Dr. Adriaan/Chapter II
It was six o'clock. Constance and Marietje had taken Grandmamma upstairs, for she no longer had her meals with the rest, but went to bed very early in the evening. And they were now in the dining-room, sitting at the great dinner-table: a table, Constance considered, of strangers—her brother's children—gathered round her husband, who alone had any right to live there, in the old man's house, and to sit at his table. . . . And yet it seemed quite natural that Emilie should be sitting there, that Adeline should be sitting there with her four girls, Marietje, Adele, Gerdy and Klaasje, and her two big boys, Alex and Guy; it seemed quite natural that, after the soup, the parlour-maid should set the great piece of beef in front of Guy for Guy to carve: one of the few things that he did well, as Van der Welcke told him, without thinking, for there was some truth in the jibe. It was the same simple fare daily: soup, a joint, green potatoes, vegetables and a sweet, so that Van der Welcke sometimes said:
"But, Constance, how Dutch you have grown in your taste!"
"Well, if there's anything you fancy, you have only to say so!" she would answer, gently.
And yet she was afraid that he would name something, some game or poultry, that would be much too expensive for so large a table and such appetites as the children's: wasn't she spending more than enough as it was, with that good, simple homeliness and wasn't the butcher's bill absurdly high, month after month?
And Guy carved the beef in fine, heavy slices, falling neatly and smoothly one on top of the other, with a dexterity which he remembered learning when quite a small boy from his father, when he recollected very well indeed carving the meat in the little dining-room in the Bankastraat. . . . That was Guy's duty, to carve the meat neatly; and he would have gone on carving till it all lay in neat slices on the dish, if Constance had not warned him:
"That ought to do, Guy."
The boy was just handing the dish to the maid, for her to take round, when a carriage drove into the front garden.
"Listen!" said Constance.
"That must be Addie!" exclaimed Gerdy, joyously.
"It's Addie, it's Addie!" cried Klaasje.
"Yes, it must be Addie," said Van der Welcke.
There was a loud ring at the bell; and at the same time a key grated in the latch.
"It's Addie!" they now all cried, with cheerful, expectant faces, rejoicing that he was back.
And Gerdy, in her restless way, got up. Mathilde would have got up too, but, finding Gerdy before her, she remained sitting. Gerdy's clear voice rang in the hall:
"Addie, you're back, you're back! Oh, but how cold and windy it is!"
The maids, likewise glad, fussed about, three of them to one handbag. Gerdy had left the door open and the draught penetrated to the dinner-table. But Addie was now in the room; and all their radiant faces were raised to his. They had done without him for five days. They had missed him for five days.
He flung off his wet great-coat: Truitje caught it and took it out of the room. He gave a nod here and there, but kissed nobody and shook hands with nobody. He looked tired; and his collar was limp with the rain.
"Won't you go and change first, Addie?" asked Constance, smiling with content, because he was there.
"No, Mamma, I'd rather not. I'm hungry. Give me a glass of wine."
They saw at once what was the matter. He was out of humour. All their radiant faces fell immediately; and they were silent. Guy, who was nearest to him, poured him out a glass of wine, without a word. Addie drank down the wine. His eyes glanced up wearily from under their lashes; his gestures were nervous and jerky. When Addie was out of humour, they were silent, subduing the sound of their voices and the light in their eyes. Nobody knew what to say. And it cost Constance an effort to ask:
"How were things in Amsterdam?"
He answered coldly, as though begging her to ask no more questions about Amsterdam. Nobody else asked anything: he would be sure to tell what there was to tell later. They began to talk among one another in constrained tones. They were sorry that Addie was out of humour, but they did not take it amiss in him. He must be tired; he had had a busy time. Yes, he must be tired. It was not only his collar: his coat also hung limp from his shoulders; his grey-blue eyes were dull. Oh, how serious his eyes had become, now that he was a man of twenty-six! How serious his forehead was, with those two wrinkles, above the nose, which seemed to unite with the tawny eyebrows! In face and figure alike he was older than his years, almost too old, as though bowed down with premature cares. He stooped over his plate; and they were all struck by his air of weary exhaustion. What was it that had overstrained him so? He did not speak, but ate on in silence and drank rather more wine than was his wont. Alex looked at him for a long time, with a touch of anxious surprise. And at last, glancing, almost in alarm, at their faces, he suddenly perceived how forced and confused they all were in their attitudes, sitting and staring in front of them or into their plates—even his father, even his mother—and he understood that they sat and stared like that because he had not returned in a cheerful mood, after his five days' absence. He had a feeling of remorse, did violence to his fatigue and his ill-humour, steadied his nerves. He smiled—a tired smile—at his mother; asked his wife:
"How are the children, Mathilde?"
It was at once evident to them all, from his tone of addressing Mathilde, that he was making an effort and no longer wished to be out of humour and tired. They were thankful that he was making this obvious effort, because, with Addie gloomy, a gloom fell over all. Even Alex seemed to breathe again. And they could none of them bear it when Mathilde just answered, coolly:
Nevertheless his endeavour succeeded. He now spoke to his father; and Van der Welcke answered with a jest. There was a laugh at last; Gerdy led the outburst, about nothing; the voices broke into a hum. . . .
After dinner, Addie went upstairs; and, when he had changed his things, he found Mathilde in her own sitting-room. Constant and Jetje had gone to bed. Out of doors, the night seemed to be wilder and stormier than ever; and the house creaked, the windows rattled. Mathilde sat staring before her, her ears filled with the sounds of the night. Nevertheless she heard her husband come in; but she did not move.
"Tilly . . ."
There was now an undoubted tenderness in his voice, in his deep, earnest voice. She was certainly very fond of him, she thought, if only he did not neglect her. She just raised her head towards him, sideways. She was a handsome woman; and her young, healthy blood seemed to give her a complexion of milk and roses. Her features were not delicate, but they were pure; her eyes were gold-grey and large, clear and bright; her hair had a natural wave in it and was almost too heavily coiled. Beneath her black silk blouse her bust was heavy, with a low breast and a naturally wide waist too tightly laced. She had the full, spacious form of a young and healthy woman and lacked all the morbid distinction of finer breeding. Her eyes seemed to stare at a vision of physical delight; her lips seemed ready to salute that delight; the grip of her large hands was greedy and decisive. Her foot, in its substantial shoe, was large, too large for a woman of fashion. Nor was she that: she was rather a woman of health. She had no delicacy of wit: she had rather common sense; and the only morbid part of her intelligence was an irrepressible vanity. She had no delicate taste: she wore a simple black blouse and a black skirt, both from Brussels; and yet there was a coarse line and a heavy fold in both. The brilliant on her finger gleamed insolently, white and hard. It was very strange, but she saw this herself. Her mamma-in-law had given her that brilliant during her engagement, out of her own jewels, because she had once admired the ring on Constance's finger, where the stone seemed to throw out sparks of fire. . . .
"Tilly . . ."
She smiled at him now, made him come and sit beside her. Twenty-six years of age, a young husband and father, he looked quite ten years older, had aged more particularly, she thought, during the three years of his marriage. Now, however, that he had washed and changed, now that he no longer looked tired and wet, now that he was laughing under his fair moustache, now that his grey-blue eyes were filled with laughing kindness, now his aging no longer struck her so much; and she knew him again and he was hers again, in this one moment when her husband and she were alone. . . .
"Tell me," he said. "How have you been getting on . . . these five days?"
She felt a kindly affection for him; and she loved this in him. She let her hand remain in his two hands; she allowed him to kiss her and returned his kiss. And she answered lazily, with a movement of her shoulders:
"How have I been getting on? Oh, as usual! . . ."
"You mean, all right?"
"Yes, quite all right."
"I believe, Tilly . . ."
"That you're telling a fib. Your voice is very abrupt."
She shrugged her shoulders and gave her little laugh, which meant that she couldn't help it.
"You ought to talk candidly to me for once," he said.
"Yes," she answered; and her tone was more intimate. "We don't do that too often."
"I'm very busy sometimes."
"You're always busy. Why did you have to go to Amsterdam suddenly? I hardly know the reason."
"It was for Alex."
"And did you succeed?"
"Oh, I'm not asking to know!" she said, at once, in a tone of piqued indifference which he appeared not to notice.
"I have been thinking things over, Tilly. . . ."
"Thinking things over? When?"
"I thought you were so busy!"
"I used to think in my room, in the evenings. About you."
"Yes. Tell me, wouldn't you rather have your own house? You might feel happier if you had a home of your own."
She was silent.
"Well, what do you say?"
She shrugged her shoulders.
"Of course I would rather have a home of my own. I told you so at once . . . when we married."
"Yes, but at that time . . ."
"I didn't see it so clearly . . . that you would not be happy in this house."
"Oh . . . happy? I don't know."
"You're not happy here."
"I would certainly rather have my own house . . . at the Hague."
"At the Hague. Very well. But, if we move to the Hague, Tilly, we shall have to be very economical."
"Well, of course! I'm not making much yet."
"And you're always busy!"
"Yes . . ."
"You have patients here, at Driebergen, and all around."
"Yes," he said, with a laugh, "but they don't pay me."
He shrugged his shoulders:
"Because they can't."
She shrugged her shoulders also:
"It's very noble of you, Addie. . . . But we have to live too."
"Yes. But don't we live?"
"If we moved to the Hague, though . . .?"
"We should have to be very economical."
"You're well off."
"I'm not well off. . . . Tilly, you know I'm not. Papa has a pretty considerable fortune. But he has a good many calls. . . ."
"Calls! . . . why, you're his only son!"
"He might give us an allowance . . . until I was making more money. . . . But even then we should have to be economical . . . and live in a very small house."
She clasped her large, white hands:
"I'm sick of economy," she said, coarsely, "sick and tired of poverty. I've never had anything in my life but poverty, decent, genteel poverty. I would rather be a beggar, simply; I'd rather be a poor girl in the street than go through decent, genteel poverty again."
"It wouldn't be so bad as all that."
"Not so bad, perhaps, but still a small house, with one servant, and seeing how far a pound of meat will go and watching every half-penny that the servant spends. No, thank you, it's not good enough."
"Then, Tilly . . ."
"Then I see no chance . . . of moving to the Hague."
"Well," she said in her dull tone of piqued indifference, "then let's stay here."
"But you're not happy here."
"Oh, what does my happiness matter?"
"I should like to see you happy."
"Why, you no longer love me!"
"I do love you, Tilly, very much."
"No, you don't love me. How could you love me? Do you think I don't see it? You love all of them here, all your relations: you don't love me. You hardly love your children."
"No, you hardly love your own children."
"Tilly, you've no right to speak like that. Because I'm fond of Uncle Gerrit's children, is that any reason why I shouldn't be fond of you . . . and of Stan and little Jet?"
She had risen, tremulously. She looked into his grave eyes, which gazed at her long and almost sorrowfully, from under his heavily-knitted, tawny eyebrows. She had intended to overwhelm him with reproaches; but on the contrary she threw herself on his breast, with her arms around his neck:
"Tell me that you love me!" she cried, with a great sob.
"I love you, Tilly, you know I love you."
He kissed her. But she heard it through his voice, she felt it through his kiss: he no longer loved her. All at once, suddenly, the certainty of it poured a coldness as of ice into her soul. She held him away from her for a moment, with her hand against his shoulders. She stared at him. . . . He also looked at her, with his sorrowful eyes, and he spoke, but she did not hear what. . . . Then she heard him say:
"Are you coming downstairs, Tilly? They will be wondering what's become of us!"
"No," she said, calmly. "I have a headache and I'm going to bed."
"Won't you come down?"
"Do, Tilly! Please come down with me. I shall be so glad if you will."
"I'd rather not," she said, softly and calmly. "I really have a headache . . . and I'm going to bed."
She looked at him gravely, for one more moment, and he also looked at her, very gravely and very sorrowfully. But their souls did not come into contact. She kissed him first:
"Good-night," she said, softly.
He said nothing more, but he returned her kiss, very fondly. Then he left the room; and she heard his steps creaking softly on the stairs.
"Dear God," he thought, "how am I to find her! How am I to find her again! . . ."
- Gertrude, Gertie.