The German Classics of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Volume 12 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 626 pages of information about The German Classics of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Volume 12.
they ran in the opposite direction, beginning with conviction as to his rights and his duty and ending in doubt.  “Guilt, if it is anything at all, is not limited by time and place and cannot pass away in a night.  Guilt requires expiation; there is some sense in that.  Limitation, on the other hand, only half satisfies; it is weak, or at least it is prosaic.”  He found comfort in this thought and said to himself over and over that what had happened was inevitable.  But the moment he reached this conclusion he rejected it.  “There must be a limitation; limitation is the only sensible solution.  Whether or not it is prosaic is immaterial.  What is sensible is usually prosaic.  I am now forty-five.  If I had found the letters twenty-five years later I should have been seventy.  Then Wuellersdorf would have said:  ‘Innstetten, don’t be a fool.’  And if Wuellersdorf didn’t say it, Buddenbrook would, and if he didn’t, either, I myself should.  That is clear.  When we carry a thing to extremes we carry it too far and make ourselves ridiculous.  No doubt about it.  But where does it begin?  Where is the limit?  Within ten years a duel is required and we call it an affair of honor.  After eleven years, or perhaps ten and a half, we call it nonsense.  The limit, the limit.  Where is it?  Was it reached?  Was it passed?  When I recall his last look, resigned and yet smiling in his misery, that look said:  ’Innstetten, this is stickling for principle.  You might have spared me this, and yourself, too.’  Perhaps he was right.  I hear some such voice in my soul.  Now if I had been full of deadly hatred, if a deep feeling of revenge had found a place in my heart—­Revenge is not a thing of beauty, but a human trait and has naturally a human right to exist.  But this affair was all for the sake of an idea, a conception, was artificial, half comedy.  And now I must continue this comedy, must send Effi away and ruin her, and myself, too—­I ought to have burned the letters, and the world should never have been permitted to hear about them.  And then when she came, free from suspicion, I ought to have said to her:  ’Here is your place,’ and ought to have parted from her inwardly, not before the eyes of the world.  There are so many marriages that are not marriages.  Then happiness would have been gone, but I should not have had the eye staring at me with its searching look and its mild, though mute, accusation.”

Shortly before ten o’clock Innstetten alighted in front of his residence.  He climbed the stairs and rang the bell.  Johanna came and opened the door.

“How is Annie?”

“Very well, your Lordship.  She is not yet asleep—­If your Lordship—­”

“No, no, it would merely excite her.  It would be better to wait till morning to see her.  Bring me a glass of tea, Johanna.  Who has been here?”

“Nobody but the doctor.”

Innstetten was again alone.  He walked to and fro as he loved to do.  “They know all about it.  Roswitha is stupid, but Johanna is a clever person.  If they don’t know accurate details, they have made up a story to suit themselves and so they know anyhow.  It is remarkable how many things become indications and the basis for tales, as though the whole world had been present.”

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The German Classics of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Volume 12 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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