Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Withered Leaves.  Vol. II. (of III) - A Novel
Author: Gottschall, Rudolf von, 1823-1909
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Withered Leaves.  Vol. II. (of III) - A Novel" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



Transcriber's Notes:
   1. Page scan source:
      http://books.google.com/books?id=fuUBAAAAQAAJ

   2. The diphthong oe is represented by [oe].

   3. Errata on pp. 109, 154, and 183 have been corrected.



                           AT ALL LIBRARIES.

                        BY THE SAME TRANSLATOR.

                              RIVEN BONDS,

                             By E. WERNER,

  _Author of_ "_Under a Charm_," "_Success and How He Won it_," _&c_.

                              2 VOLS. 21s.

                           *   *   *   *   *

"An art novel of great power and passion * * * * * The situations are
well contrived, and the workings of strong feelings well managed. The
story is able and absorbing, and the development of Ella's character is
powerfully conceived."--_The British Quarterly_.

"The Translator may claim credit, not only of having selected a good
subject, but of having handled it well * * * * * The situations
in this story being true and unforced, are more effective than any
amount of fine writing and strained invention could make them.
We have no difficulty in believing in the individualities of the
personages."--_The Queen_.

"The same power, however, of giving reality to his word-portraits which
delighted us so much in Herr Werner's former production again makes
itself felt in this one, as well as a certain aptness in choosing
felicitous incidents * * * * * The story is admirably told, and its
conclusion exceedingly dramatic."--_Morning Post_.

                           *   *   *   *   *

            REMINGTON & Co., 5, Arundel Street, Strand, W.C.



                            WITHERED LEAVES.

                                A Novel,

                                   BY

                         Rudolf von Gottschall.


                            FROM THE GERMAN,

                            By BERTHA NESS.

        Translator of Werner's "Riven Bonds" and "Sacred Vows."


                             THREE VOLUMES.

                           *   *   *   *   *

                        AUTHORISED TRANSLATION.

                           *   *   *   *   *

                                VOL. II.

                           *   *   *   *   *


                                London:
                           REMINGTON AND CO.,
                     5, Arundel Street, Stand, W.C.
                               *   *   *
                                 1879.

                        [_All Rights Reserved_.]



                         CONTENTS OF VOLUME II.


     CHAP.

       I.--The First Meeting.

      II.--The Novice.

     III.--The Fall of Man.

      IV.--Mother and Daughter.

       V.--Half-witted Kätchen.

      VI.--The Castle Lake.

     VII.--Norma.

    VIII.--In the Boudoir.

      IX.--In the Boarding School.

       X.--The Sisters.

      XI.--In the Churchyard.

     XII.--In the Citizen Assembly.

    XIII.--At Mother Hecht's.



                            WITHERED LEAVES.

                           VOL. II.--ERRATA.


      Page 109, line 20, for Nirwana read Nirvana.

        "  154,   "  12, for Niriwana read Nirvana.

        "  183,   "   1, for Arioste read Ariosto.



                            WITHERED LEAVES.



                               CHAPTER I.

                           THE FIRST MEETING.


"I had always been a dreamer, and an enthusiast," began Blanden, "and
even when at school I cherished bold designs; I would emigrate to
Madagascar, an island to which I had taken a peculiar fancy, and did
not deem it impossible there to win a crown for myself.

"I always remained aloof from the noisy amusements of my companions. I
loved solitude; a walk in the company of others was disagreeable to me;
all their conversations and songs seemed like desecration of nature,
which only reveals its beauty, its secrets to silent appreciation. But
when I wandered alone through meadows, even if only the cornfields of
my paternal estates, or lost myself in the woods--above me the rustling
oaks, beside me the roaring sea--a sensation often overcame me, of
which I was unable to give any account, which would not allow itself to
be put into words, without wiping away its mysterious magic as if it
were the coloured down of a butterfly's wings. I was persuaded that
this feeling was shared and understood by none; it was a kind of
religion of nature, but so fervent, that in it I believed to lose my
identity, that I felt as if my soul went forth into the vast universe,
as if the lisping breeze which stirred the branches and tops of the
trees were the spirit of the Divinity, the same spirit which also
animated the respirations of my bosom, and the feelings of my heart.
The evening crimson, when its glow faded away behind the summits, could
fill me with infinite emotion; a hot day which unfettered the spicy
breeze in field and forest, and which with darkening fragrance hovered
over the blue distance, could transport me into an ecstacy, as though
the fire of external nature glowed within my own veins.

"I studied the works of poets; I found nothing that would entirely have
expressed my sensations, and even in ancient religious writings and the
works of a later period, I found the indication of this feeling rather
than itself in its peculiarity.

"I might gather it from ambiguous symbols, but the language of my heart
it was not.

"I visited the university, nevertheless I remained faithful to my
solitary, dreamy tendency. I was never to be seen at the drinking
parties of our duelling clubs, although I attended their fencing
school; I learned to wield the blade bravely, and if any one disturbed
or ridiculed me, I demanded satisfaction of him. Dry knowledge
imprinted itself on my memory, yet it remained a stranger to my own
mental life. The philosophy of the lecture-room gave me no reply to
those questions of my soul; I followed their mathematical problems with
interest, but they did not touch that which laid hold of my inmost
feelings. The lecturer at that time was a highly esteemed master of the
art of thinking, yet he confined himself to the tangible, the palpable,
and my mind was devoted to the unfathomable.

"Would the world's secret let itself be put into set forms? Would it
not much rather disclose itself to inexpressible feelings? A nameless
longing took possession of me, to fathom the secret connection between
the world's spirit and my own, which at those moments of inspired views
had illumined my soul as with flashes of lightning, only to take refuge
again in the unattainable.

"It was the same supreme feeling that was peculiar to religious
fervour, and yet it lay so far removed from the ordinary circle of
conceptions in which believers moved. The daring idea of founding a new
religion, or at least of expounding in a new manner that which for
thousands of years had been the tradition of faith, often rose within
my soul; then--I started at this daring; was it not a lesser venture to
emigrate to Madagascar, than to discover a new world of religion?

"The ecstacies which Nature granted me, even as she appeared in the
Baltic country mostly void of charms, remained the same; I felt
inwardly related to her. On the other hand, Nature stood before me in
lofty estrangement in another form in woman. While stormy youth around
me had long since in daily pleasures denuded of its leaves that which
appeared to me the sacred crowning work of creation, I still
experienced a dread of and longing for it, as though for me it were
something unapproachable. I felt that for me one half of the world lay
in obscurity; like that hemisphere from which the sun is averted, it
lay as if bedded in the lap of sacred night, and an ambrosial magical
light seemed to flow from it. I shuddered, as through me passed a
nervous dread of that moment in which this dark world should move with
me into the bright sunshine of knowledge.

"Meanwhile I had terminated my studies. I had been industrious; dry law
released me from my internal struggles, from all disturbing trains of
thought. Even the most subtle distinctions of the Roman jurists in the
most difficult law questions, were enigmas which could be solved, and
my mind felt especial satisfaction when it had been successful in such
a solution. How totally different were those non-transparent secrets in
which neither thought nor feeling were ever entirely consumed.

"I passed my legal examination, and commenced my first employment in
the service of the State. With an adventure which had befallen me as
student a fatal complication in my life now became connected.

"One evening I had been walking along the Pregel. The light of the
declining sun swept the hollow-eyed warehouses, which were crowded
together in large quarters of the town, and hovered, dream-like, behind
the sails and masts of the ships which lay at anchor in that part of
the river where greater depth of water allowed them to do so. Farther
up, lay the heavily-freighted 'Wittinen,' and rafts which had come up
from Masuren, with their wooden huts. All were merry upon those
bast-covers, for these 'Dschimken,' who at home lived in mud hovels,
had been long enough sailing past pasturage and meadows on the river
bank to rejoice in their life here, at the end of their journey.

"Yonder, one of them in a sheepskin, with a straw hat upon his head, is
playing upon a fiddle with two strings; the light-hearted little people
danced upon the tree trunks bound together--dancers and spectators
clapped their hands; others crouched around a large kettle, out of
which they helped themselves with wooden spoons.

"Like all pleasures of the people, this merry scene, which might amuse
others, touched me. Not far from it, a picture of busy activity
attracted me; I saw how eagerly carpenters were at work upon the frame
of a ship that seemed to me to be of a peculiar form. Just as I came
near, they were about to cease their labours, laid their axes aside,
and went towards a man whose singular appearance, when I looked more
narrowly at him, made a strange impression upon me.

"He reminded me of the hermits of old; a long beard flowed down almost
to his girdle, thick black hair fell far down upon his shoulders, a
broad-brimmed hat covered his head. As he now turned sideways,
sharply-cut features showed themselves in the evening light; his tall
form was clad in Oriental fashion, in a garment that hung down to his
feet.

"Who was that remarkable man, who seemed to step out of the 'thousand
and one nights' into the sober life of the old royal Prussian town?

"He stood amidst a group that plainly belonged to the upper classes.
Two young women, apparently very graceful, also stood beside him. The
carpenters went towards him, and pressed his hand; the women had a
shake of the hand and a sweet smile for each. The workmen assembled
themselves behind the distinguished group, and soon the whole
procession set itself in motion.

"A carpenter, whom other business called away, had separated himself
from his companions, and went past me.

"'What kind of a ship is that which you are building over there?' asked
I of him.

"'It is the "Swan."'

"'And who christened it thus, and who has ordered it to be built?'

"'The Paraclete.'

"That sounded most mysterious.

"'Who is the Paraclete?'

"'The man yonder, with the long, dark hair; they call him so; he is a
minister, but no ordained one.'

"'But why does he build ships?'

"'It is to be a wonderful ship; he has often preached to us about it; a
kind of Noah's ark. We must have firm faith when we build it; then it
will be able to sail against wind and waves. And we believe, too, that
with each stroke of the axe we are doing a work that is pleasing to the
Lord.'

"'Is he a rich ship-owner?'

"'He himself does not own a farthing, but pious people give him as much
as he requires.'

"'Whither does the procession go?'

"'Yonder to the public-house. I shall soon follow, when I have seen to
my wife and child at home. He preaches over there, and it is wonderful
to hear everything that he says. You can go too, because he preaches to
all the world, and no one is excluded.'

"I followed the workman's invitation, and also went to the house inside
which the procession had disappeared. As it moved farther on, it had
increased like a caravan. Porters and sailors had joined it. They
filled a large room, evidently a dancing saloon. Above, on the gallery,
where at other times the musicians would be, the 'Paraclete' had taken
up his position; beside him sat his male and female companions.

"Who were the young women who went so dauntlessly into this district of
the lowest inhabitants, whose rudeness is usually avoided by all of
refined bringing up? Great must be their attachment to the prophet, and
the might of their faith, that enabled them to bid defiance to the wild
noise and to the odours of tobacco. Yet, in the latter, they seemed
only to perceive clouds of incense, which ascended to do homage to the
High Priest. Did they believe those times to be returned when prophets
moved amongst the lowly people, who alone possessed appreciation of the
seed that was scattered amongst them?

"I looked up at the chosen congregation that surrounded the preacher,
and was wonderfully struck with the charming grace of one youthful
face, which with its soft, gentle lines contrasted pleasantly with the
Paraclete's sharp features. Was it a girl or a young married woman? The
whole figure was full of girlish charm, yet a girl would hardly have
ventured into such a district. A transfiguring breath of enthusiasm lay
upon those noble features, large deep blue eyes gazed up at the
preacher with such trust, such confidence; it was as if the faith of an
entire devoted congregation were reflected in the glance of those eyes.
I looked again and ever again in that direction; I followed all her
movements with unwavering glances; she stood up, she walked to and fro,
apparently eagerly occupied with arrangements to render the preacher's
pulpit a more worthy one; she brought a cushion and placed it upon the
balustrade, she brought milk and fruit, for the minister scorned any
other nourishment--yes, she brought a footstool for his feet.

"This servile occupation which she devoted to the mysterious man
displeased me, but all the movements of her slender form were full of
such winning grace, and made an enrapturing impression upon me.

"I felt as if the divinity had been found for that altar which already
for long I had erected to 'woman,' and the dense clouds of tobacco
appeared to me to be the ambrosial firmament which hovers above a
Madonna.

"The preacher rose, and silence suddenly reigned in the assembly
hitherto so noisy.

"What he spoke was marvellous, but it attracted me; it was not the old
story that has so often been promulgated from a pulpit lulling all to
sleep, they were new doctrines, even although in the old garment. Was
my youthful dream of founding a new religion called into life by this
enthusiast?

"He did not speak like other men of views and convictions, nor like the
teachers of the Divine Word, of a traditionary faith. Everything had
been experienced inwardly by himself, he was a new mediator between God
and man. He had discovered the origin of all being, the two original
powers of creation, out of which all life flowed. The one was water:
plants draw their nourishment out of moisture, and every young shoot is
rich in this primordial power; but the other which gives form is light,
is warmth; those are the two original beings, the female and the male
which are necessarily and closely wedded.

"And with glowing fantasy the apostle described how the serpent of
light pants for the water of darkness, how seven-armed with
thousandfold arteries of rays it pours itself into the depths where the
element, dark as night, waits to receive it. They were poetical visions
in apocalyptic pictures; the people listened devoutly to the
incomprehensible, which, however, led a succession of gay, misty
pictures before their mental vision. The prophet himself spoke with
tongues of fire, and with the dauntlessness of a man in whom Heaven had
deposited the jewels of its revelations as in a sacred shrine. All the
time he stroked his long beard, divided it, and put it together again,
yet all was done with dignity and with self-complacency.

"When he sat down he refreshed himself with the milk which his graceful
companion handed to him.

"Two or three times more he rose, when the spirit moved him, and
immediately ceased the wild tumult, the buzz of voices at his feet.

"It might be about midnight when he retired with his companions. One of
these was evidently a minister whom the ladies had joined. The young
beauty passed close by me; was I mistaken, or did she smile pleasantly
at me? And was this smile one of approval of my demeanour and
appearance, or of pleasure that a young student also--for the Albertus
on my cap showed that I attended the Albertina--should have joined the
pious congregation that sat at the feet of the Heaven-sent preacher?
Never to be forgotten was the gracious smile, the nobility of form and
feature, the deep large eye.

"Like a dream, that beautiful woman glided past me, and years should
elapse ere I saw her again.

"I was too shy, too modest to ask about her; I should have expected to
destroy the dreamlike charm of that vision by any enquiries; yet
whenever afterwards I read the works of the poets, when Shakespeare's,
Goethe's, and Schiller's female figures stood before my mind, they
invariably borrowed her features. With such deep-blue eyes, Ophelia
scattered abroad her flowers, plucked to pieces, Juliet gazed upon her
Romeo, Gretchen lay upon her knees before the _mater dolorosa_. Woman
since then appeared more beautiful to me, but also loftier and more
unapproachable.

"Meanwhile I made enquiries about the new 'Paraclete' and learned much
of his life and doings; how he had wandered through Germany preaching
the Gospel of light and water, had here found enthusiastic disciples,
there was greeted with scorn, thrown down stairs, yes, had even been
locked up in a mad house.

"I also learned, when on one occasion I returned to the town after the
vacations, that the new Noah's ark had been released from the slip-way,
but had stranded against the first pillar of the bridge and been
capsized. The faith which could remove mountains was not able to bring
that ark into the sea.

"There it lay broken, ruined, and the jeers of the children of this
world exhausted themselves upon the evil which had befallen the sacred
'Swan.' All promises had been brought to shame!

"Just as sadly fared the prophet himself; he had so often announced
that he could not die, because he had once already been dead and now
lived the life of one who was regenerated; yet despite such
announcement his eyes were closed soon after that mishap.

"It was an unimportant piece of news for all my friends, it went to my
heart. I thought of the tears which that fair one who was bound to
him with such touching devotion, might have shed at the news of his
death--and tears rose to my eyes also."



                              CHAPTER II.

                              THE NOVICE.


"Two or three years might have passed since that evening; I was by that
time one of those young officials, whose knowledge, learned in the
lecture-room, had melted away by monotonous practice, when one day an
old respected aunt invited me to tea.

"She had only recently moved into the town from her estate; I had seen
little of her during my life, and had not the remotest idea of being
her heir, although I was one of her nearest relatives; the roseate
light in which nephews, eager to inherit, are wont to look upon
such-like matrons, who shine with the radiance of golden promises, did
not, therefore exist for me; I only saw in her a good woman, who had
become pious in the evening of life, and who rushed about from church
to church.

"When I entered I found several elderly ladies and gentlemen assembled
round the tea urn. They were imbibing the Chinese beverage.
Nevertheless, the conversation was but little cheerful--now and again a
word, a sentence--they were the silent ones in the land.

"The ticking of an old clock upon the wall, the noise of the tea-urn
were the only sounds which interrupted the quietude. I was overcome by
that endless weariness which I often experienced when I drove through a
waste part of Masuren on rutty roads, beneath a rainy-grey sky. Such
weariness at last exercises a sensibly physical oppression; it acts
painfully; at last one counts every movement of the pendulum, and time,
in its boundless void, appears like a fatal doom.

"Even for observation or enjoyable criticism into which the despair of
_ennui_ might resolve itself, the assembly offered little scope.

"There was nothing remarkable about the old ladies and gentlemen that
could challenge it; sometimes I felt a sensation as though I were
sitting in a cabinet of wax figures; every one around me so orderly and
pale--so silent and motionless.

"Outside, the moonlight fell full upon the Castle lake. How gladly
should I have wandered about where it shed its silver through the tall
trees of the garden, until farther away the bright effulgence blended,
dreamlike, with the dusky green.

"In the meantime, a few younger ladies had entered; yet the
conversation would not flow freely. They were slender, almost thin,
figures. Averse to every ornament, they had selected a costume which
merely served to make the meagreness of their appearance more
disadvantageously conspicuous.

"In my efforts worthily to represent youthful mankind, I was only
assisted by a candidate for the ministry, who finally offered some
incitement to my wearied imagination, inasmuch as I could, without very
great temerity, compare his tall, overgrown figure, which was
distinguished by a remarkably long neck, with a giraffe.

"He made an attempt at conversation by imparting information to my aunt
as to which ministers would proclaim the Word of God at the different
town churches on the following Sunday; thereupon he seated himself,
with his tea-cup, in a corner and remained persistently silent.

"Here and there a mysterious whispering; I began to feel more and more
uncomfortable.

"Then the door opened, and everything, as if by the stroke of an
enchanter's wand, was metamorphosed for me--was as if illumined with a
magic light flowing fully in upon us; for in came that graceful woman,
with all the freshness of youth, whom I had seen amid the companions of
that remarkable prophet, and it seemed as if the whole company felt the
same influence, for all rose with a certain warmth and hastened towards
her.

"In her dress, she differed little from the other ladies; everything
bright was avoided. An unobtrusive grey, only broken by a plain white
collar, excluded every charm of colour; yet, how gleamed the blue of
her beautiful eyes! What fresh, rosy tints in her cheeks, what
youthfulness in her movements!

"Like pillars of salt, the others stood beside her! I was introduced to
her, I learned her name!

"She was a Frau Salden, and from some turn in the conversation I was
enabled to gather that she was a young widow, who for four years
already had lived alone with an eight-year-old little daughter.

"She must have married very young, for she was evidently still in the
beautiful bloom of the twenties.

"I reminded her of our first meeting; she recollected the young
student--she had recognised me again at once.

"'He departed this life,' said she, regretfully, 'our friend and guide,
the preacher in the wilderness--that glorious man, who penetrated into
the secrets of the world with singular depth of thought. You have seen
him and heard him speak, it will remain a lasting recollection for you;
in the even tenour of the world of the present day, such men must be
unforgotten.'

"It seemed to me as though a glistening tear rose to her eye.

"'It was John the Baptist; he foretold the coming Man.'

"'Child, what utterances,' said my aunt, who had known the young lady
since childhood.

"Indeed, I perceived several tokens of disapproval amongst the elder
ladies and gentlemen.

"The candidate for the ministry pushed his chair about impatiently,
like a great Power that is preparing for war; and only two of the young
ladies indicated their concurrence.

"I remarked that in this holy circle divers parties were formed, and
did not hesitate for a moment under which standard I should take my
oath of allegiance.

"'So much dead Christianity,' continued Frau von Salden, intrepidly,
'reigns in the world, so much benumbedness; streams of life must be
conducted into it again by the elect.'

"Then the candidate rose from his chair, and, with the gestures of a
zealous accuser, asked--

"'Who, then, are these elect? Surely not those who deem themselves to
be such--not those preachers who prowl about the streets, and give out
the inventions of a diseased brain for words of revelation; not those
who have their peculiar secret doctrines, of which nothing is to be
found in the Scriptures, and who, as rumour says, allow themselves to
be idolised by their disciples? True piety is far removed from the
assumption of being able to teach something better than that which the
Holy Scriptures proclaim.'

"'Then all thinkers would be condemned to eternal silence,' suggested
I. 'I have heard that prophet speak; they were new bold thoughts that
must enchain the people's mind.'

"'We require,' cried Frau von Salden, 'a new key to the comprehension
of the secrets of Nature and history.'

"The candidate stretched out his long neck towards his valiant
opponent, and said--

"'An examination will be made as to whether this key is not false and a
copy.'

"Several elderly gentlemen interposed mediatingly between the
conflicting parties, and protested particularly against any
interference on the part of the State; but the candidate, who became
still more like a raging turkey cock, cried, with suppressed wrath--

"'And what is it that charms in this new doctrine? Why do the women and
girls follow a banner which dared not be unfurled in the open light of
day? That is effected by the charming standard bearers; that preacher
who at the same time is a handsome man, combines benignity and dignity
in his features, who unites distinguished and commanding bearing with
ensnaring courtesy and amiability. When the manna falls, all the people
stoop; but above all the daughters of Eve.'

"I admired the longsuffering of the young widow, who replied with a
placid smile to all these violent onslaughts, while I even, although I
did not exactly know whither all those onslaughts were directed,
assumed a sharp tone towards the candidate, and condemned the
intolerance which his words displayed.

"Those speeches still live in my recollection; they made a deep
impression upon me at the time. That which in earlier years floated
before me, the founding of a new religion, was it now being carried out
in my immediate vicinity, without my knowing anything about it? And did
this religion possess such graceful priestesses as that one, from whom
I could not avert my gaze so long as she was within its reach? I had
sometimes heard people talk of the new sect which had gained numerous
adherents from the fashionable world; despite all difference of opinion
about that sect, all were agreed as to the fact that the actual nature
of its doctrines was a secret, and I would not force myself into such a
secret.

"'You must hear him,' said the young widow, 'that preacher, of whom the
Herr Candidate thinks so little. You will be amazed at the power of his
eloquence; he is full of aspirations, and interprets the Bible boldly,
without deviating from its words.'

"She spoke confidentially, and only to me--

"'I had quite ceased to know what a feeling of devotion is, because the
pious indifference of ordinary attendance at church only seems like the
compulsory recapitulation of our duty towards Heaven; but our religion
whose revelations and delights penetrate to our innermost feelings, a
religion that the day does not know, can alone reveal to us the secret
of faith.'

"Thereupon she spoke brightly of everyday matters, and displayed such
sound judgment on all topics, that I could not look upon such
enthusiasm as the outflow of a diseased temperament. When the company
had dispersed, I accompanied her on the short portion of our road that
lay together, which here led us over the Castle bridge. It was a magic,
moonlight night, and my companion had inspired me with such confidence
that I initiated her into the enthusiastic emotions which nature
stirred within me; I hoped to find sympathy in her, and I did find it.

"'That is a ray of the original light, which penetrates the human
soul,' said she in her charming manner.

"Yet I recognised that there was some connection between my innermost
sensations and the doctrines of that community; but I recognised still
more that in this beautiful woman an appreciative companion of my
efforts had risen up for me.

"I parted from her with a warm shake of the hand, which she cordially
returned. Love and friendship ever found a place in that brotherhood; I
was extremely moved. Her presence exercised more of a soothing effect
upon me; as soon as I lost sight of her, I was overcome as with an
unconquerable longing sensation. Not as formerly did I seek to control
it; I vowed firmly to myself to see her again, to seek her wherever she
might be.

"On the following Sunday I visited the church of which Frau Salden had
spoken to me. The house of God was festively, almost too secularly
decorated; a large town-like congregation was assembled, such as might
be expected in one of the principal parish churches. At the first
glance the pious gathering did not seem to differ from such as are to
be found in other churches; however, I soon remarked that in the front
rows and upon the favoured _prie-dieux_, a more select community, as it
appeared, had taken their places. My eyes first sought Frau Salden, and
soon found her in the midst of fashionable ladies and gentlemen, whose
whole demeanour betrayed that they felt themselves to be peculiarly at
home here. The assurance and gracefulness of behaviour, the studiously
simple attire of the ladies, the radiance of a transfiguring fervour
that overspread their countenances, all showed me that my eyes were
resting upon the circle of the elect. Several elderly gentlemen were
decorated with the Iron Cross; they were fine men, grave and dignified,
and yet enthusiastically devout.

"The minister appeared in the pulpit; a handsome man, with a slight
figure and long dark curly hair parted down the middle. His delivery
was singularly melodious, somewhat winning, yes, entrancing; I
understood what a charm this apostle must exercise upon his devout
listeners, especially upon the girls and women.

"On the other hand, his sermon disappointed me completely. I had
anticipated new, almost excessive disclosures, luminous flashes of a
loftier revelation, which, even if more dazzling than enlightening,
would quiver through the obscurity of the traditional faith, while what
I heard was one of those biblical discourses that are to be found in
everyday churches. He spoke of sin and redemption, he urged us to
conversion and salvation, but all was based upon the words of the
Evangelists and Apostles. Only sometimes it appeared to me that with
some turn, as it were, a little side door was opened, through which
fell the radiance of a more mystical light, but which was only visible
to the elect.

"I now visited my aunt often enough, and I succeeded also in meeting
the beautiful widow there two or three times. I did not conceal from
her the impression which that much-admired speaker's sermon had made
upon me.

"'Wherefore,' said she, 'reveal the deeper meaning of Nature and the
Bible to those who, after all, cannot grasp it? For them the transient
gleam of light which plays upon the surface is all-sufficient. Besides
which, every new and profound doctrine is exposed to misunderstanding,
it must cause offence to the crowd.'

"'But so did not that prophet think,' suggested I, 'in whose company I
first saw you. He preferred to address his revelations to the people.'

"'It was an error,' replied Frau von Salden. 'He atoned heavily for it;
lonely and unassisted he passed away. Such working for the people is
like wandering through sand; the next gust of wind removes all traces
of our footsteps. Everything lofty is a secret; only sympathetic minds
can raise the veil.'

"I asked how one may draw nearer to the secret, and my beautiful friend
advised me to visit the minister, and tell him that I was animated with
the desire of entering the narrow circle of his faithful. She
encouraged me to do so most eagerly, and I felt as if her words
contained something that seemed like true interest in the welfare of my
soul.

"I knew I should often have opportunities of meeting her; yet, even
although my whole soul yearned to do so, although I found myself
beneath the power of her beautiful eyes, and dedicated to her that
superabundant adoration which is always united to a first love, yet it
was not this alone that decided me to follow her advice, but still more
that dark longing which, from childhood upwards, had been animated
within me, to find a new solution for the enigma of the world, which it
was so difficult to fathom, and to find the key for many an internal
occurrence that had seemed to me like a revelation of the Divine.

"The preacher received me with great friendliness, and did not hesitate
to grant my wish. His conversation fell easily upon much that was
scientific and worldly; to many questions about the state of enthusiasm
under which I laboured, he was able to give adroit information. It
certainly touched what I felt, but did not satisfy me. Then he assumed
a still more friendly mien, and began to initiate me into the secrets
of the community, so far as this was practicable for a novice.

"I learned that the sect consisted of various circles, all, indeed,
around the same centre, but in greater or lesser proximity, and that it
did not tend to the benefit of those more remote to know everything
that was revealed to those who stood nearest. Still, the preacher
informed me that several women and girls occupied the highest position
amongst those who were enlightened, and belonged to the favoured
natures of light, beneath whose protection he himself stood.

"Certainly all this did not sound very satisfactory, but mysterious and
exciting enough. A far off goal was set to all efforts; truths
displayed themselves in semi-veiled outlines, which must later be
revealed fully and clearly to the seeker, even if now they admitted
manifold interpretations.

"In short, with a good heart, I put out to sea beneath the flag of the
mysterious creed. The minister dismissed me with a kiss and shake of
the hand.

"I hastened to my aunt; there Frau Salden was awaiting me; she knew the
time and hour of my appointment with the minister. Much delighted, she
heard my news; her features became animated, her eye was radiant.

"When my aunt was called away by some domestic concern, Frau Salden
rose, came towards me with a grave, inspired countenance, greeted me as
a member of the congregation, as her brother, and pressed a kiss upon
my lips.

"It was the holy kiss of a sister, the seraphic kiss, the consecration
of the bond of saints! Did not male and female cousins and indifferent
relatives kiss one another according to the right of cousinship; how
much higher stood the right of spiritual relationship! Certainly, for
many such a kiss would only be a pious symbol, for many, a form of but
little significance. It was different with me, different with this
woman! Until now, I had remained a stranger to all intercourse of
affection and love; how unapproachable all womankind had appeared to
me!

"This kiss was the first kiss of initiation; but not the secret of the
community did it reveal to me, the secret of life itself. It
metamorphosed me inwardly; every feeling of estrangement it swept away
from me; woman no longer stood before me as a far-removed saint; she
appeared to be desirable, to promise felicity.

"And could it be otherwise?

"How long in worldly circles must hesitating affection wait ere love
presses the seal of the first kiss upon it in token of acquiescence?
But this woman had already first occupied my inmost emotions before I
approached her under the eyes of the saints; now she came towards me
with open arms, with the pious greeting of love, for which, with
worldly affection, I might long have striven. Must not this intoxicate
me, and kindle an unknown ardour within my soul?

"Certainly Frau Salden did not share it; she only cherished sisterly
feelings for me, yes, I might almost say maternal; distantly and
coldly, she commenced an extensive examination of my inner nature.

"The bright smile had vanished from her lips; even the gaze of her
large eyes was proud and stern. An incomprehensible contradiction, and
a something almost solemnly strange, lay in such close intimacy. I
stood her examination with calmness and without reserve, for pride
stirred itself within me, and I would not recognise the superiority
that she assumed. Nevertheless, I drew an immediate advantage from my
position towards the select community, and begged for permission to
visit her, which she readily granted.

"She lived in the east suburb, in a couple of cosy rooms, elegantly
furnished. The one seemed to be dedicated to pious reflections. A large
book-shelf contained the works of our poets and thinkers, at the same
time a large number of religious writings. The walls were covered with
representations of Christ, as well as with pictures of the prophet and
the preacher, which hung on a level, as it seemed, accurately measured
line with His.

"On a lectern lay a magnificently bound Bible with a golden cross upon
the cover; above it on the wall hung a copy of Correggio's Magdalene.
The windows opened towards the river and the green meadows, which there
enframed its bed; farther off, two solitary windmills moved their wings
in wearisome regularity.

"The front room was of a more worldly character; in the one corner
stood a small doll's room, and other girlish playthings, but the little
bird had always flown from its nest at the hour when I usually came; it
was the time when with her governess, she went down to the next story
to her favourite playfellow. Beside it upon a writing table lay account
books, which I immediately recognised as such; a later communication
from Frau Salden confirmed my idea that they were the accounts of the
management of her estate; she possessed a small property, which she
only occupied during a short period in the summer, as a lengthy
separation from the community would have been too great a trial for
her.

"All this still stands so vividly before my mind, that I could paint
those two rooms down to the veriest trifle, ebony table and chair,
every picture on the wall; for who would ever forget the stage on which
such important events were acted, and just now I feel an urgent need to
bury myself in these recollections, and ah! that little doll's room
to-day fills me with mournful emotion, yes with silent despair.

"I now frequently visited Frau Salden; we talked much of worldly and
spiritual affairs; she was alternately merry and unembarrassed, or
grave, solemn and reserved. Then again, from time to time, it was as
though she were not speaking in her own name, but on the part of the
community; it was in order to induct me ever deeper into the secrets of
the new doctrine; this I perceived soon enough, and it was particularly
attractive, to me it was indeed a new religion, which only appeared
before the world in biblical guise.

"Zoroaster could, just as well as Christ, stand godfather to the
doctrine of the two primordial beings, fire and water, the element of
darkness, its opposite and its union by means of Lucifer, the
scintillant serpent-spirit, and thus through all life extended the
contradiction of the two-headed principle. Did not the minister
himself, in the circle of the elect, pronounce that the old law had
outlived itself, and proclaim the approach of the Millennium.

"Yet in me also lively doubts were kindled as to how he could control
those fundamental powers of everything living. The revelation of light
which had been proclaimed to me, was not lost; I interpreted it in my
own way, and brought it into unison with the delights of Nature which
had often enraptured me; but the beautiful woman had greater power over
me than the priestess; in her eyes I forgot the Millennium, and all its
apostles in her seraph's kisses. The pious and solemn greeting at
meeting and parting, burned for me like earthly fire, and I could not
conceal from myself that an unholy passion had taken possession of me;
unholy because it was a misuse of holy forms, because it broke
distractingly into all circles of my thoughts and feelings.

"One day, Pauline, for I knew her Christian name already, and might use
it with a brother's right, announced to me that she could not decide
whether I belonged to the natures of light or of darkness; it was the
minister's wish that I should visit the Gräfin at the Castle, and make
a full confession of my sins to her.

"It was the period when in France a Saint Simon's and Pére Enfantin's
doctrine of the priesthood of woman found extensive propagation, and in
large assemblies of the Paris street _Taitbout_ was taught by inspired
women. I could not avoid thinking of that intelligence in the
newspapers, when I was invited by the Gräfin to the Castle. There was
repeated in pious garb the same performance, but only in doctrine, not
in deed. Here the priestly office was already exercised by an
aristocratic woman, and that woman boasted of lofty revelation, and
could even spread her angel's wings protectingly over the minister of
the community.

"Not without hesitation I entered the inner castle yard; the gloomy old
masonry of the large quadrangle overlooked by lofty towers did not act
soothingly upon my temperament; I felt like those unfortunate men to
whom once in those gloomy apartments, which were still known as those
of criminal justice, the sword of the German knights was placed at
their throats, so that they should confess Christ, or else incur the
penalty of death. It was a horrible trial of faith, and I felt as if I
were one of those unhappy followers of Perkunos.

"Certainly the drawing-rooms into which I was conducted, did not bear
the remotest resemblance to those dread vaults. The view from that high
stronghold of Ottokar extended far over the town, which with its church
towers and high gabled houses, and at the same time windowless
warehouse quarters, surrounded and traversed with glistening branches
of the river, lay as if cowering at its feet. There was something
soothing and alleviating to the mind in that free prospect; with my
heart throbbing less violently, I awaited the entrance of the woman who
was considered to be the superior nature of light in the elect circle.

"And she entered, smiling gently and kindly, her appearance delicate
and distinguished; I almost felt as though an ambrosial light was
floating around her, and when she also greeted me with the sisterly
kiss, I felt as if receiving consecration from above, it was as though
one of those bodyless angel's heads, which, as Raphael painted them,
possess wings only, had kissed me.

"At first it was the mild, confiding sister who spoke to me; she
introduced sundry worldly affairs into the conversation, and I was
obliged to give her accurate information about our genealogical tree
and the estates of our family, and just the same of my previous life.

"Nevertheless, I soon perceived that I no longer talked to my
fellow-believer on terms of equality; with polite and dexterous transition
she had changed the conversation into an examination. The examination
in the first place concerned my external life, but should soon direct
itself towards my internal one.

"A change, for which I could not entirely account, had taken place in
the Gräfin, but of which, however, I soon experienced the secret power.
All friendliness and mildness had suddenly disappeared from her
features, they had assumed an almost gloomy air of decision; something
majestic and commanding lay in her whole demeanour. She rose and stood
before me, drawn up to her full height; the woman had been transformed
into the priestess. With a sign, she bade me remain seated, and
solemnly explained that the Archdeacon had given to her the right of
consecrating and sanctifying men and women, after he had imparted
supreme consecration to herself. It was her duty to examine hearts, to
root out sin, to speak truths sharply and unsparingly; because love in
man becomes zealous with a divine zeal. And she, indeed, appeared to be
impregnated with that zeal; a deep glow suffused her features, she
stood before me in proud, strange beauty. I was fain to think of the
angel with the flaming sword.

"She required unreserved confession and acknowledgment of my sins.

"I hesitated. What should I confess? So new was this introspection
still to me that I had occupied myself but little with discovering
what, according to the measure of these saints, would be accounted sin.

"She became more urgent; she demanded confession by the rights of her
office. It was false shame wishing to conceal anything. The heavenly
passion purified fallen man from sin. No secular laws were concerned in
this case; not the sham and falseness of society, only truth--the open
truth. Nor need the confession seek for veiled expressions; the sharper
the words, the sharper the self-condemnation.

"I still hesitated. She began to ask if I--I who came from the world
without, beginning at home--had banished all earthly affection from my
intercourse with the women of the community.

"She enquired so solemnly, I could almost believe that I heard the
scales of justice rattle. I was already beneath her spell; I had no
perception of what was strange, astounding in the whole proceeding; the
oppressive sensation of internal consciousness of guilt overcame me,
and I acknowledged that my heart drew me towards Frau Salden, and that
in the midst of pious conversations the thought of her beauty, of her
charms, entangled me.

"I drew a breath of relief after this confession; I believed that I had
now done my duty as a penitent. Yet I was mistaken; now only did the
implacable judge commence an examination that penetrated to the inmost
detail; she entered upon a domain which no child of the world would
have trodden with equal freedom; my whole soul lay as if upon a
dissecting-table before this wonderful woman. Emotions, wishes, which
softly, obscurely, and of which I was even only vaguely conscious,
concealed themselves in the recesses of my heart, must be brought to
light; my inner nature became transparent to her as well as to me; and
when I had conquered the first shyness, such a confession was even
welcome. I found it tranquilising to have a witness of my internal
struggle. An inexplicable charm, which was not only of a spiritual
nature, lay in such undisguised confession, which despised all social
custom, but was justified by higher ordinance.

"The Gräfin praised me for my candour, and when I had made known to her
that otherwise I was still free from all sin, and that my heart, in the
midst of Nature, still often rejoiced in marvellous revelations, she
called me a child of light, who might, perhaps, be destined to attain a
high position in the circle of the elect.

"I had promised reformation of the one sin to which I could confess, a
sin of thought, and indeed I was in earnest about it. Since my visit to
the Gräfin, a gloomy consciousness of guilt had taken possession of me,
which I loved to ponder over in solitude. Woman had formerly been a
divinity for me, she seemed so again, since I had seen the Gräfin in
the exercise of her priestly mission, and the feelings of vain worldly
pleasure to which I had yielded when with my pious young friend, I
counted to myself as a sin.

"I became an industrious attendant not only at church, but also at the
smaller meetings in which the minister expounded his doctrines; I
eagerly studied the Revelation of St. John. The Lion and the Lamb, the
Breaker of the Seal, as a second minister of the sect was designated,
the Angel of the Apocalypse; all these were pictures which became more
and more vivid to my imagination, yet in the principal doctrine of the
approach of the Millennium I buried myself with a fervour which was not
free from doubts, yet was it not the prediction of a new world, and
such dreams lived long within me. The entrancing words of the minister,
the enthusiasm and proud beauty of the female children of light at his
side, the spiritual toiling and struggling in a world withdrawn from
everyday life, full of singular mysteries, had made me into a zealous
disciple of the secret community. I was looked upon with respect by the
minister, the Witnesses, and the Breaker of the Seal. My visits to Frau
Salden became very rare; I also avoided her at the meetings; my shy
manner towards her had been remarked by her. Had the Gräfin not stood
so high upon the ladder of the saints, Frau Salden would have charged
her with being the cause of my transformation. At heart she certainly
did not spare the Gräfin this accusation, as since my visit to the
castle I had become distant towards herself. Sternly and for some time
I struggled successfully against my affection for the beautiful woman,
until a new and unexpected turn took place in my life."



                              CHAPTER III.

                            THE FALL OF MAN.


"One day a note from Frau Salden, intimated to me that I was now
considered strong enough to be present at one of those secret sittings,
in which the great act of salvation was taught and practised, and
invited me to one of those gatherings.

"It was a tolerably large room, but dimly lighted. Men and women were
assembled, their devoutness appeared more fervent than usual, yet a
spirit of secresy pervaded the gathering, which had shut itself off
from the outside world. Lengthy and solemn was the preacher's
discourse, urging his hearers, by the power of a higher consciousness,
to shake off all sin, successfully to resist all temptations, to
despise all earthly charms.

"And the spiritual instruction was followed by spiritual exercises.

"I can here only relate what I felt and what a flash of lightning was
launched into my soul on that evening. Mephistopheles might feel
himself at home in the classical Walpurgis night, he had been educated
to it on the Blocksberg; but a man who has only seen female beauty in a
statuary of antiques is internally stirred by it at first as by
something strange, divine; yet the sacred fire transforms itself into a
brand that it casts into his soul.

"Thus it befell me also! Another perhaps would have turned away from
the incredible, as if from some hypocritical doings, and have condemned
the leader of this _divina comedia_. Again another would have condemned
the excesses of extravagant piety which played a serious game with sin.

"The veil of Sais which hung before my life was torn; for the first
time I saw in all its glory the disguised wonder of my dreams, woman.

"But the Millennium also sank into ruins with one blow!

"I was sufficiently used to intoxicated rapture not to condemn with the
mind of the sober man that which was unusual, over which the
uninitiated must break a lance. That which was done, was not done in
the service of sin, it was a holy sacrifice, and how could the exalted
lights of the community be thus extinguished in the fog and mist of
what was common? If the limitless audacity of these believers made me
shudder--it was only the curse of sin, the temptation of the devil, it
was the unatonable crime of beauty, against which the power of blessed
resistance might strive in vain.

"And this marvel of creation should be a work of the devil, this
paradise of beauty only conceal the serpent within itself!

"Fools who drew to light the secret dispositions of the primeval
powers, because ruin and sin creep about in darkness, but in light
beauty triumphs. No uneasiness, no thought of mockery and desecration
arose within me; I felt so strange amongst these men and women, for
only in the service of higher powers could they overcome that which
without in unsanctified circles was esteemed citizen-like custom. Their
sanctification consisted in crossing themselves before beauty, and
drawing near to it in blindness that could see, and with a loathing
that struggled to suppress delight.

"Thus had the preacher taught; in such sanctity I, too, made my essay,
but much too great was the power of beauty over me who had hitherto
seen so little. I felt that its contemplation sanctified me otherwise
than the secret doctrine desired. Like an electric flash of
enlightenment, it poured over all recollections of my school days; the
dreary lecture-room was transformed into Mount Ida with its goddesses,
and Venus appeared before my eyes as she arises in immortal beauty out
of the ocean's billows.

"A heretic was begotten in me, secession from the dark doctrine
proclaimed itself in my heart. A principal figure of those revelations
which illumine the creation of the world with mysterious light, stood
before my soul, and I had the temerity to compare myself with it. It
was that Eloah of light, that Lucifer who suddenly perceived that the
powers of light which flowed from him became diminished, and now
retained them defiantly within himself, in opposition to the plan of
creation. Thus I felt within me the spirit of revolt, the individual
power which receives the light of revelation in itself merely for its
own defiant illumination.

"And on that evening the Gräfin from the Castle led Frau Salden to me
as my spiritual bride. Spiritual bride!--profound significance lay in
this word, a significance which extended far away beyond the span of
earthly life; it contained a consecration for this and for that other
world.

"Yet I was no longer capable of grasping that import--earthly love had
laid hold of my heart; now I no longer recognised the barriers, as I
did after that confession to the Gräfin; like a tempest in spring, I
felt it rage within me: the spring of love and beauty had for the first
time made their entry into my soul.

"I visited Frau Salden, but how changed everything appeared to me in
those cosy rooms! All rest, all peace had vanished from them. The lines
in the splendid open Bible ran confusedly into one another, the
Magdalene on the wall seemed to rise from her couch, throw the Bible
aside, and be wafted towards us in that seductive beauty in which she
once wandered on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and, as if in
mockery of my feverish unrest, the windmill sails on yonder side of the
river moved with irritating regularity.

"But the seraphic kisses of my spiritual bride burned upon my lips.

"She was gentle and calm before my passionate fervour. I acknowledged
to her that I loved her; she replied that such was my right and my
duty, and that this love was reciprocated by her; certainly it might
not be of a perishable form, not like children of the world must we
love one another, but with imperishable spiritual love. My heart, all
my feelings were bound up in her. Nevertheless, it was not merely
indistinctness, but hypocrisy on my part when I still spoke of such
spiritual love, for I loved her with all fervour, as mortals love who
do not belong to the elect and chosen.

"I still frequently attempted to attune my mind to those emotions which
filled me when woman still stood before me sublime, unknown; but that
magic was broken, and as I previously, probably more than all others of
that circle, had been capable of the purest spiritual love, so was I
now, when since that fatal evening on which the unhemmed waves of
passion broke over me, more incapable of it than all others.

"What to the others appeared to be the hermit's grotto of Saint
Anthony, who resisted the allurements of the spirit of beauty, had
become a mount of Venus for me, and like a modern Tannhäuser, I lay
beneath the spell of the immortal goddess.

"I dared not confess my heresy to the beloved one; perhaps she would
have turned angrily away from me for ever, and I could justify my
silence, because I too had moments in which I could join in my
spiritual bride's fervent prayers, but they were merely moments. My
internal estrangement from the faith of the elect community increased.
I only ventured to express the faintest doubts, then she looked at me
with an expression of infinite love; her large tender eye rested upon
me with such soul-felt meaning; verily her love for me was different
from mine for her: she appeared to watch over my whole life, she felt
that we must all be prepared to welcome the coming hour of the
Millennium; atonement, forgiveness, purification spoke from out her
looks, infinite desire to rescue, to sanctify the sinner.

"I came frequently, I came daily; she withheld all tokens which love
demands, although her saintly eyes expressed an increasing, more
intense emotion. I became a hypocrite, I required these tokens in the
name of salvation, of spiritual exercises; could my spiritual bride
deny me them?

"Serious and devout conversations must accompany the work of
sanctification.

"She urged me with great sternness, and blamed my lack of holy
strength, when my eyes told more of passion than of sacred
self-conquest; yet her eyes, too, were not always so stern as her
words; sometimes they were filled with a tenderness the eloquence of
which was very different from that which flowed from her lips; it was
as if they would atone for the unavoidably harsh word which sacred duty
imposed; yes this word, too, lost its victorious decision, it quivered
with internal conflict, and sometimes she closed her weary eye, and
tears hung on her eyelashes.

"It was on a quiet evening, we alone as usual; I came overwhelmed with
conflicting feelings, because I was wanting in all the qualifications
of a hypocrite; my heart rebelled against the opposition which
threatened to destroy my life.

"The wings of the windmill went round beneath the evening sky; it
seemed like a mockery of all my thoughts and deeds, that everlasting
monotony of the beating of wooden wings, that interminable game of
those arms stretching out in vain.

"I was more daring, she softer than usual; she would even on that day
deny me the right of devout exercise. Then I assumed the stern tone of
a spiritual bridegroom, and she obeyed hesitatingly; the spirit of
grace seemed to have left her, she seemed to be seized with a tremor
before the might of passion, with rapture into which her own beauty
transported her. And, indeed, I thought her more beautiful than ever on
that day; pious words died upon her lips; I covered them with glowing
kisses, and folded her in my arms.

"The spiritual bride had become a mortal woman, the grey ashes of
penitence had been wafted away by all the winds of heaven, and the
Vulcan of earthly affection had obstructed the Paradise of those Saints
with red-hot lava.

"She released herself from my arms, and rushed, sobbing, upon her knees
before the _prie dieu_, to which she clung convulsively.

"I explained to her that, from that day, I should look upon her as my
betrothed, and begged her to accept my heart and hand.

"She looked up at me with a glance full of emotion and love, as it
appeared to me, for she uttered no word, nor did she rise from her
knees.

"With equal decision, however, I told her that we must both leave the
circle of saints, that for long already my heart had rebelled against
the doctrine of sanctity and this playing with sin; that I no longer
believed in the marriage of souls, but that now I perceived the goal of
that love which takes possession of the entire man, in giving up mind
and body.

"Then the penitent arose, and, with clasped bands, gazed at me with a
look of pity.

"'There is one atonement for sin,' said she, 'if the right spirit of
sanctity dwells within us; but he who renounces that spirit is lost; he
destroys the bond of the community of souls, for this and for the next
life.'

"'Paulina,' cried I, 'you have heard my offer, and you would still thus
refuse to be mine?'

"'Why shall marriage,' replied she, 'not be the pillar of lasting
communion of souls? Even our principal children of light, even the
Witnesses of the Revelation are united, and gladly would I traverse the
path of life with you. But never shall I sacrifice the incorruptible to
the corruptible! You shut yourself out from the companions of our
union, as soon as you release yourself from our faith. Then I shall no
longer be your spiritual bride, and it would be impious to become your
earthly wife.'

"I still spoke to her in the imploring language of passion; I folded
her ardently in my arms, she did not repel me, yet she remained cold,
and the pupils of her eyes dilated with a strange wandering light.

"'You are too agitated to-day,' I said to her. 'Recover yourself, I
will come again to talk more quietly.'

"'It will not make any difference,' said she, coldly. 'I have sinned, I
know it, but for such sin there is forgiveness; I will go to him who
occupies a high position in the spiritual kingdom, to the perfect man;
I will confess to him, and he will pardon my guilt! But there is no
atonement for those who draw back from the earnestness of
sanctification, and return into the darkness of the world and their
ruin, because the shadow of death, will fall upon them, and they are
faithless and have succumbed to the devil. Return to us,' she cried,
imploringly, 'then I will be your wife upon earth, as some day in
heaven; believe once more in the sanctification which you have
impiously desecrated with unbelief, because the acknowledgment of the
truth has power to sanctify everything.'

"'Never,' said I now. 'I shall not return, and just as little shall I
tolerate that my wife be sanctified by the witnesses and angels.'

"She replied that she should never separate herself from a community in
which she had found her soul's eternal salvation.

"My heart seemed to be pierced and torn; was it possible that she, in
whom I had found the delight of my life, was lost to me? Was it
credible that now we parted coldly and distantly?

"It had become late; I descended the dark staircase of the house, when
I heard a merry, childish voice, and touched a nurse's dress in
passing.

"'The little Salden?' asked I.

"'Yes, my Herr,' was the reply.

"I stroked the hair and cheeks of the little one, who seemed to nestle
against her companion in alarm.

"'Do not be afraid,' said I, 'go play with your dolls; it is the same
game that the saints indulge in with theirs.'

"As I descended the stairs still farther, I heard above me another
surreptitious chuckle, followed by cheerful laughter.

"During a sleepless night, the late occurrences impressed themselves
with glowing characters into my soul--the intoxication of bliss,
and the anguish of renunciation--and hastening down from a
brightly-illumined hill, I followed a woman wandering through chasms
from one dark abyss to another; her tattered robe caught on every
thorn, but her beautiful form gleamed from the depths below.

"Two days passed away in agonising excitement; I hoped Paulina in the
meantime would have found leisure for calmer consideration; I, myself,
adhered firmly to my given word, although I was aware that in the
circle of my relatives who disapproved of my intercourse with the
saints, of my connection with that beautiful woman, who was known to be
one of the most zealous adherents of the much-abused creed, much
annoyance would be caused, yes, that my father would perhaps refuse his
consent altogether.

"Once more I visited the woman of what was truly my first love. I
repeated my offer.

"She was friendly as ever, and welcomed me with the pious greeting of
the community, and then said--

"'We will remain friends; I have spoken to him, the holy, the pure man;
I have seen him with my eyes, he has taken me to his heart, he will
teach and sanctify me, for he has pity upon my weakness. Then, however,
I am to occupy a high position in the congregation; he recognises that
in my inner being lies all that must call me to be a child of light.'

"She uttered it cheerfully, almost triumphantly, but I saw that this
woman was lost to me for ever! I parted from her in despair.

"Since then I have never seen her again.

"When the secular powers interfered in the secrets of the new faith,
when the leading preachers were summoned before the law, then the
public voice spoke a verdict of condemnation upon all who belonged to
that circle.

"Then I heard Frau Salden's name mentioned, whose guardianship of her
child had been taken from her by the authorities, because a mother
possessing such impious principles was not capable of bringing it up
properly; I learned that she had banished herself to the greatest
solitude upon her remote estate. I had contrived to have myself removed
to the law courts of another province, but since that time the report
of my participation in that community persecuted me. My relations to
Frau Salden certainly had remained a secret; but it was sufficient that
I had been a member of that despised circle, in order to cause me to be
constantly overlooked and kept back in the early part of my career. I
therefore relinquished it entirely, and wandered through distant
quarters of the globe, so as to escape from the reproaches of others
and from my own memories of the past. After many years I returned home,
and to my pained astonishment found that those occurrences which I had
deemed long since buried, still clung to people's recollections. But
that is not the worst. A cold hand has taken hold of the new spring
that arose brilliantly before me, and all its verdure and blossoms are
transformed into crackling, withered leaves; inevitably, mortally the
past seizes me as if it were a Medusa's head! That is a blow to my very
heart, and after I have once more let the pictures of my life pass
quietly before me, I may now at last utter one cry of anguish, like a
wounded hart, that pants in vain to refresh itself at the sparkling
forest spring.

"Eva's mother is that Frau Salden, who once was my spiritual bride!
Thus the daughter can never become my earthly one; it is a calamity, it
is my doom! No written law prohibits it; the world's opinion cannot
condemn, as from it all remains a secret; but my irrefutable feeling
rebels against it, it is impossible and I am utterly miserable that it
is impossible."

With these words, Blanden had concluded his story. Without, the morning
already lay sparkling over land and sea; Blanden started as a chance
glance in the mirror showed him his own worn-out reflection.

Doctor Kuhl had merely interrupted his friend's tale now and again by a
question or a remark, now he flung his finished cigar aside with the
words, "The poor child!"

"And can you see no means of escape?" asked Blanden.

"No, one may bid defiance to laws, but not to one's personal feelings."

"Never have I been so helpless," cried Blanden, "so desperately
helpless; I wander about like a criminal; I dare not approach either
the mother or the daughter. May she learn the truth? What excuse is
offered for my withdrawal, for behaviour that looks like a public
insult?"

"Write a couple of lines to her now," said Kuhl, "but not all at once.
The dose would be too severe. Leave the rest to the mother. And now go
and sleep, my friend; you need a few hours' refreshment. I will forget
the follies of human life, and simultaneously with the fire of the
young sun plunge into the ocean tide. Until we meet again!"



                              CHAPTER IV.

                          MOTHER AND DAUGHTER.


The mother, after a violent attack of spasms, had fallen asleep.

Eva watched beside her bed; torn, its flowers crushed and mingling with
her dishevelled locks, the blue-bell wreath hung around her brow; as if
in mockery, the music of the interrupted feast resounded from afar; an
old clock on the wall ticked second after second, and to Eva it seemed
as if with each second her age increased by days, with each half hour
by years, as though her life were running down with the noisy mechanism
of the clock.

She put her hand to her burning temples; yes she must have become old,
very old, during that night!

And was her mother not still young and beautiful--still now even, as
she lay there with distorted features, with scorching breath, with
violent throbbings of her pulses, in fevered dreams?

Eva gazed with infinite emotion upon the sleeping woman. All fond
pictures of her childhood rose before her mind: she saw herself sitting
at the window that looked out over meadow and river, her mother
explained the pictures in her picture books; she still saw that lovely
smile hover around those lips when they read aloud some merry verse
which interpreted a gaily-coloured scene; then she saw herself with her
mother in the evening light, in whose reflection the rafts glided along
the river, and because everything was so beautiful and full of repose
outside, and equally beautiful and calm her mother's countenance, she
kissed and embraced that fondly beloved one with heartfelt fervour in a
feeling of gratitude that knew no bounds, as though she must thank her
mother for the glorious evening, and for every joy in her young life.

Then she stood again before her doll's house; her mother came to her
and joined in her play, hour after hour. Every doll had its name and
its character, and they met with sundry wonderful little occurrences.
The daughter hung devoutly on her mother's lips, which chatted so
merrily, and from which flowed such an inexhaustible spring of legends
and fairy tales.

But when she prayed--and she prayed much--then the daughter might not
disturb her. She always rose from her knees so mild and gentle, and her
fervent eyes rested at those times with double happiness upon the
beloved child.

Then gloomy days drew near, days of weeping and wailing. Eva wept too,
she knew not wherefore, all was unquiet; everything moved around her as
if in the flickering light of a scorching fire--but she could not tell
whence the flames ascended. Cupboards were emptied, boxes packed;
suddenly the hour of departure tolled--a never-to-be-forgotten hour
filled with tears. How she rested upon her mother's heart, as though
she could not tear herself away!

All these pictures passed before her mind, as after a meeting which was
even more terrible than once the parting had been, and equally
inexplicable, she sat beside her mother's sick bed. But the fever
appeared to diminish; she breathed more softly, more quietly; the lamp
went out, the first streaks of early dawn peeped through the window
panes.

And with the first beams of morning, holy thoughts filled the
daughter's breast; thoughts of the pleasures of sacrifice, such as in
the dawn of history often filled the breasts of nations.

Oh, could she make this beautiful unhappy mother happy; she would
sacrifice her heart's blood for that mother, gladly meet death for her
sake!

She folded her hands; every thought, every emotion, was a blessing upon
her mother, who had suffered, must still suffer so much.

And in these thoughts she forgot herself; her own life appeared to her
like an expiring light, and she did not lament it.

And yet, she could not but again and again recollect that unheard of,
that mysterious event which had taken place, for which with convulsive
struggles she sought some elucidation.

One thing she felt assured of--the happiness of her life was destroyed,
and perhaps the darkness in which she was shipwrecked contained more
consolation than an unnatural light which illumined the intricate paths
of her doom.

And he--how miserable must he be! It was the same flash of lightning
that had struck them both.

The mother stirred; did the first ray of the sun disturb her?
Immediately, Eva hung a dark shawl before the window, whose light
curtains did not shield them from the joyous light of morning.

Then, with sonorous strokes, the clock on the wall struck five. Frau
von Salden awoke.

Her first glance rested upon her daughter; her mind was still half
wrapped in dreams, in the twilight of consciousness, the bliss of
purest maternal love was reflected in her features. She saw that
daughter, of whom she had been so long deprived, before her in all her
youthful beauty which was even enhanced by anguish; delusive dreams as
they escaped formed a golden frame to this picture, or as light veils
fluttered over it, and, enthralled by such a lovely present, her soul
knew nothing of the past or future.

Yet it was but for a moment; then a sudden ray of perfect consciousness
enlightened her. She rubbed her eyes; the veils of her dreams fluttered
to the ground, and with a loud cry she threw herself upon her child's
bosom, whom she pressed closely to herself amidst scalding tears.

"My poor, poor Eva!"

"Mother, I am not unhappy--I will not be unhappy! I have no cares--only
be cheerful yourself!"

"You love him so much, so fondly! That love, I can feel it with you, is
your whole life. Oh, curse me! My presence brings you evil! Curse me!"

"Never," said Eva, "for I know that you love me. How could I curse
love?"

"How poor we are though, with all our love! There where we would bring
salvation, we bring ruin. Our love is like a pious wish, a powerless
breath, which, hardly has it escaped our lips before it is transformed
by invisible powers into a poisonous blast. I came hither with the
richest treasure of blessings in my heart, although not without anxious
fear; and now I shower abundant ills upon your head."

"I do not yet know what happened," whispered Eva. "I only know that I
see you again, that you suffer and are unhappy, that Blanden has
resigned me; but it is not I about whom we must concern ourselves just
now--only about you! What has grieved you so, shocked you? I hardly
dare to think--he is your enemy!"

"Not so," said Frau von Salden, shaking her head; "you poor, good
child."

"You would conceal it from me--he is your enemy! Therefore you were so
afraid, when you saw him--therefore he grew so pale at sight of you!
Has he done anything to injure you; has he offended you deeply? Oh, he
shall come and beg for forgiveness, upon his knees he shall lie before
you; I promise it! So much power my wishes still possess over him--oh,
yes, he loves me still; how could his love have vanished in one night!
I will tell him that whosoever has offended my mother has no right to
my love, that he must first win it by atonement and her pardon. I am
still his little forest-fairy; he is still within my magic spell; when
my little flower bells ring, let him struggle as he may, he must obey
me! But when he comes and renounces his enmity and entreats you for
pardon, little mother, then you will grant it him, will you not,
perfectly, entirely, without any remains of the old ill-feeling?"

"You are dreaming," said Frau Salden, while she stared with a confused
gaze at her daughter's countenance, and stroked her hair with a loving
hand.

"You doubt that I still retain my power over him? Oh, I may look very
ugly today, quite spoiled with tears; I am not always so, little
mother, he knows that I have my good days, too. He thought me
good-looking yonder upon the weeping willow-hill! Oh, heavens! The
weeping willows bent down over our young love whispering misfortune,
but you will talk to one another, of course! Everything will yet turn
out well! Oh, those days were so beautiful, so ethereally beautiful!
Have mercy, my mother! If it costs you one word to bring them back
again, then speak that word; even if it be hard for you. I may
acknowledge that great happiness for me depends upon it; control your
anger!"

Frau Salden looked at her child with intense emotion.

"It is not that--if it only were so! Nothing would be too hard for
me--no word, no deed--if I could found your happiness by them! But that
power is not given to me; therefore we are both unhappy! But now go to
sleep, my Eva! I am well; I will get up; but you have not closed an
eye! How pale you look--where are the roses which yesterday bloomed so
freshly in your cheeks? Go to sleep, only for a few hours--it will
bring peace, rest, and courage! Who could endure life without sleep? It
would be an uninterrupted agony; all pictures would score their burning
impress in our brains. Sleep shrouds them beneath the softening veil,
and we can confound them with our dreams."

"No, mother! that I can never do! If it were all but a dream my soul
would still bleed to death from it."

Frau Salden had risen from her bed; she felt really better; only the
internal conflict still remained imprinted in her features.

With unenvious pleasure, Eva contemplated her mother, as she sat before
the mirror, in order to arrange her hair flowing down abundantly; she
thought herself less beautiful, less bountifully endowed by Nature,
than was the mother over whom years had passed tracelessly away; could
she compete with that splendid figure, with that nobility, those
decided movements, that charm of her fully-developed form?

She could not help it; she must fold her mother to her heart with words
of glowing flattery.

Frau Salden struggled gently against the love of a child, for whom she
had just prepared the greatest anguish of its life.

"Go to sleep, Eva," repeated she, with motherly anxiety.

"Sleep--it would be best! I cannot conceive that I could look with
waking eyes at the people before whom I stood yesterday in such utter
abasement. It would be impossible for me to show myself here to the
gaping crowd. I must away, away from here; but I cannot part from you
with this enigma unsolved. Mother! I implore you, give me certainty--I
have courage to bear all."

"And you do not ask if I have courage to confess all?"

"Mother!" cried Eva, doubting and questioning, with the terror of
presentiment.

"If it were so easy to lift the veil, should I not have raised it long
since? If any happiness, any comfort could arise from it, should I
hesitate with such a disclosure?"

"I would have the truth, mother--the truth! In positive certainty I
shall recover my strength of mind, which is paralysed in this gnawing
doubt."

Frau Salden rose from her toilet; the morning sun shone straight upon
her face, she covered it with her hands; then she turned round, but a
burning colour rested upon her features, and an internal tremor shook
her form as if with ague.

"I belong to that community which was scattered by the law of the
country; one of the rules of that sect demands full confession of our
sins, by thought, word, or deed! It was often hard for us to make this
confession before the Saints and Pure ones, and not to conceal aught of
that which stirred our inmost souls; often have I stood there
hesitating and seeking to veil that which I dared not confess, until
the implacable word compelled me to acknowledge the whole truth without
any fraudulent disguise; yet, what was that confession compared with
the one of to-day--compared with the one by which the mother must ruin
her daughter's happiness?"

"With clasped hands Eva looked imploringly at her mother.

"Well, then, bury your head in my lap; do not look at me; believe that
it is the Angel of Judgment who speaks, who holds the rattling scales
high above your head."

Eva knelt down before her mother, and leaned her head in her mother's
lap.

"I do not hate Herr von Blanden--never have hated him--but I have loved
him."

Noiselessly Eva slid down at her mother's feet. Only after some little
time she recovered her senses in her parent's arms.

"I have loved him," repeated the mother, "and that is worse, far
worse!"

"And you love him still?" asked Eva, "and you are angry with me that I
would rob you of him? but he--how could he--"

"Listen to me, my child! We were both members of a devout community,
misjudged by the world; this brought us closer together. A decision in
council of the Superiors destined me for his spiritual bride!"

"Spiritual bride!--oh, my God!"

"That in our circle is deemed a bond, which is bound for all eternity!"

"And is not every bride a spiritual one, and every bond united for
everlasting endurance?"

"The secret understanding of such matters is only revealed to the
elect! But the mutual delights of devotion, the strengthening of the
Divine Will in us, with the increasing danger of probation, all these
exercises did not find us so strong as the faith and the prayers of the
community required! Earthly affection took possession of our hearts. I
offered weak resistance to his tempestuous passion. Let the dreadful
word suffice you--I loved him."

Eva suppressed a loud cry, with lips firmly pressed together, and
buried her head deeper in the folds of the dress.

"I was doubly guilty, because the holy work had led us to damnation.
The penance inflicted for such impiety was lighter than I feared,
because the superior leader of our community, blessed with especial
powers of enlightenment, undertook to sanctify me, and I could soon
stand purified from that sin. Now only the heavy punishment comes upon
me, crushingly, annihilatingly. Too mild was the work of that
atonement. Heaven has rejected it. I feel it, and now it dooms me to
the full weight of its wrath. In deepest degradation I must humble
myself before my own daughter, in order to destroy the happiness of
whose life the spectre hand of that unholy, blissful hour is stretched
forth from out the past. Forgive me, my beloved child!"

Eva rose pale, dissolved in tears, and put out her hand, as if in
repudiation.

"I have nothing to forgive you, mother! I do not exalt myself so
impiously as to wish to sit in judgment upon you. I could not but love
you even unto death.--and you are not guilty! Oh, no--that you are
not!"

"Guilty towards you," said Frau Salden, wringing her hands.

"None know what the future may bring," replied Eva; "it cannot be
foretold. Human destiny is like a fleeting cloud: now it gleams in the
full light of the sun at its mid-day height, or in the varying colours
of its declining hour; then it flows down in tears. Many die in the
bloom of youth; death is a doom; there is a death, too, for the heart.
It comes, one knows not whence. It is not our fault. Mother, be calm!
We have the same eyes, the same heart; must we not also have the same
love?"

Eva looked out of the window, unwonted sublimity lay in her demeanour.

"Look; how the waves roll, and break upon the shore! Each one bears the
rays of the same sun within it; now they spring exultingly in whirling
foam, then die away upon the desolate strand! Mother, we are both
wretched!"

And she hastened back and clasped Frau Salden to her heart, who gazed
in fear at her daughter's excited manner.

"But no!" cried Eva suddenly, "what did I say of you? It is quite
different for you, quite different. A question has long been hovering
upon my lips; why, then, did you not become man and wife, if you loved
one another? I must ask, I must; I can no longer endure the obscurity
which o'ershadows everything! Life must be transparent for me,
transparent--even if, like glass, it should break within my hands."

Frau Salden pressed her hand upon her heart; "We parted, he no longer
shared my faith! In that faith only I could live!"

"Oh, mother, you will, you shall still be happy!"

"I cannot, now! Too much has happened since I submitted to the decree
of sanctification, that must have appeared to him like doing wrong. He
measures with a worldly measure--therefore, I am not worthy of him!"

"I will away to him, will entreat him, if still a particle of love for
me--"

"Stay, stay, my child; never, never!"

"He shall make you happy, you! You have a prior right to him. Then I
will forget everything myself, then, when you are, I will be happy."

"Foolish child! And if the past were dead; the daughter's lover to
marry the mother, that is impossible, it would challenge all the scorn
that in society lies ever watching for its prey. And he shall not
become the victim of such scorn."

"The daughter, the daughter," said Eva, buried in quiet meditation,
"she is the obstacle!"

"No, the mother alone it is, and if that weird spectre disappeared that
stands between your felicity, if it vanished away into night from which
it arose so inopportunely, if time with its increasing oblivion buried
it--then, perhaps, once more, even if not to-morrow, nor the day after,
but when a year had elapsed, the roses of love might bloom again upon
this tomb."

"Never, never," said Eva, falling upon her knees before her mother. "I
beseech you, urgently, such thoughts are impious, such deeds can alter
nothing. Between him and me there lies an unfathomable chasm, no
sacrifice can fill it up! I will not, I cannot be his wife; but between
you and him no chasm exists, a bridge is still possible in your case!"

"Only the rainbow of your dreams arches it over. But I feel from your
words how you love me, my only child, and with such undeserved love.
Believe me, this is a moment in my life that outweighs years of
joylessness."

And mother and daughter lay weeping in each other's arms.

A knock at the door! The Regierungsrath, with solemn, pallid mien,
white as chalk, like his cravat, entered with Miranda, who must bend
under the low door-way.

"Good morning, sister," said old Kalzow, "we come to fetch Eva. After
yesterday's occurrence she must linger here no longer; she must return
at once to Warnicken."

"We shall be alone there," added Miranda, "most of the visitors staying
there returned straight home from here. The Kreisgerichtsrath, who
proposed still remaining, was frightened out of our vicinity by that
terrible event. Indeed, you bring too much, too much evil upon us."

And the Regierungsräthin dried a tear of pain and indignation in her
eyes.

"My mother is ill," said Eva, "can I leave her now?"

"Ill?" cried Miranda, "Ill? Am I not so too? Are we not all ill? My
poor husband has coughed during the whole morning, as though the
betrothal had gone down the wrong side of his throat! The girl must
away, and as truly as she is now our child, I shall guard her against
any new encounter with my dear sister-in-law."

"But, my dear wife," said Kalzow.

"I never imagined it so bad!" continued Miranda, indomitably. "Wherever
her past is touched, moths fly out! What happiness she has destroyed!
Kulmitten, Rositten, Nehren; good heavens! the most beautiful estates
in the world, a pleasant, handsome nobleman, and all in proper order!
There she intrudes with her unhappy adventures, and everything ends in
smoke! Had my good sister-in-law loved another saint, we could better
have pardoned her for it."

Frau Salden stood in silence, her hand pressed upon her heart; but Eva
cried amidst her sobs--

"Oh, my God! and all these insults for my sake! Why am I not dead!"

"Go with them, my child!" said Frau Salden. "You belong to them! Let me
return home to the quiet solitude, which I only forsook to bring evil
upon you. The air here breathes harshness and insults, I can hear it no
longer!"

"Dear sister," said the Regierungsrath, who suddenly felt a sensation
of pity, "if in Warnicken--"

"For heaven's sake," said the Räthin, angrily, "of what are you
thinking? My nerves are not strong enough to endure the sight of a
woman who has frustrated our most beautiful plans. And then I do not
deny it, after all that has happened, I am anxious about my character."

"Miranda!" the Rath said, with timid wrath.

"We must call things by their true names. Report will string together
what we conceal, and it will not find much to spare."

"Do not fear," said Frau Salden, with haughty coldness, "I will not
annoy you with my presence, hard as it will be for me just now to part
from my daughter. Farewell, then, Eva, and tell me only once more that
you love me!"

"Inexpressibly, my mother!"

And she lay in the other's arms.

"Then go in peace."

Eva tottered to the door, half dragged away by Miranda, yet she turned
round once more for a last fond farewell. Then, as if she had made some
resolve, with a majestic look upon her features she left the room with
a firm step.

But Frail Salden sank upon the couch, buried her face in the cushions,
and let her irrepressible flowing tears take their unrestrained course.



                               CHAPTER V.

                          HALF-WITTED KÄTCHEN.


A few weeks had elapsed since the above-named events. The sea-side
places had become empty; the Regierungsrath was seated behind his
documents, but Miranda was still at the fisherman's cottage by the sea;
she had to nurse Eva, who was taken dangerously ill immediately after
her arrival in Warnicken. She was seized with a nervous fever, and wild
delirious fancies chased her frightened spirit about in mad career.

Blanden had not set out for his estate; he had retired to the Chief
Forester's house, in the deepest woodland solitude; he felt most at
home with his father's worthy friend--and he needed the comfort of
friendship. It is true that the old gentleman never led the
conversation to Blanden's late experiences, but in his fresh, sterling
nature, in his devotion to his profession, lay a power which was
capable of holding enthralled the evil spirits of a distracted life.

Often they strolled together through the woods, rejoiced at the young,
flourishing growth, at the tall oaks, in whose shade Romove's bloody
recollections still seemed to dwell, at the sunny glades, across which
stags and hinds wandered, visible from afar.

But he loved best to go alone, in a tempest that whirled through the
tops of the trees, broke off boughs and branches, and hurled them to
the ground, and when all other voices were rendered mute before that of
the hurricane, then he believed to hear in it the cry of that almighty
destiny before which nothing can exist, and that pursues its own course
above the head of man.

But what enchained him most was the vicinity to Warnicken. He knew of
Eva's illness, intelligence which had thrown him into a state of
feverish excitement. The doctor, to whom he often rode over to make
enquiries, prohibited him from visiting the sick bed as it would be
dangerous for the patient's life. But how often Blanden stood upon the
wooded cliffs, and gazed with intense anguish as they gleamed in the
evening light upon the simple attic windows, behind which the beloved,
to him lost, maiden lay in fever's delirious phantasies!

On several occasions, as he returned home at a late hour from
Warnicken, he fancied that footsteps were following him, as though the
bushes behind him rustled; but he did not think of danger, and when on
casting a cursory glance round he perceived nothing, he deemed it
beneath him to make any exertions to discover who might dog his steps.

Once he was returning home on a stormy evening, and the rustling in the
forest, the groaning and cracking of the boughs accompanied his steps.
He had learned from the doctor that Eva had passed all danger, and was
now on the way towards recovery. He felt a sensation of pain, mingled
with pleasure, at this. Did not life lie joylessly before the
convalescent girl? And had he the power to alter it? His love still
often rebelled with brilliant sophisms against the resolution of
renunciation; it was a course of tempest's triumphant passion, which
hoped to destroy as mere prejudice the resistance of an invincible
feeling. But always in vain. The feeling remained impervious to all
attacks.

The storm had died away. Blanden could not sleep, and looked out into
the moonlight night, which silvered the gloomy forest, and upward to
the transparent, starry sky. Venus stood on the horizon, higher still,
yellow, sparkling Mars, like an envious orb, that seemed to cast a
hostile light upon the soft planet of love. An image of his life; an
envious fate did not vouchsafe the peaceful bliss to him, for which his
soul had striven with such ardent longing.

The window was situated in the basement story of the house, and led
into a little garden, with shrubs and turf growing as nature planted
them. There, again, was a rustle in the nearest thorn hedge, and
Blanden thought to perceive a gay-coloured dress behind the thorny
bushes. At the same moment the Forester's yard dog began to bark, and
the dress, clutched together in alarm, disappeared behind the fence.
Blanden sprang out of the window and went towards the apparition.
Through an opening in the hedge two great eyes peered at him, as in
strange astonishment, and, scratched and bleeding from the thorns, the
idiot fisher girl crouched behind the fence.

When she perceived him, she pushed right through the prickly bushes,
threw herself down at his feet, and kissed his hands; she clung to his
knees, and looked up beseechingly at him.

"What do you want? Have you often followed me?" he asked the girl; she
shook her head in alarm.

"Do not deny it; you have probably already passed many a night upon
this meadow? Only lately I remarked a bright coloured dress here about
midnight; but I imagined it was hung up there to dry. Do not deny it!"

He spoke the last words in a firm, loud voice.

Kätchen considered for a moment, then nodded her head, while she
clasped her hands imploringly.

"Have you any message for me? Have you anything to say to me?"

The girl was silent.

"Why do you rove about here alone at night? Why do you not remain in
Warnicken?"

"She is ill--she will die--Kätchen lives!" said the little one, as she
suddenly rose and extended her arms, as though she would press Blanden
to her heart.

"Poor child, you must not stay here! The night-dew will make you ill; I
will see about a night's quarters for you with the maidservant. But you
must not return here again; I forbid it--the dogs here are let loose
upon uninvited, nocturnal visitors."

Blanden knocked at the bedroom door of the Forester's servant, and
pretended Kätchen was a messenger who had come at night, and must have
some place to rest in.

"The idiot child loves me," he said to himself, "her frog's eyes
receive a gleam of intellect when she looks at me! And then she
crouches behind the sloe hedge, treated in as step-motherly a manner as
that unhappy fruit which would gladly be a plum, but which tarries for
ever in sour immaturity. Nothing is more touching than these half-human
beings, with their distorted souls! An evidence of the poverty of
Creation's plan! It may be vast and grand upon the whole, but it can
value the human mind but little which it can thus embitter! Certainly
it often seems as if the comprehension of the world and of life creeps
with astounding suddenness into the twilight of such minds."

On the following day, a rainy one, which drew a melancholy grey net
over the whole sky, Blanden sat lost in thought beneath the eaves of
the forest house; he was stroking the bull-dog which had placed itself
at his feet, listening contentedly to the monotonous plashing from the
water pipes, while it only reminded Blanden of the everlasting sameness
of human life, and a sensation of as infinite weariness overcame him,
at the regular fall of the drops, as he should have felt at the
tick-tack of an old clock on a wall. All measurement of time oppressed
him; life at such moments only appeared to him to be a nervous struggle
to avoid hearing the beats marking its flight, the pulse-like throb of
the seconds, the chiming of the hours, and like a clock's hands passing
away over the thin and thick lines, over that empty scheme of time,
whose laws we are to carry out, well or ill, often when our heart's
blood is being shed.

He thought of Paulina, of Eva--and when he wished to forget the
inevitable, other cares of life arose to his mind; he had been without
news from Kulmitten for some time, and the election to the Provincial
Diet must have taken place within the last few days; perhaps his
participation in public life could console him for the miscarriage of
the hopes of his heart.

He was awoke out of these dreams by the noise of an approaching
carriage; in the woodland solitude of the forest house, the arrival of
visitors was quite an event.

Two men sat in the conveyance; the one in a dripping mackintosh was his
friend von Wegen; in the other, who on descending lifted a ponderous
chest with care out of the carriage and deposited it immediately in
safety beneath the verandah, he recognised the strange amber merchant.

Wegen shook himself like a dog coming out of the water.

"Desperate weather! Heaven opens its sluices--a perfect deluge; the
roads abominable--one longs to make the Landrath drive upon them from
morning to night. If they are thus already in summer, one ought to make
one's will in winter before trusting oneself to these causeways of
logs."

"You are heartily welcome," cried Blanden to his friend, and shaking
him by the hand. "What brings you hither in this tropical downpour of
rain?"

"A very ungratifying piece of news, which I must explain; besides, I
bring a dealer with me, who went to find you at Kulmitten; he brings
costly goods, which he says were ordered by you, and which he would be
loth to place in other hands; I therefore considered it best to bring
him with me."

The amber merchant stepped forward and announced that he had punctually
executed Herr von Blanden's orders.

The latter nodded and signed to him to open the box.

The toilet casket of amber, the billing little doves, the bracelets and
necklaces, everything gleamed in perfect workmanship, so that Blanden
rejoiced at sight of the beautifully formed works of art, and expressed
ready admiration of the delicate, exquisite ornaments.

Then only did the melancholy feeling assert itself completely and fully
that his amber-nymph, whom he would have decked with all the treasures
of the deep, was lost to him. He turned aside in order to conceal a
tear in his eye.

Wegen felt for his friend, but sought as quickly as possible to
overcome the most painful sadness.

"You might hand over that rubbish to me," said he. "I shall be engaged
some day--I quite lost my heart at that dance beneath the pear-tree,
and the lucky finder thereof knows my address. Even if it cost all my
rye-harvest--what will one not do, when any especial happiness in life
befalls one?"

"I shall not part with these ornaments," replied Blanden. "Yes; who
knows I may yet deck my lost bride with them, as I could not adorn her
whom I had won. She shall preserve these jewels for a lasting
recollection of a spring-time in her life which was all too soon
destroyed by tempests. Should she cease to be my friend, because she
may not be my wife? It is folly that we must fly from one another like
criminals, as though lightning had struck the earth between us, because
no inward change--because only external fate separated our hearts."

Wegen nodded approvingly; the two guest chambers in the forest house
were assigned to him and to the amber merchant, who, according to
Blanden's desire, had brought his account with him.

Wegen returned to his friend, after having assumed dry clothes; he
began to feel comfortable once more over a glass of negus and a cigar.

Nevertheless, he hesitated with the communication which he had to make,
and moved about uneasily upon the sofa while puffing vast clouds of
smoke into the air.

"Well, and the election?" began Blanden.

"What a pity about that splendid election-dinner," replied Wegen.

"I am not returned?" asked Blanden, excitedly.

"Alas, no!" replied his friend, while shaking his hand. "Now it is out!
Now let us talk it over quietly."

"Tell me about it," said Blanden. The words forced themselves out with
difficulty. At that moment he had become poorer by one great hope.

"It is always the old story, which ever remains new," said Wegen.
"Since the dinner all was running most smoothly; even the sheep-breeder
was well-disposed, and only Frau Baronin von Fuchs moved Heaven and
earth to circumvent the election of a man with such a dubious past. You
know woman's indefatigability when she wishes to carry a point; she
offered me 'check' on every side with admirable persistency. No sooner
had my brown pair left the gates, before her dappled greys appeared.
She was like the evil fairy in the tale. She did not turn to the men
but to the women, and she holds a position amongst them, because she
possesses an imposing mind, in the presence of which one like ourselves
does not feel comfortable, that outrageous decision of thought and
action which allows no contradiction to arise. To marry such a woman
requires courage; I am sorry for poor Baron von Fuchs. He is a
well-bred, pleasant gentleman, but he is not equal to his wife's
eloquence. If women possess intellect, which sometimes happens, it is
sure to be of an amazing quality, and can inspire one of us with
alarm."

"Well, Cäcilie von Dornau possesses intellect also. Take care of
yourself!" said Blanden, playfully, hoping thus to overcome his
mournful mood.

"That is quite different! Hers is intellect of a most refined kind;
those are the golden threads of _esprit_ with which they entangle us;
but with Frau von Fuchs they are ship ropes of logic with which she
flogs us."

"But, to the matter, friend!"

"The victory was in no wise certain for her; because, even if she did
gain the women, the men steadily held their ground. Then came two
pieces of intelligence which made their triumph quite complete. The
rumour of your engagement in Neukuhren, of the commotion which Frau von
Salden's arrival called forth suddenly arose on the shores of our
Masuren lakes, and was circulated most inexplicably, naturally improved
in the most appalling manner! How the people in that killing monotony
thirst after any tale of scandal, and live upon it for long, like
the camel of the desert upon the water that it collects in the
store-closets of its interior! You should have seen the Frau Baronin's
dapple-greys then, they absolutely flew along the forest roads and
pawed the flags of every gentleman's courtyard with their hoofs!
Wherever I went--and this time I followed her tracks--all was in
flames, and I arrived too late with my fire buckets. I could reduce the
exaggerations of the rumour to their true value, but the fact remained,
and I could not refute it. The evil of it was, that this most recent
event brought the past into broad daylight, and it was even difficult
for those who were well-disposed to pass on to the business of the day,
taking no more notice of it than they would of a dark legend whose
moth-like flight they do not wish to rouse again."

"Withered leaves!" cried Blanden, "beneath their foliage they choke up
every flower of spring that ventures forth into light; the arch enemy
of our future is our past. Are we not like galley-slaves, who are
seared with an ineffaceable brand? The spectral clatter of the chains
accompanies us through life."

"But most unfortunately it must just happen that now at this especial
moment the verdict of the second court upon the leading ministers of
that community should be given after a delay of many years. It was far,
far milder than the verdict of the first court, but it brought the
affair forward again. Public opinion was busied with it; even in our
circle the discussion was renewed of that story, long since forgotten,
which was suddenly served up again as freshly as champagne in ice. And,
in the midst of this disturbance of the ghosts, fell our election day!
That you were not present displeased many, although, under the
circumstances, they considered it only natural. You had many votes,
even Baron Fuchs voted for you; it was a daring deed, and evil tongues
maintained that a matrimonial divorce hovered in the air; the Landrath,
too, with his nearest dependants, stood upon your side. But you could
not attain a majority; that voting against you was a sort of trial by
ordeal, that declared the principal landowner in the neighbourhood to
be excommunicated."

"And thus I look upon it," cried Blanden. "All my hopes are destroyed!
A domestic hearth, a busy, active life, political labour for the
welfare of the Province for the honour of my name--all lies in ruin and
ashes. Nothing else remains to me, save only to plough my acres, to
bury myself in my forest loneliness, and even, like an outlaw, to shirk
my neighbour's glance. Can I endure it? Or shall I venture forth again
into a world of adventures from which an internal lack of contentment
drove me back? Truly the old adage applies to me, that we are the
forgers of our own destinies; but the forms into which they have once
been wrought upon the anvil, are maintained for evermore, and when we
would re-mould them the hammer becomes paralysed in our hands."

Wegen sought to console his friend in a good-natured manner; he should
stand firmly by Blanden in good and evil times--they, and those who
held similar views, were still a considerable party; but Blanden hardly
listened to those words of consolation; he relapsed into deep
melancholy, so that Wegen deemed it best to leave him to his own
thoughts.

Blanden had all the sensation of having lost a decisive game upon the
chess-board of life; the ashen-grey sky without, the unceasing drip of
the rain, were in unison with the internal fatigue that had paralysed
all his mental motives of incitement. Nothing now seemed worth wishing,
worth struggling for; did not everything turn against him; he
comprehended the Nirvana of the Buddhists.

The amber merchant departed on the following morning; then Blanden was
particularly struck with the man's rugged, furrowed features; his whole
demeanour told of a ruined, wasted life. When he had received the heavy
price for his goods, and had the door-latch in his hand, he turned
suddenly round once more, and while closely contracting his bushy
eyebrows, and darting evil-boding flashes from his glowing eyes, he
asked--

"You can probably tell me, Herr von Blanden, where the Signora now
lives whom you once visited on Lago Maggiore?"

"Why do you ask this question?"

"I have a reason for interesting myself in that lady."

"She does not owe you anything? Certainly in those days you did not
deal in amber?"

"My interest in her is of another kind, and in addition my secret."

"But how do you know--"

"I stood on the shore of the Lago as you and she stepped out of the
gondola; I stood at the gate of the garden whence you issued at an
early morning hour."

"Ah! now I recollect--you followed me even, so that I might have taken
you for a hired bravo."

"You would have been mistaken. I am an honest man."

"But the right to ask questions lies with me. You know that lady, who
is she?"

"If she chooses to envelop herself in mystery, I am the last who should
like to betray it."

"You are a political agent?"

"Perhaps! At all events I am very anxious to speak to her, and I have
reason to suppose that you know where she may be found."

"Then you are mistaken."

"People say they saw her here in Prussia."

"That is quite possible; but--I do not know where she is staying."

The conversation on both sides was conducted curtly and
antagonistically. As the amber merchant turned to go, Blanden called
after him.

"You are in possession of a secret; chance made you acquainted with
that nocturnal meeting."

"Chance?" said the amber merchant, turning round, "chance? Do you know
if it was chance?"

His countenance looked menacing, he clenched his hand as if
convulsively.

"It is all the same," said Blanden, shortly, "I shall expect you to be
silent about it."

"Who would trouble themselves about an adventure on Lago Maggiore?"
said the amber merchant, with a scoffing smile. "And yet--I know
someone for whom this adventure has its price. However, we have just
had a deal together, and I am amiable towards my customers, I shall
betray you to no one. Farewell!"

Blanden felt as though relieved from some weight when the strangely
disagreeable guest had left room and house. Although this man's face
bore traces of wild good-looks, yet the decay of his features, their
malign, sly expression, had something repellant about them.

Blanden was quite in the mood to seek on every side for hostile powers
that interfered in his life, and this stranger possessed the power so
to do, and of his ill-will there was no doubt. One thing was
unquestionable, that the fairy of Lago Maggiore was at present staying
in Prussia; her visit to the Ordensburg proved that. Was it by chance
that her weird shadow also, which had accompanied her on Lago Maggiore,
had followed her hither? What were his intentions, what was his
connection with her? And what had driven her here to these remote
districts?

Blanden exhausted himself in conjectures, each of which lacked any firm
foundation; but it was the wandering of a mind taking counsel of
itself; the picture of that seductive beauty only passed like a veil
before his spirit, because the latter was wholly filled with another,
with the picture of that unfortunate girl whom he loved so fondly, and
yet must repel so coldly.

The doctor's information, meanwhile, became steadily more satisfactory;
Eva had almost quite recovered; might go out walking in the open air,
and soon, so it was said, leave the sea-side again, and return to the
capital.

Then Blanden believed that the moment had arrived for him to take leave
of the girl, or to transform the lover into the friend. He had not
followed Dr. Kuhl's advice to write to her; he had, indeed, seated
himself before the writing-table, but he had been obliged to tear up
four or five sheets of paper after the first few lines, so little did
he succeed in saying what he felt, or in confiding the compulsory cause
of their separation to tell-tale paper. He therefore gave up the idea
of coming to an understanding with Eva by letter; he would see and
speak to her. Meanwhile she must surely have learned from her mother
that which he could not tell her himself. Her indisposition had, until
now, prevented him seeing her; now this obstacle was removed, he might
approach the convalescent.

He had made the firm resolution, appointed the day, and set out upon
the road with his friend. They traversed the forest on foot; the box
containing his amber treasures, which he intended to give to Eva
to-day, was entrusted to some safe conveyance, and had been already
delivered up at the Warnicken hotel, before the wanderers' arrival.

It was a trying walk for Blanden, but in his soul dwelled the hope of
being able to hold out the hand of friendship to his beloved one,
across that chasm which divided their love. What was left to them but
painful renunciation; but is not the life of most mortals doomed to it?

Wegen was in a most cheerful mood; he sang and leaped, and described
Cäcilie's advantages to his friend with inexhaustible loquacity.

Olga was obliged to retire far into the background; her ponderous
nature, her Turkish beauty, the sensual expression of her lips and
eyes--how could she compare with that graceful figure, with the mental
activity and refinement of her sister?

And when Blanden suggested that Cäcilie loved Dr. Kuhl, Wegen broke out
into triumphant laughter.

"No fear of that, my dear friend! She may like him for the sake of his
strange ideas, but she thinks, like Homunculus, he only loves the fair
sex in the plural; she prefers the singular, and all girls must vote
for that! I do not remember now what sort of a part Homunculus
played--."

"He lives in the bottle," said Blanden, "and that is a new point of
resemblance to Dr. Kuhl."

"All the same," replied Wegen, "I use that term of mockery for him now,
and I do not fear him."

"He who offers his heart and hand to a girl, has an advantage over the
lover who goes out in search of casual adventures. Cäcilie knows that
my intentions are honest; I am certainly not so intellectual as the
Doctor, but a few acres of good soil are worth more than a whole _orbis
pictus_ of genius that floats up aloft in the air--girls are more
practical than we think."

"You may be right," replied Blanden, "many only make use of the throbs
of their hearts to enable them to learn addition; but there are many
exceptions, brilliant exceptions: there are girlish hearts which live
and die in their love."

With this last melancholy turn the conversation was interrupted for
some time.

Blanden thought of his Eva, and of the pain of seeing her again, and
Wegen would not disturb his friend in such gloomy dreams.

Blanden's heart beat violently when the roof of the homely inn gleamed
forth beneath the trees.

How often had he been there lately; but only sorrow for the dangerously
sick girl then had filled his mind; to-day it was the anxious
anticipation of a half longed-for, half-dreaded meeting that caused his
spirit to be in such a state of vacillation.

In the hope of encountering her on the forest paths, in the
Wolfs-schlucht, or upon the Fuchs-spitze, he wandered along the shaded
walks, but his hopes had been in vain.

Arrived at the summit, he directed his glance towards the little
fisherman's-cottage; the attic window, usually covered with curtains,
stood open, and the afternoon sun streamed in with all its force. Eva
had left the sick room.

All around was silence, all seemed to be dead! What should he do? To
seek the Regierungsräthin, and ask her about her daughter, was to him
the most unwelcome course, because in that lady's eyes he must appear
like a criminal, and he would not expose himself to her reproachful
glance.

It seemed best to contrive to get a little note conveyed to the
daughter's hands, and to invite her to a walk to the Fuchs-spitze;
half-witted Kätchen might serve as an unsuspected messenger.

Thus the two friends sat in undecided consultation. The more slanting
rays of the sun fell through the tops of the oaks. Alternating in light
and shade, the ocean waves played in manifold colours; it was as though
a broken rainbow had sunk down into them; here they appeared light
green, there deep blue, alternating with violet and reddish tints. A
black bank of clouds hung in the west, swallowing up the setting sun
more and more, but yonder, where lighter fleecy clouds broke away in
smaller portions, it enframed the orb of day in a glowing triumphal
portal that cast its radiant reflection into the billows.

The sunset was premature, and a sensation of evil portent lay over land
and sea. The surf broke more impetuously down below, it was the last
echo of a distant storm that beneath the heavy clouds of night winged
its flight seawards.

How strange was the chattering of the waves upon the shore, and their
varied dance. The one dashes upward like a spring of life in vernal
green, while the next, heavy as a blue-black monster of the night,
rushes over it, and in the whirling foam the lights of the evening sky
are blended in a nosegay of tints, which the one wave offers to the
other, and which the recipient scatters ruthlessly in the breakers
which expire upon the sand of the shore.

There, see--a boat leaves the strand, and floats over the foam in the
surf.

Two girls sit within it; Blanden has recognised Eva.

How can she, who has barely recovered from a fever, venture out on the
evening tide?

And how she sits there, pale, deadly pale, her hands folded, staring
into the waves.

Then the sun suddenly breaks through the clouds once more, and sheds a
bright rosy radiance upon her features.

Ave Maria! She resembles the Virgin in the picture, gliding in a boat
over the silent mountain lake, and while the bells are pealing in the
churches on the coast, folds her hands.

But here no bells are ringing--here no Ave Maria is
sounded--half-witted Kätchen rows them out to sea.

Does she not perceive the stormy clouds on the horizon?

But the voice from the heights above can still reach the women sailors,
and with all his might Blanden cries--

"Eva!" and, in a warning tone, he calls it once again.

She has heard it; she turns to the other side of the boat, she
stretches her arms out towards that summit, and then presses them
firmly upon her heart; her looks hang as if spell-bound upon the tall
oaks, and upon the figure of that friend who stands beneath them.

But Kätchen rows on; no sign from Eva bids her turn the skiff; like a
rigid marble statue Eva stands erectly in the boat.

What her eyes speak he cannot see at that distance; perhaps fresh tears
are wrung from them; but he can see that she remains motionless, that
no desire to turn hastily fills her soul. It is not the obstinacy of
the idiot sailor girl that guides the skiff ever farther out into the
sea; it is the mute, proud will of the other, who rejects all chance of
meeting him.

Can he follow her then, as he once followed her, when he conquered the
bride with daring corsair courage?

Is that figure, pale as marble, the same as that of the blooming girl,
who, once adorned with the wreath of woodland flowers, greeted him with
merry smiles?

Between then and now lies an abyss--that campanula had withered in his
hands, old love had become new guilt.

He had no longer the right to follow her; only with his eyes, with his
spirit he followed the retreating skiff, until the girls' figures,
became smaller and smaller, the boat dwindled shapelessly into a speck,
to lose itself entirely in the distant atmosphere in the shadow of the
clouds.

It is true that lightning quivered on the horizon, but Blanden felt no
anxiety about the breaking of a storm. Half-witted Kätchen understood
the skies and the earth, and if she ventured fearlessly farther over
the waves, no coming terror, no storm, no hurricane could be expected;
then one might be sure that the herd of fiery flashes would remain upon
the horizon, and the tempest clouds not flood the heavens.

The boat had, despite his spectacles, long since disappeared from
Wegen's short sight, when, by straining every nerve, Blanden's eye
still clung firmly to the floating speck in the distance.

"We must have patience until they return," said his friend, lighting
himself a cigar, "the girl is thoughtless thus to venture out to sea.
The evenings are too cool for a convalescent. Frau Regierungsräthin
keeps a negligent watch over her."

Louder became the breaking of the waves upon the shore, higher rose the
sea. Blanden gazed impatiently into the distance. Will the boat not
return? He felt as though he must jump into the skiff that lay below on
the strand, and row after the girl.

Oppressive sultriness pervaded nature; through a gap in the broad bank
of clouds the glow of the parting sun became visible once more. A
shower of golden sparks fell into the ocean, for which the waves seemed
to struggle, soon again increasing night spread her wings over it.

Blanden felt oppressed, why he knew not his friend chatted all the more
briskly.

"We will live right comfortably together in our Masuren wilderness,
for I am seriously inclined to make a home, and then you shall visit
me every day. It is true I was always afraid on account of the
cooking:--next to love that is the principal thing, and I am convinced
that a bad dinner would make me angry with my wife for the whole day,
even if I loved her as Romeo does his Juliet. Every one has his own
ideal at some time, and a sweetheart or wife must be found in the
perihelion of that ideal, else the transfiguring halo is wanting around
her; but I should prefer to be buried in the vault of the Capulets to
having an unpalatable joint or fish in some impracticable sauce set
before me by a Juliet. Well, do you see my friend, it is true that even
by the most cunning insinuations I have not been able to find out what
my Cäcilie thinks of the culinary art, and if our natures meet in
unanimity upon this important point; as yet also I have seen and tasted
no practical proofs of her possession of this gift, and the worst is, I
am convinced that Frau von Dornau's cuisine offers no opportunity for
the development of artistic talents, and that it does not extend beyond
the most simple requirements of the needs of the inner man; because,
according to General Montecuculi's views, cooking, like war, needs
money, money and ever again money, and Frau von Dornau's pension,
according to my unprejudiced calculation, suffices at the outside for
potatoes, grey peas, and occasionally fish. On the other hand I am
firmly convinced that my Cäcilie in the kitchen would always find
herself equal to the situation, if her finances permitted her brilliant
supplies; to a mind like hers the importance of the culinary art for
human life, and especially for mine, cannot remain unknown, and if she
does not quite understand the tactics of the roasting-spit, and the
strategy of the bill of fare, she has sense enough to select a proper
talented kitchen adjutant, and it is quite immaterial whether the
field-marshal or his adjutant gain the victory, so long as it be
gained. I then crown my wife with the kitchen-laurels, which I do not
estimate so lowly as though its leaves were only fitted for the
preparation of a boar's head, and in that laurel wreath I entwine the
most beautiful myrtle of love, and the olive-branch of domestic peace."

To this complacent communication, which might at the same time claim
the merit of being a soliloquy, speaking the deepest thoughts of his
mind, Blanden only listened with abstracted understanding; his glance
rested inadvertently upon the misty horizon.

A steamboat passed by; its column of smoke disappeared in a heavy,
lowering cloud; here and there a white sail became visible that lost
itself out at sea, and at last only appeared like a streak of chalk
upon a black wall.

Flashes of lightning chased one another like eagles at play, and
growling on the horizon announced the awaking of the storm that tossed
itself hither and thither in its dense, dark cradle of clouds.

Blanden's anxiety waxed stronger; his confidence in the idiot girl's
instinct diminished. Could not the weather-wise determination of that
child of Nature fail for once?

There, see! The black speck appeared again on the horizon, and, with
the greatest exertion of his ocular powers, Blanden could perceive that
it gradually increased and approached the shore.

"God be thanked! Idiot Kätchen has done her duty," said Blanden. "But
now, too, it is certain that we shall not have to wait long for the
storm."

And with a lightened heart he added, cheerfully--

"Dear friend, I rejoice that the carpenter's work of your domestic
happiness stands so firmly already that you can have a housewarming; I
wish Fate may deal more kindly with you than it has with me, and that
the lightning may not strike the timbers before the masonry of the
house is firm and you can make your entry into it. Good luck to you! I
dread my meeting with Eva, and I fear--" Blanden suddenly stopped in
the middle of his speech; he stood up, stepped to the railing, and
gazed out fixedly.

"What is the matter with you, my friend?"

"It may be caused by the light, or my eye be dazzled from having
previously looked too long at the evening sun."

"Why?" asked Wegen, wiping his glasses hastily, so as to assist his
friend as much as possible.

"It seems to me--I cannot distinguish properly--let us wait until the
boat is nearer."

Blanden did not dare to give utterance to his fears; the words would
not pass his lips.

"The boat is drawing nearer," said Wegen quietly. "I even recognise it
now, although I am convinced that my glasses in future must be one
number lower; too often they leave me in the lurch."

After a pause of terrified expectation, Blanden cried suddenly--

"No, no--I am not mistaken--and yet--it is impossible; I only see _one_
girl now in the boat. Can idiot Kätchen be making another swimming
excursion and Eva be holding the oars?"

"You are right--I only see one living creature in the boat; perhaps Eva
has become unwell from the swell of the waves and laid herself down in
the bottom of the skiff; the best remedy for sea sickness--I always lie
upon deck like a mummy."

"But the boat is not deep; I must in that case see her dress," replied
Blanden.

Again an anxious pause ensued; then with a loud cry he shouted out
Eva's name and rushed down the mountain path to the landing-place.

Wegen followed, shrugging his shoulders.

Soon both friends stood below on the strand.

The boat approached, with regular strokes of the oars; more quickly
rolled the thunder across the western sky.

Blanden's pulses throbbed feverishly.

"Where is Eva?" cried he to the idiot boat-woman across the mighty roar
of the surf.

No reply. Kätchen was occupied in bringing the boat safely to the
shore. She sprang into the water, drew her skiff nearer, and bound it
firmly to the post.

"Where is Eva?" repeated Blanden, now in a supreme state of excitement,
while he grasped the girl and held her firmly.

"There," said the idiot girl, with imperturbable composure, and pointed
to the sea.

"Dead then, dead!"

Kätchen nodded her head; Blanden sobbed, burying his face in his hands.

Then she flung herself down before him, clung to his knees, kissed his
hands.

Like a flash of lightning, a fearful thought passed through Blanden's
mind.

"Murderess!" cried he, "you have murdered her; you have hurled her into
the sea!"

Kätchen was mute. No change was apparent in her features. It seemed as
though she looked up at him with a triumphant smile.

"Misery of miseries!" cried Blanden, wringing his hands; "the victim of
an idiot's passion! Yes, Wegen, this creature, this half-human being,
this female Caliban loves me; she has pursued me with her passion even
into the Forester's house; I found her several times beneath my
windows; she cherished a moody, dull hatred for Eva! Heavens! Why did I
not warn her! It is horrible--the girl has killed her!"

Wegen seized the girl with all the energy of a _gens d'arme_.

"She must be arrested--she must give information."

Unconcernedly Kätchen allowed all to pass over her; she replied to no
questions. Her frog-like eyes only rested upon Blanden with an
expression of silent beatitude.

The girl was conducted to the fisherman's cottage.

Miranda, when she heard the news, fell into a swoon. How she had
cautioned Eva against spending an evening on the sea; the latter had
escaped secretly in order to indulge her unhappy love for the ocean.

The Räthin acknowledged this when she had recovered again, and Blanden
and Wegen could hardly protect the idiot girl from the gigantic lady's
maltreatment, who felt constrained to let her boundless excitement vent
itself upon some victim or other.

A rural policeman chanced to be stopping just before the inn; he was
summoned in order to take Kätchen with him to the district town to
undergo what certainly promised to be a futile examination, because
only seldom did a sudden gleam of light flash through her obscured
mind.

Then Miranda, whose anguish indeed needed some outlet for its anger,
turned with the most unjust reproaches upon Blanden, who, by his
recklessness, had plunged mother and daughter into ruin, and had put
both into the pillory before the whole of Neukuhren, before the
capital, and before the entire Province; Eva had become ill in
consequence of that disgrace, and since her illness had not been able
to cast off a state of intense melancholy. Kätchen certainly should be
arrested, but who knows if not she, but others, for whom there were no
policemen, were perhaps the murderers of her unhappy child?

Blanden left the ignoble woman who, like hundreds of others, had
transformed herself into a Megæra, when, in the heat of excitement, the
lacquer of the gloss of cultivation melts away from them; yet he left
her with a dagger in his heart! Was she right, could Eva have taken her
own life? But no word of farewell, not a line indicated such a thing.

Must he be accountable for the victim whom the sea had swallowed up?

Who should solve that mystery?

Blanden stared at the storm that now discharged itself with terrific
blows, and ignited an old Perkunos oak upon the height, like a beacon
for ships in danger.

In his heart surged a tempestuous, agitated uproar, as great as the
conflict of the elements without.

Two hours later the full moon shone from out a cloudless sky; the ocean
still gasped in short breaths after the spasm that had shaken it. But
it became calmer, and at last displayed a smooth mirror-like surface.

A boat glided over it.

"Farewell my amber nymph," cried Blanden, "I send your jewels after
you, that you may remember me in those subterranean halls, and one
portion of my life I bury with you in the deep."

With a loud noise the chest and its jewels sank into the sea; but still
for a long time the boat of the solitary nocturnal sailor was driven
about upon the waves.

Peace dwells in its unfathomable lap, but just as unfathomable is the
grief of that human life, the grief which rends the heart of that
nocturnal sailor, and which he pours out in plaints to the mysterious
planets.



                              CHAPTER VI.

                            THE CASTLE LAKE.


Two years had passed away since lovely Eva Kalzow had met her death in
the waves of the amber sea. The obscurity that veiled her end had never
been lifted.

Blanden brooded in solitude, retired from the world in his Castle
Kulmitten; he absorbed himself completely in the study of Sanscrit and
of the Indian philosophical systems; in these he found the original
spring from which eastern wisdom has always drawn its supplies, even
supposing that the same train of thought has not led the minds in the
eastern and western worlds into the same path.

He had little intercourse with his neighbours; only his friend Baron
von Wegen and the worthy Landrath of the district remained true to him.
Of all others he was suspicious; he did not know who, at the late
election, had voted for or against him, and, under his peculiar
circumstances at the time of the election, and the similarity of his
political views to those of the electors, he felt obliged to look upon
the, to him, unfavourable record of votes, as an expression of want of
esteem, or at last of decided aversion.

But intensely as he mourned the unhappy occurrences at the sea-side,
for the malignity of fate which by means of his past had destroyed all
his plans for a beautiful future, and entangled an innocent noble
maiden in his own doom and hurled her into destruction, yet he was but
little qualified for a hermit's life; amidst the penance to which he
had condemned himself, the promptings to activity and love of life
stirred ever anew within him; he would work and labour, and if at times
he thought more with silent sadness of the charming girlish picture
that had entered into his life like a transient dream, full of
beautiful promise, yet the recollection of a shattered bliss could not
force the relinquishment of every one of the joys of life upon him.

He had much sympathy with the belief and mode of thought of the
Buddhists, but not the inclination to bury himself in nonentity. He
seemed to hear in distant reverberation the stream of the great world
pass by, and it drove him forth out of his solitude into the
temptations of life. He often imagined himself to be like Saint
Augustine, who was visited in his desert by the seductive spirits of
brighter days; often the pictures of Lago Maggiore rose before his
mind, the recollection of a southern night, and while wandering through
the apartments of his castle, he believed still to perceive the shining
traces of that mysterious visit which had never been explained to him.

He had been neither to the chief town nor to the sea-side during those
two years; then an event occurred which drew him forth out of his
brooding quiet life, the Jubilee at the University.

He would not be missing when all the scattered intellectual life in the
Province suddenly concentrated round one focus, and the companions of
his youth, the veterans of former days at the University, the later
rising generation of studious youths, bound in one common bond, met one
another in equal enthusiasm for works of science.

Blanden's first walk in Königsberg was to the little house in the
_Prinzessinstrasse_ in which the great Thinker lived. If any one spirit
descended to preside at this festival, it could only be that of
Emmanuel Kant, who had imprinted his noble impression for ever upon
this High School. Like the silver Albertus upon the cap, all citizens
of _Alma Mater_ bore the Thinker's picture in their heart.

And Blanden heard the inflammatory words of the spirited King who laid
the foundation stone of the new University in the _Königsgarten_.

He declared that it should be a home of light, and should scare the
bird of night back into its darkness. What a noble flight did that
Prince's enthusiasm take! He sounded the trumpet in the conflict of
intellect, but by his call he never failed to awake that which was
opposed to his own ideas.

The stirring life of this festival made a feverishly exciting
impression upon Blanden after his long retirement; his pulses throbbed,
his heart beat, the undecided need for mental occupation as for a life
transfigured by soul and beauty, became so overpowering within him,
that he felt physically oppressed and often gasped for breath. All
others here possessed some certain object in life, and rejoiced in the
pleasures of communion of labour; only he in the midst of these
thousand jubilant beings was a solitary man, yes, he even fancied that
his college friends avoided him, that the friendliness of their
greetings was somewhat constrained.

Towards evening he went across the bridge of the castle lake. There a
varied scene prevailed: gondolas filled with men singing, passed up and
down and frightened the proud swans as they sailed along; rockets and
balls of light ascended from the more distant gardens, while those
nearest began to gleam in a fairy-like manner, so that not only the
shade of the tree tops, but also the reflection of their radiance
floated in the water.

Blanden entered the _Börsengarten_; here too a dense, gay crowd
prevailed. Hardly had he forced his way past several well-filled
tables, before he encountered Dr. Kuhl, in the cheeriest, most excited
mood.

"Welcome, welcome--I should never have expected you to be here; this
alone converts the festivity into a thorough jubilee!"

"You have not allowed me to see anything of you for a long time," said
Blanden, reproachfully, "if even our friends forget us, we must become
perfect savages yonder in our Masuren desert."

"I have too much to do, new chemical discoveries and divers other
elective affinities! But the main thing is that you are here! To-day it
is delightful! Walpurgis for all authorities, and there is no lack of
charming witches. It is true that little red mice do not leap out of
their mouths as they did from that of the blessed Lilith, but to-day
most unguarded declarations escape the custody of their lips. All the
world is infatuated; the closest men of learning permit a glance into
their empty waistcoat pockets, and even the most prudish girls expand a
little to-day."

"But where shall we sit?"

"I am to sit by Dr. Reising, and shall be able to obtain a seat for
you."

"Dr. Reising is here?"

"How could he fail at the University Jubilee? besides, he is now a
special professor; his father-in-law has provided for him."

"And which daughter did he marry?"

"Like a sensible, order-loving man, the eldest naturally, Euphrasia!
But really he has to provide for all; old Baute is dead, they say in
consequence of a stroke of paralysis, which he brought upon himself by
his constant discussions with his son-in-law. Fortunately Dr. Reising's
uncle, whose heir he was, is also dead, and left him several hundred
thousand dollars. But Euphrasia is very economical with the money, and
as the sisters do not obtain what they wish from her, they have struck
into a better path and seek to win him over to themselves by the
development of their united amiability!"

"But of course he would provide for them?"

"Yes, what was needful, but they have plans which he shall further.
Lori has passed her examination as governess, and would like to begin a
boarding school here; but thrifty Emma, on the contrary, wishes to set
up a boarding-house, the sisters should help partly here partly there.
Then the question is how to get hold of the Doctor's capital for these
mild institutions; but Euphrasia guards the Nibelungen treasure like
the dragon Fafner in the legend."

The friends meanwhile had drawn near to the table, at which the
Professor with his wife and her three sisters Lori, Emma and Albertine
were sitting; the others had stayed behind in their new home. Reising's
appearance betrayed unwonted fashion; he even wore a gay coloured
neckerchief. That was Lori's taste, and at the same time a trophy of
her victory, because although Euphrasia had objected and maintained
that her husband must avoid everything remarkable, as it did not suit
him, Lori had conquered, and he had taken a grass green and ocean blue
tie from his drawer.

Reising greeted Blanden very pleasantly, as did his wife and
sisters-in-law. Of all those merry and sad events at the sea-side, the
ball beneath the pear-tree alone lived in their recollection.

"A glorious festival!" said the Professor, while pushing his hand
through his rebellious hair, which hitherto had opposed invincible
resistance to the combined attempts at beautifying it on the part of
his six sisters-in-law. "By it East Prussia makes progress in the
consciousness of liberty."

"You will take cold, dear brother," said Emma, "there is a cold air
from the lake."

Lori, with superior decision, took up a shawl that lay upon the table,
and wrapped the Professor in it. Unanimous as the two sisters were that
their brother-in-law's large heritage should be diminished in their
favour, yet a constant small internecine war of jealousy as to the
privilege of such favours, raged between them: Lori struggled for
intellectual cultivation, Emma for food and attendance. Euphrasia
looked upon her sisters' loving coquetry with proud indifference; she
knew that the key of the cash box lay in her hands.

"My brother is right," said Lori. "Such festivals contribute
considerably to the people's education, and the people must be
educated; one feels this necessity most keenly on such occasions as the
present. Not only the lower orders, even the higher require education;
people may say that men's student life for a time unsettles them;
scorn of citizen-like customs is implanted in them; late hours,
beer-drinking, smoking are acquired as noble habits of life, and to be
intoxicated is considered manly and correct, perhaps because the
ancient Germans, even upon their bearskins, sometimes lost their sense
of sobriety with drinking mead. Thus it is with men; but the daughters
of the higher classes are not much better off; more or less, they are
all badly brought up. Yes, people may even maintain the same of us,
although we are the daughters of a professor."

"You go too far," said Albertine, angrily, and thus broke the silence,
deep as an abyss, with which until now she had celebrated the day of
jubilee.

"Too far? What, have we then really learned, according to any system,
any principle? Nothing, absolutely nothing! Yes, any one who gave
herself the trouble, who followed her own inclinations, might attain
splendid results. But that is the case even with the B[oe]otians!
Method is everything; I shall introduce a method into my educational
institution that will satisfy the most temperate minds."

Reising looked timidly at Euphrasia, who always resisted the mention of
this future boarding-school most decidedly, to-day she contented
herself with carelessly humming a few bars of music.

"That is very grand," said Emma; "but I believe that physical
well-being has its rights also. Living in hotels is as uncomfortable as
possible; a stranger runs about like a numbered prisoner whose whole
rights of humanity depend upon the numeral of his rooms. How totally
different is a furnished house upon the English model; everything in
common, breakfast-table, dinner, tea in the evening, all flavoured with
conversation; an hotel transformed into a drawing-room--I could arrange
it capitally, like that intellectual society of which papa always
talked."

"What, intellectual society!" said Dr. Reising, while he coughed
slightly, as though this Herbartian allusion had stuck in his throat,
"all you have to do is to provide for the system of wants, for good
food and drink, that soul of every hotel, and even of an _hotel
garni_."

"What is the use of these castles in the air?" said Euphrasia,
shrugging her shoulders.

"What do you say to it, Herr von Blanden," began Lori, who wished to
draw the silent guest into the conversation.

"I have become estranged from all society in my forest solitude,"
replied he.

"And you live solitarily and alone?" asked Lori, with peculiar
emphasis.

"Alone with my thoughts and with the remembrance of the grief that has
befallen me."

Lori's eyes shone. Here was a chance, and the daughters of the upper
classes might wait. With rapid change of front, she turned away from
her brother-in-law and looked on without jealousy while Emma buttoned
up his overcoat. She herself began to pour out a cornucopia of
sweetness which was only destined for Herr von Blanden. She possessed
_esprit_ and aspirations, did that little Lori, and under pedagogic
education the _enfant terrible_ would have developed into a more
reserved lady of mental acuteness.

"I imagine life to be so beautiful in those primeval forests, where
elks and bison rove as in the days of the blessed Pikullus! How
delightful to be able thus to live upon one's recollections. You have
seen the world, Herr von Blanden; what a miserable part we must play
compared with you. You have seen the snowy peaks of the Himalaya, the
calm lakes of Thibet, the cloisters and pagodas, the tea-gardens of
Japan and the tea-plantations of the Celestial Empire. Lions, tigers
and apes are as familiar to you as generals, counsellors and dancing
partners of the _haute volée_ are to us; how insignificant to you must
the society appear that revolves in a circle upon this tiny spot of
earth! And yet you should not live in such retirement; a man of
intellect such as you is guilty of robbing us all, of robbing society
even when he buries himself in quietude."

Blanden listened with polite attention, when his glance suddenly fell
upon two ladies who passed by, accompanied by an officer and several
gentlemen, and who were greeted on all sides. His glance had only swept
slightly over the features of the one; but there was no doubt she was
his _principessa_ of the Lago Maggiore.

He would have liked to spring up and follow her; but how could he treat
the gifted speaker so cavalierly who turned to him with such ardour and
held him enthralled in the spell of her eyes and words. From that
moment, however, his distraction was unmistakable; his glances wandered
into space, but Lori would not release the victim of her eloquence.

"You must spend the winter season in the town here; oh, you have more
female admirers than you imagine; you will be _fêted_ as you deserve,
for in truth the world is not so well supplied with intellectual men as
it appears to be, when one sees so many wildly luxuriant whiskers and
menacing eyebrows and the superior smile, which after all means so
little, of so many lords of creation. No, no, Herr von Blanden, you
must not withdraw yourself from society, you cannot condemn yourself to
everlasting solitude; too many wistful glances, that would be glad to
share it, follow you."

"Lori's distaff buzzes incessantly to-day," said Albertina, casting a
glance ready for conquest upon the gentleman sitting beside her.

Emma, who found the bird in the hand worth two in the bush, meanwhile
redoubled her attentions to her brother-in-law, whose hand she pressed
cordially, so as to console him for the few wounding sparks that flew
towards him from the anvil of Lori's loquaciousness.

"Yes," said she, "so long as there are gentlemen like Herr von Blanden,
and our good brother-in-law, the social circle cannot become oppressed
with tedium."

"I feel," said Dr. Kuhl, "that I am _de trop_ here; no one thinks it
worth while to transplant me amongst the stars. Therefore I must come
to the miserable end of a falling one."

Blanden meanwhile had risen, and after a polite bow had hastened
through the leafy garden paths after that form which wholly occupied
his attention; it had surely been no vision, but nowhere fluttered the
green veil, that like a greeting of hope flowed from the hat of his
_principessa_.

Here at a turn of the road, close to the lake, he believed he had
recognised it. It was the veil, but another, a strange face looked at
him from beneath the hat, a face fearfully hideous, that seemed to
laugh and grin at his disappointment.

He hastened back once more; with slow scrutiny he went from table to
table; here and there sat officers, but with unknown companions, the
one who had accompanied those ladies was remarkably tall and stout, he
was unmistakable.

All in vain; she must have already left the garden, but who was this
stranger who appeared to be so well known here, was universally greeted
with respect, with friendliness? Feeling annoyed, Blanden went up and
down the garden walks, he looked at every lady, found all ugly as
though the one had borne away with her all the radiance of beauty.

The Professor now made a move, followed by his female retinue. Lori
walked triumphantly in front of her sisters, but Blanden hastened to
evade a fresh experience of her loquacity. He deemed it safest to take
refuge by the castle lake; he entered a boat that lay by the water's
edge, and gave himself up to the guidance of the waves.

The moonlight made the lake; the jewel of that town on the Pregel,
sparkle in most splendid effulgence; although the evening was cold, a
southern shimmer, a dreamlike illumination swept around the lofty trees
in the garden, and the festive lights and gay lanterns in the verdant
shade, the ascending rockets and balls of light increased the emotional
impression of the small inland lake, lovely even in its everyday life.
A regatta of gondolas glided on wings through the waves, a race between
the sons of the muses of the oldest and most recent terms. The gondolas
of the former were left behind, for only few still had strength to
guide their oars. The others sat on board with redly glowing faces; a
few stared into the water in that silent despair which was the fruit of
enthusiastic hours, and powerful drinks, which the brewers of
Löbnichten understood how to prepare.

The _gaudeamus_ sung by powerful voices, echoed from afar, and as the
skiff drew nearer, Blanden perceived that the singers were gentlemen
with grey and silvery white hair, but their faces were as if suffused
with the reflection of youthful enthusiasm; it was no Charon's boat
with candidates for Orkus, enjoyment of life was written in their
features upon which at the same moment rested tokens of a glorious
emotion.

"Immortal youth of German student life," thought Blanden to himself,
"you are the guarantee for the youth of our nation, for the
intellectual freshness even of its older years, for the enthusiasm
which worships the highest gods, the freedom of the spirit and the
friendship of all hearts.

"But I myself--am I not become old? Do I not glide like a shadow
amongst these joyous beings? Does my heart still possess a youth? Must
I not guard myself against the funeral song of the land of the lotos
flowers, against the Indian barcarolle of Nirvana? Softly as the moon
sinks into the waters, sinks the soul into dreamlessness, after having
exhausted one dream after another! No! no! My pulses still throb, my
life has still an object, even although it only be the rapturous magic
of the moment! _Diva_, I seek my star!"

And with a powerful stroke of the oars, he clove the waves, he guided
his boat towards the town, away beneath the bridge! There busy life was
moving on the water; even the windows of the backs of the houses, the
balconies and seats were peopled with a gay human throng, and despite
the hoarse confused noise of many hundred voices, the chime of the
clock in the reformed church, whose tower cast a long shadow in the
waves, was heard above all.

There in the fitful light of the moon, and lamps with which the barks
were ornamented, he saw as in a vision the marble-like beautiful
features which lived so vividly in his recollection.

The lady sat in a boat with two others; the colossal lieutenant and
several young gentlemen rowed: at first the beautiful woman looked up
and appeared to contemplate the play of the rockets in the moonlight
night, or did she gaze upwards at the stars, which here stood paler in
the heavens, which seemed to be wanting in the fire of the south?

Blanden saw the profile of those finely cut features, the harmonious
lines of the face; they were the same as those which had enchanted him
upon the terrace of Lago Maggiore, when she stood there beneath the
unicorn of the Boromei, her gaze directed side-ways upon the peaceful
Isola Madre, and again as at that time he felt all the sensation of
artistic contentment which such euphonious beauty sheds. Quickly her
skiff glided past; now she cast a side glance at him, she too had
recognised him; she smiled, she bowed, but then flung the bouquet of
flowers which she held in her hand, into the water.

The lieutenant who bent over the gunwale to find the flowery sacrifice,
one probably little flattering for him, the donor of the nosegay,
suddenly concealed the _Principessa's_ picture. His effort was futile,
and with reproaches in which, as it appeared, the other gentlemen also
took part, he pulled the boat once more with irate impetuosity towards
the garden side of the lake.

Blanden followed in eager haste, but he found himself amid a confusion
of barks that formed an inextricably entangled clew. Intoxicated sons
of the muses increased the confusion, they took pleasure in the cries
of terror of the girls whose boats began to rock dreadfully, and would
have liked to enact the rape of the Sabines upon the water. Blanden
cursed the interruption; at last he succeeded in freeing his boat; the
_Principessa's_ bark had gained a great advantage, but he might hope to
encounter it again on its return journey.

This hope disappointed him! When he had rowed along the extent of the
last gardens beside the castle lake, he met the empty boat guided by a
boatman.

The party must have landed at some private garden, several of which
enframed the lake at this part; the surly old man on being hailed,
replied "that he knew nothing." The traces of the mysterious beauty
were lost to him again.

"But not for ever," he vowed to himself!

She had thrown the nosegay into the water; should all memory of the
happiness of love be buried with it?

But, no! He was filled with a new hope in life; the castle lake had
suddenly been transformed, as if by fairy's art, into the enchanted
Italian one. Vine clad hill terraces rose on its level shores, distant
lofty ice peaks cast avalanches upon the Alpine passes, and in the
shade of the pines lay the villa upon whose windows the moonlight
played, telling of happiness to come.



                              CHAPTER VII.

                                "NORMA."


The theatre bills, announced "Norma;" the character bearing that name
was to be performed by an Italian singer. What was more probable than
that on this evening the _Principessa_ of Lago Maggiore should visit
the theatre?

At the hour of opening the doors, Blanden appeared in the vestibule of
the playhouse, which turns its melancholy monotonous-looking side to
the _Königsgarten_, and resembles a military store building or
laboratory for a Chief of the Ordnance, rather than a temple of art.
Blanden watched all comers with painful anxiety; he greeted Professor
Reising with his sisters-in-law, who appeared in most striking toilets,
in ball costume, which was useless extravagance in the dark apartments
of this temple of the muses, grudgingly illuminated by the chandelier.

The gigantic lieutenant appeared also; behind him was borne a not less
colossal bouquet.

Both Fräulein von Dornau entered, without an escort. Cäcilie looked
paler than she had done at the sea-side; but Olga was as blooming as
though she had just risen from the sacred ocean tide.

There, Regierungsrath Kalzow with his wife! How old and decrepit he had
become! How his face, with its worn features, was lost in the stiff
white neckcloth! But Miranda walked sturdily, although she seemed to be
still thinner, more skeleton-like; she towed her husband behind her, as
does a tug-steamer an unwieldy sailing ship.

"Why, there you are, also!" said Dr. Kuhl, greeting Blanden with a
powerful shake of the hand. "Signora Bollini must exercise a marvellous
power of attraction, indeed! Only look how the crowds pour in."

"So far as I am concerned," replied Blanden, "I am indifferent to
theatres, which formerly I never visited. Our dramatic art has outlived
itself! Signora Bollini, too, is totally innocent of my becoming
faithless to my principles to-day."

"But she deserves that you should do so," said Dr. Schöner, who had
come with Kuhl. "She is worthy of a sacrifice: she is not merely an
admired singer who in Barcelona and Florence, as well as in St.
Petersburg and Moscow, has celebrated great triumphs; she is above all
a beauty, and her movements in acting are marvellously plastic. I do
not share your views of the decadence of the drama, but whatever you
may think upon the subject, you will not be able to release yourself
from the influence of that beauty which is intensified by the
stage-setting."

"And what did, then, really lead you into this temple of art, if it is
not 'Norma' nor Signora Bollini?"

"A personal meeting that I wish for! Today I only came to the theatre
for the sake of its spectators, like hundreds of others, who are not
candid enough to confess it."

"Indeed, you are very absent-minded; you have the air of a policeman
who, with a warrant of apprehension in his head, musters the throng. We
will not disturb you, but wish you every success!"

Blanden remained behind alone, but only when a few late members of the
audience arrived, and the overture had already commenced, did he enter
one of the stage boxes, where he had engaged a seat, so as to be able
to overlook the whole house. He took up his opera-glasses to commence a
survey, which extended over boxes, stalls and balcony; he hurried from
head to head as one turns over the pages of an album. Even the
prettiest little faces did not attract his interest, and, just as
little as the buds did the full-blown roses of which there are such an
abundance in East Prussia. Every fresh face was a fresh disappointment
for him. Meanwhile the curtain had been drawn up; Blanden had not yet
completed his survey, and cared little for the Druids upon the stage,
who peered at the moonlight through the dark branches, or vowed
vengeance upon the Roman legions. Even the two singing Romans inspired
him with no interest. Only when suddenly thunders of applause
reverberated through the house did he turn his glances towards the
stage.

There stood Norma, the vervain's jagged leaves and red shimmering
flowers in her hair, the sickle in her hand, the symbol of the
changeful moon. There she foretold the decline of Rome, and with
elevated sickle she cut the mistletoe off the oak tree; then her arms
extended, her countenance turned to the full moon, she greeted that
silvery chaste goddess in melting fervent notes, which were followed by
tempestuous applause.

Blanden took no part in these expressions of approbation. Since the
appearance of the priestess he stood motionless, the incredible robbed
him of his self-possession; only yesterday he had seen that harmonious
profile when the beautiful woman in the boat looked up at the stars, as
Norma did now at the chaste goddess; he had seen it last in the shades
of the cedars of the Isola Bella. Signora Bollini was the fairy of
those Italian days, the mysterious beauty of the enchanted lake.

He had found that which he had sought, and yet his first sensation was
one of disappointment. His _principessa_ was a singer, only a singer!
How he had flattered himself in his dreams that a Signora from the
upper circles of the Italian nobility had loved him, even though with
evanescent, carefully concealed love, and had she been a Lucrezia
Borgia, a Bianca Capelli, it was an adventure such as Boccaccio loved
to describe. It was a fairy-tale out of the thousand and one nights,
into which now the sober illumination of the footlights fell.

A singer who is practised in the art of deception, perhaps accustomed
to get up an adventure! All the down seemed to be suddenly swept from
the richly coloured wings of these recollections, which had so often
fluttered through his dreams! With the charm and enchantment of the
mystery the silent food for his vanity had also vanished away. He felt
himself to be like Sancho Panza, who, after having been Governor of the
island for a long time, found himself transformed into the sentry once
more.

"Life," said he, "consists of one course of delusions, but as each
delusion is unfolded, life becomes poorer in happiness. But was it only
a deplorable deception?"

Blanden did not require much time before he condemned his first feeling
to be a hasty emotion. Whether _principessa_ or _cantatrice_, this
Italian woman still remained the splendid creature of his dreams. And
she had not deceived him, only he himself!

What feeling, what passion in her singing! What grandiose tragic style
in that Norma! How his inmost soul vibrated at that imploring entreaty
of love which he believed to be directed to himself--


                 "Behold my tears, behold mine anguish,
                  Oh twine once more love's wreath for me."


How he was moved by the few bars with which Norma interrupts Adalgisa's
confessions, bars devoted to recollections of other days, to the magic
which had once enthralled her also! And to what passion was she urged
by the Roman's discovered faithlessness! With grandeur of mind she
walked to the self-sacrifice!

An actress who could personate a life so full of soul must possess it
herself. If the composer's music nowhere gives the dramatic power of
the story with equally overwhelming force, if it soon, as if alarmed at
such daring, only wreathed the power with arabesques in which the
self-conceited play of notes rocks itself to and fro, the vivacity of
the representation in this case perfected the want of creative power on
the composer's part, and held all intellects bound in the spell of the
tragic grandeur!

She was a _principessa_ in the kingdom of art, and was that not
something much loftier than if her ancestors had stood proudly in the
golden book of Venice?

Filled with such feelings and thoughts, Blanden joined vigorously in
the outbursts of applause with which the _finale_ of the performance
was distinguished; yes, in the _entr'acte_ he had bought the last
bouquet of the flower-girl, and thrown it to the triumphant actress.
She took it up indifferently amongst the others; she did not know from
whom it came.

Had she yesterday cast the flowers into the water so as to bury all
recollections? Here they returned again as the first greeting of a
newly awakening love! Yet she in that bouquet perceived but one of
those evidences of homage which were lavished so numerously upon her
art!

Not long afterwards Blanden was sitting with Professor Reising, Dr.
Kuhl and Schöner in the comfortable cellar of the Court of Criminal
Justice.

Reising was in a good temper; he had shaken off his female retinue; the
four sisters had been invited to a tea-party after the theatre.

"Italian music," said Reising, "that is true music! How much Hegel was
delighted with the starring tours of those Italian voices in Vienna!
Music, like every art, must be the one object; the kingdom of notes has
its own action and splendour; the opera singers must sing like
nightingales and rejoice in the presumptuousness of song in those
ascending and descending runs, in those stirring trills, in those
sharp, foaming pearls of self-sufficing capriccios. Who would enquire
whether that music is always adapted to the _libretto_? The story is a
necessary evil; it is the perch in the cage, because the bird must sit
somewhere.

"Intellectual music, that is the subtlety of the mind. People have
compared music with arithmetic only because it rests upon unknown
numbers. Good Heavens! then may the musicians at least remain at the
four elementary rules, and not lose themselves in the differential and
integral calculus! It is a cruel mistake wishing to express every
possible thing by music; music can express nothing but the mind's
emotions. In all else it acts with divine freedom; I acknowledge that I
am an utter Italian in music, and love to revel with it in its own
riches!"

"As we, however, possess an opera," replied Blanden, "and as music is
bound to dramatic situations, it must also give a suitable expression
to them; yet it does not exist merely on account of that expression,
else it would move in constant servitude. It is a free art and its own
ruler in its dominion!"

"An enchanting Norma such as ours, renders all artistic theories
superfluous," cried Schöner with enthusiasm.

"But to-day," replied Kuhl, "we missed the poems wafted down from the
chandelier; on other occasions our friend has a new sonnet for each
character. The liberty of nations must wait when Signora Bollini is
extolled."

"She is worthy of all laudation," said Schöner: "but it would be
desecration to praise her in inferior verses. My muse is not always
solvent, now and then I prefer to be silent."

"I am such a novice in theatrical affairs," said Blanden, "that the
fame of actors and actresses is a legend for me! I might drink a glass
of wine with a Roscius and know nothing of the honour that was my
portion. Who is this Signora Bollini? Is she a genuine or only a
theatrical Italian? Since when has she belonged to the stage
celebrities? Where has she gained her laurels?"

"These questions," began Schöner, "I can reply to accurately after the
study of theatres, newspapers and the personal information of the
culprit herself, for as such she appears to be in your eyes, as you
seem to bring a formal impeachment against the actress. She is a true
daughter of Hesperia, although she has passed her childhood in Germany,
and therefore is as perfect a mistress of our language as she is of her
mother tongue. She went upon the stage when very young, she gained her
first successes in Milan in _la Scala_, and in _la Pergola_ in
Florence. Italy was the cradle of her renown. Then she sang in Madrid,
in London, but always returned again to her own home. Two years ago she
made a professional tour in Russia, and it was a special distinction
for our Königsberg that she gave a somewhat lengthy series of visitor's
performances there; she also then travelled along the coast and through
the Province. I do not know wherein lies the power of attraction which
our Northern Venice exercises upon the daughter of the South!"

"Perhaps in Dr. Schöner's verses," suggested Kuhl. "It is a reward to
be sung by an East Prussian Leopardi."

"Enough," continued Schöner, "that Signora Bollini is here once again,
probably on her way to Russia for a second time. According to what they
say, she proposes very easy conditions to the managers, and is
therefore welcomed as a bird of good fortune, like the albatross in
Coleridge's poem of the 'Ancient Mariner.'"

"I cannot imagine," replied Kuhl, "that our sober town of pure reason,
or our stage fascinate her; some additional secret charm must exist,
some secret affection."

"I do not think it," replied Schöner. "I know all her adorers; there
are several amongst them who have serious intentions. The rich young
merchant Böller is even said to have asked her hand in marriage; it is
a matter of course that she should have rejected that long-legged
stork; Lieutenant Buschmann cherishes a passion for her that is
colossal as the figure of that ancient Teuton, a passion which
threatened to burst the officer's tight uniform, but that passion, too,
is unreciprocated."

"Our friend Schöner," interposed Kuhl, "is too modest to include
himself amongst the number of the beautiful singer's adorers, yet I
must exclaim with Spiegelberg, 'Moor, your register has one gap, you
have forgotten yourself.'"

"Of course I adore her," replied Schöner. "I admire the harmony of her
being, her talent, her beauty, but I possess too perfect knowledge of
the country to open a campaign without any prospect of success; she is
most amiable towards us all, but she distinguishes none, and any one
who would venture too far to the front would most assuredly sustain
discomfiture. What did that brave Böller gain when he even travelled to
Moscow after her? He met with his Beresina in Russia, and returned as
disconsolately as once the _grande armée_. One might think that she
hopes to conquer an Italian _principe_ or a Russian prince, and until
then does not care to rule over any other souls or slaves; yet it is
equally possible that she may already possess some silent love,
perhaps, in her own home, and may cherish it with invincible
faithfulness."

"Those are very kind suppositions," said Professor Reising. "Such a
singer, free to go where she will, is a coquette from the cradle. She
requires plenty of admirers, because she requires success; she favours
none especially, so as not to repel the others. Wheresoever she goes
she forms a little ministry for herself, and does the same here; the
portfolio of her finances is in her friend von der Klapperwiese's
hands; Lieutenant Buschmann is Minister at War, who inspires all
enemies with the necessary terror; the chief of the Press-bureau is Dr.
Schöner, and that officer works in prose and verse, writes the official
external correspondence, looks after the portraits and biographies in
the newspapers and the laudatory and eulogistic poems. If she depart
from here, a great Cabinet crisis takes place, the ministry is
dismissed, and a new one is formed in each new town."

"According to my views," replied Kuhl, "Signora Bollini would do well
to think of a retreat, to marry a Russian prince and to enjoy the
comfort which would make it possible for her without _arias_, without
trills and _fioriture_ to rule over thousands of souls."

"Why then?" asked Blanden, who until now had listened silently, but
with strained attention to the conversation.

"Because her voice is already ruined."

Dr. Kohl's daring suggestion met with most animated opposition.

"Or--it will soon be so. I possess a sharp ear for such things, I need
no stethescope; I can already detect, in her voice a slight autumnal
rustle; soon its mellowness will be gone. Believe me--I am an
experienced prophet therein, and one of those privileged doctors who
proclaim the inevitable evil with greatest certainty. Did I not predict
to Fräulein Burg that her organ was on the wane while she still seemed
able to sing down the walls of Jericho with a flourish of trumpets? And
how quickly it set in! It crackles and breaks suddenly even if it do
still rustle like heavy satin! And there is no remedy for it--I could
at most prescribe the Russian prince to the Signora."

"You make our souls shudder with foreboding at this prophecy," cried
the Professor, while he looked anxiously at the clock, for he did not
wish to reach home later than Euphrasia, because Lori had lately
expressed an opinion that being out late was ruinous to his health.

"This medical wisdom," cried Schöner angrily, "might be capable of
spoiling all our enjoyment of life. The gentlemen can no longer cure,
but they recognise the least disturbance in the mechanism of life; they
carry our verdict of death upon their lips, and know about the period
when it will be executed; but to obtain a full pardon from implacable
Nature lies quite beyond their capabilities. There I extol the poets;
they glorify the beautiful present, the blessed today, and leave
to-morrow to the black-visioned prophet and to the uncertain whim of
destiny."

The party broke up, Blanden made enquiries of the poet as to the
singer's abode, and while he walked alone with Kuhl across the moonlit
castle yard, said to him--

"With what a trembling heart I passed through that door when I went to
the Frau Gräfin's court, that beautiful witness of the Apocalypse!
Another time has come and wafted away all the spectre, but also has
demanded a tardy victim! For me it was a crushing blow, I did not dare
to live any longer. From to-day I dare it again, all the spirits of my
life are stirred, because that Signora Bollini is my _principessa_ of
Lago Maggiore."



                             CHAPTER VIII.

                            IN THE BOURDOIR.


The play-bill announced that in consequence of Signora Bollini's
hoarseness the performance of the "_Somnambula_" would not take place,
"_der Freischütz_" was substituted for it.

The theatre was empty, and all the greater was the number of visitors
who towards evening came to enquire after the health of the singer.
Beate had trouble to restrain the pressure which, under pretexts of
every description, became dangerous for her friend's quiet, nor could
she always succeed, inventive as she was in evasions of every kind; the
regular visitors would not let themselves be turned away, and even a
few others who were particularly pushing, obtained admittance by force.

Amongst the latter class was the student Salomon, who in the interim
had relinquished his studies at the gymnasium, and was proudly
conscious of his new position in life, which was still more
transfigured for him by the brilliancy of the jubilee.

The cunning Italian, with her sparkling eyes, her high, arched
eyebrows, the agreeable sly smile upon her lips, one of those beauties
that would have been fitted for a queen of hearts for the tricks at
cards of a Bosco, felt an unconquerable repugnance to the wearisome
youth.

"Signora Beate," said he in reply to all her representations, "your
friend may be indisposed and exclude herself from the general crowd,
but you really do not act in your own interests when you insult the
student class; I look upon myself as its representative; I am to give
my friends information as to the admired actress' state of health;
what, then, would they say if I found these doors closed? Consider
that her success is our work; we are the genuine, incorruptible
enthusiasts--enthusiasm of the _claque_ always betrays its hired
origin--the fate of an evening at the theatre rests in our pure hands."

Beate was not impervious to such explanations, and opened the portals
of the sanctuary to the repulsive young man.

Somewhat pale, Signora Giulia lay upon the sofa, her hair unbound, a
book in her hand, a red-hued sheeny silk encircled the slender form;
the modulated light of a hanging lamp which still struggled with the
light of day, imparted a slightly green tint to her noble features.
Spectre-like stood out the statues of Dante and Tasso, of Rossini and
Bellini from the dark red velvet hangings; the Signora loved the art of
sculpture and beautiful forms.

There, too, the head of Juno Ludovisti was displayed, a successful
copy; here the Venus out of the Florentine Academy, and that group upon
the buffet represented the bull of the derricks, the cruel piece of
carving out of the Museo Borbonico.

The Signora greeted the student with a slight movement of her head as
he entered; he enquired after her health and the subject of her
reading--

"Tasso!" exclaimed he then, "Jerusalem delivered? and the very canto
which treats of Armida and Rinaldo? I must confess that Tasso is not my
favourite, he takes things so terribly seriously, and describes
circumstances which are really frivolous, with such solemn feeling; he
is for ever squinting at the capitoline laurels."

"Oh, who would not," cried the singer suddenly raising herself, "gaze
towards those laurels, even with weary expiring eyes, as the poet
beneath the oak of San Onofrio gazed across at the Capitol?"

"I personally," said Salomon, "am not susceptible to laurel wreaths; in
these days they are much too cheap a prize!"

And at the same time he cast an impertinent glance at the velvet wall
which was completely covered with such wreaths.

"But as far as _Gerusalemme Liberata_ is concerned, as Tasso sings of
it, it is an old worn-out story which never becomes new, thank God;
because the crusades could only take place in a period so little
enlightened as the so-called middle ages, when any monk with a long
beard, who sat upon a jackass, possessed more influence than a minister
of war, and who mobilised the whole Reserve and Landsturm of
Christianity. Such things are no longer possible in these days. You
cannot misunderstand me when I, as an educated man of our times, in
connection with the 'Jerusalem delivered,' think of something very
different than what that mad poet glorified in his stanzas, namely the
emancipation of our faith. Heine is our Tasso, and is indeed a much
greater poet; for when he describes an Armida, she is flesh and blood,
and with a few strokes of the brush he gives her more vivid colouring
than when Tasso absorbs a whole palette full of tints in order to paint
her upon canvas."

Signora Giulia paid no attention to the chatterer, and calmly continued
to read her poem.

"Ariosto now, is quite a different man! In him there is some of the
blood of Heinrich Heine; an ironical light hovers around his creations;
his giants bear some resemblance to Atta Troll, and his beautiful women
might move about in a drawing-room. But you are surely unwell, Signora?
I must, it is true, confess that I have not perceived any of the
hoarseness of which the play-bills speak, but they, so far as I am
concerned, are very little deserving of credence, I, who, indeed,
possess a sceptical nature; but you seem to be exhausted also, and
doubtlessly such a conversation as I love to hold, I might say in
academical style, fatigues you, because my mind is always devoted to
the loftier interests of art and literature, although I am also
interested in butterflies and other creatures of the animal kingdom.
Indeed, I surely weary you?"

For the first time, Giulia gave him a look of gratitude; she
acknowledged that she was unwell, and begged him to thank the brave
youth of the Albertina, who had behaved so admirably at the late
commemoration. Salomon acknowledged these thanks in the name of all the
students, and not without a sensation of dissatisfaction left the
singer who had not given him personally that sympathy which his
enthusiasm and constant efforts merited.

"A sad lot," said Giulia to Beate, who entered, "this dependence upon
the public--is it not the worst slavery? And what is it all for? So
that in the general exultant applause, no sound of disapproval, no
token of discontent may be mingled. Always fear for this evanescent
fame; ever from day to day this begging for the alms of applause!"

"Well," said Beate, "they have always been expended lavishly upon you!"

"Yet how short is the memory of our contemporaries: what is all this
fleeting, intoxicating splendour for which we strive with all the
fibres of our soul? How soon we are transformed into a legend that each
year becomes more obscure, and then the vast storm of oblivion sweeps
over us all! Oh, I am weary, often infinitely weary, and would fain fly
to a quiet spot where never more the incessant chase after success
would shatter my nerves."

Giulia rested her head upon her hand, and closed her eyes; then she
continued, opening them again wearily.

"Yes, if the sweet rapture still hold us captive; if we still feel all
the magic of renown in its perfect entirety, then we may defy the
infinite trouble which the chase after laurels brings with it, for the
time has passed in which they fall spontaneously like divine favours
into the lap of the happy being, but when we have become indifferent to
all these triumphs, when we would fain cast aside all this rustling
gilt tinsel of fame, and necessity still compels us to labour, for
immortality in which we no longer believe, oh, then we could envy the
daily labourer the calm happiness of his work, for he only needs his
hands--his thoughts and emotions are free, while we must bring spirit
and nerve to our daily task, yield up our heart's blood without faith
or love."

"In such a frame of mind you probably declined to-day's performance!"

"Perhaps--but you know--I have seen him. How uncertain are my feelings!
I did not wish to see him again, therefore we sought his home when he
was absent. With dread I look forward to the moment in which he will
speak to me, call me by my name--the step out of that enchanted fairy
tale into sober reality, appears inconceivable to me. I feel the
burning colour of shame upon my cheeks at the very thought. At one
time I appear to myself like a Somnambula who must precipitate herself
into an abyss when he calls me, awakes me out of my dreams, then at
another like a Melusina, who is surprised by her knight while she,
with a fish's tail, splashes about in the crystal stream with other
water-witches, that horrible fish's tail, the paper train of unhappy
theatrical renown."

"But many a _principe_ has married such a Melusina despite her fish's
tail," said Beate with a smile of ready comfort.

"He feels differently, I know it; I wish now not to meet him, not to
desecrate a beautiful moonlight memory with the sober light of day, and
yet what is it that ever drives me hither to this desolate land? A
dark, incomprehensible longing, that I dare not confess to myself; I
feel as if I belonged to him when I stand upon the soil of his home,
and when I saw him again the day before yesterday, he recognised me--I
saw it, felt it; what is all fame, all exultation of the crowd to me? I
yearn for one word from him, he will come, he must come, and because I
expect him, I have not sung to-day."

"If the stern manager knew that!"

"I tremble at the prospect of meeting him, I start up each time the
bell is touched; I listen with feverish expectation; I am boundlessly
disappointed at every other face, and yet I could hardly endure to see
him."

The bell was rung; in anxious anticipation Giulia smoothed the dark
curls from her brow. Beate, shrugging her shoulders, announced Herr
Spiegeler, the indefatigable, irrepressible operatic reporter, who in
addition provided the radicalism for many German theatrical newspapers.

Giulia, after a silent malediction, assumed a friendly smile and
greeted the lame critic, who limped into the room upon his crutch.

"Indisposed, beautiful _prima donna_?" said he, with the air of a
protector, "our malicious climate is not created for nightingales."

"And yet I have heard that in Lithuania the nightingales are very
numerous and sing wonderfully."

"It may be--in that case they must have been sent to a wrong address,
for there is no public there capable of appreciating their melting
warbles."

Spiegeler belonged to the would-be witty daily writers, who are not
alarmed at any impertinence to the descendants of Saphir, whose star at
that time was already on the wane; he wished to make himself talked
about and feared, he cared not at what cost; in every artist he did but
perceive a victim of his wit, and examined that victim until he had
discovered the vulnerable heel of Achilles for his dart. He piqued
himself upon his rudenesses, his existence depended upon them. In
middle class life it often befell him that he was turned out of
public-houses on account of his unseemly conduct; everywhere he was
exposed to a by no means silent contempt; at the same time in literary
and theatrical circles he was deemed a magnate, and there all strove to
win his good-will. But the latter always remained uncertain, because
for the sake of a happy idea he would even sacrifice his friends. He
was so touchingly innocent that he was never even conscious of his own
impudence; he considered wit to be his profession, and in that
profession everything was allowable. Without blushing he stretched out
the hand of friendship to those into whose heart he had on the previous
day plunged a dagger with the skill of a literary bravo, and then
wondered why his friendly greeting was not reciprocated. Such
parasitical existences more than aught else have brought literature
into disrepute in middle class German life, because the German cannot
bring himself to admire that which in other respects he despises!
Certainly in literature the portals are thrown widely open even to
these sharks; under the banner of so-called talent even the most
miserable characterless creatures are smuggled in, and when such a
shameless pretender of wit composes an immature piece which only
possesses dramatic joints in however slight a degree, and ill or well
can move upon the boards, immediately many court theatres, which have
long since learned to treat as rubbish all productions of true talent,
hasten to bring out that drama or after-piece, so as to pay homage to a
young genius, or much more, to render themselves secure against the
ruthless lash of the literary clown.

Spiegeler certainly had not yet made any attempt upon the domain of
original art; but in all other qualities he did not deny the type of
the so-called wit, above all not in indifference towards every
description of chastisement which did not extend so far as the laying
on of hands. For him moral annihilation did not exist, and he was wont
to return with great freedom from embarrassment whithersoever such acts
of homage had been his portion.

Never did Giulia feel the degradation of her actress' calling more than
in the presence of such German critics and their professional malice: a
_prima donna_ who had associated on friendly terms with the highest
nobility of Italy was compelled to receive with all well-bred
affability persons to whom the doors of a drawing-room would never have
been thrown open. Often enough had she proudly scorned to wait upon the
malicious "gentlemen of the press," while many of her colleagues in
velvet trains rustled up the back-stairs to an attic in which some
newspaper writer, dangerous to her existence, had his den; but even if
her success did not suffer therefrom, at all events on all sides she
was told of the witty sallies with which the intellectual reporter
revenged himself for this neglect. Of what use to her was all proper
indignation?

It troubled her to read in every countenance the knowledge of those
spiteful _bon mots_, she was given up to public malice; the air in
which she breathed was no longer the pure atmosphere of art, it wafted
a poisoned pestilential blast towards her, and she preferred to submit
to secret humiliation rather than bear the insults to which she was
exposed before the whole world.

And Giulia was obliged to tell herself that such theatrical criticism
only flourished upon German soil! In Italy, in England, in Spain every
critic was a _nobile_, a gentleman, an _hidalgo_; even censure is
offered with a polite bow, every merited acknowledgment is made to
talent and beauty. Never is an artistic performance sacrificed to the
unsparing spirit that delights in plucking it to pieces; never do
newspapers venture to let an inquisitive ray of light fall into the
interior of private life as through an open window shutter, and then to
gossip about it with _piquant_ allusions. Giulia thought little of the
much-vaunted German piety, she saw that not alone the actors and
actresses, but also the original poets themselves were often
criticisingly ill-treated by most incapable heads, and that the public
did not take part with the richly gifted and nobly struggling talents,
but rather carried their homage with utmost complacency to the
sparkling conceits of the much promising critic. She certainly did not
know that a similar lot had fallen to our classical poets, that a
criticism which had a fig-leaf ready for every bare mediocrity picked
Schiller's tragedies to pieces as being schoolboy's work, even shortly
before their author's death, and that amid the exultation of a numerous
crowd a squib sought to destroy Goethe's laurels.

All the same, these thoughts, the recollections of many an experience
in her intercourse with the representatives of German public opinion,
caused her blood to boil more than usually to-day; either the sad mood
that overcame her was its cause, or a dim feeling that even in daring
defiance she would find a protector in the man who breathed the air of
the same town with her.

Spiegeler had made himself comfortable, propped his crutch against the
easy chair; the spiteful line about his lips, recognisable despite the
luxuriant beard, the small dark watchful eyes intimated that some
malice was being prepared, but it was no plumed dart, which he this
time launched at the singer; he wished to let her feel his superiority,
while showing her that she was dependent upon a man who had never
troubled himself particularly about her especial art.

"My real department," said he, "is the drama; I have only added
operatic criticism to it, because our musical men can write nothing but
notes. I do not understand much about music; those unfortunate finger
exercises disgusted me with the pianoforte, and I have no voice for
singing, but I am therefore all the more impressionable, all the freer
from prejudice; handicraft is universally the death of art; all men of
business are craftsmen, unbiassed only is he who enjoys, and I am thus
the fitting exponent of public opinion. What does our great public
understand about music? Nothing, absolutely nothing; I assure you it is
unbounded hypocrisy of our society that it pretends to be initiated in
the secrets of an art, which one must study like the cabala in order to
decipher its marks. Nowhere do the charlatans possess so great a field
as here--


                 'That which cannot declined be
                  Is ta'en for immortality.'


People worship the incomprehensible devoutly and do not know that it is
everlastingly incomprehensible. On the other hand it is genuine music
that electrifies, that penetrates the nerves; and who does not rejoice
at a national melody, the notes of which can be caught up and retained
while they are hummed around us, or at a piece for the trumpet at which
even the horses begin to neigh and raise their heads?"

Giulia was indignant at the impudence with which the critical musical
guide of the capital confessed his ignorance and claimed admiration for
it.

"It is not very flattering," said she, "that you study the influence of
our art amongst four-footed creatures."

"Influence--that of course is the principal thing! Whether a war-horse
raises his head at the trumpet's note or Raffaelle's Cecilie at the
sound of the harp, originates in one and the same cause--the magic of
music! And in order to feel it thoroughly one must be hampered with no
theory; music must insinuate itself around us, or rouse us like an
elementary power."

"You may be right," said Giulia, "and yet they are two quite different
matters--feeling the charms of music and writing upon them."

"You offer me a challenge," replied Spiegeler, not without bitterness.
"My criticisms are not learned enough for you; they contain nothing
about fugues and counter-point, and I do not understand how to
designate your highest notes according to the alphabet of _la Scala_.
Nevertheless, I can detect whether they are pure and beautiful or if
they leave an unpleasant after-taste which you will then perceive in my
criticisms. That was the case recently in 'Norma.' I pitied you on
account of your indisposition. You must, indeed, spare yourself; people
are already remarking that your performances are moving in a declining
scale."

Giulia had risen angrily from the sofa.

"I am a great lover of truth," continued Spiegeler. "We here live in
the town of a great Thinker, who spoke the truth ruthlessly. Until now
in my criticisms I have extended the cloak of Christian charity over
your shortcomings, but my conscience is awakened. For some time I have
collected every variety of observations and remarks upon broken and
cracked voices; they are not amiss these scraps of thought; they are
mental iron filings, and I am seeking the magnet to which they can be
attached; I cannot promise you that I may not utilise them in my
criticism of your next performance if it satisfy my expectations as
little as did your 'Norma.'"

The fiery blood of the Italian now conquered all prudence. Her tall
figure was drawn up to its full height, her eye flashed, internal
agitation quivered in the corners of her lips, as Giulia cried--

"Well, then, annihilate me; I will gladly be the victim so that not one
of nay successors may have the accumulated poisonous flowers poured
over her from the cornucopias of your intellect. We are all, indeed,
the slaves of the public; it subscribes to my notes as to your wit, and
when my voice becomes hoarse and your genius is snuffed out, the Moor's
occupation will be gone and he may retire."

"Very true," interposed Spiegeler, nodding his head in assent.

"The public is perfectly right; yet I, too, have the right to tell you
what I think. I despise a criticism which alone aims at its own
brilliance, even if it only be the light of mental corruption with
which it wanders about like a will-o'-the-wisp."

Spiegeler cast a hostile glance at the singer, rose with difficulty,
and grasped the crutch that stood beside him.

"I despise any criticism," continued Giulia, implacably, "that vaunts
its own ignorance of that glorious art to which I and we all have
dedicated our lives. We are and shall remain in the sanctuary; what do
we care about the baying of the dogs at the portals of the temple?"

Noisily Spiegeler seized the second crutch.

"The criticism may be severe, but noble; brave and conversant with the
rules and customs of war; I myself will eat the black soup with the
Spartan, little as I may like it, yet not with the Helot! He must carry
my shield, else I shall chastise him."

Spiegeler struck the floor with his crutch, so that the room shook.

"That to me, Signora! But beware, my bees may swarm!"

"I shall know how to protect myself against their sting."

"I doubt it; but I thank you--you accord me full liberty once more. I
have longed for it, I showed consideration for your beauty, did any
favour befall me in consequence? I showed consideration for your
worldly fame, it dazzled me as it did the public. Worldly fame, like a
soap-bubble it shall collapse. A circus in Barcelona, a Crystal Palace
in England, to these may be added a _café chantant_ in Moscow, and the
magic is dissolved. Talent! What is talent? People possess it so long
as it is believed in. Talent is a bill at sight, it must be redeemed.
It is little enough to possess talent alone; a singer must cease to
begin when her voice begins to cease. There you have a few specimens;
how do you like the colour? It is of a brilliant lustre, brilliant!
That will create a sensation!"

Giulia stood as if bewildered beneath the drizzling rain of these
aphorisms. She kept her hands pressed convulsively upon the table.

"I can discover new stars," cried Spiegeler, "and transform them into
falling ones. I have given the German stage two _prime donne_. I can
create queens of the opera, but also hurl them to destruction. _Nous
verrons_, Signora!"

Beate rusted in from the adjoining room.

Stamping with his crutches, the lame reporter left the boudoir.

"What have you done? _Corpo di bacco!_"

"I feel myself free and great as Italy's most promising actress, young
Adelaide Ristori, when, as Mary Stuart, she plunged the knife into her
enemy's bosom."

"Unbounded recklessness! What possessed you? We shall be obliged to
bear the consequences."

The bell was rung outside.

"I fear nothing more! He comes--it is he!"

With downcast mien Beate announced Lieutenant Buschmann and Herr
Böller.

Giulia received her adorers with cold reserve.

Böller, who was as tall as Buschmann, but who, behind the corpulent
officer, looked like the latter's shadow, was now one of the Signora's
friends most capable of sacrificing himself. After she had rejected his
attentions, he had relinquished all hopes of winning her; however, he
had vowed to himself to protect and watch over her as much as he
possibly could.

He was a young man of principle, noble-hearted and faithful to his
duty; but his exterior was not very prepossessing. A figure thin as a
lamp-post, grey eyes, a haggard face and a sharply prominent nose; he
seemed to be the embodiment of Immanuel Kant's conception of duty.

Lieutenant Buschmann's principles were less firmly planted, but his
outward appearance was superior. It was imposing, of great physical
size; his features expressed perfect self-complacency, a healthy colour
lay upon his cheeks, and confidence of success flashed from his eyes.
He was little adapted to stand in the ranks, therefore he was generally
ordered upon duties which had nothing in common with the march past on
parade.

Far removed from resigning, like his friend Böller, who on that account
was his friend, he still went out bent upon conquest; for him the
beautiful _prima donna_ was a worthy prize.

She looked favourably upon him because he spoke good Italian, and that
had also been the excuse for his first visit. Just as he always
connected the useful with the agreeable, so he looked upon his visits
to Signora Bollini at the same time as lessons in exercising and
improving himself in Italian. Even if his loftier plans were
shipwrecked, he should not have spent his time quite uselessly, but to
the benefit of his linguistic studies.

Thus he now commenced an Italian conversation with the singer, while
Beate imparted to Herr Böller the declaration of war which her friend
had thrown to the critic. This cast Böller into a state of great
perturbation; already he perceived the _mene tekel_ of Belshazzar
written in black and white, and felt every sharply pointed word pierce
his own bosom like the stroke of a dagger.

Buschmann spoke of "Norma," of the art treasures of Naples and
Florence, he lingered fondly over plastic pictures which he certainly
set forth in an æsthetic light; at the same time, however, he let a
bold word fall occasionally, taking greater intimacy for granted.

Then the bell rang again! Giulia started. This time her expectations
had not deceived her, it was Herr von Blanden's card which Beate handed
to her. How her heart beat! she pressed her hand upon it and rested the
other upon the table to keep herself steady. How painful to be obliged
to receive him just now; she wished the officer far away who had drawn
so defiantly close to her, and even modest Herr Böller, who cast such
mournful glances at her, and ever again filled the basket, which he had
received,[1] with fresh flowers expressive of his homage; and yet,
perhaps, she should be less embarrassed if she were not alone when she
greeted him for the first time. She signed to her friend, and soon
after Blanden entered the room.

She went to meet him, and offered her hand to him; but she trembled in
so doing, and a burning colour suffused her cheeks.

"I am rejoiced," said he, after having been introduced to the other
gentlemen, "to be able here in the cold north to renew a brief
acquaintance begun in Italy."

Blanden spoke with calmness and ease, and sought by these tactics to
mask Giulia's agitation, but Buschmann, who had as good an eye for a
countenance as he had for reconnoissance, had long since perceived that
no indifferent meeting was now taking place. His jealousy had
immediately been roused; he decided at once to reconnoitre the ground
more closely, and ventured to the front with one question after another
as to the time and place of that meeting, but if he counted upon
evasive replies, he had been mistaken. Blanden took it upon himself to
speak, and answered so clearly and decidedly that the officer withdrew
his _vedettes_.

Blanden felt himself once more entirely under the spell of that
beautiful woman of the south; not myrtles and laurels, not the mirror
of the lake with the reflection of the lofty Alpine peaks, not the
aromatic breath of orange flowers acted now intoxicatingly upon his
senses, and yet it was the self-same charm that held him in its spell,
at the contemplation of those harmonious features and of that noble
form. But she appeared distant to him, majestically distant, and he
could hardly believe that he had once folded her in his arms.

Beneath indifferent conversation both concealed the emotions and
thoughts that stirred them inwardly. Vainly Blanden hoped that the
first visitors would withdraw and grant him an undisturbed interview.
Lieutenant Buschmann stood bravely to his post, and did not give the
slightest indication of retiring from the field; he even at times
assumed a familiar tone towards the singer, which she repelled with
displeasure.

Blanden's conversation seemed to glide unconcernedly above all this
by-play, which in reality he watched closely; the other guests'
obduracy obliged him to be the first to take leave. Giulia's looks,
however, assured him of her unchanged affection; she requested him to
repeat his visit very soon.

"My Beatrice," said Buschmann, who thought much of his knowledge of
Dante's comedy, "my guide through Paradise appears to turn completely
away from me! Who then is this stranger who crosses our mutual path?"

"I have already mentioned his name," said Giulia coldly, "but here is
his card!"

"An old Italian acquaintance! Herr von Blanden, a gentleman of large
property! Ah, ah, Böller, that is promotion over our heads, we shall
have to retire to the ranks."

"I gave no cause for such remarks," said Giulia.

"No, Signora, we have not yet lost all courage. Such acquaintances from
the land where the oranges bloom, easily droop in our climate; they
require a special hot-house here, and it is to be hoped that you will
not find one. But we are tried weather-proof friends, is it not so
Böller? But we will not disturb the Signora any longer! no bad
feelings, lovely one! Does not Beatrice bear the olive branch of
peace?"

When Buschmann and Böller had retired, Giulia gave way to violent tears
and sobs. Beate came to her and enquired as to the cause of this
despair.

"Despair, indeed! I have seen him again and all else has become
worthless to me; it is the breath of this passion that extinguishes all
the other lights on the Christmas tree of my life, while I, dazzled,
stare fixedly into the one all-consuming flame! But he, he--how can he
respect me? That love, which I as if in a dream and intoxication gave
to him, I the nameless one to the stranger--does it not now speak its
own verdict of condemnation upon me? Now, when all gains name, form
humiliating distinctness! In what circles does he see me. In those of
importunate admirers, who sacrifice my name! The theatrical tinsel that
rustles around me is sure to make all appear like a _comedia_ to him,
and who knows if like a _divina comedia_! Ah! and he does not imagine
how the glowing recollection of him governs all my dreams, how, like
that Penelope who waited for her Odyssey, I reject every other lover."

"He does not know it," said Beate, consolingly, "but you can tell him
though."

"And when I have told him, if he believe me, if he still love me, what
then? Is my misfortune any the less? The secret of my life, that
baneful fetter that I drag after me, all prohibit any thought of
lasting happiness! Was there ever a more pitiable slave than I? I would
make a holocaust of all my laurel wreaths, of that accumulated
adornment of my life, and precipitate myself into the flames; it would
be best!"

"Do not despair," said Beate, "I have courage and resolution! I think
day and night of a means by which to release you."

"It is impossible," replied Giulia sighing.

"First you shall speak to your friend of Lago Maggiore, and probe his
heart. Appoint the hour yourself; I shall keep guard and no one shall
cross this threshold."

Gratia pressed Beate's hand gratefully, but then she shook her head,
threw herself upon the sofa, and, weeping silently, buried her face in
the cushions.



                              CHAPTER IX.

                        IN THE BOARDING SCHOOL.


Upon his writing table in the _hotel garni_ that he inhabited with his
wife and sisters-in-law, Professor Reising found a delicate, perfumed
little note in disguised handwriting, which invited him to a
_rendezvous_ in a confectioner's shop by the Castle lake.

He read it through carefully, pushed it all crumpled up into his
pocket, and gave himself up to meditation as grave as if he had to
decipher the most difficult passages in the Hegelian logic.

He was so convinced of his personal charms that he did not deem it at
all impossible that he should have inflamed some female heart.

Rose-coloured paper--disguised writing---what could this tiny sheet
signify, that might have been wafted into his room through the air?

All philosophers are inquisitive; is not all study of philosophy one
great piece of inquisitiveness that peeps behind the scenes of the
world, in order to convince itself by what means they are pushed and
turned, and how the comedy of life is prepared.

Euphrasia was allowing the dreams of an afternoon nap to float around
her. The sisters-in-law were in her room. Reising brushed his hat and
repaired to the confectioner's shop.

It was situated by the Castle lake, and contained a suite of small
rooms, which opened into a large hall looking towards the lake.

Reising passed from one room into another and cast questioning glances
at several members of the fair sex, who, here or there, were sitting
alone.

But these questions met with no other response excepting that of an
unmeaning stare.

Several rattled their newspapers angrily, in the perusal of which they
had been absorbed.

At last he seated himself in the open hall, and gazed discontentedly at
the lake. Had any one ventured to play a practical joke on him?
Otherwise he would not have been displeased at a little adventure,
although until now he had never thought of such a thing.

His imagination, whenever it did picture any particularly delightful
event, had always let a torchlight procession in his honour float
before him, and in idle moments he had even surprised himself in the
effort to express in well-chosen words his thanks for that honour which
his pupils vouchsafed to him.

Now the play of his imagination had discovered fresh food, for, indeed,
there lay an exciting charm in such expectation and tension; because,
even while he was looking at the lake he listened at the same time with
quickened ears whether the door did not open, whether any little
tripping foot or rustling silken gown did not intimate the approaching
surprise.

At last--a veiled lady appeared--she threw back the veil--it was
Cäcilie von Dornau.

Reising had always thought her pretty and clever, and he felt
particularly flattered that she should have invited him to a
_tête-à-tête_. But how dangerous was this meeting! Not only was Cäcilie
said to be engaged to Herr von Wegen, but she also possessed a
passionate admirer in Dr. Kuhl, and now--he to be the third in the
game! The girl was, indeed, enterprising!

Cäcilie seemed to be embarrassed when she perceived him. The Professor
was so really. He did not quite know how to adapt himself to his good
fortune, and how he should behave on so unusual an occasion.

He stood there, turning his hat round in his hand. Should he request
her to sit down beside him?

Cäcilie meanwhile had seated herself at another table. Reising went up
to her and gazed at her with most speaking looks. He was waiting for
her to address him, and with reason--a pink note has its duties!

"It is very cool to-day," said Cäcilie, wrapping herself more closely
in her cloak.

"You have been spoiled in Italy," said Reising.

"It is cold enough there, too. I stayed a year and a half with a friend
in Florence and Rome, and have only recently returned home. I assure
you I have been as nearly frozen on the Arno and the Tiber as one can
be on a Polar expedition. Italy in the winter is a delusion."

"In summer, also--at least for many."

"But surely not for you?"

"In many respects, yes; especially as far as the Italian women are
concerned. In pictures, indeed, or national costume, such as those of
Rovert, or in Olympic ones, as those of Titian, there are beauties, but
in reality it is different. In Milan, thin fair women, of Lombard
blood, with black veils; in Genoa, well-nourished Italian Hanseatic
ones, in white veils; in Rome, beautifully moulded heads upon a plump
body! And then those masculine voices; if one does not look narrowly
one often imagines it is a non-commissioned officer who speaks; they
are wanting in everything soft and womanly. How different with us! Oh,
how different!"

"Why do you look so strangely at me?"

"I thought, I would--"

These questions caused Reising to become confused. Plainly Cäcilie
would not open the confidential interview.

Was he, as the recipient of such a mysterious note, that shed forth the
perfumes of every scent of a toilet table, bound to break the seal of
the secret?

He mustered his resolution and said--

"You wished to speak to me here, my Fräulein. I am happy that you
repose a confidence in me that I shall never misuse."

At these almost whispered words he looked at her with a doubtful
glance. He hoped for encouragement, so as to be able then to open his
eyes more boldly and to let them rest upon the charming young lady.

"You are mistaken," said Cäcilie coldly. "I am glad to see you here,
but I did not invite you."

"I beg your pardon, but I believed the pink note--"

"Oh, oh, Herr Professor," replied Cäcilie, raising her forefinger
warningly.

"Certainly without signature; but when you entered--"

"I always considered you to be a Dr. Faust, who studies the books of
his nostradamus Hegel, and bathes his bosom assiduously in the morning
dawn; but I did not know that you had already tasted the magic drink,
and saw a Helen in every woman. And now it strikes me, surely you are
married--and scented pink notes, assignations--ah, ah, Herr Professor!
Surely I was mistaken in the address, and took you for a Faust, while
you are but a Don Juan."

Reising experienced the humiliating consciousness of having behaved
very awkwardly. Of what use was all his philosophy with so little
worldly wisdom.

Besides, Cäcilie assumed a very triumphant air; she had the wicked
intention of making the most of her triumph, and of keeping him as
long as possible upon the rack; for this astute young lady, with her
lizard-like suppleness and slimness, was a dangerous opponent.

And if now actually the authoress of the pink note were to enter, the
whole secret would be betrayed. He therefore resolved to take refuge in
another room, but Cäcilie in her good-tempered malice addressed one
question after another to him, so that he, without being rude, could
not break off the conversation very quickly.

Then the door was opened again, and in elegant attire, her mocking
little face enframed in the ribbons of a pink bonnet, upon which was
perched a small garden of roses, his sister-in-law Lori entered.

Reising believed himself to have gone out of the frying-pan into the
fire.

The two ladies greeted one another pleasantly; then Cäcilie said, with
meaning emphasis--

"But I fear I am disturbing you; my sister whom I expect, will seek me
here; I will go to meet her."

And she took leave with a polite smile.

"It is outrageous!" cried Reising.

"What, in the world?"

"She believes--no, I cannot say it!"

"Surely it is nothing dreadful."

"Dreadful enough! She thinks--it is as absurd as possible, but what
does the world not believe--that you have made an assignation with me
here!"

"An assignation; how so?" asked Lori, with a roguish smile.

Reising now held the trumps in his hand; he would not play the pink
note yet.

"Why should she have left us alone?"

"Well, a brother and sister-in-law have surely much to say that is not
meant for any third person. Is it not so?"

She offered him her hand, which he grasped warmly.

"But indeed, dear brother, what brings you here at this unwonted hour?"

"I expect a friend, a young doctor--you do not know him, but he seems
to have left me in the lurch. But what brings you here, then, my
sister?"

"I also have invited a friend to meet me."

"Whom in the world, then?"

"Well, dear brother, no one but yourself."

"But for heaven's sake, Lori--the pink note?"

"Came from me!"

"It is an unseemly jest," said Reising, angrily, "and it has already
caused me disagreeable embarrassment!"

"It is no joke."

"But we can talk much more comfortably at home."

"That is just what we cannot do; Euphrasia listens to every word."

"She is indeed jealous!"

"No, you do my good sister injustice. She is not at all jealous, only
avaricious, uncommonly avaricious. That alone is why she peeps through
the keyholes, and listens at every door; she is afraid you might in an
unguarded moment open your sesame, and that your treasures might also
some day give pleasures to others."

Lori looked charming at that moment; she smiled so roguishly. Reising
could not resist squeezing her hand heartily once more.

"I invited you to come here for this reason, that I have an important
request to make to you. You must go with me now at once to Fräulein
Sohle's boarding school; it is only a few houses distant from here."

"And what shall I do there?"

"Fräulein Sohle is about to retire, to give up her school and boarding
house to some one else, and--I will be that some one."

"You, Lori, you would leave us?"

"With a heavy heart, but it must be; you have known my wish for long,
but I could never talk it over quietly with you. I require some money
for the good-will, about three thousand dollars, not given, oh, on no
account--only lent upon ordinary interest, and for this money I was
about to ask you."

Reising was not at all unwilling, but he feared the opposition of his
wife, who held the portfolio of the minister of financial affairs with
sovereign power.

"Euphrasia need know nothing about it," said Lori; "there are plenty of
ways and means. Only a guarantee from you; any banker would give me the
money. Euphrasia may continue to rattle the keys of her cash-box just
as usual. Is it not true, dear Ferdinand?"

Lori deemed the moment suitable for making the utmost use of the
rights which their relationship permitted them; she stroked her
brother-in-law's bristly hair, and after a keen scrutinising survey of
the lonely hall and a rapid glance at the door, she even pressed a
hasty kiss upon his lips.

Reising's mood was such--that for the charming girl he would have even
bought Fräulein Sohle also, had she been a marketable commodity. A
heretical thought took possession of him; he rejected it as worthy of
damnation, but still it arose again and again, even although in pale
colours. Had he, then, been blind in those days by the seaside? Could
Dr. Kuhl not give him better counsel? Was Lori not more graceful, more
clever than Euphrasia? At that time he had the choice of the seven
girls. He had then thought her too piquante for the wife of a future
professor; how foolish! Such tediousness reigns in a University lecture
rooms and in the drawing-rooms, that strong spices are needed to make
life in any degree palatable. Lori was so piquante, so charming;
but--too late!

Reising passed his hand across his brow in order to chase away the
impious dreams. Euphrasia once for all was his wife--and the great
master said: "Everything real is reasonable!" If only those diabolical
sparks in Lori's eyes did not flash with such peculiar fire!

"We will do a piece of business together," said she, "and therefore we
must proceed in a business-like manner. You shall convince yourself
that the institution flourishes; you shall learn her conditions
personally from Fräulein Sohle."

"But what will Euphrasia say if I remain away so long?"

"Nothing, and she usually says nothing, even when she seems to say
anything. I mean when she reproaches you, she does not mean it
seriously. You can indulge in much greater freedom than formerly; she
will gladly reconcile herself to it, only you must leave her in the
belief that not a penny disappears from your funds without her
knowledge. You will come, will you not?"

"If you insist upon it."

"And then we will return here; we will have ink and paper brought to
us, and you will write the guarantee, will you not, dear, good friend?"

She clung to his arm, and he sealed the agreement with a
brother-in-law's kiss.

Fräulein Sohle had rented two _étages_ of a large house for her
educational establishment; in the upper storey were the boarders'
rooms, in the lower one the schoolrooms, the reception and conference
apartments.

Several teachers and pupils were going out and in. Reising remarked _en
passant_ that Lori returned their greetings with a certain
condescension, and these greetings were very polite--she was already
looked upon as future mistress, and felt herself to be such. The little
creature could assume very dictatorial manners.

Fräulein Sohle received her and Reising in her drawing-room. She was a
lady of imposing stature, but astoundingly thin and so short-sighted
that without very strong spectacles she should have mistaken all her
pupils when quite close to her. Lori's principal object was by means of
her brother-in-law, who was known to be rich, to represent herself to
Fräulein Sohle as a lady of fortune. Fräulein Sohle respected that
motive, and received her to-day with peculiar politeness.

"I will conduct you through all the apartments, but the spirit of my
institution you must also learn. The rooms are a little confined; one
must do the best one can in a town. But as far as the spirit is
concerned, I may surely say that on the wings of freedom it soars above
the commonplace into the atmosphere of most refined cultivation. Look
at the daughters of the educated classes in our town; they quite fulfil
the name which it enjoys as the beacon of the East. And this, to a
great extent, is my humble merit. My pupils interest themselves in
every question of life; I have awakened the feeling for it within them.
Enlightenment--no obscurity--is my watchword. There must be no veil for
the mind."

The mistress commenced her round with her guests. At that moment one of
the lower classes was rushing out for a few moments to enjoy the fresh
air in the garden, which consisted of a small patch of gravel and an
arbour.

It was a wild troop that clattered down the stairs, and did not allow
itself to be disturbed by Fräulein Sohle's cries.

"I will keep better order," said Lori softly, but with decision, to her
companion.

First the rooms of the pupils were subjected to inspection; they were
not inelegantly furnished, but small, and considerable disorder reigned
within them. Several of the elder fair creatures had used their beds
for a short afternoon nap; cushions and coverlets were therefore in a
chaotic condition, and the emblems of future rule, the little slippers,
lay isolated about the room, just as they had been thrown from the tiny
feet.

Here and there upon writing tables lay open books, which were treated
by Fräulein Sohle with much discretion, while Lori cast her eyes coolly
upon the essays, and pretended to discover from the superscriptions of
letters which were begun, that there must be several cousins in the
school, who were on friendly terms with absent ones, and she was
touched at the assurances of affection that prevailed between these
loving relatives.

Upon one table Lori even espied a glove, which upon most scientific
examination and measurement she pronounced to be a gentleman's which
had come there by some mistake. Any lady at least to whom such a
glove belonged might have exhibited herself amongst female giants
at a fair. All these discoveries she imparted confidentially to her
brother-in-law.

Fräulein Sohle extolled the improving private reading of her young
ladies, and pointed to Schiller, Herder and the "Hours of Devotion,"
which looked down, in elegant bindings, from small, hanging
book-shelves.

"Fénélon," too, and other French writings of honourable renown, stood
side by side. But Lori, with her talent for research, that would have
especially qualified her for archaeological unearthings, discovered
amongst some fine needlework and knitting materials less elegant books
from a circulating library. Amongst them were "The Sorrows of a
Prince's Aspasia," "The Student and the Pin," "The Fatal Wanderings of
Knight Hugo von Schauerthal."

One young lady, who studied French with peculiar zeal, had a volume of
"Paul de Kock" lying beside "George Sand" under her embroidery frame,
upon which a Madonna with the Holy Child was being laboriously worked
in many wools.

Only in one single room did the greatest cleanliness and order prevail.
While in the others isolated articles of the wardrobe, both those which
were destined for the brilliance of publicity as well as many for the
comfort of cosy _negligé_, had fled from the cupboards to various nails
upon the walls, no such deserter was bunched out here on door and wall,
barring the passage; slippers stood side by side as if united in holy
bonds, only select classics occupied the book-shelves, no forbidden
wares were littered upon those tables.

Lori was annoyed at orderliness with which she could find no fault, and
only regained her composure upon hearing Fräulein Sohle's explanation
that this was her own private room.

The class and schoolrooms were next visited. In the first one the
German essays were given back; a moustachioed master, who belonged to
that dubious class of so-called handsome men, praised the patriotic
spirit with which the pupils had executed the somewhat whimsical theme,
"A Maiden's Thoughts on seeing a Hussar Officer."

Iduna especially had entered into the subject with her wonted intensity
of feeling, and sketched a life-like picture of Theodore Körner.

Upon this the tutor cast a friendly glance at Iduna, which she
reciprocated with glowing enthusiasm.

Lori could not perceive anything particularly intellectual in Iduna, a
tall maiden with large features. She said to Reising that she should
consider the girl more likely to display the talent of an Odaliske than
of a Sappho.

Meanwhile the teacher poured out all the vials of his wrath upon a nice
little girl, who listened to the lecture with tears in her eyes.

Sophie had totally misinterpreted the theme. No thoughts had filled her
mind at the sight of that lieutenant whom the master had depicted as a
marked out enemy, in order to exercise his pupils in man[oe]uvring; she
had only described his cloak, his entire uniform with sword and
carbine; for the rest of the portrait the tutor himself had sat, and
she had not neglected to expatiate upon the warlike fire that flashed
in the eye of the officer and his imposing moustache.

Sophie was sharply reprimanded on account of that unseemly
representation! she had gained no elevating ideas from the Lieutenant,
and, besides, had described him in very clumsy style. It was, said the
master, a veritable hurdle-race, over fences and ditches, in which the
German language must break its legs and arms.

The master pleased Lori. She should not dismiss him on any account. By
means of this very fanciful theme that he had selected, he would bring
the pupils to a clear consciousness of a feeling of propriety.

History was being taught in the second class; the teacher was a girl
not much older than her pupils, with a face like painted china, and
full of painfully stiff dignity.

She was examining the girls about the Seven Years' War, and utter
strategic embarrassment was displayed. The Austrians were beaten at
Rossbach, the French at Zorndorf. As regards the dates hopeless
confusion prevailed, which was shared by the teacher, who was deprived
of her self-possession by the visitors, and at last it was unanimously
decided, with her silent consent, to transpose the peace of
Hubertusburg to a period in which Frederick the Great was only
preparing for war.

Fräulein Sohle considered it advisable to interfere so as to reduce
Frederick the Great's affairs to something like order. However, she
could not even provide any proper place for the battle of Kunersdorf,
and wandered vainly from one date to another.

The third class was in a state of complete anarchy; the teacher had
been obliged to send an apology for her absence on account of violent
toothache, but that message had not reached Fräulein Sohle.

Miss Sourland, a little English girl, had assumed the lecturer's seat,
and parodied the teacher's English in so comical a manner that all the
girls crowded round her with peals of laughter; she was at that moment
engaged in uttering some guttural tones when Fräulein Sohle's
appearance interrupted the merry fun.

This lady inflicted some punishment task upon the class, but then let
it return home.

Lori made a note of the name of the principal culprit; she considered a
black book indispensable, so that the mistress of a school could at
once detect the black sheep in every class.

At heart, nevertheless, she felt sympathy with the girl, and
acknowledged to herself that in a similar case she should have been
just as wild as the red-haired islander.

They inspected the lower classes, where the young curly-headed
creatures were struggling with the alphabet and the four first rules of
arithmetic, and at the same indulged in various surreptitious acts of
naughtiness, which did not escape Lori's sharp vision. In the fifth
they were alarmed by a window blind descending impetuously; the young
teacher complained of this often recurring mishap, which was so trying
to her nerves; Fräulein Sohle promised her intervention, but Lori had
immediately perceived that it was owing to no chance but to some
misdemeanour, and that the little wild creatures fastened the string so
loosely before the commencement of the lesson, that by the least shake,
the monster should rattle down with its heavy rod.

The head of the establishment expatiated upon all its advantages once
more in the conference-room--she drew attention to the proper behaviour
of the young ladies in the upper classes, which was peculiarly her
work; all were fitted to appear at Court, and would pass brilliantly
through the ordeal. Etiquette, indeed, was the principal thing; the
whole world rests upon it; remove it, and we should see what is left.
People would do away with the laced bodice--how foolish! Without it
there would be no truly seemly carriage. She would not permit one of
her young ladies to come without it. A sensation of control is
necessary to all mankind, but especially to all young girls; it is the
guarantee of propriety. Decorum is a species of control; it is much
more comfortable not to be decorous; and also as to French, she still
maintained the old views, although she was a good German. But girls are
born without logic, they must learn to think in succinct manner. The
French language teaches this, tolerating no fancifulness. Besides it is
the language for what is unavoidable, for what in German would be a
stumbling block can be glided over easily in French.

After this exposition, Fräulein Sohle brought out her books, went over
her affairs, her incomings and outgoings, and stated her terms. Lori
examined all; Professor Reising yawned, at last all was found to be
acceptable. Lori conducted her brother-in-law back to the
confectioner's, where he signed the guarantee, but after that he could
endure it no longer, and hastened home, where doubtlessly Euphrasia had
been already long expecting him.

Lori in the consciousness of a triumph gained, enjoyed supreme
complacency; she drank iced punch, and eat cakes and _marzipan_ to her
heart's content; she felt raised above the storms of life; she had
attained a desired object, but malicious chance ordained that the two
gentlemen, Von Blanden and Wegen, should enter at that moment. Lori's
exalted frame of mind collapsed suddenly, a new but unattained and
perhaps unattainable aim stood before her. This made her sad, all human
efforts possess a sad false flavour. All the worry of the school
suddenly rose before her--how different if she made a rich match,
married a Herr von Blanden! How the whole grand establishment with the
golden-haired English girl, and the attractive moustachioed master,
faded before this prospect! The paper in her hand, her brother-in-law's
guarantee, suddenly lost all charm; she crumpled the note while
indulging in idle thought.

Herr von Blanden could not overlook her; a transfiguring radiance from
her pink hat was shed throughout the confectioner's room; any one who
saw her must remember the verse by Rückert--


                 "When the rose adorns herself,
                  Then she eke adorns the garden."


In truth Herr von Blanden had recognised and gone up to her; she
manifested all her sweetness in order to attract him.

"Do you ever attend the theatre, Herr von Blanden? Signora Bollini--not
bad, only her voice is a little _passée_."

Wegen, who had also drawn near, smiled awkwardly.

"But sit down, gentlemen! She is beautiful, that one must allow; but it
is a different kind of beauty from that which grows wild with us. Do
you like that sun-burnt complexion, those dark eyes, that excessively
brunette appearance? The profile has been stolen out of the picture
galleries of the Capitol, it is fitted for an atelier."

Wegen concurred entirely, while Blanden sat there lost in thought; Lori
found the blockade ineffectual, she opened her guns.

"One knows your taste, Herr von Blanden. You are more inclined to
Germanic beauty, if they--are clever; clever--that is the principal
thing! Can an Italian possess intellect? _Chi la sa!_ I believe the
climate is too hot, their days are spent in a perpetual _siesta_, but
German girls have all kinds of minds, roguish, playful, fiery,
thoughtfully intellectual; yes, all these qualities are often even to
be found in one person---as in the bottle out of which the conjuror
can, as is desired, pour red or white wine, Hungarian, Madeira,
champagne, into the glasses--and in addition, they have blue eyes and a
warm heart. You see I am not speaking of myself--my eyes are brown."

"I know intellectual and passionate Italian women also," interposed
Blanden.

"Passionate? Yes, I believe it, that means using the stiletto. Signora
Bollini may be dangerous too. But how do you like our opera? I must say
'our' because I hope to remain here."

Blanden could not avoid expressing his pleasure thereat, but it was
done moderately enough, despite the winning proofs of her sweetness
which the young lady had given him.

"I consider the company intolerable," continued Lori, unabashed and
triumphantly, "the bass voice possesses an original power of bass, like
the drunken Schmerbauch, with the bald pate, in Auerbach's cellar; the
tenor lives on chronic bad terms with his high notes, he always jumps
into the air as it were at them, like a dog at a bone; the _soubrette_
is so terribly pretty, that her little voice even seems to chirp! and
the management--did you see the Wolfs-schlucht lately in the
'Freischütz?' Is there a sweeter bit of country in which fire-works can
be let off?"

"You exercise sharp criticism, my Fräulein," said Herr von Wegen.

Blanden observed strict silence, the fortress was now fired upon with
red-hot balls.

"My brother-in-law is very sorry that you do not visit him, Herr von
Blanden, and my sister also; she takes a lively interest in you, as we
all do. Besides we owe you some social return, for we were all your
guests. You will come to see us soon, will you not?"

Blanden promised pleasantly; Lori rose triumphantly to go to the
banker, although the sunny prospect of another future disclosed itself
already to her mind. To-day she appeared, to herself, so intellectually
superior, could it be difficult for her to enchain an interesting man?
What had Eva been? The ocean is her grave: only good must be said of
her, but she had not much mind.

The two friends remained alone, they had much to impart to one another.
Wegen came from the Province, he brought the intelligence with him that
some farm at Kulmitten had been burned down. Blanden must return home,
arrangements must be made to alleviate the want of the farm people.
This would have been supremely disagreeable for him had Signora Giulia
not informed him in a few lines that she was suddenly summoned to Riga
to take a stranger's part, and should only return here in some few
weeks' time then to remain during the entire season.

"It is perhaps well," said Blanden to Wegen, whom he had initiated into
the secret of his newly awakened passion, "that I have leisure, far
aloof from the bustle which pervades the town and theatrical life, to
examine in perfect quiet whether the new charm to which I have
succumbed could be prejudicial to me? I am taking up an old adventure,
it is the world which I cannot cast off. At any rate, it is not
innocence which I can for a second time drag to a fearful doom."

"And are you in earnest about it?" asked Wegen.

"If I shall not bury myself in my solitude, if I would live again, it
must be, or become earnest with me. First I will examine my own
feelings, and then the love and character of the beautiful woman who
once again with her snares enters into my life."

"I advise you to examine all carefully," said Wegen.

"That will I, but without social prejudice; my happiness does not
depend upon the world; but how are you getting on? Cäcilie has returned
from her Italian journey; I have just seen her."

Wegen looked at his cup of chocolate with a certain amount of
embarrassment.

"You have surely been refused?" said Blanden.

"Oh, no, not so, but--" said Wegen, disconsolately.

"Well, at least you have had time to consider it well."

"You know that previously to the Italian journey, Cäcilie was with a
friend, a lady who owns property in our neighbourhood. I visited her
frequently, my mother and sister also made her acquaintance. She was
considered to be a marvel of cleverness, with whom every lady in the
district felt uncomfortable; they could not be cordial to her, she had
no feelings. That was the commencement, my mother and sister joined in
the verdict. I stood alone with my good opinion of the girl."

"Which you defended stoutly, though?"

"Oh yes, I did not allow myself to be intimidated; but it became much
worse. Reports arrived of Cäcilie's connection with Dr. Kuhl, who it is
to be hoped is better than his reputation--you know from personal
experience how lively imagination is in the Province, and how busy it
is with everything unusual. That which it must forego it paints in
glowing colours. Cäcilie appeared in a light, as though she were
sitting amidst infernal sulphurous vapour. In several places, on her
account, people broke off their acquaintance with her friend, my mother
and sister would not know her either; if at first they had only
counselled me against her, now they condemned my affection; I appeared
like the prodigal son, a part for which I possess but little talent."

"I pity you, your happy mood had disappeared at that time; I noticed
it, but you never told me the cause."

"I was so uncertain myself, that I spoke to no one about it. Cäcilie's
friend meanwhile travelled to Italy, a journey which her doctor had
recommended to her. Cäcilie accompanied her. Now after eighteen months
she has returned."

"And now you have had time enough for reflection."

"Yes, if reflection only made one wiser! Sometimes one becomes more
stupid from it; I know as little to-day, as I did a year and a half
ago, what I shall do or leave undone."

"Do you love Cäcilie?"

"I almost believe it would be hard for me to live without her. As to
her culinary knowledge, certainly I have some hesitation."

"If you love, do not trouble yourself either about her cooking powers
or the gossip of your neighbours; that is my well-meant advice. Only
one thing weigh well, she is a very clever girl, clever in all
excepting her own affairs, otherwise she would not have been so
reckless of her reputation. But a clever woman is always dangerous. If
you are not afraid of one, take your hat and propose to her--you have
my blessing."

Blanden went to prepare for his homeward journey. Wegen remained
behind, his head resting upon his hand, overcome with conflicting
thoughts and resolutions.



                               CHAPTER X.

                              THE SISTERS.


The two Fräulein Dornau, with their mother, occupied the first floor of
a small house in the suburbs; it was a very modest dwelling, cramped,
with low windows. The paper in the reception-room, whose silver had
gradually faded completely, while some of the showy purple strips which
gave a gorgeous appearance to the tiny space between ceiling and floor,
had become loose above or below, and played about freely in any chance
current of air.

The sofa had enveloped itself shamefacedly in the sister's artistic
crochet work, seat back and side cushions were covered with every
variety of imaginary figures and arabesques. The venerable piece of
furniture beneath would have disclosed a most deteriorated colour to
the light of the sun, and the marvellous pliability of its stuffing
inspired all who were obliged to seat themselves upon the place of
honour with sudden terror.

The pride of the room was a writing desk of mahogany. It is well known
that that wood possesses the same quality as good wine and good poetry,
that its merits increase the older it becomes. The _secretaire_ did
indeed gleam in darkest brilliancy, it was only to be regretted that
the effect of this show piece was sadly dimmed by several cracks in the
wood, by one foot which had thoughtlessly loosened its connection with
the organism of the whole, and from its crooked posture had given a
sloping inclination to the desk, and by several ornamentations being
broken off, which instead of forming the crown of the work, lay in
melancholy ruins upon its summit.

The Dornau family was not blind to the shady side of its domestic
arrangements; for many years these had been the subject of daily
conversation; the necessity to send for the cabinet-maker and paperer
was often discussed over the morning coffee, but always forgotten again
under the pressure of circumstances. Sometimes the condition of their
financial affairs did not permit of any extraordinary outlay.

The reception-room was merely divided by a curtain from the young
ladies' _boudoir_, which left nothing to be wished for as regards
cosiness, and only contained one little arm chair and two book shelves.
The owners were therefore generally to be found in the front or
reception-room, which served also as dining and work-room.

Thus they sat again to-day at a work-table, and looked into the street.
Frau Dornau was busy in the kitchen.

"You have told me but little of Italy so far," said Olga. "You are very
sparing with your communications."

"Everything can be found in guide-books," replied Cäcilie.

"But where were you after you left Nice? Our correspondence at that
time came to a standstill for several months."

"Everywhere, in Florence, Rome and Naples."

"Did you see the Pope, and eat maccaroni?"

"The Pope, yes, at the feast of _Corpus Christi_, when he bears upon
his back a gigantic sun which shines upon his mounted _guardia
nobile_."

"And the maccaroni?"

"A horrible thing! Wearisome as is everything interminable! It is
difficult to eat it gracefully."

After a pause, Olga said--

"Poor Wegen! He must have wearied for you? Have you not written to one
another?"

"No," replied Cäcilie, coolly. "I do not believe in his love; daily it
became more timid--any true lover has courage. He let himself be
bullied by his aunts and cousins, whom I pleased but little."

"Such a good match," said Olga; "a pleasant, good-hearted man. It would
be a pity!"

"You would like to have me married," said Cäcilie, while she threaded a
needle. "You have your reasons for it."

"But, sister--"

"It is the best plan to get me out of the way; you, meanwhile, have had
time to gain Paul's heart exclusively for yourself."

"That is not the case! Why, you know his theories."

"Theories? Dear child! you do not escape me thus! People are consistent
in theory, but inconsistent in practice. Theories are for holidays, but
for work-days a compromise exists. Men would be great thinkers,
original geniuses; everything in the world has been thought of once
already; people seek for a truth, which at least appears to be new, and
prosecute it to the uttermost. This daring fills one with horror. In
the world, however, provision is made against trees growing into the
sky, and the lords of creation are not so stupid as to let their
cleverness cause them to do anything inconvenient. They declare the
impossible to be the law of the universe; in life they content
themselves with the most practicable possibilities. Our mutual friend
also is merely a Titan in his hours of leisure; when he cannot storm
heaven with his hundred arms, he contents himself with two, with which
to caress one single sweetheart."

"But we do not need to complain that he has become faithless to his
theories."

"Towards me he was cool enough at our last meeting; a temperature in
which at most the snowdrops of friendship flourish. The hot-house
warmth for the marvellous flowers of passion he seems to reserve for
you."

"But I can assure you, sister, he is just as he was."

"But only towards you he is so; I was foolish to remain so long away. I
know, though, you are a coquette."

"Sister," cried Olga, while she gave an angry push to the work-table,
so that it threatened to lose its equilibrium.

"I do not reproach you; it lies in your nature. You are an elementary
being; you need life and pleasure, like a hundred thousand creatures
between heaven and earth. Wherever you scent anything of the kind, you
make bigger eyes than you possess naturally, and force aside everything
that obstructs your path."

"I am no longer so foolish as I was formerly. Paul has lent me many
books; I have educated myself, and you need not assume a tone of
superiority towards me. Talk to me of what you will, of the Saint
Simonites, of the nature of Christianity, of George Sand, of Lælia and
Pulcheria, of National Assemblies--I am ready. 'I think slowly,' says
Paul, 'but I retain all firmly.' And you believe that I am still such a
child of nature as formerly! But I am not coquettish, only ask Paul; he
thinks I am too little so. I always show myself as I am; I am a nature
clear as crystal, but too transparent. You call me coquettish? It is
dreadful!"

Cäcilie sought to appease her sister--

"But, dear child, it is no insult! Who would not be coquettish? I am
so! We only wish to please; it is required of us. We are forced to wish
it. Without coquettishness we should be left sitting still at balls and
through life, and we should not even be enabled to fulfil those serious
duties of which so much is said to us."

Olga was soon pacified; the sisters kissed each other across the
work-table, and glances of mutual affection passed between them.

Then the door bell was rung; Frau von Dornau, in her cooking apron and
nightcap, which she thought was indispensable as a protection against
the draught of the kitchen, rushed in to announce Herr von Wegen, who
wished to speak to Cäcilie. Frau von Dornau was in a state of great
perturbation; she was ashamed of the costume in which she had been
surprised, and the strange gentleman looked so festive. If her sight
had not deceived her, he carried a bouquet of flowers in his hand. Olga
disappeared behind the _portière_; her mother, who had hastily thrown
on a bright-coloured shawl, admitted the gentleman, and then repaired
to her cooking utensils. Herr von Wegen appeared, smiling pleasantly;
he had summoned all the graces to his toilet, his fair little moustache
was daintily curled, the colour in his cheeks seemed fresher than
usual, even his hair, the contemplation of which in the mirror had
filled him with well justified melancholy, was so artistically arranged
and disposed, that a superficial glance did not perceive the sad
deficiency which was concealed beneath the adroit grouping of the
meagre supply.

The cross of the Order of St. John adorned his coat, and with his
gloves, of the verdant colour of hope, he held a bunch of camellias,
trumpet flowers and other hot-house plants, amongst which also a few
half frozen asters from the autumnal beds had been mingled.

"My Fräulein," said he, "I bid you heartily welcome to your home; may
these flowers, at least, remind you of the beautiful south."

Cäcilie accepted the flowers, while expressing her thanks.

"And may you, at the same time, see in them a greeting of old
friendship; I cannot make a long speech, Fräulein, but I bid you
welcome once more."

These effusions of Wegen's heart met with slight encouragement; the
young lady, usually so loquacious, could not find a word this time, and
silently awaited that which was to come.

"You know, my Fräulein, that I am your true friend; we played and
danced together even in Neukuhren, those were delightful days at the
sea-side. How charming, too, was the dance under the pear tree! We
spoke of many things there; I have not forgotten them. And again in
Masuren! How every day on which I could see and speak to you, made me
glad."

"That pleasure was not shared by your people," replied Cäcilie, with
cold reserve.

"You are mistaken," said Wegen, losing somewhat of his self-possession.

"Indeed, altogether, I did not feel comfortable there, people did not
understand me, I felt as if I did not belong to that circle."

"That is to be regretted," said Wegen, sighing.

"Regretted? The world is large enough, Herr von Wegen, some little
sunny spot can always be found. I do not love the shade, least of all
that in which I am placed."

"When I said to be regretted, I was thinking of myself, of my hopes and
wishes--yes, the object of my visit to-day. Indeed, Fräulein, I could
wish that Masuren might become your second home, and that you should
feel, not only comfortable, but also happy in it. You know the pleasant
house there beneath the shade of the lime trees--no castle such as
Kulmitten, but in summer buried amongst flowers--the cosy garden
behind--thither I should like to conduct you, there I would prepare you
a comfortable place for life, if you desire it, Cäcilie, because I love
you, and beseech you to give me your hand!"

Now Wegen had become warm, tears stood in his eyes, he had risen, and
with real emotion had stretched out his hand to Cäcilie, who
hesitatingly and cautiously placed hers within it. Olga could not
suppress a slight coughing fit behind the _portière_; it was a nervous
cough, consequent upon sudden agitation.

"Will you be mine? I will cherish you all my life," continued Wegen,
with overflowing fervour, "no one will dare to wound you; here and
there they might, perhaps, gaze with unloving looks upon the strange
girl who came into the country, but my wife will be respected and
honoured, and all will meet her lovingly when she bears my name. That
is one consideration which might make you doubtful, it is groundless, I
assure you--and as regards the other, I see that you still are
doubtful; well, I am no genius, no such promise was made by my cradle,
I bow before your intellect, but would it not belong to me also, when
we are one for life? I, however, possess sound common sense; I am a
District Deputy, people have confidence in me, in my head, otherwise
they would not select me for the post. Blanden, too, is my friend, and
he is a genius. Tell me who your friends are--enough, that is a
secondary matter! The principal one is that my heart is honest, and
that I love you. They praise my model management in the district, but
the real model management will then be found, not in the fields and
stalls, but in my house."

"You honour me by your offer," said Cäcilie, "it comes most
unexpectedly upon me. Certainly there was a time when I was more
prepared for it than I am just now."

"Do not be angry with me that I hesitated formerly, that I let you go
away; I never wavered in my love, because whatsoever takes root in my
mind has a firm foundation. I only wavered in my belief in the
happiness that I could bring to you, such contradictions hovered in the
air, and I became timid simply because I loved you. It is different
now; I have shaken off all doubt, I feel the power within me to make
you happy. And if there be underwood that blocks our path, I shall have
the whole forest thinned or cut down, so truly as my name is Wegen.
Will you be mine, dear Cäcilie?"

"First take my hand in token of my thanks and true friendship. But then
grant me time for reflection, even if it only be for a few days. I,
too, must see all quite clearly, and in me, also, everything wavering
must become firm. You are sure of my hearty affection, and to which
ever decision I may come, rest assured that I shall always count this
day amongst the most beautiful in my life."

Wegen asked when he might come for her answer: Cäcilie would give it
him in two days' time. He rose with downcast air; he had hoped, at
least, this time to receive a kiss as a trophy of victory. And how
polite and amiable, but how little cordial was all that Cäcilie said to
him; how differently had he painted the meeting with his beloved one,
as he ascended the stairs! Then, after his declaration, she had melted
into tears, she had fallen upon his neck, she, too, had told him that
she had already loved him for long, and could not live without him,
then, for the first time, he had been permitted to press her
passionately against his heart!

The slight outlines of this imaginary picture still stood before his
mind; but how totally differently this meeting had passed off!
No acquiescence, no loving effusions, no moment of sweet
self-forgetfulness. Friendly, but distantly she stood before him;
certainly as desirable, as charming as ever! Even in the more
comfortable house attire, her slender figure was so seductively
displayed; the polite smile upon her lips, the animated glance of her
clever eyes, that supple fascination in her whole person, Wegen would
have deemed himself to be the most felicitous of mortals if it had been
vouchsafed to him to receive the word of assent from that delicate
fairy who seemed to glide through life with elf-like steps, the
assenting word which should give her to him as his own for evermore.
Instead, however, he must take up his hat and collect all his emotions
in one friendly shake of the hand, but he consoled himself with the
thought that it must be hard for a girl to utter the decisive word,
that from shyness and shamefacedness, she would prefer to entrust it
first to a little scented note, and would then be able to let the
unavoidable consequences of a declaration of love flow over herself
with more mental composure. It is true that an inner voice told him
again and again, as he descended the stairs, that in reality Cäcilie
had no girlish modesty about her--and his grounds of consolation were
scattered again outside like faded leaves in a November wind.

Wegen had barely left the room before Olga stepped forth from behind
the curtain, and folded her sister to her heart amid warm
felicitations. The mother, too, whom Olga's powerful voice had
intelligibly informed of the joyful event, was too happy at the offer.

"You dispose of me too quickly," said Cäcilie, drawing back; "it needs
mature consideration first."

And she seated herself in the _causeuse_ in her boudoir, her head
propped upon her arm; sometimes gazing out upon the trees of the
Philosopher's dyke, tossed about and stripped of their leaves by a
ruthless north wind.

Olga and her mother did not disturb her in her silent reflections,
which were, however, of a very different nature from what the former
imagined. Her mother, with a heavy heart, was already thinking of the
outfit. Olga was touched by the handsome man's kindliness and goodness,
which were visible in every one of his words. Cäcilie was unmoved by
these advantages. The language of the heart, of homely feeling, was not
adapted for her; she merely looked upon Wegen as a figure upon the
chess-board, with whom she could make a good move.

Towards evening Olga announced that she should visit her friend Minna,
the daughter of the Kanzleirath; half-an-hour later Cäcilie informed
her mother that she wished to breathe the fresh air, and should enquire
after Major Bern's youngest child, who was seriously ill.

That evening Dr. Kuhl was sitting in his laboratory, a vaulted
apartment with barred windows, only one door communicating between it
and his study. His mother, a widow of ample means, owned the house,
and, after his father's death, he had fitted it up comfortably in his
own way. His mother allowed him perfect liberty, she humoured all his
whims and fancies, even when she did not approve of them and when they
could not be brought into unison with social forms. To conduct an
intrigue for her Paul, in perfect secrecy, gave her intense
satisfaction, and it was not to be wondered at that her son, by means
of these principles of education, attained such singularity that he was
brought, more or less, into evil repute in every circle.

There he sat now, amidst crucibles, retorts, bottles and tubes; here
were covered utensils, heated over little lamps, there others stood
open, so that he might watch the process of decomposition which the
oxygen in the air calls forth in its contact with other gases.

The Doctor had just blown into the blowpipe, and laid it aside. The
blow-pipe, thought he to himself, plays a still greater part in the
world than it does here in the laboratory. How many flames, which
burned upwards to the sky, has it not blown back, until they crept away
upon the ground! And in all ages the sycophants of a State, and the
false teachers of mankind, have blown their ruinous breath upon nations
through the blow-pipe of egotism.

He went up to a retort and observed how in the process of heating two
matters lost the unity of their elements, exchanged their
constitutional parts with one another, so that, in consequence of this
flow and dissolution, two other quite different combinations ensued.

"Those fatal elective affinities," said he to himself, "what evil have
they not caused in the world! How can one apply the laws of dead nature
to the human heart? As if two were the decisive numbers for it;
although, however, Hindoostan's gods already formed a triune Trimurti,
as if, at the accession of a third, the one must fly this, the other
that way, instead of remaining together in one beautiful league. What
does it matter to us if chloride and lead, hydrogen and oxygen, seek
and find one another, whether they meet as oxyde of lead and chlorate
of hydrogen? How can any one wish to rule the human heart according to
this freak of nature? Our great poets are the most dangerous enemies of
freedom of the heart, and of a glorious love in common."

Then the Doctor watched two utensils, in which, by a peculiar process,
he sought to condense and harden carbon; he flattered himself with the
hope of being able thus to obtain diamonds; but never was the result
attained which his experiments should have given him. He consoled
himself with a general observation. The hard coal becomes a diamond;
strength of character alone creates great men, the sparkling jewels of
mankind, but how seldom this process succeeds. Coal remains coal--with
it the furnace only can be lighted.

"While contemplating the immature diamonds, with a hopeless gaze, he
heard his mother's voice in the study--

"Where is the youngster, then?" and she soon entered the laboratory,
leading Olga by the hand. "Here is a lady visitor, dear Paul! Entertain
Olga a short time, I will prepare a little supper for our dear guest."

Fräulein von Dornau ventured boldly into the chemical _atelier_, where
everywhere, right and left, as upon the Pharsalian fields in the
classical Walpurgis night, little flames glowed, certainly not
fairy-like will-o'-the-wisps, but little altar flames in the sacred temple
of knowledge.

Paul greeted her warmly, causing a glass to lose its balance and be
scattered in pieces.

"Sit down, Olga," said Paul, "we can talk here a little."

And he cleared a place for her upon a bench.

"Do not be afraid of this chattering workshop that talks of all the
secrets of Nature. Do not be afraid of that which the elements tell,
and if the gases and vapours of this witch's kitchen are not so sweet
as the aromatic forest perfumes, it is yet just as much the breath of
mother Nature, who here inhales it in somewhat deeper draughts than
without in wood and field."

Olga coughed slightly, because the sulphurous vapour oppressed her
chest.

"I have only to produce ozone out of these fugitive oils. Ozone--I rave
about it; it is the genus of oxygen. Where it refuses the power of
attraction to the latter, ozone can still work. That is the higher
spirit or life! All passion is ozone; it is my element!"

Olga, who had noticed that Paul was fond of imparting instruction,
enquired as to the origin and nature of ozone, and in return, after a
lengthy explanation, received praise for her daily augmenting thirst
for knowledge.

After the close of the lecture, and when several more experiments had
taken place, Kuhl conducted his visitor into the study.

"I have something important to tell you," said Olga, able to breathe
once more in the airy room, the walls of which were covered with high
bookcases reaching to the ceiling.

"Go on," replied Paul, "one knows beforehand what seems important to
you women; as a rule, they are the most insignificant matters in the
world."

"Not this--it concerns us all--you, too."

"Tell it me, then."

"Cäcilie, my sister Cäcilie--"

"What about her?"

"She is going to be married."

"Impossible!"

"It has become very possible since this morning, yes, almost certain."

Kuhl sprang from the sofa and walked up and down the room several
times.

"She is a faithless woman--I have known it for long--a calculating
nature! She is not capable of grasping life in the spirit and in truth;
she is a Philistine maiden, a Dalilah, and betrays me to the
Philistines! Her home is there where cooking pots bubble on the
domestic hearth; it is a pity, with such a mind! Of what use is the
pure flame of oxygen when it only serves to make old iron rusty? But
why do I wonder? Is it not an old tale; all I have to do is to enquire
the name of the happy man."

"Herr Baron von Wegen has asked her hand to-day."

"And she has accepted?"

"Not quite irrevocably as yet; but she will--accept--I do not doubt it!
And why should she hesitate? He is an honourable, handsome man; one's
heart opens when one hears him speak. He is wealthy and a man of
position, and I believe that Cäcilie thinks something of belonging to
the nobility--it is a matter of indifference to me."

The Doctor had seated himself beside her. She looked so meaningly at
him with her large eyes, that at the last words he started up as if he
had been stung by a spiteful insect.

"She, too, only thinks of marrying," said he to himself; "I perceive it
in every word. Therefore, she brings me this news so quickly; Cäcilie
no longer stands in her way. Now she flatters herself she shall be sole
sovereign of my heart."

And he cast hostile glances at the proud beauty who sought to soothe
him, drawing nearer to him, and raising her Juno-like eyes, in which
her love was written in German characters.

What should he do? He scolded her on account of her want of
understanding; yet she always renounced her heresies at once. Proper
guidance was only needed, and as all theory is grey as the uncertain
future, and all practice green as the fresh present, he deemed it best
not to trouble himself about her farseeing plans, held his forefinger
up menacingly and pressed a kiss upon her full lips.

As he looked round, Cäcilie stood before him.

Olga blushed this time, although Paul had often kissed her in her
sister's presence, and Cäcilie too appeared to be disturbed by an
occurrence to which usage must really have hardened her.

"Your mother sent me here," said she to Paul in a somewhat sharp tone.

"Olga, you surely did not find Kanzleirath's Minna at home?"

"And I must almost fear," replied the latter, "that Major Bern's child
is dead."

"I was not needed; the child has quite recovered."

A short truce ensued between the two powers at war.

Kuhl contemplated them with folded arms and sinister countenance; were
they not a living picture of that outrageous weakness of mind, the most
contemptible of all passions in which jealousy finds utterance?

In vain had he preached against it for many long years; in vain had he
extolled a common alliance of hearts; there lay his work in ruins. But
why was Cäcilie jealous on the very day on which she had sacrificed him
to another?

This vile passion surpassed even love itself.

Cäcilie, who when angry, spoke still more softly, but yet so that a
hissing sound was blended with her fine, sharp tones, said to Olga--

"You have anticipated a right which does not belong to you--the right
of speaking to others about the affairs of my heart, for only on this
account have you deceived us and come here. You will surely grant me
the right of speaking to Paul about them as undisturbedly as you have
done. Frau Kuhl expects us to tea. You will have the goodness to
precede us."

Olga was always accustomed to obey her sister's wishes when they were
uttered in that tone of cutting decision. She therefore left the room
silently, not, however, without having cast a speaking glance at the
Doctor.

Cäcilie lighted herself a paper cigarette.

"Naturally, you know all; my sister has saved me a long introduction."

Kuhl remained standing with folded arms, and nodded his head gently.

"Wegen has asked for my hand; he has already paid me attention for a
long time."

"But until now the outlines of his courtship were somewhat indistinct,"
said Kuhl, scoffingly.

"He offers me what hundreds of others would consider to be supreme
happiness, and when I question myself calmly, I must confess that he is
an honourable man, more goodhearted and honourable than most; that he
is one of those natures in whom true devotion seems to be innate."

Kuhl laughed loudly.

"Indeed you have suddenly set up quite new ideals for yourself, new for
you and us that is to say, as they can be bought by the dozen at
Leipzig fair."

"You would scoff away all that is strange to you, yet it continues to
exist, and to exist in honour before the world. Besides, it is only a
question of a good match; my poor mother would find a new, comfortable
home. I myself should no longer stand with a dark future before me,
which offers nothing but loneliness to the toil and trouble and age of
coming years."

The Doctor's mockery ceased at this turn; it contained too sad a truth.

"When I, therefore, ask my common sense," continued Cäcilie, while she
blew a curling cloud of smoke into the air, "I receive an answer which
really admits of no doubt, and the wicked world even maintains that
common sense plays a preponderating part in me."

"Then the riddle is solved," said Kuhl.

"If I were to make comparisons they would certainly not all be drawn
in favour of the deeply learned doctor of medicine, as he, in his
self-complacency, may dream. Wegen is not so intellectual, but there is
something dangerous, discomposing in intellect--and now even a chemist
he would dissolve us into every variety of element; he would throw our
characters into retorts, our advantages and failings into the scales,
and once we are dismembered, what are we then? Wegen is not so
intellectual, but neither is he paradoxical; he would not set the world
upon its head. As regards beauty, well, that is a matter of taste. He
is no Apollo, but a Hercules is not one either. His faults are those of
his virtues, but others only possess the virtues of their faults, in
short--"

"In short," interrupted Kuhl, "one does not need to be a great
mathematician to see who would fare the worst in this problem.
Certainly the bliss of former affection is not included in this
calculation, the promises of that beautiful alliance, the recollections
of happy hours, in which heart met heart, or elevated moments in which
mind spoke to mind. It is the indifferent cold souls for which no past
exists, when a pleasant future beckons to them."

"You do me injustice," said Cäcilie, laying her cigarette aside.

"Or," continued Kuhl, inexorably, "you are meditating treachery; you
would destroy our alliance by force. It is a commercial transaction--a
matter of business! I have for long already expected a decisive act--I
will anticipate it. Perhaps I should be preferred to Wegen, if I would
buy that privilege with the same price that he will pay."

Now Cäcilie interrupted him hastily, her eyes flashed fire, her whole
body vibrated with passion.

"So little do you know me, Paul? So little do you all know me? What are
the others to me, even if they possessed the crowns of princes, and the
treasures of Golconda, and united all the virtues of the world within
themselves? I have learned to see everything with your eyes--I should
become blind if I were to lose you! If I must leave you, I should feel
as if I were thrust out into an endless desert. How lonely I should
feel in, the forests of Masuren--in the orange gardens of Italy! What
is my life? Fire of your fire--soul of your soul!"

It was the language of unalloyed passion; in those words lay perfect
truthfulness of feeling, which also ignites in her beloved one's heart;
but he still stood hesitatingly, he did not dare to fold this slender
girl, who so often had threatened to escape him, with perfect
confidence to his heart. Cäcilie perceived his hesitation; she knew the
cause, also, and what she now said, while coming insinuatingly towards
him, was no longer the true meaning of her heart.

"You think that I shall make conditions, I shall insist upon the right
of exclusiveness which such glowing love demands? No, no, let all
remain as before. May another offer his whole life to me. Your
vicinity--your love is my felicity, and I do not ask if your heart
belongs to me alone! Let there be other happy ones beside me, I will
learn to understand you entirely."

Now only did Kuhl believe himself justified in folding the girl
unreservedly to his heart.

"And as a seal upon our newly-formed alliance, dear Paul--an alliance
for which, in the eyes of the world, I have made a great sacrifice, we
will take a ride together, tomorrow, but this time without Olga--you
and I alone. This little distinction you owe to me."

Kuhl assented! The supper with his mother and the two Fräulein von
Dornau passed off most cheerfully. Olga, as yet, knew nothing of
Cäcilie's desperate resolution; she looked upon her sister as Wegen's
bride, and, therefore, was in a most happy mood--the champagne stirred
her blood to flow more briskly--she even made some droll remarks. But
Cäcilie sparkled with intellect, and developed such bold theories, that
Paul delightedly followed her dizzy flight.

On the following day, Wegen looked out of the window of his hotel. It
was a cold day, but he must inhale fresh air--his heart was too full.
He had put on a fur cap, and defied the rough wind that coloured his
cheeks more deeply.

Suddenly the sound of horses' hoofs resounded on the pavement--a lady
and gentleman riding! How proudly the slender lady sat, allowing her
black horse to curvet! Wegen had at once recognised the gentleman to be
Dr. Kuhl! But the lady--did his eyes deceive him? Had the wind dazzled
them with the dust that was blown about? There could be no doubt--it
was Cäcilie!

He became pale, and started back from the window. The sudden movement
had swept away his fur cap, and his few fair hairs waved mournfully in
the wind. The sound of the hoofs died away upon the pavement.

Wegen sat upon the sofa, his cigar had gone out; he was utterly void of
thought. He rang for his servant, so as to go to bed, when he suddenly
recollected that it was only noon. He had his frock-coat with the Cross
of the Order brought to him, and put it on; then he remembered that it
was not today that he was to pay the decisive visit.

And should he, indeed, still pay the visit? Had she had not openly set
herself free? Was this ride not an intelligible reply?

To be sure, now she must write to him herself, must spare him the
humiliation of once more knocking in vain at her door. He did not leave
the house; he expected the letter that contained the verdict of his
death, but the letter did not come.

The ride had not remained unnoticed in the town; Kuhl was a public
character--he was talked of in all circles. He had often been seen on
horseback with the two Fräulein van Dornau; to-day he only appeared
with the one. What had happened? The world's opinion is always ready to
draw conclusions from facts, even if they be ever so premature. The
intelligence spread from drawing-room to drawing-room, that Dr. Kuhl
had come to a decision at last, and in favour of Cäcilie. Amongst the
Dornaus themselves the liveliest scenes had been enacted. When Cäcilie
had pronounced her immutable intention of rejecting Herr von Wegen's
offer, her mother had sobbed and wept, and Olga even was roused to a
fire of indignation that was almost unknown to her imperturbable calm;
she pourtrayed Wegen's advantages in the most glowing colours, and cast
the bitterest reproaches upon her sister. Were not her own secret hopes
annihilated by such lamentable obduracy?

Cäcilie, however, with her wonted superiority, knew how to calm these
excited emotions; she regained their entire sympathy by the declaration
that she could not love Wegen, and would not marry without love; she
moved Olga to tears by such noble sentiments. The sisters were soon
perfectly reconciled to one another, and Olga even promised, at
Cäcilie's desire, to receive Herr von Wegen, and impart the
ungratifying news to him.

The following day, Wegen appeared in the frame of mind of a prisoner
who is sure of a condemnatory verdict; it was a comfort for him that
Cäcilie did not personally announce her decision. Olga received him,
and from her lips the intimation that he was rejected sounded more
consolatory.

Cäcilie desired the explanation to be, that, after mature
consideration, she found she was not suited for the country, nor for
the Masuren nobility; she should not be capable of making him happy,
she therefore declined his offer with thanks, but counted upon his
permanent friendship.

Wegen having expected this intimation, it had lost its crushing weight
for him, but what he had not expected was such a kindly bearer of the
fatal decision.

In his blind passion for Cäcilie, he had never troubled himself about
Olga; she was cast too far into the shade by the radiance that
proceeded from her sister. He had often hardly remarked her presence,
and yet her appearance was grand and imposing enough.

In fact, he had been very blind; to-day he must confess it to himself,
when he, like Scipio upon the ruins of Carthage, sat upon those of his
first love. From want of an appropriate reply, which it is not so easy
to find to such disclosures, he contemplated Olga at first with a
mournful glance and rather absently, then with increasing interest, for
she spoke in such a cordial tone to console him, and the more he looked
at her, the more did he discover that she was a handsome girl, not so
intellectual as Cäcilie, but certainly more calculated to make an
impression upon peoples' minds in Masuren than her sister. These were
vague ideas, which were reflected in the most shadowy outlines upon the
remotest background of his mind; he would have repelled them
energetically had they ventured farther into the light, as unseemly and
impious.

Nevertheless he had already sinned against well-founded custom of
immediately taking up his hat, after such an intimation, and retiring
from the scene. Olga chatted so innocently, she led the conversation
with such tact to indifferent matters, but these indifferent matters
were full of a special interest for Wegen. Olga's heart was not with
George Sand and the _père_ Enfantin, even although she must talk about
them with Dr. Kuhl, and was fairly at home in the great questions upon
which the welfare of mankind depended, had even made a note of several
stock-phrases; but when dress, family events, engagements, or the
affairs of relations were under discussion, then her whole nature
warmed, and she quite forgot that all these subjects were most
heterodox, and in part were even opposed to the social programme of the
future, by which she had been obliged to swear in Dr. Kuhl's chemical
laboratory. She gave Baron von Wegen great pleasure by her unexpected
knowledge of all his extensive family; she knew the Wegens of Labiau
and the Wegens at Insterburg. She had even once spoken to the old
uncle, whose heir he was, and who lived close to the Memel in the
Lithuanian woods; she was able to distinguish between first cousins and
those who were more distantly connected. She planted the family tree of
the Wegens before him with as steady a hand as did Joan of Arc the
standard with the lilies of the Valois; and he must indeed be a
degenerate nobleman who would not thus be flattered and reminded of
home.

And as a good genius watched over this conversation, seeking with a
soothing salve to heal a wounded heart, the discussion, by means of a
sudden turn, was led to the East Prussian cookery. That was a subject
of conversation to which Wegen brought a cultivated mind, and Olga,
too, was quite at home in it, although she did prefer to contribute her
share more to the enjoyment than to the creation of great performances
in the kitchen; but she was able to give accurate information about
every fish in the sea, every beast in the forest, yes, even the
dwellers in carp-ponds and pheasantrys, and to determine all the sauces
which, as it were, are ordained for each. This conversation was so
interesting to Wegen, that when he took up his hat he had quite
forgotten the cause which brought him, the terrible defeat he had
sustained. As the friendship which Cäcilie had promised to him was
however not possible without continuing some intercourse, Wegen easily
obtained permission to repeat his visits, and, in Cäcilie's name, Olga
believed herself justified in granting it.

When he left the house, Wegen was not at all in the mental condition of
a rejected candidate for matrimony, which is indeed one of the most
crushing which paralyses and benumbs mortal nerves. He was astonished
at himself when he hummed a Lithuanian popular air, which did not
breathe the elegiac spirit of the prose of an expiring race of people,
but which sounded quite lively and full of enterprise. He immediately
called himself to order, but he could not quite suppress a disagreeable
sensation; upon close self examination he discovered in himself,
although in faint outlines, a dawning resemblance to Dr. Kuhl, whom he
abhorred with all due sense of propriety. Cäcilie meanwhile had come
out from behind the _portière_, and imparted a warm eulogium to her
sister for the delicacy and adroitness with which she had acquitted
herself of the disagreeable task.

When Cäcilie seated herself at the worktable, a slight smile of
contentment hovered round her lips. Everything was going as she wished
and had planned, and she flattered herself that she had attained the
desired object.



                              CHAPTER XI.

                           IN THE CHURCHYARD.


Blanden devoted himself most zealously to looking after the people who
had suffered from the fire on his farm, and to the necessary new
buildings; he seemed to be inspired with a renewed breath of life; the
impetus to labour and work, which had lain perfectly dormant within him
since those occurrences at the sea-side roused him afresh. Winter
meanwhile had set in, and made the solitude at Kulmitten still more
dreary. Blanden's resolution to form a settled home became more and
more fixed, and the picture of the beautiful singer as the future
goddess of the house pervaded his waking dreams with daily increasing
persistency.

He began, too, to care more about political matters, the progress of
which latterly he had only silently watched. His conviction gained
strength that, despite all obstacles, the Prussian State would obtain a
constitution, and all the provinces be united by one common bond. Then
a political career would be opened to him once again; he should no
longer be dependant upon the judgment of his equals in this district;
he could then stand before the population of the entire province as a
candidate for election.

That the continuance of the provincial assemblies in their present
state could not last much longer was his fixed opinion, but in order to
gain distinct views of the new course which the future should disclose
to him, he must make his name known in more extensive circles; he must
be called the champion of the political movement. A welcome opportunity
for it was offered to him by the assemblies of the citizens in the
provincial capital, which assemblies had been recently formed, and he
did not hesitate to intimate to the committee that he should deliver a
lecture upon the French organisation and the July dynasty.

Meanwhile, in the newspapers he read an announcement of an operatic
performance in which Signora Bollini should again take part; thus he
inferred that she had returned from Riga. He immediately ordered his
four black horses to be harnessed, and hastened to the capital by the
shortest route. He arrived there amid a violent downfall of snow and
terribly boisterous wind. He prepared to visit Giulia at once; his road
led him past a churchyard, through the gateway of which a little
funeral procession was passing. Closely concealed as the faces were in
cloaks and furs, some of them appeared very familiar to him; they were
the companions of those times, the late effects of which had prepared
such bitter pain for him. He recognised them again, greatly as they
were altered; not only was it the snow falling from heaven, it was also
the snow of age that silvered their hair. He believed that he perceived
amongst the followers the Breaker of the Seal, the former minister of
the community, who was now deposed from his office of teacher. Whom did
they bear to the tomb? Curiosity drove him to join the procession. When
it had drawn near to the open grave, Blanden asked the person next to
him who was being buried?

"Frau Hamptmann Salden," was the hoarse reply.

At that moment they began to sing beside the tomb; a violent gust of
wind shook the snow from the cypresses, and whirled it up from every
grave, which had been softly bedded in its lap. The shivering assembly
seemed to be animated but by the one desire that the burial ceremony
might soon be over.

Blanden rested his head upon a lofty tombstone, his tears flowed
unrestrainedly. How deserving of tears every human life seems to be,
when a thoughtful mind sums up its years in as many seconds! How
mournful are his short-lived joys, and how many terrors does the span
of time contain! No funeral oration disturbed his reflections; the
ministers who would gladly have spoken beside this grave, dared not
perform their office, and from the others accusations were feared which
might have disturbed the peacefulness of the tomb.

While the wind buried in its gusts the sounds of the choral singing,
Blanden thought of the youthful, beautiful Pauline; he thought of
lovely Eva! Mother and daughter were blended in one picture; it was a
shadowy portrait in which their features became united. But the one
reposed in the ocean's lap, the other in wintry earth!

Already the clods fell with a hollow sound upon the coffin, thrown in
hastily by half-frozen hands, and, after a hurried performance of the
last verse of the hymn, the assembly rushed away as if carried off by
the bride of the storm, which, howling hoarsely, swept over the lonely
graves.

Blanden had maintained his concealment behind the monument and
cypresses; now he stepped forth; sadly he cast the hard clods of earth
upon the coffin; his soul was _one_ thought of love--_one_ prayer for
forgiveness, because dark self-accusations were stirred in his heart.
Deeply buried in meditation, he did not observe that the wind had
become a hurricane, cracking the boughs of the trees on every side,
casting one weeping-willow to the ground, that the earth groaned, and
hardly permitted him to stand upright. The grave-diggers had already
laid their spades aside, and taken refuge in the dead-house.

Suddenly something struggled before him through the snow; he saw a
fluttering cloak, and a bare-headed girl upon her knees in front of
him; stars of snow nestled in her tangled hair, glassy eyes stared up
at him, and glowing kisses covered his hands.

It was half-witted Kätchen--he had recognised her at once.

"What brings you here? What do you want here in this tempest?"

"Beautiful Eva's mother is buried; I want what you do!"

"And what do you want of me?"

"Have had a little note for you, for a long, long time--now I can give
it to you. Eva wrote it upon the ocean."

"Mad woman--and now, for the first time, you speak of it to me?"

"To others I would not show it, and to you I could not give it sooner.
I am staying with Mother Hecht, the herbalist; you will find me there
every evening."

And she kissed his hands once more, and the following moment had
disappeared amongst the whirling snow.

The tempest became so violent that Blanden was obliged to take refuge
in the dead-house, where he found several participators in the funeral
who had also fled thither; amongst them a Gerichtsrath whom he knew.
The former had never belonged to the pious community, but, as legal
assistant, had often imparted advice to Frau von Salden, and had also
conducted the case instituted against half-witted Kätchen. He gave
information to Blanden which possessed great interest for the latter.
Since Eva's death, Pauline had constantly been ailing, and succumbed to
a consumptive disorder.

As to Kätchen--the prosecution in which Blanden was called as a
witness--although she persisted in the most obstinate silence, no proof
of her guilt could be obtained; she had been handed over to the
supervision of an institution in which mentally disordered and weak
persons were looked after by the State. The medical man had pronounced
her dull, obtuse demeanour not to proceed from any malady of the brain,
but to be partially the consequences of the defective bringing up by
her tyrannical parents, partially to be connected with her physical
development. In fact, after the expiration of a year an unmistakable
alteration had taken place in her; she had commenced to speak more
naturally, indeed, more distinctly and coherently, so that the medical
man could release her from his establishment.

Blanden inquired why Pauline had returned to the town.

He learned that she had been obliged to sell her estate, and also that
she had sought consolation amongst her friends; in the country solitude
she had been verging on despair.

The storm, meanwhile, had somewhat abated; Blanden relinquished his
visit to the singer, and hastened to his house, so as to be able to
indulge in those thoughts and emotions which besieged him after the
occurrence in the churchyard. He was in a mood in which life no longer
seemed worth living; the ruin of youth and beauty filled him with deep
melancholy, and the connection between human destinies, by means of
which a load of guilt suddenly struck an innocent person, occasioned
painful reflections. To him it appeared enviable thus to be buried
beneath the snow, to repose in wintry earth.

But if he would not cast himself amongst the dead, he must extinguish
the candles in the sable-draped mourning chamber of his soul, beside
the sarcophagus of past love, and step forth once more into the day of
life.

On the following afternoon he visited Giulia--he found her alone; her
obsequious friend left the room. The Signora looked pale and sad; the
colouring of her features, which can only be designated by the Italian
word _morbidezza_, looked almost sickly. Her eyes, however, shone
joyously as Blanden entered, but when he would have folded her in his
arms she stepped back in decided refusal.

"The lady of the Lago Maggiore and Signora Bollini are not the same
persons. The former appeared in a dream, which the intoxicated rapture
of the south begets, the latter appears in the sober north, so
well-known that the newspapers speak of her. Here, in this world of
citizens, one dreams no more! That we are acquainted with the same
secret only gives us the right of friendship, and in token of it I
offer you my hand."

She uttered it all deliberately, but yet in a cordial tone.

"Indeed," replied Blanden, whom the Signora had completely won by these
words, "it is folly to wish to bind ourselves to a past that is divided
from us by the flood of time. With time we too have changed, and often
that has become utterly strange to us which formerly had such
irresistible dominion over us. I honour your sentiments, Signora! The
claim upon love must always be conquered anew, at least grant me the
hope that we may succeed."

"I cannot but fear that without the magic of the south, the prize would
not reward the trouble undertaken in earnest. What am I to you here,
where my name can be read at every street corner?"

"The magic of art, Signora, can everywhere produce an _Isola bella_
with its peep into enchanting distance."

"The magic of art! Oh, how rude, everyday life sweeps it away! Attend
an operatic rehearsal, listen to the confused cries of the manager, the
conductor, the bars of music constantly broken off; the musical howls
of the chorus; visit the theatrical wardrobe, and look at the tinsel
out of which the artistic work of our beauty is created for an
evening's performance; listen to the criticising comments of our
colleagues behind the scenes; you will be in doubt where you should
seek the magic of art."

"Still it does exist, and before its power disappears the ponderous
apparatus by which it must be called into life."

"Certainly in the emotions of creative and sensitive minds it bears an
enduring life. But when the magic forsakes us, who should be the
representatives of art? Is there a greater pain than the sensation of
one's own uselessness, and in addition, when it is unmerited, when it
was formerly foreign to us? A singer whose voice becomes weaker, who
from day to day becomes more conscious of its decay, is more fitted for
elegiac reflections than a crumbling ruin, around which ivy climbs."

"You speak, dear friend, of matters which it is to be hoped you do not
know from personal experience?"

"Yet I do know them by experience. I tell it you in confidence; before
the world I must seek to conceal it, my fame may be able to disguise
for some time longer what is unavoidable--a good name has illimitable
credit. But my enemies are already beginning to destroy it. A spiteful
reporter in Riga made exaggerated allusions to the deterioration of my
voice, and a local newspaper here, which bears the impress of Herr
Spiegeler's intellect, hastened to print a copy of that criticism."

Blanden shrugged his shoulders contemptuously.

"You are mistaken if you estimate lightly this intentional undermining
of a well-earned renown. It cannot be accurately shown out of what
atoms an artist's fame gradually rises, nor how they are wafted into a
whole, just as easily can it be blown into pieces! How quickly the
colours glow in a gay, shimmering structure of clouds; fame, too, is
but effulgence, and suddenly dead night comes to relieve its light.
Singers, both men and women, are condemned before all others to outlive
their fame."

"Nor do they receive it freshly in their hands at first."

"Oh, no, it withers for them--in their hands! Read the article which
Spiegeler has to-day had printed upon my 'Somnambula,' such an
article is a blight upon every blossom of renown. They are all tiny
half-concealed pieces of malice, but they hit one's heart. Public
opinion is easily led, to-morrow already I shall stand before hundreds
who no longer believe in me. Ah fame! How paralysing is the sensation
of being given up to the crowd's want of faith."

"All great artists have been exposed to such attacks."

"But not all have overcome them successfully! How many talents and
geniuses have been destroyed by the indifference of the public, whose
enthusiasm was nipped in the bud often by means of personal animosity
on the part of the critic; often by their distorted comprehension! Only
those are numbered in the history of art who bore away the prize, not
the others who with equal courage and equal strength, undertook the
race of life, but succumbed beneath the obstacles which often chance,
but still more often wicked will, cast into their path. But for him who
so labours without pleasure in a career of art, it is greater torture
than all else that men do against their will, for what is art without
enthusiasm, and enthusiasm is only augmented pleasure, which lays hold
of men so that they may pour out upon others some of their own
overflowing abundance."

"Is enthusiasm then dependent upon the approval of the many? Is it not
the artist's voluntary devotion to his ideal?"

"It is dependent upon his happy mood, because to produce the beautiful
is bliss and a favour of destiny. Read this condemnation, must not
every glad emotion be crushed by it? I have irritated the critic, this
is his revenge!"

Blanden was obliged to confess that this criticism of Spiegeler was a
collection of flowers of the most pointed epigrams, that it was
spiteful, and in its way annihilating.

"Even two years ago," continued Giulia, "I should more easily have
risen above this scorn; at that time I was sure of my voice and my
success, now it is different--"

"Two years ago! And was not then Signora Giulia secretly at my castle
during my absence?"

"I do not deny it! Curiosity prompted me to become acquainted with my
friend's home."

"And did you not enchant all the rooms of my castle with leaves of
recollection and golden sayings?"

"It was a pardonable wish to awaken the recollections of a mysterious
meeting by the traces which an equally mysterious visitor left behind."

"Not the charm of mystery brought us together at that time, it pressed
its seal upon our happy meeting."

"Not in recollections does happiness lie, but in oblivion; I know no
other now."

"You are melancholy, Signora! Shall you then retire from the stage?"

"Oh, you do not know," broke from Giulia, "with what heavy chains I am
bound to the galley! Others may remain constant to it from fear of
want. I should fall a victim to much greater misery. Behind the
stage-scenery of my life stands a spectre, a fearful spectre, ready to
step forth at any moment. If I renounce the glory of the stage, I fall
completely into that spectre's gruesome power."

"I should have the courage to hazard a conflict with that ghost."

"That conflict would not bring me redemption. Oh, how I long for rest!"

Giulia's features assumed an expression of most intense exhaustion; she
sank upon the sofa and hid her face in her hands.

Lieutenant Buschmann was announced.

"Count upon my help," said Blanden, "when and wheresoever you may need
it. This knightly duty I owe to the gracious lady of the magic lake,
and shall fulfil it as faithfully as ever knight served his lady."

Giulia rose, and, with a quiet smile, but a tear in her eye, held out
her hand to bid farewell.



                              CHAPTER XII.

                        IN THE CITIZEN ASSEMBLY.


A dense throng was crowding through the unpretending entrances of the
old-fashioned city garden; the citizens of Königsberg had there found a
central point for their political and intellectual interests. Although
excluded from the programme of these meetings, politics really formed
the most vital artery of their life; for it was a period in which every
matter in hand became converted into politics; the strongest material
began suddenly to assume a political tinge of colour when it was held
towards the light. The kernel of the Königsberg citizenship was present
at these assemblies, and Blanden was perfectly right when he desired,
by means of his lecture, to introduce himself in more extensive circles
as the political agitator for the elections of the future.

At the entrance to the gallery which led into the room, there was much
animation; there the claims were examined, for the assembly was a
closed society. Any one who did not possess a card was rejected.

"_Corpo di bacco_," echoed a violent voice, "of what use are
_biglietti_ when the people assembles?"

"No one is admitted without a card."

"_Corpo del diavolo_," cried the impatient man, "then I must first
return to my friend, _Che Seccatura!_"

Blanden, who had just arrived, recognised the amber-merchant, who, in a
violent manner, forced a passage through the thronging people, so as to
obtain egress again.

In the room itself a large concourse of people was already gathered,
forming an impenetrable wall. The large mirror, which was placed
against the one side, reflected, head after head, mostly well-to-do
respectable faces, a few ruddy with the northern climate, tingling in
the hot room after the cold out of doors, all gazing out beneath the
brims of their hats, because here John Bull's custom had, from
necessity, become a silent law; nowhere, excepting upon the heads,
could space be found for the hats.

That no Jacobin-club, however, was assembled here was betokened by the
steady composure that was unmistakable in all present, and the dense
clouds of tobacco which floated above their heads.

Any one wishing to force his way through, must let himself be carried
on farther by a suddenly formed wave, or with nervous haste follow the
ticket-taker who enjoyed an undisputed right of passage.

Blanden, at the first rush, could not attain the chief table; a
subsiding wave, which came from the opposite direction, drove him back.

Upon looking around he perceived near to him several faces that he
knew, also that of the _ombre_ player, Milbe, who again was not in
Kulwangen, but was here prosecuting his political efforts.

Milbe possessed an evil conscience, because he had not given his vote
to Blanden, and tried not to perceive the latter. Sengen von Larchen,
however, who stood close by, delighted him with shaking hands
cordially.

Gradually Blanden succeeded in reaching the vicinity of the platform,
where he espied several leaders of the political movement. There stood
a little man, with lofty, thoughtful brow and the soft gaze of a large
eye, the only person in the assembly who had appeared in a black
frock-coat, with white cuffs. His opponents might, perhaps, compare
him, the most feared of all the politicians in the town on the East
Sea, with Robespierre, on account of that cleanliness; his beardless
face made a thoroughly frank impression. His firm figure was not
possessed of any quicksilver flexibility; everything about him was
precision--certainly clearness. Although he had made himself renowned
by his questions, he appeared much more like a man who is ready to, and
capable of answering; all sparkling wit was foreign to him; he loved
plain inferences from given premises; his logic was pure as his cuffs.
As the doctor does his patient's, so did he feel the pulse of the
State, and prescribed his remedies to the invalid. He possessed the
indomitable equanimity of a stoic, and looked upon the necessary
combination of affairs of this world with the eyes of a Spinoza. He was
one of the most insignificant in the Assembly, but, like the homunculus
in the bottle, he drew the fiery trail of a great reputation after him,
and wherever he appeared he was greeted with special respect.

Beside him stood another agitator, whose entire appearance denoted him
to be devoted to colour; he was artistically draped in a cloak with a
velvet collar, while every possible gaudiness of waistcoat and necktie
peeped forth between the folds; his head, as the Brussels citizen says
in "Egmont," would be a real delight to an executioner, so splendidly
it contrasted with the average heads of the throng, so brilliant is its
colouring, so luxuriant the well-cared-for beard. He was the humourist
of the party, a flourishing author; by some compared with Jean Paul, by
others with Börne, and his satirical bees fluttered around a flowery
abundance of pictures. No greater contrast could exist than that
between this overflowing humourist and the staid political medical man
by his side--the former revelling in the luxuriant complacency of an
enthusiasm for freedom, which poured flowers, fruit and briars out of
its horn of plenty; the latter, the man of dry formulas, of determined
demands.

Near them stood other men of the party, teachers at girls' schools,
pedagogues of great oratorical fluency, and some worthy citizens of
intellectual pursuits. The master chimney-sweep, who passes his
snuff-box round yonder, speaks of Kant and Feuerbach, as if they were
customers for whom he sweeps soot out of their chimnies; he knows the
construction of the philosophical systems as accurately as the
construction of coke stoves, and at home possesses a library which many
a professor might envy.

Now the President's hammer is heard; an amateur orchestra, consisting
of members of the union, sends forth its mighty sounds from the
platform, then patriotic songs are sung. All betokens warm
participation; it is a society that betrays internal life. Thus also
thinks that renowned author, a tall figure, with a wreath of hair round
the crown of his head, an idealist of the purest water, who is making
studies here of superior sociability, and, amidst the din of the
present, seeks to solve a problem of the future. The young doctor, who
now ascends the platform, is well-known to Blanden--it is the poet
Schöner; he pushes his long black hair from his brow, and, with
flashing eyes, and fiery pathos, recites a poem which lauds the Baltic
country as the new home of political freedom. During the recital he was
quivering from head to foot like a Shaker who is moved by his religious
enthusiasm, but it was this peculiarity that acted with such
electricity upon the crowd. Tempestuous applause rewards these poetical
efforts. The Robespierre in the frock-coat addresses a warm laconic
eulogium to the poet after he had descended from the platform; the
humourist, with good-natured blue eyes, looks pleasantly at him through
spectacles, and lauds his grand talent. The master chimney-sweep closes
his snuff-box vigorously, a species of applause that he loves, and does
the poet the honour of inviting him to a game of chess, a peculiar
distinction which is only vouchsafed to favourites. Blanden, however,
could not but say to himself that political lyrics had already reached
that ominous turning point where phrases compensate for thoughts, and
every variety of detonating rockets and fireworks have superseded the
steady flame of pure enthusiasm.

Now his turn came; he knew that his appearance in the Citizen Assembly
would be looked upon with suspicion by many of his equals, but he kept
his object firmly before his eyes. His equals had dropped him, he
turned to the great Liberal party, that was not bound to one district
or circle of Government.

He possessed no stentorian voice, but his organ did not lack power and
warmth, and a certain elegance of delivery kept people's interest
awake. Many considered it greatly in favour of so respected a
representative of the nobility of the country that he not merely mixed
in the circle of the Königsberg citizens, but also participated in
their intellectual guidance. His lecture presented a picture of the
charters of 1830, and the development of the French constitution under
the July Dynasty; he then pointed out the advantages which advanced
States like France possessed over Prussia by means of their
constitutions, and alluded to the development of public life which with
us still is numbered amongst our sacred wishes. But then he showed how
the provisions of the French charters were circumvented by the
Government, and cast no favourable horoscope for the latter in the
existing state of dull, mental fermentation; he criticised the limited
right of election and the system of two chambers with acumen, daring
which public opinion at that time did not venture to follow. All the
same, his speech reaped stormy approval. Blanden could not but admit
that this applause rewarded every speaker, who spoke in the spirit of
the Assembly, and that when the good master sweep opened his lips and
snuff-box simultaneously, so as to launch from the platform a few
telling sentences in which his pinches of snuff formed the punctuation,
he was greeted with similar applause. Still Blanden believed he had by
means of this speech opened for himself a road to political
consideration; at last he felt himself to be exalted and calmed; his
glance into the future appeared freer, he saw an attainable goal before
him. Torn from his solitary brooding in the echo of similar sentiments
which met him, he at the same time greeted the certainty that his
political convictions would also find a farther soil ready to receive
them, that the path to statesman-like importance lay open before him.

Blanden's lecture was followed by a debate which commenced with the
tickets of the box of questions; the first one concerned political
discourses, should they be entirely excluded from these sittings? The
committee pointed out that the object of these meetings was not
political but social; that these discourses, however, might touch upon
politics.

"Who could exclude politics?" cried an energetic timber merchant, "the
State is the principal interest for a citizen; I am such a thorough
citizen, that I am overgrown with politics; I exhale politics and I
inhale them, I wake and dream politics; I think politics aloud when I
speak, and think politics mutely when I am silent; I feel politics, I
teach and learn them; in short I may do what I will or others may do
with me what they will, politics cannot be expelled from me. Whereof
the heart is full, the mouth speaketh. Of that which one loves, one
likes to speak; we all love our fatherland and like to talk of it. Thus
we all think and feel, and therefore here in the _gemeinde garten_ a
short hour of politics, cannot be omitted."

That short hour of politics roused great exultation. Blanden, too,
rejoiced at the citizens' warm interest in the Government's life, which
had already become a matter that lay near their hearts.

The box of questions kept the debate on foot for a long time, then
followed the _conversazione_. Choruses groaned through the old town
hall; thereupon groups were formed, in the centre of which individual
leaders were found who now exercised greater, now lesser powers of
attraction; the political doctor had his little circle, the humourist
his; poet Schöner recited a political dithyramb in a subdued voice; the
master sweep related anecdotes, songs in sociable chorus resounded from
several tables.

One little bit of by-play did not escape Blanden, who went from one
group to another and with satisfaction--now here, now there--joined the
open fight that had succeeded the closed conflict.

The Italian was leaning in a corner near the stove, and overwhelmed the
ticket-taker, who neglected him, with terms of abuse whose melodious
sound, as their sense was perfectly unintelligible to the other, did
not in the least exercise the desired effect, until several honest
German oaths hastened the man's tardy attention.

Blanden noticed how Böller the merchant, whom he had seen with Giulia,
circled round the Italian as a hawk does round its prey. Now here, now
there, the long, cadaverous figure rose amidst the crowd, and his eyes
were fixed watchfully upon the amber merchant. The latter became
uneasy; it had not escaped him that he had seriously aroused the
merchant's attention, who was well-known to him, and he knew the cause
too. Suddenly Böller disappeared towards one side of the city gardens,
which possessed two entrances. Baluzzi followed the tall form with
his eyes, and, without waiting for the refreshment ordered from the
ticket-taker, hastened to leave the garden by the opposite door.

After some time Böller reappeared, and briskly traversed the groups,
but far forward as he might extend his nose, he could not succeed
in espying his victim. Disappointment was depicted on his pale
small-pox-marked face as at the door he gave an order to an officer of
justice who had come with him.

When the chairman's hammer, with three resounding blows, announced the
conclusion of the sitting, Blanden resolved to seek half-witted Kätchen,
at mother Hecht's, and to convince himself if she were really in
possession of a few lines from Eva.



                             CHAPTER XIII.

                           AT MOTHER HECHT'S


Recollection of the witches of Macbeth and the witches' kettle, in
which they mixed wolves' teeth and hemlock-roots and tigers'
intestines, was awoke in all who entered Mother Hecht's house and saw
herself and her companions creep mysteriously round the large kettles
that boiled upon the hearth. But no tigers' intestines were boiled
there; they were those of peaceable domestic animals which were being
prepared in a herb soup for the enjoyment of night wanderers.

An oil lamp shed a gloomy light throughout the kitchen, which at the
same time served as the inn parlour. The flickering gleam of the flames
assisted it in its melancholy efforts.

The Hecate, who urged the subordinate witches and night-fiends to feed
the fire and to stir the kettles with all their might, was the _fleck_
preparer herself, as _fleck_ is the name given to the intestines which
were being prepared as a dainty morsel.

The little witches were somewhat more attractive than those of the
Walpurgis night, although even they, to some extent, like Kätchen of
Warnicken, peered into the world with stupid, gruesome frogs' eyes.

It was a singular company in that witches' kitchen. Any one who was not
acquainted with its secrets must have imagined that some magic was at
work, which should transform people now into a state of wild frenzy as
if they had partaken of henbane, now vampire-like suck the blood out of
their veins, for some of the guests were incessantly shaking, while
others possessed corpse-like countenances of a ghostly pallor.

A few members of the Albertina had almost succumbed to this magic, and
with hollow eyes stared into the flames which were hissing around the
kettle.

The witches' kettle, it is true, was quite innocent; the magic did not
proceed from it, but rather the counter-charm against oblivion of the
world, against the internal conflict, against the weariness of life,
which was written in all those features.

Blanden, in these surroundings, felt like Coleridge's "Ancient Mariner"
upon the ship of death, where nothing but masks and visors grin at him.

Kätchen had perceived him enter, and hastened towards him.

"As soon as I can get away for a moment I will beckon to you."

Blanden was obliged to be patient. Meanwhile the room became still more
full of the most divers nocturnal wanderers, who before cock-crow would
be tired of drinking, or have fallen victims to intoxication.

A merry swarm of students of undaunted courage, coming from a drinking
party, crowded in with merry songs, pushing before them a lame
gentleman with a beard, whom they had met upon the threshold.

"The first dish for Spiegeler--he has done his part well."

"Ho, Kätchen, the first intestines for the reporter, because he is the
priest who offers up the sacrifice."

"Bravo, Spiegeler, lame, divine messenger of fame, Mercury without
wings."

Thus the voices resounded in confusion, and Spiegeler did, indeed,
receive the first _fleck_ that was produced from the kettle.

Blanden became attentive. These speeches concerned the critic who had
attacked Giulia.

"My dear Herr Spiegeler," one voice could be heard saying, in whose
precocious, instructive tones he soon recognised the wise Salomon of
the sea side, "I grant you all possible laurels, and also the first of
the intestines; because critics are like the Roman _haruspices_ who,
after the contemplation of entrails, can prophecy or speak the truth."

"Hush, Salomon is speaking."

"I also remark that I have not the honour of sharing your views as a
critic, but still you are a man of intellect, and nothing is more
interesting than when such men defend false views."

"Excuse me," said Spiegeler, as he laid his fork aside, "I must beg for
a proof that my view is false."

"I am not in the humour now to prove anything," continued Salomon, "and
you never are, for in your criticisms all proofs are wanting, as,
indeed, in all such cases, it is just as Schiller says--


                       'The Almighty blew
                        And the Armada flew to every wind.'


"Not of this, however, would I speak, but merely express an objection
to your last sharp criticism; it had one trifling fault, it contained
the opposite of what it had formerly said. But when a critic acts the
part of a priest at the sacrifice, then, like the latter, he must also
exhibit the most perfect purity. The Roman priests, when sacrificing,
were obliged to be washed, sprinkled and perfumed so as to be worthy of
their office."

"Well, and what more," said Spiegeler; stamping angrily with his
crutches, he rose and adjusted his spectacles.

"Criticism is not infallible, but it has the privilege of acknowledging
its faults; to-day it can blame what yesterday it praised; it suddenly
looks upon things from another point of view, and all, gentlemen,
depends upon the point of view! Everything advances and undergoes
metamorphosis--and yet criticism should always remain stationary like a
sculptured saint! What doctor does not alter his diagnosis after closer
observation? To-day he discovers an organic disease where yesterday he
only perceived a slight cold. Who would turn that into a reproach
against him? We are deceived and bribed; the delusion disappears, it is
no fault, it is progress. Criticism does not squint, it only sees more
clearly to-day than yesterday."

"There we have it," cried Salomon, "that is exactly fitted for this
witches' kitchen! Do not the witches in 'Macbeth' say--


                "'Fair is foul, and foul is fair
                  Hover through the fog and filthy air.'


"And to Mephistopheles the witch says--


                "'And nine is one
                  And ten is none
                  That is the witches' one times one.'


"I have commenced an album of witches' poetry, these verses taken from
it also apply to criticism."

"I protest against any such remarks," cried Spiegeler, in whom the
effects of deep potations became more apparent; "besides which I can
praise and blame what I choose and as I will--criticism is absolute.
Signora Giulia dazzled me at first--I do not deny it; I deemed her art
to be an apple of Paradise; now I recognise it as one of Sodom, which
crumbles to ashes in my hand, and that which I have recognised I must
express. Criticism does not lie; whoever says it does, I declare to be
a liar."

Blanden had risen, indignant at the man's daring behaviour and the
daring calumniation of his Giulia; but before he had time seriously and
sharply to rebuke the reporter, it had been done very effectually from
another quarter.

A resounding box on his ears roused the astonishment of the lookers-on,
who did not know whence it came so suddenly, and also roused the
boundless rage of the victim.

"_Bugiardo, bugiardo_, you are a liar yourself," cried a powerful
voice, and by Spiegeler's side stood the Italian, drawn up erectly, and
with proud gladness in his features at the lynch-law which he had just
carried out. Suddenly a solemn silence reigned around.

"_Corpo di bacco_," cried the stranger, whose singular appearance
inspired the students with respect, "to cut off a singer's fame,
curtail her receipts, ruin her credit, is honourable, worthy of a
_gentiluomo_! The _giornale_ that hisses forth such venom should be
made into spills, and he who boasts of producing it deserves to be
chastised by every honest man."

Spiegeler had let the one crutch fall, he held his burning cheek while
his lips quivered convulsively. Big and little witches stood drawn up
in a line with their kitchen spoons, and with quiet enjoyment watched a
scene not unusual in that house.

"That was rude, sir!"

"Laying on of hands is no refutation."

"The man is lame and a cripple."

Thus spoke the somewhat timid defence of the disciples of the
Albertina; but Salomon exclaimed--

"Sir, it is an ambuscade, a species of _brigantaggio_! Intellect is our
only stiletto, with which we have been favoured by nature. You appear
to be a foreigner, for you curse in the language of the _Inferno_, but
we do not tolerate such attempts here, we protest!"

"We protest," cried several students, waving their little liqueur
glasses.

Spiegeler now stood foaming with rage before the _signor_, who with
folded arms bid defiance to public opinion.

"You shall not escape me, there are judges in Prussia; we are not in
the inn at Terracina, my _Signor Fra Diavolo_, and do not permit
ourselves to be attacked."

And as he let his second crutch fall, and caught his opponent by a coat
button, he cried as loudly as his hoarse squeaking voice would permit
him--

"Your name, sir--your name!"

Baluzzi, bowing politely, gave him a card.

"Then our _prime-donne_ are allied to Italian _bravi_? They possess a
little robber's cave close to their drawing-rooms? Is truth to be
cudgelled? You are mistaken, sir! We shall not allow ourselves to be
intimidated, we will even expose the matter in a trenchant article, and
as far as Signora Giulia is concerned--you have broken my eye-glasses,
sir! I shall now make use of a magnifying lens, which not the smallest
failing can escape, and if hitherto I have beaten her with rods, I will
now scourge her with scorpions."

Salomon meanwhile had picked up the crutches for the critic, who during
his angry speech had supported himself upon the table; he now limped
out of the room, followed by the students, whose cries of "Bravo
Spiegeler" accompanied him, for they looked upon the critic as a
species of clown, who first in newspapers, then in inn parlours,
performed somersaults for the general amusement.

Blanden had looked on at the scene in a divided frame of mind; the
reporter's remarks had roused his indignation, but the Italian's
brutality not less so, and indeed he had always felt the most decided
aversion for the amber merchant. Especially odious did the man appear,
because he stood in some dark relation to Giulia, as the violence
proved with which he had maltreated one of her opponents.

As Blanden stood there lost in thought, and weighed his intention of
questioning the Signora about this person, who even on the Lago
Maggiore had followed her like a shadow, Kätchen stepped up to him, and
whispered she had now a moment's time, he should go with her.

They groped their way along a gloomy corridor into the yard, whose dark
square was not illuminated by any reflection of light from out the dull
little windows, which opened into it on four sides. Kätchen looked like
a night-goblin in the dim snow-light, she sprang on in advance, and
danced as if in insane gladness.

Suddenly she moved the pump handle: some time elapsed before the pump
awoke out of its winter sleep. Kätchen then, however, did not merely
wash her hands, she bent down and let the icy cold water trickle over
her head, and dried herself with the shawl which she had thrown about
her neck. Then she led her companion up the stairs of the building at
the back, it was a break-neck staircase, uneven steps, unusual
windings; she counted the steps, gave her hand to Blanden, and he
remarked that she squeezed his, and pressed it to her heart, and in one
of the narrow bends nestled up to him, and her still dripping hair
wetted his bosom.

They ascended three flights; he had to stoop beneath the beams of the
sloping roof. Kätchen opened a creaking door that moved with difficulty
upon its hinges. Then she begged Blanden to wait until she had struck a
light, yet she hesitated in doing so, nestled beseechingly against him,
stroked his hair until he shook the caressing witch angrily from him.

"Wait a moment longer," said she, "not in the light shall you see where
the locket is hidden."

A pause ensued, and Blanden perceived that her laced bodice became
looser.

Soon the dreary ray of a tallow candle, whose wick was but meagrely fed
by some guttered masses of fatty substance, lighted the tiny room in
which by the window alone Blanden could find one spot on which to stand
uprightly beneath the sloping roof. That attic with the moss overgrown
beams was a melancholy sight; the melting snow penetrated the badly
closing windows, into the wood were nails driven, on which some clothes
and a fishing net hung. The bed was most peculiar, of a shape
resembling a boat, the coarse straw mattress seemed to be bedded in a
skiff.

And in the midst of these poverty-stricken surroundings stood the
sea-maiden banished into the country, with dripping hair, her bosom
half bared, and gazing at her guest with her protruding eyes, while she
held the locket in one hand.

"The paper--the paper," cried Blanden impatiently.

"I have carried it about with me, always upon my heart, have squeezed
the lines into this locket. I was searched before the authorities at
the institution--nothing was found! Ha, ha, it was too well taken care
of."

And at the same time she commenced to dance about like a wild woman,
holding the locket high in the air. She appeared like one of the
Nikobar island girls, who once, when upon his voyage round the world he
had been cast upon their shore, surrounded him in such dizzy tumult.

He was fain to confess that Kätchen was no longer the half-witted seal
of former days, that a remarkable transformation had taken place, but
that her mind, far from having found its proper balance, had now passed
from moody absorption into a wandering will-o'-the-wisp-like frenzy.

"And why did you not show this paper to the judges? Its contents are
still unknown to me, but I surmise that it might have spared you the
long confinement and detention in the institution."

"To be sure; oh, to be sure! I should have been free as the sea-gull in
the air; I only needed to press this. Snap! the case would fly open,
and they would all have known what they wished. They pressed all around
it, too, but the good spring did not move; they believed at last that
it was merely a senseless amber ornament and gave it back to me."

"And you preferred to be tortured and locked up?"

"Of course; it was not intended for the judges. Oh, the clever
people--judges and doctors! How they exerted themselves; how they
thought, and consulted and questioned! And what faces they made over
it--it was enough to kill one with laughing! Ha-ha! half-witted Kätchen
outwitted them all."

"And who gave you this locket?"

"The man down below, who was so liberal to-day; he dispenses good and
evil. Once I brought him safely to shore through a storm that had
suddenly arisen, and he rewarded me with this."

"And for whom are these lines destined!"

"You still ask! Any other man would have guessed long since; for you,
for you! She wrote them out at sea, before she sprang into the water."

"Then it is the truth! I was convinced of it long since," said he to
himself; "but yet moments came in which I was glad to doubt again--what
is not possible upon the lonely waves between heaven and earth, with a
half-witted--or evil-minded girl?" and then suddenly starting, he
cried, as he held Kätchen firmly with his strong arms--

"And yet you are her murderess--why did you not save her?"

"It was not possible," said she, stuttering and shaking; "a wave washed
her away from my side--she was buried."

"And the paper--unhappy girl, when were you to give me the paper?"

"She did not say--I could do it at once."

"And you did not do it?"

"I would not."

"Out with the paper!" cried Blanden, enraged.

"I have kept it securely in my bosom for so long, I want my reward for
it."

"Your reward for having kept it from me for years! It is my property--I
shall obtain it by force."

He began to struggle with Kätchen, who held the locket convulsively in
her hand, and uttered a piercing shriek, followed by a wild laugh.

"Ha-ha, and if you have it in the net, it will escape again through the
meshes! It will avail you nothing, absolutely nothing--without the
secret."

"Give it me, then."

"I love you--love me in return!" cried she, stretching out her arms
towards him.

"Lunatic," cried Blanden, retreating, as though a sea polypus would
Lave encircled him with its arms.

She caught at the empty space, then knelt down, crying and sobbing.

"Poor Kätchen has nobody in the world; her father is dead--he was
always hard and stern. Ah, the sea is so wide, so wide--and the boat
drifts farther and farther out--and who cares for me? You were good to
me--you gave me the boat--oh, it does not lie on the shore by the
post! Here--that is your boat! I had it made into my bed, my sole
possession--and there I dream of you."

Blanden was moved; he drew nearer, he stroked her wet hair and said
kindly--

"Poor child."

Thereupon she gave him the locket, after having opened it with a quick
pressure and sobbing aloud, hid her face.

Blanden went up to the light that was burning low into its socket, and
cast a gloomy flickering dense shadow upon the half-effaced letters.
Already he doubted whether he should be able to decipher them here, but
Kätchen came to his assistance, saying in a hollow voice--

"I will be your light; I know what stands there, I have read it many
thousand times--


"'I do not desire to live any longer--love my mother!

                                        "'Eva.'"


Blanden was struck to his heart; he had imagined this connection, but
now that he saw it in black and white, written with the trembling hand
of death, so that all soothing doubt had become impossible for
evermore; that these half-faded characters, as did the _Mene Tekel_ of
Belshazzar, announced to him in fire how Eva had merely sought death
because he had loved her mother, he was terribly shaken, as with a new
unexpected blow. He felt as though a hurricane whirled up all the
withered leaves of his life and dashed them into his face.

He struggled for composure, one hand propped upon the window-ledge in
the wet snow, the other covering his eyes.

There was a long pause. Kätchen still lay upon her knees; in her face
an expression of silent beatitude--he had spoken kindly and lovingly to
her. All the more was she alarmed when Blanden suddenly sprang upon her
in violent anger and dragged her up roughly.

"And this message from the dead you have withheld from me for years,
not from idiotcy, not from mental stupidity--I see through you now. It
was all pretence or deceit, who can tell; or else such God-forsaken
creatures have a cursed instinct that is as cunning as much vaunted
reason. You would not save Eva, merely because I loved her. You did not
give me her words of farewell, because they urged me to love her
mother; you only gave me these lines now when her mother is also dead!
I was to love nothing in the world excepting yourself! Rather would I
tarry at the North Pole with senseless seals than with such a creature
as you! Certainly, they, too, possess the power to kill men! Away, out
of my sight, you horror!"

And he dashed her from him, so that she fell upon her straw couch.

A short pause ensued; the light faded into smoke. Blanden groped for
the door. Then he heard Kätchen's voice from the bed; it sounded quite
changed--ghostly and hollow--

"Yes, none of them shall have you; none, none--only I alone! Ha-ha, I
save no one--whosoever seeks death may have it--there will be room,
there will be room. May they all die, all-- Hark! the sea rises--come
into my boat, come, come!"

Blanden had reached the door; he had begun to feel it gruesome with the
love-mad girl.

In his haste to escape he had not thought of the obstacles which would
impede him; now here, now there, knocking against them he felt for the
stairs, down which he stumbled in the dark without caring that he had
hurt his foot by frequent false steps.

Below in the witches' kitchen the kettle was simmering as before; but
Mother Hecht, her elbows planted on her hips, stood surrounded once
more with her unoccupied subordinate witches and a new troop of
students who had arrived, gazing at the spectacle which was afforded
them, the hero being once again none other than the Italian, only that
this time he could not display himself to the crowd in the elevated
consciousness of having performed a daring deed.

On the contrary, he appeared very dejected and disconsolate before the
officer of justice, who, in all the pride of his position, laid his
hand upon the man's shoulder.

"At last I have you, my Herr! It has cost me trouble enough, and my
night's rest also. Böller and Co. knew that the time for the bill had
run out; why did you make our task harder and let yourself be sought
for everywhere!"

"I will pay to-morrow, or the day after."

"It is too late! You follow me to the debtor's prison. No resistance!
You know the laws!"

The students felt pity for the victim of the laws concerning bills of
exchange.

"A misunderstanding, Signori!" cried Baluzzi, quickly recovering. "I am
in a position to pay all my debts. I have only to write a few lines. He
who incurs no debts may cast the first stone."

"Good, very good," shouted the students after the Italian, as he
followed the officer with a defiant mien.

Blanden, standing at the side door, had watched the episode. It
confirmed him in his intention of warning Giulia against a man who
certainly did not merit her confidence, if she were infatuated enough
to grant it him.



                               FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 1: "To receive the basket" signifies to be rejected.
(_Translator's note_.)]



                            END Of VOL. II.

Printed by Remington & Co., 5, Arundel Street, Strand, W.C.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Withered Leaves.  Vol. II. (of III) - A Novel" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home