I have determined to set myself free from this heartless woman, who
has treated me so cruelly, and is now about to break faith and betray
me, as a reward for all my slavish devotion, for everything I have
suffered from her. I packed my few belongings into a bundle, and then
wrote her as follows:
I have loved you even to madness, I have given myself to you as no man
ever has given himself to a woman. You have abused my most sacred
emotions, and played an impudent, frivolous game with me. However, as
long as you were merely cruel and merciless, it was still possible for
me to love you. Now you are about to become _cheap_. I am no longer
the slave whom you can kick about and whip. You yourself have set me
free, and I am leaving a woman I can only hate and despise.
I handed these lines to the negress, and hastened away as fast as I
could go. I arrived at the railway-station all out of breath.
Suddenly I felt a sharp pain in my heart and stopped. I began to
weep. It is humiliating that I want to flee and I can’t. I turn back–
whither?–to her, whom I abhor, and yet, at the same time, adore.
Again I pause. I cannot go back. I dare not.
But how am I to leave Florence. I remember that I haven’t any money,
not a penny. Very well then, on foot; it is better to be an honest
beggar than to eat the bread of a courtesan.
But still I can’t leave.
She has my pledge, my word of honor. I have to return. Perhaps she
will release me.
After a few rapid strides, I stop again.
She has my word of honor and my bond, that I shall remain her slave
as long as she desires, until she herself gives me my freedom. But
I might kill myself.
I go through the Cascine down to the Arno, where its yellow waters
plash monotonously about a couple of stray willows. There I sit, and
cast up my final accounts with existence. I let my entire life pass
before me in review. On the whole, it is rather a wretched affair–a
few joys, an endless number of indifferent and worthless things, and
between these an abundant harvest of pains, miseries, fears,
disappointments, shipwrecked hopes, afflictions, sorrow and grief.
I thought of my mother, whom I loved so deeply and whom I had to
watch waste away beneath a horrible disease; of my brother, who full
of the promise of joy and happiness died in the flower of youth,
without even having put his lips to the cup of life. I thought of my
dead nurse, my childhood playmates, the friends that had striven and
studied with me; of all those, covered by the cold, dead, indifferent
earth. I thought of my turtle-dove, who not infrequently made his
cooing bows to me, instead of to his mate.–All have returned, dust
I laughed aloud, and slid down into the water, but at the same
moment I caught hold of one of the willow-branches, hanging above the
yellow waves. As in a vision, I see the woman who has caused all my
misery. She hovers above the level of the water, luminous in the
sunlight as though she were transparent, with red flames about her
head and neck. She turns her face toward me and smiles.