That my feeling for you should have died, is quite as incomprehensible to me as to you. No other man has ever claimed a corner of my heart. In a word, having considered the question all round, I am suffering simply from a nervous malady—alas! it is incurable!
MY DEAR MALTHE,
We two are friends, are we not, and I think we shall always remain so, even now that fate has severed our ways? If you feel that you have any good reason for being angry with me now, then, indeed, our friendship will be broken; for we shall have no further opportunity of becoming reconciled.
If at this important juncture I not only hid the truth from you, but deliberately misled you, it was not from any lack of confidence in you, or with the wish to be unfriendly. I beg you to believe this. The fact that I cannot even now explain to you my reasons for acting thus makes it all the more difficult to justify my conduct to you. Therefore you must be contented to take my word for it. Joergen Malthe, I would gladly confide in you, but it is impossible. Call it madness, or what you will, but I cannot allow any human being to penetrate my inner life.
You will not have forgotten that September evening last year, when I spoke to you for the first time about one of my friends who was going to separate from her husband, and who, through my intervention, asked you to draw the plan of a villa in which she might spend the rest of her days in solitude? You entered so completely into this idea of a solitary retreat that your plan was almost perfect. Every time we met last year we talked about the “White Villa,” as we called it, and it pleased us to share this little secret together. Nor were you less interested in the interior of the house; in making sketches for the furniture, and arranging the decorations. You took a real delight in this task, although you were annoyed that you had no personal knowledge of your client. You remember that I said to you sometimes in joke: “Plan it as though it were for me”; and I cannot forget what you replied one day: “I hate the idea of a stranger living in the house which I planned with you always in my mind.”
Judge for yourself, Malthe, how painful it was to leave you in error. But I could not speak out then, for I had to consider my husband. For this reason I avoided meeting you during the summer; I found it impossible to keep up the deception when we were face to face.
It is I—I myself—who will live in the “White Villa.” I shall live there quite alone.
It is useless for me to say, “Do not be angry.” You would not be what you are if you were not annoyed about it.
You are young, life lies before you. I am old. In a very few years I shall be so old that you will not be able to realise that there was a time when I was “the one woman in the world” for you. I am not harping on your youth in order to vex you—your youth that you hate for my sake! I know that you are not fickle; but I know, too, that the laws of life and the march of time are alike inexorable.