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. III.(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. III.(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=lOUBAAAAQAAJ

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



                           AT ALL LIBRARIES.

                        BY THE SAME TRANSLATOR.

                              SACRED VOWS,

                             By E. WERNER,

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

                            3 VOLS. 31s. 6d.

                           *   *   *   *   *


"The loves of Bruno and Lucie are simply told with that accompaniment
of mysterious sympathy in the inanimate surroundings of their
struggles, which is the highest application of true literary insight
into nature."--_Athenæum_.

"The incidents are striking * * * * * The whole scene rises before the
reader with as much clearness as if it were represented before him on
the stage."--_Saturday Review_.

"The ability of Werner's Novels is implied in the simultaneous
publication of two translations of 'Sacred Vows.' His scenes are more
than paintings, they are sculptures, and stand out in _alto relievo_,
distinctly conceived and vigorously executed."--_The British
Quarterly_.


                           *   *   *   *   *

            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. III.

                           *   *   *   *   *


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

                        [_All Rights Reserved_.]



                        CONTENTS OF VOLUME III.


     CHAP.

       I.--Primavera.

      II.--In the Lion's Den.

     III.--The Mistress of the Boarding School.

      IV.--In the Forest of Juditenkirchen.

       V.--Internal Struggles.

      VI.--A Sleighing Party.

     VII.--In the Land of the Lotus-Flowers.

    VIII.--In the Church of San Giulio.

      IX.--The Bridal Jewels.

       X.--The Wedding Day.

      XI.--A Legacy.

     XII.--Confessions.

    XIII.--To the East!



                            WITHERED LEAVES.



                               CHAPTER I.

                               PRIMAVERA.


_Primavera_--in the midst of winter, which sketched its frozen pictures
upon the window!

_Primavera_--and yet a midsummer of love, which had long since gathered
the blossoms of spring for its transient enjoyment!

And Blanden wooed Giulia with a passion which, possessing no history of
the past, asserting no prior right, only living in his recollections as
if it were the fairy-like charm of a dream, will conquer her love for
the bright day of the present; yes, for the endurance of a life time.
He did not strive to obtain the renewal of former affection; she had
from the very first resisted everything that could encourage such
wooing; he was resolved to win her hand, and to defy those prejudices
which could pronounce his union with a singer to be unsuitable.

But ardent as was his passion, much as her beauty, intellect, talent
and her great knowledge of the world and of life fascinated him, he was
yet by no means disposed blindly to follow his heart's inclination; he
could even not suppress a soft warning voice of suspicion, which he was
obliged to term ungrateful, because it was connected with their own
former meeting--could this admired actress always have withstood the
temptations that beset her upon her path of triumph?

Did not smiling Euphrosyne cast roses into her lap, as the goddess
stood beside victory upon her car of triumph, decking her with laurels?
How many phenomena of theatrical fame do but shine through a dim vapour
which the repute of their evil habits of life spreads around them, and
it was not Blanden's intention to guide one of these beauties, weary of
adventures, into a haven of refuge.

In the town even her enemies did not attack her character; she
possessed admirers, but she favoured none; all that Blanden learned
there, spoke in favour of the singer, but this did not suffice him.
During his travels he had formed many connections in the various
capitals of Europe, in Paris and London, in Rome and Florence;
everywhere he had friends and acquaintances who were familiar with art
and theatrical life. Immediately after the performance of "Norma," when
the thought first was kindled within him of calling this beautiful
woman his own, he had written to all these people to obtain information
as to the actress' life and character. Day by day the replies now came
in; not one single letter contained an accusation, a shred of
suspicion; the testimony that was given to the singer's private life
was most brilliant. No scandal had contributed to the augmentation of
her fame; she owed it entirely to her talent, of which all spoke with
admiration.

Blanden dropped all suspicions, and the project of making Giulia his
wife took still deeper root. He had reason to expect that she would be
ready to resign the stage, as she had frequently lamented the
disappointments to which she was daily more and more exposed in her
artistic career; nor did she conceal a feeling, which caused her
uneasiness, the conviction that the epoch of her glory was at an end,
and that the decadence of her voice was making its announcement gently
but perceptibly. Surely therefore was she often so melancholy; who
would not, with a heavy heart, bear the claims of a day of reckoning as
it crumbles from us one object of pride, one advantage after another,
and with such cruel indifference sweeps away all the flowers of our
life.

_Primavera!_ But there is a spring-time of feeling, which time cannot
kill. It was that which bound Giulia to the wintry provincial town,
when she might have been celebrating her triumphs in the capitals of
the south.

This it was that made her await the arrival of her friend with a
palpitating heart, as she had once awaited him in the moonlight by Lago
Maggiore; and if to her other admirers she made no secret of his
visits; if she denied herself to them as soon as he was present, or
received him at a time when she was inaccessible to others; in so doing
she obeyed no decree of prudence which counselled her not to alienate
her other enthusiastic friends by distinguishing the one; it was a
necessity, a happiness for her to have him quite alone; happiness that
might not be desecrated by contact with the world.

Blanden still exercised the same entrancing magic over her as in those
days of unguarded devotion; she had remained true to him since that
time, little as it was his right or her duty thus to continue faithful.
His image alone accompanied her through life; all emotions to which she
must give expression upon the stage were for him. She confessed it to
him, and he uttered no doubt of such assurances. Blanden's person would
account for such passion; it was distinguished and possessed of a
peculiar charm. An enthusiast, a dreamer, as he had been from his youth
upwards, he seemed to be one still, when, with half-closed languid
eyes, he buried himself in the rich stores of his mental life; but then
they would suddenly flash and open, and gleam with passion and manly
power. In all else he was in perfect harmony; his figure symmetrical,
the well-bred smile upon his lips, full of intellectual superiority;
his conversation, in earnest and in jest, combined sweetness and charm.
As Desdemona to Othello's tales, Giulia listened to the descriptions of
the adventures which Blanden had met with in distant lands and oceans,
he raised her imagination far above the painted decorations of
theatrical life; she was susceptible to all the grandeur and beauty of
nature, to all intellectual struggles; only the unrest and bustle of
her artist's calling prevented her giving herself up to those mental
enjoyments for which she longed now more fervently than formerly. To
her it would have appeared unutterable bliss to belong entirely to the
man in company with whom she might revel in such enjoyments; to the man
who offered her a refuge from the tempests of stage life. With what
just pride she would have borne the name with which that noble scion
represented a family so esteemed in the world!

And yet--from out the past one shoal reared itself in her life: a shoal
upon which all her proud dreams of a future should be wrecked.

In sleepless nights she meditated how she could guide her ship round
that reef; her senses became confused in the rapid flight of thought
from one possibility to another, which, clutched convulsively, never
granted a firm hold; sometimes she rose to the daring venture of
defying those rocks and trying if the high storm-lashed billows of her
life would not bear her over. Her experiences upon the stage became
daily more unpleasant, the enthusiasm of her adherents more disputed by
steady opposition.

These were the results of Spiegeler's malicious condemnation.

On the other hand the poet Schöner prepared one slight pleasure for
her; he who belonged to her warmest admirers, and two years ago had
striven eagerly to gain her favour, but who had been rejected. For a
long time he avoided all intercourse with her, but without bearing any
ill-will remained one of her most zealous adorers. Now, when her
enemies roused themselves, he sought her out again, and, like a
troubadour, devoted his lyre to the noble lady. He read a poem to her,
in which he sang of her as the _primavera_ of Baltic winter, and at the
same time attacked her opponents with epigrammatic arrows, and those
mighty blows which he had acquired in the fencing-school of political
poetry.

The poem appeared in the most important papers, and again increased the
diminishing numbers of Giulia's followers. She was heartily grateful to
him for it, because she perceived that his thoughts were noble and free
from personal motives, that he but followed his own convictions.

The more retiringly Schöner behaved, the more obtrusive became
Lieutenant Buschmann; he could not accustom himself to the idea that he
must retire from so long a siege without success. The uniform
friendliness of the singer seemed to him like scorn; from day to day he
hoped for a more passionate return. Constantly renewed disappointment
embittered him. His character was somewhat violent, he tolerated no
barriers, and once when the singer, through her maid, refused him
admittance on a morning call, he forced himself ruthlessly into her
boudoir, and reproached her passionately.

It was the day after his visit to Frau Hecht's kitchen, when Blanden
met the Italian again in the street. Arrested on the previous evening,
Baluzzi was once more set free.

Blanden took advantage of this chance encounter to lead the
conversation to the amber merchant. Giulia only vouchsafed meagre
information; he was a distant connection of hers, who often importuned
her with petitions, as he had once performed some great service out of
gratitude for which she had taken him under her protection. Then she
broke off the conversation, it was evidently an unwelcome subject. But
she remained abstracted all the evening, and even confounded two
Italian composers with whom she had been familiar from her youth
upwards.

After a sleepless night, Giulia had a long conversation with her
friend.

"It cannot go on so, Beate! The internal conflict consumes me. His
claims become more and more unbounded; how happy I was when he,
fettered by illness or misfortune of long duration, the veil of which
he will not raise, remained in the interior of Russia; I breathed
freely; now more than ever, I am in his bondage."

Beate shrugged her shoulders.

"Notwithstanding all your brilliant receipts, we shall be beggars
again."

"Oh, that is not the worst! I would give up everything if I could
purchase my freedom!"

"That is not his wish! He would spend everything at once; he also
prefers to have a safe reserve for the future."

"Oh, there is a hell that binds us for evermore. _Lasciate ogni
speranza voi che entrale!_ You are clever and cunning, Beate! Try once
more if you cannot set me free. I have no more ideas, no more plans!
Whenever I ponder over it, my senses become desolate and dead. I stare
into vacuity!"

"What can we do?--we must exercise patience. But if it continue thus,
we shall have nothing left."

"Go to him, Beate! Pray, implore."

"To him! You ask no small matter. I should venture into a robber's
cave, late at night--for at an earlier hour he could not be found--into
a gambling hell, for I know he has opened one here!"

"You have already done much for me, make this sacrifice also."

"Oh, I am not afraid, and if I met a lion in the cage, I would pull his
mane; he should do nothing to me. But he will reject my propositions as
he has always done. Yes, even if I found proofs."

"Proofs! They will not give me back my freedom--yes, if he would, if he
became a subject of this country--we could appeal to justice; it would
even decide against the verdict of the church."

"Proofs never do any harm--who knows what may happen? Perhaps his
speculations may some day oblige him to settle down here--then it would
always be well to possess proofs that may be turned against him, but it
will be difficult, almost impossible! However, I will venture to go and
seek him this evening. Perhaps chance may favour me."

"A craving for happiness has come over me, so intense as to strain
every nerve in my bosom. A glance at the smiling horizon brightens our
souls--and yet tears stand in our eyes. We weep with a prescience of
happiness which nevertheless appears to be unattainable. I do not know
why the pictures of my life crowd like feverish visions around me. I
seem to hear the sound of bells in the days of my childhood; I see
myself, dressed, go with the other children over high hills to the
pilgrims' chapel; then another bell ringing sounds in my ear. In those
days I did not know that it was the death-knell of all my life! Then
again I hear the exulting applause of many thousands, whom my song
delights, and yet I would give it all up for one whispered word of
love, of love that had the right to lasting happiness."

Giulia was to sing in the "Somnambula" on that evening; she felt in
harmony with the part, to herself she often appeared to be walking in
her sleep.

Blanden came after the close of the theatre, and was admitted; Beate
hid her dark curls beneath a hood and begged Giulia for a dagger.

"I am going to the bandit, I must protect myself!"

Giulia started; a dagger always awoke gruesome recollections in her.

Blanden smiled, "Probably some masquerade?"

"_Corpo di bacco_," said Beate, "the mask is not wanting, but the fun
is desperately poor."

She received the dagger from her friend, and was dismissed with a kiss.

Outside, Beate gave the maid instructions to be on the alert and to
wait for her even if she should return late. Antonie listened to the
directions with lowered eyelids and humble obedience, but at heart she
had decided differently. She knew that Blanden would stay at least an
hour, and if she should not disturb them, she would follow her own
amusements quite as undisturbedly.

Exactly opposite, in the large hall, there was a people's ball, and
Friederich, a cunning child of Berlin, servant to Lieutenant Buschmann,
had invited her to dance there with him for a little while, and had
promised to fetch her. All were pursuing their own pleasures, why
should she alone pass the time in solitude?

Giulia was melancholy, Blanden in a softened mood.

Outside, jingled the bells of the sleighs, the winter sky, hard as
steel, was covered with clouds, and heavy dense snow-flakes, which fell
down soft as wool, proclaimed that the cold had diminished.

The room was so homelike. The tea, which with all its accompaniments,
had been brought in by Antonie, who was then graciously dismissed,
infused upon the table. The fire crackled on the hearth.

There was nothing to remind one of theatrical tinsel, everything bore
the impress of domestic comfort, to which the busts of the great
masters of art lent a radiance of idealism.

"Only the north knows this homelike comfort," said Blanden, "the
Laplander in his smoky hut, the dweller in Kamskatka who has
unharnessed his dogs, feel it more than the happy children of the
south, who wander beneath palms."

"And more perhaps than we," added Giulia, "because as the crackling
coals upon the hearth, so do fading dreams stir in our souls, and often
burst once more into flames; of what use is this room's repose, if that
in our hearts be wanting?"

"That repose is best found in genial companionship; words have not yet
lost the spell of their magic power; familiar communication from lip to
lip can absolve us, it is the secret of the confessional."

Giulia felt the truth of these words in her inmost heart; how
everything within her urged her to such absolution, and yet--it could
not be, 'twas vain!

Convulsive sobs overcame her, and Blanden was amazed at the intensity
of the emotions which his passing remark had roused. How light her
heart would have been if she could have imparted to her friend all that
engrossed and tortured her day and night!

Yes, if he had only been a friend! But he should be more, be everything
to her, and one candid word could destroy her whole future. Perhaps she
might still succeed in breaking the evil magic to which she had
succumbed. Thus silence must be maintained.

Together they read the recollections of Silvio Pellico; a deep
impression was made upon them by the picture of an artist in chains and
fetters--oh, those were not the worst which hung from the iron ring of
a prison wall.

She displayed the greatest sympathy; to her it was as if the damp air
wafted through the casemates of the Spielberg filled her life, too,
with the same mouldy breath.

She spoke of the castle of Chillon; that little spot had filled her
with intense sadness. There were plenty of dungeon towers for
salamanders and frogs, but this tomb of freedom made such a deeply
melancholy impression, surrounded as it is by the waves of a beautiful
lake, and granting a view of the peaks, high as heaven, of the Savoy
alps, which rise in the air like a fortress of liberty. It is this
contrast that makes such a painful impression, and as if called forth
by deepest emotions, she uttered the beautiful verse out of the "Ruins"
by Anastatius Grün--


           "Oh, shade of my freedom fly not so fast,
              For thee my heart yearns and craves ever more,
            Like a fugitive bird that has clang to a mast,
              When lost to its sight is the far away shore."


Such ardent longing for liberty, for release, was shown in her recital
of these lines, in the tone of her voice, it was like the cry of
distress of a whole life, and at the same time the expression of utter
devotion.

Blanden could not help it, he folded the beautiful woman to his heart,
and pressed a glowing kiss upon her lips.

At that moment some one knocked, and simultaneously the door was thrown
open.

Lieutenant Buschmann entered; disappointment and rage held him
spell-bound, so that he stood as if rooted to the ground; his bold
attack, upon which he had staked his last hope, had been shamefully
frustrated, but at least he possessed the proof that Giulia favoured
another, that her reserve was a lie.

His cheeks, always red, burned like fire, and he stamped his jingling
spurs upon the floor.

Everything had commenced so hopefully. Antonie had gone to the ball
with Friederich, and had entrusted the house and door key to the
latter's care. Under some pretence the officer's cunning servant had
left the ball for a short time, proceeded to his master's dwelling
close by, and delivered up the key of the fortress to that master.

The game so far had succeeded, Friederich was once more dancing merrily
with his unsuspicious partner.

Blanden sprang from the sofa, and stepped defiantly towards the
intruder.

"Has this gentleman the right to intrude here?" he asked Giulia.

"No--by heaven, no! Only by force or cunning can he have obtained
admission. Protect me from him!"

Giulia covered her face with her hands.

"Your conduct is shameless, sir!" cried Blanden to the officer.

"Not another word with you! But one word still with this lady, who has
deceived us all; I owe it to the favour of chance that I have torn from
her the mask with which she has passed before the world as an
inexorable woman."

"You shall leave the room this moment," said Blanden with firm
determination, "I have the right to bid you do so, because Signora
Giulia Bollini--is engaged to me!"

With a loud cry, Giulia sank into the sofa cushions.

"Well, then, I congratulate you upon the Polter-abend,"[1] said
Buschmann scornfully, as he turned upon his heels and left the room
amid the clatter of his spurs.

"What have you done?" said Giulia, as she gazed at Blanden with large
tearful eyes, her hand raised as if in protest, and sobbing with
internal agitation.

"I will protect you against all the world," cried Blanden with,
overwhelming emotion, "my Giulia, my betrothed!"

And she lay in his arms, half unconscious, acquiescent, infinitely
blissful, and desperately defiant of fate.

"Come what may," whispered she, "I am yours."



                              CHAPTER II.

                           IN THE LION'S DEN.


Beate looked enterprising enough in the Spanish mantilla, which she had
thrown as a hood over her head; her little eyes sparkled; she resembled
a tiger cat, going out in search of prey.

She rang at the door of a large house, and before the sleepy porter
opened it, she tried whether the dagger would spring easily and quickly
out of its sheath.

She knew the way; it led through a spacious hall, and through a second
door standing open, past a back building of stables and sheds, which
looked as if some manor house had gone astray in the town.

Then she arrived at a small gate, and through the railing perceived a
two-storied garden house, of which the shutters were closed; only
through the door, draped with curtains on the ground floor, gleamed a
red light, whose lost reflection fell upon the silver of the frosty
snow, with which the nearest yew trees were covered.

The gate was locked. Beate had to ring again.

Then the snow crackled, and a gnome-like creature crept up to the gate;
almost buried beneath the weight of snow which the clouds and trees had
shed upon her, she stared at the stranger with glaring eyes; she looked
like an Esquimaux woman, at whose hut some stranger's hand knocks.

It was Kätchen! After that meeting with Blanden she had stayed up in
her chamber; had tossed about upon her straw couch as if in feverish
delirium, until the grey morn rose above the roofs, then she had fallen
fast asleep. But mother Hecht knew no consideration for lazy
maid-servants, who neglected their duties--and when Kätchen, on the
following morning, appeared in the kitchen with hollow eyes and pallid
face, she was immediately driven out of the house.

The Italian, who had known her at the sea-side, and had long had an eye
upon her, had also often spoken to her in the witch's kitchen, heard of
it; according to his views she combined two qualities which were of
equal value for his purposes; want of understanding, sullen
indifference to all that lay beyond her horizon, and a marvellously
developed instinct for everything in which she was interested. That
which was repulsive, even idiotic in her nature, was peculiarly
acceptable to him; she passed unnoticed, no one cared about her. Thus
she could do excellent service as a spy, and at night she was always to
be found at her post as porteress and sentinel where forbidden
pleasures were pursued.

"Open the gate," said Beate. Kätchen examined her from head to foot,
and shrugged her shoulders.

"_Aprite dunque_," repeated Beate angrily, although the porteress, who
seemed to belong to the polar regions, did not bear the least
resemblance to an Italian.

Kätchen asked her name. Beate gave her a card, upon which were written
the words Beate Romani.

The little porteress sprang along the garden walk, in doing which it
pleased her to sweep the bushes in the nearest beds, so that their
boughs rattled, and threw out clouds of snow.

Beate became impatient, she had to wait a long time; she shook the bars
of the railing like a wild beast in a cage.

At last Käthe returned and opened the garden gate. Beate followed her
into the villa, they passed through a garden lighted with red lamps, up
a flight of steps, covered with a lovely carpet. Beate had to wait in
an ante-room; deathlike silence reigned in both the adjoining chambers
disturbed by no cry, by no chink of money, as she had expected.

She looked at a picture on the wall; it represented a little church
upon an island in a lake; on all sides, high, bare hills, which glowed
in the radiant colouring of an Italian evening sky. She knew that
church, and gazed at the picture with a shrug of her shoulders; it
awoke a reminiscence, which at that moment was very unwelcome. And what
mockery--the house of God in the antechamber of a gambling hell!

"I have not time now, Beate," said Baluzzi curtly, as he entered
through a side door, "but I will make you a proposal! I have visitors
with me, whom I am amusing with various games, now we are at roulette!
Be my guest--_che ne dite?_"

"What shall I do there? Lose my good name?"

"_Puo darsi!_ That is not an article which I keep in stock, but neither
do those seek it who come to me. However, we are silent. If the means
are wanting, I am at your service."

"I do not play!"

"Remember Monaco, you were a fisher of gold, the money clung to your
rod."

"I am not prepared for it to-day."

"Here you have money, you shall play for me! But come, come, I have not
time to talk."

Beate was not at all disinclined to take a peep into the secrets of the
gaming hell; perhaps she might succeed in discovering something that
could be useful to her friend; she allowed herself to be persuaded,
laid cloak and hood aside, while Baluzzi said to her--

"You are doing me a slight favour, Beate! I need the fair sex in my
parties, my graces gain wrinkles! But you are quite a pretty child,
such a little snake with red, fiery eyes, you are a _diavolessa_. I
know you; _tanto meglio_!"

Meanwhile they had traversed two empty rooms, and entered a brilliantly
lighted saloon, the windows of which were made doubly safe by shutters
and curtains.

A loud buzz of conversation met the new comers, the game having been
interrupted. Baluzzi seemed happy to have captured an Italian woman,
and, with some pride, introduced Beate to those present as his
countrywoman.

"Beate Romani--whence did this golden orange drop?" said an elderly
lady, with a complexion yellow as a citron, to her young neighbour, in
a low dress. The latter put her eyeglass more firmly upon her pug nose,
and replied--

"Little and impudent--a soubrette! The captain is talking to her
already; she seems to be pert."

The Polish Captain of Lancers, a Herr von Mierowski, did, indeed, find
pleasure in the wily Italian, whose smile was so charmingly reserved.
At the same time she let her eyes pass over the assembly, and
especially examined the ladies; of these there were four: the mother,
with the yellow tint in her face, and daughter, with the pug nose, also
bore Polish names, consisting of a whole _plica polonica_ of letters.
Then there was another beauty in pink silk. That rose was a Berlin
lady, of remarkable loquacity. Her face did not correspond with her
toilet's language of flowers; she was pale as wax, and the pink ribbons
flowed down from flaxen hair. The fourth lady was an unusually slender
sylph, and Beate guessed correctly and quickly that she must be a late
performer in some ballet, who, after having gradually retreated from
the front row into the very last, had retired with honours from the
field of renown. She was a French-woman, who pretended to have taken
part in the Grand Opera, but who certainly had earned her questionable
laurels in booths, or on similar stages.

The female company answered to that which is termed refuse at an annual
fair--gay glazed ware, full of bubbles and cracks. Beate soon
recognised this, but without being particularly contented with that
result of her observations. She knew only too well that none of these
Circes could have won Baluzzi's affections.

Several patrician sons were to be found amongst the gentlemen, who
rather prided themselves upon trying their luck at the gaming table,
and having discovered a miniature Homburg and Baden-Baden in the city
of pure reason, at which were not wanting the Graces, who rustled their
silks through the state rooms and along the terraces. A Russian prince,
possessor of many serfs, was very impatient at the pause in the game,
and walked angrily up and down, caring as little about the seductive
beauties as if they had been painted in faded colours upon the walls.

The play began afresh; the roulette ball commenced its fatal course;
people betted upon _rouge_ and _noir_ upon _pair_ and _impair_, here
and there also considerable sums were placed upon single numbers, which
Baluzzi swept off with great satisfaction. The little gaming table was
arranged exactly after the pattern of the larger Rhenish banks, and
here, despite the small dimensions, sums could be lost which were not
at all proportionate to those dimensions. The young merchant sons
rejoiced over the losses, as much as over their gains, because they
could thus show that it mattered not at all to them how they sacrificed
vast sums, the loss of which would have reduced others to a state of
nervous agitation.

Most eager was the Pole; he belonged to those persons who have
converted hazard into a system, and who lose themselves in deep
calculations as to the chances of the game; he sat with a little
writing tablet in his hand, and carefully noted the occurrences at the
green board, laughed at by the free thinkers of the gaming table, who
believe in chance only, just as others perceive but a game of hazard in
the great comedy of the world, and ridicule the thinkers who strive to
reduce it into a system. The mother and her flaxen-haired daughter also
played devotedly, although they merely pledged small sums; at each gain
or loss, a red streak suffused the yellow-bronzed complexion of the
mother, and the waxen features of the daughter received a sudden
crimson glow, which vanished again just as quickly.

Despite all absorption in the hieroglyphics of chance, Mierowski had
leisure sufficient to observe Beate's mode of playing, which in its
thoughtless recklessness pierced his heart. Owing to the lively
interest which he felt in the dainty Italian, he could no longer look
calmly on; he rose from the table, and whispered the necessary hints to
her, not omitting to squeeze her hand in token of his friendship.

Beate followed these hints, and lost bravely, an event which seemed to
confuse all rules of the gambling method. He was all the more eagerly
bent upon proving the truth of his calculations by means of his own
success.

The heaps of gold on his right hand increased; the Polish mamma entered
into partnership with him already, and the flaxen-haired daughter was
much inclined to follow her example, but her neighbour and protector,
the son of the Kommerzienrath, in the _Kneiphöf Lang-gasse_, beneath
whose pennon her _louis d'ors_ ventured out to sea, would never have
given his consent; he looked askant at the augmenting treasures of the
Pole. Baluzzi also became uneasy, because Mierowski steadily increased
his stakes.

At last that state of feverish excitement set in which always precedes
any great crisis. The battle only raged between the banker and
Mierowski; all others as it were merely paid the entrance money with
their small stakes, in order to be present at this performance. The
victory suddenly seemed to incline to Baluzzi's side; twice following
he swept in heavy amounts. But the Pole doubled and trebled the stake
in order to break the bank, "_Le jeu est fait_," rang forth; with
beating hearts the little circle awaited the result which the weird,
rolling ball should bring. Beate had become pale as death, she knew
that this ball would once more pierce another's heart.

"_Va banque_," rang the Pole's cry of victory; all sprang up in
tumultuous excitement, so that the heaps of gold were scattered in all
directions, and some _louis d'ors_ rolled upon the ground.

With apparent composure Baluzzi said--

"For to-day I acknowledge myself conquered, but the fortune of war
changes."

At the same time he cast a venomous glance at the victorious Pole.

Beate took advantage of the tumult to retire unnoticed, and to await
the Italian in a side room, so that her lengthy stay might not arouse
observation.

Mierowski's glances sought her in vain, as he rushed away with his
treasures; he was possessed with a violent passion for little Beate,
and was in a very liberal humour; he longed for another champagne
orgie, and the Hebe for it had been found, and was lost.

Outside, he enquired of the half-witted porteress, for the little black
lady from Italy.

Kätchen stared at him with astonished eyes, and several times repeated
the word, "Gone!" with pantomimic gesture. In so doing she was obeying
no injunction of Beate, but only her own instinct.

The whole party broke up noisily; the Polish women lighted their
cigarettes, the pink Berlin lady disappeared in a grey sack-like winter
cloak, which suited her flaxen hair better. The gentlemen eagerly
discussed the last decisive battle, and were so excited and absorbed
that Kätchen picked up several _louis d'ors_ at the garden gate, as
perquisites.

In the house itself all had suddenly become silent; a tired lacquey
snored upon the bench in the hall; no one remembered to extinguish the
lamps and candles; a current of air blew in through the open doors;
several lights flickered and went out; others burned down and filled
the air with their odour.

Baluzzi hastened, in wild excitement, through the saloons, and at last
found Beate upon a divan in the farthest room in the suite of
apartments. Only one hanging lamp shed a dim light.

Beate sprang up from the sofa and assumed an attitude prepared for
defiance, for the Italian was greatly excited, and she knew that he
would then recklessly indulge his wild nature.

"There you are--you would speak to me--_benissimo_. I too would speak
to you; you are probably afraid of me, little cat? You have an evil
conscience, yes, _per dio_, I might shake you to death, because you are
to blame for the last hesitation."

At these words, he caught Beate with his powerful hand. But she drew
out her dagger.

"Stand back! I expected ill-usage; but I am prepared to protect myself
from it."

The Italian started back at the unexpected sight of the shining steel.

"_Corpo del diavolo_," cried he, "the little witch has provided herself
well, but if I were to struggle with you--"

"Just try it!"

"You are a little brigandess; it pleases me, it is Italian blood! But
you are also an intriguer, a shameless intriguer; she follows your
advice. I know it! Why was I obliged to go to the debtors' prison?
Could you not release me one day sooner? If it were not for the
disturbance, your dagger should not deter me, and even if the little
cat were to spring into my face, I should be able to settle her."

"Let us talk rationally, Baluzzi."

"With the dagger in your hand?"

"There is something like a wild beast about you! Fasten it in a
cage--and the dagger shall return to its sheath."

"Well, I will control myself, although it is difficult for me at this
moment. The misfortunes which persecute me, transport me into ever new
rage. Could the cursed ball not roll differently? _Sono alla
disperazione_."

He had seized a chair, and threw it to the ground with such force that
the back broke.

"Has your rage nearly exhausted itself?" asked Beate.

"It was a relapse--I will be calm. Sit down. What have you to tell me?"

They sat down upon the sofa; Beate watched his every movement with a
keen glance.

"Let us talk quietly! This cannot go on much longer!"

"My business with Russia shall set me up again! '_E una fatalita!_'
This _maledetto polacco_! If only they had massacred him at Ostrolenka,
or beaten him to death with the knout in Siberia. He is a gambler by
profession, and believes to be in possession of the only luck-bringing
theory; but his theory is folly, while the misfortune is that he is
fortunate. It is the second time already that he has broken my
bank--without him I should be the luckiest player! He exercises an evil
eye upon me--I curse him!"

"Leave that alone! The misfortune is the gambling--give it up, Baluzzi!
You will ruin yourself, and us with you."

"She still sings splendidly; while the gold of her voice resounds, gold
will resound in her money box."

"But her voice is deteriorating."

"Bad fellows say so, and I punished one of them lately. Her voice is
still first-rate capital, will bring interest for long yet; there is no
want of it."

"We shall come to want! You are a leech, an outrageous leech! She can
hardly pay for her own dress! And, to-day, bad luck again! No sooner
are your debts paid than a new demand menaces us. You are a bankrupt
every eight days."

"I will give up gambling now; I have no luck. But business is hazard,
too; the Russian frontier Guards are no joke."

"Can you pursue no respectable business?"

"Fill a paper bag with _quattrini_, every day another farthing, and lie
down to sleep happily when one paper bag is full, and a fresh one can
be twisted up--that is not my style! I do business on a large scale, I
would live grandly, I must, therefore, risk much! All or nothing--_va
banque_! What else can I do with your little honorariums? You have no
right to interfere with me; you deceive me, and you especially, little
Satan; you rouse her against me, and spin tissues of lies, and persuade
her to plead poverty. But I will sweep away the spider's web you have
woven, malicious spider that you are, and trample you under foot."

The Italian assumed a menacing aspect; Beate kept her hand upon the
dagger.

"Afraid again? Those little watchful eyes, how well they become you,
but I tell you I want money, much money, and she must give it me once
more! Could she not save during that couple of years when I lost all
traces of her, because I was stationed far away in the interior of
Russia, and could not escape from vile ill-luck? Why did she not save?
Why does she live like a princess? Probably she is collecting a dowry
for you; you are, doubtlessly, a pretty little betrothed; some unhappy
being has gone into your net, beguiled by that pretty visage! There is
still time to warn him!"

"Calumny, vile calumny!"

"But I shall hold her fast! Do she not fulfil her duties, I shall
appear again, and lay my hand upon her before all the world."

"It is on this point that I would speak to you, Baluzzi. There is only
one means by which she can still provide for you, even if her talent
has failed her."

"And that means?"

"You must set her free."

"How your eyes sparkle, little viper," cried Baluzzi, springing up.
"That is a fine plan, probably conceived in this charming little head.
Do not give yourselves any trouble, things will remain as they were."

"Your own interest--"

"Is thus best ensured. Will always be. I have certainty."

"There are sufficient grounds for you, according to the laws of this
country, if you only will--"

"Grounds abundant as flowers in May, as mushrooms after rain; but I
stand by the decree of the Church. I am not a subject of this country,
and will not become one."

"But if we had reasons, proofs--"

"Aha, I repeat it, it is in vain--we stand under the laws of Italy and
of the Church, and what will you prove? That which was done was done
with her consent, according to her own desire, yet at first in
opposition to mine; and who tells you that I do not love her, love her
fervently, that I will always remain far from her? If she cease to be
the queen of the stage, then she will belong to me once again. No more
beautiful angel of damnation ever dwelled with Lucifer in the depths of
hell! Ha! how my bonds will rise; she shall preside at the green board,
it will be like a gaming hell in heaven! For me, at least, because she
shall be my slave, whom I love and chastise at the same time."

"The dreams of a madman."

"If they are only beautiful, those dreams, enchantingly beautiful, then
it is a foretaste, and the day will come on which this madness will
seek and find its victim."

"Baluzzi, be reasonable," said Beate, insinuatingly, as she drew the
Italian down beside her, "you are not so foolish as you pretend to be;
you consented formerly, because you saw that it was for your mutual
good. Be reasonable now, too!"

"How the little cat can caress with its velvet paws."

"There is something in the air that can do you good also!"

"I curse that something and him, for I hate him also."

"Jealousy still, senseless jealousy--_sareble vero!_ She does not love
you; you cannot force her to do so! Is she the only woman in the world?
You give yourself freedom again. Take a large profit with you, and then
trouble yourself no more about her! We others may not be so beautiful,
to be sure, yet we are not made of marble either, but of flesh and
blood, and, if our eyes have not such depth, they flash all the more
merrily."

Beate looked at the gambler with seductive glances. He put his arms
round her supple form, which only resisted feebly, pressed a kiss upon
her lips, but then wrenched himself away, pushed her from him, and
cried, as he sprang up--

"_Corpo di bacco_, I know you, _diavola_! That is a worn-out game, and
I know, too, how the cards are shuffled! You are not indisposed to be
the victim of friendship. Aha, that is the cause of this sudden,
pretended, fervent love. But where are the witnesses--the dumb walls,
the lamps burning down? And, if there were witnesses, they would only
be of use so far as separate maintenance is concerned, with which the
Signora is not supplied. You have miscalculated, my child! To-day is
buried from the world, and to-morrow I shall not know you again."

Beate stood drawn up erectly, the open dagger in her hand.

"You misunderstand me, Signor Baluzzi! Our business is at an end!"

At that moment Kätchen's head appeared in the half-open doorway.

"You called me, Signor?"

"Listener," cried Baluzzi, enraged, "this eavesdropping in my own
house! Do not let me catch you a second time. Open the garden gate for
the Signora; wait below with the key!"

Kätchen disappeared.

"I require money; I do not yet know how much. I will first learn the
result of my business. You are a cunning mediatrix, little Beate, but
neither your paws nor your claws have power over me; but if anything be
in the air warn her not to venture upon too much, else she may have a
narrow escape."

Below Kätchen was whistling upon the key of the gate. She soon
conducted Beate, who had drawn the hood over her head, through the
garden walks.

The wild cat left the lion's den.



                              CHAPTER III.

                  THE MISTRESS OF THE BOARDING SCHOOL.


Da. Reising's credit had done its duty, as was shown by the shining
brass plate, upon which the skilful town engraver had etched the words,
"Lori Baute's Boarding School," in large, legible characters.

There she sat, a small sovereign of a small state. The first object of
her ambition was attained. Indignant as she was at the noise which the
classes sometimes made, to her there was even a melodious echo in the
tumult. All these noisy beings are your pupils, entrusted to you, given
up to your authority, and this turbulence only proves how your school
flourishes.

She had adopted a short, decided, dictatorial manner, and practised it
before the mirror; she had also pondered over a necessary alteration in
her dress, and arrived at the conclusion that her present position
required a certain sacrifice, the sacrifice of youth. Fräulein Sohle,
her predecessor, had none to make in that respect, she was totally
different from her pupils, with the advantage of her maturer years, and
with unartificial dignity, such as is united without effort to creases,
wrinkles, and a figure which only appears as the physical residuum of
an intellectually extinguished spirit.

But Lori was still young; her looking glass told her that she might
compete in charms with the youngest teachers, yes, she even looked
younger than she was.

School, and that life to which she might still lay claim, were opposed
to one another, but she must make some concession. She made up her mind
to it, and decided upon the loss of those curls, which the profane
world designated "love-locks."

It was not easy for her to relinquish the glossy, youthful head-gear,
but the gloomy framework of snake-like curls imparted an otherwise
unattainable dignity to her features. To be sure her eyes flashed out
all the more boldly, and her tiny person could not possibly transform
itself into a Juno. Nevertheless she knew how to inspire respect;
wherever she appeared, all noise was stilled, her omniscience was
feared, because she knew how to find out by inquisition and torture
everything that happened in any portion of her dominions. The
governesses were afraid of her and her spies; they felt that every step
was watched, without knowing in what tangible form those dark powers
dogged their heels.

The older tutors also obeyed the young ruler's will with a certain
gallantry; only the young master with the moustache opposed an
unbending mind, and appeared to be determined to go his own way.

She was thought to be omniscient, poor Lori! How gladly would she have
been so! because unnatural obscurity hovered over one of the most
important questions which occupied her. Far away beyond the attained
goal her ambition was again striving after new objects--how very
different to be a proud _châtelaine_, and the wife of a nobleman of
position--and was this impossible for her?

She sat silently, and counted up all the tokens of attention which
Blanden had vouchsafed to her. The sum was a considerable one, if only
all the separate posts had been secure--!

Blanden had availed himself of her last invitation in the
confectioner's shop to visit Reising, just before his departure to the
province, and, indeed, on the same day. Was it merely his eagerness to
fulfil a social duty while he had time, or was it liking for, and
interest in her poor self?

Dr. Reising had received him very pleasantly. Euphrasia had been
agreeable, yes, coquettish--Lori had no other name for it; even Emma
had shed the light of her kitchen lantern upon the high politics of the
reception-room; and actually Albertine made up her mind to speak.

But he had distinguished her above all the others, talked with her in
preference, and she herself had been intellectual, particularly
intellectual; she must say that for herself, there are days upon which
the silver melts unaided from the mental ore, and becomes liquid, days
of an intellectual silvery appearance. Could Blanden be unsusceptible
to such silvery looks? For he had been in the province a long time. Dr.
Reising had departed with her sisters; she had undertaken the school,
it was a time of anxiety. He was far away, she could only preserve his
image in her heart, and at rare moments take it out for devout
contemplation.

But now he had returned again, she had seen him. Twice he had ridden
past her house. Was it chance, or intentional? He had looked up at her
windows; did he seek her, or did he only notice the wild noise issuing
from one of the classes, the windows of which, in spite of the cold,
had to be opened on account of a worn-out stove!

Much more weighty was the fact that for several days she had each
morning found a bouquet of hot-house flowers in her vase.

A man-servant had delivered them to the housemaid without giving the
name of the donor. In each bouquet was concealed an envelope, in which
was a card containing a verse. Such forbidden goods in a girls' school,
and to be sent to her, the mistress! But she resigned herself to the
inevitable, did not burn the cards, nor did she forbid the reception of
the bouquets.

Did they come from Blanden? A blissful suspicion told her so, she
believed to find reminiscences of their conversations in some of the
verses. Had he not spoken of the solitude of his woods, and did not the
first verse begin with an allusion to it?--


                 "Without thee darling I am lonely,
                    All the light of life doth die,
                  All my heaven is in thee only,
                    No star is in th' eternal sky
                  Save thou smile and bid me see,
                   Save thou come and bide with me."


She imagined she heard Blanden's soft mellifluous voice in the melody
of these lines; but why did he not come? She would gladly have let her
eyes shine upon him.

Bolder was the last poem! It spoke of the lotus-flower. Blanden had
been in India, the exotic colouring of the lines possessed a warmth
such as only personal experience can impart:


                 "A god of Hindoo dreams,
                    Cradled in the lotus-flower,
                  Then enchanted it would seem
                    By a goddess' magic power;
                  And wert thou my goddess true
                  I should be enchanted too."


In spite of the oriental figurative language, the meaning of these
lines was not incomprehensible; they were from Blanden. They must have
originated from him, and mentally Lori composed the anti-strophe--


                 "Let the lotus shed its perfume,
                    Tarry not in lover's pain,
                  In the castle of Kulmitten
                    I will as your goddess reign."


And if Blanden were the author, the sender of these exotic nosegays,
nothing but delicate consideration could restrain him from seeking her!
He indeed knew where the lotus-flower bloomed, but could he know how he
should be received? He must show some regard for the mistress'
character, upon which her existence depends. He had no pretext for such
a visit; he had no little daughter to introduce. Oh, she understood him
thoroughly, and she respected him the more, the more she understood
him.

She considered long what pretext she could find for a meeting; she made
plans, and rejected them again. At last she decided upon her favourite
weapon, a pink note--an anonymous pink note! He was discreet, she might
trust him, there was nothing remarkable about a chance meeting in the
confectioner's shop; but the reason? This was of less importance; once
she was seated before him, all doubts must vanish.

These lines, these flowers, and the look in his eyes, a single pregnant
word--and the enigma would be solved with magic speed.

The pink note merely contained the words, "a lady begs for your advice
and help," also the place and the hour of the assignation.

Blanden was on friendly terms with Reising; she, without male support
since her brother-in-law's departure, had she not every right to turn
to him, and her doing so would enlighten him.

There was the tutor with the moustache, handsome Dr. Sperner, he became
bolder and more defiant each day, yes even at times he seemed to treat
her like a little girl, and not as the principal of the school. Blanden
should advise her how she was to behave to the doctor, a little
interference in her favour would lower the young man's presumptuous
tone; he must learn that she was sure of manly protection.

When in the act of taking her straw hat out of the drawer so as to make
her toilette in keeping with her correspondence, Dr. Sperner was
announced again. He entered so boldly, that one might have expected to
see spurs on his boots.

"You wish to speak to me, dear Fräulein?"

"Later, a few hours later, I begged you to come to me."

"I know, but I shall not have time! This white slavery only extends
over lectures and consultations, not the entire day, even if it be the
most amiable lady planter's slavery."

"What do these insinuations mean, Herr Doctor?"

"I gladly look upon myself as your slave, my Fräulein! If capital be
allowed to plunder our mental labour, it may be endured from an owner
of capital, such as you, dear Fräulein, with whom a man could live. But
what do you wish?"

"I can now only explain my views very briefly upon two points which I
wish to see altered; yes, I expect, I command that they be altered!"

The Doctor bowed with a mocking smile.

"Even on my first visit to the establishment, I made these
observations," continued Lori, while she assumed a stern tone, and
shook back one spiral curl that fell over her face, "the themes which
you give to the pupils are totally unsuitable, just so the theme for
the last composition, 'Why did Egmont not marry Klärchen?' That does
not appear to be the proper manner of introducing our classics."

"There our views differ, dear Fräulein! Upon reflection, you will find
how improving such tasks are. They accustom the girls to grasp the most
important questions in life in an independent manner, and, above all,
to treat them with tact. Besides, I avoid themes which lead to
commonplaces, and which have already been written upon hundreds of
times. New questions which cause independent thought--that is my
object. I should like to wager that hitherto even you have not thought
over my questions."

"I must decline, Herr Doctor, to be placed on a par with my pupils."

"I am far from doing so, excepting on one point, namely, youth and
loveliness."

"You forget to whom you are speaking. Such susceptibility, however, is
a superfluous quality in the masters at my school."

"What would a teacher of youth be, who possessed no susceptibility for
the beautiful?"

"Many pupils and their parents complain of your partiality. I find that
they are right. I have examined the corrected copy-books very closely.
You show such partiality to that fat Iduna; orthographical mistakes,
which, for the others, you mark with thick red lines, in her case you
treat as clerical errors, which you do not count, which you do not put
down in the margin or add up. Thus Iduna always receives a good notice.
And yet that girl brought forward the unutterable nonsense that Egmont
did not marry Klärchen because it would have been inconvenient, and
marriage, especially owing to ladies' dress, costs too much money;
although lace was made in Brussels and Flanders, and was cheaper than
with us. And this sentence you did not even cross out, while you
accompany the poetical ideas of other girls with red notes of
interrogation."

"Iduna possesses sound common sense, although she is of a prosaic
nature. We must encourage it. On the other hand, it is a master's duty
to eradicate betimes all that is too fantastic; life does not fulfil
such foolish dreams."

"As well as Iduna, you favour Clara, who is not her inferior as to
voluptuous form; it seems that you like full-blown roses."

"You are mistaken, Fräulein; besides, my private taste has nothing to
do with my profession and your establishment. It is thoroughly feminine
to recognise no principles, and to impute everything to the
affections."

"Because," interposed Lori, "in a boarding school they are ill-weeds,
which must be eradicated first of all."

"As you like to decide upon matters which do not belong to your duties
as principal, although, as a girl, they may be interesting to you--"

"The distinctions which you make are unsuitable--"

"Then I must defend my taste against your accusations. I do not
love such phlegmatic contented natures. I love what is fine and
piquant--vivacious, intellectual eyes, dainty figures--"

"I thank you for your confessions, but I am not in a position to listen
to them any longer; I must leave you. But yet, I must request better
themes for German tasks, and greater impartiality--and you will obey my
orders."

"Certainly; 'Thoughts on the awaking of Spring' shall be the next theme
for our first-class, and Iduna shall receive the worst report. You had
better take your fur instead of your cloak, Fräulein! It is bittterly
cold, as the sentries say in 'Hamlet,' before they see the ghost. Can I
assist you? That pink bonnet becomes you charmingly, dear Fräulein! You
can wear the most youthful colours, but smooth bands of hair would suit
you better than these corkscrews. Good-by!"

With a mocking smile, but a fiery glance at the young mistress, the
audacious Doctor took leave. Lori was indignant at his daring, and at
the superior tone which he assumed, but she was still more angry with
herself that she had not been able to keep him within bounds; that she
felt subdued before him, as was Mark Antony before Cæsar's genius. She
must procure advice, it was high time.

Soon Lori was seated in the confectioner's shop, and waited eagerly for
the result of her pink note.

Blanden entered: he went excitedly and hastily through the apartments;
he had received the note, and connected its contents with Giulia, who
occupied all his thoughts. For this reason he had acceded to its
invitation, although the preparation for his meeting with the
Lieutenant claimed all his time. He recognised Lori, and went towards
her; she thought it advisable at once to acknowledge her authorship of
the note. Blanden seated himself beside her, and listened absently to
her communications. The less Lori really had to say, the longer she
spun it out: she began with their meeting at the sea-side, with the
friendship which Professor Reising had always entertained for Blanden;
she painted pictures of the short time they had been together, in the
most vivid colours. Blanden sat there so dreamily; was he revelling in
the same recollections; did he smile in silent delight, or only out of
politeness?

Now Lori began to talk about herself; she drew a touching sketch of her
childhood and youth. Blanden's eyes became more and more concealed
beneath their lids, imparting a dreamy appearance to him; was it
fervour or abstraction?

In the midst of her recital Lori watched the play of her listener's
countenance with nervous attention, and was miserable that she could
not fathom the impression which her words made upon him, because this
was the principal object of the meeting. She hardly dared confess to
herself that she had perceived how forced was his attention, and that
his pulses did not seem to beat any higher.

She sought to awaken a deep interest by representing how difficult it
was for a girl to fight her way through the world; she had bought the
school, but now stood there quite isolated, helpless in many respects.
She complained of several governesses, especially of the rebellious
master.

"Then I should dismiss him," said Blanden, with great composure.

"It is not so easy as you think. He has his faults, but it is difficult
to find a substitute. Besides, he is thought something of in society.
In such an establishment one has not only to think of the daughters,
but also of the mothers. And, as far as the mothers are concerned, he
is a veritable Faust; he possesses the keys to their hearts."

"But he would listen to serious remonstrance."

"He treats me, I hardly like to say it, as a loveable little person,
who, by mere chance, has been wafted to the head of the school; as a
cypher, to which some small capital has put a figure before it. If he
knew that I am not quite unprotected, that my brother-in-law, that my
brother-in-law's friends support me--"

"It is a knight's duty to protect ladies who implore protection," said
Blanden. "I shall always fulfil that duty. If the young Doctor should
be guilty of anything in the least degree unbecoming towards you,
reckon upon me; I shall call him to account."

This sounded so delightful, so hopeful! Lori's heart exulted, her eyes
rested with such confiding trust upon the knight, who vowed his
services to her; words of gratitude flowed warmly and fervently from
her lips.

Now she had gained courage to prosecute her research as to whether the
knight had already borne any lady's colours.

"You surely lead a very solitary life in Kulmitten?" asked she,
assuming a most significant air, and emphasising the word "solitary"
very markedly.

"I shall spend the winter mostly in the town," replied Blanden.

The man with the iron mask, thought she, he denies his flowers, but has
he, like many, only warm feelings in his verses?

The suspicion that those lines did not originate from him still
appeared incredible to her.

"One who has lived so long in Hindustan, amongst the lotus-flowers,
may, indeed, find it very desolate here with us."

She cast a sympathetic glance at Blanden, who was so impolite as to
look at his watch at that very moment.

"Lotus-flowers, the cradle of the gods," continued Lori, raising her
eyes like her sister Ophelia, for which, however, she had not the long
silken lashes; she had no talent for moonlight of the soul.

"Nothing looks so poetical when seen quite closely," said Blanden, "as
in the poet's verses, neither lotus flowers, nor gods, nor bayaderes.
The lotus flowers are of as beautiful a pink as your bonnet, Fräulein,
Nevertheless, the holy plant possesses a very prosaic side, too; bread
can be made from its fruit."

Was this meant for a significant or, perhaps, even a malicious
allusion? Lori had plenty of time for reflection, because immediately
after Blanden politely took leave, while he repeated that he should
always be ready to protect her.

A feeling of great uncertainty took possession of her. All that Blanden
said was so cool, so distant. Had she been mistaken? Did the castles of
Kulmitten and Rositten belong to those in the air? or was he only
teasing her? Did the merry cupids take refuge in his flowers and lines
of poetry, while he acted the part of grave invincibility?

As Lori left the confectioner's shop, she had to pass readers, who were
deeply absorbed in their newspapers. One gigantic sheet was suddenly
lowered, and behind it appeared the moustache of Dr. Sperner, who
greeted the principal of the boarding school with a slight bow, and
smiled familiarly, as she strolled past him.

After a sleepless night, in which the ardent desires of her heart were
driven to flight by the implacable calculation of her understanding,
and after mature consideration, she was obliged to acknowledge a
defeat, which, happily, she had suffered in total secrecy. In the
morning she again found a bouquet of flowers and a note:


                 "Ah, these runes, dear, pray decypher,
                    Put an end to my love's pain;
                  For 'tis not Iduna I love,
                    No, I love but you alone!"


This was the height of impudence. The moustachioed teacher cast his
mask aside. In her own establishment had sprung up the ill-weeds of
poetry and bouquets.

Should she give him notice?

Under existing circumstances she resolved not at once to speak about
these love poems, so opposed to all rule, but to hold farther mental
debates with herself.

Iduna's next exercise teemed with red corrections. Lori rewarded Dr.
Sperner for them with a grateful smile.



                               CHAPTER IV.

                    IN THE FOREST OF JUDITENKIRCHEN.


Early in the morning the carriage stopped before the village inn.
Blanden, Kuhl, and two other gentlemen sprang oat; the pistol cases
were left in the carriage.

"We have come too early; there is still half an hour's time," said
Kuhl, "a morsel to eat cannot hurt us."

"The morning is as hard as iron; the roads sparkle as if they were
armour clad," said the Doctor.

Blanden drummed his fingers upon the table. Kuhl sat down beside him.

"I cannot, indeed, understand why you plunged yourself into this
danger?"

"It is to revenge Giulia's honour upon a miscreant."

"Well, you know my opinion about duels; it is a special act of
friendship that I second you. I have, it is true, several times, used a
human body as a target, and marked it there when I intended to do,
because I set to work conscientiously, and did not swerve an iota from
my intentions. I wish you had my eye and hand to-day!"

"I prefer to leave it to chance," said Blanden, "then I shall have a
clearer conscience."

"But now," continued Kuhl, "no one would easily inveigle me into such a
duel. I do not hold Falstaff's views about honour, but I think that all
which does but exist in the opinion of mankind, enjoys a very shadowy
existence, and that it is not worth while, for the sake of such
dissolving views, for such opinions which fade into mist, and from day
to day assume a different form, to let a bullet be driven into one's
body."

"But we are dependent upon the opinions of mankind, especially of those
human beings with whom we must live."

"Those are the so-called class prejudices; for a citizen of the world
like you they should not exist. You know best that in Honolulu upon
such matters people think quite differently from what they do in the
Fiji Islands, or even in Japan, where they simply rip up their own
persons. It would be too cheap a mode of regaining one's lost honour if
it were only necessary to burn powder in the pan."

"We often long to punish an enemy," said Blanden, "and there is no
other suitable method than that of standing before him with sword or
pistol in one's hand. Hatred and enmity cannot be eradicated, and such
silently nourished ill-will, such Platonic hatred, as people might term
it, gnaws at one's vitals, just as does Platonic love. Every passion
must obtain satisfaction, therefore the world has produced swords and
pistols."

"You are right," said Kuhl, "the world, once for all, belongs to
cannibals, and the religion of love and peace, despite more than a
thousand years' reign, has not been able to eradicate manslaughter. And
so long as it is prosecuted on a large scale for the sake of a morsel
of land, or questions of lofty etiquette and political politeness, one
can really not object, when, on a small scale, people go to war with
one another for considerations of honour; at least, it is a cheaper
pleasure, and does not cost the blood of nations."

"In my duel, dear Kuhl," said Blanden, "in the first place a woman's
honour is concerned, and it is much more easily injured. As some birds
in Hindoostan, according to the opinions of the people, only live upon
the drops of rain which fall from the clouds, so do women only live
upon that heavenly refreshment which lies in the delicate sense of
their honour."

"Nonsense," said Kuhl, "people scorn the world's opinion."

"Then one must live upon a desert island, like Robinson Crusoe."

"Every truly free man is a Robinson who does not require mankind. A
robinsonade in society, it is that which is right, therein lies the
guarantee of happiness."

"Women must not have that wish; through it they would fool away the
happiness of their life."

"Who can deprive them of the happiness that they conquer boldly?"

"True! Listen to me; at such moments a man thinks more seriously upon
many things. I am about to fight for a woman's honour, you make game of
it."

"Blanden," cried Kuhl, jumping up. "My voice has more weight now, for
that which I say to you may be my last testament. You deprive two girls
of their good name, the sole guarantee which they possess for the peace
of a later life. Now they may play and joke, some day earnestness and
loneliness will come."

"Well, the one has already retired from me; Olga threatens to become
untrue to me."

"Possibly, then, all the more grave is your duty to the other, who now
defies the world's opinion; be it from folly, be it from passion,
later, however, she will lament that she did so, when, after a short
intoxication, she must lead a long, joyless, poverty-stricken life. You
have no duties; one day you will forsake her entirely, and she will be
left to gaze into long, lasting misery. She has rejected one honest
wooer."

"You speak of your friend Wegen!"

"I speak of what my heart feels. I am, perhaps, about to sacrifice my
life to one woman, therefore you can surely sacrifice your theories to
another. A man may become a martyr to his faith, but he may not make
others so."

Kuhl was silent, it was a disagreeable conversation on a disagreeable
morning; he must allow that Blanden was right, it was the way of the
world. He shivered; the narrowness of a subject's life seemed to
oppress him.

"One thing more," said Blanden, "take care of Giulia if I fall. The
world will condemn her as being the cause of my death. Perhaps her
artistic career may be endangered. She has no support, no friend!
Everything seems to be double-faced that moves around her. Be you her
friend; will you promise it me?"

"With all my heart," said Kuhl.

"I have made my will; the legacy I leave to her is considerable enough
to ensure her a life free from care, even if she retire from the stage.
Help her with good advice, but do not forget that she is almost my
widow, too sacred for frivolous games, and veiled for you by this my
last solemn word."

Kuhl thought to himself, "Jealous beyond the grave," but he did not
venture to smile, he only squeezed his friend's hand in silence.

Blanden looked at the clock--it was time. All entered the carriage
again, which rolled along upon creaking wheels through the snow-laden
forest.

On the edge of the pine wood another carriage was standing; the
opponents had just arrived.

The scene of conflict was a little snow-covered glade; distances were
measured, and the weapons examined. Blanden knew no fear, not even fear
of death, but the full consciousness of the nonentity of existence
overcame him. There was nothing appalling for him in death, but
something almost humiliating. It was miserable, full of thoughts which
grasp a world to be hurled to the ground by a piece of rattling metal,
which pierces one in rapid flight, which even an old decayed tree stem
can defy; it was too wretched to lie here bedded in the snow like any
crow shot down from the grey wintry sky by the sportsman's gun, so that
the wings of the mind hang down paralysed and dead for evermore, like
the wings of the hideous bird which just now croaked so loudly for prey
and food.

Lifeless lead--and instead of the agitated spirit's notes of
exclamation and interrogation, that one great line which ends this
chapter of life, and perhaps the whole book.

And, yet, it is easy to die on a frosty, winter's day, when all life
cowers, when the trees stretch their bare summits into the misty grey
atmosphere, and the shroud of snow lies upon all the forests and
meadows. All nature shudders, as if renouncing every happiness.

But, no! One heart there is that beats anxiously for you; two eyes
which already dedicate scalding tears to the dark possibility that
menaces you; there, indeed, is life and happiness, and from these it is
that you must part.

As is the case in all moments of most supreme tension, Blanden's mind
saw such pictures and thoughts pass before him with a certain rigidity,
and only awoke again as Kuhl pressed the pistols into his hand.

Attempts at reconciliation had not been made, the bitterness of the
opponents was too great, those polite ceremonies, which had been made
for form's sake, were dropped again immediately, as being perfectly
futile.

As in a dream, Blanden saw the colossal officer step before him. He
hated the man until that moment, then he was seized as with pity for
such a sensual life, and then, again, with a change of thought, quick
as lightning, his mind flew to recollections of his school days, and he
thought of Homer and the Bible, which tell so accurately how many feet
of earth such a mighty man covered in his fall.

Then in the midst of these dreamy thoughts, rang the call of the
seconds, the fatal counting began, the shots fell, and behind the
clouds of powder, each glance sought the falling opponent, but only
Buschmann had the satisfaction of rejoicing in that spectacle.

Blanden sank to the ground, the officer's bullet had struck his breast.

Kuhl and the surgeon knelt beside him. Buschmann did not trouble
himself about his victim, did not even vouchsafe a casual enquiry; with
a hasty greeting, he left the scene of the conflict.

The surgeon gave hopes; the ball had penetrated the chest, but it
appeared to him to be one of those rare cases in which no serious
injury of a vital organ had taken place. Kuhl also shared that opinion.

After adjusting the bandages, Blanden was lifted into the carriage, and
driven home. The drive was very exhausting, and as the carriage rattled
over the stone pavement, Blanden lost consciousness.

When he awoke out of the dull web of a confused world of dreams, with
its shadows melting into one another, he saw a pale form seated by his
bed.

It was Giulia.

Her gaze rested anxiously upon him; she kissed his unclosing eyes, she
kissed his hands amidst scalding tears.

He had fought for his betrothed, from henceforth she would be his.



                               CHAPTER V.

                          INTERNAL STRUGGLES.


Giulia nursed Blanden unweariedly; she let the performance of "Il
Barbière di Sevilla" be postponed again and again, to the great
annoyance of the _impressario_, and only when Blanden began to recover
did she attend the rehearsals.

Calm as she appeared by the bedside, a mighty struggle was disturbing
her soul.

She often gazed with silent emotion upon his noble gentle features, as
he lay there with closed eyes, when his wounded chest heaved with
convulsive breathing. For her he had gone to meet death. Was he the
victim of a lie? Her passionate love was indeed truth, although all
else might be deception.

She had but one alternative, the fearful alternative of losing him for
ever, or of conquering him by impious defiance of law and custom.

She was an Italian; she possessed fiery blood, and the language which
passion spoke, even if it drove her out into the boundless, was to her
almost irresistible.

Grown up in a stage world, in which adventures are represented before
the footlights and experienced behind the scenes, she had no true
comprehension of the limits of respectable life; she was inclined in it
to perceive a restraint over which the laws of the heart had the right
to triumph. Brigandage lives in the blood of Italians; there is also a
_brigantaggio_ of the heart, which breaks into the sanctuaries of the
law with daring boldness, and deems the power of life higher than that
which only seems to be a lifeless form, a written paragraph. What is
unworthy, let it be authorised by earth or heaven, appears to be a
fetter, to break which, is esteemed an act of heroism, even although it
may be deemed a crime in the eyes of the world.

But she knew that Blanden thought differently; here in the North the
law was a great power; he possessed a knightly mind, which never thinks
of deception. She could only be really his if she took all the daring
upon herself alone, converting a degrading secret into a new heavy load
of guilt.

And had not the worst happened already, and from no fault of hers? Had
he not suffered heavy pain for the sake of the impossible, which could
only become possible by impudent deception, and unbroken silence?
Should she not now, if she confessed all, prepare him a certain painful
disappointment, which hereafter only hostile chance could bring upon
him?

Who guarantees any long endurance to happiness? She would enjoy it,
even if the chasm which yawns behind every bliss were nearer to her and
deeper than it usually is. But she could only obtain and enjoy this
felicity with heart-throbbings and anguish of conscience, condemned to
everlasting anxiety, dependent upon the good-will, the whims of a
despicable man; this roused her heart against fate, robbed her of
sleep, and dreams full of wild pictures of horror drove her terrified
mind hither and thither in alarm.

Ever again her conscience rebelled, and urged her to a confession that
would free her; ever again she repressed it firmly, as the huntsman
restrains the dog that will frighten away the game of which he is
secure.

Beate was calmer, she had given an account of her visit to Baluzzi, she
would decidedly not give up all hope, and thought he would still allow
himself to be persuaded to become a subject of that country; but Giulia
cried in supreme excitement--

"No, no, the disgrace of my life must remain in everlasting obscurity,
how foolish to wish to drag it into court; it was a thought that could
only come to me in utter helplessness. Then, too, Blanden would be lost
to me; would there be anything more degrading for me, than to have to
acknowledge that man before all the world? Only in deepest secrecy can
my welfare lie."

When Blanden became better, he spoke to his nurse of their marriage.
Giulia covered him with kisses, but she shuddered inwardly, both with
joy and fear. Ever nearer drew the fatal moment which she awaited with
equally ardent longing and nameless terror.

More agitated than ever, she returned home. Beate was all the more
cheerful, and hummed an Italian popular air.

"I envy you your good humour, but it appears to me to be almost like
mockery of me and my urgent need."

"When there is a wedding in prospect, one cannot be sad."

"A wedding, oh my God! Happiness which all the world would envy me,
envy me with reason, which I would not reject, even if my soul's
salvation were at stake--and side by side with the most supreme
delight, stand the feelings of a criminal who is led to execution!"

"_Vedremo_--there may still be a means of escape."

"A means of escape--does not danger ever hover over my head, mortal
danger?"

"Perhaps there are means of disarming it."

"Oh, speak! You are clever and cunning, Beate. I hunger for a word of
hope, of comfort, for relief in my unbounded fear."

"It would be a risk--"

"What would I not risk in order to be free from this racking torture of
my heart."

"You could not undertake this risk, only I, and the consequences if it
fail, would fall heavily upon my head."

"I would implore you even to undertake the most daring act, if it can
bring me rescue. And yet how could I plunge you too into destruction,
require a sacrifice of you for which I can grant you no compensation?"

"That be my affair, inseparable friendship in life and death is
compensation for all."

"_Carissima_, good Beate," said Giulia, as she cordially embraced her
friend.

"And then--I like setting out upon adventures, even if I must traverse
break-neck paths. Danger attracts me, and all secrecy, even if it be
not exactly sweet, has a great charm for me. It makes my blood surge,
then I feel that I live! And if such a bold plan have succeeded, ah,
what a triumph! Then people will say, 'what does not lie in such a
pretty little head,' then one imagines oneself like the mouse that, in
the fable, gnawed the lion's bonds. But to play a trick upon such
an overbearing villain and robber, secretly, in the dead of night,
without him perceiving or knowing it; to remove the weapon out of his
hand--that alone is worth risking this neck for; I hope the saints will
not leave so pretty a little creature as Beate Romani quite in the
lurch."

"And what do you think of doing?"

"Give me money, I will travel to Italy."

"To Italy?"

"To the lake of Orta, to the island of San Giulio!"

"You will--"

"I know what I will, but not yet how I will carry it out. That must be
left to the impulse of the moment. The past is a fairy tale, a legend,
if the proofs be wanting. I will destroy the proofs."

"Beate!"

"Where are they, but upon the little rocky island of Berengar? There
they still display the skin of that snake, which Saint Giulo killed;
well, I hope that the little viper into which Beate Romani is to be
transformed, will succeed with the new saints who keep guard there."

"You are contemplating a crime?"

"I am contemplating the destruction of a great lie, which clings to
your life as if with the arms of a polypus. A lie for your heart, but a
truth for the world; a vile, shameful truth if I do not--but what
matter is that to you? Do not question me too much! What I do, I shall
do alone, and because it pleases me. I ask you for the money for my
journey--let the rest be my care."

Giulia sat there with folded hands; should she give her consent to a
deed which, as she suspected, was directed against law and church!

Yet could she hesitate? Her passion drove her still farther upon the
fatal course, and shuddering inwardly, she was obliged to confess to
herself that every act of Beate's was less of a sacrilege than that
which she now so often firmly and steadily contemplated, and the worst
consequences of which her friend sought to avert.

To that first meeting, to that short-lived felicity by which she first
emancipated herself from her stern duty, this lawless deed was now, as
if forcibly, and ever anew united to unholy consequences.

Giulia wrung her hands in despair.

"Let me consider it, weigh it--not too hastily accede to the transient
idea! Too much is at stake for me--for you!"

"A leaf in the wind--and all is done!"

"A leaf in the wind?" said Giulia thoughtfully "is my life not one
already? And if your plan miscarry, if they catch you--?"

"From my childhood I have been used to walk on narrow paths, often have
wandered with my father across the steep boundary roads of the Italian
Tyrol; with him have crouched under rocky boulders, or in concealment
behind the lofty Arves, have slided down glaciers without being afraid
of the yawning _crevasses_ in which death lurked! They shall not catch
me, and if such an incredible thing were to happen, well it would only
befall me! You may be calm and need have no fear."

Giulia still hesitated, and begged for a few more days for reflection.

Meanwhile the _impressario_ could be appeased no longer, and Giulia was
obliged to appear as Rosina!

While she had been nursing Blanden, excluded from the world, her
enemies had been indefatigably active in destroying her character.
Buschmann had kept his word, and in revenge had spoken everywhere with
most ruthless exaggerations of her affair with Blanden. The duel, it is
true, had not come to the official knowledge of the authorities, but it
was spoken of in every circle. People pitied Blanden, but with the pity
soon was mingled the condemning verdict, "he loves adventures!" The
Signora herself, however, appeared as one of those intriguing _prime
donne_, who know how to attract a number of lovers and admirers, and
then set them one against another, so that some fatal scandal may show
the power of their beauty in high relief.

In this troubled domain of public opinion, Spiegeler now cast his evil
seed--notice after notice full of piquant stings, innuendoes,
unmistakable hints. In his paper he had an article, "Behind the
Scenes;" there Giulia was the heroine. In the most absurd paragraphs,
she was not named, but none could fail to guess it was she. Side by
side with them appeared criticising treatises upon the art of song,
containing most violent attacks upon Signora Bollini, who was
invariably held up as an appalling example of bad mannerisms and taste.
Müller von Stallupöhnen, who with his ivory _bâton_ as yet had
conducted none of his own operas, supported the journalist, so void of
musical knowledge, in this labour. Had not the directors of the East
Sea town already rejected four of his operas, and favoured Italian
music in a marked manner by the Signora's long engagement?

And what were these Italian composers compared with him? His music was
full of deep meaning, truly dramatic, besides which every character had
its musical brief, and as Shakespeare's kings were ushered in by a
flourish of trumpets, so were his heroes by a few bars of instrumental
performance. He scorned all that was pleasantly unmeaning, all that was
attractively melodious; when his heroes sang, it was but a musical mode
of speaking, to which the orchestra imparted all sharper accents, and a
few significant inter-punctuations. But when the tempest of his genius
stirred up the depths of the orchestra, so that in almost every bar
some old musical rule suffered shipwreck, and the most outrageous
impossibilities, the most startling dissonances dashed into the air
like spectral water spouts out of the foaming, splashing waves; then
indeed must enthusiasm, ecstasy know no bounds, and even the public be
transformed into a stormy, raging mass, out of which the thunder of
applause should break loose as if with elementary power. This Müller
had, it is true, never experienced, but he saw and heard it in
imagination. If he could only once touch the conductors desk with that
ebon magic wand, this unbounded exultation of delight must be set free.
But it never came about; the directors were to blame. Instead of it the
coquettish tone-muse of Italy, which is so undramatic that she
represents Luciâ di Lammermoor's madness in the most lively dance
music, flaunted upon the stage with all her tinsel of trills and
_fioriture_. In such a frame of mind, Müller von Stallupöhnen helped
the venomous reporters to lay traps for the directors and for the
wicked representative of Italian monkey-like art.

On the evening of the performance of the "Barbière" the house was
filled, but a peculiar disquiet prevailed, as if some unusual event
were in the air. Kuhl sat in the stalls beside his Cäcilie, who now
appeared to be inseparable from him, and near poet Schöner.

"Something is going on," said the Doctor to his younger friend, "people
are not in a pleasant mood. Nothing can be so little counted upon as
the public. And what is it really? It is only a shadow, a spectre, as
little tangible as the old ocean god Proteus, and, if one would hold it
fast, it assumes all colours and shapes. The public of to-day is no
longer that of yesterday; the crowd which is afterwards dispersed
through the streets, is no longer the same which is assembled here.
Schiller's epigram, 'When it is _in corpore_, a blockhead springs up,'
refers more to the bench, it is true, but such a theatrical audience is
a many-headed monster, and as stupid as an old grass grown dragon of
the early ages. What has not this public already applauded? Göethe as
much as Aubery's dog, Schiller not less than a fiddler, who plays upon
one string; the greatest poet and the most miserable clown! Often the
rheumatism of idiotcy possesses its joints, which are paralysed, and do
not move before what is sublime; then again it is electrified by the
most foolish joke, and the unwieldy mass moves hands and feet like a
marionette! As the wind rushes through an empty furnace, so does
so-called public opinion rush through these empty heads. Thus it
sometimes causes a mighty disturbance! The crowd has a certain instinct
when it is gathered together, and a species of common feeling; it is
like a huge body revolving upon the same pivot; it tastes with one
tongue and spits flames out of one jaw; it lets itself be moved by one
turn-screw, like a colossal engine. And by what crooked screws has it
not already been moved! Upon the whole it is rude, and if its hat be
not knocked from its head, it does not doff it to genius! Oh, ye poor
geniuses! In what difficulties ye find yourselves! Ye struggle for
fame, and yet fame, in the first instance, can only come from this
crowd which possesses no sense of immortality; and again it is the
pillar of immortality--what sad means by which to gain it! Really, only
the idiotic flatterers of the crowd ought to be famous, and often have
been so in their lifetime. The fame of the best is a marvel, and I am
tired of pondering upon it."

"Well, everything beautiful, and art itself is a marvel," replied
Schöner, "and even if many a genius has been shipwrecked, we rejoice
for those who have gained the victory after a long conflict with the
crowd's want of judgment and changeability."

Behind them the two speakers heard a lively somewhat sharp girl's
voice.

"It is time that an end be put to this Italian opera, it spoils our
taste; this _prima donna_ sits here as firmly as a fly in amber, and
has also made it her especial task to spoil our morals; all varieties
of reports are circulated which even penetrate into our establishment.
There is no quarantine against it, however many proper means of
fumigation may be employed, the infection is in the air. There is only
one means, she must away, and I am delighted at the lynch-law by which
she will be banished."

"You are right, quite right, uncommonly right," said the old governess,
to whom Lori had addressed these words, as she, nodding approval,
vibrated with intense excitement.

It was no secret that Blanden loved this singer; he had fought for her,
he had been wounded for her sake.

She it was then of whom he had thought when he had listened barely,
even absently, to Lori's eloquent words; this theatrical lady of
doubtful origin had borne away undoubted victory from a daughter of the
educated classes; she was the lotus-flower, the goddess who floated
before his eyes, when Lori alluded so futilely to those verses, in
which the handsome tutor had poured out his heart to her?

This demanded revenge!

Soon should her innermost indignation receive the desired satisfaction
for being so shamefully set aside; with delight she imbibed Spiegeler's
ill-nature with her breakfast, yes, she forgot her dignity as mistress
of the school, so far as to initiate her pupils into this delicious
piece of scandal. Her heart was too full, she must speak to Dr. Sperner
also, who listened devoutly to the outpourings of her heart, while a
significant smile played around the corners of his mouth, and he
complacently stroked his splendid moustache.

"But why do you smile, Herr Doctor?" asked she at last, with annoyance.

"You speak of Herr von Blanden in a tone--"

"In a tone such as his conduct merits."

"Then I beg your pardon," said the tutor, as he bowed, "I was mistaken,
I thought you were a friend of that gentleman, for I had the honour of
witnessing a confidential meeting which you vouchsafed to him."

Lori thought of the large newspaper in the confectioner's shop, behind
which the fatal moustache had appeared, and blushed before the
importunate spy, who rejoiced maliciously at his little triumph. But
then he placed himself completely at his principal's disposal, who was
soon in a position to make use of his offer, for public opinion was
supremely excited--the "effects of the reports behind the scenes," of
which Spiegeler had spoken, had not failed in their result; the
singer's next appearance must cause a great sensation and had already
been foretold by Spiegeler, naturally not in the sense of an ovation,
but with evil-minded, crooked, double meaning. Sperner was not the man
to be a laggard on such an occasion; he offered his services to Lori.

"Do not deny it," said he, with wonted impudence, "you bear a grudge in
your heart to this Blanden and the singer. Our French governess, whose
accent may God improve, would term it _dépit amoureux_, but I am far
from wishing to employ such outrageous French expressions in honest
German."

Lori blushed again; her lips quivered, but the Doctor's fiery eyes
rested so triumphantly and with such superiority upon her that the word
died upon her lips.

"Good, neither Herr von Blanden nor the singer trouble me, but I will
not allow our establishment, for which I have the warmest affection, to
suffer from its principal's melancholy mood. You are so sad now,
Fräulein Baute, that the entire first class has lost its smile, as
people say--you make mountains out of mole-hills. The concern suffers
from it, we might lose pupils, the consequences would be serious. There
are sensitive girlish natures which close their calix-like delicate
flowers when the sun ceases to shine. For these your smile, Fräulein
Baute, is the sunshine of the establishment. We, we who are not so
sensitive, are, at least, angry at the winter of your displeasure! All
the same--if an execution of the Bollini shall take place, I am ready
for any executioner's service; I have friends to whom the Italian
sing-song is objectionable, and who prefer a German drinking song to
any _aria_. We will work for you, Fräulein Baute; a cavalier who makes
so little of a rendezvous as this Herr von Blanden is rightly served
when his night-light is blown out."

"What you say, dear Herr Doctor," said Lori, "is most objectionable in
tone and manner, and really not calculated for a girl's ears. I will
forget it. As to the rest, you have the right to think a singer as bad
as you choose! You belong to the public, and the public is sovereign."

The result of this conversation was that on the fatal evening Dr.
Sperner, with several young friends, sat in a very determined attitude
in several rows in front of the mistress of the school. Lori's eyes
rested upon him with satisfaction, when he turned round and nodded a
confidential smiling greeting to her.

"There will be a disturbance to-day," Lori whispered to Cäcilie,
sitting exactly before her.

"But why in the world?" asked the other.

"The affair with Blanden--"

"But Signora Bollini will not sing falsely on that account."

"Who knows?" said Lori, "those who are out of tune in life, are also
out of tune in art; we must set ourselves against the importation of
the equivocal doings of large towns; I should only approve if our
public raise a decided demonstration."

"She is a splendid florid singer," replied Cäcilie. "After all, the
audience in a theatre has only to judge of the singing and not to
distribute the Monthyon prize of virtue; the most celebrated actresses
would not have received it."

Lori shook her curls angrily at such an evasive opinion, and leaned
back in her chair abruptly terminating the conversation.

There was indeed something menacing in the attitude of the audience;
here and there small groups might be observed, sitting together,
prepared for a common task.

The parties measured one another with hostile glances, with defiant
countenances. Lieutenant Buschmann sat in a stage-box and examined his
faithful adherents under the chandelier, gathered there like a dense
dark cloud. Here and there appeared a noncommissioned officer, who
should evidently preserve intact the communications between the
separate troops, although he might not take part personally in the
intended salvo.

The Lieutenant was annoyed to perceive the long, thin figure of
Merchant Böller in the opposite stage-box, where he had placed a few
large bouquets of flowers upon the balustrade, and with yet greater
displeasure he saw that his former friend and companion appeared in the
pit, and greeted a number of young merchants with a friendly shake of
the hand. Those, then, were the opponents!

It appeared to be a fine corps, well organised; the powerful shake of
the hand promised vigorous work; bright confidence of success was
depicted upon every feature.

"This miserable Brackenburg," muttered Buschmann to himself, "Clärchen
has long since sacrificed him to her Egmont, and he still runs about
the market and mobilises the citizens. Well, the iron tread of my
Spaniards will pass implacably over them."

His confidence in the success of the good cause which he represented
suddenly increased, when a noisy human stream suddenly poured into the
pit, Spiegeler, in front, stamping with his crutches, eager for the
fight.

Ah, that was Blücher at Waterloo! Now the victory was decided, those
were veteran troops which he led, accustomed to the battle-fire of a
theatre, accustomed to obey the leader's signal, to work together in
irresistible onslaught, obstinate and tough enough to overcome all
resistance. That was the select battalion of the _claque_ which
understood how to raise the flag of fame on high, but also how to tear
it down and trample it in the dust.

Buschmann's features became radiant. What could Böller's volunteers,
with their undisciplined enthusiasm do against these well trained
troops, which could stand immovably under fire?

In the densely crowded pit, however, Spiegeler at once recognised an
enemy in his immediate vicinity--the singer's friend, the repulsive
Italian, who had given him a palpable proof of this friendship. Despite
all menaces, the critic had not brought the affair into court, because
he did not wish that the episode at the "fleck" boiler's, by means of a
trial and newspapers, should become too generally known; he believed
rightly that his position as a critic might suffer if people learned
what species of anti-criticism had been his portion. But secretly he
brooded upon revenge.

He was delighted to perceive that Baluzzi stood amidst the faithful,
who surrounded him like a lightning-laden cloud, and hoped that at the
coming discharge some unexpected blow would fall upon the intruder's
head.

The curtain rose when the overture ceased, the audience listened in
breathless expectation; Figaro's song was tempestuously applauded.
Giulia's friends aired their enthusiasm; their opponents, on the other
hand, wished to make the contrast all the more conspicuous by
previously helping a mediocre baritone to a brilliant success.

The singer was quite amazed at the unusual storm of approval with which
he was greeted; he bowed his acknowledgments amid the most beautiful
dreams of a future that fluttered through his mind; at last his great
talent had met with merited recognition; in spirit he saw himself
already as the first baritone at the Berlin Court opera house.

Then the street was changed into Bartolo's room. Rosina appeared.

Böller, always ready for service, hurled his wreaths behind the
footlights, and gave the signal for applause; the young merchant guards
in the pit joined in, also Kuhl and Schöner, and several unconcerned
listeners in the stalls.

But simultaneously Buschmann and Spiegeler discharged their infernal
machines--a hissing arose, as when fire and water are mingled. Others
again commanded silence. Rosina began in a frightened voice; her heart,
indeed, was heavy, but the power of the music soon carried her away
above that dull oppression.

She sang with all her feelings--


                 "And every power fails,
                  Love remains victor."


She sang with grace, she knew how to impart such fervour even to these
light winged passages, that, even before a partial judge, she would
surely have gained her cause. But here there was not even a question of
partizanship, her doom was already decided upon and sealed.

Hardly had she ended the triumphant song of the power of love, when an
unrestrained storm broke loose. Her friends' applause was entirely
overpowered by the noise and hissing which issued from pit and gallery;
for a moment she seemed to stand in the pillory. In vain Basilio sought
to waft to the audience a whispered, almost inaudible, _aria_ upon
calumny. For a few bars he gained an attentive silence, the song was as
appropriate as if improvised, but when he continued to sing--


                 "How it passes from tongue to tongue
                  Nothing but words to inflate the lung,
                  First a smile and then a scowl
                  First a murmur then a howl,"


the storm broke loose afresh; then the people felt staggered, they
discovered an audacious accusation in Rossini's semiquavers and
demi-semiquavers. The hissing and drumming raged through the "aerial
regions." In the pit the hostile parties seemed to have come to actual
battle, they were mixed up in dark wild confusion. Spiegeler stamped
with his crutches like a madman, and, passing it from hand to hand,
something was thrust out of the door; it was a figure striking right
and left with hands and feet. Baluzzi had given too lively expression
to his anger against the singer's enemies, and as he was situated in
the hostile camp, his abusive remarks upon the _maladetti_ were
not without result. Before the police could prevent this act of
self-defence, the Italian, at a signal from Spiegeler, and by united
effort, had been rendered harmless.

But, with a feeling of perfect helplessness and internal indignation,
Giulia stood defenceless before the raging mob. With the rapidity of
lightning the pictures of a whole life-time passed before her mind: she
saw the joyful movement of a crowd of people coming exultantly towards
her, as she had seen it in Florence, Barcelona, London and even here!
What evil demon had metamorphosed the public into a rage-foaming
monster! Yet over her career as an actress writhed one widespread
shadow, as if beneath a scorching blast her laurel wreaths withered,
her future was destroyed. She had but one preserver--him, him alone,
and that preservation she could only purchase if she sacrificed her
soul's salvation.

Calumny had aroused this storm of public opinion, it was a blind,
unjust outbreak; she could defy it with a good conscience. And, yet
shuddering internally, she felt as if a Divine judgment were falling
upon her; "guilty" cried a voice from within, and her knees tottered.

Then resounded a many-voiced shrill whistle; it originated in the
stalls, in which Doctor Sperner and his friends were seated; they had
provided themselves with toy whistles,


                 "Drums and fifes
                  Martial sounds--"


thus he courted Lori's favour, remembering Göethe's lines--


                 "Maidens and castles
                  Then must they yield,
                  Bold is the struggle
                  For glorious reward."


The shrill whistle was answered by a ringing mocking laugh from every
portion of the house. The humiliation, the disgrace were too great.

Giulia fainted, the curtain fell, the performance could proceed no
farther.

The crowd dispersed noisily, some persons crowded round the ticket box
to demand their entrance money. Lori looked on very triumphantly, her
eyes flashed, and Dr. Sperner was permitted to accompany her home.
Kuhl had hastened on to the stage; Giulia had been taken into the
drawing-room, where she soon recovered consciousness.

Blanden was her first thought; she implored Kuhl not to communicate the
theatrical riot to him, he should beseech all their friends to be
silent about it; she should take care that the newspapers containing
the report should not fall into his hands, it might excite him, and be
injurious to his health, if the news reached him.

Kuhl promised to preserve the secret.

"Really, it is not so bad," added he consolingly, "a little more or
less noise does not matter. The dear public itself is a great scandal,
a thousand-headed crime against good taste, a million-fold want of
sense. What is most wretched pleases it, and yet it is really sincere
when its honest displeasure has been roused, if indeed it is possible
to transform this sleepy mass into fire and flame. To be sure it only
burns like plum-pudding when spirits have been poured over it and
ignited, when the spirits are exhausted then the phlegm remains
behind."

Giulia thanked the Doctor for his friendly intentions, and for the
slight comfort which she could extract from such daring views. Arrived
at home, she sat a long time talking to Beate; she gave her companion
money for the journey, and on the following day Beate prepared for her
departure to the Orta lake.



                              CHAPTER VI.

                           A SLEIGHING PARTY.


A cold East Prussian winter's day--crisp snow upon the roads--the broad
fields sleep beneath their white cover. Ashen grey clouds in the sky,
but the snow flakes seem to be frozen, and cannot loosen themselves;
only now and again one little atom flutters down, or has the icy north
wind, which here and there sweeps up a looser snow field, wafted it
down from the roofs? It is that spiteful cold which seems to be more
fitted for Laplanders than for civilised mortals. The air cuts as if
with knives, and the breath of life freezes on men's lips. But this
very scorn of Nature who has retired to her ice palace and surrounded
herself unapproachably, as if with a threefold shield, calls forth
man's defiance.

Nature must be enjoyed at any price!

The inhabitants of the town, clad in thickly furs, amuse themselves
upon the Pregel. Upon the smooth even course that leads inland the
chair sleighs fly forward in long rows, the skaters rush in the
direction of the north wind which brings them the icy cold greeting
from the Baltic Sea, lying beneath the spell of winter, others make
circles upon the surface, and display their art which even a great poet
has immortalised.

One of the most successful is the gallant skater who makes use of his
skates as buskins for the higher flight of love. With what gladsomeness
he pushes the sleigh before him; within it sits, buried beneath furs,
shawls, rugs, veils, what appears to be a formless mass, and yet!--he
is proud to drive a beautiful woman.

This same emotion of pride fills Wegen's breast so far as anything is
to be seen of his face, which is concealed under the fur cap and warm
ear-covers; it beams with pleasure. His eyes, it is true, weep, but
only because of the north wind, but if they were a couple of tears of
joy which he shed he should not be surprised! Olga had never been more
affable towards him than to-day, and when he dared to speak of the
sleighing privileges, she smiled. No, it is no smile which refuses--he
understands it well! The first kiss in prospect,--this point he had
never attained with Cäcilie! Hah! how his sleigh flew on in advance of
all towards the beautiful goal, and if the ice did not shed sparks from
beneath steel shoes, it was not his fault, for he was fire and flame, a
Hecla in the midst of rigid frost.

Wegen had been in the Province for some time, and Olga, despite the
monotony of a winter season in the country, had visited the same
relatives as those with whom Cäcilie had formerly stayed. Olga had made
a much more favourable impression in Masuren than Cäcilie; she was not
so superior, so clever: she talked with zest of everything that can
interest a country young lady and a country "Junker"--and above all,
she was beautiful, with that stately vigorous beauty that country
squires love, because it gains such prizes as can be obtained by
understanding the art of feeding the lower creatures of the animal
kingdom.

The rumour of her intimacy with Dr. Kuhl only arose in a very pale
form, and was hardly noticed. Wegen visited Olga as frequently as his
time permitted him, which it did every day. Olga was always friendly
and accessible, not so distant, so enigmatic, so evasive as Cäcilie.
Besides, even before others, she showed how much she favoured Wegen,
and he was very happy that he should be envied. Such a thing had never
befallen him before, it was quite a novel sensation for him. Milbe
declared that every _ombre_ player might wish for such a spadille, and
Oberamtmann Werner held a conversation with her about his different
varieties of wool causing him to entertain deep respect for her
intellectual faculties. Even the women and girls were taken with her.
She held the most sensible views upon preserving fruit, she knew the
family tree of all the families of Masuren, and even the collateral
branches did not disturb her self-possession. Happy Wegen! Never had a
winter painted more beautiful flowers upon his window panes!

Blanden's wound had re-called Wegen to the capital; he took his turn
with Giulia and Kuhl in nursing his friend. Olga, meanwhile, had also
returned to the town, Wegen appeared frequently in Frau von Dornau's
modest dwelling, and was always received, even by Cäcilie, who had now
transformed herself into a well-meaning friend, with special
distinction.

Still, however, he had not yet made up his mind to propose! It seemed
so humiliating to appear with the same big bouquet of flowers, in the
same little room, and once more before the same faded sofa to pour
forth his homage and courtship, while the whole furniture merely
displayed the one, but very important, difference that Olga was seated
upon the sofa instead of Cäcilie. The recollection of the figure in the
cotillon, _changez les dames_, could not be got rid of in those
apartments in which he had first _avancé_ to Cäcilie's hand. No, even
if he were firmly resolved to propose for Olga it could not be done in
that place which was full of mocking, giggling recollections! He
cherished bold plans, which at other times were foreign to his mind--he
thought of a sudden surprise.

All at once, as if fatigued, he began to push the chair-sleigh more
slowly. Dr. Kuhl rushed past him pushing Cäcilie, as did Frau von
Dornau, who had to content herself with a hired attendant.

Then Wegen guided her somewhat aside. A whole caravan of sleighs now
passed them tumultuously, Lori in front with an embroidered rug, a
present from the first-class! On Dr. Sperner's moustache, her cavalier,
hung melancholy icicles, behind her came the slender girls of the
first-class, mostly driven by cousins; only fat Iduna, deprived of her
Theodor Körner, had to be contented with the man servant from the
school, who was accustomed to heavy loads.

Now Wegen broke completely out of the course like a shying sleigh
horse, guided her sideways over lumpy hillocks of snow, which had been
heaped up on the river, and then stopped suddenly in a defile between
two large snowdrifts, which yielded him a welcome cover.

"For Heaven's sake, where are we?" said Olga's voice, suffocated by
shawls and furs.

"The snow has dazzled me, I have lost my way," cried Wegen, having
recourse to a daring falsehood.

Olga uttered a cry of alarm, but only raised herself up in the sleigh
to see in what territory she had arrived.

There she stood like a czarina; winter seemed to have built his palace
in her honour alone, only to do homage to her; the north wind kissed
her fur sleeves, and even if the fur cap surrounded her face enviously,
so that but little was to be seen of her red, glowing cheeks, yet her
large eyes gazed majestically out of all her winter wraps.

Wegen shivered with the cold; standing still after the violent exercise
made him uncomfortable, and the wind blew icily into his face. And yet
his state of mind was that of Romeo, when he looked up in the Capulet's
garden at the balcony where his Juliet, in a light ball dress, carried
on a conversation with the moon and stars.

"What in the world, Herr von Wegen, are we doing?" cried Olga, to whom
the adventure began to appear serious, because in his sound senses a
sleigh conductor could hardly wander from the proper course. For a
moment she actually looked searchingly at Wegen, whether the colour in
his cheeks could be called forth honestly by the north wind, or if it
owed its origin to a bottle of champagne.

"As chance has so ordained it, that we are alone, hear then, dear Olga,
hear what it is that I have had so long at heart."

A turbulent gust of wind swept through the top loose piles of snow and
whirled them about so that Romeo and Juliet must simultaneously wipe
the snow out of their eyes.

"I love you, Olga!"

Olga started back in alarm, making the little bells on her fur rug
tinkle; it is true it was sweet alarm, but she was not prepared for a
declaration of love with the thermometer so low. Wegen waited for the
result, while alternately stamping his feet and beating himself with
his arms, so as to impart some warmth to his body.

"Yes, I have always loved you, that is to say," added he in his love of
truth, "after Cäcilie--but you know it? Why waste so many words? My
breath freezes upon my lips, but my heart is all the warmer. Will you
belong to me for ever?"

Olga drew one hand out of her muff and extended it as if in
protestation:

"So suddenly, dear friend? And here in the snow?"

"Here we are undisturbed."

"Then it was base treachery?"

"Yes, I will confess it, my compass would not have failed me, but to be
able to say to you at last what fills my whole--"

Wegen stopped, his teeth chattered, it was internal emotion mingled
with a shiver, called forth by the low temperature of Boreas, who was
blowing with inflated cheeks.

"It is indeed weather in which only the Lapland youth can stammer about
love to a Lapland maiden," added Wegen dejectedly, "but the
circumstances, the conditions--Olga, tell yourself that it is a
favourable moment. I do not mean the weather, but that we are alone,
quite alone. I will make you happy--we have little time, I do not mean
for your happiness, for that we have our whole lives; but now to
arrange matters. It is indeed barbarously cold. A glass of negus or
mulled ale will do us good. But speak then, will you be mine?"

"I must consider it, weigh--"

"And the result you have seen in Cäcilie's case. Those are words as
cold as ice; it is enough to freeze one's soul. My Olga, dear sweet
girl, you know my circumstances, they are affluent, my people approve
of my choice. Your mamma had already given her consent when I proposed
to Cäcilie, and, of course, it is immaterial which of the two
daughters--I mean--that is to say, immaterial to your mamma. And now
once more may I claim my sleighing rights?"

Olga nodded pleasantly, and withdrew her other hand from her muff.
Wegen pressed a glowing kiss upon her lips, the ice upon his fair beard
melted in the fervour of his love.

"That was the sleighing privilege, and now--shall we glide together
over the mirror-like surface of life, as we do over the ice? I promise
to avoid every uneven course. The sleighing right for life?"

"Yes," whispered Olga, out of her fur hood, into which she had again
relapsed.

Then Wegen pressed the betrothal kiss upon her lips, her arms encircled
and folded him to herself, and heart would have beaten glowingly
against heart if the thick fur trimmings had not been an insurmountable
obstacle.

Soon the sleigh stumbled over the snow hillocks once more into the
smooth course, and now they went impetuously towards the inn near the
Haff, where a numerous circle of people was assembled.

Wegen led Olga to Frau von Dornau, and as he could not shout the glad
tidings out aloud, sought by means of speaking pantomime to make her
understand that he was engaged to Olga. A mother always understands
such things, even although the where and how may remain a riddle to
her, and while the waiter brought the negus ordered by Wegen and all
fell to gallantly, Frau von Dornau spoke words of consent, and after
having refreshed herself with a glass of the fiery drink, imparted her
blessing in a voice full of emotion.

Cäcilie triumphed when she heard the news from Olga. "She is the right
one, now at last you have found her," said she, as she shook Wegen's
hand heartily. The intelligence spread rapidly, like quicksilver,
amongst those present. A betrothed! Fräulein Baute's entire school
becomes excited. A lover--for the first-class in a girl's school, that
is the loftiest position upon earth to which a man can attain. Every
eve of St. Sylvester they cast him in lead, and yet nothing can be done
with such a leaden lover, a lover of the future.

Iduna, with her companions, one after another, glided past the chair in
order to get a closer view of the marvel.

"It is, indeed, remarkable," said Lori to Dr. Sperner, who sat beside
her and drank to her in a glass of mulled ale; "in Neukuhren people
believed that he was as good as engaged to Cäcilie, he accompanied her
upon the piano--and that is always the beginning. But he appears to
have made a mistake then; this Olga is the right major chord. Upon the
whole, I consider such feeling about rather tactless. Herr von Wegen is
no Don Juan by profession like the other. I believe he allows himself
to be married, and Cäcilie, who holds the first mortgage upon him, has
given him notice, because he--did not offer sufficiently good
security."

At the same time Lori made a gesture of explanation. Dr. Sperner knew
how, by ringing laughter, to do honour to the schoolmistress' hint.
What an amount of genius she concealed in her little head!

"But the other?" asked the Doctor, as he stroked his moustache
complacently, "where is her first mortgage now?"

"On a spot, which alas! is even more insecure! If a suit be opened upon
Dr. Kuhl's heart, then every unhappy creditor, or much rather female
creditor, will have to content herself with very little payment."

"But I do not understand how a young lady can be so thoughtless."

"They should be cut, propriety requires it, nothing else is left for
us."

At that moment Cäcilie passed by; she greeted them pleasantly, but her
bow was scarcely returned by Lori, while Doctor Sperner looked
defiantly at her, a bold smile upon his lips, and only nodded his head
slightly.

Her sister's engagement cast her far into the shade, people gave her to
understand that her free behaviour would no longer be tolerated in
society. Major Bern's wife did not press her to sit down, although
Banquo's ghost might have been obliged to sit either on the right or
left hand, and the Frau Kanzleiräthin wrapped herself disapprovingly in
her red shawl when Cäcilie addressed her, and was so chary of her
words, that her friends looked anxiously at her as if she had been
suddenly taken ill, because only shortly before she had gathered
together the sluices of her eloquence, to pour out an overwhelming
flood of language. Even Minna, who was still unmarried, and in spite of
that fact had forfeited none of her good nature--fat Minna, who had
already in all dancing parties long since belonged to the female
_land-sturm_, and was only called out when no one else could be
mobilised--did not talk to Cäcilie without a certain timidity, as if
contact with so adventuresome a beauty might injure her good character,
and frighten away some wooer, although for years already none had
appeared on her horizon.

Cäcilie seemed to challenge danger with a certain amount of defiance,
the tokens of contempt increased at table after table, where she
greeted old acquaintances. Not more cheering was the familiar and
impudent greeting of gifted Salomon, who, seated with a few friends
over a large bowl of negus, pledged a glass to the lady passing by, and
invited her to sit down at their table while he recited in a half
intoxicated voice--


                 "With brunettes I now have finished,
                    And this year am once more fond
                  Of the eyes whose hue is azure
                    Of the hair whose colour's blonde."


Cäcilie found it difficult to defend herself from these importunate
invitations.

Dr. Kuhl stood beside the stove, and warmed himself with his hands
behind him, but nothing of that which befell Cäcilie escaped him. It
filled him with extreme dissatisfaction, it was as if his beloved were
running the gauntlet, and with such irritating composure. He had caught
himself in the act of pulling up his coat sleeves in rage, ready to
knock down all who insulted her.

"Dear Paul," said Cäcilie, "I have something to tell you."

"I do not understand," replied Paul, angrily, "how you can court all
these people; they are the most worn out coinage which can have no
circulation amongst us. Let us sit down here at this table behind the
stove, there we shall at least not see these bald heads, which only by
an oversight, or by the magic wand of some mischievous Demiurgos, were
thrown amongst human beings. Well your communication--"

"It could be foreseen, Olga has engaged herself to Herr von Wegen."

Kuhl struck the table with his hand.

"Then may the weather--that Wegen! I always had an antipathy for the
man; he belongs to those who would play with dice, and cannot count,
and with the most innocent face he gets up one affair after another.
First he proposes to you, then to Olga--I feel as if I saw my face in a
distorting mirror, like a ridiculous caricature."

"No one will blame his conduct!"

"That is it! People may dare much for love! Only a little time must
elapse between--time! That is the meaning of all wisdom, and yet that
old maid who paints our wrinkles upon us makes everything worse!
Whether to-day I love two girls at once, or to-day the one, and
to-morrow the other, is really no very great difference! And yet the
first is accounted a sin, and the other is most correct. Always the
goose-step in life and love, and so one walks most comfortably through
the world."

"You see, though, how kindly they greet Olga and thrust me aside."

"Olga--she has put a crown upon her faithlessness to our alliance, now
it is broken! I did not think her so calculating."

"Calculating? She loves Wegen!"

"It is not possible!"

"Why? He is honest, and a gentleman!"

"Did you perhaps love him too?"

"And if I had done so? bountiful natures must find an outlet!"

"You are making fun of me! Verily any one who will uphold a sensible
principle in a ridiculous world, must at least appear like a Don
Quixote, even to himself; at least, they all look upon his helmet as a
barber's goblet. I am weary of carrying on this impossible struggle
with want of sense."

Cäcilie did not interrupt the monologue, but beat upon the table with
her fingers, and looked inquiringly at his face with her cunning
sparkling eyes.

"I took Olga's to be a nature," continued Kuhl, "which, following an
unknown impulse, grasps the right one. We need such natures which do
not trouble themselves at all about the rules of society, which pass no
sleepless nights in consequence. For me she was refreshing, because for
the mentally intoxicated, and those who are tired of roving, who wander
through heaven and earth, there is no better refreshment than a richly
endowed material nature; for me she was a triumph because she showed me
that not natural feeling, but only the falsity of society demanded
exclusive possession."

Cäcilie cast down her eyes and said timidly, "I did not know that Olga
was so much to you!

"Not she alone, you both together, you complete one another in a
harmonious picture of perfect womanhood."

"And what are we, then, separately, each by herself? Melancholy,
imperfect work! And yet, dear Paul, if I ask my heart--is it rich
enough in ardent passion to satisfy one whole life, I hear the reply
and repeat it with pride. I alone will have you, for I feel the power
within me quite alone to make you happy; for every effort, every action
of your mind, an echo lives in my breast; for the glow and impetuosity
of your love a corresponding fire; for immeasurable will, immeasurable
devotion."

"Cäcilie," cried Kuhl warmly, stirred by the beautiful enthusiasm of an
usually cold nature.

"My heart would tell me this, my proud heart! But love which can do all
things, can also be resolute. I do not suffice you--well then! I did
not only do violence to my own feelings, but in full consciousness I
took martyrdom upon me, I bore the contempt of the world, not from
the conviction that your audacious opinion was right, but with
self-sacrificing courage of love I rejected Wegen's offer, as the world
rejects me. You must be all to me, and I am not even to possess the
comfort of being all to you."

Sinister clouds gathered on Kuhl's brow, he struggled with a
resolution.

"Oh! do not think that it is so easy to stand alone and bear contempt.
It wounds one's heart--and many scalding tears have I shed, and even
now they come again into my eyes, although I may bear the humiliation
with a smiling countenance."

Cäcilie began to sob, and with clenched hands Kuhl sprang up from the
table, as though he would call an opponent out to battle.

"You cannot protect me as Blanden protected his beloved, with a pistol
in his hand: outlaw and excommunication hover over me, but such things
cannot be touched; they only keep watch in the air, they are only
written on countenances, in gestures--and not men accustomed to battle
are they who carry out this excommunication; they are women and girls,
the guardians of propriety who only pierce a heart with pins."

"It shall be different," cried Kuhl now, with firm resolution. "Olga
has left us, you have remained true to me, you shall not suffer for it.
Verily, I am not Blanden's inferior in courage, and yet that duel has
given me much to think about. He offered up his life for his beloved
one's good name. I cannot, I must not, look on and see them insult you.
Blanden has often already said so. I would not believe it; to-day I see
it with my own eyes. No, no, no! He was right, ten times right! I may
sacrifice _myself_ to my convictions, but not a girl who loves me!"

Cäcilie had also risen, and with clasped hands looked beseechingly at
him.

"I can ascend the funereal pile, but must not permit them even to
scorch the finger tips of my beloved. Hitherto, you have sacrificed
much to me, your good name before the world; thus I will sacrifice much
to you, everything, a portion of my better self, faith towards truth.
Yes, at this moment I appear like a traitor in my own eyes, whose hand
shall be cut off, but I am weak, I will be weak out of love for you.
They shall not think lightly of you, they shall not, although I despise
their opinion and can only compare them with the vapour that hovers
over large towns, the pestilential air of a densely-packed crowd, but
for your sake Cäcilie--be it! I will take part in the same absurdity,
and thus declare you to be my betrothed."

With a suppressed cry of gladness, Cäcilie sank into his arms, the
stove concealed the group from the eyes of the many.

"And even marriage I shall not mind, it is the fruit of this evil doing
and so on. At this moment I appear contemptible to myself, small--no
reformer's vein flows through me, it must say _pereat mundus_ 'and live
the new faith,' but a man can no longer stand upon the buskin when he
stands beneath the slipper. But now they shall have it in black and
white, lithographed, engraved!--what do I care? And in all newspapers
it shall be stated, so that you shall be purified, my child, with
printer's ink! Go, hasten, whisper it to your sister, cry it through
the room, they shall respect you, it does not cost much, a small amount
of lungs and a few letters, such as are before a menagerie; lion and
lioness in one cage! Then they will be contented at once. I shall still
remain here in my corner, I must first consider what kind of grimace I
must make as a _fiancé_. I shall look odd."

Cäcilie kissed his hands; drawing back, he said, "None of those slavish
caresses, but go, go! There, I am, after all, caught in the purple
silk, and the cursed song of the bridesmaids' wreath buzzes in my ears!
By Jupiter! And Wegen, my brother-in-law! That is what reasoning
animals call it! That is the most bitter pill!"

Cäcilie hastened at once to her sister and mother to bring them the
glad tidings. Frau von Dornau was too happy! Two daughters engaged on
one day!

Olga congratulated her sister heartily. "Only think," added she, "we
became engaged out in the snow and ice, with the thermometer twenty
degrees below zero!"

"And we," said Cäcilie smiling, "at about twenty degrees above zero,
behind the blazing stove. It is a tale of extremes! It is to be hoped
that the right temperature will be restored to us both in marriage."

Kuhl was brought out of his corner by both sisters to the family table;
he wore the air of a culprit, who is led to execution. Wegen was
brimming over with cordiality, Kuhl buttoned up his coat.

"It is better thus," said the Baron, "_suum cuique!_ One must learn to
control oneself."

"Well, I should think," replied Kuhl, "we have nothing to reproach
ourselves with."

The news spread rapidly through the room and created the greatest
sensation. Major Bern's wife appeared behind Cäcilie's chair with the
friendly words, "May we congratulate you, my dear Fräulein?" The
Kanzleiräthin came in her red shawl with her fat daughter Minna; both
were affected, as was natural, under the circumstances. Minna had
already wished happiness to so many others with her tears--rain falling
upon the bridal wreath brings happiness. Last of all Lori appeared
also, and congratulated with all her heart. Kuhl was a good match.

"There you have the world," said the latter to Cäcilie, "with what a
fine thread these marionettes can be guided! It is worth while to act a
comedy before such an audience."

But Lori said to Dr. Sperner, as he sat down beside her, "God have
mercy on them! Courage is needed to marry Dr. Kuhl. Without barred
windows and heavy iron, he will yet escape some day."

The moon shone brightly! The return journey was commenced in the most
cheerful mood, which, however, soon ceased in the astonishing cold
which meanwhile had set in.

"A bridal drive, such as the Esquimaux enjoy," said Kuhl, "but it is
done more comfortably there with the dog-sleighs; here we must push our
own goods home."



                              CHAPTER VII.

                   IN THE LAND OF THE LOTUS-FLOWERS.


Blanden recovered slowly; several relapses occurred, weeks elapsed
before he might take his drive with Giulia.

The softened mood of the convalescent was in harmony with the wild
spring breeze which was wafted towards them from wood and meadow. The
thawing wind had melted the ice on the Pregel, it floated to the sea,
and the breezes of spring swept through the air.

They descended from the carriage in the wood, they gathered the last
snow drops, the first anemones.

"I love these flowers," said Blanden, "the pretty anemones cannot grow
in gloom, they only flourish in places where a fresh breath of air
greets them, where the wind plays with their delicate coronets of
blossom. Free air, fresh air, breath of life, how I have ever longed
for you! I feel myself related to these lovely flowers--and if a soul
dwells in these tiny anemones, it is one thirsting after freedom."

Giulia had learned to enter entirely into Blanden's thoughts and
feelings, the quiet, familiar intercourse in his sick room had given
her leisure to become quite absorbed in his richly stored mind.

Daily she felt more that she could not live without him, and equally so
that she owed him her whole life; again and again she told herself that
it could be no sin if she made him happy, so long as it was permitted
by the fate which she defied. He did not see the sword above her head,
she saw it with internal trembling, and yet--she defied it, even if it
might fall upon her.

How devoutly she listened to his tales of the land of the
lotus-flowers! Ah, how vast was the world, how rich the knowledge of
it, how varying the habits! Giulia was almost alarmed when Blanden told
her of the woman at Luckwardie, on the hills of the Himalaya, high
above the Pomona--every woman there belongs to four brothers.

She lost herself completely in the breath of the fairy tale and flowery
land, that is so lovely in its dreams and so vast in its thoughts. One
after another Blanden unrolled these magically illuminated worlds of
thought conceived by silent thinkers in penitents' garb and hermits'
huts. Is the world but the veil, the dream, the existence?--why then is
life full of nervous dread? Giulia felt herself strengthened by that
dream-world of the Bast, everything painful and impious faded away in
that mild, softening twilight.

Blanden, too, seemed to be transfigured by the soothing influence of
sickness, in the loneliness of the sick room, far removed from the
world: like one of those thoughtful hermits, who, upon mossy banks in
sacred groves, amongst flowers and gazelles, ponder upon the mystery of
the world. She thus forgot that he, far from belonging to inactive
dreamers, had only lately given a proof of western knightliness which
is very different from the blood-fearing Hindoo; but yet he was filled
with the warmest sympathy for Hindoo thinkers and poets.

"How profound," said he often, "is the blending of the soul with all
that their wise men teach. If the form break, the spirit becomes united
with the Divine soul of the world, as a bottle in the deep mingles its
contents with the sea, if it break against the rocks."

Four lines of poetry, however, were, above all others, ineffaceably
impressed in her memory, reflecting her situation, her mood, so truly
that she trembled in her very soul when Blanden first recited them to
her, verses culled from one of the two great hero books of India,
containing such depth of thought as is not to be found either in the
heroic poetry of Greece or Germany--


           "Oh earthly happiness ever trembling on the brink,
            As dew drops kiss the flowers a moment but to sink;
            As logs on the ocean may meet and then sever
            So men here on earth, and to meet again--never."


Blanden was obliged to kiss the tears from Giulia's eyes, which the
grand verses of the Ramayana and the song of "trembling earthly
happiness" had called forth.

"You often appear to me," said Blanden, "like a charming Savitri, and
although you also are my goddess of fire, I do not mean her, but the
child which bore her name. A dark prophecy dedicated the beloved one to
death after the lapse of a year, but before the fatal respite drew
near, she performed daily penances, praying and fasting; and like a
marble goddess standing before the altar, and when the blood-red god of
death appeared, with the thin rope in his hand, and had already
extracted her beloved one's soul, she knew how to move him by her
prayers, entreaties, and her touching faithfulness, until he granted
her her husband's life. You, too, with faithful care and touching
prayer have won my life from the blood-red Yamna."

"It was my own life," replied Giulia; "without you I could not have
lived, you yourself told me that the funereal pile is lighted with
sacred fire into which the Hindoo widow casts herself. That pure flame
was the fire of your love for me; they die for him who had lived for
them, how much more must I have sought death for him who would have
died for me?"

Trembling in the bliss of such devoted affection, she thought of Beate
and her errand with eagerness as terrified as that with which the
Hindoo maidens follow the flower-clad little boats, carrying burning
lamps, and which they have confided to the waves of the Ganges; if the
lamp extinguish, then extinguishes the light of hope, and a silent
desire entrusted to the stream, finds its watery grave. When Blanden
told her this, how she had thought of her light-ship that was now
tossing upon the waves of the Orta lake; perhaps already the north wind
which blew through the passes of the Simplon had extinguished the
little lamp of her hopes.

It was a weird shadow which followed her through life. Oh, how she
envied the gods and peris who dwelled in enchanted gardens far above
the everlasting snow upon the summits of the Himalayas, envied them not
the flowers of Paradise, not the ethereal light, not the glorious song
of the Gandharvos, not because they drink the Indian ambrosial amreeta
in fox-gloves out of the moon, which, for fourteen days, the sun has
filled with that drink, but only the one privilege, that of walking in
light and casting no shadow behind them. An unshadowed bliss, this for
her was unattainable for evermore!

Even the measures of precaution by which she had intended to conceal
from Blanden her defeat upon the stage, were only successful for a
time. One day a deputation of students, in caps of every hue, came to
Blanden. Salomon was the speaker.

"We know, Herr von Blanden, that Fräulein Bollini is your betrothed, we
wish you happiness, although the muse of song--her name I cannot
recollect this moment, as we sons of the muses care less for them than
might be expected--will veil her face. A report is spread abroad that
you forbid your betrothed to tread the world-renowned stage."

"It is her own free will," replied Blanden.

"We respect you," continued Salomon, "because you have shown in a
knightly manner how a man should defend his lady's honour, and even,
although we have no lady-loves, at least no perennial plants, who bear
the title of wife or betrothed, we know well how to appreciate such
conduct."

A murmur of approval from the students denoted their concurrence in
those words.

"Therefore it is that we address you with the entreaty that you
persuade your betrothed to appear again upon the stage. We are all now
ready to protect her, after having learned with whom that disgraceful
outrage originated."

"What outrage?" asked Blanden astonished.

Salomon was surprised at the question.

"But surely you know, Herr von Blanden?--"

"Indeed, I know of nothing!"

The deputation became uncomfortable, the students looked at one another
in amazement. Salomon, however, was soon calmed, and at the same time
delighted at his own shrewdness, as he imagined he was able to see
through the matter; he snapped his fingers and said--

"Then our respected _prima donna_ has concealed this from you out of
tender feeling, so as not to cause you any excitement which might be
deleterious to your health. But now that the mention of the unpleasant
fact has escaped the custody of our lips, you will be able to bear the
sad news with manly dignity. Yes, on that evening on which Giulia was
to sing Rosina's part, she was hissed, drummed out, and whistled at,
until the curtain had to be lowered."

Blanden sprang up wrathfully.

"The worthless creatures; oh, I know--"

"It was a conspiracy," added Salomon.

"Savitri, faithful nurse, this then was your penance," said Blanden
dreamily to himself.

"It was desecration of the temple to the muses."

"That is why the criticisms on the 'Barbière di Sevilla' could not be
found when I wanted to read them," said Blanden.

"A most unholy alliance between the companions of Spiegeler the
reporter, and a clique got together by an officer, carried off a
disgraceful victory on that eventful evening. Very few members of the
Albertina, alas, were present, but we have now resolved to make Signora
Bollini brilliant amends upon her next appearance. The noble clubs of
Masuren and Lithuania, the Albertina itself with all its societies; the
Hochheimers, Goths, Teutons and Borusses are unanimous, which does not
often happen, and even the independent Camels will join the students'
union. We shall not permit a small party to be the leaders of taste in
the theatre, we will represent the _vox populi_ with overwhelming
force, and the pillars of the old shop of the muses shall tremble with
the thunder of our acclamations. Long live Signora Bollini!"

"Hurrah!" cried the students, waving their caps.

"I thank you from my heart, gentlemen," said Blanden, "but the decision
upon this point rests with the actress."

"But you have much influence over her! We will offer her consolation
and compensation. May she console herself with Schiller--


           'The mean world loves to darken what is bright;'


then Heine's verses will become true--


           'And a new-born song spring softly
            From the heal'd heart shoots to-morrow.'


"I am fond of quoting, Herr von Blanden, it is an act of disinterested
love of truth; our cultivation consists entirely in half unconscious or
unguaranteed quotations. Why not declare openly that Bartel knows on
which side his bread is buttered?"

As Salomon began to diverge--a known peculiarity of the versatile
talented youth--one of the seniors, whose face, rendered purple by many
a cut and thrust, bore artistic marks of kind friends legibly sketched
upon it, assumed the reins of the transaction with a firm hand.

"Let the Signora appear, we will protect her! If that clique venture
forth once more, we will reply to their second brutal blow with fitting
tierce and quart, so that their ears shall tingle."

"I repeat," said Blanden, "that I am very grateful to you, but I cannot
even support your wish."

"Why not?" asked Salomon, dissatisfied with the meagre results of his
eloquence.

"I do not wish that my betrothed shall be again exposed to the storms
of public opinion; I will guide her into a safe haven. The laurels of
the European capitals will console her for this small defeat; even for
Signora Bollini's laurels, may Frau von Blanden long no more, she will
belong to quite another world, and I wish that too violent equinoctial
gales should not accompany her to this change in her life, so that she
may be able calmly to prepare herself for it. But this, of course, is
only my opinion, I shall not interfere at all with my betrothed's
resolutions, and she will in any case rejoice at your warm sympathy,
and the honor which you intend for her."

Blanden shook hands pleasantly with the students' delegates, while he
added, every one of the gentlemen should be welcome who would be
present at his wedding.

Soon after, he went to Giulia; he reproached her for having concealed
from him the scene in the theatre; she was alarmed that he should have
heard of it.

"Silence," said she, "is not always as the German poet says, the god of
the happy, but just as often the god of the unfortunate."

"Do you think that I should have rejected you as Rama rejected his
Sita, when the opinion of the people turned against her? Do you believe
that you are less dear to me, fill my whole heart less, when the
senseless mob calumniates you?"

"Oh, that is not the cause of my silence towards you; I feared that you
might excite yourself for my sake. I would not let any shadow from
without cast its gloom into your sick chamber."

"Oh, you are so gentle and good! Goodness of heart is little prized in
the world, and yet all wisdom depends upon it, it alone is the
guarantee of happiness. Giulia, shall you appear upon the stage again?"

"Never," replied the singer.

"They would prepare you a brilliant triumph, you would retire from the
stage richer by one beautiful recollection! Weigh it well!"

"Is it your wish?"

"Only if you wish it!"

"No, no! I want no more laurel wreaths, and if I retire with a painful
memory, my parting from the stage will be all the easier; I want
nothing more in the world but your love. Buried be my past, oh, could I
but bury it deeply!"

"But not all!" said Blanden, "shall even the beautiful recollection of
the magic lake be buried? Every day of happiness was a picture of
future enchanting years. Do you remember the charming Indian poem,
'Calidas,' of which I told you? Oh, that Indian poetry is like the
madhavya plant, which from its very root is full of flowers. I always
think of that lovely Sacontala, and the marriage of Gandarvos, by which
upon the flowery seat of the hermit's cave she united herself to the
king. Then in the Indian legend ensues a time of long, dreary
forgetfulness, but upon our life rests another curse. At last Sacontala
saw her beloved one again; misunderstandings were cleared up, and the
short enchanting meeting became a lasting alliance. Therefore will I,
my lotus-flower, kiss the tears from your cheeks, as King Duschmanta
kissed his regained beloved one."

"Then, I will belong only and wholly to you," cried Giulia, amid kisses
and embraces, "and even the fame which I conquered shall fade away like
visions in the air."

"I feel better every day," said Blanden, "I shall soon go to Kulmitten,
and make all preparations for our marriage."

Giulia, as usual, trembled when the eventful day was named.

"If only Beate would return," said she to herself, "perhaps I should be
calmer."

Once more before setting out for his estate Blanden made a speech in
the Citizen Assembly; he did not wish to break the thread which he had
attached here, an active political life should be closely united to the
domestic happiness he had ensured. Unfortunately, however, he must
learn that his popularity in those circles had suffered seriously.
Theatrical adventures and duels were something that the citizen mind
could not deem compatible with a pioneer of political liberty. While
they suddenly discovered a Don Quixote in him, he found himself at
variance with the sentiments of the free citizens. Mutual estrangement
ensued: his speech met with a lukewarm reception, the matadors of the
assembly, the political doctor, the picturesque humourist, gave no
token of approval, and therefore the crowd also remained silent.

Not without a feeling of bitterness did Blanden leave the
_Gemeinde-garten_; a slight veil was spread over his political dreams
of the future; should he always remain bound to a life of vagrancy,
never be able to raise himself to citizen-like activity, to
statesman-like distinction?

Spring was in the air, as he drove home with his foaming team, but an
autumnal sensation at his heart he could not suppress.



                             CHAPTER VIII.

                      IN THE CHURCH ON SAN GIULIO.


About eight days might have elapsed since Blanden's departure. Giulia
meanwhile had dissolved her agreement with the managers, and at home
denied herself to all visitors. She was in a state of excitement which
she could conceal with difficulty. Whenever a carriage drove up in her
vicinity she rushed to the window. She watched for Beate with dread
expectancy. At last the carriage stopped before the house, and her
friend's first words were, "Be calm! All is well."

After having shaken off the dust of her journey, Beate soon appeared in
Giulia's drawing-room with the unfailing cunning smile upon her lips,
and with a calm gladsomeness, such as follows the execution of a good
deed; she stirred the crackling fire in the stove, seated herself
comfortably upon the sofa, poured as much arack as possible into her
tea, to warm herself, and then began to relate the events of her
journey:

"Oh, our beautiful south! How melancholy to drive over these plains of
ice, through the snow-laden pine forests, through these districts where
sleepy Nature never seems to open her eyes, how terribly wearisome all
the world here appears to one! And those passengers in mail coaches,
those Polish Jews, those people from the small towns with their boxes,
their baggage, their stupid faces! Thus it went on night and day, day
and night. People have given themselves the trouble to find names for
all these heaths, these towns through which one drives, and yet one
looks like another, it is most immaterial what they are called! Even a
little rocky nest in our Italy at least looks picturesque, here they
are always the same barns, the same bad pavement, over which the mail
coach rattles.

"A long row of extra carriages followed the principal one, in which a
most unpleasant company seemed to be congregated. In the dark corners
of the passengers' room I saw figures which resembled brigands, one
passenger especially, with a black bandage over one eye, and a dark
beard, clings to my recollections. I saw him creep past me several
times, wrapped up in his cloak. I had an eerie feeling as if he had
cast an evil eye upon me, it seemed sometimes as if he were staring
piercingly at me out of the dark with his only sound one. I had to rest
in the capital, for three days and three nights I had not left the
rattling coach, and, at last, from over fatigue, had fallen into an
unrefreshing sleep. I had hardly looked after my baggage and put my
large box into the charge of a postal official in order to seek my long
missed rest at an hotel, before I saw a special post-chaise drive up
and the man in the cloak, with the bandage over his eye, get in.

"He must be in great haste to proceed, for the post-chaise had four
horses.

"I travelled slowly, I rested several times in large towns. I am
nervous too, although I am no actress, but daily intercourse with a
_prima donna_ upsets one's nerves. Do not be offended, dear child, but
even the finest particles of dust, which one swallows in your theatre,
are like _aqua toffana_. I remained one day in Berlin, in Nuremberg, in
Augsburg!

"How I rejoiced when I saw the Alps again, dangerous as was the drive
through the snow passes.

"Then I felt the mild soft spring breath of Italy when the steamboat
carried me across the glorious lake. From Stresa I went over the
mountains to Orta--how my heart beat, when the waves of the lake surged
at my feet, and the little island with the rocky castle lay before me.

"I had had leisure enough on my way to think of a plan as to how I
could best execute my task, a task that was full of danger for body and
soul; but for the soul there is always absolution. Many plans that rose
in my mind I rejected as too daring, as impracticable, much I must
leave to chance and circumstances. I then made enquiries for the two
witnesses to the marriage, whose names you wrote down for me. Signor
Bonardo has long been dead, and the beautiful Orsola eloped with a
Greek, and was quite lost sight of. No danger is threatened from that
quarter.

"I visited the chaplain of the little church of San Giulio, he was a
young man not unsusceptible to my charms. His predecessor, the old
priest, had just died. For a long time he had been in confinement in
the cloister, and under examination. In the nearest diocese a trial was
to be instituted against him for forgery, of which he had been guilty.
The chaplain himself conducted me up the high steps by the lake into
the sacristy of the church, where he searched through the registry to
reply to my question as to your marriage day. If ever I exerted my eyes
I did so then. Eagerly I followed his movements, noted the book, the
number of the page, the entrance to the sacristy. I thanked the
chaplain, the good man even became tender towards me, and when he
bestowed his blessing upon me he kissed me upon my brow.

"It was still early morning, and a long day of twelve hours lay before
me. People might, perhaps, have taken me for a love-sick dreamer if
they had seen me wander upon the woodland paths behind the little town.
I could not remain long in the _Leone d'oro_, feverish restlessness had
taken possession of me.

"I scrambled up the path with its numerous chapels leading to the
pilgrims' church of San Franciscus. I prayed here and there. I did
penance for that which I was about to begin. I felt as if I belonged
not to the bright day, not to this glorious nature! How exquisite was
the view over the lake from the Sacro Monte, upon the chestnut and
walnut woods of Pella, upon the high Alps of Monte Rosa, what a breath
of Spring quivered yonder in the fruit hedge and made the lake ripple!
With my sinister purpose I seemed to be out of place in this bright
world!

"How sleepily the hours crept on. How long it was before the sun
declined into the west and cast its more slanting rays into the waves
of the lake and upon the house roofs of the little town. And much as I
had longed for this hour with feverish impatience, I became
proportionately alarmed again at the approach of fatal night.

"Like an incendiary I had provided myself with a tinder-box that was
sufficiently well supplied to contain ample provision, even for many
vain attempts.

"The windows of the little church of San Giulio were brightly
illuminated, it was the hour of evening service. My boat glided over
the lake in the moonlight, and landed at the tall granite stairs.

"I ascended the steps. The moon was just hiding its light in a cloud;
and looking back upon the lake, in a boat that seemed to be circling
round the little rocky island, like an eagle round his eyrie, I
perceived a closely enveloped figure, which reminded me of that man
with the bandage.

"My sight is keen, but it was too dark to recognise the figure more
accurately, and I soon came to the conclusion that I had become the
victim of a morbid delusion. The skiff disappeared behind a rocky
promontory which rose up steeply to the summit, upon which stood the
old tower of Berengarius.

"I entered the church, but neither could I join in the devotions of the
congregation nor examine the pillars of porphyry, the image of the
Madonna of Ferrari, nor the mosaics of the floor. I only looked about
for some place of concealment in which I could hide myself, and
believed I had discovered one behind a small tomb.

"I took advantage of a moment in which the sacristan, like the rest of
the congregation, was occupied with the service, to creep behind the
door of the sacristy, and quickly as lightning drew out the key, then I
descended the stairs, and unperceived cast it into the lake.

"The service was over, the sacristan made his round of the church once
more, and convinced himself that the devout throng had entirely left
it. Having passed my youth amongst bands of smugglers, I am used to
creeping, crawling, and slipping into crevices like lizards, and thus I
succeeded in deceiving the custodian of the church by first gliding
after him and then suddenly disappearing behind the tomb. He sought
long in vain for the key of the sacristy, and at last relinquished the
effort, shaking his head, while he left the door standing open. He shut
the church behind him: I was alone.

"The first sensation which overcame me was one of undefined dread. A
few lingering moonlight rays still fell through the tall church
windows, and shed a light upon the pictures on the wall, so that they
seemed to move like ghosts. But then the darkness became intense,
either the moon had set or was concealed behind heavy clouds. My
solitary footsteps made a hollow echo upon the floor. I shuddered when
I remembered that about the midnight hour spirits might rise out of the
tombs and keep me company. It was still too early for my undertaking.
Below all was still awake in the island town and upon the lake, a gleam
of light too early would have betrayed me.

"But from dread of the echo of my footsteps, which rumbled away through
the empty space as if something besides myself were stirring here, I
sat down motionlessly upon a bench, folded my hands, tried to pray, and
then to fall asleep.

"And a short sleep did overcome me, but I started up from it with a
loud cry. Had I dreamed it? It seemed as if at the other end of the
church something that passed gently over the steps, stumbled over the
benches.

"But all was still again, the dread of a living being besides myself in
this place had fled to my dreams, and on awaking the delusion still
clung to me.

"It must have been midnight already; deep silence reigned without, not
a sound from the houses by the lake penetrated to my ears, not even the
dim radiance of the lightly veiled moonlight forced its way through the
windows. Impenetrable heavy clouds must have enveloped the heavenly
orb, because the blackest obscurity filled the church.

"My sense of locality came to my assistance. I had impressed the plan
of the interior of the church sharply into my memory, estimated all
distances correctly; I knew exactly where the chairs stood, and in how
many rows, where the steps began to ascend to the altar, where was the
entrance to the sacristy.

"Thus I felt my way from one row to another, measured with careful feet
the distance to the altar steps, and was already placing my foot upon
the lowest one when an invisible hand behind my dress drew me back.

"I was seized with unutterable horror; my heart beat audibly; it could
be no delusion; I was not alone here; was I in the power of an
invisible enemy; or did a spectre persecute me?

"I put my hand out behind; I grasped the empty air; the hand had
released my dress; I cried in a strong voice, so as to inspire myself
with courage, 'Who is here?' But nothing replied, excepting one loud
echo from the walls of the empty church.

"Nevertheless my heart is full of courage, and I said to myself, why
this fear and alarm? What concerns you is that you have pledged your
honour to save your friend; now see that you succeed whether you live
or die, even if hell send its ghosts against you!

"Indeed, it seemed more probable that some spectre hand had seized me,
than that any human being besides myself lingered in the gloomy place,
but if it were a mortal, then I must try to deceive and out-man[oe]uvre
him.

"Like lightning this flashed through my mind. I did not ascend any more
steps; softly as possible I glided into a corner, there I drew off my
shoes, and crept once more to the altar steps, which this time I could
pass up undisturbed. I felt about the altar until I had hold of one of
the candelabra, and had convinced myself that a candle was in it. With
nervous anxiety I avoided the least sound.

"The candlestick in one hand, I went down again from the high altar,
held my dress closely together with the other, so that it might not
sweep the steps. I did not dare to breathe.

"Then something in the corner stumbled over my shoes, which I had left
there. This time I was not alarmed. I was thankful that the ghost was
on the other side of the church; in all haste I sped into the sacristy
through the door, which was only slightly ajar.

"I knew that the light would attract the bats, which hopped after me,
and yet I could not shut the door without betraying myself. I groped
for the desk where I had seen the registry lie, there it was still in
the same place. I turned over the leaves and counted the pages, of
which, in the morning, I had taken note. I must gain as much time as
possible before I should burn the tell-tale light.

"At last the moment had arrived, it must be done. My tinder-box did its
duty; the altar candle burned; the holy light illuminated my unholy
task.

"For the duration of a second the sensation of sacrilege overcame me,
but time passed.

"I had only turned over two pages too many, there it stood: Giulia
Bollini, Signor Baluzzi. That was the fatal leaf! With bold resolution
I tore it out and held it in the flame. Then a loud peal of mocking
laughter rang from the door of the sacristy. I looked round and saw the
man with the bandage.

"The page was burned to atoms, I still saw it as if in a dream; rigid
with fear I saw the man rush upon me; I blew out the light, but I could
not escape him.

"I felt as one does in those dreams in which we see a monster, a
serpent, a tiger prepared for the spring which shall kill us: my nerves
were over-excited so that I could not distinguish between my dream and
reality.

"Still nearer came the steps of the gruesome ghost. My senses gave way.
I fell down in a swoon!

"When I awoke again all was still intensely dark, but morning must soon
dawn.

"I was alone, as it appeared; nothing stirred. The altar candlestick
still stood upon the desk. I took it up, crept out of the sacristy up
to the altar and put it back upon its old place. Nothing molested me!
My shoes I found in my corner. I put them on, hid myself behind a
pillar, not far from the church door, ready for rapid flight.

"Indeed, it was not long before the sacristan opened the church doors
for early mass. He went towards the altar, while I glided out behind
him and hastened down the steps as if the church behind me were in
flames.

"In Orta, also, I only remained a few minutes, then drove over to
Stresa; the coachman could not make his horses go fast enough. In
Bellinzona I became ill from the excitement, and when I had recovered,
I performed very severe penance; my mind was terribly upset, but the
farther north I came, the fresher did the breeze blow towards me. I
began then to triumph that I had outman[oe]uvred that secret emissary
of Baluzzi--because it could be no one else--that I had succeeded,
despite his watchful ambuscade. I triumphed that I had restored you
your liberty, and with this proud emotion I now clasp you in my arms.

"Burned to ashes is the spell that fettered you, and freely may you
follow your heart!"

Giulia was intensely excited at her friend's intelligence, amid tears
she squeezed Beate's hands. And yet she could not conquer an internal
fear. Thus breaking into the sanctuary of the church seemed like an
inexpiable act of sacrilege which rested upon her soul; and even if she
believed in the newly-gained liberty she could not feel glad. Anxious
forebodings of unknown possibilities that lay waiting in the air
disturbed her confidence in unclouded happiness. What secrets oppressed
her soul! How could she meet her beloved one's eye? The heavy weight
that lies in the consciousness of forbidden deeds, did not permit her
to draw that free breath without which success loses its triumphant
charms. And yet--she was resolved to seize the supremest bliss in life
in spite of fate, to set the right of her passion above all the rights
in the world. Was her happiness only transitory? She must do penance
and succumb; at any rate, that which she now struggled for with such
ardent longing would once have been her own.

Beate had not been back many days before Blanden's invitation to
Kulmitten was received. The day of the marriage was decided upon.
Giulia prepared for her departure with Beate after having made a few
purchases for a brilliant toilet.

Numerous guests from the provincial capital set out on horseback and in
carriages for Kulmitten. The students had not neglected the invitation;
they were glad to be present at a gay wedding. Salomon had arranged a
performance for the Polter-abend, adapted from his collection of
poetical blossoms, and the doctors, Kuhl and Schöner, drove a spirited
team to the lakes of Masuren. Cäcilie was expected to come with Olga
and Wegen from the neighbouring estate, where she had gone upon a visit
to her sister, and every one in the district, who had not shown a
hostile spirit towards the proprietor of Kulmitten, was welcome on this
glad occasion.

Certainly, only a singer! It was, indeed, an unsuitable choice! Several
ladies pretended to be ill, and only allowed their husbands to look on
at the phenomenon so as to be able to bring back an account of the
doings.

"I do not like such extremes," said Frau Baronin Fuchs to her husband,
"is it necessary to jump from the sanctimonious to the most impudent
children of this world? Certainly, in reality, the other was the same
kind, only a different colour. No power in the world would take me to
this wedding; you, of course, will drive over because everything
connected with rouge pots and stage tinsel has a certain charm for you
now. Well, look from a close point of view at the Circe who has
enchanted this knight of the rueful countenance."



                              CHAPTER IX.

                           THE BRIDAL JEWELS.


Two sitting-rooms and bedrooms were prepared for Giulia and Beate in
the old wing of the Castle. Blanden had ridden over to the nearest town
to meet her, and sent on his carriage and four in advance.

He drove back with her. When they arrived at the boundary of his
possessions, they were greeted by the peasants and tenants with loud
acclamations. A handsomely decorated triumphal arch was erected; canon
resounded far and near, and genuine, indeed, were the rejoicings of the
people, who idolised Blanden. None of the proprietors on the lakes of
Masuren were so gentle and kind as he, certainly none others had
studied Buddha's teachings, or recognised pity for every being of
creation as the original spring of all wisdom and morality.

The school girl who presented a huge nosegay to Giulia at the gate of
honour, had learned a very long and very profound address, which was
listened to with intense weariness by all but the bride-elect, for whom
an accusation lay in every one of those moral sentiments. Cold water
seemed to be running down her, when the little girl, with devout
dove-like eyes, looked lovingly into her face.

And when old Olkewicz acted as spokesman for the officials and those
belonging to the estate, and spoke of the old family possession, of the
worthy heir, of his forefathers, then she suddenly felt what, until
now, had been quite unknown to her: that here she was entering into the
sacred circle of a family, into a well-regulated world governed by
moral laws, into touching familiarity amongst equals, into a beautiful
blending together of past and future; and to herself she appeared in
the light of an intruder, who deserved to be cursed, who tore down the
old saintly household gods from the domestic hearth, and with a guilty
hand polluted a stainless roll of ancestors. She shuddered as if seized
with cold; while Olkewicz also stammered in his honest speech and lost
himself--he had suddenly recognised Giulia; it was actually the same
white fairy who had stood on high in the moonlight on the gallery of
the belfry tower.

The carriage drove on through the park. The Castle was decked with
flags and banners, fluttering merrily in the breeze; all the doors were
wreathed; here a dense crowd--part of which had hastened by a short cut
from the triumphal arch, and were thus in advance--received them with
renewed cheers.

Blanden was deeply moved, and pressed his betrothed's hand; he knew
that it was true hearty love which bade them welcome. He thought of his
father, of the old lords of the Castle--they blessed his entry. His
feelings were solemn as he lifted his future bride out of the carriage
and led her into the Castle, where he delivered her into the hands of
the guardian spirits of his home.

When Giulia was seated alone in her room, for a few moments she gave
herself up to a sensation of luxurious comfort; how strange was it for
a wandering disciple of art to have a home, to reign as mistress over a
vast estate! No more need she trouble about the gains of the moment, no
more need she struggle from day to day for a living, competing for fame
and gold, and the favour of the variable crowd which alone could grant
both to her. The labour of art in the muses' temple appeared like a
miserable daily task, which is forced from the reluctant senses, while
only the holiness of enthusiasm sanctifies the artistic duty! From
country to country had she wandered with her nomad tent, tarrying long
wherever she had found plentiful pastures; but how many dangers did the
pirates of criticism prepare for her, by how many _fata morgana_ had
she been deceived--how homeless was her life, her soul!

What a sensation of security behind the stout walls of this Castle; for
decades, for a whole life-time, every struggle with its necessities was
banished, a life belonging to itself, one not given up to the mob! And
how one must learn to love every little spot of earth which, by the
habit of long association and possession, has become a portion of
ourselves! Without, the trees rustled, the eastern sky glanced in the
reflection of the declining sun, and the evening star, the star of
love, peeped forth in the vapour-like clouds that were tinged with a
delicate red.

Yonder the tall oaks, the silver poplars, and Scotch firs; the pavilion
with its gay windows peeping out of the Chinese shrubs that surrounded
it; the bridge over the lake; upon the island stood the swans' houses:
at first all seemed but a pretty picture for her contemplation, but
from day to day it must all become blended into her life--every spot,
sanctified by love, become endeared to her heart.

And how home-like the old furniture in the drawing and other rooms:
_roccoco_ cupboards, and drawers with their sweeping lines, those
arm-chairs, little works of art carved in wood, those heavy curtains,
which formed an easily moved partition between the secret concealed
cabinets and drawing-rooms! How pleasant the faces of the old male and
female servants, who at once took the new mistress to their hearts, and
were ready to watch over their new precious possession as well as they
had ever guarded the most valuable treasure confided to them.

A proud sensation of happiness overcame her; the dream of a peaceable
existence, of ensured happiness, hovered before her mind, then her hand
was pressed convulsively to her heart; painfully she felt the rift that
extended through her whole life--that she always experienced, even
although concealed from her lover and the world, but which, when it
suddenly yawned, became an abyss which must swallow up all her
felicity.

She could only listen absently to Beate's chatter, "I must say it is a
true Palazzo Pitti, in which we, however, are the most beautiful
pictures! And as to its being countryfied, the Castle itself certainly
is not so, although the entire population consists of rough unhewn
blocks. One might be in a fortress; down below, Signora, at the foot of
the hill, still stands a massive square tower. I enquired about it,
they call it the 'Dantziger;' it was used for watching the besiegers
and taking them in their rear, it also ensured escape, as a secret
outlet leads to the lake. The stone passage, with its handsome arches,
unites it with the Castle. Well, if I can find a sweetheart here, the
old Dantziger will do me good service for secret adventures and secret
flight. Besides which, in the Castle, there are divers stairs in the
walls, hidden doors--what else I know not! The Knights of the Order had
their secrets, too. We shall find it all out in good time."

"You are incorrigible with your love of adventures, Beate."

"Think of the sacristy in the church of San Giulio. What should you be
without me? A very doubtful betrothed, your past rests in the Orta Lake
with the sacristy key! But enough of it. They are very lively over in
the new wing, where all are preparing for the Polter-abend
entertainment; they say it is just like being behind the scenes, gay
masks of every kind, but terribly inexpert wardrobe women; everything
in the world requires experience. If only we were with them, we
understand the art."

Beate was still chattering when Blanden entered; she possessed tact
enough to disappear as speedily as possible.

"Only get dressed quickly, dear Giulia!" cried Blanden, "all are
preparing to greet us. I am an outlawed man it is true, but yet one
always possesses some real friends. The Castle is full from attic to
cellar; for twenty years or more there has not been such a garrison.
You bring life into my solitude, let me welcome you cordially once
more."

He clasped her in his arms and pressed a fervent kiss upon her lips.

"What is that little box," said Giulia, "which you carry in your hand?"

"My bridal gift, beloved! I come with a full heart, and may not do so
empty handed."

He opened the ebony casket: the most beautiful ornaments, a diadem with
brilliants, necklets and bracelets of the most magnificent pearls, and
beside them unset precious stones, sapphires, and rubies shone in such
radiance that Giulia could not suppress a sudden cry of admiration.

"It is all yours, it is the inheritance which has been bequeathed to
the last Blanden by his mother and by the ancestral mistresses of this
house, there being no living heiress who has the right to these
ornaments. From henceforth you shall wear them, they have found an
owner again who is worthy of them, and well they will suit your dark
hair and fine features!"

Giulia was dazzled with the brilliant gift, and yet-- Like
will-'o-the-wisps, like snakes of fire, they flashed and quivered
before her eyes! Was it not a robber's hand which grasped this family
possession?

But she overcame the slight shudder with which she saw the ghostly
ancestresses of the house of Blanden, as they stretched out their bony
hands in protest, or touched her brow and imprinted the sign of the
curse upon her. She was only conscious of Blanden's love and goodness
in confiding such a priceless heritage to her, and, thanking him
cordially, laid her hand upon her heart.

On that evening she would be queen of the feast, banish all gloomy
thoughts; he should have a right to be proud of her. A mistress of the
toilet, an art belonging to the stage, she would enhance her beauty by
simple attire. Merrily adorned with a wreath of flowers, her hair,
black as ebony, as it fell upon her neck, enframed a face whose fine
moulding did not suffer from the pallor of its features, for that
Venetian colouring appertained to the beauty of marble, to that
idealism of form which was peculiar to her. Her tall slight figure was
seductively enveloped in clouds of pink tulle, and as if of gleaming
foam, bosom and neck, the glorious outlines of a Venus Anadyomene rose
from out that mass of clouds. As she entered the dining-hall with
Blanden, a buzz of admiration passed through the apartment. They were
mostly elderly gentlemen who were present, the younger ones were still
behind the scenes preparing the masquerade.

Hermann von Gutsköhnen and Sengen von Lärchen had never seen anything
of the kind; the former greeted her with a whispered monologue which
reached its climax in a low oath; the latter held his finger
thoughtfully to his nose, and after his address, "dear friends," had
allowed a considerable pause to follow, "she is a most beautiful woman,
tall, she has breeding, something Arab-like in her nostrils, and
devilish black hair, but no healthy colour--she needs some Masuren
breezes to blow about her cheeks."

"Thunder and lightning," replied Hermann, "a splendid toilet! But a
betrothed should really be a rose-bud, she is perfectly full blown!"

"Herr von Blanden has good taste," said Baron von Fuchs to his
neighbour, the Landrath, "it is well that our wives have not come with
us. It was well feigned hoarseness, and a most justifiable headache
which befell them, because I must say--naturally I exclude our
wives--we have no beauties in the district who can be compared with
her. And they who stayed at home have all happily escaped this
sensation. In words they would not have acknowledged this beauty, but
at heart they would have bowed before it as the brethren bowed before
Joseph, in the dream; they would have tingled with unbounded jealousy
to the very tips of their fingers and toes, because whosoever bathes in
the pool of Bethsaida knows how to respect the beauty of the
Olympians."

Blanden and Giulia welcomed their guests heartily, and then seated
themselves in two garlanded arm-chairs to receive the homage of the
Polter-abend. A merry blast of music announced the commencement of the
performance.

First appeared lovely water-fairies from the lake. Olga von Dornau led
the dance; the daughter of the Sanitätsrath from the district town, the
daughters of a retired major, who lived there, and a rich young widow
represented the Naiads decked with reeds.

The concessions made to the local colouring and faithful costume of the
legend, were of varying degrees, the young widow's being the greatest.
Olga was the speaker of the Kingdom of the Nymphs--


           "With the welcome of sisters we greet thee
              In thy beauty, our sovereign anew;
            Long we mourned, never hoping to meet thee,
              Now thine image again we review.
                The waters shall mirror thy image afar
                As in glory and triumph we carry thy car."


Thereupon, Cäcilie appeared as the goddess of Song, a wreath of laurels
in her hand; behind her, Thalia and Melpomene, which characters were
assumed by two of her friends.

Cäcilie had composed these lines for herself--


           "Silently, sadly, we see you depart,
              Leaving our kingdom made greater by you,
            But the laurel of fame must give place to the heart,
              Happiness there is more lasting and true.
            Go you to bliss that cannot be measured,
              And leave those behind who will never forget,
            Your art as yourself will ever be treasured,
              O'er your gain we rejoice, our loss we regret."


Then Schöner entered as a herald; in sonorous flowing verses he
announced the arrival of the new mistress of the Castle, and poured
forth praises of the perfection of her beauty and art; he recited these
verses with wonted enthusiasm, and received plenteous applause.

Herr von Wegen came as the Master, at the head of a number of Knights
of the Order; their white mantles with the black cross, harmonised well
with the old dining-hall, which thus gained historical animation.

The German Order also greeted the new mistress; the poem, of whose
authorship the fair-haired District Deputy was guiltless, while his
brother-in-law, Dr. Kuhl, was universally thought to be its composer,
contained some humourous flashes; it spoke of a fair lady who had not,
as in former times, surreptitiously entered the house of the Order, and
by the back way, but like a mistress, who is entitled to go up the
principal wide staircase. Thus the Order was completely secularised,
and by this brilliant example the Order of wilful old bachelors equally
so, as was demonstrated by the master himself, and his friend, the
Prussian heathen.

And now, armed with a mighty club, Dr. Kuhl stepped forth as an ancient
Prussian at the head of a band dressed in skins; he greeted Giulia in
the name of the original inhabitants of the land, who alone possessed a
right to these forests and lakes; he declared war to the knights who
had been imported into this free land, to those monks of the sword,
that black-crossed hypocrisy; with his people he would destroy this
Castle to its very foundations if the presence of so beautiful a
guardian goddess did not compel him to lay his club in homage at her
feet; he concluded with the words--


           "I swear it by every sacred god
              To-day all wars for ever cease,
            No more our blood shall soil the sod
              For hence shall reign eternal peace.
                When the gods clamour for foemen dead
               Our goddess shall offer the olive instead."


Then followed another series of more stately pictures, and merry jests.
Salomon had conceived the unhappy idea of appearing as Ariosto,
introducing himself as the Italian Heinrich Heine, and in a mixture of
verses, which were collected, partly from the _Ottave rime_ of the poet
of Reggio, partly from free thinking verses by the Parisian
Aristophanes, and speaking of Herr von Blanden as Orlando, who had
delivered Angelica, bound to the rock of the stage.

A tall girl, whose form was as redundant as those of the Genoese women,
appeared as "Italia," a basket of fruit in her hands, a wreath of
perfumed orange blossoms in her hair. It was Iduna; she had left
Fräulein Baute's school, after having met with frequent insults from
the mistress, and openly displayed contempt on the part of her Theodore
Körner, Dr. Sperner. Her father owned a small estate in the
neighbourhood, and thus she was invited to the entertainment.

Soon all revolved in merry dance. Blanden opened the ball with Giulia,
and then stood thoughtfully for some time, leaning against a pillar of
the radiated arch; he thought of the other dance beneath the pear tree,
and the pale shadow of his lovely Eva mingled in the rows of the
dancers. She had pledged him in the unalloyed bliss of youth; this
woman brought the rapture of passion. But he felt that with her came a
rent in his life. The gay company assembled, from which the most
distinguished ladies of the neighbourhood were absent, the coldness of
the members of his party in the capital, all proved to him that he had
once more rendered it impossible to take a firm foothold in his home,
and to attain a higher position in political life by any recognised
influence; but it was only a transient heretical thought! There she
stood before him in all her beauty, a fascinating woman! Her eyes
gleamed with promise; dancing had brought a warmer colour to the marble
of her features; her bosom heaved with sweet excitement, she appeared
like a breathing statue of a goddess! A lamp shone in the pavilion!
myrtles and oranges shed their perfume; the stars of Italy gazed
sparklingly down from the deep blue sky! He encircled her firmly with
his arms, and sped to a wild measure through the old hall. Giulia was
in her brightest mood, she would and did forget everything that was
painful and hostile in her life; she chatted more pleasantly than ever
before, and had a friendly winning word for every one; a roguish smile
played around her lips, as she said to Blanden--

"I cannot realise that I shall never more stand behind the piano; never
more look down upon my worthy conductor's bald head when he wields his
_bâton_, or into the manager's complacent countenance after a
well-paying house; that Dr. Schöner will never more arrange a poetical
nosegay for my vase; no Spiegeler cause me sleepless nights by the
stings of his wasps and bees. But away with all laurel wreaths!
Without, in the theatrical world, the echo of my name will not yet have
quite died away, and when it is dead, it will no longer trouble the
memory of the world to come, which will be inundated with many more."

Kuhl, the heathen, who had just performed a wild round dance with the
orange-perfumed Italian, in which he had squeezed Iduna's hands with
more fervour than the requirements of the dance demanded, now turned to
Giulia and began a battle of words with her upon which she readily
entered. Kuhl had only seen her as Blanden's nurse, when wounded, and
spoken to her in a serious manner; her happy mood stirred him
strangely, but was doubly attractive, and he could not leave her side
while Blanden was enjoying a dance with Olga.

"Excuse me, Signora," suddenly said Cäcilie's somewhat sharp voice.
"Look here, my friend! I only wish to tell you that there must now be
an end of polytheism, and that you shall neither worship the slight
Italian marble goddess nor plump Iduna with her apples of eternal
youth, neither one of Raffael's nor Ruben's beauties. Look this way my
friend! I am now your Alpha and Omega, as the Bible says. I have now a
right to you, and shall know how to assert it."

Kuhl listened to the conjugal lecture; sadly he then took up his club,
which had been propped against a pillar, and leaning upon it, pondered
over the fate which even the most irrefutable theories find in life's
irksome custom. He resigned himself to the melancholy conviction that
he, the Hercules of free love, had, after all, allowed his Dejanira to
charm him into a Nessus shirt.

Dancing and enjoyment lasted until late into the night, then the guests
retired to their chambers. Blanden accompanied his betrothed to the
carved oak door of her apartment, and left her with an ardent kiss and
the whispered words, "Until to-morrow!"

Beate, who had danced bravely and made a slight conquest of a young
lawyer, was so fatigued that she had thrown herself, half undressed,
upon the bed in her room, which was situated behind Giulia's, and had
fallen into a sound sleep.

Giulia was still in her sitting-room--she gazed into the moonlit park;
high into the air the fountain cast its stream of silver, gently around
the trees quivered that dreamy light which rocks the soul with vague
forebodings.

Dance, wine, love had intoxicated her. Was not the world so beautiful,
life so happy!

She longed to rejoice, like the ray of water springing up towards the
skies!

She threw aside her ball dress, and in her light dressing-gown
contemplated her reflection in the large mirror. She felt so
lighthearted, so free--and was she not beautiful, youthfully beautiful?
A heavy destiny had passed over her, but in its flight it only slightly
touches the favourites of the gods. No creases, no wrinkles, she needed
no paint-pot to conceal them, no weight of cares had been able to bow
her tall form, and the consciousness of her own beauty thrilled her
with delight.

Then she hastened to the cupboard, which was placed in a panel of the
wall, opened it with a carefully secured key, and took out the jewel
box which Blanden had given to her. First she let the splendid stones
glisten in the lamp light, then flash in the moon's radiance, while she
revelled in the sparkling lights and the prismatic rays which played to
and fro.

Then she stepped before the large mirror, put the diadem of brilliants
upon her curls, decked herself with the pearl necklace, with the
bracelets, glistening with rubies and emeralds. She thought herself
magnificent as a queen; thus, in her dazzling splendour, ornamented
with the prince's crown, might not everything be permitted to her? Need
a ruler fear his conscience, that sentinel of the garrison? Did she, in
her power and beauty, not stand far above it?

They were proud dreams in which she indulged--blissful
self-forgetfulness, the ruinous intoxication of dark spirits of the
earth, which guard the treasures of the deep, and scatter that shining
dust into the eyes of mankind that it may perceive nothing but the
sparkling brilliance of mammon and soulless splendour. She walked up
and down before the mirror, bent her head to see how the coronet of
brilliants became her dark locks, turned to the right and to the left;
but then the spirit of the stage came upon her, a vain spirit at first,
and she repeated scenes from operas, raising her arms, now wringing her
hands, then extending them as if cursing, all the time admiring the
shining lights of her bracelets as they played about those beautifully
rounded forms.

Then she stood again as still as sculptured marble and gazed at herself
as though she were looking at a statue, standing in a niche of a
Pantheon. Then, suddenly--it was no dream--the mirror began to move; it
was pushed on one side by invisible hands: she commenced to tremble, to
rub her eyes--her own reflection disappeared with the mirror like a
ghost into the surface of the wall--and, instead, a space black as an
abyss yawned before her--and a draped figure sprang into the room and
threw off its cloak.

It was Baluzzi!

She started back with a loud cry.

"Traitoress!" cried he, "now you are worthy of me!"

Giulia staggered back a few paces, half unconscious, with one hand
resting upon the back of the roccoco chair, she held the other
tremblingly towards the intrusive ghost.

"Back, back!" she cried with a failing voice, that was almost stifled
into a convulsive whisper.

"I believe, indeed, that you would refuse to see me, and that I am more
hateful to you to-day than any other being whom the world contains. I
come most inopportunely, I know, and that is why I come. And how
beautifully you are adorned--for the galley!"

Giulia seized the diamond crown, the necklace and bracelet, all almost
unconsciously, as if in a heavy dream, in which one seeks in blind
haste to protect life, possessions and estate from unavoidable ruin;
but her hand was paralysed, and the ornaments adhered to her.

"Beautifully adorned, and still beautiful!" cried Baluzzi, stepping
nearer, "still as beautiful as once when you stood before the altar in
the little church of San Giulio! Do not shrink from me--before others
you are a bride elect, before others you may feign modesty, and wrap
yourself in the bridal veil, not before me! I have an old and sacred
right over you--your body, your soul belong to me, and to me alone; you
cannot be separated from me so long as the indissoluble word of the
Church exists upon earth, and I place my hand upon you as upon a
runaway slave--Giulia Baluzzi, my wife!"

And he went up to her, held the struggling woman with a strong arm, and
laid the other hand upon her marble shoulder that quivered as if in the
grip of a tiger cat.

"Stand back, madman," whispered Giulia in a suppressed tone of alarm,
"stand back, or I shall call for help."

"You will not do so, my child! You will not call for help, not even if
I murder you with my dagger! You would prefer to drop mutely into my
arms, and with expiring eyes to implore me--for silence, for
forgetfulness! Is it not so? A cry for help!--what is a cry for help
but a cry for shame, for disgrace, for law and executioner? I know you
better, my little dove; so imprudent you are not; the friend of Beate,
the cunning robber of a church, possesses too much sense and
understanding."

"I shall call for help," said Giulia, with pride and defiance, now
releasing herself from Baluzzi's arms. "And if I declare you before all
the world to be a robber and a liar, all will deem your utterances to
be madness, because the proofs are wanting."

"The proofs are ready."

"They were, perhaps; but they are no longer."

"Haha," said Baluzzi, with a mocking laugh, "you rely upon your astute
messenger, upon Beate, who lays her devil's paw upon the altar candles
and registers, at the ghostly hour of midnight lights a firebrand in a
sacristy. A harmless amusement! Had it not been so harmless I should
have prevented it, but it was great amusement for me to watch the
lizard as it glided into the crevices in the church walls, and to carry
on a game with it; unfortunately she swooned too soon. I should have
liked to torture her still longer, have made her bones rattle, the
good-for-nothing! You all possess courage only up to a certain point;
the little witch, too, showed courage, but then, in a moment, it goes
out like a candle that has burned down, that has consumed itself all
too speedily."

"But the proofs are destroyed," said Giulia, although doubtfully and
alarmed at Baluzzi's scorn, because she could not help fearing that by
some means Beate's undertaking had failed.

"You are mistaken, my child. I do not allow the thread by which I hold
you to be so easily withdrawn from my hands. I have my spies, and when
I heard from Antoinette, my little scout, whither Beate intended to go,
I knew enough. At first I accompanied her in the greatest possible
_incognito_, then I gained a considerable start in order to obtain the
necessary information. I was at the See at Milan. I knew that an
enquiry into some forgery was pending against the former priest of San
Giulio. I have staunch friends, even at the holy courts of law. A
priest, with whom I worked formerly in Monaco, at my desire, enquired
if amongst the deeds of the suit a copy of the registry of San Giulio
did not exist; a legal official copy certified by the chaplain. I had
reason to expect this because the suit concerned a falsification of the
register. My supposition was well-founded--now I was safe, now I could
play with that dangerous culprit who is your greatest friend, as a cat
does with a mouse. All respect to you, we are quits. I awaited her
arrival in Orta, dogged all her steps, and my knowledge of the church
permitted me to hide myself in the little crypt. The fire of joy at
midnight I vouchsafed to her with malicious pleasure, but our marriage,
my child, is signed and sealed in the legal copy in the register number
two, that lies at Milan, valid before God and man. It is a pity that
the travelling expenses, and heroic courage were spent in vain, that
the triumph was useless--I have the proofs!"

Giulia's courage fell with each of Baluzzi's words. She felt herself to
be completely in his power, thus everything that she had done to free
herself from him, even Beate's criminal proceeding, was all in vain.
She looked at him with the glance of a mortally wounded deer.

"You do not believe my story? Here in my pocket-book is the most exact
information as to where the document can be found which proves my
perfect right to you. Now will you still cry for help?"

Silently Giulia covered her face with her hands.

"You are going to be sensible, my child; I thought so! That is why I
come to you at night, it is very considerate of me, and on a toilsome
road too. A wonderful child led me here--my rare little sea-devil, whom
I have taken into my service. It is the road upon which you must now
follow me!"

"What are you thinking of? Impossible!" said Giulia, springing up.

"The road is not very pleasant! Close beside the shore of the lake
there is a cave--my blood-hound found it; it is overgrown with thistles
and bushes, the little one worked with an axe and sickle all last night
to clear the passage. One must stoop to pass through. It leads to the
old tower, which, with its ivy-clad walls, casts its shadow below upon
the moonlit shrubs in the park. It was the watch tower, the battle and
sally-tower of the knights, and the hidden road ensures them flight in
case of defeat. From the tower a secret walled passage leads into the
Castle. It is covered with rubbish and ruins, and there are awkward
steps to go up and down. But then a little masked winding-staircase in
the wall leads up to this mirror door. My wonderfully clever seal
discovered all this. It took us some time last night before we could
find out the mechanism of this door. We knew that these rooms were
destined for you. We tried a long time, but I am clever at such
secrets, and beneath its external disguise found the spot where one
must press so as to make the wooden panel move and slide back. The
little one waits below with a dark lantern--the boat is tied up close
to the egress of the hollow way. It will cost a few bruises and torn
clothes, then we shall sail over the lake and away over the Russian
frontier."

"You are out of your senses, Baluzzi!"

"Shall I remind you of our past, of our agreement? We were married
secretly. You were a singer whose fame was waxing. I, an inferior
chorus singer, who could do no better. I saw myself, that your
prospects would be damaged if the world knew of our marriage. Soon I
resigned the miserable position of an incapable helper's helper in the
troupe of singers at the theatre, and I must confess it, gave myself up
to a somewhat dissipated life. I drank and gambled. I became a croupier
in Monaco, your fame was augmenting. Our paths led farther and farther
asunder. All the same, I loved you fervently, but I perceived that your
love diminished daily. You were ashamed of me. You began to avoid me,
to fly from me. I required money, much money for my habits of life.
They are as respectable and distinguished as those of a well-born
prince who squanders his heritage. How often was I not in
embarrassments enough to make one's hair stand on end, badly in debt.
It was at that time we made an agreement that I should avoid you as
long as you were at the theatre, but, that in return, the greater
portion of your abundant gains should always be paid over to me. So
long as you were at the theatre--that was the condition. Recollect it!
No evasions! I am a man of my word, and I shall see that faith is kept
with me also. _Cospetto!_ In my hand I hold the power to compel you."

"I, too, kept my word," said Giulia, "and more than this, I have often
starved that you might live luxuriously."

"For two years," said Baluzzi, "when you were here in Prussia during
the summer I was left without news of you."

"Owing to your irregular life the letter to you must have been lost--an
unfortunate chance which I do not lament over much."

"Then for two years I was in Russia, lost to you. I had business that
made me acquainted with sables and ermines. I exonerate you from blame
for that time, nevertheless you thus became my debtor. However, if you
leave the stage, you cannot redeem yourself now, you no longer have
your own independent earnings and possessions. Therefore, from
henceforth, you belong to me! Thank the Madonna that I have come to
hold you back from a crime--follow me!"

"Never!" said Giulia, folding her hands.

"Do you then think that my passion for you is extinguished? Even when
far away it burned in my bosom with silent fervour, and this glow
expands into bright flames since I have seen you once more, because you
are the most beautiful woman whom I have met with upon my manifold
journies in life, and I have seen women of every nation and of every
class. It is a proud sensation that of possessing you, not secretly,
no, before all the world to display you, and it is a delight to fold
you in my arms."

Giulia hid her face as she drew back.

"Yet do not believe that it is the same old love, as beneath Italy's
orange and myrtle trees when you were my Madonna, when my heart beat
for you, when I looked up to you as to a queen of heaven floating amid
a bright halo. And even then, when you parted from me as from one
unworthy who might not follow in the ascending paths of your life, even
in the desolate existence that I led, still I always looked up as one
looks up at a heavenly orb through a crevice in a grotto. Then came
those days of Lago Maggiore, I watched and saw how you were faithless
to me, you bought yourself free from my anger, because then I was in a
desperate position, but since that time my feelings have been
completely metamorphosed. My Madonna was one no longer, and though she
may not repent, I have vowed to myself to make her do so."

"Oh, to be fettered to crime, and in addition by sacred bonds--is there
a more unhappy fate? Is despair not justified, even when it clutches
convulsively at transient felicity? Well, I may belong to you, but you
do not belong to me, never so long as my spirit can move its wings in
liberty, can appreciate the beautiful, believe in what is noble."

Giulia had risen proudly, she had recovered herself, overcame her fear
and terror, courage of death shone on her brow.

"Any one who saw you now--truly a vestal, whose fire, alas, had often
gone out. It looks like gold and is brass, it gleams like silver and is
tin. And this, on the day on which a crime shall be consecrated. The
cocks have already crowed, midnight is past, your second wedding day
will soon dawn, do not forget your first myrtles; its stars still
shine, the second can only consist of nightshade and fox-glove, it
breathes the poison of a lie. _Corpo di bacco_--such a saint--it makes
one laugh!"

"I know, I feel that I am committing an impious act, I am defying law,
I am deceiving the best of men, but I only deceive him out of endless
love, and so utterly unworthy is that which is protected by law, that I
dare all because I believe in the pardon of Heaven."

"You need not have this sin pardoned, it will not be committed."

"Hear me Baluzzi!"

"Hear me first! I have not yet told you all. Since those days by the
lake, love died in my heart, passion remained, but it was a wild
passion that wavered between love and hatred; expiation I had hoped for
from you, but you cast flaming anger into my heart. You shall be mine,
your kisses shall give me rapture, my pulses shall throb louder, when I
hold you in my arms, but only like the pirate's pulses, who rejoices
over the captured beauty. Never shall I forget that you injured and
betrayed me beyond expression, that you are my slave, over whom I
exercise my proud right of master, whether I torture and chastise, or
whether I love her. What are your laurel wreaths to me? Dried up straw
which I burn, because no more gold glitters on its leaves, but as in
mockery of your renown, the queen of the stage shall preside at my
gaming-tables beside other painted harridans, and shall decoy victims
into my net--the trade will flourish! The remains of a great name will
suffice for it, that little candle end can still shed some light. You
shall obey me, tremble before me! That is the expiation, the penance
for an overbearing and faithless wife!"

"And to such degradation shall I follow you, give myself up to such
disappointment? Death rather!"

"There is a still better means, Signora! Seize your dagger, kill me,
let me be killed as a robber and housebreaker, then you will be free,
and with a light heart can greet the first ray of the morning sun; but
I am on my guard, my glances do not leave you, do not leave that door
behind which Beate sleeps. I know that she has a pocket pistol under
her pillow, and a crime more or less does not matter to her, but I am
prepared to meet her also."

And Baluzzi pulled out a pistol.

"Beate sleeps in the second room," said Giulia, "she does not hear us!
We will not excite ourselves--one calm word! An unhappy fate has
brought us together, it should never have happened. Our paths led far
asunder, but the indissoluble bond remains; it is cruel to tie up my
soul with it, it is indissoluble there, indissoluble also for me here,
because I dare not venture forth with this life-long lie, without
forfeiting my future happiness. But you would not be separated,
although to do so lay in your power. I beg, I implore you, do not let
your old right interfere in my life. I was always your friend, I will
remain so, but upon my knees I implore you, grant me the bliss of this
true love. I ask nothing but silence, do not make him miserable who
hazarded his life for me. Is it then so great a sacrifice not to utter
words which would plunge two people into calamity? Is it impossible to
resign a dreamed-of possession, a right that is dead?"

"A dreamed-of possession?" shouted the Italian, "the real right will
still find its protection in the world, and when I see you thus before
me, in all the magic of your charms, I long to press you to my heart
and to rejoice in my beautiful possession; my blood surges up within
me, like the fire-spring of Salfatora. I am no Don Juan who breaks at
night into the sanctuary of the house, I am no adulterer, no seducer; I
am the husband, and that word is like a king's crown and sceptre,
before which all the nation bows. The law would drive you into my arms
with rods, if you refuse, because to me is given power over you."

"Away, do not touch me!"

"And if I do? I am safe from your cries for help!"

"That you are not," cried Giulia in supreme excitement, "not even if I
must let my shame resound through the house with the alarm bell! Rather
than rest in your arms, rather than follow you and obey that vile
control which your right and will exercise, rather would I fall crushed
upon my knees before every one, confess the incredible, pray for mercy,
and then seek and find death. You know me! I dare do much, I dare do
what is unheard of! With bold hand I will rob myself of my own
happiness. He who dares that is prepared for all! Beside the summit
there is an abyss and no other path--least of all no other path in
common with you!"

Giulia's wild determination made an impression upon Baluzzi; he knew
those convulsively closed lips, those knitted eyebrows, those rigid
glances; he knew that at such moments she was capable of extremities.

What, then, was left to him? The sensation of gratified revenge, a mere
shadow of recollection--but not the bliss of the rack, and what his
passion, his avarice, might perhaps still expect of the future, would
then be buried for evermore.

He stopped, and hesitated.

Then, as Giulia rose from her knees in haughty anger, the light of the
lamp swept across her head-dress, so that the diamonds flashed and
quivered, and a dream-like firework of precious stones seemed to
scintillate upon her head.

The Italian was suddenly dazzled and enraptured with the ornament which
he had, indeed, perceived immediately upon his entrance, but which he
had not estimated at its full value.

His eyes wandered from the coronet to the strings of pearls, down to
the bracelets; they passed on to the open jewel casket on the table
whence a brilliancy betokening great promise shone in the dim light.

Giulia followed his gaze, his expression had entirely changed: the glow
of passion, the madness of revenge had given place to mute greed, to
avarice, that sought gratification, not from the animate, but the
inanimate objects. As if spell-bound his glance hung upon the
brilliants. A considerable pause ensued, Giulia imbibed new courage.

"You are not poor," said Baluzzi, suddenly, "is that your own?"

"My wedding present," replied Giulia.

"All this--and those precious stones, too? Show me the coronet!"

Giulia removed it. Baluzzi seized a candle which stood upon the table
beside him and illuminated the glittering stones. He drank in their
radiance as he slowly examined them. Then, as if making some
calculation, moved his lips; every one of these stones became changed
into a sparkling number, and dazzling as if in a Bengal light, a noble
sum flashed before him.

"You see," said Giulia, who had grasped the sudden change equally
quickly, "Blanden is liberal, and although I may earn nothing more
myself, his gifts will render it possible for me, even, if not to the
same extent as formerly, still to remember you."

"Do you think so?" said Baluzzi, as he looked at her with widely opened
eyes.

"And although I have retired from the stage, I will save for you just
the same, only do not demand impossibilities, take the circumstances
into consideration; less than formerly can I only call my own, dispose
of less, but, otherwise, things shall be as they were."

"Less? You are very modest! When did you ever have such beautiful
ornaments before?"

"They are the Blandens' family jewels, they do not belong to me! They
are only lent to me."

"Lent? You told me yourself that he had given them to you."

"For my life-time, perhaps! Such heirlooms revert to the family. I look
upon them as a property entrusted to my keeping."

"Give me the ornaments," cried Baluzzi, taking hold quickly.

"Impossible," replied Giulia, paling. "They are my wedding jewels for
tomorrow."

"Haha," laughed Baluzzi. "And you do not fear that these sparkling
stones should scorch your hair, or change themselves into little
snakes, such as play around the heads of the Furies? I have a great
undertaking in prospect, besides, I have much money to pay in Russia. I
offer you the choice: give me the diadem or I remain. I shall expose
you before all the world, and assert my rights."

Giulia looked once more imploringly at him. Her eye dropped. She was
weary of the endless torture.

"Cease! I beseech you, Baluzzi! What shall I say? How excuse myself?"

"Invent a robber. You are inventive enough. A lie, more or less, cannot
matter to you, and this is not the worst," added he, scornfully.

"Oh, this torture, this humiliation! Am I not a cowardly woman? Where
is my pride, where is my strength? Have you not appeared as one come to
warn me, to call to me, 'So far, and no farther! Cease, cease from your
reckless game!' And I have not courage to resign, standing before
supreme happiness, not the courage of truth, not the courage to speak
one single word, to avoid an act of infamous sacrilege! Unworthy
struggling, and cheating! That is the greatest humiliation. In open
confession, in the lowest abnegation, before universal repudiation,
there would still be sublimity! A voice would cry to me, 'You have done
rightly,' and above my head I should hear the fluttering of the wings
of my life's good genii who have long since forsaken me."

She seemed to be speaking to herself! Eagerly Baluzzi awaited the
decisive result of this monologue, at the same time with his eyes
devouring the diamonds in Giulia's hand.

"I cannot," cried she suddenly, striking her brow with her clenched
hand. "I am too weak, too powerless! Duty's command appears like a
horrible spectre that gives me up to boundless misery, while under the
spell of criminal silence an ardently longed-for happiness beckons to
me. Pity, pity!"

She cried to Heaven for it with clasped hands; Baluzzi answered, as
though she had spoken to him.

"None of that! The diamonds! It is my last word!"

"And the price--your everlasting silence!"

"Everlasting? Oh, no! That would be a bad bargain! But, by my honour,
for a year, if I live so long, I will not remind you. I will be
silent."

"A very sword above my head! And yet a year's felicity! How much
happiness does not even a moment contain! Who can destroy what once was
ours? And what once it has bought from hell can never be reclaimed! And
yet--how my heart will beat at every step, at every rustle or rattle of
the leaves. No, no, everlasting silence--and the jewels are yours."

"A year--give them, give them, senseless woman!"

He grasped the diamond circle and wrenched it from Giulia's hands after
a short indifferent resistance.

"Then farewell, complete your crime! A year--but pray for my life! For
I have sworn before I die to be revenged upon you! I leave no other
will, save my curse, which shall be upon you."

With these words, and still holding the sparkling ornament high in the
air, he disappeared behind the mirror-door, which he pushed back again
into the framework of the wall.

Giulia sank upon a seat. She extinguished the lamp and candles.
Sleepless, dreamless, she gazed fixedly through the windows into the
night. The moon had set. The grey dawn did her good. Everything faded
into uncertainty. A cradle song passed through her mind! How terrible
the rising day which gave distinct form again to everything which
erected the implacable barriers of life!

And on it came with its increasing light, and tinged the tops of the
trees. When Beate entered Giulia was still sitting motionlessly in her
evening robe in the easy chair.

On descending the winding staircase Baluzzi found Kätchen sitting upon
the first steps of the subterranean passage beside the dark lantern.

Impatient she had certainly become, and had even crept up the stairs.
She had listened, but understood nothing, for Baluzzi and Giulia spoke
in Italian.

In her hand she held something that fluttered and flapped strangely. It
was a bat which had whirled around her lantern, and threatened to
entangle itself in her hair. When she perceived Baluzzi she started up.

"Well, and she?"

"She will remain this time," said the Italian. "She has bought herself
off."

He showed the magnificent diamonds, but they made no impression upon
the girl.

"Bought herself off?" said she, as she raised the lantern, let the bat
fly away, and stared at Baluzzi in idiotic amazement.

She scrambled down a few steps through the rubbish in the subterranean
passage.

Then Kätchen stopped suddenly.

"And the marriage will still take place to-morrow?"

"Yes, yes!"

"Most wonderful!"

"Is she not your wife?"

"So the legend says, my child!"

On they clambered over the rubbish. Bats whirred round the lantern.

"To-morrow I must go to the district town," said Baluzzi.

"Leave me here, to-morrow. I will dance in the barn with the peasants
at the wedding."

The Italian gave his consent.

They rested themselves in the old watch tower, before commencing the
still more toilsome path through the narrow passage to the shore of the
lake.

"And you could not, would not prevent it. I thought we should drag her
with us, perhaps, still in her beautiful clothes, in her satin shoes
over the sharp stones, so that the blood would flow over her delicate
little feet! Why, you said you would torture her, bind her firmly if
she resisted, oh, I had bandages ready that she could not have torn. We
should have stowed her away in the boat like a little mass of misery
and had she become unruly, I might have struck her with a dripping oar.
You said this, and what have you done? Nothing--she will be happy, the
proud creature--and he, he!"

"Come before dawn breaks," said Baluzzi, urging her to start.

"I must think it over," Kätchen muttered to herself.

A gust of wind sweeping through the loopholes of the Dantziger,
extinguished the lantern.

"Follow me," said Kätchen, "I have cat's eyes, and can see in the dark.
Here is the passage to the shore. Stoop, you know it is low, but we can
feel and grope our way through."

"Horrible darkness, _corpo di bacco_," muttered Baluzzi, while he
measured the height of the grotto passage with one hand.

"To-morrow it will be brighter here," Kätchen hummed, "but come on,
thorns and thistles will not sting you now. I have beheaded and cut
them down, I understand how to clear things away, away with the weeds!"



                               CHAPTER X.

                            THE WEDDING DAY.


Brightly dawned the day, but the morning sun disappeared early beneath
the glowing clouds, with which the whole sky was soon overcast.

A cold, feeble rain pattered down; a few wedding guests ventured into
the park, but the chilly disagreeable weather soon drove them back.
Blanden was busied with arrangements in the Castle; this time his
master of the kitchen and cellar had not been granted leave of absence;
he had to show the wonders of the Castle to Olga, his stately mistress.
Dr. Kuhl was only allowed to devote himself to the nymphs of the lake.
Cäcilie looked strictly after him, lest he wished to lay his homage at
the feet of the Castle fairies. There were the most charming little
town girls present, whom such a Don Juan by profession could wind up
like a watch, so that their hearts ticked in a race with the throbs of
his. Iduna, the late head scholar, was there, a fresh child of Nature
with developed appreciation of manly beauty. Her first love had been an
unhappy one, but with that elixir within her, she saw a Doctor Sperner
in every man. She had cast an eye upon Kuhl, and was little gratified
that Salomon became her cicerone, exhibiting all the apartments of the
Castle full of historical associations.

"In this dining-hall, my Fräulein, certainly no one ever danced before,
but you must not think that everything was conducted in a very holy
manner. Yes, at the time of Winrich of Kniprode, these gentlemen had to
be called to order. There were Grand Masters at the Marienburg, whose
glance extended to the remotest corners of the land. But later ensued a
period of decay. They certainly still sometimes fought bravely, it
was their trade, and it was immaterial to them whether they held a
prayer-book or a sword in their hands--they understood their letters
very well, and scratched whole alphabets into their enemies' faces. I
assume that this Castle has also often been besieged by the Poles--from
the Dantziger there the knights no doubt have triumphantly repelled the
attack of the others; courage upon the whole, my Fräulein, is a very
ordinary virtue practised partly at the word of command, partly under
compulsion. I do not think much of it. All the world is brave, even the
oxen in the meadows, which stand before their enemies and rush at one
another with their horns."

"But I should think," said Iduna, before whose mind stood Theodor
Körner's picture in all its glory, "it is one of the noblest virtues,
the fruit of glorious enthusiasm," and she added a few passages, which
she had retained in her memory from her most successful theme upon the
Lieutenant of Hussars.

"Enthusiasm is all very fine," said Salomon, "but who has time for it
before a battle! Men must clean their weapons, count their cartridges,
eat a morsel of commissariat bread. I speak of to-day, because the
Knights of the Order did not know that nutritious food, and when once
the troops start, they must listen exactly to the commander's order,
march, halt, load, fire! Enthusiasm--it is only to be found amongst
warlike poets. In battle people are as excited as in a boxing match;
they hit out on all sides, they know it is a matter of life or death,
they may lose their collars, they see nothing, think nothing, only try
to save their own skins. There is nothing more stupid than a soldier in
a battle."

"You describe it so vividly," said Iduna, "that one might believe you
had been present yourself."

"Not at a battle, but often at a fight. Besides, where is there any
battle now? We live in everlasting peace. No, no my Fräulein! I have
merely cast a few glances into the human mind, and if one will discover
the truth, one must always assume the contrary of that which poetry
asserts. Poetry is merely a beautiful falsehood. But, as I said, the
brethren of the Order might be brave even at the time of their decay,
but they led a merry life; I wager that they drank as bravely in this
dining-hall, as at any drinking party of Lithuanians or Masurens, and
that the gaily painted Madonna, with her radiant colours in the window
panes, was not the only representative of womanhood, but that also many
a high born knight's young lady--"

"No, never, Herr Salomon," said Iduna, promptly.

The youth was about to spare the maiden's blushes by passing suddenly
to the event of the day, when the other ladies and girls declared that
it was time to dress, and Iduna was not sorry to leave the highly
educated student, who shed the radiance of enlightened human
understanding into every corner, in which any illusion still lingered
fondly. He knew that few, like himself, stood upon the height of
nineteenth century reason.

Beate would not be debarred from dressing her friend for the ceremony.
She looked beautiful in her veil and white satin robe, but was ghastly
pale. Beate advised her to have recourse to artificial aid, but Giulia
very decidedly rejected every reminiscence of her past.

There she appeared, really like a marble bride; on beholding her, Kuhl
remembered how he had once called her so, when Blanden told him of his
adventures on the Lago Maggiore. At first sight her beauty gave an
impression of pride and coldness, but any one looking more closely
recognised the softening influence of internal suffering which
overshadowed her features.

They were a handsome pair; there was no dissentient voice in the
unenvious assembly. Blanden had quite recovered from his duel, he
looked noble and grand, the dreaminess in his features possessed a
charm of its own, such gentleness, such benignity lay in it, and when
he opened his eyes widely they told of superior intellectual spirit.

All the ladies appeared in brilliant toilets; both the brides elect,
Cäcilie and Olga, with Beate, were the bridesmaids. The unheard of
event that Dr. Kuhl had donned a frockcoat, betokened that Cäcilie had
already made progress in taming the rebel. As for him, he contemplated
himself in the pier-glasses, shrugging his shoulders and saying to
Wegen he felt like a bear at a fair, whom the bear-leader had dressed
up in a red jacket; however, he must perform his antics and dance to
the drum. And so saying, he stretched about and strained his Herculean
arms in the unwontedly fine material.

The procession was arranged and moved through the dining-hall into the
festively decorated and flower bedecked chapel. There, behind the
altar, upon which Giulia had once placed an enchanted souvenir, stood
the minister. She thought of the two Italian island churches, of the
one in which she had stood before the altar as to-day; in the other
where she had confessed to a forbidden love, and before the sacred word
and sacred act she was overcome with a full consciousness of her sinful
temerity.

As in a vision, her whole life passed before her, she did not listen to
the words of the Bible. The "Yes" in the church of San Giulio rang in
her ears--the echo of the chapel seemed to strengthen it--at first it
sounded like the crash of scorn, and still louder, more grave, more
solemn, the thunder of the judgment day--her knees tottered. Everything
was bathed in dreamy light--she was herself, and yet was not--she was
there and here.

Did not the lake of Orta roar outside?

No, it was the storm which had risen, sweeping through the tops of the
pines, and stirring up the waves of the northern water mirror.

Fancy often erects a bridge of dreams from one summit of life to
another, and deep below in oblivion lie all its other paths.

Giulia was absorbed in a vision, in a self-delusion; the pictures of
the past and present became mixed up, but the confusion was agonising;
her hand trembled in Blanden's.

Then the rings were exchanged, Giulia looked into his luminous eyes, he
bent over her with an expression of most ardent love. The shadows
disappeared, she felt the full consciousness of the bliss of the
present, and in a voice not trembling with anguish of conscience, but
with all the warmth of intense devotion, she spoke the word of consent.

When Blanden led her to dinner he asked about the diadem; he had hoped
that she would adorn herself with it on that day--when again should so
good an opportunity be offered of letting the proud family heritage of
the Blandens' shine in all its glory? And when it shone above the
flowing bridal veil, the sanction of the family, the blessing of the
long row of female ancestors, of that house would at the same time rest
upon the brow of her who entered that line: she was received into the
sanctuary of the noble women who for centuries had held their sway over
this home. Giulia blushed deeply, and with deceitful words pleaded
modesty and humility as her excuse, but Blanden felt that he was
rebuffed, painfully disappointed that she had scorned to adorn herself
with his costly gift; it was like a note of discord in the harmony of
the entertainment, and he could not suppress a sensation of anxious
misgiving.

The grand wedding dinner passed off very cheerfully. Giulia possessed
the lightheadedness of an actress; in glad emotions she forgot
everything which at other times might depress her, she imbibed
forgetfulness and courage with the sparkling froth of the champagne.
Then, when her countenance brightened, a slight colour suffused it as
she smiled and joked, and gave herself up to a genial actress' mood,
which owes its birth to a rich treasury of recollections; then only her
beauty, which until now had but inspired cold admiration, warmed all
hearts, and Blanden was deemed fortunate to have won so beautiful a
wife.

There was no lack of toasts and verses. Schöner made use of a few ideas
which he had once mustered in Neukuhren at Eva's betrothal. A true poet
always goes economically to work, because when once he has stamped an
idea with the immortal impress of his genius, it must not be lost
again, and it would be most blameworthy even to make a feeble copy.
Salomon retired to the domain of satire, he compared the new Knights of
St. John with those of the old Order, and ridiculed the celibacy of the
latter in verses imitative of Heine.

Dr. Kuhl, it is true, proposed no toasts, but he was in a wild mood,
which inspired his betrothed with some slight alarm, he spoke of his
gallows-wit, and said he had courage to mention the rope, even in the
house of a man who had been hanged; he was enjoying himself immensely
at the wedding, but this fact did not upset his theories that marriage
festivities were a public nuisance; however, as he had at last lost all
his characteristics and fallen a victim to his own good nature, and
another person's amiability, well, he could not help it; he, too, must
let himself be married, but he should only permit two witnesses,
selected from the midst of the sovereign people, to be present, who
afterwards would disappear in the night of that plebeian universality
where all cows are black; his marriage dinner he and Cäcilie should eat
alone, or at the utmost invite his Caro who, on that day, should
receive a specially good dish of meat and bones. Well, he had somehow
got into the good-for-nothing frock-coat, and he only wished that all
the seams would burst. The whole life of perishing humanity consisted
in most abject concessions; he, too, now moved on that degrading
course, and had already fallen far from that height upon which he had
formerly stood in proud self-glorification, and he looked upon himself
as an apostate, and with his better self, which still occasionally rose
from out the slough, he looked upon his present self, planted up to its
neck in a bog of social prejudices, with an indescribable feeling of
pity and contempt.

"Thank God," said Wegen to Olga, "that you have not fallen into the
hands of this wicked hector, who seems to look upon his engagement as
an act of suicide. How differently I appreciate you."

Smiling meaningly, Olga pressed her lover's hand, but Kuhl had
overheard the last words.

"Dear friend and brother-in-law," said he, "I herewith pronounce
you to be the greatest hypocrite at this round table. The theory of
common love, for which the century is not yet ripe, permits many
variations--and one of these variations you have performed, and all the
world performs them with us. Enter upon an engagement to-day, give it
up soon, and a week or so later fall in love and engage yourself again,
and you are one of the most moral citizens in the world, and no one
will assail your good name. But, if only you feel that affection a week
sooner, before the old one is given up, then you are a Don Juan.
Everything then depends upon time, just as in hiring anything, a week
constitutes the whole difference between virtue and vice. Well, if we
have not sinned, dear brother-in-law _in spe_, at least we have nothing
with which to reproach ourselves! I have loved two sisters, but so have
you also--your good health, my friend!"

Wegen coloured at this address, which, to him, appeared intensely
heartless. Olga laughed, but Cäcilie had long since compressed her lips
and prepared herself for an armed reprimand.

The clergyman opposite, an enlightened man, had listened to Kuhl's
defiant speech with a smiling countenance. He quietly took part in the
conversation.

"The affections of the human heart are very peculiar, and who, indeed,
excepting the Lord, who searches heart and mind, can say that he has
fathomed that organ? Such affection may be transient or deep, yet it
seems to me that it, too, is subject to mutability and change. But this
free-booter's love must cease at that point where human society rises
unanimously, striving to attain its grandest ends. We will grant dual
love to Herr Dr. Kuhl. Let every one manage it as best he can. I know,
indeed, that the heart, like the ocean, can have but one ebb and flow,
and that this tide is only produced by the mysterious attraction of
one orb, not merely in regular course--as is the case with the ocean
tide--but also in wild passionate upheavings, as in that of the glowing
liquid emotion of the earth, the earthquake, which clever men also
ascribe to the influence of the moon's powers of attraction; but
although dual love may be a whim of the heart, bigamy is very
different."

Although Blanden was talking to her at the moment, Giulia became
attentive, and listened eagerly to the words of her other neighbour.

"Bigamy," said the clergyman, "is a mockery of the ordinances which
Church and State have laid down for the support of society, and the
purity and security of families; hence the severe punishment which has
always been decreed to that crime. It may appear too severe to those
who are free spirits to such an extent, as also in this case only to
perceive the maintenance of immaterial forms, but whosoever tries to
shake them tries to shake the bases of society."

Giulia's heart beat more quickly. The cheering influence of the
champagne had lost its power, gloomy clouds overspread her brow.

"We have," said the clergyman, "only lately had such a case in our
village. A depraved woman, who came from the other side of the Polish
frontier, had a legal husband there; here, however, she commenced a
fresh love affair, and was married again. The matter came to light, and
the woman who had taken the payment of the double marriage expenses
very lightly, was sentenced to several years' imprisonment."

Giulia became pale, the champagne glass fell from her hand, and was
dashed to pieces on the table.

Blanden was startled. He had not listened to the clergyman's discourse,
having been talking very animatedly himself to Giulia, but what he said
to her was pleasant, bright and cheerful--what had come to her?

"I was abstracted, and awkward; forgive me!" said she, in an unsteady
voice.

"It is possible," Dr. Kuhl's powerful voice sounded across the table,
"that by bigamy people may wish to live in clover, but that does not
prevent a man wasting his substance in dual love."

Blanden now noticed the subject under discussion. He became depressed
and thoughtful, and did not know why. What could have agitated Giulia
so much? Was her heart not quite free?

They rose from the table in good spirits. Evening was already closing
in.

On that day, too, Blanden showed his usual care for the amusement of
his dependents by going into the great barn at the farm, where the
floor had been swept and garnished for a dance.

The village band had already commenced its noisy tum-tum, beer flowed
from the mighty barrels which Olkewicz had sent there.

Red lamps illumined the place with a festive light. The couples whirled
round in merry dance. A joyous hurrah greeted the master, who
immediately led his young wife amongst the groups of glad people. She
was obliged to open a dance with Olkewicz, and never in his life did
the worthy steward experience greater pride than when footing it with
the princess out of the fairy lake, the vision of a former occasion, in
a place where he usually commanded the united threshing flails of the
village.

But Giulia had to dance with the young people also. There were Poles
from beyond the frontiers; one a fine lad, in a laced jacket, knelt
down before Giulia, after the dance, and begged her to allow him to
take off her shoe, according to Polish custom, so as to drink her
health. Resistance was in vain, and the princess of Lago Maggiore had
as little cause as Cinderella to conceal her shoe and feet from the
world. The lad filled the slipper with brandy, and gave one lusty cheer
for the lady of the manor, while vowing himself to her service for
evermore. The fiddlers struck up a furious tune, with them the two
horns in the village band, and the night-watchman's horn, too-tooed
joyously. Great was the gladness of the people, and Giulia moved like a
strange fairy indeed amongst the women and girls of the village, mostly
lacking any beauty. The master himself went about from one to another,
talked to the tenants, shook hands pleasantly with those peasants, who,
according to old privileges, farmed their own acres, here and there
caught a better-looking maiden under her chin, and said a kindly word
to her.

Then, suddenly, from behind a pear tree, as if out of a hiding place,
two glaring eyes stared at him; they were Kätchen's.

In his pleasantly excited mood he hardly remembered their last weird
meeting.

"What in the world brings you here?" asked he.

She did not answer for some time.

"Have you become dumb again?"

Now Kätchen wriggled out from behind the wooden monster, and stood on
the bench beside it. She pointed to Giulia with outstretched arms, and
said, "Must I take part in your wedding after all? Marriage on land and
sea! Hurrah!"

And, like a mad woman, she jumped down, mingled alone in the confusion
of the dancers with wild gnome-like bounds, until a little crooked
fellow, who could find no partner, took pity on her and twirled her
round in the ring.

Then Kätchen disappeared into the night outside; meanwhile the other
ladies and gentlemen had also descended to watch the people's
enjoyment. One after another Kuhl selected a conspicuously good-looking
or ugly partner and bore her in breathless fury over the threshing
floor, so that the fleetest youths were obliged to acknowledge his
superiority in the wild dance. The heated fair did not know what
happened to them, and marvelled how a townsman, who had never threshed,
could have such powerful arms. After this furious round dance Kuhl
ascended a tub, imposed silence, and made an impromptu speech to these
worthy Masurens, which was frequently interrupted by loud cheers.

The park was illuminated in a dazzlingly brilliant effulgence. Blanden
led Giulia on his arm, and the other guests followed along the paths.
The flames displayed letters upon the velvet sward; here was read, in
quivering, glowing characters, "Lago Maggiore," there the name
"Giulia." The Chinese pavilion on the island in the lake, and the
bridge leading to it shone in the gayest reflection of lights. In the
hot-houses a splendid group of southern plants, laurels, and myrtles,
under the feathery shelter of a pine, gleamed in the radiance of
coloured lamps, but most beautiful of all was a red fir outside, decked
with ribbons and flags, and when the guests came up to it they were
magically illuminated with a flaming red light. Giulia squeezed
Blanden's hand.

The sky had become clear, and when gorgeous fireworks were let off upon
the lake the rockets ascended to the stars, and the bude lights and
Catherine wheels crackled above the moonlit waves.

Then the party assembled again in the dining-hall, but the bridal
couple retired from the scene. Dancing and cards were still kept up for
long. Wegen arranged everything admirably. Kuhl was in an excellent
humour, and only by degrees one member after another left the happy
circle and sought repose. Silence reigned in the old Castle, only the
flag upon the tower fluttered in the night wind that had risen from the
lake, and lashed the waves higher and higher; still could be heard glad
sounds of the drinkers and dancers from the threshing barn of the farm.

A quiet ray of light fell from Giulia's windows, intercepted by the
large fir as it bent its heavy hanging boughs watchfully over them.

All the lights were extinguished in the park. Only between the gaps in
the walled-passage between the Dantziger and the Castle a stray one
seemed to quiver.

Not out of the deep-blue atmosphere of Italy did the stars look down
upon this night; from a paler sky shone a paler light! Not the glorious
Lago, with its enchanted isles and boundary Alps, rocked all into sweet
dreams--it was a sober tide which here surged upon the strand; a tide,
whose waves have nothing to tell, whose monotonous play only reflect
the infinite wearisomeness of a lifeless landscape.

And yet--it was she herself, in all her beauty, the princess of those
days, and it matters not out of what sea Venus rises, she brings Heaven
with her all the same.

But the happiness that once the red fir looked down upon, over which
the pine spread its loving fans, was ephemeral, grasped from the
moment, forfeited to the moment. How different Blanden felt; was
happiness secured in his own home, under the protection of his old
household gods? thither he had transplanted the roguish smiling
wanderer, where, although deprived of its fluttering wings, it found an
abiding place by the family hearth without losing its enchanting smile.

Thus he thought and felt; he did not inhale momentary intoxication from
Giulia's lips, but the inauguration of a whole life. She, on the
contrary, rejected every thought of the past, of the future. With
intentional obliviousness she gave herself up to the present.

What sacrifice had she made, what sacrilege committed to be once more
with him, whom alone she loved. She contemplated his noble gentle
features with speechless happiness, in his great, widely-opened eyes
she read the same passion which animated her, only with fleeting
thoughts that swept through her mind as flashes of lightning illumine a
weird gloomy spot, dared she think of anything beyond.

She closed her eyes, she did not venture to look at the mirror. If it
were to move again; if Baluzzi were to step forth, her bridal coronet
in his hand; if Blanden learned the truth, thrust her from him as a
deceiver; if a curse were hurled upon her from the bosom that still
often breathed uneasily in consequence of the wound which he had
received for her sake--it was impossible to complete the thought. She
covered her face with her hands. Outside the needles of the fir
crackled in the wind, and swept the window. She sank into a light
state of semi-somnolence, and she heard the branches crack still more
loudly--what a violent storm! It was as though it drove dust and wind
into her eyes, and deprived her of breath. With that volition, which
does not quite disappear in sleep, she raised herself slowly, and
simultaneously Blanden started up.

What had happened? Were they dreaming? But those were no mists and
clouds of dreamland, it was smoke and fire that surrounded them. They
sprang up and rushed to the window! At the same moment the giant fir
outside caught fire. The flames blazed and hissed as they rose, and
upon its wide arms the tree bore the fire across to the other side of
the Castle roof, away over the apartments in which were the wedded
pair.

Giulia's terrified cry for help pierced the night. Blanden remembered
the stairs and the secret passage. He pushed the mirror-door aside, but
an ocean of flame met his gaze; hence came the fire. He rushed to the
other side, drawing Giulia after him by her arm with all his might. The
first room, also the second, in which Beate had slept on the previous
night, were still free, the flames had passed over them, but farther on
again the branches of the fir had shaken down the sparks. The staircase
could not be reached, door and wainscot stood in a blaze. "Lost!" cried
Giulia, sinking down with a loud cry.

Blanden shouted once more from the window. In mortal fear he listened
for any token of life outside.

Where were the watchmen? Doubtlessly at the dance in the barn.

At last--a sound of voices--they came nearer--it was high time! but how
escape?

"Ladders, ladders here!" rang a mighty cry without, it filled Blanden's
bosom with renewed confidence; it was Kuhl's voice.

The crowd seemed to rush helplessly in noisy confusion through the
park. Olkewicz called for the fire engines.

"Where are the ladders?" roared Kuhl.

Blanden's position became more imminent every moment, the flames
already darted through the clattering mirror door, caught the curtains,
and the canopy of the bed rattled down over the broken posts.

A moment more--and the flames, which sent a stifling vapour in advance,
had overtaken the other chambers, wherein Blanden supported the
unconscious Giulia in his arms. With a fearful effort, he dragged her
to the window to breathe fresh air, for her strength was beginning to
fail.

Outside powerless lamentations and cries for help, futile swearing and
cursing by the steward.

But no! The ladder of salvation was brought and placed against the
window.

In the midst of the sparks which the burning roof showered upon them,
beneath a down-pour of bricks and stones that rattled to the ground
with the rapidity of fire itself, Dr. Kuhl sprang up the ladder,
received Giulia into his strong arms, and bore her down again as
easily, firmly, and unfalteringly as if he were walking down a marble
staircase.

Blanden, whose hair was already singed, followed their preserver.

A thundering cry of joy greeted him.

All had become animated in the other wing of the Castle, which the
guests occupied, and who had hastened down, the ladies in cloaks which
they had thrown hastily over their night robes.

The first fire engine arrived, conducted by Wegen on horseback. The
fiery red of the sky must have aroused the neighbouring villages,
whither eager messengers had been despatched.

With deep emotion, Blanden gazed upon the increasing blaze, which
threatened to reduce the old inheritance of his family to ashes;
already the forked tongues of the flames lashed the tower, they boded
ill for the dining-hall and chapel. All exertions were now directed to
save the centre of the Castle, the actual Ordensburg.

Certainly the fire could effect nothing upon those mighty walls, but as
the flames swept in wild haste over the roofs, the falling, burning
rafters from above might ignite the doors and panels of the beautiful,
well-preserved Castle apartments of the oldest portion.

Meanwhile engine after engine arrived, the whole district was alarmed,
the Castle tower of Kulmitten shone like a flaming beacon, but still
more did love for the noble master speed the help that was hurrying to
his home. Some of the engines were stationed on the other side of the
Castle, some in the park meadows, executing their work of preservation
with unflagging labour.

Blanden was first here then there; Giulia had recovered, she stared
senselessly into the flames. Had the flash of a tempest set the Castle
on fire she would have been convinced that heaven's judgment had fallen
upon her sin; that it would proclaim with burning tongues that which
she concealed so anxiously, yet although she did not know the cause of
the evil, she held the fire to be in some dark connection with her own
fate, and sometimes, with a shudder, the thought passed through her
mind that Baluzzi might be its author.

Despite all efforts of the numerous engines, and the helpful
interference of the throng, the splendid dining-hall could not be
saved. The flames had penetrated beyond the door, and consumed all
inflammable-material which the room contained. Still more was Giulia
terrified when the image of the Madonna and child fell half shattered
from the niche in the main wall; she was the old patron saint of this
Castle, did she flee from the sacrilege which had entered? Cautiously
and courageously Blanden, Kuhl and Wegen led the party of firemen, but
only towards morning did they become masters of the fire. The chapel
was saved, and the burning tower, after it had done its duty as beacon,
was extinguished.

The new building, the other wing, remained entirely uninjured.

Now, when only timid flames and clouds of smoke arose from the burning
place, when the streams of water hissed more faintly over the smoking
ruins, and the first rays of dawn gleamed in the east, Blanden and his
friends gained time for calm reflection, which the ceaseless zeal of
vigorous action had hitherto not permitted.

First the lord of the Castle mustered all its inhabitants, no one was
missing; weeping Beate must be comforted, she had lost all her
beautiful clothes, which had been left in the bedroom the day before.
Blanden promised compensation. But then the eager question arose as to
how the fire had originated? It had evidently broken out in that
extreme wing, which was connected with the front tower by the
subterranean passage, whence the secret stairs led upwards, but that
was the very spot whither usually no human being penetrated. Who could
have come there on that day? The subterranean passage had fallen in,
the secret approach from the lake to the front tower was overgrown.
Blanden knew that for many years, yes, all his life time, the medieval
romantic nature of that spot had remained undisturbed.

With a throbbing heart, Giulia listened to these discussions. One knew
that dark path, and had already traversed it. Verily he had deceived
her, concealed his shameful intentions, too soon already completed the
work of his promised revenge. It was Baluzzi, but where had he
remained? Was he still tarrying in the vicinity? What disclosures
menaced her? Not enough that he had laid the Castle, her new home, in
dust and ruins, he would now direct the deadly arrow against herself.

She had relied upon his word, upon the word of a malicious _bravo_.

In order entirely to extinguish the glowing cinders, the water streams
were now all directed upon the spot where the fire had broken out; a
few bold men, Kuhl at their head, ventured wherever a sudden flame
could still dart out.

Giulia felt a vague dread of the researches, and yet nothing could be
found there save dust and ashes.

Suddenly Kuhl's cry was heard by the expectant crowd.

"A corpse!"

The cry, repeated more loudly, passed on to the very last person, all
rushed nearer, in eager expectation.

"Baluzzi!" cried Giulia to herself, becoming pale, at that moment only
a sensation of horror seized her. A half-charred, half-shattered corpse
was carried towards them; the fact of its lying beneath the fallen
rubbish of stones had preserved it from being completely burned. The
half-consumed rags of garments showed that it was the corpse of a
woman--of a girl.

Blanden went closer; suddenly an idea flashed through him, all that
could still be recognised as the remains of a human being confirmed his
supposition. The incendiary was discovered, it could be none other than
half-witted Kätchen.

"It is the idiot girl who danced with deformed Pietrowicz yesterday!"

Pietrowicz came nearer and stared at the remains of his partner.

"A death-dance Pietrowicz! You never anticipated that! But from
henceforth do not dream of ghosts!"

Pietrowicz stepped back as if struck, and crossed himself.

"To set fire to places," added Blanden by way of explanation, "is a
mania of such half-witted beings."

But he told himself that this girl was not more mentally deranged than
all who are animated with a blind, senseless passion; that she since
that visit to her attic chamber, since he had rejected her insane
offers of love, had brooded upon revenge against him, and had executed
it on his wedding day. The mixture of love and hatred, he knew was not
only peculiar to those whose minds are disordered, but in all moody,
narrow ones it works like an accumulated combustible, which at the
first shock explodes, scattering all into ruins.

"I might be superstitious," thought he to himself, "she always brings
evil and ruin to that which I love."

"Giulia," then he cried suddenly, "where are you, my sweet wife? You
live, then is all well!"

And he clasped her in his arms, while the morning sun rose glowingly
red on the horizon above the smoking Castle ruins, the closely
thronging crowd, and the corpse of halfwitted Kätchen, the water nymph,
who had died in the fire.



                              CHAPTER XI.

                               A LEGACY.


The sight of the ruins, constantly before the eyes of the newly-married
couple, must have given a bitter flavour to their honeymoon.

And yet, Blanden was happier than he had ever been, in the possession,
which he believed to be ensured, of a beloved wife. He gazed upon the
Castle ruins, upon the ruins of his past, but in his Giulia's smile he
saw the promise of an abiding, beautiful future.

The Ordensburg, the dining-hall, the Madonna's image, all should rise
anew in the old form out of the rubbish. To attain this Blanden had
sent for architects, who were well-known artists, to Kulmitten, so as
to restore the building in accordance with the old foundations. Giulia
took warm interest in all these plans, and often looked over Blanden's
shoulder at the sketches of elevations over which he pored. Of course
no art could compensate for the value of its historical age and
associations, with the dining-hall the poetry of the olden days was
destroyed, the new creation could but become a clever imitation.
Several friends, especially Wegen and Olga, too, sometimes came to
visit them, but the intercourse was not very lively, and Blanden wished
to live alone with his love, and the object of that love. Often they
sailed upon the lake or walked alone in the woods, upon the oak tree
dykes, past the ponds filled with tall reeds; in that solitude which
reminded her of primeval forests, Giulia forgot the world, the spell of
her doom, the secret menaces of fate; and when Blanden's fowling piece
brought down the water-fowl, and the broad belt of the fir forest sent
back the echoes of the shot, Giulia felt as glad and as free as if she
were living with a settler in the back woods, and as though prairie
fires blazed between her and human society.

Owing to the fire and its mysterious cause, Kulmitten had fallen into
still worse repute amongst the proprietors and their wives in the
neighbourhood.

"There, we have it," said Frau Baronin Fuchs, to her husband, "gorgeous
fireworks for their wedding! It is lucky that the dead cannot speak;
that poor burned child who was drawn out of the flames, and probably
set the place on fire, doubtlessly omitted to protest, in time, against
the banns, and thus, in her fashion, made up for it on the wedding day.
Of course she was a forsaken lover! The one loses her life in water the
other in fire! Who knows which elements, those who remain may select,
for naturally they have not come to an end yet. There was so much
love-making in that community that it would be a school for a whole
life-time!"

But not only to her husband, everywhere on the neighbouring estates,
wherever her dapple-greys carried the clear-sighted Frau Baronin of
firm morals, she uttered, with triumphant eloquence, her unpleasing
belief in the just punishment that had befallen this knight of the
rueful countenance. Outlaw and excommunication rested once again upon
the master of those estates, and many crossed themselves when they
spoke of the fire at Kulmitten Castle, of the ruins of the old nest of
the Order, as the happy possessors of brand-new knightly castles
contemptuously termed it, and of the Signora, who, out of the depths of
the theatre, had risen to such a height, and whose family in the
Apennines probably drove mules, or were even related to Fra Diavolo and
other bandits of noble descent.

One day a young married couple were announced, Dr. Sperner and his
wife. The principals of the school from the provincial capital, were
making a tour of visits to the parents of their pupils, and hoping thus
to obtain new ones. Dr. Sperner's moustache was a sign-board that did
its duty. He still possessed the key to the mothers' hearts although it
was now discreetly hidden by him in the key-basket of conjugal bliss.
Lori had married soon after Blanden, whose conquest she had certainly
only contemplated in daring dreams, was irretrievably lost. On that
evening, in the theatre, on which the Doctor had distinguished himself
by the active part he had taken in punishing the immoral _prima donna_,
he had quite won Lori's heart; the schoolmistress' pride melted like
snow in March, nothing remained but the little girl, who gladly gave
herself into the strong man's keeping. There was an end of the
commanding and dictating Fräulein. Lori stepped down from the lofty
pedestal, upon which she had placed herself with such dignity, and
acknowledged her master in him, who, shortly before, had declared
himself to be her white slave. Now the plantation belonged to them
both, and the world maintained that it was Lori who had become the
white slave. Sperner possessed all the qualifications for a despot, and
it was in vain that she prepared to defend herself against his vigorous
energy with the pin-pricks of her wit. Yet she could still occasionally
celebrate tiny triumphs with it when the Doctor, in one or the other of
the classes, distinguished a few favourites according to his old bad
custom. She was implacable towards these successors of Iduna. She took
possession of their copy-books after her husband had already corrected
them, and let her red pen run riot through their pages until they
resembled a corn field overgrown with poppies. Then their domestic
peace was seriously imperilled, and the first-class listening at the
door, had the satisfaction of witnessing noisy scenes between the
conductors of the establishment. How differently Fräulein Sohle had
maintained discipline! Yes, even some lovely eyes peeping through the
keyhole pretended to have seen how Dr. Sperner's moustache, the terror
and glory of the school, played a suffering part in these disputes. At
last, however, the Doctor gained his point, Lori was merely, by
courtesy, the principal of the school.

Although this couple's last kindly relation to Giulia had consisted in
the homage which they paid to her talent in the theatre by hissing and
whistling, it did not, in the least, prevent them paying a friendly
visit to Herr and Frau von Blanden. Times change, and besides, in those
days, they were a portion of the public, the most irresponsible
creature that the world contains, because the individual disappears
within it like a wave in the ocean, which none can make permanently
stationary?

Lori was most agreeable; she could not sufficiently regret that Frau
von Blanden had said farewell to the stage. Since her retirement there
had been a total lack of all real interest, and nothing was heard but
commonplace ballad-singing for salaries and wages, without any of the
divine spark.

Sperner, too, kissed the lady's hand with the very lips which had
given the signal whistle in the pit, and looked up at her with such
true-hearted eyes that she could not but believe in his genuineness. He
was one of those honest men whose frank manner, whose warm impulsive
speeches inspire confidence at once, one of those men, with open hearts
and open shirt collars, whose genuineness, as Kuhl said, is nothing but
studied hypocrisy, while behind the mask of their honesty lurks the
vilest deception.

Blanden led his guests round the Castle and into the apartments of the
old stronghold, which Lori surveyed with peculiar ill-nature. They
ascended the tower, which had been temporarily restored. Yet the view
over the wide woods to the limits of the estate, fading into the sky on
the horizon, awoke a disagreeable emotion in Frau Sperner. She thought
of her home, of the gravel walk, of the narrow cells in which she
housed those entrusted to her care--how small, how miserable compared
with such a magnificent possession; she thought of Dr. Sperner, who
brought nothing to the union but his moustache, a box of clothes,
another of books, and an undeniable talent as a dictatorial teacher in
the school and conjugal lord, and a heavy shadow overclouded her life.
Blanden stood transfigured before her like a being of a higher order.
Giulia had remained behind in the chapel with the Doctor. Lori looked
at Blanden with an expression, in which lay the pain of deceived
affection, combined with one of sad resignation. But Blanden said,
smilingly--

"You will surely call me to your assistance against the bold tutor, who
took so much upon himself! Verily he has set a crown upon his boldness
now, robbed you of heart and name, trodden Fräulein Baute's door plate
in the dust, and upon the long suffering metal written the name of the
wild man who was so dreadful. Can I help you, my Fräulein? Shall I call
him out? I am ready as ever for knightly duty!"

"Laugh away, a knight may be needed at all times, and a man who is a
savage does not at once become tame in marriage. Herr von Blanden, we
may call ourselves teachers, but nevertheless we always remain pupils
in life."

It was well that Giulia and Sperner appeared, or Lori would have fallen
into Blanden's arms upon the Castle leads, if he had shown the least
inclination to bear so precious a burden.

At any rate Frau Sperner had the satisfaction of driving back to the
town in Herr von Blanden's elegant carriage. Reclining in the soft
cushions, drawn by the four high stepping horses, she could indulge in
dreams of being the mistress and owner of this team! How contemptible
the Doctor appeared at that moment; he possessed no carriages and
horses, castles and villages, forests and meadows, and yet assumed a
mien as if his frown were dreaded in a circumference of thirty square
miles. And he was really living upon borrowed capital. That was all the
grandeur!

With a sigh she leaned back in the cushions and closed her eyes, and in
a half dream of delight she saw herself as Frau von Blanden with
Sperner seated in his proper place, upon the box in a splendid livery,
thrashing the horses and stroking his moustache.

A few days after this visit, Blanden had to cross the frontier to see a
landowner in Russian Poland about agricultural matters and the new
buildings, for which he hoped to find desirable materials. Giulia bade
him a fond farewell, as though she had a presentiment that it would be
farewell for a long, long time. The road from Kulmitten first led along
a beautifully situated road on the estate, then between little lakes on
either side; farther on, at several places, the traveller might easily
imagine himself to be in Arabia Petræa, for the highway went past hills
which had been strewn with a shower of stones. Here not a tree grew,
not a shrub, it was a limitless waste. The horses, too, had difficulty
in making their way through the stony _débris_, for Blanden had already
to diverge from the main road, because his friend's estate was only
accessible along by-ways. It was a toilsome drive, twilight overtook
them before the frontier was reached. Meanwhile the landscape had again
assumed a different character; the hills were covered with woods, and
in the hollows between them small lakes which terminated in swamps. The
carriage wheels often ran so closely to their edge that only the light
of the carriage lamps and the driver's caution preserved them from some
mishap. Some of these morasses were so deep that it would be fatal to
sink into them. Suddenly the carriage dropped below into a copse
dividing two lakes or swamps; a string of carts which had been driven
up one behind another, and would not move on, blocked the road. The
coachman became impatient, but he was bidden to wait; Blanden sprang
out of the carriage and climbed up a little eminence close to the road,
however, it was too dusk to be able to overlook the whole train. He saw
a few dark figures moving about amongst the carts, and some of them
were armed with guns.

At last the cry "Forward!" resounded. The line of carts was set in
motion, it was possible to proceed. Blanden had to act as rear-guard.

Thus they went on for some time alternating from wooded hills to swampy
vallies, then they stopped again, a post with the Russian colours
showed that the frontier was reached. That "halt!" was not given in the
loud voice of the "forward," but in a whispered tone. Blanden became
impatient, he knew already that he had fallen amidst a caravan of
smugglers, which could only seek to cross the frontier on by-roads, in
the dead of the night. Then suddenly the soundless silence was
disturbed by noisy cries; shots and din of conflict followed, the
horses in Blanden's carriage reared, the coachman could hardly keep
them in hand. More shots. Cossacks on fleet horses dashed upon the
foot-wide margin that separated the carts from a swamp on the right
hand from a steep wooded hill on the left. They overpowered the drivers
of the carts, bound them safely, and mounted the waggons themselves. A
Cossack also seated himself beside Blanden's coachman, obliging him to
deviate from his course and follow to the frontier station.

As they drove past the scene of conflict he saw that it had cost the
lives of several victims; a wounded Cossack was lifted up and placed in
one of the carts, two officials from the frontier searched a wildly
overgrown bank running out into the swamp, evidently they expected to
find a wounded smuggler there. As the road became wider, and passed
through a plain of meadows, one cart was left behind to bring on a few
more prisoners, and several Cossacks galloped back to catch some
runaway smugglers. Clearly the attack on the column of carts had been
unexpected and sudden, and doubtlessly its leader had formerly often
succeeded in crossing the frontier unperceived by these remote roads.

Blanden was supremely annoyed at this compulsory divergence; almost an
hour elapsed before they reached the station, near which was an inn. He
knew the inspector of the frontier personally, and also had papers with
him fully proving his identity, and setting the matter beyond doubt
that he was in nowise connected with the band of smugglers.

The Cossack upon the box, who had escorted him safely, took leave, and
for his unwelcome trouble received a _trink-geld_ that he accepted with
eloquent gestures. It was too late at night to drive to his friend's
estate, they had turned off in an exactly opposite direction. Blanden
had the horses taken out, and resigned himself to the fate of spending
the rest of the night in that miserable inn.

Gradually the carts arrived with the Cossacks. Blanden had preceded
them. The waggons contained jewellery, silks, and linen; he learned
that a bold speculator, who accompanied the train himself, hoped to do
a great stroke of business with it. He had not yet been caught. Blanden
overheard all this in the inn parlour, when he walked impatiently up
and down, waiting for the wretched meal which he had ordered.

Outside there was incessant running to and fro; shouting, ordering,
rolling of cartwheels, and stamping of horses, echoed through the
night. A company of infantry had been summoned from the neighbouring
town, because they had to deal with the most dangerous traders of the
East Prussian forests, who thoroughly understood the little frontier
struggles, and amongst whom were several reckless axe-bearers and
dreaded shots.

It was late when one more conveyance arrived, from out of which a
groaning man was lifted; he had been found upon the bank in the swamps,
where he had sought to conceal himself in the wild profusion of
overgrowth.

"He will not live much longer," said the host, returning, after having
gleaned the information outside, "but, besides the room which I have
given up to you, there is not an empty spot in the house."

"I will gladly resign it," replied Blanden. "I shall not be able to
sleep any more; put the unhappy man in my room."

Accompanied by two Cossacks, the wounded man was carried into the
parlour where the landlord told him he could be accommodated in the
upper room, which this gentleman had relinquished to him. Out of a
cloak which concealed the rest of his face two great glowing eyes fixed
themselves upon Blanden. A sudden quiver passed through the wounded
man. He was carried out and up the stairs.

"Who is the man?" asked Blanden.

"So far as I can hear," said the host, "he is a dealer, who, in
transporting his goods--whether from greediness and anxiety, whether
from delight in such adventures--does not leave the matter to competent
professional smugglers, but assumes the management himself. Certainly,
this time it is a great expedition, which might have entirely provided
a princely ball at Warsaw with jewels and silk. He has fared ill
to-day! He defended himself and fired a revolver, but was mortally
wounded."

The servant of the house then entered and begged Blanden to go to the
wounded man, who urgently requested it.

"The poor man will not part from life without thanking me," said
Blanden.

He went up the stairs and entered a room meagrely lighted with a feeble
oil lamp. Against the wall stood a wretched bedstead, upon which lay a
straw mattress. At the head of the bed sat a Cossack, his lance in his
hand.

"Make room, good fellow," said the wounded man's voice, "let the
gentleman come to me! You can stand on guard as well as sit. I am no
longer dangerous."

He had spoken Russian. The Cossack drew back while Blanden went up to
the bed, but his sensation of pity suddenly gave place to one of
astonishment, when, in the man doomed to die, he recognised the amber
merchant.

"Signor Baluzzi!" cried he shocked, for he suddenly recollected that
this man stood in some mysterious relation to Giulia.

"I shall soon be dead," said Baluzzi, while spasmodic gasps interrupted
the words brought out with such difficulty. "_Corpo di bacco!_ I should
not have believed that it would come so soon, but I feel it is to be,
and the frontier official, who was a surgeon formerly, says so too.
People follow many trades here."

"I am sorry for you, Baluzzi! How could you enter upon so insane an
undertaking?"

"Insane? _L'assicuro di no!_ I have often had the most splendid
success, but misfortune must befall all in time; you, too, Herr von
Blanden, and I am glad, because I have the right to hate you."

The Italian's dim eyes gleamed, he clenched his hand convulsively, and
then let it fall again upon the pillow.

"What do these insinuations mean?--speak! If you have a secret to
confide to me do not hesitate, for it might easily become too late."

"A secret of a strange kind," said Baluzzi, as he tossed about and
groaned. "Haha, now it will come upon her, too. This bullet speeds
beyond the frontier--and into her heart! I foretold it to her when she
gave me up in her unworthy pride. I was too weak. I let myself be
dazzled by the gold that she promised and gave me! But now it is all
over, death is approaching, it needs no bribe. Now I will speak! That
was the agreement. I shall hold firmly to it!"

"You speak in riddles," said Blanden.

"As she will no longer rest in my arms, neither shall she in yours,"
said the Italian. "I shall assert my rights. I shall preserve them with
my last breath, long as I may have denied them. That is worthy of a
brave man. She is mine, and belongs to this death-bed."

"Of whom do you speak?" cried Blanden, more astonished.

"Of Giulia, your--mistress!"

"Hah, you scoundrel," cried Blanden, "I shall be forgetting that a
dying man is before me, that these words are the unnecessary attacks of
an expiring intellect."

"You are mistaken," said Baluzzi, but pain compelled him to stop for a
time and to speak more softly. "I speak the truth."

"Fool--united to me at the altar!"

"Null and invalid, null and invalid!"

"Is there anything you wish, Baluzzi? I will gladly carry it out, but
to listen longer to your wandering speech is impossible."

"Wandering speech! Haha--am I a madman? Do I tear off the bandage which
the wretched surgeon, the old frontier official, put on? Do I grope in
the air half unconsciously? No, my mind is clear, clear as yours,
clearer, perhaps, at this moment. I can understand that the world
begins to go round with you when I repeat that 'Giulia can only be
your mistress, because she is--my wife!'"

"Your wife, madman!"

Blanden shouted in a torrent of anger, then he shuddered. Various dark
impressions, for which hitherto he could not account, swept suddenly
over him, the possibility of what was incredible lay before him like a
deep fearful abyss.

"She has deceived you, _carissimo_!"

"Oh, then--then I should envy you the merciful bullet which struck you,
envy you your approaching death," cried Blanden, beside himself, "but
it cannot be, Giulia could not thus deceive me."

"She wanted to belong to you for ever, and she did not mind a crime."

"She must have dreaded the disclosure every moment."

"There you have an ardent daughter of our country! She would be happy
at any price."

"You should have come forward long since, have opposed it."

"I did not do it. I was accustomed to turn away from her, to be silent.
It was more advantageous for me! She paid well for my silence, but that
she should treat me with contempt ate silently into my vitals, and I
vowed to be avenged upon the overbearing woman as soon as the hour
should have struck."

Bach one of these replies, which Baluzzi gave in a low expiring voice,
was a deathblow for Blanden. Not only could he not refute them, but
they bore the impress of truth.

The dark recollection of the Lago Maggiore, of Giulia's agonised bursts
of anguish, of the force of circumstances which she lamented, of
Baluzzi's appearance on the shore of the lake, and at the gate of the
villa, all returned overwhelmingly upon him. He had many times asked
casual questions which she had always answered crossly and evasively,
and only in order to avoid marring the peace of their honeymoon had he
refrained from an enquiry which might easily be misinterpreted. With
the keen sharpness of a knife this thought quivered through his brain,
and a dread feeling of pain rent his heart, and yet with every excuse
which his anxious reason could discover, he tried to stem the coming
evil.

"Your wife, you say, your wife, but where were you married?"

"In the church of San Giulio, on the island, in the lake of Orta."

"I will assume that you are speaking the truth, assume it without
believing it. But then she was your wife years ago. She is divorced."

"Our Church knows no divorce," murmured Baluzzi softly to himself.

"Your laws--"

"Do not recognise it either!"

"Well, then, she has been divorced in some other country where it is
permitted."

"I have always remained a subject of Italy, and even here--I had
grounds enough for a divorce--remember the villa at Stresa--but I would
not."

Baluzzi made a sign of denial. He groaned, and pressed his hand upon
his heart. He could not speak any more.

"Horrible," cried Blanden; then he began to perceive what Giulia's
heart must have gone through in its passionate love for him--the
unbounded deception became comprehensible. He could not but acknowledge
to himself that he should never have made his, this vagrant's wife,
even if she had been divorced. Giulia had told herself the same, and
therefore concealed the past from him.

But that he should realise the possibility, could realise it, seemed to
him like inexpiable injustice to Giulia.

The man, sick unto death, was a prey to wild delirium, but even through
madness there runs one connecting thread, on which it hangs its
pictures, and is often more sharp-sighted, more rational than sound
sense.

A pause ensued. The Cossack, who was weary, began to whistle a song
which is sung on the shores of the Don by the girls of his race.
Baluzzi had somewhat recovered.

"You still doubt? Pray call in the officer of the frontier."

Under the impression that the Italian felt weak, and needed some
surgical assistance, Blanden hastened down the stairs and returned with
the chief guardian of the frontier. The latter felt Baluzzi's pulse,
and shook his head.

"One favour! Show this gentleman what you found sewn up in my coat."

Annoyed, but unwilling to refuse a dying man's entreaty, the officer,
with an enquiring glance at Blanden, went into his office, and
returned, bringing another Cossack with him as watchman.

Out of a rough wooden box close at hand at the time, he took a
sparkling diamond coronet. Even the Cossacks drew nearer with covetous
glances.

Only one stone was wanting in the ornament. Blanden started back as if
stung by an adder.

"My, her diamonds! Our family jewels! Robber!

"I a robber? Did she wear these diamonds on her wedding day? Did she
complain that she had lost them? It is a gift that she gave to me--one
of the many with which she bought my silence. I came to her on the
evening before her wedding. Kätchen showed me the road through the
tower and the subterranean passage, and cleared the way--poor child, it
was there, too, that she died the following day in the fireworks, which
she let off in honour of the bridal couple. These diamonds are my
honestly gained property."

Now Blanden said no more. Groping about blindly he sought an
explanation, but all excuses were denied to him. Desperate, he buried
his face in his hands, and stamped as if in an impotent rage with his
fate.

"He is dying," said the official, pointing at Baluzzi, whose features
suddenly became overshadowed.

But he raised himself once more with a powerful effort, and cried in a
shrieking half-failing voice--

"Thrust her from you, the adulteress. Where am I? The brand upon her
brow, the chains of the galley rattle about me--"

"And if it were so," cried Blanden, "the proofs are wanting. The secret
goes with you to the grave. I alone have the right to punish her."

"You are wrong," said Baluzzi, gathering up his strength once more.
"Revenge I have vowed to her, I keep my oath, the proofs are not here,
not at hand, but they are in safe keeping. The accusation I carried for
long, carefully sealed up in my breast pocket. Beate burned the page in
the registry in San Giulio, but a legal copy at the See in Milan proves
the marriage. And this accusation is my legacy, the lightning that
strikes the worthless woman, even before I die."

"This accusation--" cried Blanden, almost breathlessly.

"Bears the address of the nearest court in the district, shows all
proofs, and is in the hands of Wild Robert, who fled with me on to the
bank in the swamps. The ball hit me--it missed him. He promised me,
even if it cost his life, to take the papers there. He knows the way
through the morass, and if he had to hew down bush and tree with an axe
to make a bridge for himself, the bailiffs have not caught him.
Triumph! Chains and fetters for her--she has despised me, I, too, may
despise her--thus I die--gladly!" And with these words, which were
already interrupted by the rattle of approaching death, he bowed his
head and passed away.

As if out of his mind Blanden rushed into the night, ran along lonely
roads, sprang over ditches and fences, hurried up and down--he felt as
though he must fly from himself.

His Giulia had deceived him, she was a criminal, his marriage
invalid--the myrmidons of the law were already knocking at the door of
his Castle! He repeated all this to himself mechanically, hopelessly,
as though he were conning a lesson. It was impossible that all this
could concern himself.

After two hours of rapid flight through the night, which just began to
yield to the dawn in the east, he returned to the inn, asked for ink
and paper, and wrote to Giulia--

"Baluzzi is dead, he fell in a smuggler's fight, and dying confessed to
me that you are his wife, and never were divorced from him! Shortly
before his death he sent in an accusation against you. It cannot all be
true, confirm the untruth with a few lines; they will find me with the
proprietor of Opaczno."

He obtained a messenger and despatched him to Kulmitten with his
letter.

It would have been impossible for him to return now, look into Giulia's
eyes, hear from her own lips that she was the wife of that wretch.

He gave some orders and money for Baluzzi's burial, and then drove to
Opaczno.

Fixedly he gazed at the morning, he saw none of the objects past which
he drove, for him a heavy shadow lay upon all earthly things.

She whom he had so proudly loved, seemed like a spectre to him, a bride
of Corinth, a vampire, which had sucked his blood, his life.

And yet--in the midst of his wrath at the deception, he was seized with
fear, with pity for her, an inexpressible feeling of pain, that gnawed
at his heart.

He felt as if the mild god of Hindoostan, the old King's son, laid a
hand upon his brow like a healing doctor, and whispered to him, "Have
pity upon all creation!"



                              CHAPTER XII.

                              CONFESSIONS.


"When you receive these lines," wrote Giulia, "I shall have left
Kulmitten with Beate, and all traces of me, it is to be hoped, will be
lost to you and to the world. I take nothing with me, save the
remembrance of your goodness and love, and they shall support me in my
forsakenness, and render it possible for me to endure life.

"What else can it be to me, but an atonement of the past, but a prayer,
a prayer for forgiveness? I shall never learn if it be fulfilled, but
in my best hours I shall comfort myself with it, I shall hope and
believe in it, as we believe in one only happiness!

"And I dare believe and hope, because the crime that I committed was
committed only through boundless love for you, through passion that
gives up and sacrifices everything for the possession of the beloved
one, even its duty, its honour--at least that which before law and the
world passes for such. I had hoped to be able to preserve my secret,
and at the same time untroubled happiness for you, even although mine
was ever disturbed by pangs of conscience; it has been ordained
differently, the veil has suddenly fallen. I stand as a criminal before
your eyes. If you, too, measure me with the measure of others, then
there is no absolution for me, but you, whom I loved most deeply, will
also be more capable than all others of forgiveness.

"The whole history of my sorrow is connected with a man who has now met
with so terrible an end, he was fatal to my life. I may regret that a
low mind made him an unsettled, unhappy wanderer upon earth, but I
cannot weep for him, because tears are too precious to be wasted upon
what is ignoble. Others may, perhaps, think the same of me, but every
great passion has an atoning power. The story of my life is short, but
eventful.

"My parents possessed a small estate near Bergamo; they exchanged it
for another in the Italian Tyrol, but they were unfortunate, their
affairs went wrong. Young as I was, I had to think of earning something
for myself, and as I was esteemed tolerably good looking, and my voice
melodious and strong, it was determined that I should devote myself to
the stage. Influential friends provided for my education, so that I
might enter the chorus at the _Pergola_, in Florence.

"I was eighteen years old, I did not know life. In my dreams I might
sketch a brilliant future for myself: the present was poor enough, it
did not satisfy the ambition of artistic struggles, it barely yielded
daily bread. Gradually, however, I began to receive subordinate parts,
in which, if not by my singing, yet by my voice, my whole manner, I
could rouse people's attention.

"At that time I became acquainted with Baluzzi; he was twenty years
older than I, and also a chorus singer, but for him the chorus was only
a place of refuge, as it seemed, the sad close to a mysterious life. He
was considered to be a handsome man, all my friends were proud when he
paid them any little attention. Soon he began to distinguish me
especially, which roused my companions' jealousy, made me, however, the
more susceptible of the tokens of his favour. He understood how to win
a young heart; he surrounded himself with the charm of recklessness;
here and there he allowed a reminiscence of his past, a picture to
gleam shedding around him the halo of a bold, daring man. Being a
member of the chorus appeared to us as a disguise which he had assumed
in his momentary need.

"Unacquainted with life, captivated by Baluzzi's fiery glances, and the
power of his language, I was soon beneath his spell. I loved him with
inexperienced, ardent love. An event also occurred that showed me his
uncontrolled feelings, it is true, but also the strength of his
passion. I had inspired a Florentine noble with one of those transient
affections which the stage so easily ignited. I had treated him
politely, and he looked upon me as an easy prey. Late one evening he
came to me. I bade him leave, he became more importunate. Baluzzi had
watched for him, came to me, drew out his dagger, and wounded the
nobleman. The wound was not dangerous and my well-born friend deemed it
best to observe silence. I, however, could gauge Baluzzi's love for me
by the measure of his savage jealousy.

"Nor did he only crave for fleeting love, he strove to possess me from
the first. He told the wounded intruder that I was his betrothed, and
asserted his right of active defence. I had not given him the right
until now, but I did not show over-much resistance when he claimed it.
Once when I refused to listen to him, we were standing upon the
platform of the _companile_, he threatened to throw himself down, and I
appeased him with hasty consent, because I believed that he would
fulfil his threat.

"One thing I must say for him--and that was my misfortune--he believed
in my talent, my future. While others thought my performances pretty
and taking, he was convinced that, with my voice, my appearance, after
a little progress in singing, I should become great on the Italian
stage. In imagination he foresaw my pecuniary, my brilliant successes,
therefore he strove to possess me. I was an object of his calculations,
and they had not deceived him. That he also found me personally
desirable I will readily believe, for the world, the public, the
newspapers, and above all, my mirror told me that I was beautiful.

"Baluzzi's passionate courtship, which inspired me with fear and
dread--as he intimidated me with menaces if I should not do his will--I
could no longer resist. I had sung my first more important part at the
_Pergola_ and been very successful; his calculations now gained a
firmer basis, more resolutely he went at his object. At that time, it
is true, I only perceived the expression of unlimited passion in all
that he said or did, which at last intoxicated me, for nothing is more
infectious than the soul's warmth. I gave my consent to the marriage;
that it should be a secret one at first, we both agreed. Nothing is
more fatal to young actresses than the title of _Signora_, it sets a
barrier to those undecided wishes which spontaneously, like a
superfluous element of nature, mingle with the admiration of beauty and
artistic revelations; in such unexpressed emotions often lies the
secret of success. A grand career lay before me, it must remain free
and open to me. Baluzzi also desired this. We were married in the
remote little church in the middle of the Orta lake. For the stage I
continued to be Signora Bollini; but the heavy, fatal error of my life
had been committed, it was no youthful folly whose consequences could
be brushed away with a light hand. Marriage is indissoluble according
to the laws of the Church, indissoluble according to those of the
country. The priest's words had converted me into a slave for evermore.
I did not feel it then, I was happy. This confession does not disgrace
me, because felicity lies in our feelings, and delusion can call it
forth as well as truth. Youth has its own rapture, its own bliss, and
love is not so powerless as not to procure full enjoyment for all who
are filled with it. Those were glorious days which I spent by the banks
of the Orta lake. Baluzzi then seemed like a demi-god to me, but that
bliss was of short duration.

"Returned to Florence, I soon remarked that he displayed several
rougher sides of his nature, at first surprising, then alarming me. I
perceived that he gave himself up to a wild life, which, merely to win
and deceive me, he had interrupted for some time. He laid an embargo
upon my cash-box, I was almost reduced to poverty; he was a gambler, a
drunkard, and spent his nights with wild companions.

"The rapture of love, however, had given unthought-of wings to my
talent; from part to part I attained greater success, and after the
lapse of a year was engaged at the _Pergola_ with a considerable
salary, but, with the salary, increased Baluzzi's claims; often he
demanded money for his journeys to Monaco, where he indulged his mania
for play, whence he always returned a bankrupt. All my expostulations
were vain, he met them with bitter scorn and the defiant manner of a
lord and master.

"He gambled at Monaco, he engaged in equivocal business, and did I not
send him sufficient money at any time, he pursued me like a spy, like a
shadow. He read of my successes in the papers, he kept a book of them,
he calculated my receipts. In Milan, not long after, began the era of
my triumphs, the most distinguished circles were opened to me. I became
intimate with Princess Dolgia, and she invited we to her villa at
Stresa.

"It was then that I saw you for the first time, when my heart burned
for you with glowing passion, when I experienced all the charms of love
and life, and felt the shame of my chains doubly heavy; then, too, he
spied upon me by the lake shore, he had been dissatisfied with the last
remittance; he demanded more. At the same time his heart was inflamed
with savage jealousy, or was it rather an emotion of hatred--he saw
that we loved one another. I feared for your life, only a great price
could assuage his wrath. But, carried away with delight that knew no
bounds, as if to raise me in blissful dreams above the unworthiness
with which my life was filled, I would not curb my glowing love, and
greater than the sin of loving was the wicked doubt, whether the
welfare of my soul was more imperilled by your love than by the mad
passion of a brutal criminal.

"Since then my only thought has been for you and your love; he followed
me upon my career of triumph which I commenced through Europe. I would
fly from you, only entwine your love like a transient dream in my
life--and ever again it urged me to seek you; therefore I came here
and stayed so long on the shores of the northern lakes. It drew me to
your native land, to your own home. I visited your Castle while you
were absent; then I tore myself away from the glowing dreams of my
longing--for almost two years I lingered in Russia. Owing to no fault
of mine, Baluzzi had lost all traces of me for a considerable time; he
had been guilty of some breach of the laws in Russia, and was, I know
not why, banished to Siberia, but he discovered me again, and, like a
leech, he clung to my heels.

"My increasing fame gave me the _entrée_ to good society, I gained the
friendship of princes and princesses. Intercourse with Baluzzi could
only injure my name. Little as he fulfilled his duties as a chorus
singer in Florence, he was known as one of those musical assistants who
stood upon a subordinate step of the ladder of art, in those circles I
had risen far above his horizon. I often let him feel it, and he
rebelled with double defiance against my 'impudent overbearing.' Yet he
saw that, for his own sake, he must not disturb my career; he agreed
only to see and speak to me secretly, and before the world to assume
the semblance of friendship; he often came after dissipated
entertainments and asserted his rights, rousing my anger.

"Another fearful surprise awaited me. A falling scene had struck his
shoulder; he persistently rejected all assistance from the surgeon, and
from me. I went to see him, he lay in feverish sleep. I wanted to see
the wound, that appeared to me as serious as his resistance was
suspicious. I drew back the bandage and saw--even now the recollection
fills me with horror--upon his shoulder the branded mark of a
galley-slave! It was to a desperate criminal that I had given hand and
heart!

"There are countries in which the law would grant the right of divorce
in cases where such discoveries were made after marriage, because they
assume that only by mistake could such an union have been formed. But
in Italy there is no such law, and had there been I had neglected the
time which is allowed for such an appeal. I knew nothing about it.

"Nevertheless, my resolution, to set myself free from the horrible
control of this man, so far as lay in my power, remained immovable.
When Baluzzi had recovered, I imparted my discovery to him with great
composure; he started. I told him that I knew now that I had married a
heavily punished criminal.

"'Quarrels at the gaming table,' said he shortly, 'a hasty dagger that
caught its victim.'

"'Perhaps combined with cheating and robbery,' added I.

"'What does it matter to you? Who dares to reproach me with a
punishment that I have undergone?' I explained succinctly to him that I
could have nothing in common with a dismissed galley-slave, and forbade
him to visit me any more. Naturally this prohibition angered him, but I
declared that I should betray his secret to the world, publish the
brand which justice had imprinted upon him, and thus had cast him out
for ever from association with his fellow-men.

"'Then I shall proclaim our marriage,' cried he triumphantly, 'and upon
you will rest the same curse.'

"'And our fame, my talent, our gains?'

"He became thoughtful, and entered into negociations; he should not
disturb my path any more, but he claimed the greater portion of my
receipts for himself; under these conditions, so long as I remained on
the stage, where he prophesied me a brilliant career, he should not
assert his rights over me, but so soon as from any cause I left the
theatre, I should again fall into his power, not only my possessions,
but also my life and person; thus should he be indemnified for the long
privation. I might then proclaim that he had been in the _bagno_, it
was immaterial to him. The wife of a galley-slave shared his disgrace;
yes, then he should be my master again and possess the right to the
whims of a sultan.

"He parted from me; I bound myself always to give him my address, as I
was about to set out on a starring tour in Italy and abroad. I felt
like a serf who is granted liberty which is liable to be recalled at
any moment, but my earnings were paralysed, and my heart could not beat
freely without committing sin. That was control worse than the galley!

"I saw you again. From that time my life has been no secret to you. I
would belong to you for ever, it was the one object of my life, and yet
unattainable if I did not possess the audacity to defy the constraint
of a law binding me for life to the galley. Is there no higher decree
than the mutable chequered one of these countries in our hemisphere? Is
there not a holier love which may scorn an unholy bond? I hoped to
annihilate the proofs of my slavery: I hoped to keep the spectre of my
life far aloof from myself, and still farther from you; to enjoy a
happiness over which, indeed, hung a sword on a silver thread, yet
invisible to you and your repose, not hostile to your peace--in vain!
He came because I had resigned the stage; he came not to demand my
money, but myself, and in wild desperation I bought a new reprieve with
the gift of your love, the diamond diadem, the family jewels of the
Blandens. But dying, the wretched man fulfilled his oaths of revenge,
and, as bleeding, he descends amongst the shadows, he leaves me behind
amidst the falling ruins of my bliss.

"Well;--I am a guilty woman! Now condemn me! I have deceived you, I
bring disgrace upon your house--and yet, so long as my heart beats, it
will beat for you; I go forth into misery, behind me the myrmidons of
the law, nothing is left for me save the last greeting, the last word
of blessing! God protect the most noble man whom the earth contains,
and if he cannot forgive me then may his pity follow me--the outcast,
the scorned--into the wide world!"

Again, and again, Blanden read the letter with throbbing heart and a
tear in his eyes, he ordered his horses to be harnessed and drove
furiously to Kulmitten. The Castle was desolate and empty. Giulia and
Beate had left it in a peasant's cart which chanced to be passing
through, both in the plainest garments, none could tell whither.

He was alone. He waited for the officers of justice who would soon
knock at those doors and attach the seal of nameless shame to the
sacred heritage of his family. He sat there a silent, moody man, and
buried all his hopes.



                             LAST CHAPTER.

                              TO THE EAST!


Since the occurrences which we have just related, two years had passed
away.

The political storm had burst which the weather tokens on the horizon
had long since foretold, the regeneration of the German people was
proclaimed amid mighty convulsions.

It was a premature spring whose blossoms shed their leaves before they
attained maturity.

The uproar raged through the large towns. Blood flowed over the
streets. War between brothers was unfettered. Often those fought
together, who desired the same object; with cannon balls, the people
greeted the desired concessions of Government; wild tumult had taken
possession of hearts and minds. The equinoctial gale of the spring of
liberty swept through Europe, and general shipwreck ensued.

Only upon one tiny spot of earth, where it was necessary to defend
German soil against foreign encroachments, and to prepare the place for
the German Empire of the future, a struggle had been commenced, which
did not bear the fearful impress of a war between brothers, which was
ennobled by glorious enthusiasm for the fatherland. The dependence upon
the will of foreign rulers who trod old rights under foot, had become
insupportable to a brave race of people which flew to arms to preserve
the right, to repel the interference of a newly-crowned king, and to
maintain its connection with Germany at the point of the sword.

It was on a day in April, 1848, that the thunder of cannon echoed
across the narrow bay of Flensburg; the red columns of the Danish army
had extended themselves around the village of Bau and threatened to cut
off the advance guard of the Schleswig-Holstein army that was stationed
at Bau and Krusau. Soon the battle began! The flower of the country's
youth, the students of Kiel, with the riflemen of that town, had to
withstand the first onslaught of the enemy.

Over the hedges, out of the ditches, the advanced out-posts fired upon
the red sharpshooters, upon the rushing enemy.

"Forward!" resounded the cry of the officers; "forward!" rang Blanden's
voice. He led the disciples of _alma mater_ to the battle; he had
hastened to them, and entered their ranks amongst the first German
volunteers, who placed their swords at the disposal of the good cause
of Schleswig-Holstein.

"Forward!" replied the students' cry, with tempestuous enthusiasm, many
of whom had a musket in their hands for the first time, who had poured
in from the lecture-rooms to prove by active deeds their devotion to
their fatherland. And forward moved the volunteer band; with levelled
bayonets they charged the Danish vanguard, drove it back, and held
their position beneath a heavy fire; courage and energy compensated for
lack of numbers.

The Danes gave the courageously attacking force credit for strong
supports; for a fresh effort they summoned fresh powers to their
assistance.

Regardless of the balls which whistled round him from every side,
Blanden, too, stood under fire; it almost seemed as if death would be
welcome to him, and yet he was filled with burning love of battle as he
looked into the radiant faces of those youths who went so full of the
courage of sacrifice to meet their death.

Yes, and it was no common food for powder that filled the ditches, they
were the best sons of the land. It was the vanguard of the German
spirit, and wherever it had conquered it was always the united word of
the sword, and the sword of the word which had gained the victory.
These bayonets were not merely a flashing protest of the northern
nations; the hands in which they rested were equally powerful to wield
the pen--and knew how to prove this right.

Meanwhile the shots thundered from Bau, the crashing salvoes, however,
drew towards the south-east of Flensburg. Soon scattered troops
announced that the sixteenth battalion at Bau had been beaten by the
Danes. Now the brave men stood helplessly, no order from head-quarters
came to them; one orderly after another was despatched, none returned.
The retreat to Flensburg was endangered.

Thus they left the corpse-strewn battle field in order to force a
retreat for themselves. Bau and Krusau were the Schleswig-Holstein
Thermopylæ!

Singing battle songs, the troops of lads approached the town, but they
were hymns to the dead, for now only did death reap its abundant
harvest.

The road ran along the shore, the bay suddenly became alive, the white
and red flags approached, and the sky-blue lion prepared to spring. Was
not the sea, the kingdom of the old Vikings, subject to the island
people; how long did the Sound stand beneath the dominion of Danish
cannon?

And it was a submissive bay of the conquered East Sea, which here made
its entry into the Schleswig-Holstein country of beeches and hedges.

Suddenly the waves became alive, from the narrow tongue of land, from
Holsens, where the Leviathans, the armed men of war, lay, it came ever
nearer like a dark cloud upon the billows, a dense evil-boding throng.

They were the Danish gun-boats; then flashed the shots, then blazed the
touch-holes. Astonished, the waves caught the strange smoke of powder
which spread itself over them like a veil, and the cartridges rattled
on the strand.

Like an ocean monster of the old legend rolling devouringly upon the
land, death leaped from the waves and laid its victims low. The road
became filled with corpses, of what use were the single bullets, which
struck the boats; of what avail the temporary shelter behind the trunks
of trees along the path!

"Forward to the foundry!" rang the cry of death. It was a kind of
trench granting protection. There they could fall fighting; here the
band resembled game driven by the keepers, upon which the sportsmen can
shoot from a safe position.

And with winged steps all thronged to the fort of death, determined, at
least, to sell their lives dearly.

Cartridge upon cartridge blazed across; wounded and dying leaned
against the tall stems of the beeches, and the down crashing branches
decked these pale brows as if with a homely wreath of honour, upon
which trickled the cold drops of death.

Already Blanden saw the smoking furnaces of the foundry before him;
there a flash quivers through the cloud of vapour; in conical flight
the birds of death swept through, on right and left, fell into the
trees, here and there penetrated the earth, struck the companions by
his side, and stretched Blanden himself on the ground. He gazed into
the night, as it descended upon his eyes--the night of death--but
uttered not a word of lament. His last thought before his senses
forsook him was the futility of his life, which was honourably
terminated by death upon the battle-field.

When he opened his eyes again amidst violent pain, he fancied he was
still under the spell of a dream: had he awoke in India amongst the
peris? His bewildered fancy led the favourite images of his waking
dreams before his mind.

A tear-bedimmed eye rested upon him, a slight form, wrapped in a cloak,
bent over him.

They were the eyes, it was the figure of Giulia; with a loud cry of joy
she welcomed his awaking.

But it was yet the day, the same day of the battle. Vollies rattled
round the iron fort; where at other times the wheels of machinery
revolved, now revolved the wheel of death.

A gun-boat still lay upon the strand, the otters had moved nearer to
Flensburg, but that one did not cease from its work of devastation. A
cartridge rattled and fell into the beech and struck down a branch,
which fell upon Giulia and cut her brow. She had bent over Blanden to
shelter him.

"Where am I? You here?" said he, half unconsciously.

"Do not ask how."

"Who brings you here?"

"Charity and longing for death, but now there is not a moment to lose."

She beckoned to two peasants, who stood close by with a little cart,
and lifted Blanden into it, beside a wounded man who already lay there.
Giulia seated herself upon the hard straw sack. They went along back
streets to the inn of a neighbouring village, where several surgeons
were in full employment.

It was a long time before Blanden recovered from his wounds, which left
him slightly lame for life. Giulia was once more his faithful nurse,
she also followed him to the Danish captivity, into which he, with the
other wounded men, had fallen.

The feeling of belonging wholly to one another became quickened in
both. From every side Blanden heard with what heroic valour Giulia had
hastened into the battle field, how amidst shot and shells she had
brought consolation, succour and relief to the wounded, an angel of
mercy, whose memory would live for all ages in the hearts of the
Schleswig-Holstein youth. For long both avoided speaking of their
separation, its causes, of their later experiences. There would have
been the risk of great agitation for Blanden, for both the danger of
parting again, and yet both felt how painful an effect this would have
upon their lives.

At last Blanden had sufficiently recovered to be allowed to go out into
the fresh air, and he, with others, had been already exchanged for
Danish prisoners.

They sat under a lofty avenue of beeches by the sea, lying so quietly
and blue before them. Islands rose out of the waves and ships passed on
the horizon.

"Where have you been, Giulia, since you left me?"

"Upon a little island near that of Sylt, in a lonely fisherman's
cottage, there I deemed myself most effectually concealed. So quickly
could the law not raise its accusation, not follow my track and find me
yonder in my solitude, where, with Beate, I helped to mend fishing
nets, and obtained a little money by teaching children. For hours I sat
upon the 'dunes,' I saw the tide rush in which for centuries has been
washing away these islands, ready to swallow them up, and which already
has buried so much work of men's hands within its depths. Like a sea
mew's flight over the foaming, dashing billows, my thoughts swept over
the heights and abysses of my life, and my bruised heart did bitter
penance, and as the roaring hurricane came and stirred the waves and
tore them upwards until towering on high they dashed upon the shore, so
was I now overwhelmed with the fire and wild passion which had animated
me, and with the recollection of all the tempests of my life.

"I could have retired to a convent in my own country, but my soul
longed for the free breath of heaven, and an irrevocable bond would
have crushed it to the ground.

"Beate left me, she had often been at Sylt during the season, and there
had made the acquaintance of a well-to-do Hamburg merchant, whom her
sparkling eyes and lively manner had fascinated. We parted amid tears,
she was my most faithful friend, who for me had jeopardised her honour.
Then the feeling of being utterly forsaken came upon me, the never
ceasing return of ebb and flow, the only event of which the 'dunes'
could tell, made my spirit weary and listless, all the fettered springs
of life stirred within me. I could not have lived amid the ocean
solitude another year, my talent for a Robinsonade was exhausted. Then
the news of war, which was at that time only imminent, but of whose
outbreak messengers brought premature intelligence, penetrated to our
fishermen's cottages; I resolved to make atonement for my past as a
nurse in the midst of the conflict, and hoped, perhaps, to meet death
from a merciful bullet. When I came here I found nothing prepared, I
wished to go upon the battle-field as a volunteer Samaritan, and
beneath its terrible and yet elevating influences, I felt the pulses of
my life beat higher once more--I forgot myself. I relieved pain, I
earned thanks--the sin of my life seemed to be melting away as if tears
and words of gratitude washed it out. Thus I found you. Fate led those
together again, whom it had parted, but still the gulf of guilt lies
between them. You have recovered, my task is completed, let me go hence
once more."

"No Giulia," cried Blanden with a burst of emotion, "now we part no
more."

Giulia looked enquiringly at him; she could not believe his words.

"I part from my preserver no more. I am superstitious, or believing
enough to follow the signal of fate which re-united us upon the field
of honour. You have nothing more to fear from justice. Baluzzi's
messenger, wild Robert, did not reach his goal, he fell, lost in the
swamp, the edges of which were thoroughly searched by the guards;
doubtlessly he ventured too far in order to escape them. Baluzzi's
accusation lies deep down in the morass where it ought to lie; he
himself is dead, never did any messenger of justice trouble me. Thus
there is but one human being in the world who can bring an accusation
against you, and that one dare not, because you only sinned out of love
for me, out of blind, but yet true ardent love, and with this kiss I
absolve you."

He kissed Giulia's brow; sobbing, she sank into his arms.

"Fate has foiled my most glorious plans of life, we cannot return to
the desolate Castle. Your sudden flight injured my name again, the
people there will not associate with us, but the world is large!
Although my life has been a failure, although I must stay far from my
home, there yet remains to me the thinker's dream and the ecstasy of
love."

"Not for my sake shall you fly from all," said Giulia imploringly.

"I, too, am dead to this portion of the world. I can do nothing more
for my fatherland. This bullet has rendered me unfit for war, a chain
of unfortunate circumstances for peace. I cannot stand before any
electors, a political career is closed to me. Thus I fly for my sake
also, and you, my fondly loved wife, I take with me as comforter. The
registry at San Giulio still tells of your guilt, we must away, far
away from here. I know a land, the cradle of the gods, perhaps the
cradle of mankind, a wonder land. There beneath the giant mountain lies
the Walar Lake, and the Behat winds through a paradise of rustling
fruit trees and prolific plains upon which gaze down glaciers high as
heaven. Beautiful beings wander there in the most blessed valley of the
world, and there free from the constraint of law and the trammels of
society, which here rule the world, we will build ourselves huts
and I will introduce you to the profound wisdom of the land of the
lotus-flowers. Follow me to Cashmere."

Giulia pressed him to her heart, "I have no will but yours."

Blanden wrote to Wegen and begged him to sell Kulmitten, Rositten, and
Nehren. His friend, Olga's happy husband, doubly happy by her
unexpected mastery of the art of cooking, executed Blanden's
commission, and by means of a large inheritance, was enabled to buy
Kulmitten, the principal estate, for himself.

To Kuhl, however, who really had invited no living creature excepting
Caro, to his wedding dinner, Blanden wrote--

"I go far away, to the primeval home of mankind; I am a shipwrecked
mariner, and, united to Giulia, shall build myself a hut in the desert.
Withered leaves--they fell upon the flowers of my heart, and twice have
covered and crushed out their life. My friend! no man can overcome his
past. Unforeseen it rises again like a spectre and stretches the
destroyer's hand into our lives. Poor Eva was the victim of one of
those fearful chains of events which, long invisible, suddenly seize us
with a ghostly grasp. That I had loved the mother, was the daughter's
death! Withered leaves--vainly my Giulia amid bitterest pain sought to
wrench herself loose from her past, but it held her firmly as in an
iron vice. Away into the kingdom of Buddha, into the dream-world of the
East! I could not live as I would, therefore now I will live as I can."

Not long after a Hamburg steamboat bore the loving pair into the land
of the lotus-flowers.



                               FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 1: The evening preceding the wedding day,--_Translator's
note_.]



                                THE END.

                           *   *   *   *   *
      Printed by Remington & Co., 5, Arundel Street, Strand, W.C.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Withered Leaves. Vol. III.(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