Read Klingsor's Last Summer Online

Authors: Hermann Hesse

Klingsor's Last Summer (10 page)

He rejoiced that such consoling ideas could occur to him, that they slumbered within him and came to light every so often. You carried everything that mattered inside yourself; nobody could help you from outside. Not to be at war with yourself, to live with yourself in affection and trust—that was the thing. Then you could do anything. Then you could not only walk a tightrope but fly.

For a while, forgetting everything around him, he yielded to these feelings, groping his way along soft, slippery paths of the psyche like a hunter and scout, sitting absorbed at his table, head propped on his hand. At that moment the yellow-haired girl looked across at him. Her eyes did not linger but read his face attentively, and when he felt her gaze and looked up he sensed something like respect, sympathy, and a touch of kinship. This time her look did not hurt him, did not do him an injustice. This time, he felt, she was looking at him, at his self, not at his clothes and manners, his hair and hands, but at what was true, immutable, and mysterious about him, his individuality, his share in the divine, his fate.

He apologized inwardly for the bitter and hateful things he had thought about her. But no, there was nothing to apologize for. Whatever malice and foolishness he had thought or felt about her, it had all been so many blows directed against himself, not against her. No, all was well.

Suddenly the resumption of the music startled him. The orchestra struck up a dance. But the stage remained empty and dark; the eyes of the patrons turned instead upon the empty rectangle among the tables. He guessed that there would be dancing now.

Looking up, he saw the yellow-haired girl and the smooth-shaven young gallant rising. He smiled at himself as he noticed his hostile feelings toward this young man also, how unwittingly he acknowledged his elegance, his good manners, his handsome face and hair. The young man offered her his hand, led her into the open space. Another couple stepped forward, and the two couples danced a tango, elegantly, sure-footedly, and prettily. Klein did not know much about the steps, but he quickly saw that Teresina danced wonderfully. He saw that she was doing something she understood and had mastered, something that came easily to her. The young man with the wavy black hair also danced well. They suited each other. Their dancing spoke to the spectators of pleasant, bright, simple, and amiable things. Lightly and delicately, their hands held one another; gladly and willingly their knees, their arms, their feet, and their bodies performed their supple work. Their dance expressed joy and happiness, beauty and luxury, good breeding and good style. It also expressed love and sexuality, but nothing wild and passionate, rather a love full of naturalness, naïveté, and grace. For the wealthy patrons of this resort, they danced the beauty which life held but which these people did not themselves express and could not even feel without such outside aid. These professional dancers served as surrogates for high society. Those others, who themselves did not dance so well and lithely, who could not really enjoy the pleasant dalliance of their lives, were reminded of nature and the innocence of feelings and the senses. Out of their rushed and overworked or lazy and oversatiated lives, which alternated between wild bouts of work, wild bouts of pleasure, and forced sanatorium penances, they looked on, smiling, stupid, and secretly touched, at this dance of pretty and agile young people. For them it was like gazing at the bright springtime of life, at a distant paradise that they had lost and could tell the children about only on holidays, scarcely believing in it themselves any longer, but dreaming of it at night with burning desire.

And now, during the dance, there came over the girl's face a change that Friedrich Klein watched with pure ecstasy. Very gradually and as imperceptibly as the flush of pink in a morning sky, a slowly growing, slowly warming smile spread over her cool, grave face. Looking straight ahead, she smiled as if awakening, as if only this dance could warm her coolness and rouse her to full life. The male dancer likewise smiled, and the second couple also. It was lovely to see a smile awaken on all four faces, for all of them seemed masklike and impersonal. But on Teresina's face the smile was the most beautiful and mysterious of all. None of the others smiled as she did, so untouched by everything outside, as if she were blossoming with pleasure from within. Klein saw this with deep emotion; it gripped him like the discovery of a hidden treasure.

“What wonderful hair she has,” he heard someone nearby exclaiming softly. He recalled that in his thoughts he had slandered this wonderful blond hair and doubted its genuineness.

The tango was over. Klein saw Teresina standing beside her partner for a moment. He was still holding her left hand with its slender fingers at shoulder height. The enchantment in her face glowed for a moment longer and slowly vanished. There was applause, and everyone looked at the pair as they returned to their table with springy steps.

The next dance, which began after a brief interlude, was performed only by Teresina and her handsome partner. It was a freely imaginative dance, a small, complicated creation, almost a pantomime, which each dancer played for himself alone and which became a dance for the couple only at a few brilliant climaxes and during the tempestuous final movement.

Teresina floated, her eyes filled with happiness, so utterly relaxed and so blissfully, weightlessly following the cajoling music that everyone watched her raptly. The dance ended in a vigorous whirling during which the partners only touched with their hands and the tips of their feet and then, leaning far over backwards, turned in a bacchantic circle.

During this dance everyone had the feeling that the two dancers, in their gestures and steps, in their partings and rejoinings, in their repeated discarding and regaining of equilibrium, were representing feelings that were familiar to all people and deeply desired but that are experienced so simply, so strongly and clearly only by a very few happy souls. Their dance bespoke the joy of a healthy person in himself, the intensification of this joy into love for another, belief in and acceptance of one's own nature, trustful yielding to the wishes, dreams, and games of the heart. For a moment many of the onlookers felt a pensive sadness that there was so much stress and strife in their daily activities, that their lives were not a dance but a toilsome, panting staggering along under heavy burdens—burdens which, after all, only they themselves had loaded on their own shoulders.

While he watched the dance Friedrich Klein sighted down the past years of his life as down a dark tunnel. On the far side, green and shining in sunlight and wind, lay what he had lost: youth, strong, simple feelings, readiness for happiness and belief in its possibility—and all this was once again strangely near, only a step away, brought here by magic and reflected.

The tender smile of the dance still on her face, Teresina now passed by him. Gladness and a rapturous devotion streamed through him. And as if he had summoned her, she suddenly looked tenderly at him, not yet awakened, her spirit still filled with happiness, the sweet smile still on her lips. And he too smiled at her, this nearby gleam of happiness down the dark shaft of so many lost years.

At the same time he stood up and held out his hand to her, like an old friend, without saying a word. Teresina took it and for a moment held it firmly, though she walked on. He followed her. Room was made for him at the artists' table; he now sat beside Teresina and saw the oblong green stones sparkling on the light skin of her throat.

He did not take part in the talk, understanding very little of it. Behind Teresina's head he saw, in the light of the garden lanterns, the blooming rose bushes as full dark spheres, over which fireflies occasionally flew. His thoughts rested; there was nothing to think about. The spheres of roses swayed lightly in the night breeze. Teresina sat beside him, the green gem glittering on her ear. The world was in order.

Now Teresina placed her hand on his arm.

“We will talk. Not here. I remember seeing you in the park. I'll be there tomorrow at the same time. I am tired now and have to get my full night's sleep. You'd better go first, otherwise my friends will be borrowing money from you.”

As a waiter went past, she stopped him.

“Eugenio, the gentleman wants his check.”

He paid, shook hands with her, tipped his hat, and left, walking toward the lake, not knowing where he was going. Impossible to lie down in his hotel room now. He walked on the path by the lake, away from the town and suburbs, until the parks and benches along the shore came to an end. Then he sat down on the wall of the embankment and sang under his breath, voicelessly, half-forgotten fragments of songs from the years of his young manhood. He stayed until it turned cold and the steep mountains took on a hostile, alien air. Then he walked back, holding his hat in his hand.

A sleepy night clerk opened the door for him.

“Yes, I'm rather late,” Klein said, giving him a franc.

“Oh, we're used to that. You aren't the last to come in. The motorboat from Castiglione isn't back yet either.”

3

T
HE DANCER WAS ALREADY THERE
when Klein entered the park. She was walking with her buoyant step around a sector of lawn, and suddenly stood facing him at the shady entrance to a copse.

Teresina's light-gray eyes probed him attentively. Her expression was earnest and somewhat impatient. While walking, she began to talk.

“Can you tell me what happened yesterday? How is it we kept running across each other? I've been thinking about that. I saw you yesterday in the garden twice. The first time you were standing at the exit looking at me. You looked bored or irritated, and as soon as I saw you I remembered that I'd already run across you in the park. I didn't have a good impression, and I made an effort to forget you right away. Then I saw you again, barely fifteen minutes later. You were sitting at the next table and suddenly looked entirely different, and I didn't realize right away that you were the same man I'd met before. And then, after my dance, you suddenly stood up and took my hand, or I took yours, I'm not sure which. What was going on? You must know something, you really must. But I hope you haven't come here to make me declarations of love.”

“I don't know,” Klein said. “I haven't come with anything definite in mind. I love you, since yesterday, but we needn't talk about that, you know.”

“Yes, let's talk about something else. Yesterday there was something between us for a moment that bothers me and also frightens me, as though we had some similarity or something in common. What is it? And the main thing I wanted to ask: What was that strange change in you? How was it possible that within an hour you could have two such entirely different faces? You looked like a person who has experienced something very important.”

“How did I look?” he asked childishly.

“Oh, at first you looked like a rather grumpy, disagreeable middle-aged gentleman. You looked like a philistine, like a man who is used to taking out on others his anger over his own insufficiencies.”

He listened with eager sympathy, nodding vigorously. She continued:

“And then, afterwards, it's hard to describe. You were sitting somewhat stooped. When I happened to notice you, my first thought was: Good Lord, what sad postures these philistines have. You were holding your head propped in your hand, and suddenly that looked so odd. It looked as if you were the only person in the world, and as if you didn't care one bit what happened to you or to the whole world. Your face was like a mask, horribly sad or maybe horribly indifferent…”

She broke off and seemed to be groping for words, but then said nothing further.

“You are right,” Klein said meekly. “You saw so accurately that I can't help being amazed. You read me like a letter. But of course I suppose it is only natural and right that you should be able to see all that.”

“Why so?”

“Because in a different way, while dancing, you express the same thing. When you dance, Teresina, and at many other moments too, you're like a tree or a mountain or an animal, or like a star, altogether alone, altogether by yourself. You don't want to be anything different from what you are, whether good or bad. Isn't that the same thing you saw in me?”

She studied him without replying. Then she said falteringly: “You are a strange person. And what about now: are you still that way? Do you not care at all what happens to you?”

“Yes. Only not always. I'm often frightened, too. But then it comes again and the fear is gone and then nothing matters. Then I feel strong. Or rather, it's not quite right to say I feel that nothing matters; everything is precious and welcome, no matter what it is.”

“For a moment I even thought you might be a criminal.”

“That is possible too. It's even probable. You see, people say ‘criminal,' and by this they mean that someone does something that others have forbidden him to do. But he himself, the criminal, only does what is in him. You see, there is the resemblance between us; both of us here and now, at rare moments, do what is in us. Nothing is rarer. Most people can't do that at all. I used not to be able to, either. I said, thought, acted, lived only what came from others, only things I'd learned, only good and proper things, until one day that was all over. I couldn't keep it up, I had to leave; the good things weren't good any longer and the proper things no longer proper. Life was no longer bearable. But still I want to bear it. I even love it, although it brings with it so many torments.”

“Will you tell me your name and who you are?”

“I'm the man you see before you, that is all. I have no name and no title and no occupation either. I've had to give all that up. It's this way: after a long, decent, hard-working life I fell out of the nest one day. It wasn't long ago. And now I must die or learn to fly. The world no longer concerns me; I'm all alone now.”

Rather embarrassed, she asked: “Were you in an institution?”

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