again. It was an error. Yes, that was it, an error. It was only a piece of paper, words, words put down in pencil. They were part of an earlier existence. Like the post card from the military authorities. Years and years back. How was it possible for these words to be the destruction of her existence, when it was so natural, so full and pleasing and happy every day ?. . . . My love for you is as strong as in the old days, and I would be happy to be back with you at last in our little room. But the food is good and we do not go short."
How did she come to be here ? Had she come down the steps, down the street, into the store ? How had that come to be ? In her thoughts she was seated in her room reading the letter. Surprised and troubled, she took her eyes from the floor.
"You have no color to-day, Frau Anna," said the woman at the milk-place. "But a woman in your condition goes up and down. Your Richard was here a minute back. I have some knowledge of what you are going through ; I have been through it myself. There's no need for you to have any fears. You're a strong, healthy woman."
He put his hand on the hand-piece of the door. "Not in." Go the door unlocked. Inside the room he have a look round, questioningly. The smell of the letter came to his nose. "Some chemical," he said, and a feeling of fear came over him. "Has anything gone wrong ?"
"What did he come in for, then ?"
"Oh, he has been questioning me again about the milk for you. but as it is I'm giving you all that it's possible to give."
The knowledge that he would be there when she got back, the walk up the street, the act of going up the steps gave Anna the necessary quiet and control of mind to go through with the event, the full danger of which had now suddenly become clear.
He was waiting by the door, full of the fear that something might have gone wrong with Anna, that the birth might have taken place before its time, and she be dead. Suddenly he saw himself on the railroad, between the lines, the muscles of front and arms stretched tight to keep back the train that come in his direction. The power of chance that had to be stopped at any price.
Then there was a step outside, coming up. He was conscious that it was hers, and took note of the second. No one on earth came up the steps as she did. Quickly he gave a turn, completely happy. "There you are ! What has been going on ?"
They were in the doorway, face to face.
"I have a letter from him -- Richard."
What if she's been false to you while you have been away, and taken someone else ? Stretched out in the grass on the steppe Richard's answer came to his ears : "What's it to do with your ? At least keep a clean tongue in your head. And as for Anna, I'd ---" And he saw how Richard, lifting up the pickaxe, sent it down on to Anna's head.
But she hasn't done anything false at all, was his thought ; it's something quite different. He got the door open for Anna. She put down the paper bag, and as she took a seat, her eyes were on him. "Now give me an account of everything !" She was making no fight against what had come to light, ready for what the future might have in store. It was as if she had said ; "Whatever comes, it is not possible for me to do anything different. If he puts me to death when he comes back, I will make no attempt to get away."
He was making no attempt to get out of things any more than she. But he was a man and only gave in to what was to come after a fight with all his force of mind, knife and teeth to the end. Death, yes ! But not giving up ! That was his thought and he said so to her.
They made no move, and the last of the light was gone. The four summers in the steppe, where every day was like the last, without the company of men, and the winter months in the great buildings of the prison, took form as pictures before her eyes. He kept back nothing. It made him happy to let her into the secret of all his thoughts, to take down their walls, and to make clear to her how his feelings had come to birth, increasing outside all limits.
Frequently his story was broken into by her questions, and the answers he gave to them were the answers he would have given to himself. "One day Richard said to me: 'My love for Anna is the love of a man for the woman who is married to him. and that's how it is with her. Because I'm married to her. She's a woman with good sense.' And then I suddenly saw you, Anna, in a road lined with trees, in the road. You were waiting there. Night was coming on. Nobody but you. Only you. That took a grip of me so. You were waiting. That's the only possible word. It was as if you weren't on this earth. And then it was all over with me. Then you were with me ; I saw you night and day.
"From that time I had full knowledge of you."
Her eyes were shut ; her body was bent over to him, and their faces were touching one another. In the harmony between them, so deeply happy, time and existence had no place. Such pleasure is not given to man, because pain is at hand, the pain of living which, before ten breaths are taken, goes forward again, on its great, unseeing way.
"If he doesn't let me go, it will not be possible for us to go on living."
"If that's the only way," he said, and for a minute his eyes were dark. And because they were so ready for death together, the white seconds of living were again theirs.
As she go the meal ready and he went on with his work, it seemed to them that the cooking, the taking of their food, their work, the round of the day with its thoughts and feelings, were no longer important, had no present sense, and no value. Living had become for them from now on a business of waiting. Their existence was nothing but waiting, which is a death-blow to living.
Turning from his work he went through Richard's letter again, seated at the table his head supported on his hands, as though doing some hard piece of work.
" '. . . . To-day we're steaming on again. Through mine fields all the time,' " he went on, reading out loud. And a desire, an idea, made its way from his blood to his brain ; he said ; "Possibly --" and came to a stop.
What he had in his mind was clear to her directly ; her eyes were turned to the floor.
They had put their finger on existence at a point where wrong-doing comes up like a spring of dark water.
But, when, looking up, they became conscious, with their eyes on one another, of the deep secret of their live, which was their great argument against Richard's right, they came to themselves again. They had no desire now for Richard's death, and were ready to make payment if this was the price of loving.
This deepest relation between two persons, flaming at its heart with the secret purpose of existence, gives the power to overcome a number of dangers, which for others would have their end in trouble, disease, and sometimes death.
November came. The thick red ice, covering Europe, formed of freezing blood poisoning a hundred million existences, was cracked. Ruling families went from power. The towns, tired out and poor, were full of the military. Prisoners were now being given back. One or two men who had been taken prisoner came back to the building. Carl and Anna were waiting. At any hour the door might be opened by Richard, or he might come back in a month, or a year, or possibly not at all.
Carl's desires and feelings were in a sleeping condition. His existence would be broken into pieces like glass. Frequently it seemed to Anna that it would be better if Richard would come at that minute, because it would put an end to her present condition of doubt, in which sometimes she had hope, and at other times was conscious only that the pain of death would not be so sharp as the pain of parting.
Others living in the building were full of stories of the trouble caused in families by men coming back from the Front, and specially in one family, where the end would probably be a very sad one. The man, to whim the use of a gun had become an everyday event, had said he might put an end to her with his gun before he had knowledge of the worst.
Carl was in danger of being out of work, because he had said he would not go and put up some new machines at a works in another town. Every day, a minute after he had gone out of the building and got into the street-electric, he became unhappy and full of fear that Richard would come back while he was gone, and he was troubled by these feelings all through the day at his work. Only when he was back again in their little room was he able to get free from them.
One morning, after he had gone quite a long distance, he got off the electric certain that he had seen Richard in another that had gone in the opposite direction. He went back at a run, and saw in the distance a man from the war in a long coat going into the house. When he got to the street door, he had a feeling as though he had been given a bard blow which had taken his breath from him. Now it had come, the feared event. He went quite slowly up the steps. At the door everything seemed to go round and round. He had no knowledge of how he got it open.
No sign of the man. Anna was seated by the window, doing nothing, not moving. She was waiting. She was not in the least surprised to see him, with has face from which all feeling had gone.
He went to her without a word, took her hand against his side, and went quietly out again.
A railway train, so long that the last part of it was able to be seen from one small station when the engine was going into a sensed went slowly as a cart through the fields of snow.
Everywhere, on the open stages at the ends of he divisions, men from the Front were seated or on their feet, prisoners now free, men of every sort coming back to their families, with their boxes, bags, and parcels. Parcels, heads, and backs were pushed out of every window, and in the animal division "for eight horses" from which the wide sliding-door was gone, there was a gray group of men. Ten thousand had somehow been forced into the train which had seats for three thousand. A sad, sad train, slowly making its way through a sad country.
The train was going at one-tenth of its normal speed. There were no timetables now. Frequently the driver had to come to a stop and get up steam again. The engine was very old and working badly, the coal was half sand and stones.
A man on his machine in the snow of the country road was able to keep up with them, and to have a discussion in comfort with a man at the window. "Yes, yes, war against the Government ! It will be different now. It will all be changed." And when the train came to a stop he got on it. There were no tickets, there was no longer anything.
In one division of the train, as gray and without light as a prison-room under the surface of the earth, with a strong smell of smoke and wet, mixed with the strong acid smell of men who have been very warm for a long time, one man, who came from a country when it was possible to get chocolate took from his pocket a small piece of this sweet-tasting food which was so hard to get. It had a cover of silver paper.
"Ah, where did you get that from ? That's very interesting ; yes, that's very interesting," said a Bavarian, smiling feebly. "Let me get the smell of it. Is it true chocolate ?"
He was given a smell of it. All eyes were fixed on the chocolate, on the silver paper, bright as a star in the dark land of the dead.
In the deep quiet, in the middle of which there came a sudden outburst of pointed humor, the owner took off a very small piece with his pocket knife to put into the outstretched hand of every one present. Then he put it back in his coat pocket. "For the little ones, you see, for my little ones.
Then he took out camera pictures of his family and their mother. One by one, pictures of their families were produced from their pocket-books, by everyone. The pictures went from hand to hand. There was a general noise of talking--stories, details, words of surprise or disgust. Nothing was clear. Voices broken with feeling. These men coming back to their families had nothing. Nothing but their great desire.
Richard gave back the picture to the owner of the chocolate. "I have not got one of my woman. Frequently I have been unhappy in all these years because I have not been able to get my memory clear and see what she is like. But the time will not be long now."
"Then you will see her in the natural," said the Bavarian. All the time he was smiling in the same feeble way. He was dressed almost in black, not in military things. He had on a soft hat, and the hair on his chin was cut to a point. All through the journey he had been on his feet, his hand on the parcel-shelf, and he had a word for everyone.
One after another a number of shocks went through the train. It came to stop again. They had got into the way of that. The talk went on. Richard made his way across parcels and legs and friends seated on the floor. There was a wall of boxes in front of the door so he got out through the window.
Some one came out from almost every division. They were stretching themselves, their mouths wide open, and got loose the lower buttons of their coats. So full was the train that the wash-places were being used as resting places for the men on the journey. And where they were not being used in this way, their doors were supporting a wall of boxes.
Richard took two or three unequal steps with great care. He was testing his power of walking. A short time before he came away the wheel of a cart had gone over his leg. He had been two weeks on the way, day and night. After he had made certain that the train would be there a little time, he went off some distance across the snow, and when he was seated, got the leg of his trousers rolled up. All the skin over his leg-bone, from foot to knee, was deep green like fruit which has not been touched by the sun.
The others had all got on to the train again. He was by himself on the bright snow-field, a black, sharply-outlined form ; wide in back, the military mark gone from his hat, his army coat going down to his feet. Through the thick growth on face and chin, covering almost everything but the nose, his eyes were to be seen like those of an animal this is all by itself and looking for company.
Black, dirty, covered with insects, uncared for, waste produce of the war-machine, he seemed, as his black form made its way to that invention of present-day man, the railway train, like some early man coming out of his hole in the earth.
His thought was : 'In two hours I will be there in our room with Anna,'
to whom at that same minute the birth-helper was saying " "Everything is going on well." Although she had no feeling of pain, Anna had given way to Carl's request, and had herself looked at.
"You are quite a picture. and I see such a number. My word, if only they had some idea of what was to come ! But you are a strong healthy woman. A pleasure to see," said the old woman smiling. Anna was on the day-bed without her garments, her skin white against the covers. The air in her well-warmed room was full of the smell of apples cooking in the oven.
Richard's black, uncombed ball of hair came to the window, and he put his long arms through into the division. He was pulled in by his friends.
When it was almost night the train went slowly past the houses of the outer part of the town, by the long low works building where Carl was at his work-table.
The men in his division of the train had got some knowledge of one another on the journey. They had taken part in the talk with the greatest attention though some of it was about quite unimportant details. They went on with their talking, but they gave only half-looks and half-answers. By how, everyone's attention was somewhere different, by now everyone in his thoughts was with his family.
Richard was a man of great physical balance and unchanging outlook. He was not moved by events giving pleasure or pain, so long as they were within fixed, but very wide limits.
He had not been touched in the least by the bitter experiences in the war-prison, which went on from day to day, without end, sometimes hard, at all times disgusting. To a number of his friends these same experiences had been a living death, crushing them till they were broken. So long as the limit of his control was not overstepped, so long as the weight of trouble was not at cracking-point, he seemed in feeling and behavior as though nothing out of the normal had taken place.
On one day only had his control given way. He had come back to the prison in great need of food after a day of hard work. The man in authority came into the prisoners' common room. for no cause and without saying anything, he roughly took the basin from Richard's hand, put the food on the black, stamped floor, and pointing, said in a loud and angry voice " "Take it ! . . . Take it, you pig ! . . . Get down and take it up off the floor with your tongue !" And he gave Richard a blow in the face.
At such a time as this, though moved to do something violent, Richard gave no sign of his feelings. but suddenly he was like a machine, which has been put out of order by a touch on one of the controls, and goes on as before, but with its connections broken.
So he went out, walking at his normal rate, went across the open space to the out-building where the work instruments were kept and took his pickaxe-- it was quite clear to him that half an hour after making an end of the man his punishment would be death. But that thought had no effect on him any longer. That was the other man's business ; it was his error, because he had been cruel in a way which made his man violent. There was nothing more to give thought to now. Nothing more to be done. It was quite clear that the only thing for him to do was to put an end to the man, as before it had been clear that one had to go through the other pains and troubles unmoved, taking them simply as facts.
When he came back the man had gone from the prison building. Only the chance that he was sent to another place that same night had kept him and Richard from destruction.
When at last the train got to the station and came to a stop, Richard said a last word to his friends in the quiet, controlled way which was as much a part of him as his head. All by himself he was going across the station square, walking unequally because of his damaged leg, with the gray parcel under his arm, at the time that Anna was getting the table ready for herself and Carl who was now starting on his way back from the far-off works. All his pleasure and great desire to be back with Anna were unable to make him go any quicker. For four years he had been desiring Anna, and in that time he had become trained in the art of waiting. Now he was as good as with her. The end he had been desiring was at hand. No deeper feeling would be his when he saw Anna face to face than he was experiencing now.
But there was something care-free about him, a pleasure in existence that was not normally his. Its bright rays were playing about his face, generally so fixed and unchanging, like some small insect dancing round a great animal.
It was a long way. No electrics were working in those days. Carl's way from the works to the building was a third longer. But he was walking sharply and he had not damaged leg.
Anna had put the things on the table for the meal, and went down to get some bread. At the end of the day, with the knowledge that in a short time Carl would be back, her mind was more at rest.
A cart overtook Richard, pulled by two strong horses, and open at the back. There was nothing in it. The driver came to a stop and gave this tired man, newly back from the war, the offer of a lift. Richard got in, back first. The horses went on their way, stepping out slowly.
He had to go on foot the last part of the way. The automobile worker was at the street door with Marie. Richard took a long look at the building. Four years back it had been new ; now the stone-work was in need of attention, and coming to pieces.
"Are you looking for someone in the house ?" questioned the machine-worker, and Anna's friend, whose feeling were quickly worked upon, was looking with unquiet eyes at the dirty uncared-for man, hard as iron, strong of muscle, but with signs of having been through the hand times of the war-years.
The strange, flaming pleasure in him mad him say " "Yes, yes, the woman to whom I am married." And he gave her name. "She is living here now, isn't she ?"
Yes, but --" said Marie, uncertain of herself, and was then at a loss how to go on.
"-- but it is only possible for Frau Anna to be married to one man at a time and not to two," said a young workman, smiling brightly and ending her thought. He was in the doorway, and Richard had by this time gone through into the house.
As he went slowly on, with his damaged leg, his long coat brushing the steps, tired, dirty, a little bent, it was as though he had been making his way on foot for four years, all by himself, through black fear, through pain and bitter loss, to come at last to that place.
Anna became conscious of his loud, unequal step. It was like the sound of two men pulling up a great weight. He face was so bright and happy, as the faces of women sometimes are when they are about to have a baby.
He had made no noise on the door. The door was open. A black strange man was in the doorway.
No word was said between them. Ann's question was in her eyes which were fixed on him.
With one look round he had taken in the details of the room.
"Well, Anna, have you no memory who I am ?"
She had no knowledge of him. She would have let him go by in the street. But it was he -- clearly, it was he. The quick current of her blood gave her a burning feeling under the skin.
He went up to her and put out his hand. She gave him her ice-cold fingers. and then he took their relations to one another completely without question. A thick growth of hair in which somewhere there was a mouth, came in the direction of her face. almost unconsciously, she went back from him.
"Am I so dirty ?" Yes, that's the journey ?" Not till then did he put down his parcel, on the same seat as Carl had done months before, got off his coat and, suddenly conscious how out of place that long, thick, dirty garment was in the clean room, took it up by the collar, uncertain what to do with it.
Again his eyes went round the room, lighting up with pleasure at the thought of living in a well-warmed, clean room, offering every comfort. Then his eyes came to rest on Anna, and pleasure overcame him ; "Well, Anna, old Anna | You have been waiting a long time and now you are surprised that it is all over."
And she, who had made up her mind a thousand times to give him a full account of everything directly he came, she was acting falsely by saying nothing. How was it possible for her to give him his death-blow ? Although for months, day and night, her thoughts had been on the event of his coming back, she was not fully conscious of how important, how serious the position was till she was face to face with the fact.
She was unable to say anything. No word would come from her lips. There was nothing more to put up a fight for. He was troubled and surprised when he saw her go to the door, stiff as a body newly back from the dead, and so out.
Down the steps, through the squares at a run, down the chief street ; in the direction of Carl. But Carl had taken a short way down a side road as the electrics were not working, and did not get into the chief street till Anna had gone from view.
The young workman who had said that it was not possible for Frau Anna to be married to more than one man was, as before, smoking in the doorway. His eyes were on Carl as he went by him with a questioning smile. "What will they do now ?" he said to his two friends, to whom he had given an account of the earlier events. By now the news had got round to a number of persons in the building that a man had come back from the war who said he was married to Anna.
As Carl went quickly on and across the square, men and women were at their windows to see him.
From the time that the thought of Richard coming back had been hanging over them like a cloud, the two lovers had been living a sort of fiction existence made by themselves in which nothing and no one but themselves had a place. So deeply were they chained to one another in thought that the smallest act was a statement of love.
Without ever having given himself a reason, Carl made a point of going slower when he got to the first floor. and to-day as on other days, this act gave him the feeling directly that Anna was there, ready and waiting for him.
He go the door open, in the belief that she had been hearing him come up the steps, and that she, like him, her heart a flame, was sending out her love to him.
So sudden was the change in his feelings, and so great its force that it was like a man's experience might be if he went from his room for a minute or two and when he came back and took a step inside went down into nothing, because there was no floor.
"You ?" said Richard, in surprise. but he was unmoved. He let go of a dirty shirt which was in his hands and it went back into his open parcel. "How surprising to see you again, and after such a short time ! . . . I only got here three minutes back. Isn't that strange ? . . . But take a seat." He made a motion in the direction of the seat. "Or there, on the day-bed."
Something kept Carl from putting a question about where Anna was. He took a seat. On the bed.
As when he was coming from the station, Richard had that happy air of pleasure ; such as it is only possible to see in a great, iron-hard man when, after using all the force that is in him, he has come at last, completely unbroken, to the point for which he was making.
"Are you living here, then ? . . . Had any food ? When did you get back ? she will be here in a minute, and then she will give us a meal. It's all ready."
He gave a look of pleasure, pleasure kept well in control, like that of a boy with the things he has been given at Christmas, at the table ready for the meal, and then back at Carl, as if to say : "You see, that's my way of living now. That's Anna. That made up for everything."
The weight over his heart became greater as Carl saw Richard take the things out of his parcel, put the clean garments in the drawers, and the dirty ones on the seat at one end of the room.
"Anna will have to get these washed directly. They will have to be put in boiling water with a cleaning chemical." Without a thought, every detail of the room was clear in his memory, he gave the upper drawer a pull and put his paper in the right-hand side, where they had been before. "Don't be on your best behavior. Take your coat off. . . . It's good to see you here."
It's because he goes about as though I was in his house that I was unable to put a question about Anna. . . . It is important to say everything now. It is important to say it now.
With his mind made up his power of acting came back to him. All feeling was gone. It's a question of living or facing death, he said to himself, every muscle suddenly tight as a cord, and ice-cold, as a man who takes up his position for a fight, ready to put an end to the other man or himself be sent to his death.
"Here's Anna coming," he said, and got up. Richard was not conscious of the deep division placed between them by the way in which those three words were said.
With skin wet, eyes wide and unseeing, hair hanging over her face, Anna came into the room, almost unable to keep her balance. "Is he here ?"
She first gave a look in the wrong direction and then let herself go into Carl's arms.
With her body against his, he was conscious under the ice of a bright point of pleasure. Richard came over to them, fearing something was wrong, but with no idea of the relations between them.
"What's wrong ? Are you ill ?"
She had force to get herself free, but that was all. She put herself against the wall for support, her eyes fixed in front of her, troubled and full of fear.
It seemed to Carl as though he was firing a gun as he said : "You will have to let Anna go."
Richard's brain would not take it in. It came from a great distance ; a long time was needed before it got to him. While it was on the way, before it came to him he was saying to himself " If he's had her, I'll put them on the floor, the two of them ; and they will not get up again very quickly. And in his fear that she might go from him completely, he was ready the second after to let the past be the past.
"What's wrong ?" he said. His mind was quiet again now, and the thought came to him ; what foolish things the man is saying -- getting ideas into his head. "Come, say something, Anna. What's wrong ? . . . Anna ?"
No answer. He made a move to go to her. Carl came between them. "Anna is married to me. I will keep nothing from you."
Suddenly he saw that Anna was going to have a baby. "Oh, that's it ? . . . What more is there to say to me now, you dog !" But in the same quiet way in which at the prison he had gone from the building to get his pickaxe.
He has had her one time, she has done it one time., and now she is going to have a baby. and he is not going to keep anything from me, the dog !" As from Anna and her baby, I will have to make that my business. We will have to get over that. But as for him there, I have nothing but hate for him ! Every detail of the room clear, he went to the place where the wood-cutting instrument was.
The blow that was to overcome him came as a shock, and from quite another direction. Anna went quickly to him. "It's only possible to be with him, now. Put an end to me ! That's what it's come to, Richard, that's what it's come to !"
"only possible with him ? Only with him ? . . . You will not have me ? Will you not have me ?"
There is no other way now." That was outside his belief, more than his mind would take in. And so he was no longer able to give the blow. something gave way inside him like a tree that is cut down. He took a seat at the table, doubting what had been said.
"Will not ? . . . What not, Anna, why not ? . . . Will not, Anna ? Only love for him ?"
The desire came to him to go on making a fight for the light of his existence, though its flame had been put out. "Come, what is it " Make it clear to me, make it clear to me," he said, at a loss.
He made a move to get up. "Well, I will have, I will have --" He was not certain what it was he had to do. He took his seat again. After that he did not say another word.
They saw him there, his body all bent up, so uncared-for and dirty from head to foot, all his supports gone, a man who had not given way to crying form the time he was a boy, and was now seated with bent back dry-eyed, looking into space -- and they were cut by the pain of his loss. From then on their fear was gone.
From the distance Carl's voice came to her, saying, "The time has come for us to go now," and she went to put some things in a bag.
Frequently she had to go by Richard, frequently her eyes came to rest on him, but the thought did not at any time come into her mind to be guided by her feeling of regret for him and let Carl go. For nothing, nothing on earth is so cruel as love, in which the impulse to take care of the loved one and to have no thought for oneself goes hand in hand with the most violent self-interest.
Marie made a little noise on the door,fearing to go in. Then, very uncertain of herself, she came in. No one said anything. She gave such help as she was able and saw the cold process of Richard's destruction.
They went about, getting drawers open, putting things in the bag. Richard saw nothing. Nothing of what they were doing came to his ears. Pictures of his past with Anna came and went before his mind's eye. Everything had been so good. He made a move, lifting up his head, making his back straight, as though he were going to put his questions again, to make another attempt ; his head went down without his saying anything.
Anna had done everything. She put down the handbag. "Richard." And took it up again.
"Only go," he said, and for the first time his mouth was to be seen wide open, under the growth of hair round lips and chin.
She saw it would be cruel to put out her hand. At a loss what to do she gave a look at Carl and Marie, and then went to the door.
It was with Carl as with a law expert who has put up a fight for a man who is given the punishment of death and goes one morning, an hour before the sad event, to see him for the last time, and is not certain what to say, a word of parting or "Good morning", or how to go. He went out without a word. The soft, regularly colored skin of Marie's face was wet with crying, now the drops were rolling quickly down.
A man and some women were on the second floor near the steps ; they said nothing when the two lovers went by. Friends who were in a group at the doorway to the second square, in the middle of a discussion of what had taken place, took a step to one side, let them go through, and then went after them.
The group of boys and girls and the two friends, Elfi and Alma came into line with the others. Angry faces at street windows. Loud cries and the first angry word let loose the cruel words that came after.
Persons in the building who had not been given any trouble, and whose eyes were more or less shut to the open relations of women with men, were bitter at the way in which Anna had kept things secret and so for six months made use of the belief and good feeling of everyone round her as a cover for her wrong-doing.
Marie, overcome by her feelings, disgusted by the cries and angry words, said in a broken voice to the persons who were pushing round the lovers " She herself took him for Herr Richard."
The air was full of laughing and loud cries. The walls gave back the sound. In this way they went from the house. Carl had the bag.
On through the snow. It was some time before the first persons went back. And for some time after that the older boys went on with them. One made a snowball and sent it after the two lovers. Then he went back at a run after the others, hands in his trousers pockets, head a little bent to keep out the cold.
"Go back to him, Marie ; go back to him, do please," said Anna.
Marie had herself made up her mind to keep Richard company. Ten steps more and she came to a stop, happy again and quite her natural self. Then in a loud voice, clear as a bell, with a note of pleasure in it : "Anna ! Be happy, Anna, I am going back now."
they came to the wide, unfertile stretch between the town and their group of streets. Their footsteps made their mark on the smooth surface of the deep, new snow.
They went into the tree-lined road in which Carl, out on the steppe, had seen Anna waiting. Moon and snow made the night bright. The shades of the freezing branches made strange designs on the white surface. The stars gave a cold, hard light.
They said nothing ; they had no thoughts. They went on walking with the knowledge of the secret thing which was between them ; they would be parted by nothing till death.
Chapter : I