---------------------------------------------------------------
     (translated by Barry Scherr)
     Origin: "Искатели приключений"
     Alexander Grin, "The Seeker of Adventure, Selected Stories",
     М., Прогресс, 1978, 484 с.
     OCR: Ivi
---------------------------------------------------------------



     ...Denn eben wo Begriffe
     fehlen,
     Da stellt ein Wort zur rechten
     Zeit sich ein.
     (Faust)


     The traveller  Ammon Root returned to his  native land after an absence
of several  years. He stayed with Tonar, an  old friend of  his, who was the
director of a  joint-stock company and a person with a shady past-but also a
fanatic  for decorum  and probity. On  the  very  day  of his  arrival Ammon
quarrelled with Tonar over a newspaper editorial, called his friend a minion
of the minister, and stepped outside for a walk.
     Ammon  Root was one of those  people  who  are  more  serious than they
appear at first  glance.  His  travels were not mentioned by the newspapers,
nor  did  they  cause  a single  map to  make  the slightest change  in  its
depiction of the  continents, but they were still  absolutely necessary  for
him. "To  live means to travel," he  would say  to  those  people  who  were
attached to life just on the side of it that is most warm and steamy, like a
hot  pie.  Ammon's  eyes-two eternally greedy  abysses-ransacked heaven  and
earth in  their  search  for new  spoils;  abysses-everything he saw plunged
headlong into them and was packed away once and for all in the fearful crush
at the bottom  of  his memory,  to be kept  for his own  use. In contrast to
tourists Ammon saw far more than the museums and churches where the viewers,
pretending to be experts, seek ethereal beauty in poorly-executed paintings.
     Out  of curiosity  Ammon Root  stopped  in  at a cafeteria  that served
vegetarian  food.  About a  hundred people  were sitting in the large rooms,
which  smelled of varnish,  paint, freshly-dried  wall-paper, and some other
particularly abstinent  odour. Ammon noticed the  absence of any old people.
An  extraordinary silence, which was out of keeping with even the concept of
food, inspired the appetite  of anyone  coming in to be prayerfully delicate
and bodiless, like the very  idea of herbivority. The pious  but ruddy faces
of the health fanatics cast  indifferent glances at  Ammon. He sat down. The
dinner, served to him with  a ceremonial and somewhat accentuated solemnity,
consisted of a repulsive gruel called "Hercules", fried potatoes, cucumbers,
and  some  insipid  cabbage.  Ammon  poked  around with  his  fork  in  this
gastronomical paltriness, ate  a  piece of bread and a cucumber, and drank a
glass  of water; then  he snapped open his cigarette case, but he remembered
that smoking was prohibited and looked around gloomily. At the tables mouths
were  chewing sedately and  delicately in  a death-like  silence. Ammon  was
hungry and  sensed  opposition welling  up within him.  He well knew that he
could just as easily have not stopped in here --  nobody had asked  him to do
so  --  but' it  was hard for him to resist his  chance whims. Staring at his
plate,  Ammon said  in a low voice, as though to himself, but clearly enough
so that he could be heard:
     "What garbage. I'd love to have some meat now!" At the word "meat" many
people gave a start, and several dropped their forks; all pricked  up  their
ears and looked at the impudent visitor.
     "I'd really like some meat!" Ammon repeated with a sigh.
     Somebody  coughed  emphatically, and  another person began  to  breathe
noisily in the corner.
     Ammon grew bored and  went out into the foyer. A servant handed him his
coat.
     "I'll send you a turkey," said Ammon, "eat to your heart's content."
     "Oh, sir!" objected the  emaciated old servant, sadly shaking his head.
"If only you were used to our regimen...."
     Ammon  went out without listening to him. "Now the day's been spoiled,"
he thought, as he walked along the shady side  of the street. "That cucumber
has stuck  in my throat." He wanted to return  home  and did so.  Tonar  was
sitting in the living room at  the open piano; he  had  finished playing his
favourite  bravura pieces  but was  still  under the spell  of  their  great
liveliness. Tonar  liked everything that was  definite, absolute, and clear:
for example, milk and money.
     "Admit that the article is stupid!" said Ammon as he entered. "I'd like
to give that  minister of yours  my boot in the ... but the police inspector
is an efficient fellow."
     "We," retorted Tonar without  turning around, "we  businessmen look  at
things differently. Loafers  like you,  corrupted by travels and  a romantic
outlook, admire anyone who plays at being  a  Harun al-Rashid.  To be  sure,
instead of harassing the  speculators who finagle us on the stock market, it
is much easier to don a false beard, hang around  various dens, and booze it
up with petty thieves."
     "But  if  somebody's  an  interesting  person,"  said  Ammon,  "then  I
appreciate  him for that alone.  You  have to  appreciate  truly interesting
people. I've known a lot of them. One, a hermaphrodite, was wed to a man and
then, after getting  divorced, married a woman.  A  second,  who was  once a
priest, invented  a machine that sang  bass; he grew rich,  killed  a circus
snake with his teeth on a bet, kept a harem  in Cairo, and  now is  a cheese
merchant. A third is remarkable for being a  true phenomenon. He possessed a
startling ability  to concentrate  the attention of  all  those  around  him
exclusively  on  himself; everyone was  silent in his presence,  and only he
spoke-a little  more intelligence,  and  he  could  have  done  whatever  he
pleased. A fourth  blinded himself  of his  own volition, so  as  not to see
people. A fifth  was a  sincere, forty-year-old fool;  when people asked him
what he was, he answered  that he was a fool and  laughed. Interestingly, he
was neither a madman  nor an idiot, but simply a classical fool. A sixth ...
the sixth ... is myself."
     "Yes?" Tonar asked ironically.
     "Yes.  I'm against  false  humility.  I  have  seen  a  lot  during the
forty-five  years  of  my  life;  I  have experienced  a  lot,  and  I  have
participated a lot in others' lives."
     "But.... No!" said Tonar after a silence.  "I know a truly  interesting
person. You bundles of nerves live  in want.  You  always have too little of
everything. I know a person who  leads an ideally beautiful normal life, who
is perfectly  well-bred and possesses outstanding principles, and  who lives
in the healthy atmosphere of farm  work and nature.  By the way, that  is my
ideal. But I am not a person of one piece.  You ought to have a look at him,
Ammon. His life  is to yours as that  of a juicy red apple  is  to  a rotten
banana."
     "For God's sake!" exclaimed Ammon. "Show me this monster!"
     "As you wish. He's from our circle."
     Ammon laughed  when he  tried to  imagine  a peaceful and healthy life.
Eccentric, hot-tempered,  and brusque-at times he felt  vaguely attracted to
such an existence, but only in his  imagination; monotony crushed him. There
was so much appetizing  mental  lip-smacking  in  Tonar's account that Ammon
became interested.
     "If it's not ideal," he said, "I won't go, but if you assure...."
     "I guarantee that the most immoderate claims...."
     "I've never yet  seen such a person," interrupted  Ammon. "Please write
me a letter of recommendation by tomorrow. Is it very far?"
     "A four-hour ride."
     Ammon, who  was  pacing up and down  the  room,  stopped behind Tonar's
back; carried away by the impressions that were in store, he put his hand on
his friend's bald spot, as though on a lectern, and recited:
     My native fields! To your serenity,
     To sparkling moonlight shining pensively,
     To languid mists meandering through winding vales,
     To the naive allure of ancient myths and tales,
     To rosy cheeks and eyes with hearty gleam,
     I have returned; and now your features seem
     Unaltered, while the very soul of grace
     Preserves my dream amidst this native place!
     "Are you really  forty-five years  old?" asked Tonar,  settling heavily
into his armchair.
     "Forty-five." Ammon approached the mirror. "Who is there to pull out my
grey hairs for me?  And will  I indeed be travelling, travelling, travelling
for a long time yet-perhaps forever?"


     Early in  the morning Ammon saw  the blue and  white  snow of mountains
from his train window; their jagged thrust stretched in  a semicircle around
a hilly plain. A sunny stripe of the sea was shining in the distance.
     The white station-building, with wild  grape vines  entwined about  its
walls, cordially came  running  up  to the train. Emitting  puffs of exhaust
steam, the engine came to a halt; the cars clanged, and Ammon disembarked.
     He  saw  that  Liliana was a truly  beautiful place.  The streets along
which Ammon drove, in the carriage that he had hired to go to Dogger's, were
not  impeccably straight; their gentle winding caused the  eye to constantly
expect  extensive  vistas.  Meanwhile  Ammon   was  quite  diverted  by  the
buildings' gradually unfolding diversity. The houses were dotted with little
balconies and stucco  moulding, or they displayed semi-circular towers; grey
arches against a white facade and  roofs turned up or down, like the brim of
a  hat, provided diverse welcomes to  the onlooker. All of this had quite an
attractive appearance,  immersed as  it  was  in the  majestically  blooming
gardens,  the flower-beds, the sunlight, and the sky. The streets were lined
with  palms; their  umbreJla-like tops  cast  blue  shadows  onto the yellow
midday  earth. Now  and  then in the middle  of  a  square there  would be a
fountain, as ancient as a granddad and full of water  that rippled  from the
falling spray; in places a winding  stone staircase rose in  a  side-street,
and above it, shaped like an eyebrow,  would arc a small bridge, as light as
the arm of a girl held akimbo.
     III DOGGER'S HOUSE
     When he had ridden through the town Ammon  caught sight of a garden and
a tiled roof in the distance. The gravel-covered road led along an avenue of
trees to  a simple entrance that was in keeping with the entire house, which
was built of light-coloured, unpainted wood. Ammon
     walked  up to the  house.  It  was a one-storey  log building with  two
projections on the sides  and a terrace.  The  climbing greenery  filled the
facade's piers with flowers and leaves; there were many flowers everywhere --
carnations, tulips, anemones, holly-hocks, asters, and gilly-flowers.
     Dogger,  who had  been  standing  by a tree,  approached Ammon with the
relaxed,  effortless steps of a powerful  man. He  was  hatless; his  strong
neck, pink  from sunburn, was hidden by his curly blond hair. Dogger  was as
powerful as a broad-chested statue of Hercules that had come to life, and he
produced an impression of indestructible health. Ammon very  much  liked the
bold features of  his hearty face, his warm grey  eyes, and his  small beard
and moustache.  Dogger's outfit  consisted of a  canvas shirt  and pants,  a
leather  belt,  and high boots of  soft leather. His  handshake was firm but
quick, while his deep voice rang out clearly and freely.
     "I'm  Ammon Koot,"  said  Ammon,  bowing, "if you've  received  Tonar's
letter, I'll have the honour of explaining to you the reason why I came."
     "I received his letter, and  you are first and foremost my guest," said
Dogger with a courteous smile. "Let's go in; I'll introduce you  to my wife.
Then we'll talk about everything you wish to discuss."
     Ammon followed him into a very simple living room with high windows and
modest  furniture.  Nothing stuck  out;  on  the  contrary,  everything  was
designed for subtle comfort. Here  and in the other rooms that Ammon visited
the furnishings were forgotten, as the body  forgets pieces of clothing that
have long since become familiar. There were no  paintings or  prints on  the
walls. Ammon did not notice this at first: the piers' emptiness seemed to be
casually  draped  with  the folds  of the  window  curtains.  The  tidiness,
cleanliness, and light imparted a nuance of tender solicitude for the things
with which, like with old friends, people live their entire lives.
     "Elma!" said Dogger, opening the hall door. "Come here."
     Ammon was impatient to meet Dogger's wife. He was interested  in seeing
them as a couple. Before a minute had gone by a beautiful smiling woman in a
smart  open-sleeved house-dress  emerged from the dim light of the hall. Her
every  movement  spoke  of  overflowing  good  health.  A  blonde  of  about
twenty-two, she sparkled with the refreshing calm  of contented young blood,
with the gaiety of a well-rested body, and  with the majestic good nature of
enduring   happiness.   Ammon  thought  that  everything  must  be  just  as
harmonious, beautiful,  and joyful on the inside, where her  body  worked in
mysterious  ways:  her  heart  of  steel meticulously pumped  scarlet  blood
through  her  blue veins,  while  her pink lungs vigorously inhaled  air  to
refresh the blood, warmed amidst white ribs beneath the white breast.
     Dogger,  without ceasing to  smile -- which seemed  to be more of a need
than an effort for  him -- introduced Root to his  wife;  she began to  speak
freely and lustily, as though she had known Ammon for a long time.
     "Being a traveller, you  will be a little bored at our place, but  that
will only be good for you ... yes, good."
     "I'm touched," said Ammon, bowing.
     Everyone  sat  down.  Dogger,  like   Elma,  sat  in  silence,  smiling
ingenuously, and gazing directly into Ammon's face; their expressions  said:
"We see that you are also a very homely person; it is an  easy matter to sit
silently with you  and not be bored." Despite the winning  simplicity of his
hosts and the furnishings, Ammon did not trust what he saw.
     "I very much want to explain  the purpose of my visit to you," he said,
getting  down to  the  necessary  lie.  "In the course of my travels I  have
become a zealous photographer. In my opinion  this pastime can involve quite
a bit of artistry."
     "Artistry," Dogger nodded.
     "Yes. Every landscape passes through hundreds of phases every day. Each
time the sun, the time of  day, the  moon, the stars, or a human figure make
it different: they either add to it or take something away. Tonar tempted me
with his description of Liliana's charms: the city itself, the surroundings,
and your marvelous estate. I feel that my camera is stirring impatiently  in
my suitcase and that the shutter is snapping by itself from impatience. Have
you known Tonar for long, Dogger?"
     "For  a  very  long  time.  We  became  acquainted while  we  were both
negotiating to buy this estate,  but I outbid  him. We're  on most excellent
terms, and sometimes he drops by. He likes country life very much."
     "It's strange that he doesn't live like this himself," said Ammon.
     "You know," rejoined  Elma, putting her head onto her arms and her arms
onto  the back of the chair, "to  do that you have to  be born a person like
myself and my husband. Am I right, dear?"
     "You're right," said Dogger pensively. "But, Ammon, I'll  show  you the
farm while dinner is being perepared. Will you come along, Elma?"
     "No,"  the  young woman refused with a laugh,  "I'm the hostess, and  I
must look after things."
     "In that  case..." Dogger stood up. Ammon did so as well. "In that case
we'll set off on our trip."


     "A true  seeker  of adventure," Ammon  said to  himself  as  he  walked
alongside  Dogger,  "differs  from  a  tritely  curious person  in  that  he
thoroughly  explores  any  obscure  situation.  Now  I  have  to  look  into
everything.  I  don't  believe  Dogger."  Without  further introspection  he
surrendered himself to his impressions. Dogger led Ammon along  the garden's
vaulted  avenues to the backyard.  Their conversation touched on nature, and
Dogger, with  a  subtlety  that  one would  not expect from his  appearance,
penetrated to the  very core of  the  chaotic and contradictory  feelings-as
slight as the flicker of  an  eyelash  --  produced by natural phenomena.  He
spoke rather phlegmatically, and yet any general concept  of nature suddenly
ceased to  exist for Ammon. Nature,  like a house made  of blocks, collapsed
before his very eyes into its constituent parts. Then, just as carefully and
imperceptibly,  as though playing, Dogger  restored what had been destroyed;
he harmoniously and methodically fused the disintegrated  concept  back into
its original form, and Ammon again saw the momentarily lost aggregate of the
world's beauty.
     "You are an artist, or you ought to be one," said Ammon.
     "Now I'll show you the cow," said  Dogger animatedly,  "it's of  a good
breed and a healthy specimen."
     They emerged into the cheery, spacious yard, where a lot of poultry was
wandering about:  variegated hens, fiery  roosters, motley ducks,  irritable
turkeys, baby  chickens  as  yellow  as  dandelions,  and  several  pairs of
pheasants. A  huge chained dog  was lying in a green kennel  with his tongue
hanging out. Pigs that looked like pink logs glittered within  an enclosure;
a  donkey flapped  its ears  and  cast  a good-natured sidelong  look  at  a
rooster, which was rummaging with his claw in some manure under the donkey's
very hoof;  and flocks of  blue and  white pigeons flew through the air-this
bucolic  sight  indicated  so  much peaceful joy  that  Ammon smiled. Dogger
surveyed the yard with a satisfied air and said:
     "I very much like animals that  are  of a congenial nature. Tigers, boa
constrictors, snakes, chameleons, and other anarchists are unpleasant to me.
Now let's look at the cow."
     Ammon saw four giant cows  in the barn,  where  small but clear windows
let in  plenty of  light. Dogger approached  one  of  the  cows,  which  had
crescent-shaped horns and was  the colour  of  yellow soap; the beast exuded
strength, fat, and milk; the huge, pink,  black-spotted udder hung almost to
the ground. The  cow,  as  though  realising that she was  being  inspected,
turned her heavy, thick muzzle towards the men and flicked her tail.
     Dogger stood  with arms akimbo-which made him look like  a  peasant-and
looked at Ammon, the cow, and again at Ammon; then he  gave  the cow a solid
slap on the rump with the palm of his hand.
     "A beauty! I call her Diana. She's the best specimen in the district."
     "Yes, she's impressive," Ammon affirmed.
     Dogger  took  down a red copper bucket that was  hanging in a row  with
some others and began to roll up his sleeves.
     "Watch me do the milking, Ammon. Then try the milk."
     Suppressing  a smile,  Ammon put  on an  expression  of keen attention.
Dogger squatted,  placed  the  bucket beneath  the cow,  and  by  skillfully
squeezing  the teats caused streams of milk to strike forcefully against the
resonant copper. Very soon the bucket contained a couple  of inches of milk,
all frothy  from the spray. Dogger's serious face, his motherly treatment of
the cow, and the sight of a man doing the milking so convulsed Ammon that he
could  not restrain himself and began to roar with laughter. Dogger  stopped
milking,  looked at  him with  amazement, and  finally  burst  out  laughing
himself.
     "I  can  tell  you're  a  city-dweller," he  said.  "You  don't find it
ridiculous  when morbidly excited people jump about  in front of each  other
and lift  their feet in time to music. But healthy pursuits directly related
to nature make you laugh."
     "Excuse  me," said Ammon,  "I imagined myself in your place and.... And
I'll always be ashamed of myself for this."
     "Forget it," Dogger calmly rejoined, "it's just nerves. Try some."
     He  brought an earthenware  mug from the depths of the barn and  poured
out some of the thick, almost hot milk for Ammon.
     "Ah,"  said Ammon when  he had drunk  it, "your  cow has nothing  to be
ashamed of. I positively envy you. You've discovered life's simple wisdom."
     "Yes," Dogger nodded.
     "Are you very happy?"
     "Yes," Dogger nodded.
     "I couldn't be wrong, could I?"
     "No."
     Dogger unhurriedly took  the empty mug from  Ammon and unhurriedly took
it back to its former place.
     "It's ridiculous," he said when he returned, "it's ridiculous to boast,
but my life is truly filled with joyful peace."
     Ammon offered him his hand.
     "I salute you with  all my heart," he uttered  slowly, in order that he
might detain Dogger's  hand a while longer. But Dogger, smiling ingenuously,
likewise  pressed Ammon's hand and did so without a trace of impatience-even
willingly.
     "Now let's go have  lunch," said Dogger, as he walked out of  the shed.
"We'll be able to look at  the  rest this evening, if you're interested: the
meadow, the kitchen-garden, the greenhouse, and the seedbeds."
     They returned along the same road. On the way Dogger said:
     "Those who seek ugliness and disease  in nature, rather than health and
beauty, lose a great deal."
     No  words  could  have  been  more  appropriate  than these amidst  the
sweetbriar  and jasmine that lined the fragrant pathways,  along which Ammon
Root walked and observed Dogger out of the corner of his eye.


     Ammon Root had rarely experienced so robust and pure and  simple a life
as  that with which fate had brought him into  contact at Dogger's estate. A
remnant of suspiciousness  stayed with him until the end  of  lunch, but the
Doggers'  affable  manner and  the natural  simplicity of  their  movements,
smiles, and  glances enveloped Root with  a  winning aroma of happiness. The
hearty lunch consisted  of  butter, milk, cheese, ham, and  eggs. Ammon also
liked the servant who brought in and cleared away the food; she was a sedate
woman and, like everyone in the house, healthy.
     At  Elma's request Ammon spoke a  little  about  his travels. Through a
sense  of  inner  opposition  that a  born  city  person  characteristically
experiences in the country, where he is somewhat of an  alien, he then began
to speak of the season's novelties.
     "There's  a new operetta  by  Rastrelli- The  Pink Gnome-which is worse
than  his last piece. Rastrelli is repeating himself.  But  Sedir's concerts
are enchanting. His violin-playing is powerful, and I think that a violinist
like Sedir could rule an entire kingdom with the help of his bow."
     "I don't  like  music," said Dogger, breaking an egg. "May  I offer you
some goat's-milk cheese?"
     Ammon bowed.
     "And you, madam?" he said.
     "My tastes coincide with those of my husband," Elma answered, reddening
a little. "I don't like music either; I'm indifferent to it."
     Ammon  did not immediately  find anything  to  say in reply,  since  he
believed what  he had heard. These calm  and  self-possessed  people  had no
reason to pose for effect. But Ammon began to feel a little like he did when
he was sitting in the cafeteria that served vegetarian food.
     "Well.there's no  point in  arguing the  matter,"  he  said.  "A  small
painting by Alar, 'The Dragon with  a Splinter in His Paw', fascinated me at
an  exhibition in the  spring.  The  efforts which  the  dragon  makes while
rolling on his back like a dog  in order to  get rid of the wood  sliver are
very convincing. It is impossible to doubt that dragons exist after you look
at this painting depicting  their  everyday life.  However,  my friend found
that even if this dragon had been drinking milk and licking its chops...."
     "I don't like art," Dogger remarked curtly.
     Elma looked at him, then at Ammon, and smiled.
     "That's enough of that," she said. "When were you last in the tropics?"
     "No, I want to explain,"  Dogger softly  interrupted. "Art  is  a great
evil-I'm speaking, of course,  about  real art.  The theme of art is beauty,
but nothing causes so much  suffering as beauty.  Imagine  the  most perfect
work of art. There is more cruelty lurking in it than a person could bear."
     "But there is also beauty in life," Ammon rejoined.
     "The beauty of art is more hurtful than the beauty of life."
     "What is your conclusion, then?"
     "I feel  a  loathing  for  art.  I have, as  they say, the  soul  of  a
philistine.  I stand for  order in politics, for constancy in love,  and for
inconspicuous  but  useful   work   in  society.   And   on  the  whole  for
industriousness, honesty, responsibility, serenity, and moderate self-esteem
in one's personal life."
     "I  cannot disagree  with  you," Ammon said guardedly. Dogger's assured
tone  had finally persuaded him  that Tonar was  right.  Dogger  was  a rare
example  of  a person who  had  created  a special  world  of indestructible
normalcy.
     Suddenly Dogger laughed merrily.
     "There's nothing  to discuss," he  said.  "I'm  a  cheerful and  simple
person. Elma, will you come for a ride with us? I want to show our guest the
kitchen-garden, the meadows, and the surroundings."
     "Yes."


     Except for the pit in the forest Ammon did not learn  anything new from
the ride. Dogger rode on the right-hand side of Elma, and Ammon on the left;
Ammon did  not  make any  further mention of  Dogger's conviction and  spoke
about himself,  his meetings, and his observations. He sat in a simple black
saddle  atop  a  beautiful,  well-fed, and  gentle horse.  They came  across
several people who were engaged in clearing ditches and in digging the earth
up around the young trees; these were Dogger's workers, stocky young fellows
who  took off their hats respectfully. "A beautiful couple,"  Ammon thought,
looking  at  his  hosts.  "Adam and  Eve  were probably like this before the
Fall." Impressionable, like  all wanderers, he began to be imbued with their
austerely indulgent attitude towards  everything that  was not part of their
own  lives. The  inspection  of  Dogger's holdings  compelled  him to  utter
several  compliments:  the  kitchen-garden, like the entire  estate,  was  a
model. The lush meadow, sown with choice grasses, was a joy to behold.
     A forest  stretched  beyond the meadow, which  abutted a mountain-side,
and when the riders  had reached the edge  of the woods they came to a halt.
From this high spot Dogger serenely examined his holdings. He said:
     "I like property, Ammon. And now, have a look at the pit."
     Dogger rode into the forest and stopped next to a dark damp pit beneath
a canopy  formed by the thick foliage of old trees. Light percolated through
to this  place with  reluctance;  it was chilly here  --  as in  a well -- and
hushed. Wind-fallen branches filled the  pit; roots extended into  it; and a
tree trunk, snapped off by a storm, had been tossed over the chaos of forest
litter and ferns. A pungent odour of mushrooms, mould,  and  earth came from
the vast hollow,, and Dogger said:
     "You can  feel the presence  of mysterious creatures and beasts here. I
sense the wary steps of polecats, the swishing of snakes, and the protruding
eyes of toads that look like a person with dropsy. Bats circle about here in
the moonlight, and the round eyes of owls  glitter in the darkness. It seems
to be some sort of a night club."
     "He's dissembling," thought Ammon, and his distrust of Dogger flared up
anew, "but what's at the bottom of it?"
     "I want to go home," said Elma. "I don't like the forest."
     Dogger looked at his wife tenderly.
     "She objects to the dark," he told Ammon, "and so do I. Let's return. I
feel good only at home."


     At  eleven-thirty Ammon took leave of his hospitable  hosts and  headed
for the room which he had been assigned in the house's left wing; the room's
windows looked out into  the  yard, which was separated from the house  by a
narrow  garden filled  with flowers. The  furnishings exuded the same health
and  fresh coziness as  the entire house: a metal washstand;  furniture made
out  of  unpainted light wood;  clean curtains, sheets,  and pillows; a warm
grey blanket; a mirror in a simple frame  and  flowers on the window-sill; a
massive desk and a cast-iron lamp. There was nothing superfluous; everything
was necessary and purely functional.
     "So this is the kind of place I have landed in!" said Ammon, taking off
his vest. "Rousseau would have envied Dogger. The speeches  by  Dogger about
nature  and the pit in  the forest were beautiful;  they run counter to  the
abominable triviality in the rest of what he  says. There's nothing else for
me to  do  here. I'm  convinced  that it's  possible to  vegetate  sensibly.
However, let's have a bit more of a look."
     He  sat down on  the bed and  fell to thinking.  The steel  table-clock
struck twelve. Dampness from the meadows and the smell  of flowers wafted in
through the wide-open window. Everything slept; the stars were shining above
the black roofs like the lights of a distant city. Ammon grew sadly troubled
as he thought about people's constant dreams  of a good, joyous, and healthy
life;  he could  not  understand why  the  most  impressive efforts  of this
sort-like, for instance, Dogger's  life  --  lacked the wings of enchantment.
Everything was admirable, tasty, and clean; delicate  and  useful; beautiful
and  honest-but insignificant, and one felt  like  saying: "Ah, I was  at an
exhibition again! There's an exemplary person on view there...."
     Then he mentally began to sketch the possibilities of another order. He
imagined a fire, the crackling of beams,  the fire's tempestuousness, Elma's
love for  a  worker,  and Dogger's becoming a  drunkard, a lunatic,  a  drug
addict; he fancied him a religious fanatic, an antiquary, a bigamist,  and a
writer, but none of this fitted  the  owners of the  estate in  Liliana. The
trepidation of a nervous, destructive, or creative life was out of character
for them. The house was so well-equipped that the possibility of a fire was,
of  course, completely out  of the  question, and Dogger was fated never  to
experience the fear and chaos  of a burning  building.  Two young lives, the
acme of creation, pass  through year after year, hand  in  hand  -- sensibly,
intelligently, carefully, and happily.
     "And  so,"  said Ammon,  "I'm  going to  bed." He had  folded back  the
blanket and was about to turn out the light,  when he suddenly heard a man's
quiet  steps in the  corridor; someone  was walking past his  room  and  was
walking as people usually do when everyone in the house  is asleep at night:
tautly and lightly. Ammon listened attentively. The steps faded away  at the
end of  the corridor; five, ten minutes passed,  but  no  one  returned, and
Ammon carefully opened the door.
     A fixture suspended  from the ceiling illuminated  the corridor with an
even nocturnal light. There were three doors in the passageway:  one, closer
to  the centre of the house, led to the  servants' quarters and was opposite
Ammon's room; a second was directly to the left of Ammon's and, judging from
the  padlock on it, was the  door to a pantry or an uninhabited room. To the
right, at the end  of the wing, there  were no doors at all  -- it was a dead
end with  a high  closed window  looking  out  onto the garden; yet that was
precisely where the steps had died away.
     "He  couldn't have  vanished into  thin air!" said Ammon. "And it could
hardly have been  Dogger: he said that he sleeps  as  soundly as  a  soldier
after battle. There's no reason for a worker to enter the house. The  window
at  the end  of  the  corridor  leads  into the garden;  even if Dogger, for
reasons  beyond my knowledge,  had taken it into his head to go for a  walk,
there are three doors at his service that all lead outside,  and  besides, I
would have heard the frame slam, but I didn't."
     Ammon turned around and closed the door.
     He half  believed the  steps to be significant and  half did  not.  His
thoughts wandered in the  realm of wonderful superstitions and legends about
human life,  whose purpose is  to glorify the name of man and raise it  from
the  swamp of the  everyday into the world  of mysterious fascination, where
the  soul obeys its own laws, like God. Ammon again made himself imagine the
sound of steps.  Suddenly it seemed to him that  an  unknown "someone" could
peer into  his open window; he quickly put out the  light and pricked up his
ears.
     "Oh, how stupid I am!" said Ammon when  he  did not hear anything else.
"Any  number of  people  could be  walking about  in the night  for whatever
reason!...  I'm simply  a narrow  professional,  a seeker of  adventure, and
nothing more. What kind of secret could there be amidst the scent of hay and
hyacinths? One  has only  to look  at Elma's homey  beauty  to discard these
stupidities."
     Nevertheless, instinct took  issue with  logic.  For half an hour Ammon
stood by the door and peered  through the keyhole, waiting for new sounds as
a person in love awaits  a  rendezvous. Through  this  small opening,  which
looked like a boot-sole stood on end, he saw the pine panelling on the  wall
and nothing more.  His spirits fell; he yawned "and  was about to go to bed,
when the same steps again  resounded clearly.  Ammon held his breath, like a
swimmer who  has dived  beneath the water, and looked through  the  keyhole.
Dogger was  coming  from the dead end and was  walking past Ammon's door  on
tiptoe. His head was above Ammon's field of vision; he had on trousers and a
shirt with unbuttoned sleeves -- he was not wearing a jacket. The steps faded
away, there was  the muffled  sound  of  an inside door  closing  and  Ammon
straightened  up; despite  the situation's logic,  irrepressible  suspicions
churned within him. Too  prudent to assign them any  specific form,  for the
time being he was satisfied to keep on repeating one  and the same question:
"Where could Dogger  have kept  himself at the  end  of the corridor?" Ammon
circled about the room, now grinning and now  pondering; he ran through  all
the possibilities: a love intrigue,  somnambulism, insomnia, and a walk, but
everything was left  up in  the air  owing to the closed window and the dead
end;  and  although  the window,  of  course,  could  be opened,  it  seemed
inexcusably flippant  to  think  that a  solid and  respectable  person like
Dogger would use it as a means of exit into the garden.
     Ammon decided to examine the  hall thoroughly; he put on felt  slippers
and went out of his room, but he left his revolver, since he saw no need for
it. The tranquil  silence of the brightly lit corridor had a sobering effect
on  him; he  felt ashamed and wanted to return, but the  past day, which had
been filled to excess with the humdrum simplicity that waries a lively soul,
nudged Ammon towards artificial invigoration of  his unsatisfied  fantasies.
He quickly walked  to the end of the corridor and  up to  the window, making
certain that it  was closed  tightly and fastened  by solid upper and  lower
bolts; he looked around and saw a small door that lacked posts and was flush
with the  wall --  this small door,  knocked together  from  thin boards, was
apparently cut out and installed after the house had  been built. Looking at
the door, Ammon  thought  that it probably led to some steps  that  had been
constructed in order to enter the garden next  to the  house from inside the
corridor. Now  that he  had  found out  where Dogger had disappeared,  Ammon
quietly reached out, flipped the latch and opened it.
     It opened  into a  corridor. It  was  dark  beyond  the door,  although
several steep steps, leading up  and not down,  were visible. The  staircase
was bordered by the narrow  walls; in order to  enter,  it was  necessary to
bend low. "Is it worth it?" thought Ammon.  "This is probably the passage to
an attic where clothes are dried or pigeons live.... However, Dogger is  not
a pigeon fancier, and he obviously does not take in laundry. Why did he come
here? Oh, Ammon, Ammon, instinct tells me that  there is game about. So what
if I just  fire a blank-if  I go up, then at least it will be  all over, and
I'll sleep until  tomorrow's yoghurt with a conscience as clear as a calf's.
If for  whatever reason Dogger takes it into his head to visit the attic and
finds  me, I'll pretend that I heard  steps  there; after all,  thieves  are
always an excellent pretext in cases like this."
     Ammon took a  look around, closed the door tightly behind himself, and,
illuminating the staircase with a match, began to ascend. At a small landing
the  staircase turned left; on the upper end there  proved to be a  somewhat
more spacious landing,  where, beneath the roof's  steep pitch,  was  a door
leading to the attic. Like the lower door, it was not locked. Ammon listened
in order  to  make  sure that there was nobody behind the door.  The silence
reassured him. He boldly lifted the latch, and the match was extinguished by
a rush of air. Ammon  stepped  over the threshold into darkness; the  rather
stuffy air of  a habitable room frightened him. In a hurry to make sure that
he had  not ended  up  in  a  worker' or a  servant's cubbyhole, Ammon lit a
second  match,  and  the  shadows raced away from its  yellow light into the
corners, making the surroundings distinct.
     The first thing Ammon saw was a candle on a huge table in the centre of
the room, he lit it, and as he looked around retreated to the  door. A white
curtain  on  the  back wall hung down to the  floor;  similar curtains  were
hanging on the walls to  the right  and the  left  of the entrance. A screen
window  in  the slanted  ceiling let in  the light  of distant stars.  Ammon
hastily examined the corners  without further scrutinizing  the table, which
was piled  high with a miltitude of various objects. He found only neglected
litter, crumpled paper, and broken pencils. Ammon straightened up, walked to
the back wall where  the cords for  the curtain were hanging on a  nail, and
pulled them. The curtain rose.
     Ammon stepped back at a sudden flash of daylight-the ground rose to the
level of the attic, and the wall disappeared. Three paces from the traveller
a woman with small bare feet was standing  on a  path that led to some hills
and had her back  turned to  him. A simple black  dress, which  inexplicably
laced  any hint of mourning, emphasised the  whiteness of her bare neck  and
arms. All the lines of her young body were distinguishable beneath the  thin
fabric. A  thick bun  of  bronze  hair covered  the  back  of her neck.  The
picture's  supernatural,  painful  veracity  went  beyond the bounds of  the
human; a live woman  stood  before him  in the wondrous  void of the distant
prospect;  any  moment, Ammon felt,  she would turn and look at him over her
shoulder. He smiled in perplexity.
     But at  this point the brilliant  brush's triumph was terminated and at
the  same time intensified. The woman's  pose, her slightly  drawn back left
hand, her temple, the cheek's  shape, the fleeting exertion of  her  neck in
turning,  and numerous  mute traits  that  were  beyond analysis gripped the
viewer with the expectation of a  miracle.  The artist had fixed the instant
for  eternity; it  lasted and  remained  the  same as  ever-as  if time  had
disappeared but at  each following instant would resume its  flight, and the
woman would glance over her  shoulder at  the shaken viewer. In overpowering
expectation Ammon looked  at the head, which was fearful in its readiness to
reveal its mysterious features; his heart was pounding like that of a  child
who  had been  left  in  a  dark room;  and  with  an unpleasant  feeling of
impotence before an  unrealisable but clear  threat, he let go of the cords.
The curtain fell, but it still seemed to him that if he reached out he would
encounter a warm, live shoulder beyond the canvas.
     "Genius  knows  neither moderation nor limits!" he said excitedly. "So,
Dogger, this  is where you leave to milk  the cows? My powerful instinct has
guided my discovery. I'll shout it to  the whole world; I'm ill from ecstasy
and fear! But what's over there?"
     He  rushed to the  curtain  which hung to the left of the entrance. His
hand became tangled  in the cords; he impatiently tore at them,  pulled them
down, and  raised  the  candle  over  his head. The same  woman-in the  same
charming  vivacity   that   was  deepened   still  further  by  her   face's
radiance-stood  before him having  fulfilled  her exquisite threat.  She had
turned  around. The  artist had  put  into  this face  the total  essence of
maternal tenderness and feminine caress. The fire of pure, proud youth shone
in the  tender but resolute eyes; the bronze  silk  of  her hair  above  her
finely etched eyebrows  appeared to be a diadem. Her  mouth,  with its noble
and  youthful features, exuded love  and intelligence. She stood half-turned
but  had revealed  her  entire  face,  and  she  sparkled with the  youthful
strength  of  life  and with  a  joy  as  disturbing  as sleep  filled  with
passionate tears.
     Ammon looked at  the picture mutely. It seemed to  him that he had only
to utter a  single word in order to break the  paints' silence, and then the
woman would approach him with lowered eyelashes, still more beautiful in her
movements than in  the  distressing immobility  of  the miraculously created
living body. He saw the dust on  her legs,  which were ready to move on, and
the individual hairs behind  her  little ear were like the radiant attire on
heads of grain. Joy and yearning held him in tender captivity.
     "Dogger, you're a  despot!" said  Ammon. "Could  anyone strike  a  more
painful blow to  the heart?"  He  stamped  his  foot. "I must be delirious,"
cried  Ammon. "To paint like that  is impossible; no one on  earth  could or
would dare to do this!"
     And  the actual eyes  of a woman gazed at him still more  expressively,
more intently, and more deeply.
     Ammon  was almost frightened, and with his heart  beating  violently he
pulled  the curtain over  the painting. Something  held him to the  spot; he
could not bring himself to pace up and down, as  he usually did when  he was
disturbed. He was afraid to stir  or  to look around; the silence,  in which
only his breathing and the crackling of the burning candle were audible, was
as unpleasant as the smell of fumes. Finally, overcoming his numbness, Ammon
walked up  to  the third canvas,  uncovered the painting ... and the hair on
his head bristled.
     What had Dogger  done  in order to produce  a  nightmarish  effect that
could rekindle superstitions? The woman stood before Ammon in the same pose,
with her head turned around while she continued  walking;  but her  face was
unaccountably  transformed, and  yet it  was  the  same --  down to the  last
feature-as the one at which Ammon had just looked. The mocking eyes met  his
with an inscrutable vividness, and the effect was fearsome. Now, at a closer
range, their gaze  was sombre; the pupils glittered differently;  the mouth,
which had an evil and base expression, was  prepared to bestow  a  loathsome
smile of madness; and the beauty of  her wondrous face had become repulsive:
it exuded a ferocious, greedy fire and was capable of strangling a person or
of  sucking  someone's  blood;  a  reptile's  lust  and  a  demon's  passion
illuminated its  vile oval, which was full of aroused voluptuousness, gloom,
and  frenzy; and an  infinite agony seized Ammon when  he looked closely and
discerned in this face a readiness to begin speaking.  The half-opened lips,
between  which  her teeth  shone repulsively, seemed to  be  whispering; the
figure's  former  soft  femininity emphasised  still  further  the  horrible
aliveness of  the head, which all but nodded from  the frame.  Ammon  sighed
deeply and  let go of the cord; the  curtain rustled as it sped down, and he
fancied that a diabolical face had winked  at him  and hidden itself beneath
the falling folds.
     Ammon turned around. A large and  thick folder lying  on the table drew
his distracted attention;  when he opened it, he found it full of  drawings.
But  they were strange and  wild.... Ammon examined one after the other  and
was  struck by the superhuman skill  of fantasy  evidenced  in them.  He saw
flocks of ravens flying  over fields of  roses;  hills that were covered, as
though by grass, with electric  lights; a river, dammed up by green corpses;
hirsute, interlaced hands that were gripping  bloodied knives;  an inn, full
to  overflowing with drunk fish and lobsters; a garden in which gallows with
executed men had  taken strong root; the huge  tongues of execution  victims
hung to the ground and children were swinging on them and laughing; corpses,
which  were  reading  yellowed  tomes  in  their  graves  by  the  light  of
luminescent pieces  of  rotten wood; a swimming pool, full of bearded women;
scenes  of depravity,  such as  a feast of cannibals who were skinning a fat
man; in the same drawing, a  hand jutted  out of a cauldron  which hung over
the fire;  weirdly hideous figures, who had red whiskers  and  blue heads of
hair, and who were  one-eyed, three-eyed, and blind, paraded before him  one
after the  other-one was eating  a snake,  another was  playing dice with  a
tiger, a third cried, and jewels  fell from  his eyes.  In  almost  all  the
drawings gold sequins were strewn over the  clothes of the figures; they had
been  done  with care, as in general any  beloved work is done. Ammon leafed
through the drawings  with a terrible curiosity. The door slammed; he jumped
away from the table and saw Dogger.


     Even   at  the   most  dangerous   moments   Ammon   never   lost   his
self-possession;   however,  taken   unawares,   he   experienced  momentary
confusion.  Dogger  had apparently not expected to see Ammon; he stopped  at
the door  irresolutely  and looked  around, but soon  he grew pale  and then
flared up so that his bare neck reddened with anger.
     "By what right did you come  here?" he shouted, striding over to Ammon.
"How am I to regard this? I didn't expect such a thing! Eh? Ammon!"
     "You're right,"  answered Ammon  calmly, without lowering  his eyes. "I
had no right to enter.  But I would have felt guilty only if I  hadn't found
anything;  now  that I've  seen something  here, I dare think that I've thus
acquired the  right to reject the  charge of impudence. I'll say more: had I
found out  after I left what  I would have seen if  I had gone upstairs, and
had I  not done so  -- then I would have never forgiven  myself  for  such an
omission.  My  motives  were the following....  I'm  sorry,  but  the matter
demands frankness, whether you like it or not. I had vague doubts about your
cows, Dogger,  and  about the turnips and the well-fed pheasant hens; when I
accidentally came upon the true path to your  soul, I  attained my goal. The
fearful power of a genius guided your brush. Yes, my eyes stole your secret,
but I  am no less proud of this  thievery than Columbus  was of  the Western
Hemisphere, since my calling is to seek, to pursue, to make discoveries!"
     "Shut up!" cried  Dogger. His  face did  not contain a trace of  placid
equanimity, but  nor did it show any malice, which is out of place in people
of lofty character; it expressed distressed indignation and pain. "You still
dare.... Oh, Ammon, you, with  your  conversations about  that accursed art,
caused me to lose sleep owing to agonies that are beyond your comprehension,
and  now, bursting into  here,  you want  me  to  believe that your  deed is
praiseworthy. What makes you think you can take such liberties?"
     "I am a seeker,  a seeker of adventure," Ammon coldly retorted. "I have
a different  set of morals. There would be no merit in dealing with people's
hearts and souls and never being cursed for these  experiments. What good is
a soul that lays itself servilely open to view?"
     "However,"  said  Dogger,  "you are daring! I don't like people who are
too daring. Leave. Return to your room and pack. You'll  be given a horse at
once; there's a night train."
     "Fine!" Ammon walked towards the door. "Farewell!"
     He was at the door when suddenly both of Dogger's hands  seized him  by
the shoulders and spun him around. Ammon saw the  pathetic face of a coward;
he sensed  Dogger's  boundless fright and, not  knowing what was the matter,
grew pale with alarm.
     "Not  a  word," said Dogger, "absolutely not a word to  anyone! For  my
sake, for God's sake, have mercy-say nothing to anyone!"
     "I give you my word; yes, I give you my word. Calm down."
     Dogger let go  of Ammon. His gaze, filled with  hatred, stopped on each
of the paintings in  turn. Ammon walked out,  descended the  staircase, went
into his own room, and prepared to  go. Half an hour later, accompanied by a
servant  and without encountering Dogger again, he went out through the dark
entrance from the garden side, where a carriage stood;  he  climbed  in  and
rode off.
     The starry dew  of  the  sky,  the agitation,  the limitless,  fragrant
darkness,  and  the breath  of roadside thickets  intensified his  enchanted
exultation. The earth's  huge, blind heart beat muffledly in time to Ammon's
exultant heart, greeting  its  son the seeker. Ammon groped uncertainly  but
tenaciously for the true nature of Dogger's soul.
     "No,  you  can't  get  away  from   yourself,  Dogger,  no,"  he  said,
remembering the drawings.
     The  coachman, who  was  racking  his brains  over  the  guest's sudden
departure, timidly turned around and asked:
     "Is there some urgent matter, sir?"
     "Matter?  Yes, precisely-a  matter. I must  go to  India  at  once.  My
relatives   there   have   come   down  with  the   plague-my   grandmother,
sister-in-law, and three first cousins."
     "Is that so!" the peasant said in suprise. "Goodness me!"


     "My  friend," Tonar said to Ammon  upon opening a letter, "Dogger, whom
you visited  four years ago, requests that you  go to him immediately. Since
he does not know your address, he's transmitting his request through me. But
what could have happened there?"
     Ammon,  without  concealing  his  surprise,  quickly  walked up  to his
friend.
     "He's asking me over? How does he express himself?"
     "As  they used to do at the end of the eighteenth  century. 'I shall be
greatly indebted to you,'" read Tonar, '"if you inform Mr. Ammon Koot that I
would be most grateful to  him if he  would meet with  me at once....' Won't
you explain what this is about?"
     "No, I don't know."
     "Really? You're a sly one, Ammon!"
     "I can only promise to tell you afterwards, if things go all right."
     "Very  well. My curiosity's been aroused. What, are you already looking
at the clock? Take a look at the train schedule."
     "There's a train at  four," said Ammon, pressing the buzzer.  A servant
appeared in the doorway. "Hert!  High  boots, a revolver, a  laprobe, and  a
small  travelling-bag.  Farewell,  Tonar.  I'm  going  to  Liliana's  cheery
meadows!"
     Not  without  trepidation did Ammon heed the  strange man's summons. He
still remembered the  painful blow that the two-faced  woman in the wondrous
paintings  had  dealt  to his  soul,  and  he  involuntarily  connected  the
paintings with Dogger's invitation. But  it was  pointless to try and  guess
what Dogger wanted from him.  Undoubtedly, something serious  was  in store.
Deep in thought, Ammon stood at the train window. With the thoroughness of a
blind  man  who gropes for  something that he needs, he  mused  upon all his
knowledge of  people, of all the  complex junctures of their souls,  and all
the  possibilities that followed from what he had seen  four years ago; but,
dissatisfied, he finally refused to predict the future.
     At eight o'clock in the evening Ammon stood before  the quiet house, in
the garden where flowers prayed vividly,  luxuriantly,  and joyfully, to the
sun  setting amidst silvery clouds. Elma met  Ammon; the musical clarity was
missing from her  movements and expression; a  grieving, nervous,  suffering
woman stood before Ammon and softly said:
     "He wants to  speak with you. You don't know-he's dying, but,  he still
hopes he'll get well;  please make believe that you consider his  disease to
be nothing at all."
     "We must save Dogger," said  Ammon after  a moment's thought.  "Has  he
kept anything secret from you?"
     He  looked  Elma  straight  in  the  eye  and  imparted  a   cautiously
significant tone to the question.
     "No, nothing. And from you?"
     This was said gropingly, but they understood each other.
     "Probably," said Ammon  inquisitively, "you were  not  left in the dark
regarding the haste of my previous departure." "You  must excuse  Dogger and
... yourself."
     "Yes. For the sake of that which you know well, Dogger must not die."
     "The doctors are deceiving  him, but I  know everything.  He won't live
out the month."
     "It's absurd," said Ammon, walking after Elma, "I know a person who's a
watchman  in a garden and is one hundred and  four  years old. But he, to be
sure, understands nothing of paints."
     When  they  came  into  the  sick-room, Dogger  was  in  bed. The early
twilight shaded  his transparent  face like  a light, airy fabric;  the sick
man's hands were under his head. He was hirsute, thin, and morose; his eyes,
which glittered expressively, rested on Ammon.
     "Elma, leave us alone," wheezed Dogger, "don't be offended."
     The woman smiled at him sadly and left. Ammon sat down.
     "Here's still one more adventure, Ammon," Dogger began to speak weakly.
"Enter it in the column for extremely distant journeys. Yes, I'm dying."
     "You  must be a hypochondriac," said Ammon  lightheart-edly. "Come now,
that's just a weakness."
     "Yes, yes.  We  practise lying.  Elma  says the same as  you,  while  I
pretend that I don't believe death is near,  and she is satisfied with that.
She doesn't want me to believe what she herself believes."
     "What's wrong with you,  Dogger?" "What?"  Dogger  closed his eyes  and
smiled grimly.  "You see, I drank some cold spring water.  I  must tell  you
that for the past eleven  years all the water I drink  has  been neither too
hot nor too cold. Two years ago, in  the spring, I was walking in the nearby
hills. The snow  runoffs  rushed along sparkling stone  channels among vivid
greenery,  pounding  on every side. Blue cascades whipped up  snowy foam and
leaped from ledge to ledge; they jostled one another like frightened herd of
sheep  which streams  through a tight gate in a  living wave of white backs.
Oh, Ammon, I  acted unwisely,  but  the  stifling hot  day tortured me  with
thirst.  The sky's oppressive heat beat down on my head from the precipitous
heights, and the profusion of water foaming about increased my sufferings. I
was far from home, and  I felt  an uncontrollable urge to drink this savage,
cold,  carefree  water that  had  not  been  defiled  by  a thermometer.  An
underground spring  was not  far  away; I bent down  and drank-the icy  fire
scorched my lips. The tasty water smelled of grass and fizzed like sparkling
wine.  Rarely does one have  occasion to quench his thirst so blissfully.  I
drank for a  long time and  then ... I became  ill.  Sick people, you  know,
often have  very keen hearing, and I, albeit not without making  an  effort,
overheard Elma and the doctor behind the doors. He did a good job of beating
around  the bush for a  while, but all the  same  he gave me  grace for  not
longer than the end of the month."
     "You acted unnaturally," said Ammon with a smile.
     "Partly. But  I'm  becoming  tired of speaking.  Those two  pictures in
which she turned  around  ... where  do  you  think they are?"  Dogger  grew
agitated. "There's a box on the table; open the little grave."
     Ammon got  up and slightly raised  the lid of a beautiful  casket; from
the  rush of air a  bit of  white ash flew up and landed on his sleeve.  The
box, which was  filled to the top with fluffy ash, explained to him the fate
of the brilliant creations.
     "You burned them!"
     Dogger's eyes motioned assent.
     "If this isn't madness, then it's barbarity," said Ammon.
     "Why?" retorted Dogger  meekly. "One of them was evil,  while the other
was  falsehood.  I'll tell you their story. The task to which I dedicated my
entire life was to  paint three pictures that would be more perfect and more
powerful than anything that exists in art. No  one even knew  that I  was an
artist; no one,  except  for  you and my wife, has seen these paintings. The
grievous good fortune that befell  me was  to depict Life by separating what
is essentially inseparable. This was more difficult than sorting out, kernel
by kernel, a wagonload of grain that  has  been  mixed with a  wagonload  of
poppy seeds. But I did it, and you, Ammon, saw Life's two faces, each in the
full splendour of its  might.  When I had committed this sin, I felt that my
whole body, my thoughts and  my dreams, were  drawing me irresistibly toward
darkness;  before  me I  saw  its  complete embodiment  ... and I  could not
resist. Only  I know how I lived then, no  one else. But it was a dismal and
morbid existence of horror and decay!
     "The things that now surround me, Ammon  --  nature, farm work,  air,  a
vegetable-like happiness  -- represent nothing  but  a  hurried  flight  from
myself. I couldn't  show people my  fearful pictures,  since they would have
extolled me, and I, urged on by vanity, would have used my art in accordance
with  my soul's bent-on behalf of evil-and that would have destroyed me. All
my soul's dark instincts pushed me towards evil art and an evil life. As you
see,  in the  house  I honestly  eliminated every  temptation: there  are no
pictures, drawings, or statuettes. Thus I destroyed my  memory of  myself as
an  artist, but it  was beyond my power  to  destroy those two,  who  fought
between themselves to possess me. For whatever you may say, they really were
not  so badly done! But life's diabolical face at times tempted  me; I  shut
myself up, buried myself in my fantasies-the drawings-and became intoxicated
with nightmarish delirium  ... that folder no longer exists either. You kept
your promise to be silent, and since I trust you, I ask that after  my death
you exhibit my third painting anonymously;  it is truthful and good. Art was
my curse; I renounce my name."
     He was silent for a while and  then began to cry, but his tears did not
arouse any offensive  sensation  of  pity in Ammon, who  saw  that no person
could commit a greater act  of violence against himself. "The man has burned
himself out," Ammon thought. "Fate has  given him  an unbearable burden. But
soon he will have peace...."
     "And so, Ammon," said Dogger, growing calm, "will you do this?"
     "Yes, it's my  duty, Dogger;  I truly  admire  you,"  said Ammon,  who,
contrary to his own expectations, became more upset than he wanted to be. "I
admire your talent, your struggle, and ... your ultimate staunchness."
     "Give me your hand!" Dogger requested with a smile. His  hand-shake was
firm and brusque.
     "You see,  I'm not completely weak  yet," he said. "Farewell, restless,
thieving soul.  Elma will give you the  painting.  I  think,"  Dogger  added
naively, "that people will write about it."
     Ammon  and  his friend,  a  thin brunette  with a  face as mobile as  a
monkey's,  slowly made their way through the dense crowd that had filled the
hall to overflowing.  Amidst  the  other frames  and portrayals, above their
heads, stood a woman who was about to turn around and  who  seemed alive  to
troubled eyes; she was standing  on a road that led  towards some hills. The
crowd was silent.  The  most perfect work of art  in the world displayed its
power.
     "It's almost unbearable,"  said Ammon's friend. "Why,  she  really will
turn around."
     "Oh, no," Ammon disagreed, "fortunately, that's only a threat."
     "Fortunately? I want to see her face!"
     "It's better this  way, my dear,"  he sighed,  "let each person imagine
for himself what that face is like."

           1915




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