A little way apart from each other—also as in the old days.
[Moving nearer.] It had to be so, then.
[Decisively.] There had to be a distance between us—–
Was it absolutely necessary, Arnold?
[Continuing.] Do you remember what you answered when I asked if you would go with me out into the wide world?
I held up three fingers in the air and swore that I would go with you to the world’s end and to the end of life. And that I would serve you in all things—–
As the model for my art—–
—in frank, utter nakedness—–
[With emotion.] And you did serve me, Irene—so bravely—so gladly and ungrudgingly.
Yes, with all the pulsing blood of my youth, I served you!
[Nodding, with a look of gratitude.] That you have every right to say.
I fell down at your feet and served you, Arnold! [Holding her clenched hand towards him.] But you, you,—you—!
[Defensively.] I never did you any wrong! Never, Irene!
Yes, you did! You did wrong to my innermost, inborn nature—–
[Starting back.] I—!
Yes, you! I exposed myself wholly and unreservedly to your gaze— [More softly.] And never once did you touch me.
Irene, did you not understand that many a time I was almost beside myself under the spell of all your loveliness?
[Continuing undisturbed.] And yet—if you had touched me, I think I should have killed you on the spot. For I had a sharp needle always upon me—hidden in my hair— [Strokes her forehead meditatively.] But after all—after all—that you could—–