How to stare away from kfc huehner

Venus / Chapter VI

[ 278 ]

She turned back. Asthmatic attacks forced her to stop driving several times. A pit of the heart came and went. On each of the inn beds she said to herself: “Don't die here! I'm not ready."

The agony in the head began again. They always brought turmoil to their whole bodies; he urged and then raged for the man's arms. But now she wasn't thinking of anyone. Her blood only screamed: "The child!" A single thought in her revolted toward the end. Only one longing threw the arms out of the shadow that grew over them: "A child!" The night would be less black. The world would not end behind her, she would go on blue and sing. In Basel she suddenly changed direction and drove to Paris.

Doctor Barbaffon received them in his little house in Asnieres. He was withdrawn from the practice; at the report of the vesucher he had to overcome a feeling of impatience. In good time he remembered that this stranger had felt his hand with other really great ladies in the brilliant time of his strength, his short, delicate hand which made lovers out of clients. Hadn't she imagined maternal joys that simply lacked every prerequisite? How the old duke, that cynic, had grinned! [279] She was sitting in his little parlor. The names of some former friends were mentioned. The doctor assured one of them that he had died of a broken father's heart, and of the other that death had been sent to her to spare her greater suffering. The Duchess said irritably: “How firmly must he still believe me to be connected to the harmless life in order to expect such well-intentionedness from me! He himself, under his beret made of black velvet, with his beautifully trimmed white beard, thinks of no abdication. ”Then she reported on her suffering.

And suddenly the man of the world was eliminated from the sharp, deep face of the doctor. He listened, chin in hand. His gaze sometimes grazed her eyes, veiled. From the background he groped a little question that sounded quite harmless; and yet it was full of mischief. The Duchess did not notice it at all; he was amazed at the coldness of her voice. Finally he declared that he wanted to conduct an investigation. While she was undressing, he said to himself in the next room:

“She doesn't give a damn about her health. She knows as well as I that it is no longer worth four words. She wants something else. We'll find out ... what a splendid breakdown! Ah! she was a woman without sparing, right up to her goal. If many had the courage to do so, one of us would be without a job. Anyway, I admire them. And if I were a woman: that's how I want to end! "

For the time being, however, he was content to have helped many women with the cautious prolongation of their lives and often found his own pleasure in doing so - and that this splendid dying woman showed him in his comfortable room one after the other the angry Eros could beat ... but why did she? What did she want?

"I ask the Duchess to get dressed again," he said, very cautiously. She was obviously thinking of something else.

She was overflowing with her one pleading thought. “Just a moment! If I speak, I am lost. He'll tell me it's impossible, impossible forever. I know, oh, my body is cruel for me to understand. But I don't believe him, I don't want to believe it! My hope is insane, but I want to keep it! "

Halfway in his clothes, she called him back again. From above, commanding, she said:

"I would also like to hear from you whether my complaints are related to my childlessness."

The doctor understood, he nodded. That was missing; he was satisfied.

"No doubt," he said slowly. "But motherhood would be life-threatening."

He saw her scornful expression.

"In the midst of the regression that Your Highness is going through, it would be life-threatening," he repeated apologetically. She demanded a rigid face: [281]

"Make me sure whether it is possible!"

He went to the useless formality without thinking. He carefully arranged the pillows for her, he examined her long and painfully and had the feeling that the old duke was standing behind him and grinning. Then he straightened up and said seriously:

"Madame, you have nothing to hope for."

"Nothing more?"

"No."

She hesitated.

"Never again?"

"No."

Her voice suddenly sounded rough, brittle. She was still lying there, her features slack, while the doctor went out.

She returned to the drawing room to simply say goodbye. But Barbasson said to her kindly and dutifully:

“I ask the Duchess not to worry unnecessarily. The pulmonary haemorrhage is not as important as it is thought to be. Lying in bed could result in hypostatic pneumonia. Rather, I advise you to take air baths, gymnastics, and marches. In everything moderation could be observed, because unfortunately the spinal cord is threatened. In this regard I do not hide my concern. If you want to follow me, Madame, go to Riva on Lake Garda and under the medical supervision of a friend of mine. The doctor of [282] Männingen, supported by the favorable climate, will restore your complete equilibrium in two years with a little cold water and suitable exercise. May the Duchess not doubt it, ”he added, smiling slightly.

To do something she drove to the Overnvlatz and took a ticket to Riva. She boarded the steamer in Desenzano; then she remembered that James lived by this lake. At Maderno she left the ship; she found it very indifferent whether here or in Riva.

The nearby village where he lived stood in a semicircle in front of the vineyard, protected by mountains. The closed mass of its weathered houses pushed out squat stone steps; women crouched on it with their arms around their knees and called one another. Bundles of brushwood crowded out of the open storerooms under the protruding wooden roofs. James, house leaned against the slope between wine and olives. It was a square farmhouse, raised in rank by a terrace twice as long as the facade.

A beautiful maid, black-haired, big-breasted, warm in color, informed her that the master had gone out. As the Duchess sauntered back, she saw him coming between two men, one of whom, short and fat, might be a country owner. The other was yellowed, wooden, and probably a lawyer. She embraced both of them with the same look as him, and she thought he was one of them. He had [283] no belly; he had become a little stiff, following the lawyer's direction. He turned around; his back was even hollowed out. But the gesture with which he pointed across the field was strong and content: that of the owner.

When he saw her, he stopped and stopped speaking. He had only recognized her walk. As she slowly approached, she lifted the veil; James paused. Immediately afterwards he informed his companions with a word; they were left intimidated. He came, kissed her hand without hesitation and without exuberance and said:

"How kind of you to come and see me."

"I was curious to see you again."

“Again, Duchess? More often, I hope. "

"Only this time, because I'm sick and have to say goodbye."

"Go on, don't talk. You can't see anything. "

"You just saw it."

“You are gloomy, we have been through a lot, you and me. I have rarely heard of you since then. The world, you know, is so far from here. I belong entirely to the country. It comforts. One must . can only do without. Do it like me. There's nothing exciting here, especially nobody paints here. "

“You notice it right away,” she said.

"Isn't it?" [284]

He turned around.

"Here we have something better to do than paint, eh, gentlemen? .. These are my friends, Duchess: Signor Fabio Benatti and lawyer Romualdo Bernardini."

"Quite right, Your Highness," declared the lawyer, voiceless, but with verve. "Here it means to be restlessly active to perfect the oil production as well as to improve the viticulture."

"The blessed phylloxera!" Sighed Benatti.

“We will defeat them!” Promised James. The lawyer croaked enthusiastically:

“We founded a company to monitor and combat them - a company with statutes and administration. Everything is in the best way, thanks to the willingness to make sacrifices and the willingness to work of our Mr. President ... "

James bowed.

"We were generally back a little," he reported. "As a result of detailed studies, I have introduced a completely new system of pressing on my property."

"You yourself?" Asked the Duchess.

"I myself. It is well received. You will easily see its merits when I tell you - "

But Fabio Benatti intervened:

“What we need are community cellars. Why do our wines stay so low in price? Because they don't have a common type! "

“The stability of the type,” remarked the lawyer with a raised finger, “that is the first and indispensable condition for the saleability and reputation of a wine. As long as every farmer produces his own wine on his own, no stable type is possible. "

James added:

"And consider, Duchess, that the wine of our region is in no way inferior to that of Bardolino, which is paid so much more. It is rich in alcohol, in it it comes after that of Rovigo; I could tell you the percentage. It also contains a lot of tannin, glycosine and generally a lot of the elements that would make it easier to process on a scientific basis ... "

All three of them leaned on a fence and talked. The Duchess let her gaze wander casually over the vines. A blackish church rose from the light foliage. It was dilapidated, locked and abandoned. But above the cracked door the wall bore a scarcely damaged picture in dream colors, gray and rosy: an announcement. The one called for motherhood was shy, the grace of the angel gentle and frivolous. And the strangers' gaze stayed on it. He began to burn at the picture of their own impossible longing on the forehead of the condemned house.

∗             ∗

James finally parted ways with his friends. You were at the emigration; the lawyer assured: [286]

"The new cadastre will make up for a lot through a fairer distribution of the burdens."

"Let us trust it," said James. The lawyer shouted something after him, he came back in a hurry:

“An idea occurred to me that the dear Duchess should not blame me. If Your Highness join our society - what do I say, would kindly approve the honorary membership of our society ... "

"Your society against phylloxera?"

"It would certainly bring her luck."

"Not phylloxera," said Fabio Benatti, "but society."

“I'm flattered gentlemen, I suppose. On the other hand, you will do me the honor of accepting a foundation. "

James led the Duchess through his fields, had her weigh the grapes that were left in her hand, and told her the yield of the vines. He showed her the lake as if he had to represent it, praised his fifche and excused her because the view was not clear. Then she had to praise his garden. The roses were still in bloom! His chickens laid admirably. He pulled an egg from the chaff, pierced it, and handed it to her; that gives strength. In the meantime the maid was walking around, a child in her arms, and gazed indifferently out of her beautiful, questioning animal eyes at the stranger.

James blushed.

"Pasqua, go inside!" He ordered. [287]

"Why?" Said the Duchess. "I like to see them."

"What do you want?" He muttered, "the need for the woman ... And then the boy, he makes me happy!"

"Is that your child?"

"Yes."

After a while she said:

"Are you happy. You have to make mother and child happy. "

He went on to apologize.

“I was sick of the smart women, you know. And the loving ones too! Always standing in a thunderstorm of passion! .. The Pasqua is wonderfully mindless. Nor does she think of loving me. All she sees is that I'm a really grown, sprightly fifties. I also have qualities that she likes: I don't drink, I don't carry a knife. She does what she is called to do and expects me to consider her in my will; their hope should not be disappointed. Of course we will make a capable farmer out of the boy. "

"Naturally. He looks very healthy. If one day you have to leave him alone, do so knowing that everything is all right. He will have children again ... "

“It took me a long time to actually discover my heart: a callous woman, a beautiful, powerful animal. Ah! it demands no work from me. There is no painting! "[288]

"That seems to be your fame now: not painting?"

"I just suffered quite a disappointment - at the time," he explained, with good-natured reproach. "It takes a while to recover."

"Well, I am not worried about you, you will recover."

“But now I ask you, Duchess, to share my country meal. Do we have Carpione, Pasqua? .. The Carpione is the king of our fish. It only occurs in Lake Garda. He always appeared on the table of the Roman emperors wreathed with laurel. "

“I would like - if only I could eat. I'm a little exhausted. "

He got a shock; it seemed to be swaying to him. He reached for her, just under the front door.

“To this room, Duchess - just a few steps. But what do you have? The journey was probably a bit exhausting? .. Please here, this ottoman is very comfortable. "

He made her bed. She watched him and thought of Doctor Barbasson. "Always the same gesture around me: pillows adjusted." Matt and impatient she said:

"Let. I want to rest for an hour, it will be enough. In the afternoon I'll drive on to Riva, to see the doctor from Männingen. "[289]

"Ah!"

For the first time he looked at her with all his attention and without worrying about introducing himself to her. He crept out meekly.

When it reappeared, he had been thinking.

"Duchess sent your people ahead?"

"Yes."

“But you cannot travel alone. If the Duchess gives orders, I will accompany you. "

"Thank you."

“I am very familiar with the doctor from Männingen. The Duchess couldn't have made a better choice. He is a real doctor, so of a very rare breed. A personality that encroaches on others, distributing in all directions, uplifting, encouraging, and delighted by the feeling of its effects. He will rape you spiritually in the Viennese manner with deafening amiability, so that you are no longer free to contemplate your illness. You will turn an ambition to nudging, deep breathing, mountain climbing of a full two hundred meters! It's healthy, that's calming! Do the Duchess remember how I was worn out, restless, hopeless, exhausted - back then? Well, I owe it to the doctor of Männingen that I have my self-confidence again today, as well as goals and a fixed standard of living. "

"What goals?" Thought the Duchess. “A very moderate life!” She said: [290]

"I spoke a little carelessly about Riva, I still have to think about it."

“Stick to your decision! I advise you well. "

He kept talking; she asked herself: “Is it worth it to let one's limbs do so and so many healthy movements every day - just so that I don't have to say goodbye to the world? I have downplayed the program, piece by piece, that had been established for me even before I was there. The three goddesses, one after the other, folded my robes and arranged my gestures, each according to their own senses. My life was a work of art. Should I arbitrarily harm my broken fate? .. No! "

"I've made up my mind, I'm going home to Naples."

"You better consider it, Duchess, I beg you! You worry me more than I can tell you! "

“For no reason, dear friend - I do as I wish. Accompany me back to Desenzano! "

"I may? But there are no more steamers today. Are you staying with me? "

"No no. Can we go sailing? "

“Sailing, of course, sailing! Isn't it windy? "

He ran to the door.

"Paolo, is there wind to Desenzano? .. Yes, [291] Duchess, we can! Really sail with you, Duchess! "

He was happy; he had suddenly forgotten his admonitions and his concerns, since he was allowed to sail with her. Without her knowing it, he reminded her of Nino. "What a child!" She said, almost tenderly.

"But then we have to go straight away!" He shouted. “We have three hours. The train to Milan leaves at five twenty-five. "

“Telegraph the doctor in Riva beforehand that I am not coming, and also to Prosper, my hunter. He's already there. He should turn back immediately and follow me to Milan. "

They fly in.

"You are not taking a skipper with you?"

"What for. I sweep as if I had never done anything else. "

"And Linda," she suddenly asked. "Little Linda!"

“Yes, it is too bad that the Duchess did not see them. She was here until eight days ago. Now it’s getting cool, so she’s better off in the city. "

"In Venice?"

“By Clelia… My God, I had to give poor rough some kind of compensation. I left Linda for her. What else does she have. Mortwil is idling, I think he drinks. "

"Little Linda in her heavy, shining pain, as if made of mother-of-pearl ..." [292]

“Oh, she put that off. What do you think, she is thirteen now. A great girl. "

"Pretty sure."

"N / A!"

He put his fingers to his mouth.

"And happy?"

"Quiet, very full."

He fell silent.

"But to look at -!" He said quickly. "I always just look at her and thank her for being there. I don't need to paint them: that's why I find them so beautiful. What a pleasure to be able to look at the beautiful things without having to think about doing! See this fog lake full of subdued reflections. How that would have upset me in the past! Now it's none of my business - nothing. "

"Do you know who visited me the other day?" He asked. "Nino!"

"What is he doing, where is he?"

“He went to Genoa, he wants to go to America, on behalf of his party. This youth! .. His poor mother is very sick, it won't be long. "

"I know."

“Siebelind was also with me for a day. Duchess will meet him in Naples. It turns all gray. You know, I find that more uncomfortable with my friends than with myself. To see how everything gets old ... "[293]

"Old? No. At least I don't. My youth and my life end at once. "

"You're happy then," he muttered.

It was a while.

"I am wasting," said James. "Rather, I've already silted up. Don't you think, Duchess, that I don't know. I mostly manage not to think about it. But there are days - and today when I see you again ... you are more beautiful than ever! "

She looked slowly down at him, who was staring up at her with his head above his knees. They were silent. The Duchess sat at the high wheel, straight upright. It was evening. A few roses slid into the water from the cloud bank behind her.

"Fortunately, I don't need to paint you," he muttered again.

"You are doing pretty well, it seems to me ... But you don't care enough about the sail."

“In a moment… but also remember, everything has failed me. The Pallas des Botticelli has now been found, you know? "

“Yes, in the Pitti Palace. I've seen photographs of her. "

"I even traveled there ... well, she's very different."

"Unfortunately."

“Very different from mine. No, I have never been allowed to dream one of the dreams of the great century to the end [294], neither in the time of Minerva nor later, when I wanted Venus. "

"You wanted too much."

Her own, formerly spoken words hummed in her ear: "Made from the gullies of every abyss, from the stars of every sky." Was he one of them?

“You were famous, you earned a lot - but your art did not satisfy you. That's not common. "

"But it is a modest amount of unusual wedge."

"Indeed."

No, he was not one of them - because he made himself small, because he could be humble and wanted to go on living disillusioned.

They said nothing for a long time. The waves grew bigger, their boat rose and fell. The lake was as wide as an ocean. The banks were lost behind deep-moving clouds. They saw no ship, they were all alone with each other.

"You ask where you are going," he said thoughtfully. "Forgive me, you look as if one should ask, - completely white in the midst of all these dark water vapors, - very steeply on the high rear deck and completely white, - with a flat blood-red line under the cloud just behind your narrow shoulders, - completely white, and the cloud looks iron like a helmet on your head. "[295]

"I recognize you," said the Duchess.

"You still have all your imagination."

He groaned.

“Believe it, I've been thinking for a long time. I felt too good for the hysterical renaissance, didn't I? Well, I had no right to do that. The seductive morbidities were exactly what I had to do. Otherwise could I have done it? We should never believe that we can do anything other than what we do; that filthy Pericles was quite right ... Today we all depend on the sick. Wherever there is a rattle of decay, we answer. This is our job. But I made a mistake in the great, healthy life. You, Duchess, were Venus then, smooth and ripe. I wanted to make something exuberant of you, something all embracing, a crushing glorification. In the end it turned into Siebelind's ailing grimace. It served me right. I could paint you, Duchess - but the only work that should be a revelation to everyone, that everyone could have dreamed of and that only I would have made: you didn't give me that at the time. Today…"

"Today I'm finally sick enough for that."

"Duchess, I have already described the picture to you - the picture of this strange journey ..."

"The last trip."

"O!"

“You weren't in a great hurry. They come the moment I die. "[296]

“How are you dying! How much dies with you! The last of many greats! I would paint all of this with you! .. Duchess, come back with me! "

She did not answer.

He slid off the bench and on his knees.

"Turn back with me!"

"Think about it ... you have let the sail line out of your hand, the wind is turning."

“Steer to the left ... Duchess, you have to! You mustn't deny it to me, my work, my greatest forever: the portrait of the dying Duchess of Assy! "

“Those are the stubborn words of the past. Today I have nothing more to refuse and nothing more to give. "

"Then I'll die with you!"

Suddenly the boat lay low on its side. James fell.

“You have drawn the sail too high. Pull it in! "

“Why, Duchess? Don't we want to die? "

"Pull it in, I say!"

It was an effort; the edge of the boat lifted with difficulty.

“I didn't stretch it too high, I can sail! But here by the peninsula ... Duchess, we would have died! Everything would be fine now. "

From her high seat she looked at him motionless - until he began to suspect how incomprehensible this death, locked in a chest, was from himself, the hopeful who, out of spite, demanded death from outside. “She is content to die; but not in a chance adventure and not with me. "

He felt shy about courage. He longed for a harmless word. On arrival he called very loudly for a coachman. He wanted to get on board; but she shook hands with him in parting, smiling and cool.

In Genoa at the station she was satisfied. She had been tempted to order Nino; but she had controlled herself. He believed in the other time, and it wasn't this yet.

It approached the south in small day trips. It was getting warmer, her heart was beating harder. In Capua she got off - as before - and drove overland. The horse had to walk, the stones along the way gave her pain; - but this air, no matter how lush cushions, spread to your senses as it did then. The harvest day was blue and light. The clouds, crushed by the wind, hovered only as a silver foam in an arc over the horizon. Behind the cyprus with silver edges she heard it singing and laughing from the flutes of the evening; they answered the flutes of the morning. The earth was as new as on the first day -

“- like in the garden when I was a child and lay in the gorse. Now the blue, hairy dragonfly is in the air again in front of me ... And I myself have not aged. I lived through to the end; but I know no boredom, no contempt. I hate nothing, not even death. "

“There smile again, on the slope, my pale olives, weak, with hollowed out trunks, and still ready for the miracle of new harvests… I want to be like them; I celebrate life down to the last blow of the ax.

“Doesn't the love of this whole country circle within me, mixed with my blood? All his creatures, dull and fiery from too much sun, have alternately inflamed and unnerved me. A hundred hugs made it mine, this country. It is in me: this sun is in me, the swelling of this grape, the dust on the feet of this poor man, and every beautiful smile! .. I am proud of it! And I will celebrate one last harvest, like the olive tree that was cut down. I will give everything back to this earth that I loved so much at once. That's death, it's not terrible, I don't hate it because I don't hate life.

“It's far, far, the ghost in the snow. It has no power here. Death is mild here, I already know his smile. I know which boy on the wall of that chapel lights up two women, with a silver light, into a deep darkness. I love him, the genius of my death!

“My whole life was one big love: I threw my hot breast at every size and all beauty. I have spurned nothing, condemned no one, harbored no grudges. I approved of myself and my fate to the end; how could i hate my death He is nothing strange. He's part of my life that I love. It's his last gesture, and I wish he were his happiest. "

∗             ∗

At home she found a telegram from Nino:

"On the point of starting the journey across the great water, I send you, dear Yolla, one last greeting from the old world."

She smiled at his adventurous platitudes; she answered him: "Good courage and goodbye!"

“It was quiet and sweet to her mind as she lay down to rest. During the night she awoke from the usual pain in the pit of the heart. "It's so little, I know that much worse," she thought. But her heart was beating under a blanket of fear. She listened to it. Suddenly it stopped. With eyes wide open and full of horror, she looked into the twilight, and she thought that her own terrible image was reflected in the pale air. She sighed; the pulse had returned.

Her limbs were cold. She took a few steps, and the heart muscle was again seized by the spasm. There was no time left to go to her bed, the pain threw her into a chair. This pain rushed up the neck on either side of the chest, up the neck, and into the head. She got up between the attacks. Lying down hurt and frightened her. As soon as she sat down, restlessness and perplexity forced her to cry - she did not know why, for she did not complain.

Her heart cramps lasted three days. She searched for relief, wandering haphazardly through the rooms. She clasped her hands on her neck because an oppressive complaint had settled there and did not improve even in the quarter of an hour. She refused to see a doctor. She even sent her chambermaid out.

One evening the door opened and Siebelind stood under it. He saw the Duchess of Assy stretched out on the floor, disfigured by agony. And he was ashamed of the vengeance she granted him, she, the proudest of the lucky ones. He remained motionless and lowered his eyes. She got up without haste and leaned, almost standing, in an armchair: pale white in her yellowish dressing gown, very narrow under her broad, black hair, in which the remnants of the artificial red dissolved. One hand writhed on the heart, the other plunged frostily into pillows that crackled. Siebelind followed the small, bloody coils of her mouth on her pallor. He didn't know the fear created her or a smile.

He said he had very important communications to make, otherwise he would not have dared to intrude. He declared to have been with Nino [301] in Genoa. He had greeted him as he was passing through in Naples and wanted to prevent him from visiting the Duchess. He knew that the young man would not have come to her at that moment ... She looked at him.

"Do you still know so well about strange souls?"

"O, in one of the same positions as yours! .. Now his ship arrived yesterday; he wasn't on it. A telegram to him could not be ordered. Something puzzling happened. "

“He followed some other idea. He's just going on the next ship. "

"Who knows where his ship is going."

"I do not understand you."

"Do you understand where yours is going?"

"I see. They mean I'm dying. That is probably."

"Ms. Duchess, I have something to ask you of."

Red spots appeared from under his eyes. He stood hunched over, angular in his long black skirt and gray at the temples.

“I took you for one of the nefarious lucky ones who suspect nothing of the depths of those who suffer. I must have been wrong. The lucky one dies quickly, unsuspecting how he lived. His last mug was poisoned, he didn't know it, and before he understands it he's dead. You, Duchess, have time to understand and taste! You must be acquainted with the [302] suffering; otherwise you will avoid it in this hour too… Do I tire you? ”he asked very gently. She replied kindly, though a fear tortured her:

"No no."

For a while longer he spoke, very softly and with lowered lids, of her death, which would purify and transfigure her. She almost said that her death made him better first. He was calmer than before, with no unhealthy screeching of feelings. The hand with which he said goodbye to her was not hot. He asked to come back; she didn't mind.

When he was gone she found little Christian books on her table and turned a few pages over. Something indefinite had done her good, like a now forbidden odor from earlier, rather bland, already penetrated into her sick-room. It was love, if so little. This weak one had truly fallen in love with her, that was it. Now, at last, that she was dying, he felt close enough to her: he, deffen Dafein was a long dying.

She heard no rattle of wagons under her window, and she learned that the people themselves were carrying straw. In the evening the gentle chirping of guitars came to her. She smiled:

“Now you love me. When I'm dead, they'll cry.“The poor,” they will say, because that's what they call the dead. How happy you must be to pity me once - this one, inevitable time. "[303]

Her heart finally calmed down. She suffered nothing for four days. Late in the afternoon of the fifth, a servant from the archbishop's palace asked whether Your Highness would be inclined to receive the vicar general; she had not yet had time to answer, he was already reported.

Tamburini entered, swift and powerful, like many years ago. He was still the bulky, strong-boned official and businessman in priestly dress. His agile, intelligent eyes sparkled under heavy lids in the square face. Not a muscle in his mighty jaws was slack, his teeth were complete, and the strand of hair that parted his low forehead was jet black. But more bile flowed under his skin.

The future prince of the church stood planted as if at the front of millions, and in the intimidating attitude of a porter. Nustchuk paused behind him. The Duchess invited the gentlemen to sit down. Tamburini said:

"Mrs. Duchess, I come as an old friend. You have always been a good daughter of the holy Church. I cannot possibly forget that just because you have fallen into error in recent years. "

"You are too kind, monsignor," said the Duchess.

“Your errors are grave, I admit, and have caused much annoyance. But by a profound confession and sincere repentance you enable me [304] to absolve you of all sins. And then you have another, very effective means of doing everything well. "

Then he cleared his throat. The Duchess looked at him questioningly, then at his companion.

"That's why we're coming," said Rustschuk.

He blinked at her, blurry eyes, shuddering and covetous. There she lay and died, always beautiful and young, since she was a duchess - and he hadn't owned her! He stammered again:

"That's why we come."

She understood.

"Ah! the money. Do you want money? "

“Herr von Siebelind,” explained Tamburini, “told me, at my express request, how he found you, dear daughter. Be clear about your condition, "he said," and bear it in a Christian way. We couldn’t lose any time, all the more since the trusted representative of your worldly interests, our friend Herr von Rustschuk, let us know that you have not yet made any arrangements. "

Then he glanced at the financier.

“Duchess,” stammered Rustschuk, red-violet, “you know yourself that I managed your property well… It may be that I found my advantage in who denies it. The only thing certain is that no one else, and be it him most inconvenient virtuous hero, could have raised such sums for you as I did! "[305]

"Because nobody is that skilled," explained Tamburini.

“Therefore,” said Rustschuk, “Your Highness will believe me when I tell you: the best thing is for you to bequeath everything to the Church. It doesn't matter to me, but I advise you to do so. "

“The church?” She said, astonished. "Well, why not the church as well."

"If only because of eternal bliss," said the financier. "And for other reasons too."

"The future life, my daughter, is very important!" The vicar blurted out.

"The present one was enough for me," said the Duchess simply. "And I took it seriously."

“We Christians only value eternity,” Rustschuk confessed with conviction. "This life fulfills too few wishes for us."

And she saw his unsatisfied need flicker dimly.

"You know so little what to do with this short span of time, you Christians," said the Duchess, and her remark astonished her deeply, "- and you presume to fill eternity with yourself?"

“You will bitterly regret this philosophy, dear daughter!” Cried the vicar menacingly. “Instead of making your cause worse by cheap blasphemy, it is better, as you are advised, to make your will in favor of the most holy church, so that you have something to justify yourself. You can [306] need it in the next instant - in the place where you are going. "

“There - I already know what to say to my fame there. I'll say I had my hunter take you out, monsignor. And who knows, maybe I'll really have done it. "

Then Tambourini's imperious demeanor wavered. He stuttered something humble. Rustschuk mumbled, embarrassed:

"Duchess are strict, you don't dare -"

"You dare," she said, smiling strangely.

He leaned back. His chair jerked back and forth, it was shaking so much. He wanted her; with the horror of death and his senses whipped by his presence, he desired her, still on this bed. He would be the only one who would be crushed by irrevocable regret on her coffin. He had never owned her alone. And she died!

She sat leaning back, very light, and her face in the dark upholstery of her hair. The eyebrows were carved out of the sunken temples, the eyes encompassed by the often creased shadow of the nostrils - and over the narrow saddle of the narrow, transparent bone, almost horizontally, her gaze crept over, tired to go out.

Nevertheless, he humiliated both of her viewers. They hated her for it; but even now they did not acquire the right to pity her. She was left with the [307] beauty of the last evening light. The oblique sun reflected a red spot under her left nostril. The chin arched from below, soft and padded, a final seduction. The teeth blinked, damp and white. Behind her flesh, shaded pale violet, and its matt white robe, there was a red and yellow pillow, on the wall and her shiny yellow silk.

But speaking had exhausted her. She felt her heart muscle contract again. The tips of her feet suddenly burned with cold. She rang the bell and had her knees wrapped in blankets.

∗             ∗

Tamburini did not see why he was intimidated by this terminally ill person.

"Do your Highness have any worldly objections?" He asked. "You have no family, no one to whom you could give that large number of millions ... All that money!" He said, cheekbones full.

She thought. Nino? Wealth would destroy him too soon. Little Linda? What did she need, who was so calm and cool in herself. So who? She replied:

"I have nothing against it - and nothing for it."

"If you don't give it to the church," said the vicar, "everything will fall into the hands of the Dalmatian state."

"Yes, then we'll get it," Rustschuk confirmed. [308] “Your Highness see how unselfishly I advise you. Only because of the salvation of your soul. "

“And not because you are a Holy Church businessman? The greatest banker in Christendom? "

“Your Highness misjudge me. I don't think of such petty advantages. Do we want to take the worldly point of view? Then I judge as a statesman and find that the - how should I put it, Your Highness' s free life demands an atonement in front of the public. Confidence in the existing social order would have to suffer a serious shock if a lady in the unusual position of Your Highness, highly titled and extremely financially strong, did not, at least in the face of death, make benevolent use of her great resources. "

He spoke very quickly, his mouth lowered shyly except for the falling fat on his neck, and with small, weak arm movements. Tamburini declaimed all the more freely.

“Everything: the circumstances as well as the divine and human duties, and last but not least your own advantage, Your Highness advises you to bequeath your possessions to your Holy Mother, the Church. I have also already appointed the notary. Should he enter? "

"The church or the state," she repeated. "I actually like him as well."

"If instead I -" [309]

She put her cheek on the palm of her hand. She blinked from half-open eyelids and from the golden depth of all her never-giving love to the two apocalyptic animals that her last hour had fooled her.

“If I made three great legacies. One for the freedom fighters of all peoples, and for the rare between the peoples who liberate the spirit. The second for works of art that resemble lavish dreams and about which the citizen cannot know, that is, for works of art. The third for wonderful islands of pleasure, where people without need and almost without longing are allowed to forget that there is a state, a church, and a humanity that suffers. "

"Duchess will not dare! .." ordered Tamburini harshly, and broke out in threats. Rustschuk claimed that such a will could be challenged. "Therefore," he explained, "because one would believe that an overly unrestrained soul has ended up here in madness."

She didn't hear anything. Her quiet dream words had aroused her until she screamed. Then a new pain tore them apart, from the back to the stomach. The cramp seized the stomach; the heart twitched and flew. She started with a groan and sat down again.

The two suddenly fell silent. They saw the sweat break out on the forehead of the frightened woman, her eyelids shut, and her features slacken. The [310] face of this woman, who had just given them awe and desire, was suddenly replaced by the dilapidated mask of an unconscious woman. Rustschuk howled harshly. The angry priest was consecrated without transition. He took her hand, he found it icy and a small thread-like pulse on it that stopped.

“My daughter, do not despair. Mercy watches over you. Behold, death approaches you as a savior. "

She seemed to wake up; life stepped behind her face like a flame.

"Not as a Savior," she said indistinctly.

She didn't want him as a savior, no, as a lover - him, the last transformation of her life, in the full power of his pain! .. She writhed back and forth on her back, she struggled in vain for a word. She felt all the courage of her soul pour onto her lips. And from their deep torments, inaudible, but flashing like a bird's flight from the night of clefts, an utter commitment to great life and its inexorability rose.

"Did your Highness say something?" Asked Tamburini.

Suddenly she tore the blankets from her, struggled up, took two steps, cried out loudly. The pain carried her away. She lay down on the back of a chair with the pit of her heart. A moment later she stood, erect, and as if she were listening. Her face turned bluish. Then she began to gasp; the breath returned. The minute he failed to appear, she had thought: "So this way - and so quickly."

∗             ∗

No, it didn't come quickly. She dragged herself back to her bed, she let herself be put to bed. Nana put steam compresses on her mistress, who was choking and vomiting. Rustschuk was frightened into the anteroom, where he moaned and babbled. It was full of people waiting for their moment.

Tamburini closed the door of the sick-room behind him and gave orders.

"Is the notary there? .. All right, Cavaliere Muzio, the Duchess will use your services at once. She has made her will known to us. Your Highness just need a little rest, the conversation attacked you ... Doctors! Are there none? What a carelessness. Girolamo, Antonio, you run after doctors. As many as possible, you hear! Professors! "

The vicar multiplied. He took a priest in the corner or grabbed the button of one of the gentlemen who, with hats on their heads and an open notebook in hand, slipped through the groups. Curious people from the street poured through the unguarded doors of the house where they died. The stairs hummed with voices. Through the confused back and forth, Tambourini's messengers broke a black and purposeful path.

"Filippo, before I forget: to Santo Stefano! [312] The pastor should come with the holy sacraments! It's just in case, God willing, we won't need it, the Duchess is recovering! "

"There you are!" He called to an elegant gentleman. "You can write in the Mattino" that the Duchess will bequeath half of her property to the city of Naples and the other half to the poor. The holy father receives a notable legacy. "

He pushed Rustschuk and the notary against a wall.

“That’s better,” whispered the vicar. "When the fact is complete, it will be found out soon enough."

Rustschuk wiped his forehead without a word. He was pale and was afraid of falling over. But Muzio, all yellow in his shiny little skirt, smiled cunningly.

"I know the lady," he said with funny little contortions. “You shouldn't have too much trouble with her. She is stubborn, monsignors don't believe how much. For the salvation of her soul, one should hold her hand when signing. "

"That is your business," decided the future prince of the church harshly. “We don't know about it… If only we hadn't lost so much time. The patient kept moving away from the subject matter. It's all about the money! "

Muzio suggested to him: [313]

“If monsignors would take a look. Certainly it has already improved. It's quick with her, I know her. "

"You are right, Muzio."

The vicar walked quickly and graciously through the diverging crowd.

"The sick woman asks for me," he declared aloud.

But in front of the locked door stood a broad-shouldered old man in a hunter's uniform, riding a whip in his hand.

"Open it," ordered the vicar. The hunter said calmly:

"Nobody enters."

"I am the vicar general."

“I know Monsignor. Nobody enters, the Duchess suffers. "

"You don't want to?" Asked Tamburini and raised his hand.

"No."

And Prosper saluted with the whip.

People became indignant, the hunter was pushed around and distributed blows. The vicar called his servants. They were contemplative people dressed in black with peacefully shaved lips, and they didn't know how to deal with the tough old man. One of them got a blow on the face, and then the others put on restraint.

“There is the doctor!” They called from behind. A small, skinny sixties hurried over importantly, in a light suit, with a colored mustache, and wriggling with youthfulness.

"The Duchess has ordered me?" He called in the fistula. “Of course, when the Duchess needs the help of science, I am the only one she thinks of. I have already saved Your Highness’s life once. With God's gracious assistance, Monsignor, it will also succeed this time. "

The vicar took his coat lapel.

“Doctor Giaquinto,” he whispered, “it is a matter of adding an hour to the life of the Duchess. Listen, around an hour. The rest is irrelevant for God's and his holy church purposes. "

"If I wanted it ten times, the art of medicine cannot go further than God's will," assured the doctor.

But Rustschuk rolled over to the doctor, his stomach swaying. "Do the impossible, outbid yourself, Doctor, keep the Duchess alive!"

He pleaded with clenched hands. He didn't care about the will. He had only one fervent wish that she might live. As long as she lived, he had the hope of still having her, like everyone else.

Tamburini ruled the hunter.

"You will probably let the doctor in."

Prosper knocked on the door, a crack opened. After a while Nana replied that if the doctor had something against asthma, he could come in.

"Is it just asthma?" Giaquinto exclaimed and raised both arms in exultation at the gathering. “Asthma is my specialty! And I always carry Stramonium cigarettes in my pocket! Science is well equipped! "

He slipped in. Someone had shoved a foot in the crack, and Prosper had to fight a wrestling match to clear it up. In the meantime the people with their notebooks crawled through his legs to get to the door. It was closed from the inside.But the hunter was still in riot; he lashed out with the riding whip.

A gentleman in a dark overcoat, very pale, with red spots under his eyes, gave a sigh and stumbled against Prosper's shoulder. The old man tried to put him on a chair; but Siebelind's limbs could not be bent. He stood with his eyes closed, chalk white, and didn't answer. Finally, with a second sigh, he woke up. It had become very quiet all around. Still very confused, without knowing where he was, Siebelind slurred:

"That happens now and then, since that stupid story with Lady Olympia."

He remembered:

"For heaven's sake, I have to go in with her, I have something of the highest importance to tell her."

"Later," decided the hunter. [316]

"If the Duchess knew who I was reporting from, she wouldn't want to live for a second without hearing me."

Prosper used the moment of silence to reach the button of a doorbell. The doorkeeper finally showed himself with two lackeys. The hunter gave them his instructions, and they began to tell the guests by word and deed that night was falling and the house was being closed. A couple of tall hats rolled down the stairs, and some smaller furnishings were pulled out from under the skirts of visitors.

After all, the rooms were deserted and in shadow. Siebelind sat in the anteroom under a window, her hands clasped with pointed, reddish knuckles, and repeated herself with dry sobs:

“I will never see her again - her and her beautiful suffering. I am not allowed to be part of it ... "

Ruchuk, opposite him, oozed and dripped with tears. Tamburini stood planted in the middle and listened, arms crossed, to what the doctor was talking about inside, behind the door that Profper was guarding motionlessly. In his modest hiding place, the notary Muzio stretched out his yellow neck and nodded at everything, like a dirty and wise bird from on high.

∗             ∗
[ 317 ]

Before the doctor entered, the Duchess had already regretted the moment of weakness that led her to summon him. She motioned for him to go; he misunderstood her.

“Duchess are too gracious. Yes, I will take the liberty of taking this seat and only leave it when my art has made Your Highness perfectly healthy ... Your Highness suffer from asthma, as I see. Breathing is difficult and noisy. Which bungler may your Highness have fallen into the hands of? Which ignoramus has beaten you up like that? "

He listened. The patient thrust her head excitedly through the pillow. She uttered a word.

"How? The spinal cord? Your Highness should not indulge in any imaginations. What has ordinary asthma to do with the spinal cord? I ask. Your Highness as a layperson cannot judge it at all. After serious scrutiny, science will undoubtedly find something completely different ... How? Doctor Barbasson in Paris? So this is the non-talent who has swindled your Highness' s trust from me! Have I not already done an important service to the Duchess? In a moment of dangerous exhaustion, have I not given you a charitable imprisonment? In no time you were made. Hütten Your Highness surrendered to my skill this time too: I am convinced that your Highness will not be as it is today ... For the Duchess must not be deceived, it is bad. I see that easily with the astuteness of science. To find out how bad it is, I will do a detailed examination. "

He took off his gloves. The patient's arduous contradiction was drowned out in his screeching. She twitched and gasped for breath. Nana had to help him undress her mistress. They raised her up. The Duchess turned her face away. Her bust stood as if made of porcelain, in sharp surfaces and enhanced by bright white lights in the sliding back linen. Her arm was raised and the thin, dark pit beneath it was uncovered.

"The limbs are freezing," said Doctor Giaquinto. “Not feeling a pulse on it; most strange. Science will enlighten the phenomenon. The abdomen is pain-free, even with pressure. So in the pit of the heart we are sensitive? Do we have a tremor? And the pain extends over the left shoulder and arm? Aha ... how? Does it hurt in the back too? It shouldn't hurt there at all! It's just asthma! I deny that it has anything to do with the spinal cord! We will see, the sensitivity is conceited, just hysterical ... "

He ran his horny hand down the spine. The Duchess cried out; the pain suddenly gave her breath back.

"Leave me! Nana, open the window! "

"Don't open it!" Shouted the old man and dabbed a light, airy silk shirt. “A strong Tramontana is blowing. The Duchess will catch a cold. "

She glanced at him.

"Nana, help the gentleman put on his coat."

She took a few puffs of the cold air.

"The head is unmoved," said the doctor. “It will be fine, just don't be afraid. As long as I am here, nothing will happen to Your Highness. I have certain cigarettes there that asthma cannot withstand. "

Only now did she recognize: “Ah! Tamburini sends him. "She said:

“You want to give me opium? But I don't have time to get numb. Are you going!"

"How? Your Highness refuse the benefits of science? Your Highness do very wrong. Unfortunately, one has to assume that Your Highness no longer has the power to determine yourself. You will have to be rescued against your will. Didn't I have to do that before? "

He lit a wax candle and held a cigarette in the flame. The smoke hit the patient in the face, and she immediately sank back, gasping loudly. She made a movement with her hand, Nana rushed to the door.

"Prosper!"

The hunter appeared on the threshold: he let three gentlemen enter. Doctor Giaquinto awaited them with dignified reserve. All three of them were younger than him and they were professors at the university. They had been taken from the theaters. [320] In the sickroom you were suddenly stiff, waxy, aloof dignitaries of nothingness. Next to them, the Duchess thought a Giaquinto would be adorable. After all, he was human.

“First of all,” said Giaquinto, the right one in the vest, “I definitely deny that the patient's condition comes from the spinal cord. Should my colleagues find the opposite, I will withdraw immediately. "

He escorted the three to the camp. Bending over the person to be examined, they let the symptoms report to them without a word. They were idols to whom the diseases were dragged like hideous meals: they hardly moved. In the end they looked at each other and one spoke for all of the words against which there was no appeal.

“The Duchess suffers from chest cramps, stkllia oarckiacum, pathological excitation of the heart nerves, caused by irritation of the spinal cord, Irritatia spinalis primaria. In the whole course of the vertebrae we have the greatest sensitivity to the slightest touch, especially to the fossa. Overall the picture of a hysterical convulsive state, but without any detectable inflammatory symptoms. Put away the cigarettes, colleague, they are useless. We take a derivation, with a soap bath. "

Doctor Giaquinto waved his head. Finally, if one wanted to work on the painful vertebrae, he asked for a good blast. [321]

“Even better, work on the back with brushes! Haha! You should see that nothing helps. Because it's not the spinal cord at all! ”Cried the old man, plaintive with stubbornness.

You didn't listen to him at all. "Make sure you have a soap bath!" Said one of the gentlemen to Nana, but the chambermaid stood in front of her mistress, completely frozen by so much cold power of fate, with outstretched arms.

“The Duchess ordered me,” she stuttered, “one should leave the Duchess alone. The duchess don't need any help. "

Giaquinto opened his mouth and raised his arms. But the three remained indifferent, in lifeless grandeur, like idols who missed the sacrifice. Unexpectedly, they turned and stepped back into their corner as if they were being carried back to their temple. The spokesman stated:

“We won't do anything without the patient's will. We will wait. The patient has moments when the asthma is replaced by simple palpitations - when she naturally takes courage and imagines that she can do without medical intervention ... But general convulsions already set in. The spasms of the diaphragm and the other respiratory muscles increase in severity and duration. We have cramps of the glottis with a risk of suffocation and cyanosis ... "

“Very true!” Crowed Doctor Giaquinto, rubbing his hands angrily. “It's all blue! Oh, she won't struggle much longer! It will not resist science for much longer! "

Prosper appeared in the door, holding a letter tray. He crept up to his mistress's feet, put his hand to the strip of his pants and waited to see if she could hear him. It was quiet in the room; only the breath of the Duchess whistled, a thin, often interrupted trickle of air, through her throat, stopped, returned, failed completely and discharged all at once and with a rattle, while the neck of the suffocating, writhing fearfully, the sharp outline held out his muscles.

The hunter swallowed.

"Forgive the Duchess," he reported briskly, "there is a package with a picture, it comes from Maderno ... And then a letter, if your Highness permit, the sender is on the back, it's Mrs. Ginn Degrandis."

She raised her head; no one had hoped because she seemed to be exhaling.

"What did they want to give me?" She said clearly. "A soap bath? So quickly. "

Nana hurried out.

"How long will I have?" She asked, and sank back, twitching from the cramp.

Giaquinto exulted.

“As long as your Highness please. You only have to pay attention to the sayings of science. "

He ran into the anteroom, ahead of the professors. [323]

"The Duchess is saved, she gets a soap bath!"

“Isn't there a journalist there?” Asked one of the professors.

"That wretched hunter threw everyone out," said Tamburini.

When you looked again, the professor was gone. Another expressed bitterly:

“I like to do without the press. I don't care if people find out that I was there when a duchess died. "

And he stepped out straight. The spokesman said:

“I'm doing my duty, I'll be back in three quarters of an hour. The patient will not live longer than an hour. "

Doctor Giaquinto waited until the door had closed. Then he got into an uproar.

“Those snooty know-it-alls! They want to teach an old practitioner! First they diagnose diseases that kill a horse, and then they want to eliminate them with a little soapy water. "

"Tell the truth, doctor, how long has the patient been?"

"I'm an honest man ... Your Excellency, please don't cry so terribly!" He shouted at the stunned Rustschuk. "Your Highness will sign your will tomorrow over breakfast."

"Is that your conviction?" [324]

“Let's have the Duchess have breakfast at three o'clock, just to be on the safe side. As long as I can keep it for you and the Holy Church, or do whatever you want with me, Monsignor! I give her musk and opium, I inject her ether until she dances and sings! "

"It would be a great misfortune," explained the vicar simply, "if the poor woman could no longer manage to save her soul and if the church missed the money - all the money!"

“I would also have wished,” complained Rustschuk, “she would have used her money sensibly, at least after her death.”

"She will do it, gentlemen," cried the doctor.

"She won't do it," Siebelind decided inaudibly. “If she confirmed all of her suffering and humiliation with a Christian will, it would be fine. She won't do it. All in all I have never and nowhere seen a heathen like this woman was. "

"That's why the heathen will be converted with their fortune," said Muzio, who was standing by, wisely raised his finger.

"And the wonderful funeral oration I would have given this great convert!" Replied the vicar, arms crossed, forehead bowed. "I would have said -"

"The sickroom is locked," hissed the doctor, violently exasperated. He knocked all of his knuckles. [325] Prosper opened a crack; he explained quite politely:

“The Duchess are very exhausted from bathing, they are slumbering and ask the gentlemen for an hour of rest. Afterwards they will ask the doctor to come and see them. "

And he closed the door.

"Are we rid of her?" Asked the Duchess. "Then give it to me, Prosper."

In the anteroom, Tamburini, Muzio and the doctor looked each other in the eye: “There is nothing to be done!” Then the vicar gave a sign, they kneeled down, all three in a row, and each of them put their palms together. Siebelind threw herself on the ground behind her, with ghastly enthusiasm. Rustschuk sat down with great difficulty with damp sighs. The vicar spoke monotonously and resoundingly:

"Most Holy Virgin Mary, we ask that through your help this poor soul may find the path of grace in the last hour."

∗             ∗

In order not to have to hear from the intruders, she had had her day bed carried into the next room. It was a hall that was supported by many pillars and large mosaics shone.

She lay with her back high, her limbs warmed by the bath, with a fast, very weak pulse; and she kept very still, worrying about sparing this quiet, painless exhaustion, which was the last piece of [326] level-headed existence, for the next half hour. Afterwards, she sensed that, the sudden sinking came ... And there was still work to be done.

"Give me, Prosper."

The hunter handed her the plate of letters. James reported to her without further ado that her picture had been sent.

Ginn wrote from Genoa from the hospital. You die with her. “Nino leads us. I hurried over to, condemned myself, to receive his last breath with my lips. Could I put them on top of yours!

“That picture is right: it precedes us women with its traffic light. I believed that he shone us into the realms of art; no, the garden where we follow it belongs to death. But we follow him! .. Treat him to two words that encourage him! "

“Herr von Siebelind,” said Prosper, “asks the Duchess to read this note; it is important. "

Siebelind wrote:

“I must send you one last calamity; my conscience wants it. I am not allowed to blow you. They should have the justification of suffering wholly and the beauty of being wholly beaten.

“He perished in a disreputable house in Genoa. He went down the dark stairs and a body fell on his shoulders from the beams above: a small, badly overgrown person who rode on his neck, knocked him over, choked him and stabbed him. In the morning he was found robbed and half dead somewhere in the gutter. "

She took pen and paper and wrote, propped up on Prosper's arm.

“You see, now we meet while we are dying. I know I'll be the last picture in front of you, just like my last look will be on you. This is what the next time you believed in will look like - and we want to be happy. Be absolutely sure that I have never loved anyone but you! "

"That must be carried straight to the telegraph office."

The hunter delivered the dispatch to a lackey at the exit on the other side. Then he put James's picture in front of her. She let him turn up all the flames. Great clusters of electric light violently raped the twilight. The cold splendor of the hall flashed. And in the white light the Duchess saw the suddenly unveiled face of her final transformation.

She stood in the high boat on the sea of ​​fog, her breast stung under the pale, glistening armor, black hair on the edge of the helmet, which seemed dull out of the clouds, and the tired, pale hand stretched out on the hilt of the sword. She was the maiden who, devastated by all the forces of hot life, drove away in the splendor of a different, unassailable purity.

Her painter had painted more than her being, [328] and more than her passing. From this white face, which looked coolly over life, greeted the great dreams of centuries as they passed away. That smooth armor and that cold sword sparkled invincible pride. And the pallor of death called a second innocence on this face. It was that of the twenty-year-old carefree winner again. What the untouched did not know at the time - the dying woman had forgotten. The life that was smiling behind her shoulder at that time was now out of sight of her large, staring and bright eyes. Now, like ripened seeds, multiple deaths rose in her. In the eyes of the dying Assy the long funeral procession of all those in whom she had previously lived passed by.

With folded hands, pointed feet, and made of iron, some stretched on their sarcophagi, and monks wrapped them in prayer murmurs. The other beamed, pale and tall, from the torches of naked boys that surrounded his stretcher. The dead were lightly made up and adorned with painted smiles, or they grinned terribly from pale-rimmed wounds ... They all died again and for good. In this woman, who came to a quiet end, her countless catafalcones wavered with a majestic roar. All her beauties were born again in this woman. All of her passions had screamed out in her again. Now the last drop of blood that had belonged to them dried up with her. With her the last of her lusts froze, broke [329] her last gesture, and lowered his wing to her last dream.

∗             ∗

She wrote a few lines to James to thank him and to tell him that they had both done the right thing when they wanted each other, enjoyed each other, and fought with each other. "This work finally proves us right - and everything is a good fate."

False tones of the funeral oration which Tamburini had given in advance shrilled from the anteroom. He was at the introduction and said powerfully:

“... I wanted all souls distant from God, all those who tell themselves that one cannot overcome oneself, nor maintain one's steadfastness in the midst of struggles and pains; in short, that all who despair of their conversion or their perseverance would have been present at the death of this woman! .. "

“Come here, Prosper, you have a check on the Bank of France. There you and Nana and the others can get as much as you all need without anyone being able to cause you trouble. You distribute it according to your merit ... And now give me your hand, I have to say goodbye to you. "

The old man mumbled:

"The Duchess once said when Don Saverio sent me away that you would never do it - never say goodbye to me."

"And see, now I'll do it. But I waited [330] until the last quarter of an hour, you have to hold that too well for me. "

"But the last quarter of an hour for the Duchess, she shouldn't come," said the hunter, disturbed, in a breaking voice. "Where am I staying?"

“You can stay there - as long as I'm there. Say, will you return home now, buy yourself a coupon? "

"Ms. Duchess hold on to grace, I no longer know where I belong if the Duchess once no longer orders me to follow her, here or there."

“It is true that you have been doing this for so long. Do not you have a boyfriend?"

“I had one at home in Dalmatia. We loved each other very much, he had saved my life. But he was one of the Duchess's enemies, so I told him it was over between us. "

"Wouldn't you have wanted to get married?"

“A woman in Zara wanted me; I would have taken it. But she had an economy and asked me to stay. How could I - since the Duchess was leaving. "

She looked at him, he was beautiful, this old man, because of his long awe. She told him:

“And all your renunciations bring you only one reward that your mistress has had it a little better because of you. Is that enough for you? "

He knelt down, she gave him both hands, he kissed her slowly, softly, devoutly. The vicar's voice rang out through the closed doors:

"... Her death looked like a sacred act ... For as water extinguishes fire, so alms-giving is sin! And hers is completely wiped out! .. "

“Prosper,” she said sleepily, “turn off the light, it bothers me. Light the three candles on the candlestick here next to me. "

She heard her own voice as if in a fog, and she thought she was sinking into something soft, dull, in which the senses were only half awake, and dreams ran quickly by on the soles of the feet. She closed her eyes. In her light slumber, it was as if she were returning from a journey - back from the black land where one suffered. The wild landscapes of pain remained behind her. The stones that had cracked under the wheels of her carriage, torturing her and taking her breath away, were gone. They drove gently now over the damp beach of a sea that rolled wide, lazy waves; and they got out, Nino and Yolla.

They stood leaning against each other in front of the sea and stared with their souls into a bloody, smoking evening glow. Thoughts came to them that no word could unseal and that were only the deep tremors of their unspeakable pride.

Far away a coarse voice struggled: