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Half a Sheet of Foolscap

The last load of the furniture had departed, the tenant, a young man with a mourning crape on his hat, took another turn around the residence to see had he missed anything. – No, he hadn’t missed anything. Not a single thing, and then he walked out, into the hall, firmly resolved to never again have to think about what he had gone through in those rooms. But look, in the hall, near the telephone, a half sheet of tacked-up paper, and it was covered with several kinds of handwriting – some of which were clearly legible, others scribbled out in lead pencil or red ink. There it was, the whole beautiful story which was played out in the short period of two years; everything he wanted to forget was there in writing; a piece of human life on a half sheet of paper.

He took the sheet down; it was that kind of sun-yellow capacitor paper that emanates light. He laid it down on the mantelpiece of the tiled oven in the drawing room, and leaning over it he read – Her name, listed first;Alice, the most beautiful name he knew at the time, because it belonged to that of his fiancée. And the number – 151,1. It looked like the number of a psalm in the church. After it – the bank. This was his profession; the hallowed work which bequeathed bread, home and spouse, the foundation of all existence. But this was crossed out! Because the bank had collapsed, but he had been transferred over to another bank, only after a great deal of anguish however.

Next appeared: The florists and the livery. It was the engagement, when he had his pockets loaded with money.

Next on the list – The furnishers, the upholsterers. He was making a nest. The removers; they move in.

The ticket office of the opera. 50.50. They are newly-weds and on Sundays they attend the opera. Their best moments when they themselves sit quiet, and come together in harmony and beauty in the wonderland on the opposite side of the curtain.

Next there is a man’s name crossed out. This was a friend who had reached certain heights in society but who could not bear the good fortune, but fell, irreparably, and had to travel far away. The fragility of it all!

Here something new can be discerned in the lives of the couple. Written, in a woman’s handwriting, in lead pencil. The Mistress. Which mistress? – Ah, the one with the big cloak and the friendly sympathetic face, who enters so softly, and never walking through the drawing room but taking the hallway corridor to the bedchamber.

Below her name is Doctor L.

This is the first time that the name of a relative appears. Mama, jotted here. This is the mother-in-law, who has discreetly kept herself at bay in order not to bother the newly-weds, but called on now in the hour of need, and come she will, since she’s needed.

A huge blue and red scrawl starts here. The commissions’ office for the help: The housemaid has moved, or another one is to be hired. The chemists. Hmmm! Clouds gathering now! The creamery. Milk ordered here; free from tubercle.

The grocers, the butchers etc.! The house is beginning to be run via the telephone; madam is not on duty then. No. For she’s been confined to bed.

What came after this he could not make out, for his eye-sight began to grow cloudy, as it must do for a person who is drowning in sea water. But there was – The undertakers.

Certainly speaks for itself! – A large one and a small one, implying a coffin. And written in brackets: of dust.

Then nothing more was written! It finished with dust, and so it does.

But he took the sun-paper, kissed it and placed it in his breast pocket.

He had relived two years of his life in two minutes.

He was not bowed down when he walked out, but he held his head up rather, like a proud human being, for he felt that that which was most precious belonged to him still. How many poor souls had it passed by!

Novellen är översatt av Hugh Curtis
http://www.transcrit.se Tel. 0707544281

Texten är inte den som är inläst av Johan Rabaeus, det är en äldre översättning där jag inte fått översättarens tillstånd för publicering.