Dream Story

Dream Story by Arthur Schnitzler Read Free Book Online

Book: Dream Story by Arthur Schnitzler Read Free Book Online
Authors: Arthur Schnitzler
Tags: Fiction
encountered a searching and penetrating glance. A strange, heavy perfume, as of Southern gardens, scented the room. Again an arm brushed against him, but this time it was that of a nun. Like all the others she had a black veil over her face, head and neck, a blood-red mouth glowed under the black laces of the mask. Where am I? thought Fridolin. Among lunatics? Or conspirators? Is this a meeting of some religious sect? Can it be that Nachtigall was ordered or paid to bring along some stranger to be the target of their jokes? But everything seemed too serious, too intense, too uncanny for a masquerade prank. A woman's voice joined the strains of the organ and an Old. Italian sacred aria resounded through the room. They all stood still and listened and Fridolin surrendered himself for a moment to the wondrously swelling melody. A soft voice suddenly whispered from behind: "Don't turn around. There's still a chance for you to get away. You don't belong here. If it's discovered it will go hard with you."
    Fridolin gave a frightened start. For a second he thought of leaving, but his curiosity, the allurement and, above all, his pride, were stronger than any of his misgivings. Now that I've gone this far, he thought, I don't care what happens. And he shook his head negatively without turning around.
    The voice behind him whispered: "I should feel very sorry for you." He turned and looked at her. He saw the blood-red mouth glimmering under the lace. Dark eyes were fixed on him. "I shall stay," he said in a heroic voice which he hardly recognized as his own, and he looked away again. The song was now ringing through the room; the organ had a new sound which was anything but sacred. It was worldly, voluptuous, and pealing. Looking around Fridolin saw that all the nuns had disappeared and that only the monks were left. The voice had meanwhile also changed. It rose by way of an artistically executed trill from its low and serious pitch to a high and jubilant tone. In place of the organ a piano had suddenly chimed in with its worldly and brazen tunes. Fridolin at once recognized Nachtigall's wild and inflammatory touch. The woman's voice which had been so reverent a moment before had vanished with a last wild, voluptuous outburst through the ceiling, as it were, into infinity. Doors opened to the right and left On one side Fridolin recognized the indistinct outlines of Nachtigall's figure; the room opposite was radiant with a blaze of light. All the women were standing there motionless. They wore dark veils over their heads, faces and necks and black masks over their eyes, but otherwise they were completely naked. Fridolin's eyes wandered eagerly from voluptuous to slender bodies, from delicate figures to those luxuriously developed. He realized that each of these women would forever be a mystery, and that the enigma of their large eyes peering at him from beneath the black masks would remain unsolved. The delight of beholding was changed to an almost unbearable agony of desire. And the others seemed to experience a similar sensation. The first gasps of rapture had changed to sighs that held a note very near anguish. A cry broke out somewhere. Suddenly all of them, as though pursued, rushed from the darkened room to the women, who received them with wild and wicked laughter. The men were no longer in cassocks, but dressed as cavaliers, in white, yellow, blue and red. Fridolin was the only one in monk's dress. Somewhat nervously he slunk into the farthest corner, where he was near Nachtigall whose back was turned to him. Nachtigall had a bandage over his eyes, but Fridolin thought he could see him peering underneath the bandage into the tall mirror opposite. In it the cavaliers with their gay-colored costumes were reflected, dancing with their naked partners.
    A woman came up suddenly behind Fridolin and whispered—for no one spoke aloud, as if the voices, too, were to remain a secret—: "What is the matter? Why don't you

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