Hela stood at the window and cooled her hot forehead against the glass.
It was raining outside. It rained constantly.
She thought of nothing. It was a condition of crazy, incoherent brooding from which fear occasionally arose in her.
Oh, she knew it.
It was dusk, it became dark so quickly.
She lit the lamp, sat down in the easy chair and covered her face with both hands.
She sat like that for a long time. Suddenly, there was a knock.
Ostap entered. He seemed confused, looked around shyly and sat down without saying a word.
She stood up and waited.
He looked sheepishly at her.
“You’re probably waiting for me. It was hard for me to decide to come. I have a terrible headache. What is it, what do you want to tell me? Dear God, you look so serious. What is it?”
“Are you ill?” she asked.
“No, I’m just drunk. I’m always drunk now,” muttered Ostap.
“Can you at least understand what I’m saying to you?”
“Just say it, say it!”
“Then listen, I never want to see you again. I have decided to break with you.”
He jumped up and looked at her stupidly.
“You must not interrupt me, or I will go without saying another word. By the way, you lie when you say you are drunk. You are not drunk at all.”
“Then are you sick?”
“No, no! Just talk, talk!”
She became even more serious.
“You laugh! You believe I’m talking in a fit of my usual temper. That’s not it. I’ve never been so serious. I’m serious now, very serious . . .”
She paused, as if she had no strength to continue speaking.
“Oh, I am so serious.” She repeated absently.
She pulled herself together and sat down next to him.
“Ostap, I lied to you when I told you that I could be yours. Your love was so strong; I was intoxicated by your love. I was so happy. You are the first one that loves me, but I don’t love you.”
“You don’t love me?”
“No! I believed that with you I could forget everything—forget everything . . . but you are not strong enough. I must have a strong and fearful strength around me, otherwise I fall . . . Oh, there is not a man that is strong enough for me. I must feel a strength around me that I can collapse into like a tiny dot. A strength that can envelope me a thousand fold, so that I can forget myself and feel like a helpless infant and become a child again . . . You are not such a man. You are weak yourself, and you’re always afraid. You have much more fear than I do. . . .”
She became silent.
He seized her wrist, squeezed it painfully and said hoarsely:
“Oh, let me go, let me go . . . that hurts . . . I must be carried away, I must feel that I have been torn apart from myself, then I feel myself as a child again and forget the disgust . . . But even you have disgust. Much disgust for you and for me . . .”
“I love you!” said Ostap flatly. “I have never had disgust for you.”
“You lie! You lie! You often have disgust for me. Very often. Should I tell you when you have felt it? Do you remember when we stood on the platform of the railway station? A man was kissing a girl that was looking around shyly on all sides. She had so much fear, so much love and so much pain, because he had to go away. Weren’t you thinking: why doesn’t she just once accompany her lover, when he has to leave? Fearful that she would not be missed, and saddened to death, because he had to go away! Haven’t you thought that of me? Do you believe I haven’t noticed how it pains you to travel together with me? The slightest little thing hurts you. Everything about me, around me hurts you. Every house, every street, every memory is a torment to you. Everywhere you look, you are accompanied by the thought: Oh, is this it, the house, where she became a woman? Is this where she sat with him and discussed that night of passion? . . . You see, I can’t endure it. I have such a boundless disgust of my past . . . I don’t want to be constantly reminded of it. No! I don’t want that! . . . Oh, I’m so tired!”
She let her hands fall limply.
“You cling to me,” she said after a long pause. “You have so much fear. You believe you can forget your fear in love. I thought I could take your hands and release my disgust into your fear. But I don’t have the strength to do it . . .”
She became silent again; her eyes were filled with tears.
Ostap tried to speak, but only a hoarse sound came out.
She looked at him quizzically.
His eyes widened in sick fear.
“Don’t abandon me! Don’t abandon me . . . Without you I will fall apart. Ever since I met you here . . . since I loved you, it has been better for me . . . My love has made me strong . . . I don’t have the terrible dreams any more . . .”
He took her hands.
“You have given me hope . . . I have clung solidly to it! . . . I love you. I will forget everything. I will become the strength and the power which you need, which you desire . . .”
He cried like a child.
She became impatient.
“No, no! You can’t become strong! Don’t deceive yourself! Don’t make the parting so difficult for me. You’ve already forgotten what you were thinking about five minutes ago . . . Isn’t it really clear to you that I was the mistress of Gordon and earlier still the mistress of a ridiculous student? Here, yes here in this city! If you want to go with me, I will show you the house, in which I spent long hours of love.”
She laughed scornfully.
Can’t you imagine the disgust; don’t you feel it, to take a woman, whose body has already been entwined in the hands of another? Ha, ha, ha . . . Only love needy boys do not suffer in such relationships. . . . I don’t want to see you! I never want to see you again! I don’t love you!”
Ostap seemed to lose his balance. He grabbed her hands once more and pressed them forcefully.
“At least let me see you, my queen! Heh, heh . . . You are my queen. I feel so strong with you. Shall I bring him to you, you know, him, the king? Shall I fetch Gordon for you? Only don’t chase me away! I will fetch him for you immediately . . .”
He laughed insanely . . .
“I know a magic word! He will come immediately! His love of power is greater than his love for you . . .”
She stamped her foot.
“I don’t want him! I hate him!”
“Because you love him, my queen. I love him too . . . We both want to love him. We both want to be small and happy in his power, ha, ha, ha . . . and have no fear . . . Ha, ha, ha . . . I have so much fear . . .”
She stood up.
“Go! We are finished! It is my final wish! I don’t want to see you or him. I want to be alone. Gordon is a liar. He loves no one. He tries to imagine that he loves, but he doesn’t.”
“Yes, you, you love him, you do, because you . . . because you . . .”
He stood up and shook . . .
“Listen Hela . . . Let me at least . . . Yes, one thing . . . Just let me come to see you now and then . . .”
“No! I don’t want to! You dirty me with every touch, with your eyes; with the tone of your voice . . . You cling to me with the back ground thought that I have been easy, because I have already belonged to this one and that one. I am disgusted at all of you! Now go! Go!”
He smiled insanely.
She started. The wild expression of fear and despair in his face paralyzed her.
“What are you afraid of?” She whispered softly and involuntarily backed away.
He walked up to her.
“What are you afraid of?” She repeated.
Suddenly he looked at her clearly and seriously.
“Come here, I will tell you what it is. Come, sit here next to me.”
He bent over her . . .
“I am afraid, be—because . . .”
In the same instant he seized her head and bit her on the throat.
She screamed with pain.
He came back to his senses. He recoiled back and remained standing there with drooping arms.
A long time passed. She shook and trembled and fearfully pressed into a corner of the room.
He kept looking at her with an insane smile. Large tears constantly rolled down his cheeks, otherwise not a muscle moved in his face.
Finally he appeared to regain courage. He turned to the window, and stood there for a long time motionless, staring out. Then he slowly turned back around toward her.
“I have really frightened you,” he said indifferently. “From time to time I have attacks like that . . . Now yes . . . I will naturally go . . .”
He sat down but stood up again.
“But tell me, shall I really not fetch Gordon?”
He looked at her for a long time, and then he smiled.
“Well then, Live Well! . . . You are right . . . I have suffered very much in this . . . in . . . in—well then . . .”
He touched her hand with his fingertips.
At the door he bumped into Pola Wronska.
Outside he had to pull himself together, to keep from falling. After a while he began to go down the stairs, but his strength vanished.
He sat down on the steps, and everything began to spin around him, the sky was a big fire, yellow lightning struck the sun . . .
He lost consciousness.