I will undress in the house and wrap myself in my dressing-gown. Then I can slip through the pine-trees unseen....
* * * * *
It was glorious, glorious! What do I want a bathing-hut for? I go into the sea straight from my own garden, and the sand is soft and firm to my feet like the pine-needles under the trees.
The sea is phosphorescent; I seemed to be dipping my arms in liquid silver. I longed to splash about and make sparkles all around me. But I was very cautious. I swam only as far as the stakes to which the fishermen fasten their nets. The moon seemed to be suspended just over my head.
I thought of Malthe.
Ah, for one night! Just one night!
* * * * *
Jeanne has given me warning. I asked her why she wished to leave. She only shook her head and made no answer. She was very pale; I did not like to force her to speak.
It will be very difficult to replace her. On the other hand, how can I keep her if she has made up her mind to go? Wages are no attraction to her. If I only knew what she wanted. I have not inquired where she is going.
* * * * *
Ah, now I understand! It is the restlessness of the senses. She wants more life than she can get on this island. She knows I see through her, and casts her eyes downward when I look at her.
You are the only man I ever loved. And now, by means of this letter, I am digging a fathomless pit between us. I am not the woman you thought me; and my true self you could never love.
I am like a criminal who has had recourse to every deceit to avoid confession, but whose strength gives way at last under the pressure of threats and torture, and who finds unspeakable relief in declaring his guilt.
Joergen Malthe, I have loved you for the last ten years; as long, in fact, as you have loved me. I lied to you when I denied it; but my heart has been faithful all through.
Had I remained any longer in Richard’s house, I should have come to you one day and asked you to let me be your mistress. Not your wife. Do not contradict me. I am the stronger and wiser of the two.
To escape from this risk I ran away. I fled from my love—I fled, too, from my age. I am now forty-three, you know it well, and you are only thirty-five.
By this voluntary renunciation, I hoped to escape the curse that advancing age brings to most women. Alas! This year has taught me that we can neither deceive nor escape our destiny, since we carry it in our hearts and temperaments.
Here I am, and here I shall remain, until I have grown to be quite an old woman. Therefore, it is very foolish of me to pour out this confession to you, for it cannot be otherwise than painful reading. But I shall have no peace of mind until it is done.