Well, the truth cannot be concealed that the years of wandering which had succeeded the fatal night at Monte Carlo had done little to improve me. What would you have? For months and months my ears rang with Frank’s despairing shout: ‘You’ve brought me to this, Carlotta!’ And the profound injustice of that cry tainted even the sad sweetness of my immense sorrow. To this day, whenever I hear it, as I do still, my inmost soul protests, and all the excuses which my love found for him seem inadequate and unconvincing. I was a broken creature. (How few know what it means to be broken—to sink under a tremendous and overwhelming calamity! And yet who but they can understandingly sympathize with the afflicted?) As for my friends, I did not give them the occasion to desert me; I deserted them. For the second time in my career I tore myself up by the roots. I lived the nomad’s life, in the usual European haunts of the nomad. And in five years I did not make a single new friend, scarcely an acquaintance. I lived in myself and on myself, nursing grief, nursing a rancour against fate, nursing an involuntary shame.... You know, the scandal of which I had been the centre was appalling; it touched the extreme. It must have nearly killed the excellent Mrs. Sardis. I did not dare to produce another novel. But after a year or so I turned to poetry, and I must admit that my poetry was accepted. But it was not enough to prevent me from withering—from shrivelling. I lost ground, and I was still losing it. I was becoming sinister, warped, peculiar, capricious, unaccountable. I guessed it then; I see it clearly now.
The house of the odious concierge was in a small, shabby street off the Boulevard du Montparnasse. I looked in vain for a cab. Even on the wide, straight, gas-lit boulevard there was not a cab, and I wondered why I had been so foolish as to dismiss the one in which I had arrived. The great, glittering electric cars floated horizontally along in swift succession, but they meant nothing to me; I knew not whence they came nor whither they went. I doubt if I had ever been in a tram-car. Without a cab I was as helpless and as timid as a young girl, I who was thirty-one, and had travelled and lived and suffered! Never had I been alone in the streets of a large city at night. And the September night was sultry and forbidding. I was afraid—I was afraid of the men who passed me, staring at me. One man spoke to me, and I literally shook with fear as I hastened on. What would I have given to have had the once faithful Yvonne by my side! Presently I came to the crossing of the Boulevard Raspail, and this boulevard, equally long, uncharitable, and mournful with the other, endless, stretching to infinity, filled me with horror. Yes, with the horror of solitude in a vast city. Oh, you solitary, you who have felt that horror descending upon you, desolating, clutching, and chilling the heart, you will comprehend me!