“You know?” she asked.
Jeanne only nodded her head in reply.
“Child, I am dying, forgive me.”
But Jeanne moved away from the bed without answering the appeal.
No sooner had the doctor pronounced life to be extinct than she felt a strange anxiety. In her great desire to atone in some way for her past harshness, the girl resolved that, no matter what befell her, she would do her best to hide the truth from her father.
That night she entered the room where the dead woman lay, and ransacked every box and drawer until she found the letters she was seeking. They were at the bottom of her mother’s jewel-case. Quickly she took possession of them; but just as she was replacing the case in its accustomed place, her father came in, having heard her moving about. She could offer no explanation of her presence, and had to listen in silence to his bitter accusation: “Are you so crazy about trinkets that you cannot wait until your poor mother is laid in her grave?”
In the course of that year one of the chemist’s apprentices seduced her. But she laughed in his face when he spoke of marriage. Later on she ran away with a commercial traveller, and neither threats nor persuasion would induce her to return home.
After this, more than once she sought in some fleeting connection a happiness which never came to her. The only pleasure she got out of her adventures was the power of dressing well. When at last she saw that she was not made for this disorderly life, she obtained a situation in a German family travelling to the south of Europe.
There she remained until homesickness drove her back to Denmark. Her complete lack of ambition accounts for her being contented in this modest situation.
She never made any inquiries about her father, and only knows that he left his money to other people, which does not distress her in the least. Her sole reason for going on living is that she shrinks from seeking death voluntarily.
I wonder if there exists a man who could save her? A man who could make her forget the bitterness of the past? She assures me I am the only human being who has ever attracted her. If I were a man she would be devoted to me and sacrifice everything for my sake.
It is a strange case. But I am very sorry for the girl. I have never come across such a peculiar mixture of coldness and ardour.
When she had finished her story she went away very quietly. And I am convinced that to-morrow things will go on just as before. Neither of us will make any further allusion to the fog, nor to all that followed it.
I am driven mad by all this singing and playing! One would think the steamboats were driven by the force of song, and that atrocious orchestras were a new kind of motive power. From morning till night there is no cessation from patriotic choruses and folk-songs.