What follows is a translation of one of Lou Andreas-Salome's stories in the cycle of ten novellas published in 1899 under the title Menschenkinder (The Human Family).

It began as a B.A. Honors Project with Tari Hiebert.

It involves a variation on themes prominent in the longer and better-known story Fenitschka.

It might prove of interest to colleagues teaching courses on women's writing ca. 1900.


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A Reunion
(Originally: "Ein Wiedersehen")

by Lou Andreas-Salomé (Stuttgart: Cotta, 1899)

The hotel on the Stephansplatz in Vienna was – as always – booked solid and, on this particular mid-day, the site of lively activity. Though the season was well on towards late autumn, the flow of tourists headed for Russia or Italy, for Switzerland or the provinces of the German Empire was still far from over. The two comfortably intimate dining rooms on the hotel's ground floor, with their old-fashioned arched windows facing out onto narrow Singerstraße, were packed full this noon-time, and the head-waiter – tall and impeccable, his newly appointed apprentice, his piccolo, in tow – was wending his way solicitously among the dining and discreetly chatting guests.

At the wide glass door leading in from the hotel's foyer and stairway stood a slim woman in a dark travelling dress. Hesitating visibly, she cast a restlessly searching gaze about the crowded restaurant before finally deciding to open the door and walk in.

As she walked slowly past the occupied tables, she bowed her head a bit and kept on walking, purely out of embarrassment, even though the head-waiter had hurried her way, with an affable expression, to show her to an empty table. She went on right into the second dining-room to the last single table in one of the raised window-niches, before she finally sat down and, in a quiet voice, ordered some red wine and one of the meat-entrees from the menu.

Yet when her order came, she seemed to have completely lost all thought of wanting to eat anything. She rested her right hand wearily on he table while with her left she fumbled, as if by habit, with the small leather purse that hung over her shoulder and down almost to her slender hip. Clearly, her gaze had found its target. Eyes half lowered, she stared at one of the large round tables near the open double doorway back into the first dining room, where a company of five gentlemen sat together, caught up in animated conversation. The familiar assiduousness with which the staff served these gentlemen left no doubt that they were long-revered regular guests, taking their mid-day meal at their permanently reserved table.

At one point the hostess – a very young woman, and pretty as a picture – stopped by the table and stood talking in French to the man nearest her, a gentleman in his early 40s with a clean-shaven, intelligent face and a gold-rimmed pince-nez. At once, the conversation at the table became louder and more jovial. Someone pulled up a chair for her and for a few minutes she took a seat and tasted some of the fine wines that they urged upon her.

At that point the man with the pince-nez perched on his blunt Slavic nose looked up and noticed, sitting back at the last single table in the window-niche, the lady in the dark travelling dress.

As soon as he even just caught a glimpse of her, he could not but notice these ineffably expressive grey eyes fixed on him, as if hypnotized, so detached from the people all around, so blind to the rest of the world.

He stopped short in mid-word. A remarkable expression of incredulous amazement crossed his face. He stared wide-eyed, astonished, questioning – and then all at once he got quickly to his feet.

"A lady, – I think I recognize a woman I know, – please, pardon me," he said, excusing himself from the young hostess with a bow.

She turned in her chair, a move more involuntary than graceful, and watched him walk away. A profound silence suddenly prevailed at the round table as the men gazed more or less conspicuously after the tall, gaunt figure of their departing friend.

"The lady's a Russian, – I'll wager!" murmured one of them, "that's obvious from her whole bearing, isn't it? Who knows what kind of old connections Saitsev's renewing over there. He seems to like living in Austria, in Italy, but still ‘on revient toujours,' and so on.'"

The lady in the window-niche blushed deeply as Saitsev hurried towards her with outstretched hand and easy manner, as if the people all around were merely part of a stage setting he had ordered up.

"Martha Matveyevna! To think that such coincidences are still possible! and isn't life more pleasant for them! Imagine us – the two of us, suddenly, after such a long time, encountering each other in some hotel!" he exclaimed in Russian.

She let him take her hands in his as he reached out to her with urgent warmth. Her excited blush lent a warm girlish beauty to pale, delicate features that, while no longer quite so youthful, were still beguiling.

"It's no coincidence," she said, interrupting Saitsev in reserved tones, "I knew you were here, I found out from Sasonov, he told me where you were staying – and the porter just now directed me in here – he said you'd be dining here."

"Well, if it's not a coincidence, then thank you, Martha, thank you!" he chimed in, and held onto her hand a moment before sitting down across from her. "Really, if you'd written me ahead of time I would have met you at the station, looked after you. – How long have you been here?"

"Since this morning. And I'm leaving right away. I stopped to visit a colleague – we studied together, and now she's working here as a doctor. – – I'm hurrying back to eastern Russia."

"So, a doctor!" he repeated slowly, giving her a look of warm interest, "sure enough, a doctor! Now I remember: so you really did become a doctor – and on top of that out there in the steppes where there's such a dearth of doctors, culture, comfort – yes, my God, such a lack of just about everything! So, that's how it is – and for years now, too!"

Her whole face lit up. She nodded, all seriousness.

"And I'm not the only woman now who's gone out there!" she said quietly, "it's the women, you know, that's just it. Oh, how right you were back then with your lectures! I think that of all the beautiful, wonderful things that you said – and women were often there to hear it, when you were travelling from city to city – of all that, this was the most beautiful thing! That call to us women to take part in guiding the people, in taking up the cause of culture amongst them. The way you called out to us: ‘That too is the women's cause!' – – And yes, it is the women's cause."

She had gotten over her initial confusion and was speaking with animated enthusiasm, her eyes sparkling.

Saitsev leaned back a bit, draping one arm over the back of his chair. He was listening attentively and looked thoughtful and deeply involved, as if he were struggling intensely to recapture the thoughts of those days.

"Yes, of course!" he agreed, "I can well imagine. The young doctors hardly ever go out there at all – the men, that is, they get stuck in the few cities, no matter how much more difficult it's becoming to succeed there with all the competition. Of course! After all, to make a go of it in Russia in the most inhospitable, most remote territories out there in the steppes means denying yourself the most important things in life. Out there you've got to be doctor, priest, teacher, mother – in short, everything at once, but nothing for oneself. – Oh, I know it!"

"Yes, you do know that!" she interrupted him with a smile full of admiration, "if you were a doctor, you wouldn't have just sought out the more comfortable cities. Oh, how hard it must have been for you then, to leave your Russian homeland! Where your words were so inspiring! And where you yourself were so full of idealistic faith that things could become better for us in every way. And some things are better now – – I have much to tell you, later. Now you would be able help in a completely different way and accomplish things along with us others."

Saitsev shifted a bit impatiently in his chair as she became so caught up in her theme. He remarked, somewhat hastily:

"I would have had to go live abroad sooner or later anyway for may daughter's sake. She was the reason that I stayed rather long back then in the south of Switzerland and in Italy. Did you hear about that? – Since then I've always liked the south. I travel to Italy almost every year."

"But your daughter's doing well now, isn't she?" Martha asked, distracted.
"Yes, thank you. She's completely recovered now, albeit in delicate health. She was married in Rome – I suppose you knew? My wife lived to see that – – For a few years, before she died so unexpectedly, I had to move quite often, live in different places; at the end, we were living in Wiesbaden. – – That's how one becomes a cosmopolitan," he said, breaking off.

There was a pause. Saitsev's gaze, which, while he was talking, had rested upon Martha's slim, pale face like a gentle caress, glided involuntarily now down over her figure and took it in, in every detail, with one long, all-consuming expression.

Feeling his gaze she blushed anew. Smiling, Saitsev said:
"Do you want to know something wonderful, Martha? You just said that you've been a doctor out in eastern Russia for years now. Fine. But sitting here now, that's not at all what you look like. No, not at all. Timid is how you look. As if you'd taken flight to this little corner, like a little girl who has absolutely no idea of how to get pushy and assert herself. Yes, that's just exactly how you look."
She nodded, hesitating.

"Well this place does intimidate me. The diverse, cheerful, vital turmoil of life here! And this city life, everything so foreign! Everything in such haste and so frenetic! You've got to know your way around. But I am so alien here. Afraid to cross the street or buy things in the shops. – – Back home, I'm not afraid of anything! I fear no one, I fear nothing! I know how to relate to the people there, and they have faith in my strength. – How right you were to lure me out there. And you yourself – "

He interrupted her: "Martha, what do you say we leave here .... Isn't it unbearable to keep sitting here like this? I have my winter apartment right here in the hotel, – I find that's where I'm most comfortable when I'm in town. Shall we go up to my place?"

"Yes, of course, – if you're finished eating, – I didn't just interrupt your dinner, did I?" Martha said, signalling the head-waiter.

"All of us were already finished and just chatting. As you see, there's just one straggler left at the table over there, but now you –" here Saitsev leaned over to look at the almost untouched dishes still sitting in front of Martha while she was paying her bill, " – I think you mustn't remain so alone at mealtime, otherwise you'll always stay so thin and pale."

From the waiter, Saitsev took the short dark winter coat she'd taken off when she came in and laid it over her shoulders. Then they walked slowly past the row of tables to the glass door at the exit. Martha walked along, her head no longer bowed, her eyes looking ahead, open and radiant, yet taking in as little of her surroundings as they had when she came in, – they gazed into a kind of happy world that had quietly opened up for her. Saitsev guided her up a few steps to his suite. It was all by itself in the corner of a broad corridor overlooking the old "Graben" that leads into the square. She could hardly believe that these three comfortable rooms, so luxuriously furnished to his own special taste, were part of a hotel. She thought they were the coziest rooms she had ever seen. She was still standing in the centre of the wide old Persian carpet – a memento of back home – that took up the whole middle of the living room, looking around in silence, when Saitsev, the sound of his steps muffled by the carpet, stepped up to her, put his arm around her shoulders and asked straight out:

"And by the way, tell me, you," he said, shifting now from formal to familiar address: "while you're out there caring for people so fanatically and wearing yourself out, – who takes care of you? Why have you become so pale and gaunt? Why?"

She gave a start.
"I – I have been taking care of myself," she stammered, her composure gone, " – in fact, I'm on my way home from a spa."

He leaned forward and took her wrist.
"A spa? So you're suffering from an illness? You're suffering – ?"
"Oh, no. Of course not. Just a little over-worked."

"Exhausted!" he said, only half out loud, as if talking to himself, and gave a quick stamp of his foot.

"Nonsense, that's what that is! You don't belong there at all! Why did you become a doctor? No, if there was one thing you had the aptitude for, then, – it was more for writing poetry or something like that. You were one of those people who write their life like poetry, the way they think it's supposed to be, according to their lyrical opinion. – – I think in the end it was that lyrical side of you that took over and drove you out into the world to make people happy."
She looked at him uncomprehending and deeply astonished. Like an astounded child, that's just how she looked in that moment, with her thin face and trusting eyes.

"Oh, no, – you did that yourself!" she said slowly, – "You alone. From the very first idea right to the final decision."

He muttered something she did not understand. Then he began to pace back and forth.

Martha kept completely still, and when he turned to her again, she had sat down on the edge of an armchair.

"Am I really to bear the guilt for that?" he asked, his voice subdued, as he came to a stop right in front of her.

"The guilt?!" She smiled at him. "You deserve the credit for that, – the credit for everything I ever did. Clearly, all by myself I would probably have become too weak. Don't you know that? When you went abroad then, and I found it so hard, so terribly hard to remain behind. Only you, only your power to convince and inspire gave me the strength to do that, – for the sake of our cause."
Saitsev held her gaze.

" – Really ‘for the sake of the cause'? For no other reason?" he asked.
She stared at him in silence.

Then he went on slowly, without averting his gaze from her:
"I, at least, I was not speaking so purely for the sake of the cause. I was speaking for very personal reasons, Martha. I was speaking for the sake of my wife and my ailing daughter, – yes, precisely for the sake of this daughter who lived amongst us, so suffering, so watchful, so jealous, in that way only such ailing people can manage to be. For the sake of those two – you and I could not remain together – that was why I could not let you go abroad with me. You know that as well as I do."

Martha had gone pale. She made an uncertain, searching gesture with her right hand and stood up involuntarily. Her gaze darted about the room without fixing on anything specific. She almost made the impression of wanting to flee. But Saitsev, still standing right in front of her, merely opened his arms to her in silence. And without making a sound, she let it happen, let him take her in his arms and draw her to him.

He tilted her head back and kissed her on the lips.
"How you're trembling," he murmured tenderly, and then, very softly:
"I would like to ask you something, if I may? Tell me: is that why you came here? Is it? – Did you come here to get me back?"

It cut right through her. Dismayed, almost frightened, she looked up at him.
"What – oh no, my God, how can you know that? Yes! That's why I came, to bring you back."

He held her still closer.
"Dearest! My darling, my dove! Didn't I tell you you're not a doctor – no, God forbid, a poet is what you are. The way you nurture and preserve an old love! Putting your trust in such remote happiness! Such a firm faith only a poet could have that we two ultimately might reunite after all."

"Happiness! Love! Reunion!" Martha repeated, brushing her brow like someone awakening, as if having to struggle to grasp such ideas. "How do you mean that? No, oh no, I could not think of something like that. – I came only to bring you back to us, – meaning simply: back to Russia."

Brusquely he let go of her.
"To Russia?! Me? Fine, but how so?"

She reached tentatively for his hand.
"Back there, Vitali. Where else, then? I told you already, back there you could achieve a thousand times more. And I – now I know so much more about it all, I've laid the groundwork, – I'm caught up in the middle of it. And all the time I was doing it with you in mind. – – That's something that I never wanted to believe: that you could keep on longing for me, – but I was sure: secretly you had to have a yearning for Russia and your work there."

She spoke urgently, persuasively. On her cheeks there were pale red blotches of excitement. Yet the longer she faced his gaze, the more uncertain her tone became, and she let her voice fall with the last words.

He reached out and softly stroked her hair – his gesture protective, comforting.
"You are a foolish child!" He remarked, "in the world you're talking about I no longer fit in at all. I haven't just been sitting here these – what, ten years waiting for you to come get me, Martha! I've lived those years, developing all the while a whole different way of life. I no longer think and feel as I did then."

Martha stood stock still. Slowly she let go of the hand she had reached out for so imploringly and let her own fall quietly to her sides.

"But then – yes, then – we haven't found each other again at all!" she said, her voice toneless.

"We haven't? But indeed we have!" he countered quickly and emphatically, and leaning over her, he added with a smile:
"Am I not really still that same young man with the lean, bearded face of an Apostle and hair down to his shoulders? Still facing life so ineffably free of needs, yet at the same time so arrogantly full of demands. Now I want much less from life. But I do want you. I love you, Martha. And so you will stay here, with me, as my wife."

"But I can't!" she exclaimed, beside herself, "I just can't. They are waiting for me there, they need me, sacred commitments bind me to them, – bonds that you helped forge –" she broke off and suddenly clung to him aglow with hope; " – oh, do come along! That is the only way it can be, – do follow me."
He looked down at her in silence.

" – I, follow ... you?" he asked, lightly emphasizing each word.
She went deep red.

"Not me! The cause!" she said, faltering.

"I once set you upon this cause, – I guided you into this area, that's true," he went on, calmly, "but there you would be my guide and master, with me then your apprentice, your neophyte, you would by guiding me towards that cause."
Martha shook her head vigorously.

"No! Oh no! I would do all that you wish of me!" she cried out passionately, "a thousand times each day I would bless you – and love you not less but a thousand times more – "
"Yet I would cease to love you!" said Saitsev coldly, and took a step back.

Martha pressed her hands to her eyes. She wanted to hide her tears, make them stop, but a choking pain welled up in her and she began to weep.

Saitsev stood at her side for a few seconds, his head bowed. His eyes were slightly reddened and from the veins at his temples it was clear that he was intensely agitated.

He paced the room a few times and then went to the wide window and stood looking out. The autumn grey of the late afternoon light rested on the genteel street-scene outside, while inside evening darkness had already begun.
Slowly the resounding boom of the St. Stephan's chimes tolled five.

The uneasy silence was interrupted when the room-waiter knocked discreetly at the door to announce that Saitsev had a visitor.

Martha awakened as if from a dark oppressive dream. "Yes, it's surely best if I go now," she thought.

But Saitsev was just instructing the room-waiter to admit no visitors. Then he ordered tea and supper for two for 8 o'clock, requesting that it be brought to the adjoining room and then announced only after it had been served.

When the waiter had gone, Saitsev turned to Martha who was sitting there silently, listening in amazement.

"That's alright, isn't it? wouldn't you also rather eat earlier? or would you rather have tea served before?

She shook her head. His words were so innocuous. Hadn't something just happened between them, then, showing that they were estranged from each other in their inmost selves? And he didn't deny it either, he just seemed to ignore it.

Meanwhile Saitsev had brought some beautiful leather-bound albums full of large photographs and spread them out in front of her.

"Wouldn't you like to see a bit of all the places I've been since then? some of all the works of art I went on to see?" he asked, trying to cheer her up. "What fools we are for getting into an argument, when all along we have so much to share with each other."

And while he was taking care to push the pictures into the best possible light and Martha leaned over them, absent-mindedly, to have a look, he went on:
"I really do have a whole world to show you, a world you don't know yet and thus can't really appreciate. To introduce you to a whole new world! How wonderful it will be to set it up around you until you are at home in it, to guide you from one pleasure to the next, from one insight to the next."

Martha thought to herself:
"Until I come to despise myself in this life of luxury! In that kind of world he'd fit right in, without doing a thing."

Yet even as she was thinking that, she followed mechanically along with what he was saying and showing her, noting the lively energy of his gestures as he spoke, and involuntarily she embraced it with the magic of old. His voice was speaking other words – but did they not have the same tone as before?

When Martha kept her hand on one of the photographs for a few moments, trying to hold it steady, Saitsev reached for it and studied it intently.

Martha tried to pull her hand away, she felt hot and flustered.
"There's nothing to see there!" she said, haltingly and evasive.

"Nothing? Why there's everything to see there! Everything that you could ever possibly tell me about yourself. In this hand, which by nature was so small and delicate, – and which one can now see has learned to come to grips everywhere and shirk no labour. That was very brave of this poor little hand! But now this hand should become small and delicate again, don't you think? It's supposed to be a pretty hand, isn't it?"

Martha wanted to cry out: "No! No, it's not supposed to be a pretty little hand! For always and forever may they remain strangers to each other, your hand so well-groomed, mine now grown so coarse."

But she remained silent, her heart beating in agony against her chest, her eyes shimmering with tears. His hand, which she wanted to push away, exuded a warm current of feeling, coursing into her limbs, draining them of strength, as if binding her to him – –
Then Saitsev took her in his arms and drew her to him.
"Even I'd not have thought it possible – I didn't think I could do it!" he murmured, "that I could still love you – it makes me proud! Who of all my friends would have thought I could do it! It's as if no time at all had gone by since then, – isn't it, really?"

She tried to stand erect under the weight of his arms, overcome by a strange anxiety and uncertainty. What he was so proud of, – that was really nothing to be proud of – it was something all too human, is what it was, – something that once they had both triumphed over with the help of grand ideals.

" – Strangers, oh what strangers we are!" she thought over and over, yet ever darker, ever more nebulously the thought glided through her consciousness, as if it were whispering to her from out of the distant depths – far away from herself.
Saitsev had released her, his features were tense and excited.

She stared into his face.
" – Who knows – how often he's done this –" she tried to think, but then she stopped thinking, everything receding into mist-shrouded depths.
Saitsev moved to the door that led out into the hallway and locked it without a sound. – –

* * *

The previous day had been neither clear nor cloudy, neither warm nor cold, its weather so indifferent and indeterminate that it could have been any season.

Today was markedly late autumn. The dense night fog had lifted only to leave the streets slippery and wet, a moist west wind blowing through them, and a dense mass of cloud hanging low over the city.

Saitsev walked down Singerstraße, his hands in his overcoat pockets, turning to walk slowly back a few times.

He had promised Martha to wait that morning for her to visit him instead of going to look for her where she was staying with her doctor friend, a woman he didn't know. But it was almost 11 o'clock and she hadn't shown up yet. An intense restlessness had driven him out of the house ahead of time; he wanted to go meet her.

She could have taken ill. Her resistance low, she was in a weakened state as it was. He had to take care of her, above all. Yes, take care of her, make her flourish –.

His gaze lit upon a lovely girl who was just crossing the street diagonally, carefully lifting her skirt as she did so to reveal a pair of charming little ankle-boots. He almost had to smile about the childish impatience of his desire to deck Martha out like this until she too was a lovely girl, – bring her out of her dour shell.
But Martha wasn't coming.

No, he did not want to wait any longer in this dreary autumn chill. It depressed him, made him a bundle of nerves.

And again he set out down Singerstraße, walking, without a stop, til he'd covered the short stretch to the multi-storied apartment building where she'd said she was staying. A little white terrier trotted along beside him for a while, as if taking Saitsev for his master. Then a fine rain came drizzling down.
At the gateway of the building he was assailed by a deafening noise. In the courtyard there was a metal worker's shop where long iron rails were being unloaded with a resounding clatter. Saitsev went up one set of stairs and then found the name on the door he was looking for.

A servant answered his ring. Asking about Martha, Saitsev learned that she'd left an hour ago. Where she'd gone the servant did not know. He assumed she'd gone to Russia. He said she'd left a letter that the porter at the corner had taken to the hotel on St. Stephan's Square right after her departure.

So the letter was there, then.

Yes, it probably was there, but Saitsev was in no hurry to read it.
The door closed and Saitsev started down a few steps, then stopped.
Well, yes, why read it? These last confused lines had surely not been enough for Martha to offer any clear explanation. She had taken flight. From that, he knew enough.

It suddenly occurred to him: "How stupid, how ridiculous the whole thing was, really. Her existence, her whole existence she had guided just according to my suggestion, because I wanted it that way – because we could not have each other. And now the only thing that stands in my way is my own suggestion."
Saitsev leaned over the bannister. The noise came welling up from below, with a hollow piercing clatter, and it did him a world of good to listen to this brutal noise. His hand clenched involuntarily into a fist. Everything in him that was brutal strength suffered helplessly.

Leaning on the railing, he stood for a long time listening, without actually being aware of it, taking pleasure in the hard, shrill hammer blows as they made the iron vibrate and bend, trembling and glowing as it yielded obediently to the strokes – he listened as if the blows were speaking for him.

He himself had fallen silent.


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