Read PART III: CHAPTER XI of The Home , free online book, by Fredrika Bremer, on ReadCentral.com.

A RELAPSE.

Whilst May wrote its romance in leaves and life; whilst Jacobi and Louise wrote many sweet chapters of theirs in kisses; whilst all the house was in motion on account of the marriage, and joy and mirth sprang up to life like butterflies in the spring sun, one glance was ever darker, one cheek ever paler, and that was Eva’s.

People say commonly that love is a game for the man, and a life’s-business for the woman. If there be truth in this, it may arise from this cause, that practical life makes commonly too great a demand on the thoughts and activity of the man for him to have much time to spend on love, whilst on the contrary the woman is too much occupied with herself to have the power of withdrawing herself from the pangs of love (may the Chamberlain’s lady forgive us talking so much about man and woman! It has not been our lot here in the world to scour either a room or a kettle, though, to speak the truth, we do not consider ourselves incapable of so doing). Eva found nothing in her peaceful home which was powerful enough to abstract her from the thoughts and feelings which for so long had been the dearest to her heart. The warm breezes of spring, so full of love, fanned up that glimmering fire; so did also that innocent life of the betrothed, so full of cordiality and happiness; so did also a yet more poisonous wind. One piece of news which this spring brought was the betrothal of Major R. with one of the beauties of the capital, a former rival of Eva news which caused a deep wound to her heart. She wished to conceal, she wished to veil what was yet remaining of a love which no one had favoured, and over which she could not now do other than blush; she had determined never again to burden and grieve her family with her weakness, her sorrows; she would not disturb the peace, the cheerfulness, which now again began to reign in the family after the misfortunes which had shaken it; but under the endeavour to bear her burden alone, her not strong spirit gave way. She withdrew more and more from the family circle; became ever more silent and reserved; sought for solitude, and was unwilling to have her solitude disturbed by any one. She even was reserved before Leonore; although she, like a good angel, stood by her side, resting her soft eyes upon her with a tender disquiet, endeavouring to remove from her every annoyance, taking upon herself every painful occupation, and evincing towards her all that anxious care which a mother shows to a sick child. Eva permitted all this, and was daily more and more consumed by her untold mental sufferings. The engrossing cares which at this time occupied the family, prevented almost every one from paying attention to Eva’s state of mind, and thus she was often left to herself.

For several of the last evenings Eva had gone down into her own chamber directly after tea for in their present dwelling some of the daughters occupied the ground-floor and on the plea of headache had excused herself from again returning to her family during the evening. It was a principle of the parents never to make use of any other means of compulsion with their children, now that they were grown up, than love, be it in great things or in small. But then love had a great power in this family; and as the daughters knew that it was the highest delight of their father to see them all round him in an evening, it became a principle with them neither to let temper nor any other unnecessary cause keep them away. As now, however, this was the third evening on which Eva had been absent, the father became uneasy, and the mother went down to her, whilst the rest of the family and some friends who were with them were performing a little concert together. But Eva was not to be found in her chamber, and the mother was hastening back again, full of disquiet, when she met Ulla, who was going to make the beds.

“Where is Eva?” asked she, with apparent indifference.

Ulla started, was red and then pale, and answered hesitatingly, “She is gone out I fancy.”

“Where is she gone?” asked Elise, suddenly uneasy.

“I fancy to the grave of the young master,” returned Ulla.

“To the grave? so late! Has she gone there for several evenings?” inquired the mother.

“This is now the third evening,” said Ulla: “ah, best gracious lady, it goes really to my heart it is not justly right there!”

“What is not justly right, Ulla?”

“That Mamselle Eva goes out to the grave so late, and does not come back again till it has struck ten, and that she will be so much alone,” returned Ulla. “Yesterday Mamselle Leonore even cried, and begged of her not to go, or to allow her to go with her. But Mamselle Eva would not let her, but said she would not go, and that Mamselle Leonore should go up-stairs, and leave her alone; but as soon as Mamselle Leonore had left her she went out for all that, with only a thin kerchief over her head. And this evening she is gone out also. Ah! it must be a great grief which consumes her, for she gets paler every day!”

Greatly disturbed by what she had heard, Elise hastened to seek her husband. She found him deeply engaged over his books and papers, but he left all the moment he saw the troubled countenance of his wife. She related to him what she had heard from Ulla, and informed him that it was her intention to go now immediately to the churchyard.

“I will go with you,” said the Judge, “only tell Louise to defer supper for us till we come back; I fancy nobody will miss us, they are so occupied by their music.”

No sooner said than done. The husband and wife went out together; it was half-past nine in the middle of May, but the air was cold, and a damp mist fell.

“Good heavens!” said the Judge softly, “she’ll get her death of cold if she stops in the churchyard so late, and in air like this!”

As they approached the churchyard, they saw that a female form passed hastily through the gate. It was not Eva, for she sat on the grave of her brother! she sat there immovably upon the earth, and resembled a ghost. The churchyard was, with this exception, deserted. The figure which had entered before them, softly approached the grave, and remained standing at the distance of a few paces.

“Eva!” said a beseeching mournful voice; it was Leonore. The parents remained standing behind some thick-leaved fir-trees. On precisely the same spot had the father stood once before, and listened to a conversation of a very different kind.

“Eva!” repeated Leonore, with an expression of the most heartfelt tenderness.

“What do you want with me, Leonore?” asked Eva impatiently, but without moving. “I have already prayed you to let me alone.”

“Ah! I cannot leave you, dear Eva,” replied her sister, “why do you sit here on the ground, on this cold, wet evening? Oh, come home, come home with me!”

“Do you go home, Leonore! this air is not proper for you! Go home to the happy, and be merry, with them,” returned Eva.

“Do you not remember,” tenderly pleaded Leonore, “how I once, many years ago, was sick both in body and mind? Do you know who it was then that left the gay in order to comfort me? I prayed her to leave me but she went not from me neither will I now go away from you.”

“Ah, go! leave me alone!” repeated Eva, “I stand now alone in the world!”

“Eva, you distress me!” said her sister, “you know that there is no one in this world that I love like you: I mourned so much when you left us; the house without you seemed empty, but I consoled myself with the thought that Eva will soon come back again. You came, and I was so joyful, for I believed that we should be so happy together. But I have seen since then of how little consequence I am to you! still I love you as much as ever, and if you think that I have not sympathised in your sorrows, that I have not wept with you and for you, you do me certainly injustice! Ah, Eva, many a night when you have believed perhaps that I lay in sweet sleep, have I sat at your door, and listened how you wept, and have wept for you, and prayed for you, but I did not dare to come in to you because I imagined your heart to be closed to me!” And so saying, Leonore wept bitterly.

“You are right, Leonore,” answered Eva, “much has become closed in me which once was opened. This feeling, this love for him oh, it has swallowed up my whole soul! For some time I believed I should be able to conquer it but now I believe so no longer ”

“Do you repent of your renunciation?” asked Leonore; “it was so noble of you! Would you yet be united to him!”

“No! no! the time for that is gone by,” said Eva. “I would rather die than that; but you see, Leonore, I loved him so I have tasted love, and have felt how rapturous, how divine life might be! Oh, Leonore, the bright sun-warm summer-day is not more unlike this misty evening hour, than the life which I lived for a season is unlike the future which now lies before me!”

“It seems so to you now, Eva you think so now,” answered her sister; “but let a little time pass over, and you will see that it will be quite otherwise; that the painful feelings will subside, and life will clear up itself before you. Think only how it has already afforded you pleasure to look up to heaven when the clouds separated themselves, and you said, ‘see how bright it will be! how beautiful the heaven is!’ and your blue eyes beamed with joy and peace, because it was so. Believe me, Eva, the good time will come again, in which you will thus look up to heaven, and feel thus joyful, and thus gay!”

“Never!” exclaimed Eva, weeping; “oh, never will that time return! Then I was innocent, and from that cause I saw heaven above me clear; now so much that is bad, so much that is impure has stained my soul stains it yet! Oh, Leonore, if you only knew all that I have felt for some time you would never love me again! Would you believe it that Louise’s innocent happiness has infused bitterness into my soul; that the gaiety which has again began to exist in the family has made me feel bitterness bitterness towards my own family my own beloved ones! Oh, I could detest myself! I have chastised myself with the severest words I have prayed with bitter tears, and yet ”

“Dear Eva, you must have patience with yourself,” said Leonore, “you will not ”

“Ah! I am already weary of myself of my life!” hastily interrupted Eva; “I am like some one who has already travelled far, who is already spent, but who must still go on, and can never come to his journey’s end. It seems to me as if I should be a burden to all who belong to me; and when I have seen you all so happy, so gay one with another, I have felt my heart and my head burn with bitterness; then have I been obliged to go out out into the cold evening dew, and I have longed to repose in the earth upon which it fell I have longed to be able to hide myself from every one deep, deep in the grave below!”

“But from me,” said Leonore, “you will not be able to hide yourself nor to go from me, since where you go there will I follow. Oh, what were life to me if you were to leave it in despair! You would not go alone to the grave, Eva! I would follow you there and if you will not allow that I sit by your side, I will seat myself on the churchyard wall, that the same evening damps which penetrate you may penetrate me also; that the same night wind which chills your bosom may chill mine; that I may be laid by your side and in the same grave with you! And willingly would I die for you, if you will not live for me, and for the many who love you so much! We will try all things to make you happier! God will help us; and the day will come in which all the bitter things of this time will seem like a dream, and when all the great and beautiful feelings, and all the agreeable impressions of life will again revive in you. You will again become innocent nay, become more, because virtue is a higher, a glorified innocence! Oh, Eva! if he whose dust reposes beneath us, if his spirit invisibly float around us if he who was better and purer than all of us, could make his voice audible to us at this moment, he would certainly join with me in the prayer ’Oh, Eva! live live for those who love thee! Mortal life, with all its anguish and its joy, is soon past and then it is so beautiful that our life should have caused joy to one another on earth it causes joy in heaven! The great Comforter of all affliction will not turn from thee only do not thou turn from Him! Have patience! tarry out thy time! Peace comes, comes certainly ’”

The words ceased; both sisters had clasped their arms around each other, and mingled their tears. Eva’s head rested on Leonore’s shoulder as she, after a long pause, spoke in a feeble voice:

“Say no more, Leonore; I will do what you wish. Take me make of me what you will I am too weak to sustain myself at this moment support me I will go with you you are my good angel!”

Other guardian angels approached just then, and clasped the sisters in a tender embrace. Conducted by them, Eva returned home. She was altogether submissive and affectionate, and besought earnestly for forgiveness from all. She was very much excited by the scenes which had just occurred, drank a composing draught which her mother administered, and then listened to Leonore, who read to her, as she lay in bed, till she fell asleep.

The Judge paced up and down his chamber uneasily that night, and spoke thus to his wife, who lay in bed:

“A journey to the baths, and that in company with you, would be quite the best thing for her. But I don’t know how I can now do without you; and more than that, where the money is to come from! We have had great losses, and see still great expenses before us: in the first place Louise’s marriage and then, without a little money in hand, we cannot let our girls go from home; and the rebuilding of our house. But we must borrow more money I see no other way. Eva must be saved; her mind must be enlivened and her body strengthened, let it cost what it may. I must see and borrow ”

“It is not necessary, Ernst,” said Elise; and the Judge, making a sudden pause, gazed at her with astonishment; whilst she, half raising herself in bed, looked at him with a countenance beaming with joy. “Come,” continued she, “and I will recall something to your memory which occurred fifteen years ago.”

“What sort of a history can that be?” said he, smiling gaily, whilst he seated himself on the bed, and took the hand which Elise extended to him.

“Five-and-twenty years ago,” began she.

“Five-and-twenty years!” interrupted he, “Heaven help me! you promised to go no farther back than fifteen.”

“Patience, my love! this is part the first of my story. Do you not remember, then,” said she, “how, five-and-twenty years ago, at the commencement of our married life, you made plans for a journey into the beautiful native land of your mother? I see now, Ernst, that you remember it. And how we should wander there you planned, and enjoy our freedom and God’s lovely nature. You were so joyful in the prospect of this; but then came adversity, and cares, and children, and never-ending labour for you, so that our Norwegian journey retreated year by year more into the background. Nevertheless, it remained like a point of light to you in the future; but now, for some time, you seem to have forgotten it; yes, for you have given up all your own pleasures in labouring for your family; have forsaken all your own enjoyments, your own plans, for your own sphere of activity and your home. But I have not forgotten the Norwegian journey, and in fifteen years have obtained the means of its accomplishment.”

“In fifteen years! what do you mean?” asked he.

“Now I am arrived,” she answered, “at part the second of my history. Do you still remember, Ernst, that fifteen years ago we were not so happy as we are now? You have forgotten? Well, so much the better; I scarcely remember it myself any more, for the expansive rind of love has grown over the black scar. What I, however, know is, that at that time I was not so properly at home in actual life, and did not rightly understand all the good that it offered me, and that to console myself on that account I wrote a romance. But now it happened that by reason of my novel I neglected my duties to my lord and husband for the gentlemen are decidedly unskilled in serving themselves ”

“Very polite!” interposed the Judge, smiling.

“Be content!” continued she: “now it happened that one evening his tea and my novel came into collision a horrible history followed. But I made a vow in my heart that one of these days the two rivals should become reconciled. Now you see my manuscript you had the goodness to call it rubbish I sent to a very enlightened man, to a man of distinguished taste and judgment, and thus it befel, he found taste in the rubbish; and, what say you to it? paid me a pretty little sum for permission to bring it before the world. Do not look so grave, Ernst; I have never again taken up the pen to write novels; my own family has found me enough to do; and besides, I never again could wish to do anything which was not pleasant to you. You have displaced all rivals, do you see! But this one I decided should be the means of your taking the Norwegian journey. The little sum of two hundred crowns banco which it produced me have I placed in the savings’ bank for this purpose; and in fifteen years it has so much augmented itself, that it will perfectly accomplish that object; and if ever the time for its employment will come, it is now. The desire for travelling is gone from me I covet now only rest. But you and ”

“And do you think,” said the Judge, “that I shall take your ”

“Oh, Ernst! why should you not?” exclaimed she; “if you could but know what joy the thought of this has prepared for me! The money, which from year to year increased, in order to give you pleasure, has been to me like a treasure of hidden delight, which has many a time strengthened and animated my soul! Make me only perfectly happy by allowing yourself to have enjoyment from it. Take it, my Ernst, and make yourself pleasure with it, this summer; I pray you to do so, on account of our children. Take Eva with you, and if possible Leonore also. Nothing would refresh Eva’s soul more than such a journey with you and Leonore in a magnificent and beautiful country. The money can be obtained in a month’s time, and a few months’ leave of absence cannot possibly be denied to one who has spent more than thirty years in incessant service for the state; and when Louise and her husband have left us, and spring and nature are in their very loveliest, then you shall set out: you shall be refreshed after so many years of painful labour, and the wounded heart of our sick child shall be healed.”