Almost every night I talk to Adela on the porch. The ladies go to sleep earlier. Adela shows an attentive, almost submissive, sympathy to the "maestro". She is, however, more personal in opinions than before. But what is going on inside her? When she talks it always seems as if she had something more to say. She has sudden and strange reticence. If you put down her words, you would always have to insert some dots at the end of the sentences. When she is nervous, and she always gets nervous without a visible cause, she seems to be suffocating gracefully as a bird while drinking. And she rarely takes part in our duet. She is usually absent-minded or animated. Sometimes she interrupts her moments of absent-mindedness through a sudden and cordial twist towards me accompanied by an "yes" uttered feebly and rapidly, confirming my words needlessly. This young and inquisitive woman – as to life and dispositions – scrutinizes me incessantly without having the appearance of doing so. I try to thicken the epidermis of my soul as much as I can to make it untouchable. But with women the game is always lost. They look into a man's soul as in a shop-window. The manege is interesting. But eventually, I have nothing to hide. My relations with the M…family are of a special nature. Only ten years younger than Mrs. M… I belong rather to her generation. However, Adela and I form a group in the most natural way, a unique "society", because a woman of fifty is without doubt "old"; because Mrs. M… was married when I was a teenager and the relations between the teenager and the married woman have persisted; because the illness makes her ten years older and because – this, I believe, is the main cause – her view on life inherited from her parents makes her even older.As for auntie Anica, her aunt-in-law, by a misalliance, as Adela says, she does not exist, or she exists in prehistory. Long past sixties. Daughter of a bailiff who became a great landowner. Married half a century ago with a brother – a money lover – of Mrs. M… Adela has small breasts and an inclination towards gray, blue and lilac clothes like all women who were dear to me. (Except for the woman with green eyes and marble-like arms who had big breasts and wore the colors of the red side of the rainbow and who, having no soul, engaged mine very little.) There is indubitably in any man an affinity for a certain female temperament and in any woman a connection between her temperament, her physical stature and her inclination towards certain colors. Lady M… and Adela came by to see my house today. I welcomed them in the front room, near the entrance: hall, study and drawing room at the same time. After a quick scrutinizing glance, Adela made a complete criticism of the room listing the lack of a relative comfort and insisting especially on the wrong distribution of the scarce pieces of furniture. As she was drawing the conclusion, like all women in such circumstances, that men etc…and suggested coming with Safta to make my room more pleasant, she suddenly stood up exclaiming: "Look, it's lady Anica!" Lady Anica was actually Arthur Schopenhauer's portrait brought by me and hung on the wall behind the table-desk. I felt a little offended by her frivolous lack of respect towards the maestro. But his resemblance with lady Anica seemed to me so striking and Adela's excitement as to her discovery made her so beautiful that I betrayed the maestro without any remorse. And I betrayed him even when, finding out whose portrait it was, Adela forgot about lady Anica and started an offensive against the philosopher: "Oh! The gentleman you once told me about at Vorniceni: he labels us, women, as stupid, liars, ugly, with the bust longer than the legs and with no other purpose than to catch men in a trap. I understand now why he held such a grudge on women…I don't think any of them ever prepared a trap for him as well!" Unable to assert that Adela was stupid and had the bust longer than the legs and her knowledge on Schopenhauer limited modestly only to his opinions on women, the discussion was impossible and Adela's victory over myself was a total one. Making another discovery Adela left Schopenhauer aside, as well: "Do you have a library, too? May I see the books?"When she found out that that the "library" was the property of Mr. Tapsulea, my host became even more curious to search through it. "Isn't it rude to browse through his books?" As I eased her worries, she took from the shelf the whole library of the retired schoolteacher, consisting in a few grammar and arithmetic books and put it on the table. "The grammar by… the Arithmetic by…Look, poetry!" I hadn't found any books of poetry till then. The poetry book was bound together with an arithmetic book. "Poems by Carol Scrob… Scrob, a poet?""He must be doctor Scrob's son, from Roman," explained Mr. M…"Wait, this is serious…Letter by Alecsandri… 'Elegant weaving – meaning fished? – poems out of the heart's treasure, thus movingly lamenting' – movingly? – 'Being, as you are, both an army man and a poet is a double quality that you can be proud of' – Safta is content with the first quality – Forward by G. Sion… 'Courage beloved Scrob' – "beloved Scrob" is admirable! – 'When you feel that sometimes your strength weakens don't despair, but run, take the quill and write, write and write'…Now let's see what it reads."Adela sat on a chair and started browsing: "Listen, mum: Leave Me Alone, To My Coralia, Why Did You Wake Me Up? – the songs of lady Anica's colonel. He says "awakened" out of the plate, as lady Anica would say. "What do you mean 'out of the plate'?" "That's how she says when she means that something is distinguished. Haven't you heard the phrase? It is obvious that the bailiffs switched the dish with a plate." "You are being mean, Adela!""What can I do, mum?"That moment precisely my table clock started rattling. La Paimpolaise. It was four o'clock. The child Adela was so happy that I had to switch the minute hand in turn, at each of the twelve signs of the dial. Then I asked her to do me a favor and receive the miraculous toy as a gift. After weaker and weaker refusals: "What if you feel sorry later?" To feel sorry…she doesn't know what pleasure it is that of offering a gift to a woman, of giving her, of making her, through this symbolic gesture, a little bit yours. A minute ago, when I was wandering in front of her house to be closer to her, she closed the windows and let the sunblind down, to go to sleep…Is there in the universe a more charming image than that of a tall slender beautiful and elegant woman undressing slowly, absent-mindedly and smiling to a memory, to something she awaits?Adela was on the porch with Mrs. M… I was going to the post-office. I greeted them. She smiled to me with a hardly noticeable bent of the head. There is such spontaneity, a self-forgetfulness in this woman, master of her own gestures up to the point of being calculated that disarms my "psychology."The army orchestra played Lucia di Lamermoor. The sextet harmonized with the echo transmitted to the mountains, glided in the warm air and filled the valley. The dark-blue sky was high and deep. What I needed then was Adela's presence…I went to her from the post-office. She welcomed me in the middle of the courtyard. In her white coat tied with a blue ribbon she was everything a charming woman can be, but above all she was youth. "Where did you go to, so mysteriously, a moment ago?" I revealed the mystery of my whereabouts: "To the post-office." "Yes!" She confirmed immediately, as usual, unnecessarily – a short yes, with a childish gracefulness, pronounced almost "yeah"… "Speaking of the post-office, today I received a music notebook from home…First I'll make you a coffee…Give me the cigarette to throw it away: you're smoking too much again…Then I'll play some songs, then we'll walk on the hills!…And in the evening you'll dine with us! Yes you will, yes you will! You are my mother's guest. I wonder, could you say no to mother?!"The minuet from the seventh sonata suggested the elegance of her bust. Her beautiful golden hair, glittering in the sun and reflected in the glass of the open window, sprinkled with golden hues the diffuse sonorities that the calm atmosphere of the room gave off. I still cannot understand what happened…This last night, we walked far away on the road, to say good-bye to nature and to ourselves, the way we had been so far."The moon keeps track of us for some time here at Văratic, on the way home, even during the day. We are not alone anymore."To this unimportant remark Adela answered with her feeble voice rendering a confidential tone to the sentence: "Yes, it follows us. Let's be cautious…"A joke without precise signification? A noli me tangere? An interdiction? Anyway, these words were her first real acknowledgement that we were not the same as before, but a woman and a man, defensive and offensive at the same time. Her words were dear to me, and in no way would I have approved of them not being uttered. These words however, were like an invisible bridge cast between us and made me feel the huge distance from the woman beside me even more – so close and so far away through the unknown in a man's soul, through my lack of knowledge as to what was going on inside her, through my hesitations in her presence and towards myself, through my fear of her. I was walking, thinking about all these. She was dreaming the end of Schubert's serenade and she kept humming it absent-mindedly, not being able to leave it.It was cold and damp. Adela was wearing winter clothes and gloves. She had a cap on her head, under which her hair rebelled as if moistened by the moonlight. Trying to avoid the pebbles on the road, we often drew apart. Then she would call me near her, making room for me on the narrow strip without pebbles. Nothing could be heard in the whole immensity but the mysterious sound, naively interrupted, of the toads from the ditches near the road, a moan of the night and of the earth. The silk skirt rustled roughly under the thick dress and stretched around the legs of the woman beside me. But when we came to the field…oh, the moon had something better to do than watch us. It was weaving the steams that dragged along the meadow in torn silver canvases far away as the eyes could see. In certain places, the denser fog formed lakes out of which there appeared lonely trees whose shadows seemed to be their reflection in the water. And in the background, at Văratec and Agapia, towards which the field lowered with its lakes scattered on the slope, the mountains, like weaves of thick smoke seemed to stream right from the ground giving us the illusion that we were witnessing the creation of the world. And above all, deep in the dark, beyond the Sihla heights, there constantly blinked a colossal and sinister eyelid of light like the reflection of a fire from another world. Adela stopped, took my arm and drew near me, scared. She didn't know that the sinister eyelid was the light of a far away storm. The common surroundings, so well-known to us – the valley with lots and human habitations that we had visited so many times, the Văratic mountains, which we had climbed in a walk – they were not the same anymore. Instead of them, and only a few minutes away from the last shacks on our street, there appeared a world from another geological era through which we wondered alone, Adela and I. And if, long time ago, I had witnessed these secrets of the nights in the mountains – but not all at the same time, as then – to her everything was new.Amazed at first and enthusiastic afterwards, losing perhaps the sense of reality and hence of the strategy implied in the duel between my mute passion and her defensive instinct in the middle of this unreal world where I was wondering as if on another planet, Adela (now we were sitting on the trunk of a fallen tree on the roadside) took one of my hands in hers and put them on her knees. The gesture was uncommon, so unlike the relations between us… But in this environment from another world, the strange abnormal gesture was the normal one. The thoughts, the feelings and the deeds always unconsciously adjust to the circumstances. A slight change in the environment provokes a deviation of the soul. (The lamp on the table, transferred on a chair in the corner of a room modifies the whole appearance – other shadows, other proportions – triggers another tone of sensitivity, other directions in thoughts and other reactions…)A poplar nearby trembled feebly. Further on, the first house from Valea Sacă appeared in a vague contour. But all of them lacked in reality. The spirit was not able of giving them a whole existence… "Look, the lake comes to us. There is a boat on it, too," and she pressed my hand against hers happily. When we stood up I took Adela's hand and we stepped ahead through the fog resembling condensed moonlight. We were walking silently, me holding – no, holding each other's hands more and more aware that something unusual had happened, that we passed to another stage of life. But everything blurred in my consciousness; I could draw no conclusion. For a while now, I had put my hand in the trench coat together with hers. She turned to me, for a moment, childishly. I felt all her life and all my life concentrated in her little fist enclosed in the palm of my hand. A slight movement of her hand – by her will? By my will? By both? By nobody's? – her fist broke free and our hands came together more tightly. When we got near Valea Sacă we turned back. The movement of turning back separated our fingers. But Adela carefully re-established the previous state of affairs. When we entered Balţăteşti her hand was still my property, like it had been there. The fact remained the same, the significance changed though. And when she separated her hand from mine, finger by finger with smooth delicate movements, as if trying to conceal it, I felt that it was how it should be: the world in which we had immersed, the unique performance, was long past us, far away, like the memory, when you awake, of a dream in a dream. But the everyday reality dashed in with the sense that in a few moments that last evening would end and with it the last moments spent with Adela. When we were near the house I asked her to write at least one word every two or three months. Flirting, flirting again differently, flirting hesitatingly, flirting submissively she promised me, sending the words as if claiming them back just when I thought she was going to give them to me. "What should I write to you? …Nothing happens in my life…All right, I'll write…" Then, she asked me directly what was the nature of my feeling for her. I fully realized that the moment was crucial. But I had neither the weakness to tell her I loved her, nor the strength to tell her: friendship. In the hesitating manner of someone who carefully looked for the right way to put it, I answered in a sentimental tone that what I had for her was "a very strange feeling." Extremely vexed, she replied: "You mean suitable to be put on display in a museum?" Cornered as such and hurt a little in my pride, avoiding the terrible word, I defined my "strange" feeling: "An endless passionate friendship." (The word friendship had the role of weakening the effect of the other, like the ether that makes the sting bearable.) We didn't say a word. We had arrived at the gate of her house. We had the behavior that preceded the parting. (Had she calculated the place and the moment? Had she chosen the last meeting so that everything would remain without sequel? Or had she waited until her departure and hence, the deadline, had come?) She passed her hand over her eyes and forehead. I could feel her breath closely, together with the hot perfume of her being. She was standing still, tall in her fascinating presence. I felt the warmth of her body from a distance. I took one hand, I took off the glove, unbuttoning it clumsily. I had the feeling of undressing her a little. I kissed her hand for a long time, one side and then the other, then with an even more poisoning sensation I kissed the joints of her fingers and pulling up the narrow sleeve of her trench coat I kissed her arm from the wrist to the turned up linen. Her arm smelt like amber. She kept silent, her face turned away. I asked her to go inside so as not to catch a cold, but I kept holding her hand in which I sensed no intention of opposing and no impatience and which I kissed all the time, in every way. Standing in the darkness, with her face turned away, under the tree that gave us shelter and made the darkness denser, I couldn't see her face well enough. Still, from the stance of her body, from the reaction of her hand, from the inflections in her body it seems to me (now, because then I wasn't thinking of anything) that she was troubled, embarrassed, alarmed, torpid, with no will. At last, winning the greatest victory upon myself so far, I let go of the little pray – she passed again her hand over the eyes and forehead when she whispered "Good-bye" – and I parted with her having a feeling of happiness, pain, triumph, freight and with a sense of youth in my chest I took the road to Văratec. But I immediately came back and stood close to her on the bench near the gate. She was waking through the porch. I could hear her quick steps. The sound, the rhythm of her steps gave me the hallucinatory image of her body moving. And with the sound of her steps a subtle thrill of her life seemed to come from her and to exhaust my will. This new reality that had started half an hour ago amazed me. I had told her I loved her, she let me love her. If I had wanted to kiss her feet that were wandering now through the porch, I am sure she would have let me. So much did she lack will in those moments. She resisted only one thing. Asking her to grant me a favor without specifying it, and being granted the favor, I whispered: "Allow me to call you 'Adelina'." She corrected me with a slightly irritated voice: "No, call me Adela." Indeed, what was going on between us was not delicate. And the diminutive betrayed a doubtful taste. (Where had that word I had never thought of before come from?) Adela kept on walking anxiously. The tall woman was walking nervously because of me and she was thinking of me. Her whole inner life, in that moment, depended on my existence. I felt extremely good staying close to her and watching her and I didn't want to think about anything, as I felt that a wrathful idea tries to break out in my consciousness, the idea that torments me right now and that can be summarized very easily: I kissed her hand and her arm like a lover…On what grounds? On the grounds of her consent – expressed afterwards? What could she do, however? Could she have hurt, the most seriously the more painful, the maestro towards whom she feels respect, admiration, sympathy and gratitude? And to whom the flirting and her rare sentimental abandonments may appear as a simple gracious gift to the mature man to whom she wanted to give all she could give en tout honneur? It is embarrassing to think that she loves me. She was a teenager when I was past my middle age. Nevertheless, nothing is true and everything is possible. I didn't behave better this time than the last time. I didn't answer her clearly that I loved her, even if, wholly aware or not, she did everything she could to trigger my confession. I guarded myself pathetically. I betrayed my stubbornness of not confessing I loved her. I gave in as if constrained by her challenge, coming up with the ridiculous mixture of "passionate friendship" after the even more ridiculous "strange feeling." I didn't ask anything from her, I didn't propose anything to her, I didn't promise anything. Thus, with high moral and sentimental reasons – the impossibility to believe that a woman like her could love me, the fear of not being able to make her happy even if she loved me, which hid a cowardice – I behaved more delicately than a man catching in a dark corner a woman whom he considered available and flirted with would have done!I feel like a hysterical woman, I gave up in front of her little hand that offered itself submissively and I can still feel it on my lips and in my heart…But whatever she felt then, whatever she might feel right now, our relations changed radically, for good, up to the end. She left a few minutes before ten o'clock. She made everything, or everything went on, as for me to be sure that I didn't hurt her, or that…who knows? – for she greeted me with a feeling of self-assurance and a visible drive of attachment obvious in the gesture of resting her hand in mine for a long time. (And she had given me her hand as if she handed me an object for safekeeping.) She took me to the bench on the porch, invited me to stay and began speaking – on purpose or instinctively? – in an unusually warm voice. When she had to go, after she bid farewell to everybody, she turned around and – believing it to be the right moment, since everyone else was busy with the last-minute adjustments of unimportant things and of themselves – she held her wrist at my mouth (the hand and the arm!), gave me the glove I took off her hand the previous night and then suddenly she bent and touched my hand with her lips facing the possibility of making a show in front of the whole court yard, and without a word she turned back to the carriage. Holding a hand on the handle she hesitated for a moment, then she quickly climbed in. The coachman closed the door behind her and, in the jingle bells, Adela disappeared. From the couch in the front, she stretched her head out of the carriage, the veils waving in the air – the veil that caressed my lips on the way to Văratec and that she hadn't worn since – and the last wave of the pink veil disappeared at a turn of the road, after a shabby shop. It was that moment exactly that the past began. All that had happened in the hot days of the summer that passed were like music from another world, reflected in an echo. The Neamţ castle, the Văratec, the Ceahlău, the roads full of sun, the nights with the moon seemed to me as a convoy of the summer that marched quickly and disappeared beyond the horizon with Adela. She kissed my hand out of the excitement of separation from her childhood and teenage friend, from the man driven mad by her youth. Did she render the gesture reciprocal, but too late so as not to be given a disproportionate significance or because she knew that I didn't want to ask her what I so badly wanted?I have the feeling she died. Her house had the windows open all day and her things lay in the sun on the ropes. And now, at night there is no more light and life, but silence and stillness. In the room where Adela used to laugh and sing there is darkness and despond now, and her window that shone into the night is now a slab of black marble. "Was it real, wasn't it or was it a dream?" these rather simple and ridiculous words written in Cyrillic from an old poetry book torment me. I walk under the big tree where I once told her…Yes, I told her awkwardly, offensively, saying that I didn't want to tell her, but I did! Then she gave me her little cold hand and a part of her round amber-scented arm, and I felt her heart in the pulse that throbbed under my lips. If only I had begged for her…Did happiness walk past me and I did nothing to seize it? It is raining as it does in autumn, with small and cold droplets. It is better like this now, when she doesn't exist anymore. The splendor of the moon would be defiance! I sit with her little narrow glove, with slim fingers, that I unbuttoned then on her round amber-scented arm. Did she give it to me as a keepsake? Did she give it to me as a promise?In the afternoon, I wondered on the road out of the village. There, where the mountains had been, was nothing anymore. Heavy dark fogs covered the loneliness of the plains. On the road full of water, the peasants with sheepskin coats and caps, women with bags in their hands came out of the fog and back again into it.I took on the road to the mountain where I had been with her for so many times. The reversed trunk on which we sat that night hand in hand was now wet, sad, abandoned… I called for her image, but the image didn't come. I had in front of my eyes and projected unto my soul the expression of her face, but the image was rebellious. The impressions, the sensations, the desires triggered by her and by her every charm darkened the clarity of the image. I went to her place to look for her. I invented a pretext to go in. It was so empty! It was not only her that was missing, but also those objects that are connected to man and give life and personality to a home. I searched through the rooms stepping slowly, secretly. It seemed to me that I disturbed and annoyed the space, that I did not respect the eternal silence of death left by her. It seemed to me that I offended the music of memories with vulgar noises. I put my hand on all objects I knew she must have touched, I stayed where she used to stay, on the wicket chair, at the end of the couch in the guestroom, with a thrill that I filled in a space she herself filled with her being. Then, aware of my courage, I went into the bedroom. I wanted to stay for one moment on the bed, but it seemed to me that I would have committed a rude abuse. (Oh, you philosopher of "matter and force!") In the air there still floated – or was it just an illusion? – her perfume that I felt in my heart, blended with my memories of her life in the Văratec mountains and from that last night. If I could have captured this soul and this lost reality that had still remained here from her! The mirror in which she smiled at me in that far away morning and that framed her head and bust, now persistently – and uselessly – reflected some lithography on the wall. I was searching for something in her, from her, but except for the scent in the air, vaguer than the memory in pain, nothing was left! And if in the air and ether of the room the echo of her voice and the image of her smiling face still persisted, my obtuse senses could not grasp them. I pulled out, one after another, two drawers of the chest, which preserved nothing, but the secret sadness of the empty drawers; I pulled out the third one that gave off, like a breeze from the past, the same scent of hers, and then – the last drawer where I found a broken thimble and a piece of white lace. I took the dear objects and placed them in my wallet, near the glove, near her notes, near the quail's feather and near the safety pin she fixed my mantle with in the Văratec mountains. This is all that was left from her – besides the pressed flowers, a dead leftover from the brightness of the summer gone with her. And in the bedroom, the bed she had slept on, the chest where she had put her fine linen and the mirror that reflected her head, breast, arm and her smile from a far away morning. When I came out on the porch through the heavy drapes of the hill, a ray sneaked in spreading the golden steams on the plain, just as then on Ceahlău. But soon the ray faded away in the autumn fogs of the heights.

by Garabet Ibrăileanu (1871-1936)