from Three Lives

‘Jeff never, even now, knew what it was that moved him. He never, even now, was ever sure, he really knew what Melanctha was, even when she was real herself, and honest. He thought he knew, and then there came in him some moment, just like this one, when she really woke him up to be strong in him. Then he really knew he could know nothing. He knew then, he never could know what it was she really wanted with him. He knew then he never could know really what it was he felt inside him. It was all so mixed up inside him. All he knew was he wanted very badly Melanctha should be there beside him, and he wanted very badly, to always to throw her from him. What was it really that Melanctha wanted with him? What was it really, he, Jeff Campbell, wanted she should give him? “I certainly did think now,” Jeff Campbell groaned inside him, “I certainly did think now I really was knowing all right, what I wanted. I certainly did really think now I was knowing how to be trusting with Melanctha. I certainly did think it was like that now with me sure, after all I’ve been through all this time with her. And now I certainly do know I don’t know anything that’s very real about her. Oh the good Lord help and keep me!” And Jeff groaned hard inside him, and he buried his face deep in the green grass underneath him, and Melanctha Herbert was very silent there beside him.

‘Then Jeff turned to look and see her. She was lying very still there by him, and the bitter water on her face was biting. Jeff was so very sorry then, all over and inside him, the way he always was when Melanctha had been deep hurt by him. “I didn’t mean to be so bad again to you, Melanctha, dear one,” and he was very tender to her. “I certainly didn’t never mean to go be so bad to you, Melanctha, darling. I certianly don’t know, Melanctha, darling, what it is makes me act so to you sometimes, when I certianly ain’t meaning anything like I want to hurt you. I certainly don’t mean to be so bad, Melanctha, only it comes so quick on me before I know what I am acting to you. I certainly am all sorry, hard, to be so bad to you, Melanctha, darling.” “I suppose, Jeff,” said Melanctha, very low and bitter, “I suppose you are always thinking, Jeff, somebody had ought to be ashamed with us two together, and you certainly do think you don’t see any way to it, Jeff, for me to be feeling that way ever, so you certainly don’t see any way to, only to do it just so often for me. That certainly is the way always with you, Jeff Campbell, if I understand you right the way I am saying it to you now, Jeff Campbell. You certainly didn’t anyway trust me now no more, did you, when you just acted so bad to me. I certainly am right when I aks you for it now, to tell me what I ask you, about not trusting me more then again, Jeff, just like you never really knew me. You certainly never did trust me just then, Jeff, you hear me?” “Yes, Melanctha,” Jeff answered slowly. Melanctha paused. “I guess I certainly never can forgive you this time, Jeff Campbell,” she said firmly. Jeff paused too, and thought a little. “I certainly am afraid you never can no more now again, Melanctha,” he said sadly.

‘They lay there very quiet now a long time, each one thinking very hard on their own trouble.’

 

—Gertrude Stein