Conscientious as she was, she would not be turned away and tried to pull the dress off the sick woman’s shoulders.
Then the desperate woman gathered all her strength, with both hands she pushed the young girl, who had bent over her, in the chest and jumped up.
“I’m not your prisoner, don’t touch me, I use violence to defend myself against violence.” She was trembling all over, her teeth clenched as if in a fever, her eyes were wide open, you could see the white around the pupil .
The young girl was mortally scared, she thought she was facing a madwoman. She leaned against the wall, pale and intimidated.
“Go on,” the privy councilor snapped at the maid. “Call the gentleman,” called the young lady after her.
For a moment it seemed as if the patient wanted to rush at the young woman in wild anger, but it was only a quick movement. Without a sound she bent past the bonne, reached the door, and rushed into another room, which she immediately locked behind her.
The maid had meanwhile reported to the landlord how far his wife was against Fraulein Wagner had forgotten. Professor Schrödter now advised not to use force himself, but to look for the morphine hidden in the house later without the knowledge of the agitated.
The professor gave the faithful, reliable bonne a few more rules of conduct before he left. Bremer was broken by the misfortune that befell him.
He thought morphinism was a vice, and indulging in a vice was, in his eyes, a shame on his house and his name. Added to this was his wife’s secret agreement with Turnau. From a moral point of view, he saw in it a flaw which even the death of the guilty party could not erase from his honor. He did not know how Lydia had confessed to Turnau as a woman; he did not quite believe the professor’s assurances. In Bremer’s opinion, Turnau had never been as sick, as terminally ill as Schrödter described him.
Surely it was not to be assumed that this young man would receive a lady in his apartment, only to selflessly and with all honor give her a means on which she depended body and soul.
This question tormented the calm, clear, self-confident man terribly. He made up his mind to speak to his wife calmly and thoroughly under all circumstances. He wanted to know the truth about everyone Price; how he would come to terms with the facts afterwards was not yet clear to him.
For the time being he had to wait until the wild, passionate storm of despair was over.
He did not visit his wife, and Fraulein Wagner also kept the children away from her. Towards evening Professor Schrödter made a short medical visit to the Privy Councilor; he gave her as much morphine for the night as she said she was used to. He didn’t say a word about the hidden supplies.
Lydia had the feeling that she was surrounded by spies in her own house, and for this she cast a truly passionate hatred of Fraulein Wagner. But she had some consolation, Turnau’s glasses were hers now, even if she couldn’t dare to examine their contents and get to know them.
In spite of the terrible excitement that had brought her during the day, she slept asleep during the night and made more careful toileting in the morning than on the day before.
She was almost calm when Schrödter paid her a visit and even promised to comply with some of his orders.
Towards noon the Privy Councilor thought it possible to speak to his wife. He couldn’t take it any longer.
He stood before her, deeply, almost gloomily, and demanded An account of the honor of his house which he placed in her hands when he gave her his name.
The otherwise less excitable, superficially cheerful woman found herself in a pathologically increased irritability. Bremer, however, had too little understanding of illness and pathological psychological processes to reckon with them.
“Nothing happened that wasn’t yesterday and the day before, weeks and years ago,” she insisted. “Turnau was a morphinist himself, he understood my grief over the impossibility of getting me what I needed to be happy and to be happy. If you hadn’t forced this vulgar Professor Schrödter on me, whom I detest and from whom I will never allow myself to be treated, everything would still be as it was today. I would be calm and happy, and you would have been spared excitement and anger. ”
“You would have continued to sin and humiliated yourself by a vice that lowers you in the respect of your husband, your doctors and even your servants.”
“If by the servants you mean Fraulein Wagner, I would like to point out to you by the way that I am planning to fire this arrogant person.”
“The dutiful nurse is indispensable for my children as long as they do not have a mother.”
“You put this person above your wife!”
Her eyes flickered, her cheeks burned, he saw it, but he didn’t understand that these signs were Demanding rest and rest for their sick nerves; he only saw her passion, her unjustified anger against an innocent, pure being who was under his protection in his house.
“Yes,” he said calmly, “an innocent virgin girl is morally much higher than a negligent mother who withdraws from her children in order to indulge in forbidden pleasures with sensual greed. Since you’ve been addicted to morphine, I’ve no longer had a wife, my children have no mother, and the honor of my name has been in the hands of a characterless weakling who, in his wretchedness, could not end up as a suicide.
Lydia stared at him. There was something sinister in her eyes, something like hidden madness. “Your honor in Turnau’s hands?” She laughed.
“I lived on his pity, on the handouts he threw me. An arbitrary law put into his hands what is inaccessible to others. Generously he gave me of his wealth, nothing more. Oh God, Arnold – must I swear to you that your honor has remained pure, that Turnau has never touched me physically? ”
“If that is the case, it was probably not because of you; you would have thrown yourself in front of the dogs to indulge your passion. It is not a whore’s merit if her charms do not find a buyer. ”
He shocked himself when he received the terrible insult had pronounced. Contempt had overwhelmed him; the reproach he made was as immeasurable as his despair.
“You understand that this expression now also separates our marriage outwardly. We have been internally separated since you incited your “servants” this morning to steal from me the only pleasure that life at your side has for me. ”
She wondered to herself that she could speak so calmly. As if from a long way off, she heard her own voice. It was like a rush of morphine without morphine. The disease of the body quietly reached over from the nervous system to the soul. The line separating physical and mental ailments shifted imperceptibly; passion, anger, and the agony of despair turned into disease. She could no longer fight, only suffer, only tolerate, only weak and fading to defend herself if she was hurt too much.
“Divorce?” He started with terrible violence. “Do you think I will commit the crime against my children of divorcing my marriage? The oath I made at the altar is sacred to me. I am and I will remain your husband, only death can part us. ”
“If that is your opinion, there is only one way out for both of us – kill me – it will be done with my consent.”
“No, I don’t want to commit a crime like you do. Thanks to the pathological condition of Turnaus you are at least not dishonored outwardly, even if you are so inwardly through the will to sin. Repent, repent, improve yourself and start a new life. ”
‘What gives you the right to make such an insulting demand on me? I wasn’t Turnau’s lover, I was just a morphinist, that’s a disease, it’s not a fault. ”
“I see it as an illness and like a misfortune, like an illness, I want to fight it.”
“Do you think that coercion and violence that drive me to despair, that even force me to resist physically, are the right way to cure an illness?”
“Consider my horror, Lydia, my painful surprise. Your virtue, your nobility, your womanly loveliness were my sanctuary and my happiness. It seems to me as if an abyss had opened up that tore everything down into its depths; I feel as if I myself were facing some fate that must destroy me. ”
“All your grief is nothing but your imagination,” she exclaimed, beside herself. “Tomorrow, by the grace of the saints, let an enlightenment come into the world that will remove a terrible compulsion, let the morphine sale become free, and I will be justified, honorable, happy, and free, as before. Just being forced to bypass a law made me unhappy. With the fall of this law I and thousands would be honest and happy with myself again. ”
Arnold Bremer stamped his foot and gripped his gray hair with both hands in immeasurable fury. His voice almost sounded like sobs.
“Lydia – if the sentence for murderers were lifted tomorrow, would the murderer cease to be a criminal?”
She shrugged. »The murderer harms life and limb; the morphinist does no harm, he only enjoys a sweet comfort that an envious compulsion denies him. ”
“And does nobody harm?”
“No.” She looked at him questioningly.
He laughed scornfully beside himself. “So you think that it doesn’t do any harm if a person suddenly stops fulfilling those duties which God has given him for his life? It doesn’t hurt if a woman, instead of making her husband happy and looking after her children, merely vegetated away physically in pointless enjoyment, without being mentally at her post? Isn’t it written: If you don’t work, you shouldn’t eat either? ”
“Do not eat? – Dear Arnold, do I have to remind you that I was not a poor girl who married in order to be provided for? Our pensions are roughly the same. What gives you then the right to blame myself for allowing myself – – to eat for nothing in return? ”
“Don’t take it literally, don’t play with words,” he exclaimed beside himself, “it’s a frivolous game. Everyone has to struggle through his life, if he has to, to suffer through, in order to fulfill a certain circle of duties that have been his or her. Not everyone needs to work for their daily bread, some are called to more, to better, to higher things. Every woman is responsible to heaven for the souls of her children, which she must bring to eternal salvation. You have to have a purpose in life, don’t you understand? ”
A purpose in life – – the churchyard stood before her inner eye like a vision; she was sitting at her parents’ grave, the red rays of the sun shimmering on the black marble of the tombstone. Next to her sat a man, a friend, he understood her, and she – she loved him. He had now passed over to the dead, and from afar, from another world, beyond the grave, from the world of memory, words penetrated her inner ear – words he once uttered, “Enjoyment is also a purpose in life, so good like work; all that matters is that one understands how to reconcile one’s moral concepts with them – – – – – – – – – «
Mechanically, in a low voice, the way you repeat what someone says, she said them, these friend’s words.
The angry man in front of her hadn’t expected this answer. It suddenly fell from his eyes like a veil. He could not blame this woman with the mad, absent gaze staring into space for the words that fell so ragged and expressionless from the pale, twitching lips. She was sick, insane. The thought flashed through his mind with a terrible foreboding that she might have gone mad because of the desperation into which his ruthless behavior had plunged her.
“You have to go to an institution, afterwards everything will get better,” and when she winced, he added pityingly and sadly: “I don’t want to torment you.”
Then he went out. If he had wished and hoped to shake his wife, to move her and then perhaps to be able to forgive the repentant, he was bitterly disappointed.
He had achieved nothing, at most the rift which, in his opinion, her morphine addiction had made in the marriage incurable and endlessly enlarged. There was no way out to his eye. He wanted and had to take her to a mental institution, but even if she were to be physically cured there, he could not hope that her soul would be healed again.
He had loved her, now he had lost her love. With hot pain he felt that his love for the sick and unfortunate was unshakable would live faithfully in his heart as long as he lived. Perhaps this love could still grow and grow if it ever clung to him helplessly and desperately, but he felt that it would not do what had previously seemed natural to him and her too – never again. – There was something between them that he was unable to get out of the way because it was overwhelming and incomprehensible, a passion – – “Morphine”. –
He also thought for a moment of the bloody shadow of his dead friend. No, he wasn’t standing between him and her, the man’s love could have overcome him; but he could not fight the demon that had bound her soul. With a heavy sigh he stopped at the door of her room. Then he took firm steps over to the nursery. One after the other he lifted both children up to him, hugged them tightly to his chest and kissed them deeply.
“My wife is seriously ill, Fraulein, the poor children will have to do without much,” he said gravely.
“What I can do to replace the children’s mother for as long as it is necessary, shall be done,” answered Hedwig Wagner simply and simply.
There were tears in her gray eyes, she faithfully and frankly made her promise. The privy councilor shook her hand. Then he left Children; it was as if he had placed her in the care of a Guardian Angel.
In order to arrange for his sick wife to be placed in a suitable institution as quickly as possible, he went straight to Professor Schrödter.
After her husband had left her, Lydia had stopped dreaming and motionless. A long white dress flowed softly down her slender figure, the beautifully shaped, high-haired head looked charming and youthful, but the eyes were dull, the previously burning cheeks had become pale, and the hands hung limp and tired.
She felt that everything was over between her husband and her. Since becoming a morphinist, she hadn’t thought about whether she still loved him or not. Love had fallen asleep quietly and imperceptibly in her heart. A tender, understanding behavior on the part of the man could perhaps have awakened her again softly and gently, like a ray of sunshine a blossom that has closed a night frost, but his brutal morality, his harsh correct concept of honor had crushed the tender, dying blossom.
She had stopped loving him and couldn’t love him again, never, not again in her life.
He faced her in bitter struggle. He had hurled contempt at her. To exterminate her vice, he wanted her to go to a sanatorium bring. Against her, the tender, sick woman, he called for the help of the brutal, ruthless doctor whom she loathed.
It is so easy to torment and persecute a defenseless, sick person. But there is a vulgarity in this, a moral coarseness that is just as contemptible as the neglect of duty of a patient. Lydia knew what the word “a withdrawal cure” implies. Professor Schrödter guaranteed his “withdrawal cure without torment,” but only a person with morphine can appreciate how big the lie is that lies in this pretense.
But she should now be a victim of this torment, in order to be returned to her duties according to the will of her husband.
She thought of Turnau. She thought of the happy dead man no longer with love, but with envy. He had been allowed to savor the pleasure that morphine affords to the end, but the golden goblet was torn from her lips now that she was still thirsty – thirstier than ever.
Her soul longed for numbness to forget the shame that had been done to her. Her husband spoke of her illness, of her aberration; the doctors, the world would speak of it; Forbearance and pity would be given to her – and respect, outward respect perhaps again, yes – that – –
But the dead man had known her better than anyone living people. He alone knew that she was guilty – dishonorable.
“Death is the wages of sin”, that was the last word he called to her from his bloody bier. In frivolous mockery he had toyed with the thought of eternal things, and when death came he, the free spirit, clung to Christianity’s promise of the grace of God and eternal life in Christ.
Oh, how ashamed she was; in the depths of her soul she passed away in shame and remorse. “Death is the wages of sin.” Suddenly it was like a revelation to her. You should put the saying on your tombstone. But the spell was for her. When people are silent, the stones speak. This stone should speak to her, only to her; only for them was the terrible warning: “Death is the wages of sin.”
With a wild scream, she grabbed her pounding temples. Then she rushed forward and tore the cord from her neck on which she hid the key to her “treasures.”
She knelt down by the cabinet and unlocked it with trembling hands. There they all stood, all the little glasses they found on the dead man, not one was missing.
She took the first best and put it to her lips. She felt a sharp stinging, but she wanted to overcome it, empty the glass.
A door opened behind her. Hedwig Wagner went in, took the glass from her mouth with calm determination and locked the cupboard.
“You can’t do that, madam. The professor will give you as much morphine as you need in order not to suffer, “said the girl.
Lydia didn’t answer a syllable. Her eyes met that of the bonne shyly and sadly. Then she left the room. She climbed the stairs, holding her dress with one hand, the other on her forehead. “The stones speak, the stones call.” – She said this quietly and hesitantly to herself, over and over again.
She went up all the stairs, walked across the floor, a little higher, and finally climbed through a hatch onto the flat roof of the high house. A low railing surrounded the platform.
Lydia leaned over it and stared down at the stone paving of the courtyard in front of the stables and coach houses.
The stones down there shimmered gray up to her. A reddish ray of sun glided over it.
Death is the wages of sin; – “The stones speak, the stones call.” She looked around shyly. No, no one had followed her, she was alone, free, perhaps for the last time before she was surrounded by the captivity of the madhouse.
How blissful is freedom, the noblest human right – – – It had used freedom.
A cry, a fall – the stones of the deep took them up.