“No. Now listen,” someone said; “it is true that the ideal conversation gets as far away as possible from what one is talking about; but that, it seems to me, we could best do by turning back to what we started with.”
“Very well, then. The Greeks…”
“First the Phoenicians!”
“What do you know about the Phoenicians?”
“Nothing! But why should the Phoenicians always be skipped?”
Light fell in a few short flashes
The boat was now opposite the house, and just as it passed someone on board lighted his cigarette. The light fell in a few short flashes on the lady at the helm, and in the reddish glare one beheld a fresh, girlish face with a happy smile about the parted lips and a dreamy expression in the clear eyes that looked up to the dark sky. The light went out. A slight splash was heard, as of something thrown into the water, and the boat drifted past.
About a year later. The sun was setting amidst banks of heavy, deeply glowing clouds which cast a blood-red reflection over the dark waters of the river. A fresh wind blew over the plains. There were no locusts—only the murmur of the river, and the whispering of the reeds. In the distance a boat was coming down the stream.
The old woman was down by the edge of the river. … After she had thrown her magic bouquet towards the young girl she had fainted, and the strong emotion—perhaps also the new doctor who had recently arrived in the vicinity—had worked a change in her malady. For months her condition improved, and finally she regained her health entirely.
In the beginning she was as if intoxicated by this feeling of health; but it did not last long. She grew downhearted and sorrowful, restless and full of despair, for she was constantly pursued by the picture of the young girl in the boat. It seemed to her the girl was kneeling at her feet and looked at her with pleading eyes. Later the vision vanished, but she knew that it was still there. The girl kept moaning all the time. Then she grew silent, but visible again. Presently the vision was always before her, pale and emaciated, staring at her with unnaturally large wondering eyes.
This evening she was down at the river’s edge; she had a stick in her hand, and she drew cross after cross in the soft mud; now and again she arose and listened; then she bent down and drew crosses again.
Presently the bell began to toll.
She carefully finished the last cross, put the stick away, kneeled down and prayed. Then she walked into the river till it reached her armpits. She folded her hands and let herself down into the black water. The water took her, pulled her down into its depths, and rolled on, as ever, heavy and sad, past the village, past the fields—away.
The boat was very near now. The same young people were on board who had helped each other steer the year before, and they were on their wedding-trip. He sat at the helm; she stood in the middle of the boat, draped in a large gray shawl, with a little red hood over her head… stood leaning against the short soilless mast, and hummed.
They drifted past the house. She nodded happily to the helmsman, looked up to the sky, and began to sing; sang hummingly as she leaned against the mast with her eyes lifted toward the drifting clouds… a song filled with happiness triumphant.