He understood it now. But he put the things into his trunk and fastened it, took a few steps about the room, as if he were alone, with such an expression of face that she herself saw that the thing was impossible.
“Do you not believe,” she said quietly, “that I would relieve you of all cares, so that you could go on with your own work? Have you not seen that I can manage your mother?” She paused a moment, then added: “Hellebergene—I know the place. The Dean is a relation of mine. I have been there; that would be something that I could take charge of; do you not think so? And the cement quarries,” she added; “I have a turn for business: it should be no trouble to you.” She said this in an undertone. She had a slight lisp, which gave her an air of helplessness. “Don’t go away, to-day, at any rate. Think it over,” she added, weeping bitterly again.
He felt that he ought to comfort her.
She came towards him, and throwing her arms round him, she clung to him in her despair and eagerness. “Don’t go, don’t go!” She felt that he was yielding. “Never,” she whispered, “since I have been a widow have I given myself to any one but you; and so judge for yourself.” She laid her head on his shoulder and sobbed bitterly.
“It has come upon me so suddenly,” he said; “I cannot—”
“Then take time,” she interrupted in a whisper, and took a hasty kiss. “Oh, Rafael!” She twined her arms round him: her touch thrilled through him—
Some one knocked at the door: they started away from each other. It was the man who had come for the luggage. Rafael flushed crimson. “I shall not go till to-morrow,” he said.
When the man had left the room Angelika sprang towards Rafael. She thanked and kissed him. Oh, how she beamed with delight and exultation! She was like a girl of twenty, or rather like a young man, for there was something masculine in her manner as she left him.
But the light and fire were no sooner withdrawn than his spirits fell. A little later he lay at full length on the sofa, as though in a grave. He felt as though he could never get up from it again. What was his life now? For there is a dream in every life which is its soul, and when the dream is gone the life appears a corpse.
This, then, was the fulfilment of his forebodings. Hither the ravens had followed the wild beast which dwelt in him. It would on longer play and amuse him, but strike its claws into him in earnest, overthrow him, and lap his fresh-spilt blood.
But it was none the less certain that if he left her she would be ruined, she and her child. Then no one would consider him as an honourable man, least of all himself.
During his last sojourn in France, when he could not settle down to a great work which was constantly dawning before him, he had thought to himself—You have taken life too lightly. Nothing great ever comes to him who does so.