‘Fra Celeste’ by Ricarda Huch – Part Thirteen

The following day it became clear that what I had told him of Aglaia’s grief had found its way into his heart after all, for he expressed a desire to visit her.  Despite my advice to the contrary, he insisted on my accompanying him, perhaps so that if this reencounter proved to be awkward after all that had passed in the meantime, I might help them over the embarrassment.  Apparently, he had failed to imagine the effect her presence would have on him; scarcely had they set eyes upon one another when they forgot everything they had felt and thought about each other and, with a cry, flung themselves into each other’s arms.  It took a considerable time for them to return to their senses, and Aglaia said with a sigh, attempting to free herself from his grasp: “Oh, why don’t you love me anymore?”, to which he replied with a sob in his voice: “I not love you anymore?  I’ll love you forever, eternally, just don’t leave me!  Don’t die!  Be mine again!” and other such words, so that the true state of her health and her impending demise could not but become immediately clear to her.

Full of horror, I looked over to see what impression this had all made on her or whether she had yet to grasp the truth, but her face was glowing, and shimmered with blissful splendour, for it was precisely because she had suddenly grasped everything that Dolfin’s behaviour could now be understood, and she knew that in truth she had never lost his love.  At this moment, it was also impossible for her to believe in an approaching death, allowing her to swear with an expression of heartfelt conviction that she would stay with him, never leave him.  It was only when she saw a lack of belief and hope in his eyes, and mine, that her mood suddenly altered, and she clung to him in fear, pleading: “Don’t let me die!  Let me stay here with you!”  Yes, she sought to unsettle him through the memory of their past loving happiness, as if it were merely a lack of good will preventing him from saving her from death.

I had been standing this whole time at the other end of the terrace, uncertain as to whether I should stay or go, and when I saw Fra Celeste draw the weeping woman to him with the greatest tenderness and thought that they would now speak their minds and understand one another, I was about to go on my way, but in the same instant, he let go of her again and, pushing me aside, rushed out the door.

My first impulse was to follow him, and if I had done so, perhaps events would have taken a different course; but God must have wished it to be thus.  For Aglaia asked me to stay with her, and as it seemed she truly needed the presence of a helpful friend, frail and exhausted as she appeared, I helped her over to the divan upon which she had been lying, protected by a stretched out sailcloth from the midday sun, covered her up and sat down beside her.  She recovered quickly and seemed to feel better, and calmer, for she now began to speak in an almost cheerful manner of her illness, and of how incredible it was that she had never considered the possibility of death.  As I attempted to interrupt to console her, she laid her hand upon mine and slowly shook her head; now she sensed that it was thus, she said, and she was content.

She then looked out at the sea, which spread out beneath us like cool, blue fire in the sun.  In every wave, there seemed to glow a flame that bobbed down whenever the small amethyst-coloured waterfall leaped over it.  The round poplar trees had wrapped the sunshine around themselves like a golden cloak, and it trickled down the white walls of the houses in long, flowing streams, yes, the air itself fairly glistened.  When I turned my eyes away from all this splendour back to Aglaia, I saw that her cheeks were soaked with tears, even though her eyes were smiling.  She closed her eyes and said: “Now everything has gone, sun, sea, the whole world.”  Then she opened them, closed them again, did this repeatedly, but she finally turned her face away and buried it in the pillow upon which her head was resting.

After sitting beside her for a while, without her moving at all, I decided that I was of no use and could leave her to the care of her maid, so I stood up.  Disturbed by the noise, she sat up, gazed at me with eyes shining like heaven, and said softly: “Bid me a last farewell.”  Sweet woman!  Flower of life!  Did you already know then that this was our very last moment, that your murderer was already on his way to remove you from this beautiful Earth?  Slowly, she moved her face towards mine and kissed me on the brow, smiled, then lay down again; when I turned around at the door one last time, I saw that she was still looking at me.  Her eyes were following me, for as long as they possibly could, out into real, glowing, sunlit life; her hands stretched out towards me as if to say: Take something of me with you, keep hold of as much of me as you can, the beloved air blows around you, around you flows the beautiful light which I must leave behind!

Perhaps, I was forced to consider later, this was the very last kiss bestowed by her happy lips.  For if Dolfin had afterwards felt her caresses, her trusting embrace and her heartfelt words, I find it impossible to believe that he could have killed her.  Or is it what she wanted?  Did she wish to change the bitter goblet of death to which she was condemned into a love potion administered by the hands of a friend?  Until the dead return from the grave, this is a puzzle that will forever remain unsolved.

← Part Twelve     Part Fourteen →

Translation © 2020 by Tony Malone. All rights reserved.

2 thoughts on “‘Fra Celeste’ by Ricarda Huch – Part Thirteen

Every comment left on my blog helps a fairy find its wings, so please be generous - do it for the fairies.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.