Fiction > Harvard Classics > Theodor Fontane > Trials and Tribulations > Chapter XV
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Theodor Fontane (1819–1898).  Trials and Tribulations.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction.  1917.
  
Chapter XV
  
BOTHO wanted to go to Lena at once, and when he felt that he had not strength enough for that, he wanted at least to write. But even that was too much for him. “I cannot do it, not to-day.” And so he let the day go by and waited until the next morning. Then he wrote very briefly.
        “DEAR LENA:
  “Things are turning out, just as you told me the day before yesterday. We must part. And we must part forever. I have had letters from home which compel me; it must be, and since it must be, let it be quickly.… Ah, I wish these days lay behind us. I will say no more, not even how my heart aches.… It was a beautiful time, though so brief, and I shall never forget anything that has been. Towards nine I shall come to you, not earlier, for it must not last long. Auf Wiedersehen! only this once more, auf Wiedersehen!
Your own,
“B. v. R.”
   1
  And so he came. Lena was standing at the gate and received him as usual; not the slightest trace of reproach or even of painful renunciation was to be seen in her face. She took his arm and so they walked along the front garden path.   2
  “It is right that you have come … I am happy because you are here. And you must be happy too.”   3
  With these words they reached the house, and Botho started to go into the large front room as usual. But Lena led him further along and said: “No. Frau Dörr is in there.”   4
  “And is she still angry with us?”   5
  “Oh, no. I comforted her. But what do we want with her to-day? Come, it is such a beautiful evening and we want to be alone.”   6
  Botho agreed, and so they went along the passage and across the yard to the garden. Sultan did not stir and only blinked at the two, as they followed the long middle path and then went over to the bench that stood between the raspberry bushes.   7
  They sat down on the bench. It was very still, only they could hear a chirping from the fields beyond and the moon was high above them.   8
  She leaned against him and said quietly and affectionately: “And so this is the last time that I shall hold your hand in mine?”   9
  “Yes, Lena. Can you forgive me?”  10
  “How can you always ask that? What have I to forgive?”  11
  “That I make your heart ache.”  12
  “Yes, it aches. That is true.”  13
  And she was silent again and looked up at the dim stars that were appearing in the sky.  14
  “What are you thinking of, Lena?”  15
  “How beautiful it would be if I were up there.”  16
  “Do not speak so. You ought not to wish your life to be over; it is only a step from such a wish …”  17
  She smiled. “No, not that. I am not like the girl who ran and threw herself into the well, because her sweetheart danced with some one else. Do you remember when you told me about that?”  18
  “But what do you mean then? It does not seem like you to say such a thing, just for the sake of talking.”  19
  “No, I meant it seriously. And really” (she pointed up to the sky), “I should be glad to be there. Then I should be at peace. But I can wait.… And now come, let us walk out in the fields. I brought no wrap and I find it cold sitting still.”  20
  And so they followed the same path through the fields that had led them the other time as far as the first houses of Wilmersdorf. The tower was plainly visible under the bright starry sky while a thin mist was drifting over the meadow land.  21
  “Do you remember,” said Botho, “how we took this same walk with Frau Dörr?”  22
  She nodded. “That is why I proposed to come here; I was not chilly, or scarcely at all. Ah, that was such a beautiful day and I have never been so gay and happy, either before or afterwards. Even now my heart laughs, when I think how we walked along singing, ‘Do you remember.’ Yes, memory means so much—it means everything. And I have that and I can keep it and nothing can ever take it away from me. And I can feel plainly how it will lighten my heart.”  23
  He embraced her. “You are so good.”  24
  But Lena went on quietly: “And I will not let it pass without telling you all about it, how it is that my heart is so light. Really it is just the same thing that I told you before, the day before yesterday, when we were in the country on our half-spoiled excursion, and afterwards when we were saying good-bye. I always saw this coming, even from the beginning, and nothing has happened but what had to happen. If one has had a beautiful dream, one should thank the Lord for it, and not lament that the dream ends and reality begins again. It is hard now, but all will be forgotten or will seem pleasant again. And some day you will be happy again and perhaps I shall too.”  25
  “Do you believe so? And if not? What then?”  26
  “Then we must live without happiness.”  27
  “Ah, Lena, you say that as if happiness were nothing. But it is something, and that is what distresses me, and it seems to me as if I had done you an injustice.”  28
  “I absolve you from that. You have done me no injustice, you did not lead me astray and you made me no promise. Everything was my own free choice. I loved you with all my heart. That was my fate, and if it was a sin, then it was my sin, and more than that, a sin in which I rejoice with all my heart, as I have told you again and again, because it was my joy. If I must pay for it, I will pay gladly. You have not injured, hurt, or damaged anything, unless perhaps what men call propriety and good morals. Shall I distress myself about that? No. Everything will come right again, and that too. And now come, let us turn back. See how the mist is rising; I think Frau Dörr must have gone home by this time and we shall find my good old mother alone. She knows everything, and all day long she has only said the one same thing.”  29
  “And that was?”  30
  “That all was for the best.”  31
  Frau Nimptsch was alone, as Botho and Lena came in. The room was still and dusky and only the firelight flickered amongst the great shadows that lay across the room. The goldfinch was already asleep in his cage, and there was not a sound but now and then the hissing of the boiling water.  32
  “Good evening, Mutterchen,” said Botho.  33
  The old woman returned his greeting and was going to rise from her footstool to draw up the big armchair. But Botho would not allow it and said: “No, Mutterchen, I will sit in my old place.”  34
  And he pushed the wooden stool up to the fire.  35
  There was a short pause; but soon he began again: “I have come to-day to bid good-bye and to thank you for all the loving-kindness that I have enjoyed here so long. Yes, I thank you from my heart. I was so happy and always loved to be here. But now I must leave you, and now I can only say that perhaps it is better so.”  36
  The old woman did not speak but nodded as if in agreement.  37
  “But I shall not be gone out of the world,” Botho went on, “and I shall not forget you. And now give me your hand. That is right. And now good-night.”  38
  Hereupon he rose quickly and walked to the door, while Lena clung to his arm. And so they walked as far as the garden gate, without another word being spoken. But then Lena said: “Quick now, Botho. My strength will not hold out any longer; these two days have really been too much. Farewell, my dearest, and may you be as happy as you deserve to be, and as happy as you have made me. Then you will be happy. And we will not talk about the rest, it is not worth while. There, there.”  39
  And she kissed him again and again and then closed the gate. As he stood on the other side of the street, he seemed, when he saw Lena, as if he must turn back for one more word, for one more kiss. But she made an urgent gesture of refusal. And so he walked on down the street, while she, leaning on the gatepost, with her head supported on her arm, gazed after him with wide eyes.  40
  So she stood for a long time until his footsteps had died away in the silence of the night.  41

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