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The Lifted Veil

Chapter 2
Before the autumn was at an end, and while the brown leaves still stood thick on the
beeches in our park, my brother and Bertha were engaged to each other, and it was
understood that their marriage was to take place early in the next spring. In spite of the
certainty I had felt from that moment on the bridge at Prague, that Bertha would one day
be my wife, my constitutional timidity and distrust had continued to benumb me, and the
words in which I had sometimes premeditated a confession of my love, had died away
unuttered. The same conflict had gone on within me as before--the longing for an
assurance of love from Bertha's lips, the dread lest a word of contempt and denial should
fall upon me like a corrosive acid. What was the conviction of a distant necessity to me? l
trembled under a present glance, I hungered after a present joy, I was clogged and chilled
by a present fear. And so the days passed on: I witnessed Bertha's engagement and heard
her marriage discussed as if I were under a conscious nightmare--knowing it was a dream
that would vanish, but feeling stifled under the grasp of hard-clutching fingers.
When I was not in Bertha's presence--and I was with her very often, for she continued to
treat me with a playful patronage that wakened no jealousy in my brother--I spent my
time chiefly in wandering, in strolling, or taking long rides while the daylight lasted, and
then shutting myself up with my unread books; for books had lost the power of chaining
my attention. My self-consciousness was heightened to that pitch of intensity in which
our own emotions take the form of a drama which urges itself imperatively on our
contemplation, and we begin to weep, less under the sense of our suffering than at the
thought of it. I felt a sort of pitying anguish over the pathos of my own lot: the lot of a
being finely organized for pain, but with hardly any fibres that responded to pleasure--to
whom the idea of future evil robbed the present of its joy, and for whom the idea of
future good did not still the uneasiness of a present yearning or a present dread. I went
dumbly through that stage of the poet's suffering, in which he feels the delicious pang of
utterance, and makes an image of his sorrows.
I was left entirely without remonstrance concerning this dreamy wayward life: I knew my
father's thought about me: "That lad will never be good for anything in life: he may waste
his years in an insignificant way on the income that falls to him: I shall not trouble myself
about a career for him."
One mild morning in the beginning of November, it happened that I was standing outside
the portico patting lazy old Caesar, a Newfoundland almost blind with age, the only dog
that ever took any notice of me--for the very dogs shunned me, and fawned on the
happier people about me--when the groom brought up my brother's horse which was to
carry him to the hunt, and my brother himself appeared at the door, florid, broad-chested,
and self-complacent, feeling what a good-natured fellow he was not to behave insolently
to us all on the strength of his great advantages.
 
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