It is possible that some people are sorry for me, but I
am not aware of it. My small business fills me with worries that
make my forehead and temples ache inside yet without giving any
prospect of relief, for my business is a small business.
I have to spend hours beforehand making things ready, jogging the
caretaker's memory, warning him about mistakes he is likely to
commit, and puzzling out in one season of the year what the next
season's fashions are to be, not such as are followed by the people
I know but those that will appeal to inaccessible peasants in the
depths of the country.
My money is in the hands of strangers; the state of their affairs
must be a mystery to me; the ill luck that might overwhelm them I
cannot foresee; how could I possibly avert it! Perhaps they are
running into extravagance and giving a banquet in some inn garden,
some of them may be attending the banquet as a brief respite before
their flight to America.
When at the close of a working day I turn the key on my business and
suddenly see before me hours in which I shall be able to do nothing
to satisfy its never-ending demands, then the excitement which I
drove far away from me in the morning comes back like a returning
tide, but cannot be contained in me and sweeps me aimlessly away
And yet I can make no use of this impulse, I can only go home, for
my face and hands are dirty and sweaty, my clothes are stained and
dusty, my working cap is on my head, and my shoes are scratched with
the nails of crates. I go home as if lifted on a wave, snapping the
fingers of both hands, and caress the hair of any children I meet.
But the way is short. Soon I reach my house, open the door of the
lift, and step in.
I see that now, of a sudden, I am alone. Others who have to climb
stairways tire a little as they climb, have to wait with quick
panting breath till someone opens the door of the flat, which gives
them an excuse for being irritable and impatient, have to traverse
the hallway where hats are hung up, and not until they go down a
lobby past several glass doors and come into their own room are they
But I am alone in the lift, immediately, and on my knees gaze into
the narrow looking glass. As the lift begins to rise, I say: 'Quiet
now, back with you, is it the shadow of the trees you want to make
for, or behind the window curtains, or into the garden arbor?'
I say that behind my teeth, and the staircase flows down past the
opaque glass panes like running water.
'Fly then; let your wings, which I have never seen, carry you into
the village hollow or as far as Paris, if that's where you want to
'But enjoy yourselves there looking out of the window, see the
processions converging out of three streets at once, not giving way
to each other but marching through each other and leaving the open
space free again as their last ranks draw off. Wave your
handkerchiefs, be indignant, be moved, acclaim the beautiful lady
who drives past.
'Cross over the stream on the wooden bridge, nod to the children
bathing and gape at the Hurrah! rising from the thousand sailors on
the distant battleship.
'Follow the trail of the inconspicuous little man, and when you have
pushed him into a doorway, rob him, and then watch him, each with
your hands in your pockets, as he sadly goes his way along the
'The police dispersed on galloping horses rein in their mounts and
thrust you back. Let them, the empty streets will dishearten them, I
know. What did I tell you, they are riding away already in couples,
slowly around the corners, at full speed across the squares.'
Then I have to leave the lift, send it down again, and ring the
bell, and the maid opens the door while I say: Good evening.