In the drawing room of her mother's mansion, deep in a Northern forest, Vanessa waits anxiously with her niece Erika as a snowstorm rages outside. Vanessa is expecting a visitor: Anatol, a Parisian man she had loved twenty years earlier. When they parted, Vanessa retreated to her mother's remote, palatial home to await her lover's promised return. Vanessa has had all the mirrors in the house covered so as to escape the sight of herself aging. Now Anatol has sent word that he is coming to her.
As the twilight dims, the bells from the gate-keeper's tower are heard: the lanterns of the sleigh carrying Anatol thru the swirling snow have been spotted.
Vanessa: "He has come! He has come!
Go, and call all the servants. Light up the court-yard!
I shall wait here.
And...Erika...let me be alone with him...when he comes in!"
[Erika withdraws. Vanessa turns her back to the drawing room doors; they fly open and Anatol stands silhouetted in the doorway. Vanessa remains motionless.]
Vanessa: "Do not utter a word, Anatol. Do not move. You may not wish to stay.
For over twenty years...in stillness...in silence...I have waited for you.
I have always been sure, I have always known you would come back to me, Anatol.
I have scarcely breathed, so that time would not leave its trace and that nothing might change in me that you loved. Alone, apart, unseen... have waited for you.
Ah, how dark, how desperate, how blind: to let the days go by unmarked, unheeded!
How endless, how lonely, how wrong: to rob a beating heart of time and space!
Beauty is the hardest gift to shelter...harder than death to stay!
All this, I have done for you!
Now listen, listen...listen well:
Unless you still love me, I do not want you to see me, Anatol.
Without love, do not dare look in my eyes...
Because all change...all change...begins...when love has died.
Tell me, Anatol: do you love me?
Do you still love me as once you did?!
For if you do not,
I shall ask you to leave my house
this very night!"