Since all are suffering from the same trouble, they might help each other to make life, not only endurable, but harmonious. We are all more or less mad then, although we struggle to make others think us sane.
I say “we,” though I am not of their number—in age, perhaps, but not in temperament. Nevertheless I hear the stealthy footsteps of the approaching years. By good fortune, or calculation, I have preserved my youthful appearance, but it has cost me dear to economise my emotions.
Old age, in truth, is only a goal to be foreseen. A mountain to be climbed; a peak from which to see life from every side—provided we have not been blinded by snowfalls on the way. I do not fear old age; only the hard ascent to it has terrors for me. The day, the hour, when we realise that something has gone from our lives; when the cry of our heart provokes laughter in others!
To all of us women comes a time in life when we believe we can conquer or deceive time. But soon we learn how unequal is the struggle. We all come to it in the end.
Then we grow anxious. Anxious at the coming of day; still more anxious at the coming of night. We deck ourselves out at night as though in this way we could put our anxiety to flight.
We are careful about our food and our rest; we watch that our smiles leave no wrinkles.... Yet never a word of our secret terror do we whisper aloud. We keep silence or we lie. Sometimes from pride, sometimes from shame.
Hitherto nobody has ever proclaimed this great truth: that as they grow older—when the summer comes and the days lengthen—women become more and more women. Their feminality goes on ripening into the depths of winter.
Yet the world compels them to steer a false course. Their youth only counts so long as their complexions remain clear and their figures slim. Otherwise they are exposed to cruel mockery. A woman who tries late in life to make good her claim to existence, is regarded with contempt. For her there is neither shelter nor sympathy.
It sometimes happens that a winter gale strips all the leaves from a tree in a single night. When does a woman grow old in body and soul in one swift and merciful moment? From our birth we are accursed.
I blame no one for my failure in life. It was in my own hands. If I could live it through again from the start, it is more than probable I should waste the years for a second time.
At this hour there will be festivities in the Old Market Place. Richard’s last letter touched me profoundly; something within me went out toward his honest nature....
What is the use of all these falsehoods? I long for an embrace. Is that shocking? We women are so wrapped in deceit that we feel ashamed of confessing such things. Yet it is true, I miss Richard. Not the husband or companion, but the lover.
What use in trying to soothe my senses by walking for hours through the silent woods.