THE SILENT PARTNER.
Since childhood she had been with me, disturbing my peace, mocking at content, filling me with wild restlessness, with strange longings.
I grew up. I knew love. . . . Did I know love? She shook her head derisively. She laughed at his reverential tenderness. She made mock of the sanctuary of our affection. It was then I rose up against her! I thrust her out of my life for ever. And, to be sure she never would return, I chained her with an iron will, deep, deep, into the darkest dungeon of my heart — so deep, so dark, that I never dared to look into it again.
The years passed. I lived a life of quiet, peaceful happiness — wifehood, motherhood — I quite forgot the silent partner who lay fettered and twisted, far from sunlight and life and love. . . . Perhaps she had died?
One magnificent autumn day, ablaze with gold and scarlet and lapislazuli, the fulness of life suddenly thrilled me, overpowered me. . . . Oh! all that had gone before seemed so drab, so poor, so meaningless. I heard a call insistent, throbbing, irresistible. And I followed, intoxicated, delirious — I became queen in a universe of passionate glories.
And then, of a sudden, my silent partner stood before me — wan, tortured, perverted. She had broken her chains. She had arisen terribly. Flame-eyed and insatiable, she drove me from orgy to orgy. And in the fulness of my frenzy — she slew me.
A yellow satin ribbon across the mat ivory of her frail shoulder held up the tattered batiste chemise. Long black silk stockings shimmered on her slender legs. And her delicate feet, in yellow pompommed slippers, tapped the floor impatiently. She had thrown off her peignoir, let down her red hair, and prepared to go to bed, yet could not find courage to carry out this resolution. To turn out the light — to lie alone in the dark; alone with that horrible feeling of forsakenness and blankness; alone in the awful stillness which only the thumping of her own bleeding heart would interrupt. . . . It was impossible! She smoked cigarette after cigarette. Stretched out on her couch-bed she tried to read. Then made the round of the studio, examined wet canvases without seeing them, picked up open tubes and flung them down again. . . . Horribly useless, this business called life. What does it all matter, when love is gone? And who can hold love? Oh, misery! misery! And still so many years to live. To live alone. Or would he come back? Could he come back? Oh — if only for a little while! Oh, to see him just once more — his dark face, his black eyes, to smell his tobacco breath, to feel the grasp of his strong hand. . . . One o’clock — no — he would not come back. This time all was over for ever — she felt it, she knew it. But perhaps to-morrow? He might regret — repent — he might come for breakfast, like the last time. Oh! jolly, happy, divine breakfast! No, no, never again. His love was dead. She knew it. And would he love some other woman? Would his eyes burn into another’s eyes, his kisses crush another’s mouth! God — God — this was hell. She could not bear it. She would not. She must make an end — now — immediately.
With feverish hands she felt for a tiny Japanese dagger he once had given her. It must end her agony ——
Yet — he might come to-morrow!