A New Mistress

Ulrich is beaten up by three angry men and, as predicted, he fights back but soon takes a philosophical attitude toward the event. He provides this commentary to a woman who has come to his aid.

At this point he went back in his mind to the sequel of last night’s adventure. As he regained his senses from the beating he had suffered, a cab stopped at the curb; the driver tried to lift up the wounded stranger by the shoulders, and a lady was bending over him with an angelic expression on her face. This child’s picture-book vision, natural to moments of consciousness rising from the depth, soon gave way to reality: the presence of a woman busying herself with him had the effect on Ulrich of a whiff of cologne, superficial and quickening, so that he also instantly knew that he had not been too badly damaged, and tried to rise to his feet with good grace. In this he did not succeed as smoothly as he would have liked, and the lady anxiously offered to drive him somewhere to get help. Ulrich asked to be taken home, and as he really still looked dazed and helpless, she granted his request. Once inside the cab, he quickly recovered his poise. He felt something maternally sensuous beside him, a fine cloud of solicitous idealism, in the warmth of which tiny crystals of doubt were already hatching, filling the air like softly falling snow and generating the fear of some impulsive act as he felt himself becoming a man again. (I,23-24)

He had put the emphasis on the wings and on that bright, mute bird–a notion that did not make much sense but was charged with some of that vast sensuality with which life simultaneously satisfies all the rival contradictions in its measureless body. He now noticed that his neighbor had no idea what he was talking about, and the soft snowfall she was diffusing inside the cab had grown thicker. (I,25)

Two weeks later Bonadea had been his mistress for fourteen days. (I,26)





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