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The end

It is but a little before my story is told and its end rests with me here, at my writing desk. Gervaise has brought a cup of tea and a shawl to keep me warm, but a part of me that she and they will never see is bitterly cold, in the desolate place with my love.
It was not once but twice that my false family stole from me the one thing that made my life purely sweet: my Oskar.
We continued to love one another openly until my brother’s return from Baden Baden.
Gauvain was stricken immediately by my debilitated looks. I was wasting away; could nothing be done? The fresh air did me good, the fresh air was my enemy—sweet cakes revived my spirit, then reviled it. The doctor was making but guesses and would have put a frailer form through torture who dared to live by his advice.
I was dying. What was the difference? I told Gauvain that I wanted Oskar to live with us. I held his hand and wept to recall his letter. I had written my reply in his absence and merely handed it to him when he entered my sitting room. I had not mentioned a word in it of my love. It still remained pointing against my heart like a thorn.
In this lapse of my health the pretense of friendship came easily for myself and Oskar. Our platonic nature was unfeigned as my constitution could not withstand more than ordinary tenderness.
But, he held my hand. He read to me. I played for him. Gauvain saw that Oskar had become my whole world, and he did not know what to make of this. The servants were as yet discreet.
It was I who told my brother the truth. I had begun to hope, wildly and against all good sense, that Gauvain would bless our feelings for one another given the particularly impermanent nature of my being.
I did not tell Oskar what I planned. On a good day, I walked to Gauvain’s study myself and signaled him.
He called my name and guided me to a chair, pleased and fond as ever brother could be.
The state of my dumbness was disadvantage to be sure, but I had profited at this time by the liberty of drafting at length a record to Gauvain of my doings till it said precisely what I wished, and this I withdrew from my pocket and passed onto his desk.
“My dear brother,” I wrote, “I am obliged to make a confession to you of feelings you must have long suspected. Though I am so frail, my will has always been strong, and unable to be controlled by man’s law. I love, and am loved in return, and I am unbelievably rich for it. Will you not fill with joy likewise for your sister’s mirth in this time of darkness?”
I had deliberately left the page at this, and before he turned to the next, he took my hand, as I hoped he would, and said, “Oriente, can this be true? I want only happiness for you, though I cannot conceive of the one who would fully master a heart such as yours.”
I watched him with burning gaze as he read down, and I turned cold as I knew he turned cold, and I watched the blood drain from his face with a sinking heart. He looked back at me; I pleaded him with my eyes to understand.
“Oriente,” he said in a changed, cold voice. “You have been many things in your life, but I have never known you to be a deceiver.”
“Deceiver!” I scrawled frantically across the page. “As though I might be capable of concealing my emotions. You have seen them writ across me a thousand times.”
“I did not take that to mean…” He could not go on, and I could not write. My hand shook too wildly when I realized what I had done. I gathered to my feet, clutching my cane frantically. “Oriente, you knew how things were. You knew as a child, I’m sure, that Oskar was one of us.”
Oskar entered the room carelessly till he saw me standing, tears spilling from my eyes. He stopped immediately and stared aghast between myself and Gauvain. “What’s this?”
Gauvain went to him, and I thought from the look of him that he would strangle Oskar. “You. Are no better than a rutting dog on his kin. The best animals guard against this disgrace.”
I reached them and pushed myself between them, watching Gauvain fiercely. No matter what terrible things he would say, this was my choice, there was honor in it, even if only in my own private world. His murderous gaze turned to me.
“A fancy bitch you are. Your affections are but lies and deceit. Can it be that the grave which beckons you has already curled around your heart all the wickedness of its hell?”
“She’s a woman, Gauvain. Not a child to be led like a pony on a string. Darling,” he looked at me. “I know what you would say.” He held me fast. “She and I have lived apart, matured separately. Between us is not the familiarity of kin. This would be perversity indeed, but for her I am not a brother, but a forbidden friendship and now, love. We understand each other in a way—I should say it—that stems perhaps from our similar beings, cast from the same mold, and no one else will ever understand either of us. We could not be more loving. We could not be more one.”
I choked convulsively, for it seemed Gauvain would kill him with looks alone. Oskar went too fast, too far, but he was impassioned, and God knows what I would have said if I could speak. Gauvain struck his half-brother, his face hard as stone, his eyes like hell as he withdrew the violating fist.
Oskar recovered and went from the room, and guided by a desperate instinct, I followed with every last bit of my strength. My pathetic effort was for nothing, and Gauvain caught me, held me fast as I struggled on the ground and beat at his feet and legs.
He shouted for Gervaise—oh, this obedient creature—who confined me and looked after me so that I could not chase Oskar, who I knew was leaving—who I feared desperately I would see nevermore, and after days of mindless grief I learned that Oskar was thrown in prison, for some crime he could not possibly have committed, and his only witness a sad, poor mute easily constrained.
But this is the power of the Markgraf, and has always been.

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