Dr. Adriaan/Chapter IV
When Addie came downstairs he met Constance. A gas-jet was burning with a small flame in the brown dusk of the oak wainscoting. She was obviously tired:
"I am going to my room," she said.
"I was looking for you, Mummy."
"Come along with me then."
"Perhaps you're tired, perhaps you want to rest . . . and sleep."
"I can rest as well when you are with me as when I am alone. Come."
She put out her hand, took his and drew him gently up the stairs. She turned up the gas in her sitting-room. She changed quickly into a tea-gown; and he thought that he would not speak to her that evening, because she really seemed very weary. . . . While she was busy in her dressing-room, he looked round him and felt the years of his boyhood. The room was so exact a copy of the little drawing-room in the Kerkhoflaan that the past always came back to him here. And it brought with it the strange melancholy of all things that had been and no longer were. . . .
"Hark how it's blowing!" she said. "It reminds me . . . "
"Of what, Mamma?"
"Of an evening, more than ten years ago, at the Hague. It was after the death of Grandmamma van der Welcke. I had returned from here, from the room which is now Papa's bedroom. I had been to Grandmamma . . . and it was stormy weather, like to-day, and, when I got home, I was fanciful and frightened: the wind seemed to me so gigantic and I . . . I was so small. . . . Then you came home . . . and I was so frightened . . . I crept into your arms . . . I looked into your eyes, Addie. . . . In those days, it was very strange, they changed colour, they turned grey. . . . Now they are sometimes quite dark-grey, but sometimes I see a gleam of blue in them. I used to feel so sorry . . . that they changed colour. . . . Do you remember? It was not long before Uncle Gerrit died. . . . Oh, how frightened I felt . . . for days and weeks before! . . ."
"And why are you thinking of those days, Mammy darling?"
"I don't know why. Perhaps only because it's blowing. . . . How small our country is by the sea! . . . It's always blowing, always blowing. . . . One would think that everything that happens is blown to us, across the sea, and comes down upon us, in heavy showers of rain. . . ."
"Oh, my boy, sometimes I feel so terribly heavy-hearted, without knowing why! . . ."
"Is it the house?"
"The house? No, no, it's not the house."
"Don't you like the house even now?"
"Oh, yes . . . I'm pretty used to the house!"
"Is it the wind, the rain?"
"Perhaps both. . . . But haven't I known them for years?"
"Then what is it that makes you heavy-hearted?"
"I don't know."
"Come here, to me. . . ."
"Where, my boy?"
"On my knees, in my arms. . . ."
She sat down on his knees and smiled, sadly:
"It's an age . . ."
"Since I sat on your knee like this. . . . Do you remember? Do you remember? When you were quite a boy . . . and I felt frightened . . . I used to creep up to your little study and creep into your arms and look into your blue eyes. . . . I never do that now."
He clasped his arms round her:
"Then do it again. There, you're doing it now. . . . My lap's bigger now. . . . My eyes have changed colour. . . ."
"Everything, everything has changed!"
"Has everything changed?"
"Yes . . . I've lost you!"
"I have lost you. . . . Hush, dear, it was bound to come! . . . Does a son belong to his parents? . . . Does a son belong to his mother? . . . A son belongs to everybody and everything . . . but not to his parents, not to his mother. . . . It is a cruel law, but it is a law. . . ."
"You're regretting the past . . . and there was not so much peace and quiet in the past, Mummie. . . . Do you remember, do you remember . . . how you used to be . . . you and poor Father? . . . Now everything is much calmer . . . everything has smoothed down so . . . because life has gone on."
"Yes, life has gone on. . . . I had you . . . and I have lost you! . . ."
She was sobbing on his shoulder.
"Dear, it was bound to be! Didn't I consider . . . that it would be so . . . years and years ago? . . . When you were a little boy, I often used to think, 'I've got him now . . . but one day I shall lose him irrevocably?' Now it has come. . . . I must accept it with resignation. . . ."
"But am I not living with you all? Have I ever been away . . . except to college . . . and sometimes on business?"
"Dear, it's not that. It's the losing each other, the losing each other . . . out of each other's souls. . . ."
"But it's not that."
"That's just what it is. . . . And it's bound to be so, dear. . . . Only, because I no longer feel any part of you in my soul, I no longer know anything about you. . . . I have known nothing about you for ages. . . . I see you going and coming—it's the patients, it's the children, occupying you . . . in turns—but what do I know, what do I know about you? . . . It has become like that gradually . . . and since . . . since you got married, it has become irrevocable."
"Mamma . . ."
"I oughtn't to talk like this, dear. I mustn't. And I should be able to overcome this melancholy, if I knew . . . that you were happy in yourself. . . ."
"Why should you doubt it?"
"I don't know. There's something about you . . ."
"Mother," he said, "how strange it is that you and Father . . ."
"Have never really found each other! You so often think the same things."
"Did Papa also think . . .?"
"Just now . . . almost the same as you."
"We have learnt to bear with each other, darling."
"But you have never found each other," he said, faintly; and his voice broke.
She looked at him; she understood that he too had not found his wife. She saw it: he was not happy in himself. A sword seemed suddenly to cut through her soul; and she was filled with self-reproach as from a well. Was it not all her fault, that her son was not happy now? . . . Was it not the result of his childhood, the result of his upbringing? . . . The melancholy that had come after the excessive earnestness of his first youth . . . was it not her fault?
But she merely answered his words mechanically:
"No," she said, "we have never found each other."
He would have wished to tell her now . . . about his journey, about the old man, who had died, over there, near Haarlem. But he could not; a feeling of discouragement prevented him. And they remained sitting without speaking, close together, with her hand in his. After his father, after his mother had both, so soon after each other, spoken to him of his own happiness . . . now that feeling of discouragement prevented him, because he saw life enveloping in clouds of darkness at his feet . . . black darkness out of an abyss . . . so that he did not know whither the first steps would lead him. . . . Black darkness and emptiness . . . because he no longer knew, no longer knew what it would be best to say and do. . . . He could no longer speak now of the old man who had died yonder, who had sent for him to tell him that he forgave the two of them—his father, his mother—who had once injured him: he could not do it. Whereas, at the time of his father's words, the black darkness had only whirled in front of him, now that his mother, so strangely, was saying the same to him . . . it had suddenly become an abyss . . . pitch-dark . . . because he no longer knew anything. . . . He no longer possessed the instinctive knowledge by which he must tread his path, which, while still so very young, he thought that he knew how to tread in clear self-consciousness of a clear soul that felt its own vocation. Oh, how often of late years had he no longer known! He no longer knew what was right to do, because, whatever he had done of late years, the heaviness had sunk within him, as an insufficiency, giving him that feeling of discouragement. . . . He had felt that discouragement by the bedside of his needy patients. . . . He had felt that discouragement in between his cares for Uncle Gerrit's children. . . . He had felt that discouragement when he was with his wife, with his own children. . . .
Oh, world of feeling born just of the emptiness of self-insufficiency, because self, alas, was never sufficient, because something was always lacking and he did not know what! . . . And, when this came over him, this night of sudden chaos, the word died on his lips, the movement on his fingers, the deed on his will. . . . Oh, world of darkness, which then suddenly spread like the expanse of clouds outside over all the clear sky of himself! . . . He knew he wanted what was right; and yet the insufficiency swelled up. . . . Hehis powers of alleviation and consolation; and yet it was the night without a smile . . . as now, when he sat with his hand in his mother's; with no words after their first, save that she shuddered and said:
"Hark . . . hark how the wind is blowing! . . ."
He drew her to him, until her head sank on his shoulder, and they remained like that, in the night.
The gale outside was like a living immensity, a vast soul raging with world-suffering, thousand-voiced and thousand-winged, and under its raging agony, which filled all the air above the land, the house that contained the life of them all was small as some tiny casket. . . .
And that night he was unable to tell her. . . .