Now, perhaps, when he did his duty here; took upon himself the burden of his fault towards her, himself, and others—and bore it like a man; then perhaps he would be able to utilise all his powers. That was what his mother had done, and she had succeeded.
But with the thought of his mother came the thought of Helene, of his dream. It was flying from him like a bird of passage from the autumn. He lay there and felt as though he could never get up again.
From amid the turmoil of the last summer there came to his recollection two individuals, in whom he reposed entire confidence: a young man and his wife. He went to see them the same evening and laid the facts honestly before them, for now, at all events, he was honest. The conclusive proof of being so is to be able to tell everything about oneself as he did now.
They heard him with dismay, but their advice was remarkable. He ought to wait and see if she were enceinte.
This aroused his spirit of contradiction. There was no doubt about it, for she was perfectly truthful. But she might be mistaken; she ought to make quite sure. This suggestion, too, shocked him; but he agreed that she should come and talk things over with them. They knew her.
She came the next day. They said to her, what they could not very well say to Rafael, that she would ruin him. The wife especially did not spare her. A highly gifted young man like Rafael Kaas, with such excellent prospects in every way, must not, when little more than twenty, burden himself with a middle-aged wife and a number of children. He was far from rich, he had told her so himself; his life would be that of a beast of burden, and that too, before he had learned to bear the yoke. If he had to work, to feed so many people, he might strain himself to the uttermost, he would still remain mediocre. They would both suffer under this, be disappointed and discontented. He must not pay so heavy a price for an indiscretion for which she was ten times more to blame than he. What did she imagine people would say? He who was so popular, so sought after. They would fall upon her like rooks at a rooks’ parliament and pick her to pieces. They would, without exception, believe the worst.
The husband asked her if she were quite sure that she was enceinte: she ought to make quite certain.
Angelika Nazel reddened, and answered, half scornful, half laughing, that she ought to know.
“Yes,” he retorted, “many people have said that—who were mistaken. If it is understood that you are to be married on account of your condition, and it should afterwards turn out that you were mistaken, what do you suppose that people will say? for of course it will get about.”
She reddened again and sprang to her feet. “They can say what they please.” After a pause she added: “But God knows I do not wish to make him unhappy.”
To conceal her emotion she turned away from them, but the wife would not give up. She suggested that Angelika should write to Rafael without further delay, to set him free and let him return home to his mother; there they would be able to arrange matters. Angelika was so capable that she could earn a living anywhere. Rafael too ought to help her.