Journey Into the Past

Journey Into the Past by Stefan Zweig Read Free Book Online

Book: Journey Into the Past by Stefan Zweig Read Free Book Online
Authors: Stefan Zweig
Tags: Classics
with a clatter, screeching in the vice-like hold of the brake applied to it. Like a dog waking under the touch of the whip, his eyes woke from reverie, and—what a happy moment of recognition—look, there she was, his beloved who had been so far away for so long. Now she sat there, close enough for him to feel her breathing. The brim of her hat cast a little shadow on her face as she leaned back. But as if, unconsciously, she had understood that he wanted to see her face she sat up straight, and looked at him with a mild smile. “Darmstadt,” she said, glancing out of the window. “One more station to go.” He did not reply. He just sat looking at her. Time is helpless, he thought to himself, helpless in the face of our feelings. Nine years have passed, and not a note in her voice is different, not a nerve in my body hears her in any other way. Nothing is lost, nothing is past and over, her presence is as much of a tender delight now as it was then.
    He looked with passion at her quietly smiling mouth, which he could hardly remember kissing in the past, and then down at the white hands lying relaxed and at rest on her lap; he longed to bend and touch them with his lips, or take those quietly folded hands in his, just for a second, one second! But the talkative gentlemen sharing the compartment were already beginning to look at him curiously, and for the sake of his secret he leaned back again in silence. Once more they sat opposite one another without a sign or a word, and only their eyes met and kissed.
    Outside a whistle blew, the train began to roll out of the station once more, and the swinging, swaying monotony of that steel cradle rocked him back into his memories. Ah, the dark, endless years between then and now, a grey sea between shore and shore, between heart and heart! What had it been like? There was a memory that he did not want to touch, he did not wish to recollect the moment of their last goodbye, the moment on the station platform in the city where, today, he had been waiting for her with his heart wide open. No, away with it, it was over and not to be thought of any more, it was too terrible. His thoughts flew back, back again; another landscape, another time opened up in his dreams, conjured up by the rapid rhythm of the rattling wheels. He had gone to Mexico with a heart torn in two, and he managed to endure the first months there, the first terrible weeks that passed before any message from her arrived, only by cramming his head full of figures and drafted designs, by exhausting himself physically with long rides and expeditions out into the country, and what seemed endless negotiations and enquiries, but he carried them through with determination. From morning to night, he locked himself into the engine-house of the company, constantly at work hammering out numbers, talking, writing all the time, only to hear his inner voice desperately crying out one name, hers. He numbed himself with work as another man might with alcohol or drugs, merely to deaden the strength of his emotions. But every evening, however tired he was, he sat down to describe on sheet after sheet of paper, writing for hour after hour, everything that he had done in the day, and by every post he sent whole bundles of these feverishly written pages to a cover address on which they had agreed, so that his distant beloved could follow his life hourly as she used to at home, and he felt her mild gaze resting on his daily work, sharing it in her mind over a thousand sea miles, over hills and horizons. The letters he received from her were his reward. Her handwriting was upright, her words calm, betraying passion but in disciplined form. They told him first, without complaint, about her daily life, and it was as if he felt her steady blue gaze bent on him, although without her smile, the faint, reassuring smile which removed all that was severe from any gravity. These letters had been food and drink to the lonely man. In his own

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