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Title: A Sister's Love - A Novel
Author: Heimburg, W., 1850-1912
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 "A Sister's Love - A Novel" ***

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                           A SISTER'S LOVE

                              _A NOVEL_

                            BY W. HEIMBURG


    TRANSLATED BY
    MARGARET P. WATERMAN

    CHICAGO:
    M. A. DONOHUE & CO.
    407-429 DEARBORN ST.



A SISTER'S LOVE.



CHAPTER I.


A severe storm had been raging all day, and now, in the approaching
twilight, seemed as if it would overleap all bounds in its wild
confusion. Straight from the North Sea, over the broad Lüneburg heath,
it came rushing along, and beat against the gray walls of the
manor-house, shook the great elms in the garden, tossed about the
bushes, and blew from the bare branches the last yellow leaf yet spared
them by the November frost.

The great castle-like building, inhabited for centuries by the Von
Hegewitz family, looked dismal and gloomy under the cloud-laden sky; in
almost spectral gloom it lay there, with its sharply pointed gables, its
round tower, and heavy buttresses supporting the walls.

If did not always look thus, this old manor-house; in summer it was very
picturesque behind its green trees, the golden sunshine lying on its
slate roof, the pointed gables sharply outlined against the blue sky,
and the gray walls, framed by huge, old oaks, reflected in the brown
water of the pond. Beside it lay the farm-buildings and the houses of
the village, whose shingled roofs emerged in their turn from the foliage
of the fruit-trees. Far out into the Mark country extended the view,
over fields of waving corn, over green meadows and purple heath, bounded
on the horizon by the dark line of a pine forest. A narrow strip of pine
woods, besides, lay to the north, extending nearly to the garden, and on
hot summer afternoons an almost intoxicating fragrance was wafted from
it toward the quiet house.

Within it was still a real, old-fashioned German house; for there were
dim corridors and deep niches, great vaulted rooms and large alcoves,
little staircases with steep steps worn by many feet, and curious low
vaulted doors. A flight of steps would lead quite unexpectedly from one
room into the next, and here and there a door, instead of leading out of
a room, opened, to one's surprise, into a huge closet. Then there were
cemented floors, and great beams dividing the ceilings, and the smallest
of window-panes. And yet where could more real comfort be found than in
such an old house, especially when a November storm is howling without,
and here indoors great fir logs are crackling in the gay-tiled stove?

And just now, down the stairs from the upper story, came an old lady,
looking as if comfort itself came with the green silk knitting-bag on
her arm, her large lace cap, and the brown silk shawl over her
shoulders. She might have been in the fifties, this small, spare figure,
and she limped. Fräulein Rosamond von Hegewitz had limped all her life,
and yet a more contented nature than hers did not exist. She now turned
to the left and walked along the narrow corridor. This was her regular
evening walk, as she went to her nephew and niece in the sitting-room--a
dear old walk, which she had taken for years, since the time when the
children were little, and her brother and sister-in-law were still
alive; when twilight came she could no longer endure the solitude of
her spinster's room.

Just as she was about to lay her hand on the bright brass door-handle,
she perceived by the dim light of the hall-lamp a girl who was sobbing
gently, her coarse linen apron thrown over her face.

"What are you crying about, Marieken?" asked the old lady kindly, coming
back a step or two. The curly brown head was raised, and a young face,
bathed in tears and now red from embarrassment, looked up at Fräulein
Rosamond.

"Ah, gracious Fräulein, I am to leave," she stammered, "and I----"

"Why, what have you--?" The old lady got no further, for just then the
door was opened a little way and the clear, full tones of a youthful
feminine voice came out into the corridor.

"That is my last word, Märtensen; I will not suffer such things in my
house. She may thank God that I have noticed her folly in good season.
Only think of Louisa Keller!"

"God in heaven, Fräulein!" the person accosted replied in defence,
almost weeping. "The lass has done nothing bad, and he is certainly a
respectable man. O Fräulein, when one is young one knows too----"

"For shame, Märtensen!" This came vehemently. "You know what I have
said. Take your Marieken and go. I will have no frivolous maids in my
house!"

The door was now opened wide, and an old woman came out, her wrinkled
face red with excitement.

"Come, lass," she called to the girl, who had just put her apron over
her eyes again; "troubles don't last forever! She'll feel it herself
some day yet! Driving away my girl as if she had been stealing!" And
without greeting the old lady, she seized her daughter by the arm and
drew her away with her.

Rosamond von Hegewitz turned slowly to the door. A half-mocking,
half-earnest expression lay on the wise old face. "_Bon soir_, Anna
Maria!" said she, as she entered the brightly lighted sitting-room.

A girl rose from the chair before the massive secretary, went toward the
new-comer, and received her with that formality which at the beginning
of our century had not yet disappeared from the circle of gentle
families, pressing to her lips the outstretched hand with an expression
of deepest respect.

"Good evening, aunt; how are you feeling?"

It was the same rich voice that had spoken before, and, like it, could
belong only to such a fresh young creature. Anna Maria von Hegewitz was
just turned eighteen, and the whole charm of these eighteen years was
woven about her slender figure and the rosy face under her braids of
fair hair. In contradiction to this girlishness, a pair of deep gray
eyes looked out from beneath the white forehead, seriously, and with
almost a look of experience, which, with a peculiar self-conscious
expression about the mouth, lent a certain austerity to the face.

"Thank you, my dear, I am well," replied the old lady, seating herself
at the round table before the sofa, upon which were burning four candles
in shining brass candlesticks. "Don't let me interrupt you, _ma
mignonne_. I see I have broken in upon your writing; are you writing to
Klaus?"

"I have only been looking over the grain accounts, aunt; I shall be done
in a moment. I shall not write again to Klaus, for he must return day
after to-morrow at the latest. If you will excuse me a moment----"

"Oh, certainly, child. I will occupy myself alone meanwhile." The old
lady drew her knitting-work from the silk bag and began to work, at the
same time glancing dreamily about the large, warm, comfortable room.

She had known it thus long since; nothing in it had been altered since
her youth--the same deep arm-chairs around the table, the artistic
inlaid cupboards, even the dark, stamped leather wall-paper was still
the same, and the old rococo clock still ticked its low, swift
to-and-fro, as if it could not make the time pass quickly enough. And
there at the desk, where the young niece was sitting, her only brother
had worked and calculated, and at that sewing-table on the estrade at
the window had been the favorite seat of the sister-in-law who died so
young. But how little resemblance there was between mother and daughter!

The old lady looked over toward her again. The girl's lips moved, and
the slender hand passed slowly with the pencil down the row of figures
on the paper. "Makes five hundred and seventy-five thaler, twenty-three
groschen," she said, half-aloud. "Correct!

"Now, then, Aunt Rosamond, I am at your service." She extinguished the
candle, locked the writing-desk, and bringing a pretty spinning-wheel
from the corner, sat down near her aunt, and soon the little wheel was
gently humming, and the slender fingers drawing the finest of thread
from the shining flax. For a while the room was quiet, the silence
broken only by the howling of the storm and the crackling of the burning
log in the stove.

"Anna Maria," began the old lady at last, "you know I never interfere
with your arrangements, so pardon me if I ask why you send Marieken
away."

"She has a love affair with Gottlieb," replied the niece, shortly.

"I am sorry for that, Anna Maria; she was always a girl who respected
herself; ought you to act so severely?"

"She gives him her supper secretly, and runs about the garden with him
on pitch-dark nights. I will not have such actions in my house, and know
that Klaus would not approve of it either." The words sounded strangely
from the young lips.

"Yes, Anna Maria "--Rosamond von Hegewitz smiled "if you will judge
thus! These people have quite different sentiments from us, and--and you
cannot know, I suppose, if their views are honest?"

"That is nothing to me!" replied Anna Maria. "They _cannot_ marry,
because they are both as poor as church mice. What is to come of it? The
girl must leave; you surely see that, dear aunt?"

The old lady now laughed aloud. "One can see, Anna Maria, that you know
nothing yet of a real attachment, or you would not proceed in so
dictatorial a manner."

The slightest change came over the young face. "I _will_ not know it,
either!" she declared firmly, almost turning away.

"But, sweetheart," came from the old voice almost anxiously, "do you
think that it will always be so with you? You are eighteen years old--do
you think your heart will live on thus without ever feeling a passion?
And do you expect the same of your brother, Anna Maria? Klaus is still
so young----"

The little foot stopped on the treadle of the wheel, and the gray eyes
looked in amazement at the speaker.

"Don't you know then, aunt, that it is a long-established matter that
Klaus and I should always stay together? Klaus promised our mother on
her death-bed that he would never leave me. And I go away from Klaus?
Oh, sooner--sooner may the sky fall! Don't speak of such possibilities,
Aunt Rosamond. It is absurd even to think of."

"Pardon me, Anna Maria"--the words sounded almost solemn--"I was present
when your dying mother took from Klaus his promise never to leave you,
always to protect you. But at the same time to forbid him to love
another woman, a woman whom his heart might choose, she surely did not
intend!"

"Aunt Rosamond!" cried the girl, almost threateningly.

"No, my child, I repeat it, your mother was much too wise, much too
just, to wish such a thing; she was too happy in her own marriage to
wish her children--But, _mon Dieu_, I am exciting myself quite
uselessly; you have such a totally false conception of this promise."

"Klaus told me so himself, Aunt Rosamond," declared the girl, in a tone
which made contradiction impossible.

Aunt Rosamond was silent; she knew well that all talking would be vain,
and that nothing in the world could convince Anna Maria that any object
worthy of love beside her beloved brother could exist. "_Nous verrons,
ma petite_," thought she, "you will not be spared the experience
either!"

And now her thoughts wandered far back into the past, to the night when
Anna Maria was born. A terrible night! And as they passed on, there came
a day still more terrible; in the heavy wooden cradle, adorned with
crests, lay, indeed, the sweetly sleeping child, but the mother's eyes
had closed forever, not, however, without first looking, with a fervid,
anguished expression, at the little creature that must go through life
without a mother's love! And beside her bed had knelt a boy of fifteen,
who had to promise over and over again to love the little sister, and
protect and shield her.

How often had Aunt Rosamond told this to the child as she grew up; how
often described to her how she had been baptized by her mother's coffin,
how her brother had held her in his arms and pressed her so closely to
him, and wept so bitterly. Indeed, indeed, there was not another brother
like Klaus von Hegewitz, that Aunt Rosamond knew best of all.

She remembered how he had watched for nights at the child's bed when she
lay ill with measles; with what unwearied patience he had borne with her
whims, now even as then; how carefully he had marked out a course of
instruction and selected teachers for her, looked up lectures for her,
read and rode with her, and did everything that the most careful
parental love alone can do, and even more--much more! Indeed, Anna Maria
knew nothing of a parent's love; the father had always been a peculiar
person, especially so after the death of his wife: it almost seemed as
if he could not love the child whose life had cost a life. He was rarely
at home; half the year he lived in Berlin, coming back to the old
manor-house only at the hunting season. But never alone; he was always
accompanied by a young man, a Baron Stürmer, owner of the neighboring
estate of Dambitz, and two years older than Klaus.

It was a singular friendship which had existed between these two men.
Hegewitz, well on in the sixties, gloomy and unsociable, and from his
youth distrustful of every one, and not even amiable toward his own
children, was affable only to his friend, so much younger. To this
moment Aunt Rosamond distinctly remembered the pale, nobly-formed face
with the fiery brown eyes and the dark hair. How gratefully she
remembered him! He had been the only one who understood how to mediate
between father and son, the only one who, with admirable firmness, had
again and again led the struggling little girl to her father; and he did
all this out of that incomprehensible friendship. The two used to play
chess together late into the night; they rode and hunted together; and
still one other passion united them--they collected antiquities.

They searched the towns and villages for miles about for old carved
chests, clocks, porcelain, and pictures, and would dispute all night as
to whether a certain picture, bought at an auction, was by this or that
master, whether it was an original or a copy. They often remained away
for days on their excursions, and the treasures they won were then
artistically arranged in a tower-room--"a regular rag-shop," Aunt
Rosamond had once said in banter. "I only wonder they don't get me too
for this '_Collection Antique_.'" After the death of Hegewitz this
really valuable collection was found to be made over, by will, to Baron
Stürmer, "because Klaus did not understand such things." Stürmer
accepted the bequest, but he had it appraised by a person intelligent in
such matters, and paid the value to the heirs. Klaus von Hegewitz
refused to accept the sum, and so the two men agreed to found an
almshouse for the two villages of Bütze and Dambitz.

That had happened ten years ago, and the collecting furor of the old
gentleman had borne good results.

Soon after his death, Baron Stürmer went away on a journey; he had long
wished to travel, and had deferred his cherished plan only on his old
friend's account. His first goals had been Italy, Constantinople, and
Greece; he went to Egypt, he visited South America, Norway and Sweden,
and had travelled through Russia and the Caucasus. No one knew where he
was staying at present. He had written seldom of late years, at last not
at all; but his memory still lived in Bütze. Only Anna Maria no longer
spoke of him; indeed, she scarcely remembered him now: she was just
eight years old when he went away. Only this she still knew: that Uncle
Stürmer had often taken her by the hand and led her to her father, and
that at such times her heart had always beaten more quickly from fear.
Anna Maria had stood in real awe of her father, and when he died and was
buried, not a tear flowed from the child's eyes. Her entire affection
belonged to her brother, as she used to say, full of pride and love for
him.

Aunt Rosamond had never been able to exert the slightest influence over
the girl's independent character.

As soon as Anna Maria was confirmed, she hung the bunch of keys at her
belt, and took up the reins of housekeeping with an energy and
circumspection that aroused the admiration of all, and especially of the
old aunt, who was particularly struck by it, since she herself was a
tender, weak type of woman, to whom such energy in one of her own sex
could but seem incomprehensible.

Anna Maria spun on quietly as all these thoughts succeeded each other
behind the wrinkled brow of her companion. She could sit and spin thus
whole evenings, without saying a word; she was quite different from
other girls! She did not allow a bird or a flower in her room, nor did
she ever wear a flower or a ribbon as an ornament. And yet one could
scarcely imagine a more high-bred appearance than hers. Whether she were
walking, in her house dress, through kitchen and cellar, or receiving
guests in the drawing-room, as happened two or three times a year, she
lost nothing in comparison with other ladies and girls; on the contrary,
she had a certain superiority to them, and Aunt Rosamond would sometimes
say to herself: "The others are like geese beside _her_!"--"Yes, what
may happen here yet?" she asked herself with a sigh.

"A letter for the Fräulein!" A youth of perhaps twenty-five years,
dressed in simple dark livery, handed Anna Maria a letter.

"From Klaus!" she cried joyfully, but held the letter in her hand
without opening it, and fixed her eyes upon the firm, resolute face of
the servant.

"Well, Gottlieb, what is the matter with you?" she asked. "You look as
if your wheat had been utterly ruined."

"Gracious Fräulein," the youth replied, with hesitation yet firmly, "the
master will have to look about for some one else--I am going away at New
Year."

"Have you gone mad?" cried Anna Maria, frowning. "What is it here that
you object to?" She had risen and stepped up to the youth. "As for the
rest," she continued, "I can imagine why you have such folly in your
head. Because I have sent away Marieken Märtens, do you wish to go too?
Very well, I will not keep you; you may go; there are plenty of people
who would take your place. But if your father knew it he would turn in
his grave. Do you know how long your father served at Bütze?"

"Fifty-eight years, Fräulein," replied the young fellow at once.

"Fifty-eight years! And his son runs away from the service in which his
father grew old and gray, after a frivolous girl! Very well, you shall
have your way; but mind, any one who once goes away from here--never
returns. You may go."

The servant's face grew deep red at the reproachful words of his young
mistress; he turned slowly to the door and left the room.

Anna Maria had meanwhile broken the great crested seal, and was reading.
"Klaus is coming day after to-morrow!" After reading awhile, now as
happy as a child, she cried to the old lady: "Just hear, Aunt Rosamond,
what else he writes. I will read it aloud.

"'I found my old Mattoni over his books as usual, but it seemed to me he
looked ill. I asked him about it, but he declared he was well. A
proposal to come and recuperate next summer in our beautiful country air
he dismissed with a shake of the head, "he had no time!" He is an
incorrigible bookworm.

"'But now here is something particularly interesting! Do you know whom I
met yesterday "Unter den Linden," sunburned and scarcely recognizable?
Edwin Stürmer! He was standing by a picture-store, and I beside him for
some time, without a suspicion of each other; we were looking at some
pretty water-colors by Heuselt. All at once a hand was laid on my arm,
and a familiar voice cried: "Upon my word, Klaus, if you had not
developed that fine beard, I should have recognized you sooner!"

"'I was exceedingly glad to see Edwin again, and rejoice still more at
the future prospect. The old vagabond is going to fold his wings at
last, and take care of his estate. He is coming shortly to Dambitz;
consequently we shall have a good friend again near us. As for the
rest, he wouldn't believe that you have become a young lady and no
longer wear long braids and short dresses.'"

Anna Maria stopped, and looked into the distance, as if recalling
something. "I don't know exactly now how he looked," she said. "He wore
a full black beard, didn't he, aunt, and must be very old now?"

"No indeed, _mon coeur_; he may be thirty-five at the most."

"That is certainly old, Aunt Rosamond!"

"That is the way young people judge," said the old lady, smiling.

"It may be, aunt," said Anna Maria, and put the letter in her pocket.
She had begun to spin again, when an old woman in a dazzlingly white
apron entered the room.

"Gracious Fräulein," she began respectfully, yet familiarly, "Marieken
is off, and has made a great commotion in the house, and the eldest of
the Weber girls has just applied for the place, but she asks for twelve
thaler for wages and a jacket at Christmas!"

"Ten thaler, and Christmas according to the way she conducts herself,"
Anna Maria replied, without looking up.

The housekeeper disappeared, but returned after awhile.

"Eleven thaler and a jacket, Fräulein; she will not come otherwise," she
reported. "You can surely give her that; she has no lover, and will
hardly get one, for she is already well on in years, and----"

Anna Maria drew a purse from her pocket, and laid an eight-groschen
piece on the table. "The advance-money, Brockelmann; do you know that
Gottlieb wishes to leave?"

"Oh, dear, yes, Fräulein." The old woman was quite embarrassed. "I am
sorry; he doted upon the lass at one time, and at last--oh, heavens,
fräulein, one has been young too, and if two people love each
other--see, Fräulein, it is just as if one had drunk deadly hemlock. I
mean no offence, but you will know it yet some day, and, if God will,
may the handsomest and best man in the world come to Bütze and take you
home!"

The old woman had spoken affectingly, and looked at her young mistress
with brightening eyes. Only she would have dared to touch on this point.
She had been Anna Maria's nurse, and a remnant of tenderness toward her
was still hidden somewhere in the girl's heart.

"Brockelmann, you cannot keep from talking," she cried, serenely. "You
know I shall _never_ marry. What would the master do without me? Is
supper ready?"

"The master!" said the good woman, without regarding the last question.
"He ought to marry too! As if it were not high time for him; he will be
thirty-three years old at Martinmas!"



CHAPTER II.


A few days afterward Edwin Stürmer came to Bütze. Anna Maria was
standing just on the lower staircase landing, in the great stone-paved
entrance-hall, a basket of red-cheeked apples on her arm, and
Brockelmann stood near her with a candle in her hand. The unsteady light
of the flickering candle fell on the immediate surroundings, and, like
an old picture of Rembrandt's, the fair head of the girl stood out from
the darkness of the wide hall. Round about her there was a great hue and
cry; all the children of the village seemed to be collected there, and
sang with a sort of scream, to a monotonous air, the old Martinmas
ditty:

    "Martins, martins, pretty things,
    With your little golden wings,
    To the Rhine now fly away,
    To-morrow is St. Martin's Day.
    Marieken, Marieken, open the door,
    Two poor rogues are standing before!
    Little summer, little summer, rose's leaf,
          City fair,
    Give us something, O maiden fair!"

They were just beginning a new song when the heavy entrance-door opened,
and Baron Stürmer came in. Anna Maria did not see him at once, for,
according to an old custom of St. Martin's Eve, she was throwing a
handful of apples right among the little band, who pounced upon them
with cries and shouts. Only when a man's head rose up straight before
her, by the heavily carved banister, she glanced up, and looked into a
pale face framed by dark hair and beard, and into a pair of shining
brown eyes.

For an instant Anna Maria was startled, and a blush of embarrassment
spread over her face; then she held out her hand to him and bade him
welcome. Far from youthful was her manner of speaking and acting.

"Be still!" she called, in her ringing voice, to the noisy children; and
as silence immediately ensued, she added, turning to Stürmer: "They are
meeting me on important business, Herr von Stürmer, but I shall be ready
to leave at once; will you go up to Klaus for awhile?"

He kept on looking at her, still holding her right hand; he had not
heard what she said at all. With quick impatience, at length she
withdrew her hand.

"Brockelmann, bring the candle here, and take the gentleman to my
brother," she ordered; but then, as if changing her mind, she threw the
whole basketful of apples at once among the children, who scrambled for
them, screaming wildly. The baron made his way with difficulty through
the groping throng to the stairs, where Anna Maria was now standing
motionless, and with earnest gaze regarding the man who in her childhood
had so often held her in his arms, and had so many a kind word for her.

Yes, it was he again; the slender figure of medium height, the dark face
with the flashing eyes--and yet how different!

Anna Maria had to admit to herself that it was a handsome man who was
coming up the steps just then; and old? She had to smile. "One sees
quite differently with a child's eyes!" she said to herself. Was it not
as if years were blotted out, and he was coming up as in the old times,
to hold her fast by her braids and say, "Don't run so, Anna Maria"?

Silently up the stairs they went together, to the top, their steps
reëchoing from the walls.

It really seemed now to Anna Maria as if her childhood had returned, the
sweet, remote childhood, with a thousand bright, innocent hours.
Involuntarily she held out to him her slender hand, and he seized it
quickly and forced the maiden to stand still. The sound of the
children's shouting came indistinctly to them up here; there was no one
beside them in the dim corridor.

Words of pleasure at seeing the friend of her childhood again trembled
on Anna Maria's lips, but when she tried to speak the man's eyes met
hers, and her mouth remained closed. Slowly, and still looking at her,
he drew the slender hand to his lips; she allowed it as if in a dream,
then hastily caught her hand away.

"What is that?" she asked, half in jest, half in anger; "I gave you my
hand because I was glad to greet the uncle of my childhood, and an
uncle----"

"May not kiss one's hand," he supplied, a smile flitting over his face.
Anna Maria did not see it, having stepped forward into the sitting-room.
"A visitor, Klaus!" she called into the room, which was still dark.

"Ah!" at once replied a man's voice. "Stürmer, is it you? Welcome,
welcome! You find us quite in the dark. We were just talking of you, and
of old times; were we not, Aunt Rosamond?"

A merry greeting followed, an invitation to supper was given and
accepted, and Klaus von Hegewitz called for lights.

"Oh, let us chat a little longer in the dark," said Aunt Rosamond. "Who
knows but we should seem stranger to each other if a candle were
lighted? Does it not seem, _cher baron_, as if it were yesterday that
you were sitting here with us, and yet----"

"It is ten years ago, Stürmer," finished Klaus.

"Truly!" assented Stürmer, "ten years!"

"Oh, but how happy we have been here," the old lady ran on. "Do you
remember, Stürmer, how you carried me off once in the most festive
manner, in a sleigh, and on the way the mad idea came to you to drive on
past our godfather's, and then you landed us both so softly in the
deepest snow-drift--me in my best dress, the green brocade, you know,
that you always called my parrot's costume?"

Klaus laughed heartily. "_À propos_, Stürmer," he asked, "have you seen
Anna Maria yet?"

"Yes, indeed, I have already had the honor, on the landing down-stairs,"
replied the baron.

"The honor? Heavens, how ceremonious! Did you hear, dear?" asked the
brother. But no answer came. "Anna Maria!" he then called.

"She is not here," said Aunt Rosamond, groping about to find the way out
of the room. "But it is really too dark here," she added.

"Why haven't you married, Hegewitz?" Stürmer asked abruptly.

"I might pass the question back to you," replied Klaus. "But let us
leave that alone, Stürmer, I will tell you something about it another
time." Klaus von Hegewitz had risen and stepped to the nearest window;
for a while silence reigned in the quiet room. Stürmer regretted having
touched upon a topic that evidently aroused painful emotions.

"Every one has his experiences, Stürmer, so why should we be spared?"
Klaus turned around, beginning to speak again. "But it is overcome now.
I do not think about it any more," he added. "Will you have another
cigar?"

"Not think about it any more?" cried the baron, not hearing the last
question. He laughed aloud. "At thirty-four? My dear Klaus, what will
become of you, then, when Aunt Rosamond dies and Anna Maria marries?"

"Anna Maria? I haven't thought about that yet, Stürmer; she is still so
young, and--although--But one can see that it is possible to live so:
you give the best example!" Klaus was out of humor.

The baron did not reply. He soon turned the conversation to agricultural
matters, and a discussion over esparcet and fodder was first interrupted
by the announcement that supper was served.

Aunt Rosamond had, meanwhile, gone through the main hall and knocked at
a door at the end of the passage. Anna Maria's voice called, "Come in!"
She, too, was sitting in the dark, but she rose and lit a candle. The
light illuminated her whole face. "Anna Maria, are you ill?" her aunt
asked anxiously, and stepped nearer.

"Not exactly ill, aunt, but I have a headache."

"You have taken cold; why do you ride out in this sharp wind? You are
both inconsiderate, you and Klaus! Show me your pulse--of course, on the
gallop; go to bed, Anna Maria."

"After supper, aunt; what would Klaus say if I were not there?"

"But you are really looking badly, Anna Maria."

The young girl laughed, took her bunch of keys in her hand and thus
compelled Aunt Rosamond to go with her. "Don't worry," she bade her,
"and above all, don't say anything to Klaus. He might think it worse
than it is."

"Klaus, and always, only Klaus--_incroyable_!" murmured the old lady.

       *       *       *       *       *

"If that wasn't a remarkable company at table this evening," said Klaus
von Hegewitz, as he reäntered the sitting-room, after escorting Baron
Stürmer down-stairs. "You, Anna Maria, did not say a word, and the
conversation dragged along till it nearly died out; if Aunt Rosamond had
not kept the thing up, why--really, it was peculiar. But how nice it is
when we are by ourselves, isn't it, little sister?"

He had put his arm around Anna Maria, who stood at the table, looking
toward the window as if listening for something, and looked lovingly in
her face.

The brother and sister resembled each other unmistakably in their
features, except that beside his earnestness a winning kindness spoke
from the brother's eyes, and the harsh lines about his mouth were hidden
by a handsome beard.

"Yes," she replied quietly.

"Now tell me, little sister, why you were so--so, what shall I call
it--icy toward Stürmer?"

Anna Maria looked over at her brother and was silent.

"Now out with it!" he said jokingly. "Didn't Stürmer treat you with
sufficient deference, or----"

"Klaus!" She grew very red. "I will tell you," she then said; "the
recollections of old times came between us and spoke louder than words;
my childhood passed before my eyes, and--" She broke off, and looked up
at him; it was a sad look, yet full of unspeakable gratitude. Klaus drew
her to him, and pressed the fair head to his breast with his large white
hand.

"My old lass, you're not going to cry?" he asked tenderly; but he, too,
was moved.

She took his hand and pressed a kiss upon it. "Dear, dear Klaus," she
said softly, "I was only thinking how it would have been if you had not
loved me so very, very much?"

Klaus von Hegewitz was silent, and looked thoughtfully down at her.
"Quite different, my little Anna Maria," said he at last; "it would have
been quite different--whether better? Who can fathom that; it must have
been so----"

She looked up at him in astonishment, he had spoken so slowly and
earnestly. Then he stroked her forehead, pressed his sister to him
again, and then turned quietly to the corner-shelf and took down his
favorite pipe.

"There, now we will make ourselves comfortable," said he. "Come, Anna
Maria, 'Tante Voss' is very interesting to-day."

       *       *       *       *       *

Anna Maria stood long at her bedroom window and looked at the drifting
clouds of the night-sky. Now and then the moon peeped out, and tinged
the edges of the clouds with silver light; as they sped in strange forms
over her golden disk, there was a continual change in the fantastic
shapes, but Anna Maria saw it not. Confused thoughts chased each other
about in her brain, like the clouds above, and now and then, like the
brilliant constellation, a bright look from the long-known dark eyes
came before her mind. "It is the memory of childhood," she said to
herself, "yes, the memory!"

Twelve o'clock struck from the church-tower near by, as, shivering with
cold, she stepped back from the window. She heard hasty steps coming
along the corridor; she knew it was Brockelmann going to bed. The next
moment she had opened the door; she hardly knew herself first what she
wanted, when the old woman was already crossing the threshold.

"You are not sleeping yet, Fräulein? Ah, it is well that you are still
awake. I had a fine fright a little while ago. What do you think,
Marieken Märtens, the crazy thing, tried to drown herself; a man from
the village pulled her out of the pond."

Anna Maria had grown white as a corpse; she had to sit down on the edge
of her bed, and her great eyes looked in sheer amazement at the old
woman. "What for?" she asked hastily, and almost sharply.

"Indeed, Fräulein, for what else but because of the stupid affair with
Gottlieb? You know what his mother is. Marieken did not dare go home all
at once--there are mouths enough to feed: so her sweetheart took her
home to his mother, and she told him he should not come to her with a
girl whom the gracious Fräulein had dismissed, that he must not think of
marrying the girl as long as she lived; you know, Fräulein, the old
woman swears by the family here. And so the stupid thing took it into
her head to go into the water."

Anna Maria looked silently before her, and her whole body shook as if
she had a chill.

"Heavens, you are ill!" cried the old woman.

"No, no," the girl denied, "I am not ill; go, only go; I am tired and
want to sleep."

Brockelmann went to her room, shaking her head. "Well, well," she
murmured, "I did think she would be sorry for the poor girl, but no!"
She sighed, and closed the door behind her. But toward morning she was
suddenly startled from her slumber by the violent ringing of a bell in
her room.

"Good heavens, Anna Maria!" she cried. "She is ill!" In her heart the
old woman still called her young mistress by her child's name. Hastily
throwing on one or two garments she hurried through the cold passage,
just lighted by the gray dawn. Anna Maria was sitting upright in her
bed, a candle was burning on the table by her side, and lit up a face
worn with weeping. The old woman saw plainly that the girl had been
weeping, though she extinguished the candle at once.

"Brockelmann!" she called to her, but not as usual in the old imperious
manner, and she now hesitated; "as soon as it is light, send for
Gottlieb's mother; I want to talk with her about the girl. And now go,"
she added, as the old woman was about to say something, "I am so tired
to-day!"



CHAPTER III.


"The time passes away, one scarcely knows what has become of it; even in
my solitude, it does not seem long to me. Really, the starlings are here
already. Where has the winter gone? Strange!"

Aunt Rosamond held this soliloquy at her chamber-window, as her gaze
followed the little messengers of spring, who vanished so briskly into
the wooden boxes, a large number of which had been placed for them on
the trees and buildings. It was no sunny spring day there without; the
clouds hung low and gray over the earth, and a warm, sultry wind tossed
about the budding branches unmercifully, as if to shake them into
complete awakening.

The old lady did not like the overcast sky at all, it put her out of
humor. She could not wander about far out of doors, to be sure, but she
would fain have seen the little spot of earth that lay stretched out
before her window looking cheerful, and blue sky and sunshine lighting
up the fresh green of the meadows, and the oaks in foliage.

"It ought to be always May or September here in the Mark," she used to
say; "then it would be the loveliest country in the world. In winter one
does best to draw the curtains, so as not to cast a single look out of
doors, it looks so melancholy outside, brown upon brown, with a shade of
dirty gray."

And so she turned from the window and its dull outlook, and limped
quickly through the room, here and there arranging or straightening
something. That was such a habit of hers. Now the candelabra on the
spinet were moved a little, and now the delicate, withered hands picked
a yellow leaf from a plant on the flower-stand, or gave an improving
touch to the canopied bed which so pretentiously occupied an entire side
of the room. Aunt Rosamond called that her throne; one had to climb up a
pair of carpeted steps to reach it, and with its crimson silk hangings,
somewhat faded indeed, and gilded knobs, it really gave you the
impression of one. Then here and there she pushed back a coverlet or
straightened a picture which tipped a little to one side. The latter she
did most frequently, for the high walls were almost covered with
pictures, a collection of portraits, mostly in oil or pastel. Aunt
Rosamond knew a history about each one of the faces that looked so
quietly from the frames in her room; she had known them all, these men
and women there above, and strangely enough it sounded to hear her, as
she stood before some picture, tell its story in a few words.

She had just limped to a card-table, over which was hung an oval pastel
portrait of a man with curled and powdered hair and a blue silk coat.
She gave the portrait a gentle push toward the right, but whether it was
the cord or the nail that had become loose, matters not, down fell the
picture, and lay face downward before Aunt Rosamond.

"Let it lie, aunt, I beg you!" called Anna Maria's voice at this moment;
and before the old lady could collect herself, the girl had bent her
slender form, and handed her the picture.

"_Merci, ma petite!_" she cried kindly, and looked into her niece's
face; and, indeed, if Aunt Rosamond missed the spring without, now it
had come, bodily, into her room.

Anna Maria still had on a dark-blue riding-habit which closely fitted
her fine, strong figure, and the young face looked out from behind the
blue veil with such a spring-like freshness, that it quite warmed Aunt
Rosamond's heart.

"Have you been riding, Anna Maria?" asked the old lady, as the girl
endeavored to find the fallen nail.

"Yes, aunt, I rode with Klaus for an hour on the Dambitz cross-road;
afterward we met Stürmer by chance, and took a cup of coffee at Dambitz
Manor."

"Indeed!" Aunt Rosamond seemed quite indifferent to this, although she
looked searchingly at the reddening face of her niece, who, apparently,
was very attentively regarding the rescued nail in her hand.

"Are the snow-drops in bloom already at Dambitz?" inquired the old lady.
"Well, the garden lies well protected. But what do you say, Anna Maria,
will you stay and rest with me? I think we will sit down a little
while--_n'est-ce pas, mon coeur_?"

Anna Maria stood irresolute; she looked over at her aunt, who had
already seated herself on the straight-backed, gayly flowered sofa, and
pointed invitingly to an easy-chair. It was so comfortable in this cosey
old room; the rococo clock with the Cupid bending his bow told its low
tick-tack, and a sudden shower beat against the window panes; it was a
little hour just made for chatting of all sorts of possible things, of
the past and of the future.

Anna Maria slowly seated herself in the chair; she neither leaned back
gracefully and comfortably nor rested her fair head on the cushions.
Always straight as a candle, she carried herself perfectly, and so she
remained now. But sudden blushes and deep pallor interchanged on her
face, which turned with an expression of perfect, modest maidenliness
toward the old lady's face. One could see that she wished to say
something, and that her severe, unsympathetic nature was struggling with
an overflowing heart.

Her aunt did not seem to notice it at all; she had taken up a book whose
once green velvet binding was worn and faded with age. The delicate
fingers turned leaf after leaf; then she glanced over a page, and after
a pause said:

"Actually, Anna Maria, Felix Leonhard has fallen from the wall on his
birthday; how singular! Now people call that chance, but how strange it
is! I have always remembered the day hitherto, until to-day, and have
been going about all the time with a feeling as if I had forgotten
something, I could not exactly think what And then he announced himself.
_Mon pauvre_ Felix! You shall have your flowers to-day, as every year."
And she caressingly touched the picture before her on the table. Then
she looked over to Anna Maria almost shyly, for she knew that her niece
sometimes smiled scornfully at signs and forebodings.

But to-day the deep line about Anna Maria's mouth was not to be seen;
she looked thoughtfully at the picture, and asked: "Who was Felix
Leonhard, aunt?"

"An early friend of my brother's," replied the old lady.

"Is he the one, aunt--I think you told me a strange story once about
some one shooting himself for the sake of a girl?"

"Yes, yes, quite right, my child. This gay, handsome man once took a
pistol and shot himself for the sake of a girl; quite right, Anna
Maria. And he was no youth then, he was well on in the thirties, and yet
did this horrible deed, unworthy of a peaceable man. Oh, it was a misery
not to be described, Anna Maria!" She shook her head and passed her
hands over her eyes, as if to frighten away a horrible picture.

"Why did he do it, aunt?" asked Anna Maria, in an unusually warm tone;
"was she faithless to him, or----"

"She did not love him, _ma petite_; she had been persuaded by her
parents and brothers and sisters to become engaged to him. He was in
most excellent circumstances, and one of the best men I ever knew. He
became acquainted with her at a ball in Berlin, and fell violently in
love with her, although before that no one had ever considered his a
passionate nature. She was not young at the time, not even particularly
pretty, and with the exception of a pair of melancholy great eyes did
not possess a charm. _Eh bien_, after endless doubts and struggles, she
accepted his suit. The engagement lasted a whole year, and she was as
shy and discreet a _fiancée_ as could be found; he, on the other hand,
was full of touching attentions to her; indeed, to use a worn-out
figure, he carried her about in his hands. The nearer the wedding-day
approached, the more dreadful grew the poor girl's state of mind. She
had repeatedly asked various people if they believed she could make her
lover happy, and she was always turned off with a jest, yet quite
seriously as well, on the part of her brothers and sisters. Then on the
wedding-day, half an hour before the ceremony was to take place, pale
and trembling, she announced that she must take back her word, she could
not speak perjury--she did not love him, and she did not wish his
unhappiness! Ah, I shall never forget that day--the anxious faces of the
guests as the report of this refusal began to spread, and the terrible
anger of her brother. What followed in her room was never made public; I
only know that she persisted in her refusal, and that same evening he
shot himself in the garden. _Voilà tout!_"

Anna Maria was silent; she had turned pale. "And _she_, aunt?" asked the
girl after a pause.

"She! Well, she lived on, and even married not very long afterward; she
did not love him at all, Anna Maria. Who knows his own heart?"

For an instant it seemed as if Anna Maria was about to answer, but she
closed her lips again. The room was still. She was leaning back now; she
was almost trembling, and her eyes turned thoughtfully to the picture
before her. Without, the rain was beating with increased force against
the windows, and the wind drove great snowflakes about in a whirling
dance, between whiles; April weather, fighting and struggling, storming
and raging, so spring will come.

The old lady on the sofa looked out on this raging of the elements, and
thought how such a powerful spring storm rages in every human heart, and
how scarcely a person in the world is spared such a fight and struggle;
she knew it from her own experience, though she was only a poor cripple,
and a hundred times had she seen the storm rage in the breast of
another. To many, indeed, out of the struggle and longing, out of snow
and sunshine, had arisen a spring as beautiful as a dream; but for many
was the stormy April weather followed by a frosty May, killing all
blossoms; as for herself, as for Kla--She left the thought unfinished,
and quickly turned her head toward her niece, as if fearing she might
have guessed her thoughts. And then--she was almost confounded--then
the young girl's rosy face bent down to her, and Aunt Rosamond saw a
shining drop in the eyes always so cold and clear. Anna Maria sat down
beside her on the figured sofa, and threw her soft arms about her neck.

The heart of the old lady beat faster; it was the first time in her life
that Anna Maria had showed any tenderness toward her. She sat quite
still, as in a dream, as if the slightest movement might frighten the
girl away, like a timid bird. And "Aunt Rosamond!" came the half-sobbing
sound in her ear. "Oh, aunt, help me--advise me--for Klaus----"

Just then the door was quickly thrown open. "The master sends word for
the Fräulein to come down-stairs at once," called Brockelmann, quite out
of breath. "He can't find Isaac Aron's receipts for the last delivery of
grain, and----"

"I am coming! I am coming!" called the girl. She had sprung up, and
quickly thrown the skirt of her riding-habit over her arm. The spell was
broken; there stood Anna Maria von Hegewitz again, the mistress of
Bütze, as firm, as full of business as ever.

She crossed the room with quick steps, but turning again at the door,
she said softly, and embarrassed, "I will come up again this evening,
aunt." Then she closed the door behind her.

Aunt Rosamond remained as still as a mouse in her sofa-corner; she had
to reflect whether this blushing, caressing girl who had just been
sitting beside her were really Anna Maria von Hegewitz, her niece. She
passed her hand over her forehead, and confused thoughts passed through
her mind. "_Quelle métamorphose!_" she whispered to herself, and at
length said aloud, "Anna Maria is certainly in love; love only makes
one so gentle, so--_je ne sais quoi_! Anna Maria loves Stürmer! How
disagreeable that Brockelmann happened to come in with her grain bills!
_Mon Dieu!_ the child, the child! I wonder if Klaus suspects it? What is
to become of you, my splendid old boy, if Anna Maria goes away? But what
if he should marry, too?"

She rose from the sofa and stepped to the window again. It had stopped
raining, and a last lingering ray of sunshine broke from the clouds and
was spread, like a golden veil, over the wet, budding trees and shrubs.
"Spring is coming," she said half aloud. And now she began to walk up
and down the room, but this time the pictures were undisturbed. Her
hands were clasped, and now and then she shook her gray head gently, as
if incredulously.



CHAPTER IV.


Meanwhile Anna Maria had gone quickly down-stairs and entered her
brother's room. He was sitting at his desk, rummaging about in the
drawers for the missing papers. Klaus von Hegewitz was exactly like
other men in this respect, that he never could find anything, and grew
so vexed in hunting, that from very irritation he found nothing. At the
door stood the farm inspector and a little old man who was well known at
Bütze, Isaac Aron the Jew. He made a deep reverence to Anna Maria, and
said contentedly: "Now matters will be brought into good shape; the
gracious Fräulein knows the place of everything in the whole house."

Anna Maria paid no attention to this, but, going to the desk,
confidently put her hand into a drawer, and gave a little packet of
papers to her brother. "There, Klaus," said she, looking with a smile in
his flushed face, "why did you not call me at once?"

The troubled face grew bright. "Upon my word, Anna Maria," he cried
gayly, "these are stupid things; I have had that package in my hands
twenty times at least. A thousand thanks! I say again and again, Anna
Maria, what would become of me without you?"

The smile suddenly disappeared from her face, and she looked
thoughtfully at the stately figure of her brother, who had stepped up to
the men and was negotiating with them. The words fell on her ears as in
a dream, and quite mechanically she took up her train and walked out of
the room. As she was about to close the door, her brother called after
her: "Anna Maria, shall I meet you by and by in the sitting-room? The
gardener wants to talk with us about the new work in the wood."

She had no idea, as she stood outside, whether or not she had answered
him; then she sat down in her room, and her eyes wandered about the
familiar spot and rested at length on her brother's portrait. But she
saw it not; in her mind was another picture, another man's head. The
red-tiled roof of Dambitz Manor rose before her eyes, and over him and
her the brown, budding branches of the linden-walk in the Dambitz garden
fluttered and beat in the damp spring air, and at their feet long rows
of snow-drops bloomed and shook their little white heads.

"Anna Maria," he had called her, "Anna Maria," as in her childhood. She
started up, as if awakening from a long, deep dream. Ah, no! it was
true; scarcely an hour ago he had spoken thus to her, and Anna Maria von
Hegewitz had stood before him as if under a spell.

What else had he said? She knew no longer, only the words "Anna Maria"
sounded to her very soul; and as on that St. Martin's Eve she had put
her hands in his, and he had drawn her close to him--only one short
moment, she scarcely knew whether it were dream or reality. Then Klaus
had come down the steps--"Klaus! ah, Heaven, Klaus!"

She leaned her head against the back of the sofa and closed her eyes.
She saw herself going away from the old house here. Could her foot cross
the threshold? And she saw Klaus looking in the door-way, looking after
her with his kind, true eyes, perhaps with tears in them. And there came
to her all the words which she had so often spoken to him, caressingly:
"_I will stay with you, Klaus, always, always!_" And now the strong
girl began to weep; she scarcely knew what tears were, but now they
gushed from her eyes with all the force of a shaken soul.

And yet above all this pain there hovered a feeling of infinite
happiness, through the dark veil of sadness gleamed bright rays--the
premonitions of a wonderful future, the suspicion that the life which
she had led hitherto was hardly to be called living, because that one
thing had been wanting which first consecrates and gives value to a
happy life.

She rose and went up to her brother's portrait. "Klaus, dear Klaus, I
cannot help it, indeed!" she whispered; and then she wandered about the
room, a tender smile on her lips, and a laugh in her eyes.

The sound of the servants' supper-bell roused her from her dreams; she
changed her riding-habit for a house-dress, but laid the snow-drops in
the Bible on her writing-desk, and gave the little white blossoms a
caressing touch before she took up her basket of keys to leave the room.
She was met on the way to the sitting-room by a fresh, curly-haired
girl, carrying an armful of flashing brass candlesticks, her black eyes
almost as bright as the shining metal.

"Well, Marieken," asked Anna Maria, "is the outfit ready?"

The brisk girl laughed all over her face. "Oh, not quite, Fräulein; but
it is three weeks to Easter, and Gottlieb is painting the rooms now in
our house, and the cabinet-maker is going to bring our things next
week."

Anna Maria nodded kindly, but did not reply. Her thoughts were already
again in Dambitz, wandering through the rooms of the castle. Most of
them were still empty, but a time was doubtless coming for her too when
the cabinet-maker would bring her things. And Anna Maria looked at the
girl and smiled; she knew not why herself; it was from overflowing
happiness. And Marieken laughed too--a perfect harmony of youth, hope,
and happiness. Then the girl ran on with her candlesticks, and Anna
Maria walked down the corridor, and in both hearts was the same
sunshine. She must hurry, for Klaus would surely be waiting for her, he
wanted to speak with her about the work in the garden.

Next to Klaus's room was a small room, where Anna Maria remembered to
have put away in her portfolio of drawings the roughly sketched plan of
the alterations, and as Klaus was not yet in the sitting-room she
hurried back to get it.

It was almost dark, and she could but indistinctly discern the objects
in the little room, which Klaus jokingly called his library because of a
bookcase which found its place there. So the more distinctly came to her
ears a hearty laugh from her brother, and, with the laugh, the sound of
her own name.

"Anna Maria, do you say? My own aunt, it is perfectly ridiculous!"

"Laugh then, you unbeliever, you will soon be convinced of the truth of
my conjecture. We women, especially we old maids, Klauschen, look at
such things more sharply. Soon some one will come and carry away your
darling, and then we too may sit here and have the dumps, my beloved
boy! What will become of us?"

"_Some one_, aunt? You speak in riddles."

"Well, since you are so dreadfully smitten with blindness, _mon cher_,
it is a Christian duty on my part to open your eyes. Do you not see the
girl's entirely altered manner? Have you never--But to what purpose is
all this? In short, Anna Maria loves Stürmer!"

Another hearty laugh interrupted the old lady. But Anna Maria, with
closed eyes, leaned against the door-post; the ground seemed to give way
beneath her feet.

"Kurt Stürmer? Uncle Stürmer? But, my dear aunt," cried the young man,
"he might almost be her father!"

"Is that a hindrance, Klaus?"

"No! I don't believe it, however. Shall we bet?"

Anna Maria straightened up. She was on the point of going in and saying,
"Why do you argue? I do love him--yes! a thousand times, yes!" But she
stood still; her brother's voice sounded so strangely altered.

"Aunt Rosamond, I _cannot_ believe it!"

"Klaus! Have you not thought for a long time that it must happen some
day?"

"Yes, yes! But--Ah! I have stood in fear of this hour, since the child
is the only one to whom my heart clings; you do not know how much,
perhaps, aunt!"

"Klaus,"--the old lady's voice was melting with tenderness--"my dear old
lad, you are still young: why should there not be a happiness yet in
store for you? I have often told you you ought to marry."

"Marry? You say that to me, aunt? and you know that I have been a
wretched being for years, because----"

"But, Klaus, do you still think of that?" sounded the anxious voice of
the aunt.

"Still?" he repeated ironically. "Am I not daily reminded of it? Do you
think, because I live so peacefully now and can join in a laugh, because
food and wine taste good to me--I see the tower of her family home
whenever I go to the window, I see Anna Maria, I cannot pass that fatal
spot in the garden without the words she then spoke reächoing in my
soul. I know them by heart, aunt, I have called and whispered them for
weeks in fever; and ever again her enchanting figure stands before my
eyes, and that sweet, beseeching tone rings in my ears, as seductive as
Satan himself: '_Put that obstinate, disagreeable child out of your
house; she interferes with our happiness!_'"

He laughed scornfully. "And because I would not consent to that, and did
not break a promise given to my dying mother, then--she cast me off like
a garment that does not fit comfortably enough--then--then----"

"Klaus! Klaus! for God's sake!" The anxious voice of the old lady
interrupted his speaking, which had risen to vehemence.

But in the little room lay Anna Maria on her knees, her head almost
touching the floor. It had become still in the next room, except for the
sound of rapid steps as the young man paced the floor.

"And now--yes, yes, it had to happen!" said he softly. "I am no egoist,
certainly not, but it will be unspeakably hard for me to give her up.
Oh, yes, I shall see her often. I can ride over any minute; she will
come to us too--certainly. But see, aunt--but I am a fool, really, a
fool! It is the way of the world, and I do not understand why I did not
see long ago that Stürmer is fond of Anna Maria; it is, indeed, so
natural. How good it is that I am prepared; not the slightest shadow
shall fall on Anna Maria's happiness. Your eyes ask that, Aunt Rose? No,
be quiet, be quiet!"

Anna Maria remained motionless on the cold floor, leaning her head
against the door-post. She no longer understood what they were saying
in the next room; she kept hearing only that one dreadful speech: "Put
the child out of the house; she interferes with our happiness!" His
happiness! Klaus's happiness! She passed her cold hand over her
forehead, as if she must convince herself whether or not it was a dream.
No, no; she was awake, she could move her feet as well, she could walk
out of the little room, along the corridor, to her own room.

Marieken was just coming along the passage. Anna Maria stopped, and bade
her say to Fräulein Rosamond that she was not coming to the table; she
had a headache, and wanted to be alone that evening.

The girl looked in alarm at the pale face of her mistress. "Shall I call
Brockelmann?" she asked anxiously.

Anna Maria made a negative gesture, and laid her hand on the door-knob,
and then turned her head. "Marieken!"

The girl came back.

"It is nothing--only go!" She then hastily turned away, and shut and
bolted her door at once.

"She wishes to be alone with her thoughts," remarked Aunt Rosamond at
the supper table, where she and Klaus sat, right and left of the absent
one's place. Klaus did not reply at once, but looked at that place and
said at length: "So it will always be, soon!" And the old lady nodded
sadly; she knew not what to reply, and a secret anxiety about the future
stole over her, since she had seen that Klaus still bore the old wound
which he had received many years ago. She had supposed it healed long
since.

The next morning Anna Maria went as usual, with her bunch of keys,
through kitchen and cellar. She was pale, and her orders sounded
shorter and less friendly than they had of late. Only to Klaus she gave
a friendly smile, but it was forced, and her eyes had no share in it.
She looked over accounts with him for two hours, and, though he was
distracted and restless, the results were perfectly correct. Aunt
Rosamond alone was alarmed at the girl's appearance, but she did not
venture to ask any questions. Anna Maria was as icily cold as often
heretofore.

The next day, toward evening, Klaus came into Aunt Rosamond's room. The
old lady had just hung up Felix Leonhard's portrait again, after
carefully making fast the broken cord.

"Well, who was right, Aunt Rose?" he asked. He was standing beside her,
and she saw that his face had grown very red, and that his whole being
was stirred.

"Right? In what, Klaus?"

"In your assertion about Anna Maria. She does not love him!"

"Did she say so? Oh, well, it doesn't follow at all that a girl has
spoken the truth, if she says she does _not_ love a certain person, does
not even like him. I have experienced the contrary a hundred times;
those who talk so hide a warm affection under cold words."

"Not this time, Aunt Rose. Anna Maria has definitely refused him!"

The old lady sank, quite overcome, into the nearest chair. "Klaus!
_Est-il possible?_ Has he spoken already, then?"

"Not to her, but to me, aunt. He came about five o'clock this afternoon;
Anna Maria was sitting at the window as he rode into the court, and she
got up at once and went to her room. Stürmer sent in word to me that he
wanted to speak to me alone; and then--truly, Aunt Rose, you do know how
to observe--then he said to me that he loved Anna Maria, that he thought
his affection was reciprocated, and other things that people usually say
on such occasions; he spoke of his age, and said that he would be not
only a husband but a father as well to Anna Maria. I assured him that I
had the deepest respect for him, which is quite true, and after about an
hour went to Anna Maria to get her answer. Her door was open; she was
sitting at her little sewing table by the window, looking out into the
garden; she held her New Testament in her hand, but laid it down as I
came near her. I thought she had been crying, and turned her face around
to me; but her eyes were dry and burning, and her forehead feverishly
hot. As I began to speak she turned her head to the window again and sat
motionless as a statue. I must have asked her certainly three times:
'Anna Maria, what shall I answer him? Will you do it yourself? Shall I
send him to you?' 'No, no!' she cried at length, 'don't send him! I
cannot see him; tell him that I--he must not be angry with me--I do not
love him! Klaus, I cannot go away from here! Let me stay with you!' And
then she sprang up, threw her arms about my neck, and stuck to me like a
bur; but her whole frame trembled, and I thought I could feel her hot
hands through my coat. After much persuasion, and promising that I would
never force her, I got her so far as to sit down quietly at last; but I
had to give the poor fellow his answer--and that was no trifling
matter!"

"For God's sake, Klaus, what did Stürmer say?"

"Not one word, aunt; I spared him all I could, but he grew as white as
the plaster on the wall. At last he asked: 'Can I speak to Anna Maria?'
I said, 'No,' in accordance with her wish; then he took up his hat and
whip, and bade me good-by as heartily as usual, to be sure, but the hand
he gave me trembled. Poor fellow! I do pity him!"

"And Anna Maria?"

"I cannot find her, aunt, either in the sitting-room or in her own
room."

       *       *       *       *       *

At the farther end of the Hegewitz garden stood an old, very old linden;
the spot was somewhat elevated, and a turfy slope stretched down to the
budding privet-hedge which bounded the garden. Under the linden was a
sandstone bench, also old and weather beaten, and from here one could
look away out on the Mark country, far, far out over cornfields and
green meadows, dark pine forests and sandy patches of heath.

There stood Anna Maria, looking toward the meadow on the other side of
the road, with its countless fresh mole-hills, and the wet road which
ran along beside the quiet little river, on whose banks the willows were
already growing yellow. How often of late had she stood here, how often
waited till a brown horse's head emerged from among the willows, and
then turned quickly and hurried into the house, for he must not see that
she was watching for him with all the longing of a warm, first love. And
_to-day_? She did not know herself how she had come hither, and she
looked blankly away into the mist of the spring evening as if she
neither saw the golden rays of the setting sun nor heard the shouting of
the village children in the distance. The air was intoxicatingly soft
and played gently with the black lace veil which had fallen from Anna
Maria's fair hair. She noticed it not. Then she quickly turned her head;
the breathing and step of a horse sounded along by the hedge: "Kurt
Stürmer!" she whispered, and started to go. But she stopped and saw him
come near, saw him ride away in the rosy evening; his eyes were cast
downward. How could he know who was looking after him with eyes almost
transfixed with burning pain? She stood there motionless, and looked
after him; the horse's tread sounded ominously in her ears as he stepped
upon the little bridge which united the Dambitz and Hegewitz fields, and
she still remained motionless after the willows had hidden the solitary
horseman from sight.

Meanwhile the sunset glow had become deep crimson, and faded again; the
wind blew harder, and rocked the budding linden-boughs, and bore along
with it the sound of a maiden's voice; an old song floated past Anna
Maria out into the country:

    "I had better have died
    Than have gained a love.
    Ah, would I were not so sad!"

Then she turned and ran along the damp garden path as if pursued; she
stood still by the fish-pond, so close to it that the water touched her
foot, and looked into the dark mirror. In these Marieken had sought
oblivion when she might not have her Gottlieb! Was it really such
madness, if one--? And Anna Maria stretched out her arms and sprang into
the little decaying boat by the bank.

"Anna Maria! Anna Maria!" called a man's voice just then, through the
still garden.

"Klaus!" she murmured, as if awakening; she tried to answer, but no
sound came from her lips. With a shudder, she climbed out of the
floating boat and turned her steps toward the house.



CHAPTER V.


Spring had come again. Two years had passed since that evening. In Bütze
Manor-house there was a vaulted, out-of-the-way room, which was entered
by a low, small door at the end of a dark passage; the windows looked
out upon the garden. Tall trees forbade entrance to the light, which had
to seek admission through an artistic old lattice-work as well. This had
been the lumber-room from time immemorial. All sorts of things lay,
hung, and stood there, in perfect confusion. Old presses and chests, old
spinning-wheels with yellowed ivory decorations, and dark oil portraits
on which one could hardly detect the trace of a face; a huge bedstead
with heavy gilt knobs--a French general had slept on it in the year
nine, and the late Herr von Hegewitz had banished the bed to the
lumber-room as a desecrated object after that, for it had originally
been made to shelter a prince of the royal family for a night. The wings
of the gilded eagle who sat so proudly at the top were broken off, and
his beak held now only a shred of the crimson curtain, as the last
remnant of former splendor. Fine cobwebs reached from one piece of
furniture to another, and yellowish dust lay on the floor, a sign that
the wood-worm was undisturbed here.

Here Anna Maria stood and looked about her, as if in search of
something. She scarcely knew herself just why she had come in here; she
had happened to go by, and then it had flashed across her mind that it
might be well to give the old lumber-room a breath of fresh spring air,
and she had taken the bunch of keys from her belt and come in. The young
linden leaves outside let one or two inquisitive sunbeams through the
window, and myriads of grains of dust floated up and down in them. It
was so quiet in the room, among the antique furniture. Anna Maria was
just in the mood for it; she sat down in an arm-chair and leaned her
head against the moth-eaten cushion, her eyes half-closed, her hands
folded in her lap.

She felt so peaceful; the old furniture seemed to preach to her of the
perishable nature of man. Where were all the hands that had made it? the
eyes that had delighted in it? She thought how some time her
spinning-wheel, too, would stand here, and how many days and hours must
pass before strange hands would bring it here, as superfluous rubbish.
Strange hands! She felt a sudden fear. Strange hands! For centuries
Bütze had descended in direct line from father to son--and now?

Anna Maria rose quickly and went to the window, as if to frighten away
unpleasant thoughts; the soft, mild spring air blew toward her and
reminded her of the most unhappy hour of her life, and again she turned
and walked quickly through the room. Then her foot struck against
something, and she saw the cradle, lightly rocking in front of her--the
heavy, gayly painted old cradle in which the Hegewitzes had had their
first slumber for more than two hundred years--Klaus too, and she too.
And Anna Maria knelt down and threw her arms about the little rocking
cradle, and kissed the glaring painted roses and cherubs, and a few
bitter tears flowed from under her lashes, the first that she had shed
since that day.

"Why did I, too, have to lie there in the cradle? It might have been so
different, so much better," she thought. "Poor thing, you must decay and
fall to dust here, and at last irreverent hands will take you and throw
you into the fire. Poor Klaus! For my sake!" And almost tenderly she
wiped the dust from the arabesques on the back, and shook up the little
yellow pillows.

Just then came the sound of a quick, manly step in the passage, and
before Anna Maria had time to rise, Klaus stood in the open door.

"Do I find you here?" he asked in astonishment, and at first laughing,
then more serious, he looked at Anna Maria, who rose and came toward
him.

"I wanted to let some fresh air in here, and found our old cradle,
Klaus," she said quietly.

"Yes, Anna Maria--but you have been crying," he rejoined.

"Oh, I was only thinking that it was quite unnecessary that the poor
thing should have been hunted up again for me!" The bitterness of her
heart pressed unconsciously to her lips to-day.

"Anna Maria! What puts such thoughts into your head?" asked Klaus von
Hegewitz, in amazement. And drawing his sister to him, he stroked her
hair lovingly. "What should I do without you?"

She made a slight convulsive movement, and freed herself from his arms.

"But, listen, sister," he continued, "I know whence such feelings come.
You must become low-spirited in this old nest; you have no companions of
your own age, you withdraw more and more from every youthful pleasure,
and, although you think you can do without these things, you will have
to pay for it some day."

Anna Maria shook her head.

"Yes, yes!" he continued, stepping in front of the window, and his tall
figure obstructed the sunlight so that the room grew dark all at once.
"I have seen more of life, I know it. What should you think, Anna Maria,
if you--" He paused and drew a letter from his pocket. "I had better
read the letter to you. I was just looking for you, to talk with you
about it. Professor Mattoni is dead!"

Anna Maria looked over to him sympathetically. Klaus had turned around
and was looking out of the window; the paper in his hand shook slightly.
She knew how deeply the news of this death touched him. Professor
Mattoni had been his tutor, had lived in Bütze for years, and the
pleasantest memories of his boyhood were connected with this man. As a
youth he had had in him a truly fatherly friend and adviser, and had
since visited him every year, in Berlin, where he held a position as
professor in the E---- Institute.

Anna Maria took her brother's hand and pressed it silently. "Yet one
true friend less," she then said; "we shall soon be quite alone, Klaus!"

"He was more than a friend to me, Anna Maria," he replied gently, "he
was a father to me."

She nodded; she knew it well. "And the letter?" she asked.

"A last request, almost illegible; he wishes that I should take charge
of his little daughter, till she--so he writes--till she is independent
enough to take up the battle of life."

"His little daughter?" asked Anna Maria. "Had he still so young a
child?"

"I am sorry to say," said Klaus, "that I know nothing at all of his
family affairs. He married late in life, and probably had every reason
for not presenting his better half: some said he picked her up somewhere
in Hungary; others, that she had been a chorus singer in one of the
inferior theatres in Berlin. I never spoke to him about it, and when I
went to his house I saw in his study no indications that any female
being presided there. I have never noticed anything on my frequent
visits to show that such a person lived with Mattoni, and remember just
once that while we were having a pleasant hour's chat, a child's cry
came from the next room, whereupon he got up and knocked emphatically on
the door. The screaming child was probably carried to a back room, for
it grew still next door, and we talked on. Then I once heard that his
wife was dead; I have never seen any outward tokens of affliction on
him, but the child seems to be alive."

"And now, Klaus?"

The tall man had turned, and was looking absently at the little wooden
cradle.

"And now, Anna Maria? I owe him so much"--he spoke almost
imploringly--"may I impose such a burden upon you?"

"Klaus, what a question! Of course! Please take the necessary steps at
once, and have the child come."

"The child, Anna Maria? Why, I think she must have reached the limits of
childhood now!"

"That doesn't matter, Klaus. Then I will instruct her in housekeeping,
and all sorts of things which she may find useful in her life."

"I thank you sincerely, Anna Maria," he replied; "I hope you will take
pleasure in the girl." He said this with a sigh of relief, which did not
escape Anna Maria's ear.

"You act exactly as if you had been afraid of me, Klaus," she remarked,
with a passing smile; "as if I should not always wish anything that
seemed desirable to you."

"Just because I know that, Anna Maria," he said, grasping her hands
affectionately, "I wish, too, that you might do it gladly, that it might
be no sacrifice to you----"

"I am really and truly glad the child is coming," she said honestly. And
so they stood opposite each other in the forsaken lumber-room; it was
now flooded with sunshine, and the two strong figures stood out from a
golden background. The shadows of the young leaves about the window
played lightly over them, and the call of the thrush echoed from the
woods far away without.

"A sacrifice!" he had said, and yet they had each already made the
greatest sacrifice of which a human heart is capable, and each thought
it unknown to the other. And at their feet rocked the heavy cradle,
moved by Anna Maria's dress, and it rocked on, long after the two had
left the room.



CHAPTER VI.


Thirty years had passed away, and on a stormy autumn evening a young
couple sat before a crackling fire, in Bütze Manor-house--she, a
slender, girlish figure, fair, with pleasant blue eyes; he, tall, or
seeming so from a certain delicacy of form, and also fair; but a pair of
bright brown eyes contrasted strangely with his light hair.

Without, the wind was raging about the old house, as it had done many
years before, and sang of past times; now and then it set up a howl of
furious rage, and then sounded again in low, long-drawn, plaintive
tones, as if singing a long-forgotten love-song.

The young wife in the comfortable easy-chair had been listening to it a
long time; now she said in a clear voice:

"Klaus, this would be just the evening to read aloud the journal."

He started up out of a deep revery. "What journal, my child!"

"That little packet of papers that we found the other day, in rummaging
about in Aunt Rosamond's writing-desk."

He nodded. "Yes, we will do it," he said, "it will be a bit of family
history, perhaps about my parents. I was just thinking how little I know
of them, and it makes me sad. Mother Anna Maria makes her account so
short and scanty, as if she did not like to talk about it, and whenever
she mentions her only brother her eyes grow moist. Come, sit down on the
sofa with me; I will get the papers."

He rose, went to an old-fashioned desk, and took a little packet of
papers from the middle drawer. The young wife had meanwhile taken up a
bit of dainty needlework, and now they sat, side by side, on the sofa,
before the lamp, and he unfolded the sheets.

"What a pretty old handwriting," he said. "See, Marie!"

She nodded. "One can make quite a picture of the writer from
that--small, delicate, and good, as loving as the first words sound."

"Yes," he replied, "she was good and kind. I remember her so distinctly
yet. She used to give me sugarplums and colored pictures, and at
Christmas she used to come as Knecht Ruprecht, and I should certainly
have been frightened if I had not recognized Aunt Rosamond by her voice
and limp."

"Ah, but please read, Klaus," begged the young wife impatiently; and he
began obediently:

"My dear Anna Maria has driven away again with little Klaus----"

"That is you!" interrupted the young wife, laughing.

He nodded; his fine eyes gleamed softly. "But now be still," he said;
"for Aunt Rosamond surely never thought such a disturber of the peace
would ever put her nose in here."

"You bad man! Give me a kiss for that!"

"That, too?" he sighed comically. "There, but be quiet now!" And he
began again:

"My dear Anna Maria has driven away again with little Klaus. It has
become very quiet at Bütze, not a sound in the great house; even
Brockelmann is no longer heard, for since last winter she has taken to
wearing felt slippers. All the rooms down-stairs are shut up, and it is
melancholy. Anna Maria consoles me, to be sure, by saying that there
will be life enough here again when the child has grown large; but, dear
me, by that time I shall have long been lying in the garden yonder! Oh,
I wish I might live to hear merry voices ringing again through the house
at Bütze, and see the rooms down-stairs occupied; but I do not believe
it possible. Well, I must not allow myself to be overpowered by the
loneliness and tediousness about me; I sit at my desk and will try to
narrate the late events here, in regular order. So much has happened
here; the stories rush to my mind all confused, but I should like to
recall the past in proper order.

"If I only knew how to begin! I have already cut three goose-quills to
pieces! I look out of the window, the trees are clad in the first green,
the sky is blue, only a dark line of cloud rising over the barn yonder.
It is warm and sultry, as before an approaching thunder-storm, and now
another spring day rises before my eyes, and now I know.

"It was a ninth of May, just as damp and sultry as to-day. Anna Maria
came in to me. My room was up-stairs here then, on the same story, the
same big flowered furniture stood here, and I was the same infirm,
limping old creature, only fresher and brighter; I laughed more than any
one in the house in those days. I can see Anna Maria before me so
distinctly, as she stood there by the spinet in her every-day gray
dress, with a black taffeta apron over it, and the bunch of keys at her
belt.

"'Aunt Rosamond, will you look at the room which I have been getting
ready for the child?' she asked, and I rose, and limped along beside her
down the hall as far as the large, dark room. I never could bear the
room, and to-day, as I entered it, it oppressed me like a nightmare. To
be sure, dazzling white pillows stood up beneath the green curtains of
the canopy, and a spray of elder on the toilet-table sent its fragrance
through the room; but neither this nor the sultry air which came in at
the window could improve the damp, cold atmosphere, or convey any degree
of comfort to the room.

"'You ought to have had it warmed, Anna Maria,' said I, with a little
shiver, 'and had that unpleasant picture taken away.' And I pointed to
the half-length portrait of a young woman looking boldly and saucily
forth into the world, with a pair of sparkling black eyes, who was
called in the family the 'Mischief-maker.' According to an old,
half-forgotten story, she had come by her nickname from her black eyes
having been the cause of a duel between two Hegewitz brothers, in which
one was killed by his brother's hand. A Hegewitz herself, and lingering
at Bütze on a visit, she had deliberately married another man. How,
when, and where, it happened, the story did not tell; but her portrait
had remained at Bütze, and hung from time immemorial in this room.

"'Ah! let the picture stay: the child does not know whom it represents,'
replied Anna Maria. 'I think it is quite comfortable and pleasant here,
Aunt Rosamond, with the view into the garden.'

"Anna Maria had, literally, no idea of comfort, so her remark did not
surprise me. She lacked that charming feminine faculty of making all the
surroundings pleasing with a few flowers or a bit of graceful drapery.
'The poor thing,' thought I, 'coming from Berlin--to this dreary
solitude!'

"Anna Maria had suddenly turned around to me, and her face, usually so
austere, was glowing with tenderness. 'Aunt Rosamond,' she said, 'do you
know, I am really glad the little Susanna Mattoni is coming!'

"'And I am glad for you, Anna Maria,' I replied, 'for you need a
friend.'

"'I need no friend,' she replied bluntly, 'and how could that young
thing be a companion for me? She is a child, a poor orphaned child, in
need of love, and I will--' She broke off, and a hot blush spread over
her face.

"'You are still young yourself, Anna Maria,' I interposed, 'and I think
she must be seventeen years old.'

"'Years do not make the age, Aunt Rosamond, but the soul, the nature,
the experiences. If God will, she shall find in me rather a mother, for
as a companion I am worth nothing. I should have to conform her to
myself--oh, never!'

"I knew that Anna Maria's whole heart, usually so coldly closed, had
opened to receive a fatherless and motherless creature, to love it, in
her way, with all her might--in her way, indeed, and that was not
understood by every one. How much time have I spent in trying to fathom
that nature, which apparently lay open to every eye, against whose sharp
corners and angles almost every one ran, who had anything to do with
her.

"'Has Klaus gone to meet your guest?' I asked.

"'No, he rode out into the fields. Why should he?' she rejoined. 'Old
Maier drove away to S---- yesterday, and I think every second she must
come. I only hope it will be before the approaching thunder-storm
breaks!'

"The unpleasant stillness before the threatening storm pervaded the
outside world. I went up to Anna Maria at the open window and looked at
the black clouds looming up in the horizon. My eyes roved beyond the
trees in the garden, out into the country; strangely near seemed the
dark forests and Dambitz with its clumsy tower.

"'How near Dambitz looks,' I remarked, 'and it is really so far away.'

"Anna Maria turned quickly. 'Very far,' she said listlessly.

"'Stürmer still stays away,' I began, designedly. I felt compassion for
the man whom an incomprehensible whim of a girl had driven away into the
world, just when he had hoped to find a home and heart; I had once, for
the space of half an hour, imagined that she loved him.

"I received no answer, but about the girl's lips there lay such an
expression of pride and defiant resolution that I resolved never to
mention that name again. She gazed fixedly at the dark clouds, and at
last said, in a wearily oppressed tone: 'Is not that the rumbling of a
carriage?'

"'Perhaps the thunder,' I replied. But before we had closed the window
and I had looked around the room again, Brockelmann stood, with flushed
face, before Anna Maria. 'Gracious Fräulein, she is--they are here--God
in Heaven!'

"'What is the matter?' asked Anna Maria.

"'There are two of them, Fräulein, and queer enough she looks--the old
woman, I mean. And a thunder-storm like this is just the time for them
to come to the house in!'

"The storm had indeed broken loose, with thunder and lightning, and
torrents of rain. The old woman made haste to light the candles on the
great mantel, for it was almost dark in the room.

"'They are coming up-stairs already!' she cried, and hurried out,
leaving the door open.

"Anna Maria had not interrupted the old woman by a word; it was not her
way to apprehend quickly a new turn of affairs. So she snuffed the
candles quite composedly and remained standing by the mantel, so as to
keep the door in sight. Her face was as cold and still again as usual,
and did not show the slightest trace of expectation or curiosity, nor
did it alter when in the door-way. But how shall I describe the young
creature who, as suddenly as in a fairy-tale, stepped over the
threshold?

"There never was but one Susanna Mattoni! I do not know whether she
could be called a beauty; perhaps her sparkling brown eyes were too
large for that, too widely opened for the narrow face, the nose too
short, the lips too full, and the complexion too pale; but this I know,
that only by an effort I suppressed an exclamation of surprise, as she
stood there, so small and slight, in her closely-fitting black dress, as
if she had been charmed thither. Her light mantle had slipped from her
shoulders, and a pair of very slender hands had impetuously thrown back
the crape veil from her hat. It was evident that the young girl was in a
state of great excitement; her searching, anxious eyes rested on Anna
Maria's imposing figure, and then dropped to the floor in embarrassment;
she apparently did not know what to do now, and breathed timidly and
faintly.

"'God bless your coming, Susanna Mattoni!' said Anna Maria, in her deep
voice; and she put her arm for a moment around the slender figure. 'May
Bütze please you as a temporary home!' There was an unwonted sympathy in
these words, and as she bent down to the stranger I had to smile at my
former opinion. Anna Maria needed no friend; young as she was, she stood
by Susanna Mattoni with the maternal dignity of a woman of forty. It
was remarkable how she utterly belied her youth in everything she did.

"But at this moment it first became clear what Brockelmann had meant
when she spoke of two--of the old woman. At the threshold of the room
appeared the figure of a small, elderly woman, in a worn black silk
gown, a shawl embroidered in red and yellow over her shoulders, and an
ill-shaped hood of black crape on her head, from which a yellowish,
wrinkled face looked forth; a pair of small dark eyes darted like
lightning about the room; then she ran to Anna Maria, who was regarding
her in amazement, and with a theatrical gesture raised her clasped hands
to her. 'Oh, Mademoiselle, pardon my intrusion, but the child--I could
not part from Susanna!'

"'Stop that!' commanded Anna Maria, decidedly disturbed. 'Who are you?'

"The woman dropped her eyes and was silent.

"'Fräulein Mattoni, who is the woman?' said Anna Maria, turning to the
young girl, who, it seemed to me, looked timidly at her companion.
Susanna was silent too. There was no sound but that of the rain beating
against the windows, and swaying the branches of the trees. Anna Maria
waited quietly a few minutes.

"'I have been in Professor Mattoni's household since Susanna's birth,'
the old woman now began, 'and----'

"'The child's nurse, then?' Anna Maria said, cutting off her speech.
'Very well, you may stay here twenty-four hours, and see how your
demoiselle is provided for. Brockelmann,' she ordered the old woman,
who, with a chambermaid, had just brought up a trunk that seemed as
light as a feather, 'make up a bed in the gray room for the woman. And
you, Susanna Mattoni, need to be alone after so long a journey. Make
yourself comfortable till supper-time; punctually at seven, I shall
expect you in the dining-room.' She took her basket of keys from the
mantel, and noticing me, motioned to Susanna and introduced her to me as
our future household companion. The little thing shyly kissed my hand,
and as I raised her chin a little to look at her face again, I saw that
tears were shining in the brown eyes. 'Heavens!' I thought as I went
out, 'how will this little princess get on here in that gloomy room, in
Anna Maria's chilling atmosphere?' I quietly patted the pale little
cheek, and followed my niece. Outside in the corridor we met Klaus,
dripping wet, having just dismounted from his horse.

"'And so she is really here, then, the new accession to the family?' he
asked, giving himself a shake in his wet clothes. 'Well, what does she
look like, the little Berliner?'

"I opened the door of my room, and the brother and sister entered.

"'You will see her, Klaus,' replied Anna Maria.

"'Right, little sister, that is true; I will change my clothes first of
all.'

"'Yes, Klaus, but be quick: I would like to settle something with you
before you see the young lady at table.'

"'Young lady? Whew!' rejoined the brother, and a disagreeable expression
lay for a moment on his kind, handsome face. 'Do you wish me to put on a
dress-coat, Anna Maria?' He laughed.

"'Well, you will open your eyes, too, Klauschen,' thought I; and all at
once a thought came to me that fell like the weight of a mountain on my
soul, whether it would not be better if this Susanna Mattoni, together
with her black-eyed witch of a nurse, were a thousand miles away?

"When Klaus and Anna Maria had gone, I stood still in the middle of the
room and said aloud, with a fierce conviction: 'The two children have
made an unpardonably stupid move; what will come of it?' And much came
of it! If the succession of sorrow, tears, and bitter hours that
followed Susanna Mattoni's little feet could have been foreseen on her
arrival, Anna Maria would have given not only the old woman, but Susanna
herself, no longer than twenty-four hours to stay in her house!

"I was still standing on the same spot when the door flew open, and
Susanna's old companion entered. 'Gracious Fräulein,' she cried
anxiously, 'do come; the child--she is weeping, she is ill, she will
kill herself!'

"The excited creature wrung her hands, and her whole frame trembled. I
limped across to the girl's room, again with the thought, 'What will
come of it?' Susanna was sitting, half undressed, at the toilet-table,
her dark hair falling loosely over a white dressing-sack; her face was
buried in her hands, and she was crying. The old woman rushed up to her:
'Darling, the kind lady is here; she will be good to us, she will let me
stay here, and will speak a good word to the Fräulein; please now, my
lamb, she surely will.'

"Susanna Mattoni raised her head and dried the tears from her great
eyes; when she saw me she sprang up, and again I felt the magical charm
that surrounded the young creature. 'What is the matter, my child?' I
asked tenderly.

"'You are very kind, Mademoiselle,' she answered; 'it is only the
strangeness and the long journey.' And she shivered with cold.

"'Dress yourself quickly,' I advised her, 'there is a fire in the
dining-room, and the warm supper will do you good.'

"The old woman seized a comb and drew it with evident pride through the
beautiful hair, and waited on the Professor's young daughter as if she
were really a princess. She talked meanwhile of her delicate
constitution and her nerves. I quite forgot going, and at that stood
still in amazement. Merciful Heaven! In old houses in the Mark 'nerves'
were not yet the fashion. What would Anna Maria say, what would----?

"Anna Maria had spoken of having Susanna acquire the art of
housekeeping, so that in the future she might help herself through life
with her own hands. And here! a maid, nerves, the beauty of a _grande
dame_ with the little hands and feet of a child.

"And now the old woman took from the trunk a little black dress,
evidently quite new, and trimmed with bows, flounces, and the Lord knows
what! Over the shining white neck she laid a black gauze fichu, which
she gracefully arranged on the bodice, and beneath the short skirts
peeped two shoes laced up with silk ribbons, such as scarcely ever
before glided over the old floors of Bütze Manor-house. Certainly the
old woman understood her business. Susanna Mattoni was, as she stood
there, the most charming girl I have ever seen, before or since, in my
long life.

"'God help me, what will be the end of it?' I asked myself for the third
time, as the old woman broke off a white spray of elder, and placed it,
correctly and not without coquetry, in the fichu.

"'But, my dear,' I said aloud, 'there is no company here this evening.
We eat to-day _en famille_, buckwheat groats with milk.'

"But I got no answer; the busy lady's maid bent quickly to pull one or
two bows straight, and I glanced from Susanna--the color in whose cheeks
had mounted to a bright red--to the trunk, which looked suspiciously
empty after the taking out of the new dress. The old woman observed me,
and quickly shut the cover. 'The clock is striking seven,' she said; and
in fact, the weak, thin tone of the Bütze church-bell was heard just
seven times, and at once began the noisy sound of the servants'
supper-bell.

"'Come,' said I to her, 'the servants' room is down-stairs.'

"'Thank you,' she replied, with a look of refusal. 'I am not at all
hungry; but I would like to ask for some wood, for the child cannot
sleep in this damp atmosphere.'

"I directed her to Brockelmann, and conducted Susanna Mattoni to the
dining-room.

"Oh, I could paint the scene now! The four candles on the table vied
with the rosy twilight, and in the vaulted window-niche stood Klaus and
Anna Maria. He had put his arm around her, and had been saying some
kind, serious word--they never stood so near each other again! I seem to
see, at this moment, how they turned around toward me--how Klaus, full
of surprise, looked past me at the slender, girlish figure; how Anna
Maria was suddenly transfixed--and I could not blame either of them! I
have scarcely ever seen Susanna Mattoni more charming, more maidenly,
than at that moment, when she stood in embarrassment before the young
friend of her father. I wondered if she had imagined he was different.

"A warm glow overspread her delicate face; Anna Maria blushed, too. I do
not know whether it was fear or anger that caused her to touch Klaus's
arm, as he stepped forward to say some words of welcome to Susanna.

"'Please come to the table!' called Anna Maria. 'Here, Fräulein Mattoni,
beside Aunt Rosamond.' As we stood at our places she said, in a
strangely faltering voice, the old grace: 'The eyes of all wait upon
Thee, O Lord!' The 'Amen' almost stuck in her throat, and in the look
which she gave the young girl's dainty dress, and which fell with
especial sharpness on the white flowers, I saw what the clock had struck
for Anna Maria. It was almost amusing to me to compare the two girls, so
unlike, and to wonder whether the high-necked, gray woollen dress and
the dainty little silk gown would ever live side by side, without having
to make mutual concessions.

"Klaus talked to Susanna, who sat opposite him. He touched upon the
subject of her deceased father, but gave it up at once when he saw the
great eyes fill with tears, which she bravely tried to swallow with the
strange buckwheat groats. A fresh egg, afterward, seemed to taste better
to her, but with a timorous smile she refused a glass of foaming brown
beer, and I am convinced that she rose unsatisfied from the table.

"The candles were lighted in the sitting-room, and at the master's place
lay a plate of tobacco and a matchbox beside the newspaper. At Anna
Maria's place lay her knitting-work, and at mine spectacles and
Pompadour, just as Brockelmann arranged them every evening, except that
in winter Anna Maria had her spinning-wheel instead of her knitting.
To-night Klaus did not take his pipe from the shelf in the corner;
Susanna Mattoni's delicate form sank into his comfortable easy-chair,
and her small head nestled back in the cushions; but Klaus, like a true
cavalier, with a chivalry that became him admirably, sat on a stool
opposite her.

"The conversation, in which Anna Maria joined but little, turned upon
Berlin. Susanna was well informed about her native city, and now
chattered charmingly and without embarrassment; her eyes shone, her
cheeks grew red, and a roguish dimple displayed itself every instant.
Now she was in the opera-house or theatre, in the Thiergarten or in
Charlottenburg; now she related anecdotes of the royal family. All this
came out in a confused jumble, and Klaus did not grow tired of asking
questions. The newspaper lay disregarded, and his pipe did not receive a
glance.

"Anna Maria sat silent, and knit. At nine o'clock she broke into the
conversation. 'I think you must be tired, Fräulein Mattoni,' she said;
and one could perceive what an effort she made to speak kindly. 'We
usually retire about ten, but you need an extra hour's sleep to-night.'
And as Brockelmann appeared, in answer to the bell, the little thing,
with a certain astonishment in her eyes, said 'Good-night,' like an
obedient child. She turned around at the door, and asked, with a sweet,
imploring expression on her little face: 'May Isa sleep in my room?'

"'A bed has been made up in another room for your companion,' replied
Anna Maria; 'you are surely not afraid? Brockelmann's room is next
door.'

"Susanna did not reply, but made another exceedingly graceful courtesy
and vanished.

"'Do let the old woman sleep with her,' said Klaus; 'think how forlorn
her first night in a strange house must be!'

"But Anna Maria did not reply; she got her brother's pipe from the
shelf, and, smiling, pushed him into his easy-chair, and took up her
knitting again.

"'There, Klaus, I beg of you, don't be so nonsensical in the future as
to sit on a footstool. That was very uncomfortable.'

"'Sooner dead than impolite!' he replied good-humoredly.

"'Everything in its time!' she rejoined. 'Susanna Mattoni is to be a
member of our household, and there is nothing so tiresome as formal
politeness and constraint. Susanna can sit on that stool just as well as
you.'

"'_Bon_, Anna Maria! But now, what do you really think of her?'

"'Since you ask me plainly, Klaus, I will answer you plainly. I say that
I expected to receive something different into the house.'

"'So did I,' he rejoined laconically, drawing the first whiffs from his
pipe.

"'And that if anything is to be made of the girl, the old woman must go
away to-morrow.'

"'She is right,' thought I to myself, 'if it is only not too late!'

"Klaus took up the newspaper. 'Well, Anna Maria, there may be something
to say about that by and by; but let her stay a week or two, so that she
may see how Fräulein Mattoni gets on.'

"'Am I to bring up the girl or not?' Anna Maria interrupted, with a
roughness such as she had never before shown toward her brother. 'How is
this spoiled lady of fashion to learn to take care of herself and to use
her hands, if that person remains at her side, to put on her shoes and
stockings for her whenever it is possible, and turn her head with
flowers and frivolities? Twenty-four hours I have said, and not a
minute longer; two such totally different methods as hers and mine
cannot agree.'

"Klaus looked in surprise at the excited face. 'You are right, Anna
Maria,' he said appeasingly. 'I am only afraid that this being will
never develop according to your mind. She seems to me----'

"'Made of different material!' finished Anna Maria ironically. 'I tell
you, that will be no hindrance to me, in educating a girl whose calling
it is to make herself useful in the world; affected dolls, painted
cheeks, and theatrical pomp, I will not endure in my house!'

"She had risen, and all the indignation which the old woman's skill at
the toilet had called forth now glowed on her red cheeks and shone from
her sparkling eyes.

"Klaus laid down the newspaper which he had just taken up. 'I beg you,
Anna Maria,' he said, almost indignantly, 'cannot that be settled
quietly? The girl has only this minute come into the house, and is she
to make discord between us already?'

"Anna Maria sat down again in silence, and took up her knitting. But
after a little while she rose hastily, tied a black lace scarf over her
fair hair, and went out.

"Klaus followed her with his eyes. 'Aunt Rosamond, what is this?' he
asked, sighing.

"'She expected something different, Klaus,' I said; 'it is a
disappointment.'

"'The girl is charming, Aunt Rosamond. I can understand the Professor's
anxiety about her. But how will she get on with Anna Maria's energy?
There are not only hens and such useful creatures in the world, but the
good God has made birds of paradise as well!'

"'Klauschen,' came from the depths of my heart, 'let the bird of
paradise fly away; it is not suited to your nest.'

"'Never, Aunt Rosamond,' he replied quickly. 'I am bound by the last
wish of the man whom I loved best in the whole world!' He was red, and
his eyes shone moistly, and it struck me, at this moment, what a
handsome, stately man he was.

"Brockelmann's entrance put an end to our conversation. She was hunting
for Anna Maria, and looked irritated: 'It is too provoking, master; the
old woman isn't suited with her bed, and means to sit up all night in
her young lady's room. And there is a fire there hot enough to roast an
ox, and that in May! She is doing some cooking, too; the whole room
smells of green tea.' Muttering away, she disappeared.

"Klaus laughed aloud. 'Open rebellion, Aunt Rosamond! Do me a favor, and
look after these two strangers. Perhaps you will be able to point out to
the old woman that--well, that she can't stay here.'

"This really seemed to me the best thing to do, and I went up-stairs.
Through the hall window I caught sight of Anna Maria in the damp,
moonlit garden; she was standing motionless, like a dark shadow, and
looking out toward the dusky country. 'Strange girl,' thought I; 'if an
ugly little creature in a patched dress had come to the house to-day,
she would have taken it to her heart, and kissed it--and now?'

"As I entered Susanna's room without knocking, the old woman hastily
motioned to me to come softly, for her charge was asleep. She was
sitting in a high-backed chair by the bed, and, as I came nearer, rose
and drew aside the curtains for me to look at the girl.

"There lay the young thing in the deep sleep of fatigue, breathing
softly and quietly, a smile on the red lips; the drooping lashes rested
like dark shadows on the child's pale cheeks. Her little night-dress,
trimmed with imitation lace and adorned with a profusion of bows, did
not look badly in the dim light which came from two candles and the
dying embers in the fire-place. The slender hands were folded, and the
dark hair lay loosely over the white pillow. Yes, she was charming, this
maiden in her sweet slumber.

"'Is she not beautiful? Is she not lovely?' said the old woman's proud
smile.

"I nodded. 'Poor little bird of paradise!' I thought, 'how your gay,
shining feathers will be plucked. Well for you if you do not miss them!'
And, bethinking myself of my promise to Klaus, I turned and beckoned to
the old woman. By the fire-place I overturned a little silver kettle and
a cup that were standing on the floor. Aha, the tea-making apparatus! On
the sofa lay the clothes which Susanna had worn to-day, in picturesque
disorder; one little shoe was on the floor, the other I noticed on the
dressing-table, and beside it hats, ribbons, and all sorts of frippery,
in the wildest confusion.

"'Will you not put the things away in the wardrobes intended for them,'
I asked softly, 'so that Susanna can find them without your help?'

"'She will not need to,' the old woman replied confidently, and looked
at me with a friendly grin. 'They surely cannot be so cruel as to
separate us.'

"'Certainly, my dear, you will leave the house to-morrow, and Susanna
Mattoni will remain under our protection, as her father was promised.
There was nothing said about you in this matter.'

"'Then give me a rope at once,' whispered the old woman passionately,
'that I may hang myself on the nearest limb! What am I to do, then?
Where shall I go? I had a foreboding as we drove through the gate that
ill-luck awaited me!'

"'My niece will surely allow you to visit your former charge from time
to time,' I said, to console her.

"'And what is to become of her?' she asked, pointing to the sleeping
girl. 'She is not accustomed to be without me for a moment! No, no, I am
not going; I cannot go. If this young lady has no sympathy, surely the
kind gentleman will have, who used to come so often to the Professor.
Where is he? I will beg him on my knees, I will beg him to let me stay
here.'

"'Listen, my friend,' I said earnestly, and took hold of the flowing
silk sleeves of her dress. 'It will be for your young lady's best good
if you are parted from her. This much I know, that Professor Mattoni has
left the girl quite without means, and it is now high time she learned
to put on her shoes and stockings alone. A poor demoiselle, of citizen's
rank, needs no lady's maid. She must learn to work and to make herself
useful.'

"'Oh, Heaven!' sobbed the little dried-up woman, 'I thought she was to
be a guest in this house, and you will make a servant of her.'

"A harsh answer was at my tongue's end. Had her tenderness for the girl
made this woman perfectly crazy? At any rate, she was not to be reasoned
with. 'Go down-stairs,' said I, in vexation, 'and carry your complaint
to the master. He will know better, at least, how to make you comprehend
what sort of a position Susanna Mattoni is to occupy here.'

"She dried her tears, seized a candle, and flew to the mirror, bustled
about with comb and brush, and spread over her yellow face something
from various little jars. I began to feel a real horror of the old
woman, with her artifices. Now she tied her cap-strings afresh, pulled
from the trunk a lace-edged handkerchief, and holding it theatrically in
her hand, said she was ready to pay her respects to the master.

"'Were you formerly on the stage?' I asked, wondering at her red, full
cheeks.

"'For ten years, Mademoiselle!' she replied; 'I played the gay, her
mother'--she pointed to Susanna--'the tragic lovers. Oh, it was
glorious, that acting together!'

"What she further related I did not understand. 'Merciful Heaven!' I
faltered, as I opened the door softly and showed her out into the hall,
'what has Klaus brought upon us, in his kind-heartedness?'

"I sat still by the girl's bed, and looked at the young face. God only
knew in what slough this fair flower had grown! It was clear that the
old woman must go away, if anything was ever to be made of the girl;
please God it might not be too late!

"The light from the candles scarcely sufficed to light up the nearest
objects. Dense obscurity lay in the corners, but the oil-portrait of the
Mischief-maker was feebly illuminated, and her black eyes seemed to give
me a demoniacal look. A vague fear came over me; involuntarily I folded
my hands in prayer: 'O Lord, Thy ways are wonderful! Lead us gently, let
not the peace go out from us that has dwelt so long beneath this roof,
let no second Mischief-maker have crossed this threshold, preserve the
old, sacred bond between Klaus and Anna Maria. Amen!'

"At this moment the door opened and the old actress came back. She did
not deign to look at me, but knelt down by the bed, laid her head on the
pillow, and began to weep bitterly.

"'Isa! Isa!' murmured Susanna in her sleep. The old woman raised her
head and pressed the dark hair to her lips.

"'I am going, Mademoiselle,' she whispered to me; 'no one has a heart
here in this house. But if a hair of her head is hurt, or a tear falls
from her eyes, I--I--' She gasped out a few words more, and threw
herself down again beside the bed.

"'When shall you leave?' I asked.

"'Early in the morning,' she replied, in a lifeless tone.

"'Then lie down now, and go to sleep,' I said, pointing to the sofa, and
prepared to leave the room.

"'Oh, Mademoiselle!' She sprang up and held me fast. 'Promise me you
will be kind to Susanna, you will speak a kind word to her if she
cries!'

"'Certainly, as far as I can; but she will receive only kindness from
every one here.'

"'Not from the blonde lady,' she said. 'She is a girl without a heart;
perhaps she never had one, perhaps it is dead. She does not know what
youth, beauty, and love are. She never laughs. I notice that people who
cannot laugh are envious of every being that can be happy, that pleases
others by its charm; she will never love Susanna!'

"She spoke pathetically and theatrically, yet a tone of deep pain rang
through her words.

"'Life is so serious,' I returned.

"'But laughing, cheerfulness, beauty are the air she breathes,' began
the strange person again.

"'I promise you to look after the child,' said I, about to go; but in
vain. She held me by the dress, and begged me to hear first, for God's
sake, that it was not tyranny or arbitrary choice that bound her to the
child, but a sacred promise. And whether I would or not, I had to
listen to a story which the old woman delivered as if she were on the
stage, and which, in spite of the whispered tone in which it was given,
was, by means of gestures and rolling of the eyes, a perfect specimen of
high mimic art. I could not now repeat the words as they came from the
lips of the old actress, but only know now that she contrived to
announce that she was just forty years old and had been very beautiful.
The old song came into my head, which a poet puts into the mouth of his
old harpist:

    "'I once was young and fair,
    But my beauty's gone--ah, where?
    On my cheeks were roses red,
    And bright curls upon my head.
    When I was young and fair!
    When I was young and fair!'

"I did not dispute her pretended forty years, and she now unrolled
before my eyes a phase of life so varied and irregular, and yet again so
full of the poetry of a vagabond existence, that Father Goethe would
surely have been glad to have it to insert in 'Wilhelm Meister.' To make
a short story of it, Professor Mattoni had really loved _her_, when, in
consequence of a mood, to her inexplicable, he transferred his affection
to her fellow-actress. 'I was senseless from pain, Mademoiselle,' she
threw in, 'but I governed myself. I became the most indispensable friend
of Mattoni's young wife.'

"She now described this person as a dreamy creature, beautiful as a
picture but quite uneducated; and the Professor, as an imperious man,
who, when he failed to find in his wife the companionship of his soul's
creation, treated her worse than a servant-maid. '_En vérité_,
Mademoiselle, she was stupid; the thickest wall would have--' And she
made a gesture, as if to test with _her_ head whether the walls at
Bütze were a match for it. 'Oh, the men, even the wisest and best of
them are blinded when they love, Mademoiselle! He had received his
punishment for his breach of faith toward me.'

"Then followed a description of the Mattoni household, in which Isabella
Pfannenschmidt, as my informant was called, heartily interested herself.
She became housekeeper for Frau Mattoni, who read novels all day long or
played with her cat. The women lived in a little back room, and the
Professor occupied two rooms as formerly. They received from him such
scanty means of support that often they knew not how to satisfy their
hunger. The troupe with which Isabella Pfannenschmidt had an engagement
went away from Berlin, but she could not go with them: 'for,
Mademoiselle, she and the child would have perished in dirt and misery;
she was a person who would go hungry if food were not put right under
her nose, rather than get up from her lazy position on the sofa, and the
Professor took all his meals at a restaurant. He did not want people to
find out that he had a wife and child, anyway. We dared not stir if any
one was with him. Susanna's first frock was made from a cast-off red
velvet dress, cut over, in which her mother once used to play queens.
The father never looked at the charming child till his wife had closed
her dreamy eyes forever. Then, as he went up to her bier, and his child
reached out her little hand after the few scanty flowers I had bought
with my last penny, he was first shaken out of the stupidity of the last
few years. He knelt down with the child and prayed God to forgive him
his wrong-doing! Well, good intentions are cheap, to be sure! He did
give somewhat more for our household expenses, and I was enabled to
dress Susanna so we could show ourselves publicly without attracting
attention; he even let her have lessons, and she learned bravely. He
never inquired for me, and yet I have remained true to him all these
long years; it was as if my care and work were a matter of course. He
had no longer a look for me, the past seemed to be wiped out from his
memory; and yet I have passed my youth in sorrow for his sake, I have
taken care of his wife and child, and now--now she is taken from me!
What have I done to deserve this?'

"I was truly sorry for the little weeping woman, though the facts as to
her age and former beauty might be somewhat different, and though her
statement that he once had loved her might not be strictly true; at any
rate, she had loved him as truly as a poor, weak woman's heart can love.
For his sake she had loved his child, and without a murmur suffered want
and hunger for her sake. And now he repaid her by taking the child away
from her. Poor Isabella Pfannenschmidt, you have lived in vain! The
flame which burns in your heart shines forth triumphantly over all the
theatrical trumpery and baubles clinging to you, poor old Isabella! And
yet it would be a pity for this child to have to breathe in that dusty,
paint-scented atmosphere any longer. No, Isabella, you must go, though
the heart of the once gay actress break over it.

"'Susanna will always be fond of you,' I comforted her, 'and never
forget what you have done for her.'

"'Oh, that she will--that she will! She has her father's nature,' sobbed
the old woman; 'she will forget me, and, what's more, she will be
ashamed of me.'

"'You make a sad exposure of the child's heart, my dear,' said I
reprovingly.

"She started up. 'Oh, no, no! she really is good.' she murmured, 'very
good. And,' she continued, 'I shall not go very far away either, only to
the nearest town. What should I do in Berlin? I should die of longing. I
will hire a room in S---- and sew for money; I can embroider well, with
colored wool and gold thread. And if the longing becomes too great, I
can run up the highway, and if need be up here, to look at the house
where she lives.'

"And now she began, amid streaming tears, to pick out one after another
of the garments lying around, and to lay them in a white cloth, and in
so doing caught up the little shoe on the table, and pressed the narrow
sole to her cheek.

"'Don't forget the little jar of paint,' I whispered, in spite of my
sympathy.

"She shook her head. 'No, no, I shall pack up everything. I will do it
at once, for if she wakes I cannot say good-by. I shall go before
daybreak.'

"I held out my hand to her, for I was sorry for her. 'Go away easy; the
child is well off here--and may the thought console you, that it is for
Susanna's best good.' I went out, and as I turned again, in closing the
door, I saw in the dim light the little gypsy-like creature sitting on
the floor, amid all her rubbish and trumpery, and weeping, her face
buried in her hands."



CHAPTER VII.


"My first inquiry the next morning was for the old woman. She was gone,
I learned, and the Fräulein was already with the stranger in her room.
'Anna Maria's education is beginning,' I said with a sigh, and ate my
rye porridge less cheerfully than usual. Yesterday lay behind me like a
confused dream, and Susanna's presence in the house oppressed me with
the weight of a mountain. Soon I heard Anna Maria's metallic voice in
the corridor; she was speaking French, so speaking to Susanna at all
events. I caught only a few disconnected words, before she knocked at my
door, and came into the room with the young girl.

"'We wish to say good-morning to you, aunt,' she began pleasantly. I
gave a searching glance at Susanna; a pair of great tears still hung on
her lashes, but the laugh--which was her element--lay hidden in the
dimples of her cheeks and shone from her beautiful eyes, as if only
waiting an opportunity to break forth.

"She wore her black travelling-dress of yesterday, but Anna Maria had
tied a woollen wrap about her shoulders. In spite of that, the sight of
her was like a ray of sunshine.

"'I would like to ask, Aunt Rosamond,' said Anna Maria, 'if you have
some little duty for Susanna, and beg you to let her profit, in the
future, by your skill in needlework. I have been examining her--she can
do nothing!'

"'Certainly, Anna Maria!' I was glad to have, in a certain degree, a
slight claim on the girl. 'Do you like knitting, Susanna?' I asked.

"She laughed and shook her head. 'Oh, no, no! I grow dizzy when I see
knitting always round and round.'

"Anna Maria did not seem to hear this answer. 'Fräulein von Hegewitz
will teach you netting and plain knitting,' she said; 'with me you shall
learn to understand the mysteries of housekeeping. And now we will have
breakfast, and then begin at once. Klaus has been in the field for a
long time already,' she added; 'the first grass is to be cut to-day.'

"And they went. Susanna tripped along, with hanging head, behind Anna
Maria. 'Is she pursuing the right method with this child?' I wondered.
'With her energy she will destroy all at once, all the results of former
education; but it surely is not possible. God help her to the right
way!'

"Later, as I was taking my walk through the garden, I saw Susanna coming
along by the pond; she did not walk, she actually flew, with
outstretched arms, as if she would press to her heart the green tops of
the old trees, the golden sunshine, and all the birds singing so
jubilantly to-day, and all nature. Her short skirts were flying, the
woollen wrap had disappeared, and her white shoulders emerged like wax
from the deep black of her dress. Indescribably charming she looked,
thus rushing along; she must have escaped somehow from Anna Maria. Close
by my hiding-place she stood still, and looked up at the blue sky; then,
singing lightly, she stooped, picked a narcissus and fastened the white
flowers in her bosom, and then put her hand into her dress pocket, and
drew out something which she put quickly into her mouth, but which did
not interfere with her singing, for now as she went on she trilled the
words:

    'Batti, batti, o bel Masetto
      la tua povera Zerlina.'

"I followed her slowly, and observed lying in the path a little object
wrapped in white paper, which she had evidently lost. 'A bonbon! Well,
that is the height of folly!' said I, taking it up in vexation. 'One
could not expect anything different from such bringing up.' And as I
unwrapped the thing, I found in it a French motto, a more sugary and
frivolous one than which could scarcely have been composed in the time
of Louis XIV., supposing that bonbon mottoes were known at that time.
'If Anna Maria knew of this, with her pure, maidenly mind!' I thought,
shaking my head. 'Oh, Klaus, for my part, I wish your bird of paradise
were in the moon, at any rate not here.' I overtook her at the next turn
of the path, where there was a red thorn in the splendor of full bloom;
it bent its branches almost humbly under this superabundance of rosy
adornment, at which Susanna was looking admiringly.

"'Oh, how charming!' she cried, as she saw me. 'Oh, how wonderfully
beautiful!' And the purest joy shone from her eyes. How did that accord
with the bonbon motto?

"In that moment I resolved not to lose confidence in the girl's
character, and at every opportunity to help lift the young spirit into
higher regions. I have honestly striven to fulfil this promise. I may
testify to it to myself--not so violently, not in so dictatorial and
severe a manner as Anna Maria did I proceed; not like Klaus either. Ah,
me--Klaus! Those first eight weeks in general! Ah, if I only knew how to
describe the time which now followed! There is so little to say, and yet
such an immense change was brought about in our house.

"Whether Susanna Mattoni ever missed her old nurse, I did not know. When
she awoke on that first morning and found Anna Maria by her bed instead
of the little actress, to inform her that the latter had left the house,
great tears had streamed from her eyes. Anna Maria had said: 'Be
reasonable, Susanna, and do not make a request that I cannot grant.' And
Susanna had replied, with an inimitable mingling of childishness and
pride: 'Have no fear, Fräulein von Hegewitz, I never ask a second time!'

"Anna Maria told me about it later, years afterward. Indeed, there was
no slight amount of pride in that little head.

"Anna Maria began the practical education with the thoroughness peculiar
to her in everything. With her iron constitution, her need of bodily
activity, she had no suspicion that there were people in the world for
whom such activity might be too much. Susanna had to go through kitchen
and cellar, Susanna was initiated into the mysteries of the great
washing, and Susanna drove with her, afternoons, in the burning heat
into the fields, in order to explore the agricultural botany. Anna
Maria's face showed a glimmer of happiness; she now had some one to whom
she was indispensable, so she thought.

"And Klaus? Klaus had never in his life sat so constantly in his room as
now; he went into the garden-parlor seldom or never, and only at
mealtimes came to look into the sitting-room or out on the terrace. And
then his eyes would rest on Susanna with a strange expression, anxiously
and compassionately it seemed to me. He said not a word against Anna
Maria's management.

"'Aunt Rosamond,' the latter said sadly to me one day, 'I fear Susanna's
being here is a burden to Klaus; he is quiet, depressed, and not at all
as he used to be.'

"'Why _that_ cause, Anna Maria?' said I. 'Klaus does seem out of humor,
that is true, but may it not be something else? Farmers have a new cause
for vexation every day, and are never at a loss for one.'

"'Ah, no, Aunt Rosamond!' she replied. 'There has not been the prospect
of such a harvest for years; it is a pleasure to go through the fields.'

"And Susanna, the breath of whose life was laughing? She wandered about
like a dreamer. How often, when she sat opposite me in the sewing-room,
her hands dropped in her lap, and she went to sleep, like an overweary
child. And I let her sleep, for on the pale little face the marks of the
unwonted manner of life were only too perceptible. Once Klaus came into
the room, as she sat there, fallen asleep, like little Princess
Domröschen, only, instead of the spindle, the netting-needle in her
hand. He came nearer on tip-toe, and looked at her, his arms at his
sides. Then he asked softly:

"'Do you not think she looks wretchedly, aunt?'

"'The altered mode of life, Klaus,' I answered, 'the strange food,
the----'

"'Say the over-exertion, aunt,' he broke in; 'that would be nearer the
truth. Poor little one!'

"'Why do you not say so to Anna Maria, Klaus? I, too, think that too
much is required in this early rising and continually being on the
feet.'

"He grew very red, bit his lips, and shrugged his shoulders in place of
an answer, and left me before I had time to speak further.

"Susanna, moreover, never uttered a word of complaint; but it would
happen that Anna Maria had to seek her, seek for hours without finding
her, and that Klaus very quietly remarked, 'She must have run away!' But
she would appear again suddenly, with bright eyes and red cheeks, to be
sure; she had gone astray in the wood, she said, or gone to sleep in the
garden. Sometimes she would shut herself into her dull room, and open
the door to no knocks. Once, as she pulled her handkerchief quickly out
of her pocket, a paper of bonbons fell to the floor. Anna Maria, who
despised all sweetmeats, confiscated it at once; I can still see the
look of punishment she gave the blushing girl. We were all sitting on
the terrace, just after supper; Klaus had been reading aloud from the
newspaper, and this was usually a moment when Susanna waked from her
dreaming; her shining eyes were fixed on Klaus, and a rosy gleam spread
over the pale face. Klaus held the good old 'Tante Voss,' and read aloud
every little story which alluded to Berlin; that habit was now quietly
introduced, whereas he had formerly read only certain political news,
that he might talk about it with Anna Maria.

"The falling bonbon package broke right into a report from the
opera-house, where Sontag had sung with wild applause. Klaus let the
paper drop, observed Anna Maria's look and the gesture with which she
laid the unlucky package beside her, and saw Susanna's confusion.

"'Show me the package, Anna Maria,' he asked; and unwrapping one of the
bonbons in colored paper, he said, 'Ah! these are miserable things
indeed; they must taste splendidly!' He smiled as he said this, and the
smile put Susanna beside herself.

"'I--I do not eat them at all!' she cried, 'I only have them for the
little children who come to the fence there below; they are pleased with
them, I know, for nothing was more beautiful to me when I was a child
than a bonbon!'

"She said this so touchingly and childishly, in spite of her excitement,
that Klaus begged for her hand as if in atonement.

"'Susanna, you might poison the village children with this bad stuff. I
will get some other bonbons for you that will taste good to you
yourself.'

"Anna Maria rose, apparently indifferent, put the dish of fragrant
strawberries which she had been hulling for preserving on the great
stone table, and went slowly down the steps into the garden. When she
came up again, an hour had passed, and the moon appeared over the gabled
roof and shone brightly into her proud face.

"'Where is Susanna?' she asked. The child had just gone down to the
garden, and Klaus was smoking a pipe in peace of mind. She seated
herself quietly in her place and looked out over the moonlit tree-tops
into the warm summer night. Then she said suddenly:

"'May I say something to you, Klaus?'

"'Certainly, Anna Maria,' he replied.

"'Then do not give Susanna any bonbons; that is, do not contradict me so
directly when I have occasion to reprove her.'

"Klaus sat bolt upright in his wooden chair. 'Anna Maria,' he began, 'I
don't think you can complain of my having found fault with or revoked
any regulation of yours with regard to Fräulein Mattoni; although'--he
stopped, and knocked the ashes from his pipe against the flagstones.

"'Did I do anything with Susanna which displeased you?' she asked.

"But she got no answer, for just then the subject of discussion flew up
the steps, and sat down again, modestly, in her place. Anna Maria rose,
took a shawl from her shoulders, and wrapped it about the girl who was
breathing very fast. 'You are heated, Susanna, you might take cold.'
Klaus now smoked the faster, and on saying good-night held out both
hands to Anna Maria; but she placed hers in them only lightly.

"Ah, yes, the first omens, slight and scarcely noticeable! Perhaps they
would have escaped my eyes if I had not had, from the very first, a
foreboding of coming evil. I do not know if Susanna received the
promised bonbons. Probably not; and after that episode everything went
on in the usual course, until there came a day full of unforeseen
events, full of developments, which placed us all at once in the most
dreadful entanglements.

"It was an oppressively hot day, just in the middle of the harvesting.
In the court-yard and in the house a veritable deathly stillness
reigned, and not even a leaf on the trees stirred under the scorching
midday sun. I sat in one of the deep window-niches of the great hall
which lies on the garden side of the house and opens out on the terrace.
Here it was endurable, for the heat could not easily penetrate the thick
walls, and the tall elms which shaded the terrace, and the wild-grape
which covered it with its luxurious festoons, made a cool, green, dim
light. Even now the garden-parlor is my favorite retreat during the warm
weather. At that time, however, there was no carved-oak furniture here,
nor was there a gay mosaic pavement on the terrace; the white varnished
chairs and the couches covered with red-flowered chintz answered the
same purpose, as did the worn old sandstone flags with which the terrace
was paved, in whose crevices grass and all sorts of weeds sprung up
picturesquely; and the heavy gray sandstone railing had quite as feudal
a look as the artistic wrought-iron balustrade there now, and, to tell
the truth, pleased me better. Some of us have such an affection to the
old things; but that is pardonable, I think.

"So I was sitting in the garden-parlor, and growing a little dreamy, as
I still like to do, and listening abstractedly to Anna Maria's voice as
she went over her accounts, half aloud, in the sitting-room close by.
Klaus was in the fields again, for the first wheat was to be brought in
to-day, and I was waiting for Susanna to come for a sewing lesson, but
in vain. She must be asleep, I thought, half content to think so, for
the heat fairly paralyzed my will-power. And so a long time passed, till
a heavy step sounded on the stone flags outside, and immediately after
Klaus, dusty and red with heat, came in and threw himself wearily into
the nearest chair.

"'Where is Susanna?' he asked, wiping his hot forehead with his
handkerchief.

"'She is sleeping, probably,' I replied.

"'Are you sure of that, Aunt Rosamond?'

"'No, Klaus, but I think it may be assumed with tolerable certainty. I
know her.'

"'It is strange,' he remarked; 'I could have sworn I saw her vanish in
the Darnbitz pines a little while ago.'

"'For Heaven's sake!' I cried incredulously. 'Impossible! in this heat!
It is half an hour's walk from here!'

"'So I said to myself; but the gait, all the motions, the small,
black-robed figure--indeed, I rode across the field at once, but of
course nothing was to be heard or seen then.'

"'I will wager she is sleeping quietly up-stairs in her canopied bed, or
staring at the "Mischief-maker,"' said I jestingly.

"'And now, aunt,' began Klaus again, 'I have a piece of news which will
please you as it has me; but I do not know if Anna Maria--But then, it
is nearly three years since that painful affair!'

"As he spoke he took a letter from the pocket of his linen coat, and
looking at it said: 'Stürmer is back again, indeed has been for two
weeks; I do not understand----'

"At that instant something fell clattering to the floor, and in the
door-way stood Anna Maria, white as a corpse. In questioning alarm her
eyes were fixed on Klaus's lips. I had never seen the strong-willed girl
thus. Klaus sprang up and went toward her; I heard her say only the one
word 'Stürmer.'

"'He is here, Anna Maria,' replied her brother; 'does that startle you
so?'

"She shook her head, but her looks belied her.

"'I have just received this note,' continued Klaus, and he read as
follows:

     "'MY DEAR OLD FRIEND:

     "'I landed here again two weeks ago, for the longing for home
     finally overcame me; and when one has wandered about for three
     years, it is time, for various reasons, to return to the
     ancestral home. I come from--but I will tell you all that when
     I see you. I have already been twice before your door, to say
     good-day, but--I am meanwhile of the opinion that the past
     should not interfere with our old friendly relations. I
     certainly came off conqueror! It will not be hard for Anna
     Maria to receive an old friend, which I have never ceased to
     be, and which I shall always endeavor to remain. May I come,
     then? To-morrow morning, after church, I had intended to make a
     call, if you permit it. My compliments to the ladies.

     "'Ever yours,

     "'EDWIN STÜRMER.'

"A deep pink flush had mounted to Anna Maria's cheeks as he read, and at
the words 'I certainly came off conqueror! It will not be hard for Anna
Maria to receive an old friend,' there was a quiver of pain on her
delicate lips. When Klaus finished, she had quite recovered her
self-possession. 'I shall be glad to see Edwin Stürmer again,' she said
clearly; 'ask him to eat a plate of soup with us.'

"'That is lovely of you, Anna Maria!' cried Klaus, rejoiced. 'The poor
fellow has gotten over it, it is to be hoped; meeting again for the
first time is naturally somewhat painful, but you have done nothing so
bad. How could you help it that he loves you, and you not him? Splendid
old fellow, he----'

"Anna Maria's eyes wandered with a strange expression over the green
trees outside; she kept her lips tightly closed, as if making an effort
to repress a cry, and was still standing thus when Klaus sat down at the
writing table near by, to answer Stürmer's note.

"'Where is Susanna?' she asked at last.

"'She must be asleep,' I replied.

"She turned and left the room.

"'Klaus,' I said, going up to him, 'it seems to me a dangerous
experiment for Stürmer to return here.'

"'Why, aunt?' he asked; 'Anna Maria certainly does not love him; and he?
Bah! If he were not sure of his heart, he would not come; he simply
declares himself cured!'

"'Are you so sure that Anna Maria does not love him?'

"He looked at me, as if to read in my face whether or no I had lost my
senses. 'I don't understand that, aunt,' he replied, shaking his head.
'If she loves him she would have married him; there was nothing in the
world to hinder. For Heaven's sake, aunt, don't see any ghosts. I am so
inexpressibly glad to have a man again in the neighborhood with whom one
can talk about something besides the harvest and the weather.'

"Yes, yes! He was right, of course. I did not know myself at that moment
how the thought had really come to me.

"And Klaus rode into the field again, and I sat waiting for Susanna;
round about, the deepest silence, only a couple of flies buzzing about
on the window-panes; an hour slipped away, and yet another. Why, why,
the hands of the clock were pointing all at once at half-past six; I had
had a nap, as ailing old maids have a right to do occasionally. The
sinking sun was now peeping, deep golden, through the trees; one such
impertinent ray had waked me. Had Susanna been here? I rose and went to
my room, and then across to Susanna's: it was impossible that she should
still be sleeping.

"No, the room was empty. The sun flooded it for a moment with a crimson
light, and made it seem almost cosey; or was it the bunches of flowers
all about on the tables and stands? Even the 'Mischief-maker' had a
garland of corn-flowers hung over the frame, and a sunbeam falling
obliquely on her full lips lit them up with a crimson light. No trace of
Susanna; her black gauze fichu lay on the floor in the middle of the
room; on the sofa, half-hidden in the cushions, was a note. I drew it
out--old maids are allowed to be curious--and my eyes fell on a bold
handwriting which, to my surprise, read as follows:

"'Three o'clock this afternoon, in the Dambitz pines!'

"How every possibility whirled through my head then! Klaus had seen
aright! But who, for Heaven's sake, had written this? With whom had
Susanna a meeting there! I thought and thought, and all manner of
strange ideas arose in my mind, and Susanna did not come; she had never
stayed away so long before. The supper-bell rang, and we three sat alone
again at the table, for the first time in a long while, and worried
about the girl. All the servants were questioned, and two lads sent
along the Dambitz road.

"I did not know if I ought to speak of the letter. I should have liked
to speak first to Susanna alone; so I decided to wait and not cause any
further disturbance. Anna Maria was noticeably indifferent, and thought
Susanna would certainly come soon, she had probably gone to sleep in the
wood. But she must have felt an inward anxiety, for her hands trembled
and her face was flushed with excitement.

"Klaus rose without having tasted anything. After a little we heard
again the sound of horse's hoofs on the pavement of the court; he was
riding out then to search for the missing one. Anna Maria mechanically
gave her orders for next day, and I walked alone through the dusky paths
in the garden. It was an unusually warm August evening; the moon was
rising in the east, the steel-blue sky above was cloudless, and from the
wood there came a light, refreshing breath of air. From the court came
the sound of men and maids singing, as they made merry after the hot
day's work. Ah! how many, many such evenings had I known here, and this
one brought back to me a precious memory of my youth, with all its
pleasure and all its suffering. Every tree, every bush I had known from
my earliest youth. Everything which life had brought to me was
associated with this little spot of ground. That feeling is known only
to one who can say to himself, 'Here on this spot you were born, here
will you live, and here will you die,' and it is a sweet feeling! So I
sat down in perfect content on a bench at the end of the garden, and in
my dim retreat rejoiced in all the beauty about me, yet at the same time
worrying about Susanna. Then I suddenly heard some one talking not far
from me:

"'And then don't look so sorrowful to-morrow, do you hear, Susy? And in
any case wear the white dress to church to-morrow; I have my reasons for
wishing it. And to-morrow afternoon I will come; it has been long
enough, I can certainly come to visit you for once. And don't let out
anything, darling. What will you answer if they ask you where you have
been so long?'

"'Nothing at all!' answered Susanna's voice defiantly. 'I do not like to
tell a lie, I shall not do it; but I shall not come to Dambitz again, it
is too far away for me.'

"'Very fine!' was the reply; and I now recognized the voice of the old
actress. 'I have walked about with you in my arms all night long many a
time, no step was too much for me; and you will not go an hour's
distance away for my sake? I think of nothing but you and your future; I
devise plans and take pains to make your lot happy; I take up my abode
in a wretched peasant's house with a shingle roof, and everlasting smell
of the stable only to be near you; I sew my eyes and fingers sore--and
you--?' And she broke out in violent sobbing, which, however, it seemed
to me, made no impression upon Susanna, for she remained still as a
mouse.

"'Go, Susy, be good,' the old woman began again. 'I have just given you
the pretty little dress to-day; look at it by and by and see how
carefully it is embroidered.' And now her voice sank to a whisper, and
immediately after Susanna's little figure ran quickly from the thicket
and passed close by me; she carried a white parcel in her hand, and her
round hat on her arm. I could distinctly see her flashing eyes and red
cheeks. I rose quickly, I _must_ speak before any one else saw her.
'Susanna!' I tried to call, but the name remained on my lips; for in the
path along which she flew stood, as if charmed thither, the tall figure
of a man, and Klaus's deep voice sounded in my ears:

"'Susanna! Thank God!'

"Had I heard aright? They were only three simple words, words which
perhaps every one would say to a person who had been missed and
anxiously sought. But here a perfect torrent of passion and anxiety
gushed forth, as hot and stifling as the summer night in which the words
were spoken.

"I sat down again and leaned my swimming head on my hand. 'My God,
Klaus, Klaus!' I stammered. 'What is to come of this? This child! Their
circumstances compare so unfavorably, he cannot possibly want to marry
her; what, then, draws him to her? What conflicts must arise if he
really thinks of it! God preserve him from such a passion! It is surely
impossible; it cannot, must not be! Oh, Susanna, that you had never come
to this house!'

"And round about me whispered the night-wind in the trees; the full moon
had risen golden, and bathed field and wood with a bluish light. And
Susanna is so young, and Susanna is so fair! Was it, then, strange if
Klaus loved her? What cared love and passion for all the considerations
which I had just brought up. And their--Oh, God! what would Anna Maria
say?

"And I rose, quite depressed, to go to my room and collect my thoughts.
Klaus must have taken Susanna into the house long ago. Now Anna Maria
would ask where she had been. And she would not answer, as often before,
and Anna Maria would speak harsh words and Klaus walk restlessly about
the room! Nothing of all this. As I went slowly along the path I caught
sight of a dark figure on the stone bench under the linden. 'Anna
Maria?' I asked myself. 'Is she waiting here for Susanna?' She looked
fixedly out toward the dark country, and the moon made her face look
whiter than ever.

"'Anna Maria!' I called, 'Susanna has come back!' She sprang up
suddenly, hastily drawing her lace veil over her forehead; but I saw, as
I came nearer, that tears were shining in her eyes.

"'Have you been anxious?' I asked, and put my arm in hers, to support
myself, as we walked on.

"'Anxious?' she repeated questioningly. 'Yes--no,' she replied absently.
'Ah, you said Susanna has come? I knew perfectly well that she would,
aunt, she is so fond of roving about; that comes from the vagabond blood
of her mother, no doubt.'

"'Anna Maria!' I exclaimed, startled.

"'Certainly, Aunt Rose,' she repeated, 'it is in her, it ferments in her
little head and shines from her eyes. So often I have noticed when she
is standing by me or sitting opposite me, busied with some work, how her
looks wander away, in eager impatience; how only the consciousness 'I
must obey' compels her to stay still by me. Then she naturally makes use
of every opportunity to rush out, to lie down under some tree and forget
time and the present. Happy being, thus constituted, through whose veins
runs no slow, pedantic, duty-bound blood!'

"We were standing just at the bottom of the terrace, and I involuntarily
seized hold of the railing to steady myself. Was it Anna Maria who spoke
such words! Was not the whole world turned upside down then? And I saw
in the moonlight that her lips quivered and tears shone in her eyes. Had
Anna Maria something to regret in her life? And, like a flash of
lightning, Edwin Stürmer's handsome face came before my mind's eye.

"'Anna Maria,' I whispered, 'what did you say? Who--?' But I got no
further, for the sound of a woman's voice fell on our ears; so full, so
sweet and ringing the tones floated out on the summer night, so
strangely were time and tune suited to the words, that we lingered there
breathless. Anna Maria looked up toward the open window in the upper
story. 'Susanna!' she said softly.

    'Home have I come, my heart burns with pain.
    Ah, that I only could wander again!'

sounded down below.

"But what was the matter with Anna Maria? She fairly flew back into the
garden. I stood still and waited; the singing above had ceased. 'Anna
Maria!' I called. No answer. What an evening this was, to be sure! Anna
Maria, who took the most serious view of the world, who hated nothing
more than sentimentality and moonlight reveries, was running about in
the garden, moved to tears by a little song! They were all
incomprehensible to me to-day--Klaus, Susanna, and Anna Maria, but
especially the latter. How could I talk to her about Susanna to-day? I
had to keep my discovery to myself; the best thing I could do would be
to go up myself to Susanna and ask her, for we should hardly assemble
about the round table in the sitting-room this evening, and Anna Maria
would hardly be in the mood to read aloud the evening prayers as usual.
And Klaus? No, I would not see him at all; better to-morrow by daylight,
when he would be his old self again, when his voice would have lost its
sultry summer-night cadence, it was to be hoped. No more to-day, I had
had enough. I should not be able to sleep, as it was.

"And so I went, like a ghost, up the moonlit steps, and stole along the
corridor to Susanna's door, and knocked softly. No answer. I lifted the
latch and went in. The room was lighted only by the moon, and the heavy
odor of flowers came toward me; a pale ray shone just over the white
pillows of the bed and fell on Susanna's face. She was fast asleep; her
neck and arms glistened like marble. Should I wake her? She would surely
stifle in this air. I stole past her, opened a window, and set the
bunches of flowers out on the balcony. The room looked topsy-turvy, but
on the sofa was spread out with evident care the toilet for
to-morrow--the white dress, little shoes and stockings, even hat and
hymn-book for church.

"I closed the window again softly and stole out of the girl's room. Let
her sleep; in this enchanted moonlight it would be impossible to say
anything reasonable, I thought. Indeed, I reproached myself afterward
for not having waked her from her dreams, in order to have brought all
my old maid's prose to bear against all this flower-scented poetry. But
what would it have availed? For God Almighty holds in his hands the
threads of human destiny. It had to be thus."



CHAPTER VIII.


"The next morning broke as prosaic and calm as I could desire. The sun
shone with obtrusive clearness into the most remote corner, and
mercilessly set out everything in a dazzling light. From below,
out-of-doors, I heard the sound of Anna Maria's voice, and caught
something about 'string-beans for the servants' kitchen.' Klaus whistled
out of the window, and immediately after I heard a dialogue concerning
Waldemann (the _Teckel_), who was just limping across the court, having
jammed his foot in the stable-door, according to the coachman's account.
Klaus's voice, thank God, had not a suspicion of that weak intonation of
last evening. Relieved, and smiling at my fears of yesterday, I got
ready for church. If we can only get well over the first meeting with
Stürmer, it may be quite a pleasant Sunday, I reasoned; I was wishing
some visitor would come, that we might not be so much by ourselves.

"When our church-bell began to ring we three of the family were standing
down-stairs in the sitting-room waiting for Susanna. Anna Maria looked
weary and unnerved, and an old sort of expression lay about her mouth;
she moved quickly and was plainly out of humor at Susanna's want of
punctuality. The festal earnestness that usually pervaded her whole
being in going to church was lacking to-day. 'Rieke!' she called to the
housemaid, 'go to Fräulein Mattoni and ask if she will be ready soon;
we are waiting for her.' The girl came back with the answer that the
young lady had not quite finished her toilet, and begged the others to
go on.

"'I will wait for her,' said Klaus quickly, right out of his kind,
chivalrous heart, but it brought to my mind the voice of last evening.

"'You will let your old aunt limp to church alone, for the first time?'
I asked jokingly.

"'Ah, _pardon_!' he replied at once. 'Old my aunt certainly is not yet;
on that ground I might leave you; but I--may I beg the honor?' he asked,
offering me his arm.

"Anna Maria walked ahead; there was something majestic in her walk, and
as she stepped from the garden through the gate of the church-yard, and,
walking between the rows of graves, recognized the peasants with an
inclination of her fair head, kindly stroking the flaxen heads of the
children, and here and there saying a friendly word to an old man or
woman, all eyes followed her with reverence and admiration, while Klaus
received more trusting looks, and even cheers. When in our pew in the
church, she bent her head low and prayed long, and then cast a shy look
toward the opposite gallery, the place of the Dambitz gentry; Dambitz
had always been in the parish of Bütze, and many a happy time have the
Stürmers sat on that side and the Hegewitzes on this, and listened to
the simple discourse of the clergyman and bowed the head in devout
humility. Those were the good old times, when the nobility led the way
before the people, with the motto: 'Fear God and honor the king!'

"All at once a thrill went through Anna Maria's body, but her face
looked coldly over to the Stürmer gallery; she bent her head slightly
and returned a greeting. There he was standing bodily, my old favorite,
and I almost nodded my head off at him and made secret signs with my
handkerchief. His dark eyes sent a happy greeting across to me--Edwin
Stürmer was really there.

"The clear voice with which Anna Maria joined in the singing drew my
looks to her again. She sang quietly with the congregation, but a
crimson flush of deep agitation lay on her face; it was evidently
excessively painful to her to see him again.

"What the sermon was about on that day I cannot tell, for before the
clergyman ascended the pulpit something occurred which nearly put an end
to the devotions of all the small congregation and obliged me to leave
the church.

"I had fixed my eyes steadily on Stürmer, as if I could not look my fill
at the man's handsome curly head; and the good God surely forgave me,
for I was as fond of Edwin as if he were my own child. All at once,
during the singing, I saw him start and look intently across to me; and,
following the direction of his gaze, I observed--Susanna. She had on a
white muslin dress, her neck and arms lightly covered by the misty
material; she held her hat in her hand, her black hair clustered in rich
curls about her small head; a white rose was placed carelessly in her
hair, and a bunch of the same flowers rose and fell on her bosom, and as
white as they was her sweet face as she raised it again after a short
prayer.

"Most beautiful was this young creature, but, may God forgive me! I was
bitterly angry with her for being so and for coming to church dressed up
as if for a ball. 'Incorrigible comedian blood,' I scolded to myself. I
thanked God that Klaus could not see her from his seat, and gave Stürmer
an unfriendly look because he kept looking over at our pew. All at once,
as the clergyman was singing the liturgy, Susanna put her hand to her
forehead, as if to grasp something there, and then sank back silently,
with closed eyes, into her seat.

"I cannot tell now the exact order in which all this happened; I only
remember that a chair was overturned with a loud noise, that the
clergyman was silent for an instant, and that there was a movement among
the congregation; at the same time Klaus left our pew, carrying out the
white figure in his arms, like a feather. I rose at once to follow him.
Anna Maria's head was bent low over her hymn-book; was she going to take
no notice of the affair? But now she slowly rose, and went behind me
down the narrow, creaking flight of steps which led up outside the
church to our pew; it was provided with a wooden roof as a protection
against wind and storms, and the ivy which grew over the whole church
adorned it like a bridal arch with green festoons.

"Klaus was just disappearing into one of the nearest cottages, whose
shining window-panes looked out like clear eyes beneath the gray
shingle-roof, not at all sad at the constant view of the little
church-yard. Marieken Märtens and her husband lived here; she had been
in Anna Maria's service, a quick, industrious girl, but once was sent
away in the utmost haste because she--but that has nothing to do with
the case. Anna Maria had her brought back again at that time, and she
was married from the manor-house, and since then Anna Maria and I had
each held a curly brown head over the font. When there was anything
going on at our house--that is, when there was extra work--Marieken came
and helped.

"She was at the threshold coming to meet us already, wiping her hands on
her clean apron, and pushing back her eldest child. 'She is lying on the
sofa inside,' she whispered. 'Oh, the master looks pale as death from
fright!' Anna Maria stepped by me into the little room; she made a sign
for me to stay outside, so I sat down on the wooden stool that Marieken
placed in the entry for me, and listened intently for every sound from
within.

"For a little while all was still. Marieken ran in with fresh water, and
then I heard Anna Maria say: 'How are you now, Susanna?'

"'Go back to church quite easy,' came the reply; 'it was a momentary
weakness. I am very sorry to have given you such anxiety and trouble.'
And the next moment the girl was standing on the threshold, a crimson
blush overspreading her whole face, and without noticing me at all, she
flew to the outside door and across the church-yard; her fluttering
white dress appeared again for an instant in the frame of the gateway
leading to our garden; then she had vanished like an apparition.

"Shaking my head, I rose to go into the little room and hear what was to
be done now. But I sat down again, almost stunned at the sound of
Klaus's voice, which came out to me so crushingly cold and clear:

"'I should like to ask you, Anna Maria, to occupy the girl hereafter in
some way better suited to her; this swoon was the natural effect of
constant over-exertion.'

"I could not picture Anna Maria to myself at this moment, for Klaus had
never used such a tone to her before. My old heart began to beat
violently from anxiety. 'It is here! It is here!' I said to myself.
'Yes, it had to come!'

"'I think this swoon is rather a consequence of Susanna's running about
too much in the fearful heat yesterday,' she replied coldly. 'However,
as you wish; I will leave it entirely to you to decide what occupation
is most fitting for Susanna Mattoni.'

"'Great heavens! Anna Maria, do you not understand?' Klaus rejoined,
almost imploringly. 'Look at the girl: she is delicate and accustomed to
the easy life of a large city, never to a regular life. I beg you not to
take it amiss, it is my opinion and----'

"'I am sorry that I have made such a mistake,' Anna Maria interrupted,
icily. 'I have tried to do my best for this unfortunate child, who has
grown up in most wretched circumstances. I wanted to make a capable,
housewifely maiden of her, but I see myself that such miserable comedian
blood is not to be improved, and I ask you now only for one thing----'

"She broke off. What would come now? I looked about me in horror to see
if any one were listening. But Marieken was clattering about with her
pots and pans in the kitchen, and the children were playing before the
outside door.

"'That you will not require me to endure this frivolous creature, this
frippery and finery, this trifling, flighty being. I have an unspeakable
aversion to her,' she concluded.

"'So that is your confession of faith, Anna Maria?' asked Klaus, and his
voice sounded angry. 'I tell you Susanna Mattoni remains here in the
family. I will have it, for a sacred promise binds me, and I hope that
you will never let her feel what you think of her. Her light-mindedness,
her unsteadiness, and all the faults which you have just cited, cannot
be laid to her charge, for from her youth up she has never learned to
recognize them as faults. Of frivolity, moreover, I have no evidences,
for a couple of bonbons do not seem to me sufficient proof.'

"'I cannot act contrary to my convictions,' returned Anna Maria, 'and if
I am no longer to educate Susanna as I think well for her, you had
better find another place for her.'

"I had sprung up and laid hold of the door-handle; for Heaven's sake!
there would be a quarrel. But the storm had already drawn near.

"'Susanna is to remain, I tell you!' thundered Klaus. 'Do you quite
forget who is master of the house? It appears to me I have let you go on
for years in an immeasurable error, in letting you govern uncontrolled,
and assenting to all your arrangements. It is time for you to remember
whose place it is to decide matters at Bütze.'

"Merciful Heaven! My knees trembled; how was this to end? And now there
was no sound there within; only the low singing of the young wife was
heard from the kitchen, where she was rocking her youngest child to
sleep; and I stole softly away from the door and sat down on the wooden
bench before the house. Over the quiet, green graves in the church-yard
lay a Sunday calm, only a light breath of wind rustled in the tall
trees. Over in the little church the sermon was just finished, the
sermon for the fifth Sunday after Trinity. The sound of the organ and
singing of the congregation floated across to me, and my lips repeated
the words:

    "'Ah! stay with thy clearness.
      Precious light, with us stay;
    Let thy truth shine upon us,
      That we go not astray.'

"Ah, yes, clearness, clearness and truth and peace; help us in all time
of need! I knew Klaus, I knew Anna Maria. An almost exaggerated sense of
duty, an iron will when she thought she was doing the right thing,
inflexibility--that was the Hegewitz character; good, solid qualities
when they got on peaceably together, but thus? And there was Stürmer
coming out of the church door; he had not waited till the hymn was
finished, and was now hastening up to me.

"'Fräulein Rosamond, you still here?' he asked. 'Who----'

"But I did not give him time to finish. 'Come, Edwin, give me your arm,
I have been waiting for some one to escort me back.' And actually
dragging away the astonished man, I succeeded in getting him into the
park without betraying the presence of Klaus and Anna Maria in the
little room.

"'And now, a thousand times welcome, dear Edwin,' said I, breathing
freely again, as we walked under the shady trees. 'How have you been?
How delightful it is to have you here again, and how well and strong you
are looking!'

"He bent to kiss my hand. 'Yes, thank God that I am among old friends
again!' he replied heartily. 'How have things gone here? But why do I
ask? Well, of course; at least, I saw you all unaltered in church. But I
would like to ask, at the risk of appearing curious, who was the young
lady who--oh!' He stopped, and pointed toward the thick, dark shrubbery
at one side, holding my arm so firmly in his that I was obliged to stand
still.

"There sat Susanna in the deepest shade of the thicket. She was leaning
her elbows on the table, and her oval face rested on her clasped hands;
motionless, like a lovely statue, she was looking down before her.

"A golden sunbeam flitted back and forth over the white figure; an
expression full of pain and woe lay on the lovely face, which I had
never before seen so sad and tearful.

"'The poor child!' I sighed involuntarily. And as Stürmer almost forced
me into a side-path, I briefly satisfied his curiosity. 'She is the
daughter of Professor Mattoni; you remember Klaus's old tutor?'

"My head was in a whirl, for I knew not what more might happen to-day.

"'And is she to live here always?' inquired Edwin Stürmer.

"'Yes--no!' I returned hesitatingly; I did not know what to answer. I
sought to reach the terrace and garden-parlor as quickly as possible,
and to my inexpressible relief saw Klaus, as if transported there by
magic, coming to the door to meet his guest; an uninitiated person would
scarcely have seen the slight cloud on his brow.

"I did not linger with them, but went to seek Anna Maria, and found her
in the sitting-room, pale but calm. I was glad to avoid the greeting
between her and Stürmer, and caught only his look as he bent low over
her hands.

"Anna Maria was a perfect enigma to me; I understood the outbreak of
passion of last evening as little as this decided opposition to-day. Yet
the latter was less inexplicable, for she too, must have seen the sparks
already glowing in Klaus's heart. But she had taken the wrong course.
Any man of chivalry, if told that he must turn a weak, helpless woman
out of the house where she has found a shelter, will refuse to do it;
particularly if she be as young, as strikingly beautiful as Susanna,
and--if he is already in love with her. To me it was an incontestable
fact: Klaus loved the girl! Perhaps he did not know yet himself how
much; but that he did love her I had seen and--feared.

"I came to the table in a thoroughly unpleasant frame of mind. 'To-day
is the beginning of the end: what will the end be?' I said to myself,
sighing. That was a strange dinner; Susanna had excused herself, Klaus
was chary of words, and Anna Maria forced herself to be talkative and
affable in a way quite contrary to her nature; a little red spot burned
on her chin, the sign of violent agitation.

"Brockelmann announced that the old actress had suddenly arrived; to be
sure, I had quite forgotten about her. Anna Maria made no answer; Klaus
looked sharply at her, and then gave orders for the old woman to be
given some dinner. Stürmer talked a long time about his travels, and
Pastor Grüne came to coffee. The gentlemen were soon involved in a
scientific conversation about the excavations at Pompeii, at which
Stürmer had been present several times, and Anna Maria walked slowly up
and down on the terrace, now and then casting a look at the gentlemen,
through the open door of the garden-parlor.

"I sat under the shady roof of the wild-grape, and knitted, and followed
her with my eyes. Anna Maria had on a light-blue linen dress, and a thin
white cape over her rosy shoulders; her heavy plaits shimmered like
gold, and her complexion was fresh as a flower. Anna Maria had made her
toilet with especial care to-day; she was the picture of a typical North
German woman, tall, fair, slender, and clear-sighted, serene, and calm.

"All at once she stopped in front of me. 'Aunt Rosamond, do you think
that Susanna Mattoni has been overworked in any way? I mean, can her
temporary weakness be the result of that?'

"'Yes, Anna Maria,' I replied, 'I am convinced of it, for she had not
been accustomed to doing anything. She has hitherto sat in a cage like a
bird; when such a creature tries to fly all at once, it is soon made
lame by the motion.'

"She made no reply, and continued her walking. The conversation grew
louder indoors; the gentlemen were now sitting over their Rhine wine.
The cool breeze of approaching evening began to blow, and the sun was
hidden behind a bank of clouds.

"'Ah! Stürmer, do stay till evening,' I heard Klaus say. 'It will never
do not to finish the day together, after beginning it so; do not pervert
our good old custom.'

"Anna Maria stood still and listened. But instead of an answer we heard
the chairs pushed back, and then Klaus's voice again:

"'Ah! Susanna, have you quite recovered? Allow me to present Baron
Stürmer.'

"Anna Maria turned and looked out toward the garden.

"Pastor Grüne inquired after the health of the young girl, and soon they
all came out on the terrace. Susanna went up to Anna Maria at once, and
held out her hand, saying: 'Forgive me for having frightened you this
morning. I do not know how it happened; everything grew dark before my
eyes, and----'

"'Oh! certainly,' interrupted Anna Maria, touching the girl's hand but
lightly; 'I was not at all frightened; a swoon is nothing so unusual.'

"Susanna blushed up to her black curls, and sat down quietly by my side.

"'Has Isa gone?' I asked her.

"She nodded. 'She went half an hour ago.'

"'Just where does she live?' I inquired.

"'In Dambitz,' was the reply.

"I let my work drop from astonishment. 'In Dambitz? How did she happen
to go to Dambitz?'

"'S---- was too far away, Fräulein Rosamond,' stammered Susanna shyly,
'and so she has hired a little room there at the blacksmith's. But she
says she does not notice the noise of the forge at all; her windows look
out on the castle garden, and that is wonderful, she says. She may live
there, may she not?' she added, beseechingly; 'it is certainly far
enough from here.'

"'Of course she can live where she pleases, Susanna,' said I; 'we have
no right to lay down commands about that.'

"Meanwhile Brockelmann had set the table for supper on the terrace, and
we seated ourselves. Candles were now burning on the table, and their
unsteady, flickering light fell on Susanna's beautiful pale face. Her
white dress was made quite fresh again, and even the withered roses were
replaced by fresh ones; one could see that the old Isabella had been
helping the child.

"Susanna was seated between Klaus and me, Stürmer and Anna Maria
opposite. There was a strawberry _bowle_ on the table, and Susanna drank
eagerly; gradually color came into her cheeks, and her dark eyes began
to shine. And then all at once she was in her element--laughing,
jesting, and mirth. And how she could laugh! I have never heard such a
laugh as Susanna Mattoni's. It ran the whole compass of the scale, so
light and delicious that one was forced to join in it; and as she
laughed, her red mouth displayed the prettiest white teeth, and prattled
mere nonsense and follies, and as she held high her glass to touch with
Stürmer, I saw Klaus look at her with an expression that spoke even
more plainly than his trembling voice yesterday.

"Anna Maria sat silent opposite her, and not the faintest smile passed
over her lips; this graceful trifling was decidedly unpleasant to her.
But Susanna had the majority on her side, for even honest old Pastor
Grüne did not conceal the fact that he was fascinated by her.

"I tried to think how I might silence the little red lips, but in vain.
At last a thought struck me. 'Susanna 'I cried in the midst of her sweet
laugh, 'Susanna, what do you say to a song? I heard you singing so
prettily last evening.'

"'Ah! no, no, Mademoiselle,' she objected; 'I cannot sing before
people.'

"But the gentlemen echoed my request with one voice, and Stürmer
proposed to extinguish the candles, saying that one could surely sing
better by moonlight.

"'Yes, yes!' she said joyfully, 'then I will sing!' And soon the reddish
light had disappeared, and the pale moon's silvery rays fell on the
bright figure of the girl, who had sprung up and was now standing by the
railing.

"'What shall I sing?' she asked, 'Italian or German?'

"'German! German!' cried the gentlemen.

"'Oh! please Susanna,' said I, 'the song you were singing last evening;
Anna Maria and I did not understand the words very well.'

"Anna Maria suddenly rose, but as if thinking better of it, sat down
again. Stürmer had turned half around in his chair and was looking at
Susanna.

"And now she began, leaning on the balustrade; and the same tones came
to us, soft and sweet, and the same words we had heard last evening:

    "'Far through the world I have wandered away,
    And the old strife goes with me wherever I stray;
    Home have I come, and my heart burns with pain,
    Ah, that I only could wander again!
    I am held not by walls, not by bolts, not by bars--
    Two great blue eyes hold me, that shine like the stars I
    And were but my fiery steed by my side,
    Again on his willing back fain would I ride;
    He would bear me away, far away from my home--
    But I've seen thee again, and can never more roam!'

"I looked at Anna Maria in alarm, but her face was turned away, and only
in her trembling white hands, which she had clasped, did I detect the
agitation wrought in her by this song. Who had thought of such a song?
And Stürmer? He had sprung up and stood close by Susanna.

"'Another song, Fräulein,' he demanded, almost vehemently, 'a different
one. You are much too young for such melancholy!'

"'A German knows no different songs, Herr Baron,' objected Pastor Grüne.
'Old national songs are sad, usually the lament for a faithless love,
for a dead treasure. Let our nation be as it is in this. I would rather
have one little German national song than a dozen French _chansons_.'

"Stürmer did not answer, and there was a painful silence.

"'Another song?' asked Susanna at last--'a lively one?'

"'Yes!' cried Klaus, 'a lively one, a hunting-song, Susanna, or a
drinking-song! 'He had risen in embarrassment at the critical situation,
and filled his glass afresh.

"And Susanna began, in a merry strain:

    "'In the early morn
      A-hunting I went,
    Past my darling's house
      My steps I bent.

    "'Up to the window
      A glance I threw.
    Ah! if she would look down,
      Good luck would ensue.

    "'In vain, she's still dreaming;
      But something stirred.
    By the apple-tree yonder
      A laugh was heard.

    "'And bright as the rosy
      Morning so fair,
    My dear little treasure
      I saw standing there.

    "'Nodding and smiling,
      She beckoned away,
    But not one lucky shot
      Had I on that day.

    "'Are they bewitched, then,
      My powder and lead?
    Each ball flies away,
      Bringing down nothing dead.'

"Susanna suddenly stopped, as if exhausted, and drew a long breath. The
laugh had vanished for a moment from her face.

"'More, more!' cried the gentlemen. 'The charming song cannot possibly
be finished?' asked Stürmer.

"'No, the conclusion is surely wanting,' added Pastor Grüne. And Susanna
drew a long breath and sang on:

    "'And again past the house
      I was going to-day;
    Little grandmother peeped at me
      Over the way.

    "'With a shake of the head.
      She calls with sweet grace,
    "God greet you, and are you
      Off to the chase?"

    "'And with all my might
      I cursed the old dame;
    But my arm remained steady,
      I missed no aim.

    "'And when in surprise
      I told Liebchen the tale.
    She began to laugh
      In a perfect gale.'

"The last verse ended in a real laugh, so roguish and charming and so
irresistible that we were all drawn into it.

"'Now that is enough!' she cried at last. 'Oh! I do so like to hear how
people have to laugh with me when I begin! Oh! I have done it so often
when Isa tried to scold me, but now'--she suddenly stopped--'I haven't
laughed for so long, I thought I should have forgotten how, but, thank
fortune, I can still do it! Oh, I do like to laugh so!'

"Anna Maria rose and went into the garden-parlor, as if she had
something to attend to there, but she did not come back, nor did she
come when Stürmer and the clergyman wished to take their leave of her.
Klaus looked for her in the sitting-room, and even went up to her
bedroom, but he returned alone, and the gentlemen had to leave without
bidding her good-by.

"'Pray excuse Anna Maria, dear Edwin,' I heard Klaus say; 'she probably
does not dream of your going so early; you are certainly in a great
hurry.'

"It was true; Stürmer's departure was very abrupt; toward the last he
had scarcely spoken a word. I thought it was because he was reminded of
his first love; that melody and the words still kept ringing in my ears;
an unfortunate song!

"Susanna had long been in bed when Klaus and I stood together in the
sitting-room again. I had firmly resolved to inform him of my
observations of the evening before, for I saw that Anna Maria was not to
be spoken to again about Susanna.

"'Klaus!' I began. He was walking slowly up and down, his hands behind
him, and an anxious wrinkle on his brow. 'Klaus, do you know where the
old actress is living now?'

"He stood still. 'No, aunt, but--do not take offence--it is quite a
matter of indifference to me. Forgive me, my head is so full.'

"I was silent. 'Good!' thought I; 'he is indifferent at last, then.'

"'Please tell me,' he now turned around to me, 'what you think about
Anna Maria? I do not understand her at all as she is now.'

"'You do not either of you understand each other, as you are now,' I
replied, not without sharpness.

"Klaus blushed. 'That may be,' he said, stroking his face.

"'Klaus,' I continued, 'do not let it go further, do not let this
discord between you take root. You are the eldest, Klaus, a reasonable
man----'

"'No, aunt, no; in this I am right!' he interrupted vehemently. 'You do
not know what passed between us this morning----'

"He broke off abruptly and turned to his newspaper at at the table, for
Anna Maria had come in. The basket of keys hung at her side, and she had
tied a white apron over her dress. Brockelmann followed her with the
silver that had been in use to-day, and was now rubbed up, ready to be
put away. Anna Maria opened the carved corner-cupboard, and began to lay
away the shining silver, piece by piece, in its place.

"Klaus had seated himself and was turning over the newspapers; the clock
already pointed to midnight. The windows were open, and from time to
time faint flashes of lightning lighted up the sky over the barns and
stables. I had become wide awake again all at once; I could not and
would not let these two be alone again to-night; they should not speak
together about Susanna.

"But Anna Maria now closed the cupboard and went up to her brother.
'Klaus,' she said in a soft voice, 'let us not leave each other thus;
let us talk the matter over once more, quietly.'

"He laid down the paper and looked at her in surprise. A faint flush lay
on her face, and her attitude was almost beseeching. 'Gladly, Anna
Maria,' he replied, rising; 'you mean concerning Susanna's future
employment? Have you any proposals to make?'

"'Yes,' she said, firmly; and after a pause continued: 'I will yield to
your opinion that physical labor is not the right thing for Susanna. But
a life of dreamy idleness I consider far more injurious to her. Indeed,
Klaus, my personal feelings toward Susanna do not speak in this. I do
not hate her, but that her nature is uncongenial to me I must own. So,
then, without regard to that, Klaus, I must repeat what I said this
morning: let Susanna go away from here, take care of her somewhere else;
she is out of place here; do it for her own sake.'

"She had spoken beseechingly, and stepping nearer him, laid her right
hand on his shoulder.

"'Well, what more?' he asked, rapidly stroking his beard. 'Where would
you think best to banish this child?'

"'Send her to a good boarding-school; let her be a teacher; she is poor,
and it is an honorable position, or----'

"'You are probably thinking of Mademoiselle Lenon in this connection,
Anna Maria?' rejoined Klaus. 'I still have her "honorable position"
distinctly before my eyes, which she held in dealing with your
stubbornness. If there ever was a being totally unfit to take upon
herself the martyrdom of a governess, it is Susanna Mattoni!'

"A slight shadow passed over Anna Maria's face as he spoke of her
stubbornness, but she was silent.

"'Perhaps,' continued Klaus bitterly, 'you would also like to make an
actress of her because she happens to have a voice and recites
charmingly.' He pushed away the newspapers and sprang up. 'I am
unutterably exasperated, Anna Maria, that you should venture to repeat
this proposition. I was not prepared for it, I must confess! What makes
you appear so hostile toward Susanna? Do you know, you who live here in
happy security, what it means for a girl so young, so inexperienced, to
be thus thrust into the world? Surely not! You fulfil your duties here,
you care and labor as hundreds would not do in your place; but here you
act the mistress, inapproachable, untouched by all the common things of
life. You do not know, even by name, those humiliations which a woman
in a dependent position must endure. I know, indeed, that hundreds
_must_ endure them, and hundreds, perhaps, do not feel what they are
deprived of; but this girl _would_ feel it, and would be unhappy, most
unhappy!

"He paused for a moment and looked at Anna Maria. She had clasped her
hands, and coldly and steadily returned his look; an almost mocking
smile lay on her lips, and put Klaus beside himself.

"'You certainly have no comprehension of this!' he cried, his face
flushed with anger. 'You have everything, Anna Maria, but you have never
possessed a heart! You can do everything but that which glorifies and
ennobles a woman--love. Anna Maria, that you cannot do! I feel deep pity
for you, for you lack a woman's sweetest charm; love and pity go
hand-in-hand. I could not imagine you as a solicitous wife, or even as a
mother; how can I expect pity for a strange child?'

"'Klaus! for God's sake, stop!' I entreated in mortal terror, for Anna
Maria had grown pale as death, and her eyes stared out into the dark
night with a vacant, terrified expression, but not a word of defence
passed her lips. Klaus shook off my hand, and continued with unchecked
vehemence:

"'It is time for me to tell you, Anna Maria; it must be said some time.
I am your guardian, and it is my right and my duty. I must, alas! accuse
myself of having given you too much liberty, and you have abused it. You
have become cold and hard; I said before I could not imagine you as a
loving mother, as a wife--that you will never be, for you will not bend.
You would never do a rash, thoughtless act, but you are unable to make a
sacrifice from real affection from your innermost heart--because you do
not understand loving, Anna Maria. As I looked at Edwin to-day, my
heart and courage sank; if ever a man was created to win a maiden's
love, it is he! But you, Anna Maria, just as you let him go away, so you
will let Susanna; it is not hard for you, because you have no heart----'

"'Stop, Klaus, stop!' Anna Maria's voice rang through the room, in
piercing woe; despairingly she stretched out her arms toward him. 'Say
nothing more, not one word; I cannot bear it!' One could see that she
wanted to say more; her trembling lips parted, but no sound passed them,
and in another moment she had turned and gone quickly out of the room.

"'Oh, Klaus!' I cried, weeping, 'you were too hard; you had no occasion
to speak so!' But I stood alone in my tears, for Klaus also left the
room, for the first time failing to pay attention to his aunt, and
slammed the door behind him.

"Yes, I stood alone and believed myself dreaming! Was this the
comfortable old room at Bütze, where formerly peace had dwelt bodily?
The candles flickered restlessly on the table, a chilling draught of air
came through the open window, and thunder faintly muttered in the
distance. No, peace had flown, and injustice, care, and animosity had
entered, had pressed their way between two human hearts which till now
had been united in true love; and there, up-stairs, lay and slept a fair
young fellow-creature, and the picture of the Mischief-maker smiled down
on her, as if glad of a successor. Yes, Klaus was right, and Anna Maria
was right; how was the difference to be made up? Ah! how quickly is a
bitter, crushing word said and heard, but a whole world of tears cannot
make it unsaid again."



CHAPTER IX.


"I could not sleep that night; I rose from my bed again and sat down by
my window in the gray dawn, and my old heart was fearful for what must
come now. I loved both the children so much, and, God knows, I would
have given years of my useless life if I could have blotted out the last
few months. And I was groping about wholly in the dark, for Anna Maria
was reserved and uncommunicative, and Klaus--what would he do? He could
not come and say, 'Aunt Rosamond, I love Susanna Mattoni, and I wish to
marry her!' I should have had to throw up my hands and laugh! Klaus, the
last Hegewitz, and Susanna Mattoni, the child of an obscure actress! And
Klaus would have had to laugh with me.

"It was a rainy day, just beginning; wonderfully cool air came through
the open windows and the leaves rustled in the wind, and the rain
pattered on the roofs; the maids were running across the court with
their milk-pails, the poultry was being fed, and Brockelmann talking to
the maids, and there went the bailiff in the pasture; everything was as
usual and yet so different.

"Then a carriage came rolling into the court-yard. Heavens! that was our
own with the brown span. It stopped before the front steps, and Klaus
came out of the house and greeted the gentleman getting out. I had
leaned far out of the window, but now drew back in alarm--it was the
doctor, our old Reuter, and at this early hour! Anna Maria was my first
thought. I ran out; but no, there she was, just coming out of Susanna's
room. She still wore her blue dress of yesterday, but there were
blood-stains here and there on the large white apron.

"'Susanna?' I faltered. She nodded, and gave me her hand. 'Go in, aunt;
I wish to speak with Reuter first,' she said softly; 'Susanna is ill.'
Almost stunned, I let myself be pushed through the open door. The
curtains were drawn, but on the chimney-piece a candle was burning, and
threw its dim, flickering light on the girl's face, so that I could see
the dark fever-roses which had bloomed upon it during the night. Her
eyes were wide open, but she did not know me; she thought I was Isa.

"'Isa, I have sung, too; Isa, don't be angry; it was so beautiful in the
moonlight, and it did not hurt me at all.' And she began to sing:

    "'Home have I come, my heart burns with pain--
    Oh! that I only could wander again!'

"And then she passed her small hands over her white night-dress. 'Take
away the red flowers, Isa!'

"I laid a white cloth over it for her. Poor child! The swoon, the
laughing, the sweet singing, that was already fever.

"Old Reuter came into the room and stepped up to the bed. Anna Maria
stood behind him, the torment of expectation on her pale face, and from
outside, through the unlatched door, came the sound of heavy breathing;
that must be Klaus. The old gentleman felt Susanna's pulse long and
cautiously; he was not a man of many words, and one could scarcely find
out from him what one's disease was; but he turned at last to Anna
Maria:

"'A pitiful little lady, Fräulein; the good God made her expressly for
a knick-knack table; wrapped in cotton, sent to the South, and treated
like a princess, without making any sort of exertion herself, something
might yet be made of her. But first'--he drew his watch from his pocket
and took hold of her hand again--'first we have enough to do here. Who
will undertake the nursing?'

"'Doctor, do you think that bodily exertion--I mean, very early rising
and domestic activity--could be the cause?' asked Anna Maria, with
faltering voice.

"'Up at four, and from the kitchen into the cold milk-cellar, and then
again in the glowing sun, at the bleaching place, and so alternately,
was it not?' asked the old gentleman. 'By all means the surest way to
completely prostrate a person of such a constitution; moreover, you
might have perceived it before, Fräulein.'

"Anna Maria grew a shade paler. 'But day before yesterday she walked for
an hour in the heat, and sang a great deal,' I interposed, for I felt
sorry for Anna Maria. "'Then one thing has led to another,' declared the
old gentleman. 'Singing is poison--no more of that! Will you undertake
the nursing, Fräulein Hegewitz?' he asked me.

"'No, I,' replied Anna Maria.

"'Isa! Isa!' called Susanna.

"'Where is she staying?' asked Anna Maria, while Dr. Reuter had gone out
to write a prescription.

"'In Dambitz,' I returned, oppressed; but she did not look at all
surprised. She only begged me to stay with Susanna till she had changed
her dress, and sent a messenger to the old woman. Then she came back, so
as not to stay long away from Susanna's bed, for, strangely enough,
Mademoiselle Isa Pfannenschmidt did not appear.

"Anna Maria had sent Brockelmann in a carriage to fetch the old woman.
Meanwhile Susanna pushed Anna Maria away with her weak hands, and called
'Isa!' incessantly in her delirium. With a white face Anna Maria pushed
her chair behind the curtains and listened to the low, eager whispering
of the sick girl. But once the surging blood shot from neck to brow, as
Susanna spoke of Klaus, and Anna Maria turned her eyes almost
reproachfully toward the door, behind which a light step had just
stopped.

"That was surely Klaus again; certainly twenty times during the day he
came to the door to listen; yet who could have closed the little red
mouth which had just called his name again, quite aloud, and laughed,
and talked of bonbons, of moonlight, and of songs?

"On the way to my room I met Brockelmann, who had just returned, and was
standing in the corridor by Klaus. Her face was very red; she pointed to
my room, and here began to describe, in a voice half-choked with
indignation, all that she had found in the dwelling of the old comedian,
excepting herself. The blacksmith's wife had told her she had lately
boiled some red pomade, and put it in a number of little porcelain jars,
and taken them away to sell. She would often go away so, and be gone a
fortnight. 'She is an old vagabond,' added Brockelmann, 'a beggar-woman
whom the constable ought to shut up in the nearest tower!' And with a
contemptuous air she drew forth one of the little boxes in question,
which was correctly tied up with gold paper, and bore a label which
explained at length the red pomade and its value: '_Rouge de Théâtre,
première qualité!_'

"'Paint!' said I, smiling.

"'And for these sinful wares she gets a pile of money,' continued the
old woman, 'and what does she do with it? She eats cakes and chocolate,
and the children at the forge run about with gay silk ribbons on their
rough pig-tails; and all around in the corners there were heaps of
knick-knacks, enough for ten fools to trim up their caps with. It is a
shame!'

"'When is she coming back?' asked Klaus.

"'The Lord only knows; she went away yesterday.' Brockelmann turned to
go, irritated by her vain mission, which had taken so much time. But she
stopped at the door, and a friendly expression lay on her face. 'I am
charged with best greetings from the Herr Baron,' she said; 'he was not
a little surprised to see me looking into his garden from the old
woman's window; I explained to him shortly what brought me there.'

"'Is the house so near the castle garden?' I asked.

"Brockelmann nodded. 'Yes, indeed, the old woman sees the whole
beautiful garden; and what a garden!' With that she went out.

"'It is well, on the whole,' said Klaus, after a pause, 'that the old
woman is not there. But will Brockelmann be able to nurse her?'

"'No,' I replied, 'Anna Maria.'

"'Anna Maria?' he asked, and his lip quivered.

"'Klaus,' I begged, 'don't humbug your own self. You must be convinced
in your inmost heart that this girl could not have a better nurse than
Anna Maria.'

"'I have been perplexed about her,' he answered gloomily.

"'And she about you!' I replied.

"He grew red. 'For what reason?' he asked. 'Because I took this girl
under the protection of my house? Because I interfered with an
over-taxation of her strength? Because----' he broke on.

"'Anna Maria fears that--well, that _la petite_ will be too much
spoiled,' I replied.

"Klaus shrugged his shoulders. 'Well, and now?' he asked. 'Listen, aunt,
I thought nothing in the world could alter me; I thought I had become a
calm, quiet man; but every nerve has twitched since I have been
compelled to see how this girl is treated. Once, as a little boy, I
looked on, powerless with rage, to see two great boys tormenting a
may-bug; they had climbed a tree because I had scratched and bitten
them; my small limbs would not carry me up there, but the dumb fury, the
rising tumult in my childish heart, I have never forgotten to this day;
and I felt exactly the same way when I heard those little feet tripping
here and there about the house--on, on, now on the kitchen-stairs, now
in the corridor. Do you not suppose I could see how they kept growing
more and more weary, and what a mighty effort they made when Anna
Maria's merciless voice called, "Here, Susanna!" or "_Venez donc_,
Susanna!" "Quickly, we will go into the milk-cellar!" "Susanna, where is
the key of the linen-press?" I was a coward to endure it, not to have
interfered till it was too late. Great heavens! it shall be different,'
he cried, and his clenched fist fell threateningly on the table. The
great, strong man was beside himself with anxiety and rage.

"I did not venture to answer, and after a few minutes he left the room.
I heard him lingering again at Susanna's door, and then go away softly.
The misfortune was here! Poor Anna Maria! Poor Klaus!

"Toward noon Anna Maria came to me, even paler than before. 'She talks
incessantly of Klaus,' she said slowly. 'I knew that it must come, but
Klaus did not understand me. She loves him, aunt, believe me.'

"My thoughts were so full of Klaus that I said, quite consistently: 'And
he loves her!'

"Anna Maria did not understand me aright. 'What did you say, aunt?' she
asked, the weariness all gone from her eyes.

"'I said Klaus is tenderly inclined toward Susanna Mattoni,' I repeated
boldly.

"The girl broke into a smile--nay, she even laughed--and I saw her firm
white teeth shine for the first time for many a day; then she grew
grave. 'How can you joke now, aunt?'

"'_Mais, mon ange_, I am not joking,' I replied warmly. Anna Maria
puzzled me; she must have noticed it for a long time; then why was she
so opposed to the child?

"'You are not joking, aunt?' she asked icily. 'Then you little
understand how to judge Klaus. Klaus, with his cool reason, his calm
nature, he who might have had a wife any day if he had wished, should
care for this child--it is ridiculous, perfectly ridiculous!'

"'But, Anna Maria, are you so blind?' I cried.

"'I am not blind,' she replied, with one of her glances which showed
plainly her contempt of my opinion. 'Not till I see the two come,
united, out of the church will I believe that Klaus loves her, and that,
Aunt Rosamond, neither you nor I will live to see.'

"'Stop, Anna Maria!' I begged. 'It is, of course, possible that I am
mistaken, but--God grant that you are right,' I added.

"Anna Maria was silent for a moment. 'No,' she said then, as if to
herself, lifting up her arms--'no, Klaus is not capable of such an
error. I believe in Klaus. His kind heart, his compassion for the
orphan, impel him to be hard toward me; our opinions as to Susanna's
welfare are so contrary. But I know, aunt, that Klaus loves me so much,
that I stand before any other in his heart, so I will gladly bear the
harshness; perhaps he has borne something harder for my sake. When
Susanna is gone we shall find the old good-will back again.'

"'I do not believe that Susanna will go away, will be allowed to go
away,' I threw in, uncertainly, touched by her confidence.

"Her eyes shone. 'Leave that to me, Aunt Rosa,' she replied; 'she
_shall_ go, take my word for it.'

"'And if you vex Klaus afresh by such a demand?'

"'Klaus desires Susanna's best good, and he will find some other place
for her as soon as he learns that he is not an object of indifference to
her. Klaus is a man of honor, and a glance will suffice.'

"'What, Anna Maria?' I groaned; 'you would inform him that--that----'

"'Yes,' she replied.

"'I beg you, Anna Maria, do not do it; do not pour oil on the fire, my
child; be silent----'

"'Never, aunt; I have been silent too long already!' she said decidedly.
'I saw it coming on, it had to come, and I had not the courage to warn
Klaus, and say: "Protect this child from the saddest thing that can come
to a maiden's heart; do not let it awaken into a first love, which must
then be renounced."'

"'Anna Maria, for Heaven's sake,' I implored, 'how do you know so
certainly that Susanna no longer regards Klaus with indifference? You
cannot take her feverish talk for anything positive. She talks about
Stürmer as well as Klaus. I beg you, keep silent. It is only a
conjecture of yours; Susanna may be in a state of uncertainty still,
herself.'

"'A precocious, passionate nature, like that girl's?' she asked, and
went to the door, about to leave; 'there is nothing uncertain there. I
owe it to her.'

"'Anna Maria, let her get well first; it is over-hasty, and may make a
dreadful jumble!'

"She did not answer, but gave me a nod that agreed with her earnest
look, and then left me alone with my thoughts.

"How sorry I was for her, this young maiden with the heart of an old
woman! How this firm confidence in Klaus touched me! I had expected a
little jealousy from her, had supposed that Susanna's appearance seemed
dangerous enough to her to rob her of her brother's heart; but nothing
of all this--that she wished to preserve the girl's peace of mind. She
believed in Klaus with a firm, unshaken trust. 'I know that I stand
before all others in his heart, only our opinions about Susanna differ
widely.' Klaus was a man of honor, Klaus could not marry Susanna; it lay
beyond the reach of possibility! A love without this final end was not
conceivable to her pure mind; of a passion which could outreach all
bounds she seemed to have no foreboding. It did not occur to her to
consider her brother's altered manner, his hasty vehemence of the day
before, as anything but the expression of his lively anxiety about an
orphaned child, as excessive chivalry, as a justified irritation at her
energetic opposition; but if she had only first spoken----

"Ah, me! My old head showed me no outlet. What should I do, with whom
speak? Neither of them could judge of the matter as it lay now; the only
remaining way was to appeal to Susanna's maidenly pride. But dared I?
Had I the right to contrive an intrigue behind Klaus's back? For,
although I meant well, still it was an intrigue. And suppose that I did
tread this by-way, what certainty was there that it would lead to the
goal? And how, after all, should I tread it?

"Susanna's illness was violent but brief. The delirium had ceased by the
next day, but she lay very feeble for a week after, without speaking or
showing interest in anything. But her great eyes continually followed
Anna Maria, as she moved noiselessly about the sick-room. Anna Maria's
manner toward Susanna was altered; there was a certain gentleness and
tenderness about her that became her wonderfully well. Whether it was
sympathy with the invalid, or whether she wanted to show the girl whom
she had wished to send away from the shelter of her home that she
cherished no ill-will toward her, I do not know; at any rate, she took
care of her like a loving mother.

"After about a week Susanna raised her head, begged to have the windows
opened, and showed an appetite; and when the doctor came he found her
sitting up in bed, eating with excellent appetite the prescribed
convalescent's dish, a broth of young pigeons.

"'Bravo!' cried the gay little man, 'keep on so! A small glass of
Bordeaux, too, would do no harm.'

"'And to-morrow I shall get up!' cried Susanna.

"'Not to-morrow; and day after to-morrow I shall inspect you again
before you do it,' answered the doctor.

"Susanna laughed, and then, with the pleasant feeling of returning
health, lay back on the pillows, took a hundred-leaved rose from the
bunch of flowers which Klaus sent daily through Anna Maria, to be placed
by the sick-bed, and asked--what! did I hear aright? Horrified, I turned
my head away and looked for Anna Maria; fortunately, she had gone out
with the doctor--and asked: 'Has Klaus--Herr von Hegewitz--ever inquired
for me?' And as she spoke her dark eyes flashed beneath the long lashes.

"'Oh, yes, Susanna, but he is very much occupied with the harvesting
now,' I said deceitfully, 'and he knows you are having the best of
care.'

"She nodded. 'And has not Herr von Stürmer been here? Did he not know
that I was ill?'

"'Stürmer? Yes, I think he has been here frequently,' I replied.

"'And hasn't he asked at all how I was?' she questioned me further.

"'You are assuming, _ma mignonne_!' said I, irritated. 'He has inquired
for you, perhaps--yes, I remember--nothing more.'

"'How ungallant!' whispered Susanna, sulkily. At that moment the door
opened and Brockelmann entered with a little basket of choice apricots,
with a fresh rosebud placed here and there among them.

"'An expression of regard from Baron von Stürmer, who sent his wishes
for the Fräulein's improvement, hoping that she might like to eat the
fruit.' With these words the basket was set down rather roughly on the
table beside the bed. The old woman's glance met mine, and in her eyes
was plainly to be read: 'Well, let anybody who can understand such a
state of affairs; I can't!' But Susanna, with a cry of joy, had seized
the basket, and buried her nose in the flowers, inhaling their spicy
odor. Then she rested it on her knees, put her delicate arms around it,
leaned her head on the dainty handle, and with a happy smile closed her
eyes, and thus Anna Maria found her. She frowned at this ecstasy. 'It
is very kind of Stürmer,' she said, quietly; 'he always shows such
delicate attentions when he knows any one to be ill and suffering.' Then
she rang for a plate and silver fruit-knife. 'Give them to me, Susanna;
I will prepare some of the beautiful fruit for you.'"



CHAPTER X.


"Late in the afternoon one dull rainy day we were sitting in the
garden-parlor, Anna Maria with her sewing, Klaus reading the newspaper
and smoking, when Stürmer came in to talk over some matters with Klaus.
Then conversation about horses ended in a political discussion, in which
Anna Maria took part with a certain degree of liveliness, and Klaus
joined warmly, drawing strong whiffs from his pipe. Stürmer, who had
never taken a pipe in his mouth, now and then drove back the clouds with
his silk handkerchief in sport, and I amused myself with listening to
the ready answers which came from Anna Maria's young lips.

"The demeanor of brother and sister toward each other was singular. Anna
Maria waited upon her brother with almost humble tenderness, while he
seemed distrustful, and then again secretly touched by the
self-sacrificing spirit of the nurse who devoted herself to Susanna. He
especially avoided looking at her, or speaking to her directly.

"'How is Fräulein Mattoni getting on?' broke in Stürmer in the midst of
a well-turned sentence of Klaus's about the recent attempts to make
beet-root sugar.

"'Well!' replied Anna Maria; 'she is reading an old family history which
I hunted up the other day, and enjoying your delicious apricots. Thank
you for them, Stürmer; they give Susanna great pleasure.'

"Then the conversation turned upon the lately deceased Duke of Weimar,
Charles Augustus, and from him to his celebrated friend, Goethe, of whom
Stürmer affirmed that he was intending to marry again after the death of
his wife. Anna Maria rejected the idea incredulously; she could not
believe that he, at his great age, would be so foolish. She was a sworn
enemy to Goethe. Her plain, straightforward mind had been disagreeably
affected by Werther; such an overflow of feeling could but seem strange
to her. Goethe's numerous love-affairs set him out in a light which
brought the ideal conception of him down to the atmosphere of common
mortals. That genius draws different boundaries, that a fiery spirit
like his was not to be measured by the common standard, did not occur to
her, and so she now indignantly shook her head.

"'A fable!' I, too, cried, smiling.

"'Not at all,' rejoined Stürmer; 'I have it from Von N----, who is
correctly informed, depend upon it!'

"'My!' said Klaus, 'he must have become an old icicle by this time,
scarcely able to go among people any more.'

"'A man who has created a Gretchen ossify?' threw in Stürmer. 'Never!'

"'And a Werther?' said I, in joke.

"'Werther is insupportable!' declared Anna Maria, 'bombastic, overdrawn!
A man who behaves like Werther is in my eyes no man at all, but a
weakling!'

"Stürmer's dark eyes looked quietly over at her. 'Your opinion, Fräulein
von Hegewitz, is surely a rare one among women. A woman usually
discovers from her standpoint, and naturally, that with a lost love the
value of life is gone, and why should not this be the case with a man
as well? Of course, in a man's occupation, in the demands which his life
makes of him, there are a thousand aids offered to enable him more
quickly to recover from such a pain. But to regard it purely
objectively, that demands such a cool manner of contemplation that I am
fain to believe that those who thus judge do not know what loving really
means.'

"At these last words Anna Maria had grown as white as the linen on which
she was sewing. She dropped her head, as if conscious of guilt, and her
trembling hand could scarcely guide the needle. A painful pause ensued;
Klaus cast a compassionate glance at Stürmer; it was the first time that
he had given expression to the pain of his bitter disappointment in her
hearing and ours.

"'Heavens, what a storm!' I cried, as a perfect flood of water was
hurled against the windows; even the despised subject of water satisfied
me to break the awkward silence.

"'Indeed,' said Stürmer, rising, 'it is bad; I must make haste to get
under shelter while it is yet daylight.' He took leave with a haste that
left me to imagine he wished to be alone with his bitter feelings.

"'Adieu, dear Edwin,' said I, tenderly, pressing his hand. Neither
brother nor sister gave him the customary invitation to spend the
evening here. Anna Maria had risen and laid her hand on Klaus's
shoulder, who was now standing beside her. She was still very pale, and
said her 'Good-night, Stürmer!' with a wearily maintained steadiness.

"As soon as the gentlemen had left the room, she went to the door and
opened it impetuously; breathing hard, she stood in the door-way, and
the storm blew back her skirts, and the rain-drops beat in her face and
lay like pearls on her fair locks. Once or twice it seemed to me as if
her bosom heaved with suppressed sobs, so that, in alarm, I turned my
head to look around the curtain, but to no purpose, for as Klaus
reëntered the room she turned back too, and an almost transfigured
expression lay on her face.

"She went up to him and took his arm.

"'Dear brother,' I heard her say, and again there was a quiver in her
voice; she leaned her head against his breast. 'Dear Klaus!' she
repeated.

"'Anna Maria?' he asked, taking hold of her hand.

"'Klaus, let what has lately passed between us be forgotten! Forgive me
for having so violently opposed you; it was very wrong of me----'

"'No, no, my old lass; I was more violent than was necessary,' he
replied hastily, drawing her to him; 'we were both in fault.'

"'Yes, Klaus; you see I was not honest; I ought to have spoken at once,
but I was not sure enough of it. I did not wish to make you uneasy.'

"'By what?' said Klaus hastily.

"Anna Maria hesitated, but held her brother's arm more firmly. I cleared
my throat as a warning from my corner by the window, but Anna Maria paid
no attention to it; she acted from quick, firm resolution in all that
she did, and when occasion came she bravely met the difficulty, which
she thought easy enough to overcome.

"'By telling you of a fact which makes Susanna's remaining in this house
questionable,' she said, quietly, but decidedly.

"'The old song again, Anna Maria?' he said. 'Your vehemence did not
suffice; do you think to catch me this way?'

"'No, Klaus, in Heaven's name, no!' she replied. 'Something different
drives me to you now; I did not mean to speak of Susanna to you again; I
wished in this hour only one word from you as of old, a single kind
word; that it happened thus was the course of the conversation. Forgive
me!'

"'You have judged Susanna very severely, Anna Maria,' Klaus began, after
a pause, 'and now you have nursed her devotedly and made up for it a
hundred times; and yet the same sentiments?--now, when she is ill, and
may perhaps remain sickly?'

"'I have expected too much of Susanna's constitution, Klaus, and day and
night I have prayed that God might restore her to health. I have desired
only her good, believe me. But my opinion of Susanna's character I
cannot alter.'

"They were not standing close together now, but opposite one another.
'But beneath all the show and glitter which I despise there beats a
quick, warm human heart, Klaus. Susanna is no longer the child you think
to see in her. Susanna has--Susanna is--Susanna _loves_ you, Klaus!'

"The twilight had gradually deepened. I could no longer see Klaus's face
distinctly, but only heard a quick, violent breathing. He did not
answer, he stood motionless. 'Foolish child!' thought I, looking at Anna
Maria.

"'You do not believe me, Klaus?' she asked, as he remained silent. 'But
it is so; I am not mistaken! Susanna talked of you incessantly in her
delirium; I know it from a hundred little indications. Such an affection
increases daily and hourly--is the girl to become unhappy? Perhaps she
does not know it yet herself, but the awakening must surely come.'

"Again no answer. Klaus sat down in the nearest chair, and looked before
him, motionless. The servants' supper-bell was now ringing outside, a
fresh shower of rain came pelting against the sandstone pavement of the
terrace, and there was a spectral light in the great, dim room. I
imagined phantoms were rising out of every nook and corner, and the
great flowered portière moved slightly, as if some one were standing
behind it, listening.

"'You are right,' said Klaus, at length, in a lifeless tone; 'what is to
become of her? The wife of a Hegewitz--that is impossible; so you think,
do you not, Anna Maria?'

"'Yes,' she replied, simply.

"'Yes,' he repeated, springing up and pacing the room with long steps.
'And whither would you banish the girl?' he asked, stopping before his
sister.

"'Not _banish_, Klaus; that sounds so different from what I intend,' she
said, frankly. 'Take her to a _pension_ in a southern district, perhaps
in Switzerland, and so give her an opportunity to thoroughly heal her
sick heart.'

"'That sounds reasonable and well-considered,' he returned, bitterly.
'Meanwhile, Susanna is not yet restored to health.' And after a pause he
added: 'I have put off for a long time a necessary journey; I shall go
to-morrow to O----, in Silesia; I shall be acting to your mind so, shall
I not?'

"Anna Maria started. 'To O----, do you say?'

"'Yes,' he replied, very red; 'I have been a little negligent, and
affairs are in such a bad condition there a meeting of creditors is
unavoidable. Platen has repeatedly urged me to come myself, in order to
check the thing; you know my mortgage is the largest, but----'

"'And you have not gone, Klaus?' said Anna Maria reproachfully. 'Why?'

"'I shall start to-morrow morning,' he answered, shortly.

"She evidently did not understand him aright, but she went up to him and
put her arms around his neck. 'Do not let a misunderstanding arise
between us again, Klaus. Shall I act contrary to my conviction?'

"'No, no!' he replied in a hollow tone; 'I thank you.' But he did not
draw her to him, he freed himself from her arms and left the room. Anna
Maria stood motionless for a moment looking after him. Then she shook
her head energetically, as if to ward off intrusive thoughts, and taking
up her basket of keys went out too.

"Half an hour later we were sitting at the supper-table. Anna Maria had
brought Klaus from his room; he looked disturbed and let his soup grow
cold, and crumbled his bread between his fingers in a distracted manner.

"'Have you been to Susanna's room?' I asked Anna Maria.

"She nodded. 'I was in a hurry, but stopped at her door up-stairs, and
called to ask what I should send her for supper. But I got no answer;
she was probably asleep, so I closed the door softly and came away.'

"'And what do you intend to tell her as a pretext for her removal?' I
asked further.

"'Her health is a sufficiently cogent reason, aunt,' replied Anna Maria.

"I was silent and so were the others; we finished the meal in silence,
and then sat silent about the table in the sitting-room, without a
suspicion of what was happening meanwhile. Each was occupied with his
own thoughts, and without the monotonous rain still fell splashing on
the roof and poured from the animals' heads on the gutters upon the
pavement of the court. There was an incessant drizzle and splash, and
the storm, coming over the heath, swept together the rain-drops, and
drove them pelting against the well-protected windows.

"All at once Brockelmann entered the room; frightened and startled her
eyes sped about. 'Is not Fräulein Mattoni here?' she asked excitedly.

"'Susanna?' we all three cried with one voice, and Klaus sprang up.

"'She is not in her room! Merciful Heaven, where can she be!' she
continued. 'Before supper she got up and dressed herself, laughing and
tittering; she meant to go down-stairs to surprise the family. I
scolded, but what good did it do? Oh, she must be hiding somewhere!' The
old woman's voice was choked with anxiety; Anna Maria had hurried out of
the room, and her flying steps reëchoed from the corridor, fear lending
her wings. Brockelmann took a candle from the table and began to search
the adjoining garden-parlor, and Klaus stood, pale as a corpse, as if
rooted to the spot.

"'She must be here!' said I.

"He did not hear. His whole attention was concentrated upon Anna Maria,
who was just crossing the threshold, and looked at her brother's serious
face with eyes that seemed twice their usual size.

"'She is gone, Klaus,' she said, tremulously; 'I know not whither--why?'

"He stepped past her without a word.

"'Klaus!' Anna Maria called after him, 'take me with you!' But she
received no answer. 'She heard it, my God, she heard what I said to
him,' she whispered. 'Aunt, I beg you, go with him, do not let him go
alone!' She hastened away and came back with shawls and wraps. I could
hear from the court the hasty preparations for departure--indeed, how I
got to the carriage, where Klaus was already sitting on the box, I do
not know to this day.

"It was a half-covered chaise in which we rolled out on the dark
highway; the rain beat against the leather hood, and the wind assaulted
us with undiminished strength; Klaus's coat-collar flapped in the light
of the carriage lamps, whose unsteady light was reflected in the water
of the one great puddle into which the whole road was transformed. Klaus
drove frantically; to this day I do not understand how we came, safe and
sound, in the pitch-dark night, before the Dambitz blacksmith's shop.
The little house lay there without a light. When Klaus pounded on the
door with his whip-handle the watch-dog gave the alarm, upon which a
man's voice soon asked what we wanted, and if anything had happened to
the carriage. It happened sometimes, doubtless, that the man was called
from his sleep because of an accident.

"'Is your lodger at home?' asked Klaus, in place of an answer.

"'Since this noon, your honor!' was the polite answer. The man knew the
master of the Hegewitz manor from his inquiry, for it was known all over
the village that the Bütze people had the foster-child of the old
actress with them.

"'Is she alone?'

"'Ah! has your honor come on account of the young mam'selle?' cried the
man. 'She came here an hour ago, wet as a rat, and is lying in bed
up-stairs there. I will open the door at once.'

"Klaus helped me out of the carriage. 'Will you go up to her?' he
asked, and pressed my hand so hard that I nearly screamed.

"'Certainly, certainly, my lad!' I made haste to say; 'we will soon have
the fugitive back at Bütze.' But sooner said than done. The blacksmith's
wife, who had also appeared on the scene, carefully lighted the way up
the creaking, dangerous flight of stairs, which I was scarcely able to
climb with my lame foot, and there, in the low, whitewashed back room of
the forge, stood Isabella Pfannenschmidt before me, like a roused
lioness. She stood with outstretched arms before the bed, which was in
an alcove-like recess, and was half covered with fantastic hangings of
yellow chintz. With theatrical pathos she called to me: 'What do you
want? You have no more right to this child!'

"Without further ado I pushed her aside and looked at the bed; from a
chaos of blue and red feather-beds emerged Susanna's brown head.

"She turned her face to the wall without looking at me, and remained
thus, motionless.

"'Susanna, was that right?' I asked.

"No answer.

"'Why did you run away so suddenly, my child? Do you know that you may
have made yourself ill and miserable for life by this recklessness?'

"Silence again, but the breathing grew heavy and loud.

"'You are an obstinate, naughty child!' I continued. You frighten the
people who love you half to death, and sin against yourself in an
unheard-of manner!'

"The old actress meanwhile stood with folded arms, and an indescribable
smile played about her mouth.

"'Are you well enough to get up and drive home with me, Susanna?' I
asked.

"'No!' cried the old woman. 'Why should she go to you again? Sooner or
later they will be sure to show her the door!'

"'Susanna, Klaus is below; he has been anxious about you; and Anna Maria
is impatiently waiting at home. Be reasonable, be good; you owe us an
explanation.'

"But in place of an answer a violent fit of coughing followed; she
suddenly began to toss about and clutch at the air, and her eyes looked
over at me, large and fixed, strangely unconscious. The old actress fell
on the bed with a piercing cry, and wound her arms about the girl. 'Oh,
Lord, she is dying!'

"Had Klaus heard this cry? I know not; I only know that all at once he
was in the room, and pushed the old woman away from the bed, and that
that moment decided the fate of two human beings. All that had been
fermenting in him for weeks, the stream of his passion which had been
wearily held back by cold reason, was set free by the sight of the girl
lying thus unconscious. No more restraint was possible; he threw his
arms about her, he kissed the little weak hands, the dark hair; he
called her his bride, his wife, his beloved; never again, never, should
she go from his heart, who was dearer to him than all the world! In dumb
horror I heard these impetuous words rush on my ears. Thank God,
Isabella Pfannenschmidt had left the room; she had evidently rushed out
for a restorative, for tea or water.

"I laid a heavy hand on the man's shoulder. 'Are you mad, Klaus? Do you
not see that she is sicker than ever?' Susanna now lay in his arms,
really swooning; her head had fallen on his shoulder, and the small
face, like that of a slumbering child, showed a slight smile on the
lips.

"'Aunt,' said the tall, fair man, without getting up, tears shining in
his honest blue eyes, 'she shall not die; I should reproach myself with
it forever!' He pressed his lips to her forehead again and went out,
without looking about him; he sat on the stairs there a long time.
Susanna opened her eyes at last, under our efforts. She then let dry
clothes be put on her without resistance, but there was no sign, no
look, to betray to me whether she had heard Klaus's wild whisperings of
love. But she did not for a moment object to accompanying me to Bütze,
and energetically chid the old woman's lamentation. Warmly wrapped, I
led her over the threshold of the low room; she wavered for a moment, as
she saw Klaus on the stairs by the light of the oil-lamp. Then he raised
her in his arms, and in the smoking, unsteady light of the lamp, which
was being put out by the draught, I saw how he went down the steps with
her, how two slender arms were put around his neck, sure and fast. With
tottering knees I followed them, to take Susanna Mattoni to Bütze again.

"And the way home! Never has a drive seemed so endless to me. I sat
silent beside the girl; I was angry with her, bitterly angry for being
loved by Klaus. The pride of a pure and ancient stock arose in my heart
in its full strength, and if ever I hated Susanna Mattoni it was on that
night, in the dark carriage. Then I felt her lightly touch my clothes,
slip to the floor beside me, and embrace my knees and lay her head on my
lap. 'I was going away, Fräulein Rosamond,' she whispered; 'why did you
come after me?'

"They were only a few simple words, but such a persuasive truth lay in
them that my anger vanished almost instantly. A feeling of deep sympathy
pulled at my heart, and sent a flood of tears to my eyes.

"What avail the arduously established limits of human law and order,
even though uprightly preserved for centuries long, against the storm of
a first passion? A single instant--the proud structure lies in ruins,
and the crimson banner of love waves victoriously over all
considerations, over all reflections.

"I felt Susanna's hot lips on my hand; they burned me like glowing iron.
I did not draw away my hand, but left it to her, without pressure,
without a sign that I understood her. Before my eyes hovered the image
of Anna Maria. 'Oh, Anna Maria, I could not prevent its happening thus!'

"And now the carriage rolled under our gateway, rattled over the paved
court, and stopped before the steps. I saw Klaus swing himself down from
the box, and saw Anna Maria, in the light of the lantern, standing in
the vaulted door-way. Klaus opened the carriage-door; Susanna first
raised herself up now, and he carried her like a child up the steps,
past Anna Maria, into the house. They had forgotten me; the lame old
aunt clambered out of the carriage with Brockelmann's help, and on
entering the sitting-room I found Anna Maria and Susanna alone--Susanna,
with a feverish glow on her cheeks, in Klaus's arm-chair, Anna Maria
standing before her with a cup of hot tea.

"Not a question, not a reproach passed her lips; she silently offered
the warming drink, and Susanna silently refused it. 'You must go to bed,
Susanna,' she then said. The girl rose and took a step or two, but
tottered, and held on to her chair. 'Put your arms around my neck,
Susanna!' Anna Maria cried, and in a moment had raised her in her strong
arms, and went toward the door as if she were carrying a feather.
Brockelmann followed; I heard her muttering away to herself, 'That caps
the climax!'

"Utterly exhausted, I sank into my chair. What was to be done now? God
grant that Klaus and Anna Maria might not see each other again this
evening, only this evening!

"Half an hour had passed when I heard Anna Maria's step in the hall; the
door was wide open, and I could distinctly see her tall figure approach,
in the faint light of the hall-lamp. She stopped at Klaus's door and
knocked. I leaned forward to listen; all was still. 'Klaus!' I heard her
say. No answer. Again I thought I detected a suppressed sob in her
voice. 'Klaus!' she repeated once more, imploringly, pressing on the
latch. She waited a minute or two, then turned away and went up-stairs
again.

"'He is angry with her,' I murmured, half aloud, 'and she wants to
conciliate him. My God, turn everything to good!' I put out the lights
in the sitting-room and went over to Klaus's door and listened. Regular
and heavy came the sound of his steps; he was there, then! 'Klaus!' I
called, with an energy which frightened myself. The steps came nearer at
once, the key was turned, and he opened the door directly.

"'Come in, aunt,' he bade me. I looked at him in alarm, he looked so
pale, so exhausted. His hand seized mine. 'It is well that you are
looking after me, aunt; something has come over me, I know not how.'

"'And now, Klaus?' I asked, letting him lead me to the sofa, which had
descended from my father and still stood on the same spot as of old,
under a collection of about fifty deers' antlers, all of which had been
taken on the Bütze hunting-grounds, and had decorated that wall as far
back as I could remember.

"He had stopped in front of me. 'And now?' he repeated, passing his hand
over his forehead. 'It is a strange question, _au fond_, aunt--Susanna
will be my wife. I can give you no other answer.'

"It was out! I had long known that it must come, and yet it fell on me
like a blow.

"'Klaus,' I began. But he interrupted me impatiently and indignantly.

"'I know all you would say, aunt; I have said it to myself a hundred
times! I know as well as you that Susanna belongs to the common class,
that her mother came from doubtful antecedents. I know that Susanna is a
trifling, spoiled child, who seems little suited to my seriousness. I
know that I am old in comparison to her; and I know, above all, that
Anna Maria will never regard her as a sister. Nevertheless, aunt, my
resolve stands firm, for I love Susanna Mattoni, love her with all her
childish faults, which are hardly to be called faults. I love her in her
charming, trifling maidenhood; it will make me happy to be able to
educate and guide her further, and the love that Anna Maria denies her I
will try to make up to her.'

"I was silent, there was nothing more to be said.

"'You do not look happy, aunt,' he said, bitterly. 'Listen: this
afternoon I was thinking of flight; but when Anna Maria said, "Susanna
loves you!" it almost crushed me. Amid all the happiness which this
revelation opened to me, yet much that has been sacred and not to be
trifled with forcibly appealed to me. But when I beheld Susanna, like a
dying person, in that poor room, all at once it was clear to me that
everything in the world is powerless against a true, deep passion, and
then----'

"'And Anna Maria, Klaus?'

"'I cannot talk with her any more this evening, aunt,' he replied; 'wait
till I am quieter; there is time enough. I grow violent if I think that
it was her words that drove Susanna out in the stormy night. God grant
that it may do her no harm!'

"'Yet do not misunderstand the fact, Klaus, that Anna Maria wished
Susanna's best good,' I besought him, tears streaming from my eyes.
'Think how she loves you, how her very existence depends upon you. I
shall wish from my heart, Klaus, that what you have chosen may be the
right thing; but do not expect that Anna Maria will, without a struggle,
see you take a step which may perhaps bring you heavy burdens and little
happiness.'

"Klaus did not answer. He stood before his writing-desk and looked at
Anna Maria's portrait, which she had given him at Christmas three years
before; it was painted at the time that she refused Stürmer. The clear
blue eyes looked over at Klaus from the proud, grave face, which had the
slightest expression of pain about the mouth, as if she were again
speaking the words she had said to him at that time: 'I will stay with
you, Klaus; I cannot go away from you!'

"'I do not wish to proceed violently, aunt,' he began, after a long
pause; 'I am no young blusterer who would take a fortress by storm.
Susanna, too, requires rest; she ought not to be disturbed and excited
any more now. Believe me, I love Anna Maria very dearly, but I cannot
give up a happiness a second time for her sake; then she was a child,
and toward the child I had obligations; to-day she is a maiden, who
sooner or later will be a wife.'

"'No, no, Klaus," I cried.

"'Very well, not so, then. She is different from others I admit; at any
rate, hers is a nature that is sufficient to itself. She is, and
remains, in my heart and in my home, my only and beloved sister, who
will ever hold the first place, next to--Susanna. But with that she must
be satisfied, and in return I demand love, and above all, consideration
for her who will be my wife. But, as I said before, I cannot possibly
speak quietly with Anna Maria about it now. I will let it wait over,
with my absence, perhaps three weeks, perhaps longer, and we shall all
have time to become more calm--I, too, Aunt Rosamond. I thought of
writing to Anna Maria about this affair, calmly and lovingly, and almost
believe it is the best thing to do.'

"'And when shall you start, Klaus?'

"'Frederick is packing my trunk now; the bailiff is coming at four
o'clock for a necessary conference; at five the carriage will be at the
door.'

"'And does Anna Maria know?'

"'No--I would like--to go without saying good-by.'

"'You will make her angry, Klaus; it is not right.' I sobbed.

"'Let time pass, aunt, that the breach may not grow wider; you know her
and you know me. There have been discussions between us of late which
have left a thorn in my heart. I do not want to be violent toward her
again.'

"'And Susanna?'

"'Susanna knows enough,' he replied, simply; 'you will be so kind as to
explain to her that I had to go on a necessary journey, and hope next to
see her well and sound again.'

"'Will she not interpret it falsely, after that vehement storm of love
to-night?'

"He blushed to the roots of his curly hair.

"'No, aunt,' he said, 'it would be untimely were I to make her any
assurances. Susanna knows now that I love her, and I think she returns
my love; of what use are further words?'

"Honest old Klaus! I can still see you standing before me, in the
agitation which so well became you, and so truly brought out your fine,
brave character.

"'Farewell, then, Klaus,' said I, placing my hand in his, and he drew it
to his lips and looked at my tearful eyes. 'Hold your dear hands over my
little Susanna,' he asked tenderly; 'I will thank you for every kind
word you say to her. And should she be in danger, should she grow worse
again, write me. I will leave a few lines for Anna Maria.'

"'God be with you, Klaus; may all be well!'

"He accompanied me through the dim hall as far as the stairs. A short
whirr from the old clock, and two hollow strokes were heard. Two o'clock
already! I waved my hand again, and went up-stairs, with how heavy a
heart God only knows!

"I stopped at Susanna's door and softly lifted the latch. By the
uncertain light of the night-lamp I saw Anna Maria in the arm-chair
beside the bed; her head rested against the green cushion of the high
back, her hands were folded over her New Testament in her lap, and she
was sleeping quietly and soundly. I glided softly in and looked at
Susanna; she lay awake, her eyes wide open. As she caught sight of me
she dropped her long lashes, pretending deep sleep, but raised them
again, blinking, as I withdrew. Was it any wonder that she did not sleep
and that her cheeks glowed like crimson roses?

"My sleep was restless that night, full of confused, troubled dreams.
Toward morning I woke with a start; I thought I heard the rumbling of a
coach. 'Klaus,' I cried, and a feeling of anxiety came over me. I rose
and glided to the window; a thick, white autumnal mist hung over the
trees and roofs of the barns; it was perfectly still all about, but the
door of the carriage-house stood open and a boy was slowly sauntering
into the stable; the gates were opened wide, showing a bit of the
lonely, poplar-shaded highway.

"I stole away and sought my bed again; so far everything was certainly
quiet and orderly. I had been sleeping soundly again, when suddenly
opening my eyes, I perceived Brockelmann by my bed.

"'Fräulein,' she said, unsteadily, 'the master has gone off early this
morning!'

"'He will come back, Brockelmann,' I said, consolingly. 'Does Anna Maria
know yet?'

"'To be sure!' replied the old woman; 'and she was not a little
frightened when Frederick brought her the letter which the master left
for her. But you know, Fräulein, she always judges according to the
saying, "What God does and what my brother does is well!"' With that the
old woman went.

"I believe I sat at the window for two hours after that in _déshabillé_,
thinking over yesterday's experience; Klaus had gone, and when he
returned Susanna would be his wife--that was ever the sum of my
reflections.

"When I came down-stairs I found Anna Maria engaged in business
transactions with the bailiff and forester. How clearly she made her
arrangements! The men had not a word to reply. Offers had been made for
the grain; the harvest was richer than ever before, and the price of
grain low. Anna Maria did not wish to close the bargain yet; in Eastern
Prussia the grain had turned out wretchedly. 'Let us wait for the
potato-crop,' I heard her say. 'If that turns out as badly as seems
probable now, we shall need more bread, for our people must not suffer
want.'

"She proceeded with calmness and caution. Oh, yes. Klaus was right; his
house was in good care. As she followed me afterward into the
garden-parlor she pressed my hand.

"'Klaus's departure seems like a flight,' she said; 'but it must be all
right.'

"Not a word of yesterday's occurrences! Nor in the future either.
Susanna observed the same silence. When I went to her bed to inform her
that Klaus was gone on a journey, a bright flush of alarm tinged her
pale face for an instant, but she was silent.

"For some time yet she had to keep her bed; then her childish step was
heard again about the house, her slender figure nestled again in the
deep easy-chair in the garden-parlor, and she went about the park as of
old, idling away the days, and gradually signs of returning health
appeared in her cheeks.

"She evidently missed Klaus; it was most plainly to be seen in her
dress. She seemed astonishingly negligent; at a slight word of blame
from me, the question, 'For whom?' rose quickly to her lips, but she did
not speak it, and turned away her blushing face. Isabella Pfannenschmidt
came to the house a few days after Klaus's departure, while Susanna was
still in bed. I entered the room soon after her, and found the old woman
by the bed, a vexed expression on her face. My ear just caught the
words: 'Yes, now, there we have it: the egg will always be wiser than
the hen!'

"She was embarrassed at my entrance, but remained fierce and surly. I
purposely did not leave them alone, and toward evening she took her
leave, with a thousand fond words to Susanna, and a cold courtesy to me.
'All will yet be well, my sweet little dear; only wait!' she whispered
before she went."



CHAPTER XI.


"Life went on quietly in the house without a master. Anna Maria was busy
until late in the evening; she possessed an endless capacity for work.
'I can bear Klaus's absence easier so,' she said, when I urged her to
give herself some rest. 'I miss him infinitely, aunt!' Stürmer came
occasionally to inquire for the ladies. Once he arrived at the same time
with Anna Maria; she, like him, was on horseback; they had probably met
on the highway, for Anna Maria came from the fields, the bailiff behind
her. I was standing at the window with Susanna. 'What a splendid
couple!' said I, involuntarily, and indeed I thought I had scarcely ever
seen Anna Maria look so handsome.

"Klaus wrote rarely; those times were not like the present, and one was
well satisfied to receive a letter once a fortnight. Anna Maria answered
promptly; her accounts must have been sufficiently detailed, for no
letter or inquiry in regard to our secret came to me. Anna Maria used to
read Klaus's letters, with the exception of the business portions,
aloud, after supper. There was a certain homesick sound in the words,
calmly and coolly as they were written. But her face beamed at every
word which he wrote from the enchanted Silesia in praise of the poor
home in the Mark; it stirred her whole heart. Next to her tender
affection for her brother, she clung with an idolizing love to her
home; no mountain lake could compare with the brown, oak-bound pond in
the garden, no high mountain-range with the charm of the heath, with the
pine-forests in the cradle of Prussia.

"And the object which doubled all the longing, which made the old
manor-house at Bütze seem in the eyes of the distant owner like a fairy
castle, like a rendezvous of the elves--this object sat playing with her
kitten during the reading, and now and then I even had to tap her
shoulder as she yawned slightly.

"'Is that only feigned indifference?' I asked myself. Then, again, a
sad, weary smile would play about her mouth if Klaus were the subject of
conversation. I thought at the time that she was fretting over the
long-delayed continuation of that hot declaration of love; that she,
with her ardent nature, was tormenting herself to death with doubts. And
I could not speak a consoling word to her; Klaus did not wish it. Why
should Susanna be spared a

    "'Hangen und Bangen
    In schwebender Pein'?

"One morning a peasant lad came running into the yard, bringing a letter
for Susanna; the old mam'selle at the forge had sent him, he said. I met
him on the steps, just as I was coming in from the garden, and bade
Brockelmann go up to Susanna with the note, which was written on the
finest letter-paper. The boy trotted away, and I sat down with Anna
Maria in the sitting-room. In a few minutes Susanna's light step was
heard in the hall, and she entered the room in haste.

"'I must beg you for a carriage, Fräulein Anna Maria!' she cried, out of
breath; 'my old Isa is ill: I must go to her.'

"Anna Maria put down her pen, rather unwillingly, at this disturbance;
she had been making out accounts.

"'But, Susanna, how often have I requested you not to walk so fast? You
are out of breath again.'

"'Shall we not find out first what is the matter with Isa?' said I, for
all at once Klaus's words, 'Hold your hands over this girl!' fell
heavily on my soul. Klaus had asked it of me. Klaus was no child; he was
a calm, strong-willed man, and he was going to make her his wife, and I
knew he would accuse me, bitterly accuse me, if a hair of her head were
hurt.

"'It might be a contagious disease, Susanna,' I continued, with all the
decision at my command, as her eyes sparkled at my opposition.

"'And what if it were the plague?' she cried, and clinched her little
hands, and swung her foot impatiently under the folds of her dress.

"Anna Maria stood up. 'For shame, Susanna! I think you are quite right
to wish to take care of Isa; it would be unnatural if you did not have
this desire. But you have scarcely recovered, and a long stay in that
musty little sick-room would be poison to you; and besides, as Aunt
Rosamond says, the disease may be contagious; we must find out about it
first.'

"'And meanwhile she may grow worse and die!' cried Susanna passionately.
'What if I do take the disease? I must go to her!' And bursting into
tears, she threw herself into a chair, and buried her head in the
cushions. Anna Maria went up to her and bent over her.

"'Susanna,' she said, kindly, 'a sensible woman shall go at once to your
Isa. And now compose yourself; I have a quiet word to say to you when I
come back.'

"'God knows what that may mean!' I thought, looking at the weeping girl.
'What does she mean to say quietly to her?' I stroked Susanna's hair
gently. 'Do not cry, _ma petite_,' I said, consolingly. 'Everything is
in God's hand. He guides and rules every human life according to his
will; trust him, he will bring it right!' I do not know if Susanna
understood me; a fresh burst of tears was the reply, and all
inconsolable sounded this bitter sobbing.

"Anna Maria came back and sat down opposite Susanna. 'Will you listen to
me rationally?' she said, somewhat severely.

"Susanna started up and gave her a defiant look. 'I am listening,' she
said.

"Just then I was called away; the pastor's sister, an early friend of
mine, had come to pay me a visit. I went, not without anxiously
regarding the two girls. What in the world could Anna Maria have in
view?

"After two mortal hours Mademoiselle Grüne took her leave; she no doubt
found me more distraught than is usually permissible; even talking over
a wedding festivity which we had attended together in the remote period
of our youth, at which Minna Grüne came very near becoming engaged, and
which ended in a fire, failed to interest me as usual. When I came
down-stairs again I found Anna Maria over her housekeeping books;
Susanna was not to be seen.

"'Anna Maria,' I asked, more hastily than is my wont, 'what have you
been talking about with Susanna?'

"'I wanted to talk with her about her future,' she replied, 'but----'

"'About her future?' I repeated, faintly.

"'Yes, indeed, aunt, for things cannot go on in this way any longer.
Susanna suffers from a dreadful disease--she has _ennui_. In my opinion
this doing nothing is enough to make the most healthy people ill.'

"'And what did she say, Anna Maria?'

"'She? she ran away as soon as she heard the one word future! Susanna is
a naughty child, and it is high time for Klaus to come back and put her
in a pension; she is worse than ever since he went away.'

"I had to smile, and yet tears came suddenly into my eyes, and yielding
to an involuntary impulse, I asked: 'Anna Maria, do you really believe
that Klaus will send Susanna away.'

"She turned about and gave me a startled look. 'Can you doubt it? He has
no doubt gone away for that express purpose. Do you not suppose the
justice could have despatched that business?'

"The next day Susanna, pale and low-spirited, drove to Dambitz, to take
care of her Isa. She had cried all night long, did not get up in the
morning, and kept on crying in her bed, till Anna Maria ordered a
carriage for her.

"Isa was said to be suffering from a stitch in the back, quite free from
danger, so there was no contagion to be feared. Susanna packed up a host
of things, as if she were going to a watering-place. Without ado, Anna
Maria took flowers, ribbons, laces, and white dresses out of the trunk,
and put in half a dozen strong aprons. 'You will have more use for
these,' she explained, gently. I was entirely opposed to this journey;
in consideration of my private instructions, I could not approve of it,
yet it seemed right to Anna Maria. 'I cannot bear the old woman either,'
she said; 'but if she is ill and wants Susanna, she must go.'

"'How could a man fall in love with this childish little creature?' I
thought, as she leaned back in the carriage with a happy smile of
satisfaction; the black crape veil floated about her small face, her
little feet were propped against the back seat, and she gracefully waved
her hand to me again. Oh! mademoiselle had the manners of a duchess,
mademoiselle will already act as Frau von Hegewitz. If Anna Maria
dreamed of that!

"A letter from Klaus came that evening. My heart began to beat, as it
always did when one came, for each time I thought Klaus would write his
sister of his love. I watched Anna Maria closely as she read; she
frowned and shook her head.

"'Klaus has had to take possession of the property, in order not to lose
everything,' she said. 'He writes that he had expected to be back in a
week, but now, alas! he is obliged to stay longer. "The harvest festival
should be kept just as if I were there,"' she read on. "You can say a
few words to the people in my place. As may easily be imagined, I have
my hands full, and there are not a few disagreeable things: in the midst
of the harvesting and nothing in order; the people a lazy, Polish
element; the bailiff a knave whom I sent off the first day! The
situation of the manor is wonderful, as well as the building itself and
the great, shady garden; however, I shall be glad when I am free from
the business at last. The high hills not far away depress me; they shut
out the view too much; how far do you suppose I can see from my window?
Just through the space between the two barns, over the wall of the
court-yard. As soon as I have things in some degree of order here I
shall have Beling (the bailiff) come and take the management in my
place. I hope you are all getting on well. Is not Aunt Rosamond going
to write me at all? Is Susanna well, perfectly well? You did not mention
her in your last letter."'

"'Aha!' thought I, as Anna Maria, reflecting, let the letter drop, 'the
longing! Oh, you foolish Klaus! And if I were to write him now, "Susanna
is in Dambitz," what would he say?'

"'I should like to drive over to-morrow to look after Susanna,' said I,
turning to Anna Maria, who was drawing in and out the colored wools on
the table-cover she was embroidering for Klaus.

"'I will wager, aunt, she will be back again to-morrow; do you think she
will hold out long there in that mean room, with the uncomfortable bed
on that neck-breaking sofa? Just wait; she will be here again before we
know it.'

"The next day Anna Maria was sitting with her table-cover beside my bed;
I had wrapped a rabbit-skin about my arms and shoulders, for the evil
rheumatism. Such an attack sometimes chained me to my bed for a week or
more, and this time I lay there feeling like a veritable culprit. I kept
thinking of Susanna, and this tormented me into a state of nervousness.
And there sat Anna Maria beside me, in her calm way taking one stitch
after another. I followed her large yet beautifully formed hand, and the
trefoil which grew under it; the lions supporting a shield were already
finished, and the last leaf would be done to-day. 'Fear thy God, kill
thine enemy, trust no friend,' was the strange motto of our family. It
doubtless originated in those times when races lived in perpetual feud
with one another, each ever ready for combat on the fortress of his
fathers.

"'Anna Maria!' I began, at length.

"She started up out of a deep revery. 'Shall I read the paper to you?'
she asked.

"'No, thank you, _mon ange_; but tell me, do you know if Susanna--is
she----'

"'She is still with her Isa, aunt,' replied Anna Maria. 'I packed up a
little basket of food for her this morning. Marieken carried it,
and----'

"'Well, Anna Maria?'

"'Oh, well, she sits by the old woman's bedside, Marieken tells me, and
round about her lie laces and ribbons and flowers; Susanna is making a
new hat or two for herself. Marieken says she had no eyes for my
appetizing basket; with cheeks as red as roses, she was all absorbed in
her finery.'

"'Incorrigible!' I murmured; 'Anna Maria, why have you let her stay
away? Is the old woman really so ill?' I added, out of humor.

"'Well, it did not seem to me so alarming from Marieken's account. If
you were not a patient yourself, aunt, I would have driven over.'

"I lay back with a sigh. Of course, I had to be ill just now. Out of
doors a cold wind was blowing over the bare fields; we should have an
early autumn. My good times were over, and now were coming again the
days of stove-heat and confinement to the house, of rabbit-skins and
herb-bags.

"'I shall invite no one to the harvest festival this year, aunt,' began
Anna Maria, after a pause. 'What would all the people do here without
Klaus? It will give me no pleasure without him; on the contrary, it is
painful to me.'

"'But Klaus wishes----'

"'Ah, aunt, but he will be content _au fond_. I know him!' said the
girl, with a smile.

"Just then Brockelmann announced Baron Stürmer. Like a flash of fire a
sudden blush mounted to Anna Maria's face, the fingers which held the
needle trembled, and her voice was unsteady.

"'Excuse me to the baron. I am prevented, unfortunately; aunt is ill.'

"Anna Maria had hitherto seen him only in the presence of others; she
feared being alone with him; was that indifference?

"'Ask the baron to come up here,' said I with sudden resolution. 'I am
certainly old enough to receive him in bed,' I added to Anna Maria.

"'Come, _mon cher_ Edwin, if you are not afraid to see a sick old woman
in bed,' I called to him, as he was now entering, and pointed to a chair
by the head of my bed, opposite Anna Maria. Edwin Stürmer was the most
versatile man I ever saw, and at once master of a situation. And so he
was soon sitting by me, chatting pleasantly. The twilight deepened, and
Anna Maria let her hands rest. She listened to us as we spoke of old
times; I saw how her eyes were fixed on his face, how now and then a
slight flush spread over it. She spoke little, and all at once rose and
left the room.

"'Anna Maria is quiet, and looks badly,' I remarked; 'the work is too
much for her.'

"He did not answer at once; then he said: 'She was always so still and
cold, Aunt Rosamond.'

"'No, no, Stürmer, she is in trouble, she is worried about Klaus.'

"'Of all things in the world, that is a needless anxiety,' he returned,
laughing. And evidently trying to get away from the subject, he asked:
'But where is Fräulein Mattoni?'

"'Nearer to you than you think, Edwin.'

"'With the old witch, her duenna?' he asked, with that indifference
which involuntarily suggests the opposite quality.

"'Yes; the old woman is ill and Susanna is taking care of her. _Eh
bien_, you will come, of course, to our harvest festival? Anna Maria
intends to celebrate it very quietly, quite _entre nous_; but you must
come, Edwin.'

"'What?' he asked, absently.

"'For pity's sake, tell me where your thoughts are hiding?' I scolded,
irritably.

"He laughed, and kissed my hand. 'Pardon, Fräulein Rosamond, I was still
thinking about Klaus.'

"'And the result, Edwin?'

"'Is that I have come to none; he is really incomprehensible to me.'

"'Why?'

"'Do allow me _not_ to say it,' he replied; 'but I _envy_ him.'

"'May I not also know what?'

"'Yes,' he said, rising, 'his cool temperament. How much needless
agitation, how many sleepless nights one to whom such calmness has been
given is spared!'

"'But Klaus is not cold; I do not know what you mean,' said I,
reproachfully; 'as little cold as Anna Maria, and--as you.'

"He sat down again, and without regarding my objection, continued: 'For
Heaven's sake, do tell me where they got this even temperament, this
indifference, this coolness. The father was an eccentric, energetic man,
warmly sensitive, even to passionateness--perhaps the mother was so?'

"'I assure you, Edwin,' I repeated, almost hurt, 'you know them both
very little yet when you speak thus. They are neither indifferent nor
cold-hearted; but both have, alas! inherited too much of the father's
warm feelings and eccentricity. Believe me,' I added with a sigh. I was
thinking of the scene in the Dambitz forge.

"Edwin Stürmer laughed. 'Well, well,' he said, 'I am far from
reproaching Klaus with it; it is only incomprehensible to me. I suppose
I seem odd to you?'

"'Oh, Stürmer, such a hot-head as you Klaus has never been, certainly,
and I know that you owe to your vivacity my brother's love, which
preferred you before his own son. You may be convinced that just that
passionate, changeable nature of my brother has made the children so
earnest, so deliberate.'

"'Klaus is the best, the noblest of men; he is my friend!' cried
Stürmer, with warmth. 'Do I say, then, that I reproach him? But he has
not learned to know life; he has never come from mere fidelity to duty
and deliberation, to call his a moment of inspiration which is able to
carry one quite out of himself; he has ever kept to the golden mean,
blameless; he has always done enough, but not too much. In short--in
short, such men are model men. But what life means, Aunt Rosamond, that
he does not know, and only _he_ could trust himself----'

"He broke off suddenly. 'I should like to know how I came to deliver
such a lecture to you,' he added, jokingly.

"It was almost dark in the room now. I could scarcely distinguish
Stürmer's profile. He twisted his beard rapidly and nervously.

"'You may say what you will, Stürmer, but cold my two children are not,'
I declared, and just at that moment Anna Maria entered.

"'A light will be brought directly,' she said, cheerfully, stepping over
to her chair. 'Pardon me, baron, for staying away so long; I was kept by
domestic duties, which occupy me more closely than when Klaus is at
home.'

"He made no reply; I only saw him bow. Anna Maria could have said
nothing more pedantic, I thought. Conversation would not flow, the light
did not come. Anna Maria was just on the point of ringing for it when
the bell in the church-tower began to ring in quick, broken strokes.

"'Fire!' cried Anna Maria, in alarm, hurrying to the window. Already
there was a commotion in the court-yard; Stürmer had also thrown open a
window. 'Where is the fire?' he called down.

"With beating heart I sat upright in bed. 'Where?' called Anna Maria,
'where is the fire, people?' Then the words were lost in the tumult.

"'In Dambitz,' at last came up the reply, amid all the tramping of
horses and noise of the people. '_Sacre Dieu!_' murmured Stürmer,
overturning a chair in the darkness; 'Dambitz!'

"'I will light a candle,' said Anna Maria, calmly; 'give me a moment and
I will go with you.' Below, the fire-engine was just rattling across the
court. The candles flared up under Anna Maria's hand.

"'Send me a wrap, aunt, please; I wish to go over on Susanna's account;
do not worry. I am ready, if you will take me with you in your
carriage,' she added to Stürmer; and again a red glow spread over her
face.

"'The carriage is ready, if you please, Fräulein.' He was already
hurrying out of the room.

"'For God's sake, Anna Maria, bring back Susanna to me!' I cried. And
then I lay alone for hours. Brockelmann came up once: 'The whole sky is
red,' she informed me; 'it must be a big fire.' The little bell rang
unremittingly its monotonous alarm, and before my eyes stood the burning
houses, and I fancied Anna Maria beside Stürmer in the carriage, driving
rapidly along the lonely highway, and Susanna in danger. And my thoughts
flew to Klaus: 'Hold your hands over this girl. I will thank you for it
all my life!' 'My God, protect her!' I prayed in my anxiety.

"And hour after hour passed, the bell became silent, after long pauses,
and Anna Maria did not come. Brockelmann said the fire-light had
disappeared. I heard the carriages and people returning home; then the
court was quiet. And then Brockelmann came in again: 'It broke out in
the second house from the forge, the lads say, and the forge is
half-burned, too.' Oh, Heaven, and Anna Maria does not come!

"The old woman sat down by my bed. 'She does not think of herself,' she
complained; 'she will run into the burning house if it is possible. Ah,
if the master were only here!' Good Brockelmann, she knew better than
Stürmer how to judge Anna Maria.

"'Fräulein,' she whispered, already following another train of thought,
'do you know--but you must not take it amiss--the baron comes so often
now, and as I saw them both drive out of the yard to-day, then--I keep
thinking she will marry him yet.'

"'Oh, how can you talk such nonsense?" said I, chiding these words in
vexation.

"'Yet, I say, the next thing will be a wedding in the house!' declared
the old woman. 'The great myrtle down-stairs is full of buds, and I also
found a bridal rose in the garden. And last New Year's eve I listened at
the door and heard the young master just saying: "Invite to the
wedding!" And that will all come true. And then--but you must not act as
if you knew it--I have had Anna Maria in my arms from the day she was
born, and know her as no one else does, and I know how she cried over
the note that the baron wrote her at the time when he went far away into
the world, and, Fräulein, she always has it with her! Oh, I see so much
that I am not intended to see; but she cannot dissemble, Anna Maria.'

"Ah! what the old woman was saying was of no importance to me; only news
of Susanna; everything else later! 'My God, Susanna,' I murmured, 'if
anything has happened to her!' And unable to stay quietly in bed any
longer, I bade Brockelmann help me dress. At last a carriage rolled in
at the gate and stopped before the house. I sat up in bed, and kept my
eyes on the door. Susanna _must_ come! Brockelmann had hurried
down-stairs; I heard Anna Maria's voice on the stairs, and her
footsteps, and then she came in.

"'For God's sake, where is Susanna?' I cried to her.

"'With her old nurse, who has been made really ill from fright,' she
said quietly, and sank exhausted into the chair by my bed.

"'But, Anna Maria,' I wailed, 'the forge is burned down!'

"'They are at the castle,' she replied, gently. 'Stürmer has given a
shelter to all who were burned out.'

"'In the castle?' At the first moment the thought was quieting to me,
but then my heart grew heavy. 'Oh, but that is impossible! How could you
let Susanna accept the hospitality of an unmarried man? It is wrong of
you; you are usually so observant of forms. You _ought_ to have brought
her with you, and the old woman too!' I had spoken impetuously, in my
anxiety. Anna Maria gave me a strange look.

"'Isa is so ill she was in no condition to make the journey hither,' she
replied. 'But Susanna lies across her bed with torn hair and face bathed
with tears; she is nearer to her than all of us, and at such a moment,
aunt, one does not think of--etiquette.' I first noticed now how pale
and exhausted Anna Maria looked. Her fair hair had fallen down, and one
golden tress falling over the white forehead lay on her plain dark-green
dress; her eyes were cast down and her lips quivered slightly.

"'Poor child!' I cried, seizing her hands. 'It has been too much, and
here am I reproving you!'

"She let her hand remain in mine, but did not look up. 'I am quite
well,' she replied; 'but it is painful--to behold human misery and not
be able to help. It was fearful, aunt! And it has cost one human
life--nearly two.' Her voice was strangely lifeless as she said this.
'An old man,' she continued, 'in the act of saving his cow from the
burning stable, was buried beneath the falling building. Stürmer carried
out his grand-daughter, who was trying to help him, unhurt--but it was
at the very last moment--a falling beam injured his arm.'

"She had spoken in snatches, as if it were hard for her to breathe. And
now the peculiar sobbing sound came from her breast; I knew that so
well, for even as a child she had thus suppressed a burst of tears. I
grasped her hands more firmly; she was feverishly hot, and her bosom
heaved violently.

"'The splendid, warm-hearted man! Just the same to-day as he ever was!'
said I, gently. 'God be praised for having protected him!'

"Then we sat silent for a long time. The candles in front of the mirror
had burned low, and flickering they struggled for existence; and the
clock on the console ticked restlessly. I longed to beg the girl beside
me: 'Anna Maria, confide in me; it is not yet too late! See, I know now
that you love Stürmer--since to-day I am sure of it. Anna Maria, it is
not yet too late!' But how could I do it? She had never given me the
slightest right, never allowed me to share in what moved her heart. Oh,
that she would come of her own accord, then, and speak, that she might
know how much easier it is for two to bear a burden.

"I pressed her hand, beseechingly. 'Anna Maria, my dear child!' I
whispered. Then she roused herself as out of a confused dream, and
pushed the hair from her forehead.

"'Susanna?' she asked; 'Susanna got off with a fright. I led her over to
the castle myself, and Stürmer's old servant carried Isa; they are safe.
As soon as the old woman can be moved I shall have her brought here, of
course; to-day it was impossible. The excitement might be bad for
Susanna, too, for such a passionate outburst of grief I never dreamed
of. She loves the old creature more than I ever mistrusted, and her cry:
"Isa, Isa, if you die I have no one else in the world!" was repeated
till she broke down from exhaustion.'

"I listened as if stunned. 'Anna Maria,' I said, 'I must go over
to-morrow.'

"She nodded. 'If it is possible--for I should be glad to avoid it."

"'It must be possible, Anna Maria. Go and rest, we are both tired; sleep
well.'

"Wall, there I lay, and no sleep came to my eyes. Klaus and Susanna,
Anna Maria and Stürmer, revolved in wildest confusion in my brain. I
started up out of my dozing, for I thought I heard Susanna's voice:
'Isa, Isa, if you die I have no one else in the world!' And I dreamed
that I cried in anger to her: 'Ungrateful one, have you not more than a
thousand others--have you not the heart of the best and truest of men?'
And I awoke again with a cry, for I had seen Stürmer hurry into the
burning house, and seen it fall on him; and Anna Maria stood by, pale
and calm, with disordered locks of fair hair over her white forehead;
her eyes looked fixedly and gloomily on that ruin, but she could neither
weep nor speak."



CHAPTER XII.


"It was a fearful night! I was almost astonished to see the bright
sunshine streaming in my window, and the blue sky, the next morning.
Brockelmann helped me dress, for my shoulder was still painful.

"Some trouble oppressed the old woman; it was always to be observed that
when anything weighed on her heart she used to smooth her hands over the
hem of her apron, and therewith take aim at the person on whom she had
designs. For a little while I watched it to-day, but when, after tying
my shoes, she remained sitting on the deal floor, stroking her
dazzlingly white apron, and seeking for a way to begin her speech,
evidently a difficulty to her, I said: 'Well, speak out, Brockelmann;
what is it?'

"But instead of an answer she threw her apron over her face and began to
weep bitterly.

"'Do write, gracious Fräulein, for the master to come back soon, or
things will not go right in my life-time with Anna Maria,' she sobbed.
'It eats into my heart like a worm that he went away without a good-by.
She says nothing, but, Fräulein, I have known her ever since she was
born; I know her as well as I do myself. She stays for hours in the
master's room, and when she comes out her eyes are red with weeping, and
then it is always: "Brockelmann, the master would certainly do this so,
and wish that so," and "When the master is here," or "When the master
comes," is the third word with her. When Christian brings the mail she
runs out into the court to meet him, and the first time the master wrote
I was just going through the room, as she read the letter. She did not
see me, but I saw how the letter trembled in her hands, and then she
said to herself: "He is different from what he used to be; it is past!"
And then she got up and went into the garden, and I looked after her and
watched her as I used to when she was yet a wild thing with long braids.
And then she walked up and down by the spot where her mother lies
buried, up and down, up and down, oh! certainly for an hour. It was
nothing to her that it rained, and that the wind blew her half to
pieces. At last I went out there and asked her something about the
housekeeping; I could not see it any longer. Then she came in with me.
But last night, when she came back from the fire, when I had brought her
a glass of mulled wine, she looked so wretched. When I knew she was in
her own room I took it to her--I did not wish to disturb her here. But
listen, Fräulein Rosamond, when I went in there Anna Maria had just been
crying, crying as if her heart would break. She did not see me; she had
laid her head on the table, and on Herr Klaus's picture, and her whole
body shook and trembled. Then I closed the door again softly, for,
believe me, it would have been dreadful to her to have had any one see
that she was crying. Indeed, she does not like it if anybody cries
aloud. But to-day I could not rest. Only write, Fräulein; when the
master is here all will be well again!'

"'Ah, good old Brockelmann, if that would settle it! Yes, Klaus would
come, but it would never be again as it used to be, never again!'

"The old woman took my silence for acquiescence. 'And, Fräulein,' she
continued, drying her eyes, 'I know perfectly well since when things
have been different. If I had had the power I would have said to
Christian at the time when the coach came driving into the yard with the
theatrical people: "Turn around, for Heaven's sake, Christian; these are
birds which are not suited to this nest!" But, good heavens, some of us
are silent, and see and hear! The master is so kind-hearted, Fräulein,
so kind-hearted; God grant that it may remain kind-heartedness! I could
have fretted myself to death when it was rumored in the servants' hall,
and in the village, that the Ma'm'selle who had snowed down was not
unpleasing to the master. In Rieke, it has gone to a blockhead; she was
not bad, but what is the use--the talk is once out--if Fräulein Anna
Maria only doesn't hear of it, although it is nothing but lies,' she
continued, after a short pause, and looked at me confidently, 'for the
master could have the fairest and best any day, and doesn't need to wait
upon such a vagabond thing, yet it would make the Fräulein ill if she
were to hear of it.'

"'So the servants are already talking about it,' said I softly, when the
old woman had gone. 'And they are not far from the truth! Brockelmann,
too, only sings so loud because she has fears, and she wanted to know
what I thought of it. But Anna Maria will not believe, Anna Maria has
other troubles.'

"As I went down to get into the carriage which was to carry me to
Dambitz, Anna Maria was just coming out of Klaus's room. She was quiet
and friendly as usual; there was no sign of yesterday's tumult. She
asked how I had slept, and said she had just come in from the fields.
'The harvest is a blessing of God this year,' she added; 'look at the
crops as you drive past the rye-fields. How pleased Klaus will be!' And
as I was sitting in the carriage, she put a little parcel into my hand:
'Give that to Stürmer for the burned-out people, will you, please? Klaus
will approve.' She was blushing crimson. 'It is out of the milk-fund;
you know that is my own!'

"Touched, I nodded to her, and then the carriage rolled away with me, in
the misty autumn morning. What a refreshing odor came from the
pine-forests; a golden mist hung over the distant heath, and the sky
seemed higher and bluer than I had seen it for a long time. And yet it
seemed as if I were breathing the heavy air before a thunder-storm the
nearer I came to Dambitz and the shaded manor-house. We drove past the
burned houses; the charred beams and timbers were still smoking, and
thin columns of smoke circled up from the ruins; a loathsome odor lay
about the unfortunate spot, but human hands were already at work again.
The blacksmith's shop was half demolished, the gabled wall was warped by
the heat of the fire, and the blacksmith's young wife was bravely
rummaging among her household goods, which had been thrown, _nolens
volens_, into the street, a promiscuous heap of beds, clothing, and
furniture. A little woman was sitting on a chest, weeping bitterly; it
was her husband who had met with the fatal accident last night, the
coachman told me. A young girl of perhaps sixteen was hunting about the
half-burned and partially wet rubbish; her eyes were swollen with
weeping.

"'You poor people,' thought I; 'no one can give you back what has been
taken from you, but we will help to replace the earthly property.' And I
looked at the small but heavy roll in my hand; it was a not
insignificant sum in gold. Well for him who can give, and gives gladly
and lovingly!

"We now drove along by the park wall; the great gate of skilfully
wrought iron stood open; the luxuriant foliage of the beautiful park
here parted, and let the eye roam over velvety green lawns and broad
flower-beds to the white, castle-like buildings. Awnings protected the
terrace from the sun's rays, and a black and white flag waved gayly in
the morning wind. A delicious freshness lay over the garden; not a
yellow leaf was yet to be seen on the broad gravel-walk; everywhere most
painstaking neatness.

"I called to the coachman to stop, and had myself lifted out of the
carriage, so as to walk through the park. I do not know myself how the
idea came into my head. How long it was since I had been here! I was
then still a girl; my sister-in-law was by my side, and Klaus and Edwin,
wild lads, rushing about us. I felt very strangely; there was still the
little bridge of tree-trunks, the ingeniously planned moat, which always
used to be dry; to-day water was splashing in it. The trees had grown
taller, the shrubbery more luxuriant, and a marble Diana stood out
against the green of the taxus-hedge. Stürmer's taste for the beautiful
struck me at every step. At home no one thought of marble statues and
English turf; at home the wish had never yet been spoken to see such
jets of crystal water as those shooting up before the group of fine old
elms; there was still the same old garden with its gnarled oaks, its
primitive arbors, its flower-sprinkled grass-plots; but it was pleasant
and home-like, as it is to-day.

"I followed a shady path which I knew would bring me to the side of the
house, but all at once I stopped short. I could not be deceived; that
was Susanna's ringing laugh, floating like the note of a nightingale
through the shrubbery. Susanna in the garden and Susanna laughing? I
walked on and went up on a little knoll surrounded by old lindens; in
the middle was a Flora on a stone pedestal; monthly roses were blooming
in the flower-beds, mingling their fragrance with that of the
mignonette. At one side was a group of pretty garden furniture, and in
one of the seats was Susanna, leaning back and looking with a smile of
delight at the spray of roses which Stürmer had just offered her.

"He stood in front of her, his arm still in a sling, and looked down at
her. She had evidently made her toilet with the greatest care; the time
at Isa's sick-bed had not passed unused, it seemed. She still wore a
black dress, but her white neck gleamed beneath a quantity of delicate
black lace, and filmy lace also fell over her arms; the fichu knotted
below her bosom was held together by a pale rose, and there was also a
rose in her hair; Susanna Mattoni looked charming in her half-Spanish
costume. And yet if, with disorderly hair and careless toilet, and,
instead of the lace, one of Anna Maria's aprons, I had found her at
Isa's bed, could I have detected in her face a single sign of the fearful
night before, I would have thrown my arms about the child and said:
'Come, Susanna, my little Susanna, your refuge is at Bütze.' But now? But
thus?

"My heart seemed almost paralyzed. In another moment I was standing by
Susanna, and was able to say pleasantly that I had come to take her
home.

"Stürmer drew my hand to his lips, much pleased, 'Ah! my dearest, best
Aunt Rosamond, again at Dambitz at last," he cried. Susanna stood as if
petrified by my unexpected appearance. 'Well, my child,' I said to her,
as Stürmer, after pushing up a chair for me, went into the castle; 'how
is your Isa? She is quite well again, is she?'

"Susanna shook her head. 'No,' she replied, 'Isa is still very weak.'

"'Who takes care of her then?' I asked, sharply.

"'Herr von Stürmer has engaged a woman to nurse her,' she informed me,
'who probably understands it better than I.'

"'And you were on the point of returning to Bütze, were you not?' I
asked, severely.

"Susanna bent down her crimson face, and uttered a low 'Yes!' She had
understood me.

"'_Allons donc_, my child, we will not delay.' I rose and went forward;
slowly she followed me, with a decided expression of ill-humor. At the
front steps of the castle we met Stürmer, a look of happy surprise still
on his face.

"'Oh, dear Aunt Rosamond, you will breakfast with me!' he begged, giving
me his well arm to escort me up the steps. 'Such a rare occasion!' And
he gave me a look so winning, so truly delighted that it would have been
more than uncivil to refuse. And the personality of my old favorite
exercised such a charm over me that, smiling, I let myself be dragged
away.

"Susanna flew past us up the steps; her lace-trimmed skirts stood out as
she ran, fluttering about her light feet; the rose fell out of her hair
and dropped in front of Stürmer. He picked it up, and held it absently
in his hand. Susanna disappeared behind the glass door of the vestibule;
Stürmer's eyes, which had followed her, now looked at me again, and our
eyes met and remained for a moment fixed on each other, as if each would
read the other's thoughts. Then he silently led me through the rooms of
his house.

"How often had I been here before! I had always liked to think of the
comfortable great rooms, which, with their oak wainscoting and huge
tiled stoves projecting far out from the walls, presented such an
attractive appearance to the half-frozen guests who had come in sleighs
from Bütze. It had always been a dream of mine to see Anna Maria ruling
here some day, but the picture was erased from my mind when I entered
the first room.

"Where were they, the comfortable rooms, the dark oak wainscoting, the
old tiled stoves? Gilding and colored mosaics shone, with a foreign air,
on the walls; odd draperies concealed doors and windows; low, dark-red
couches in place of the sofas; fragile little bronze tables, and vases;
everywhere mirrors reaching to the floor; groups of exotic flowers in
the corners; a Smyrna rug on the floor, in which the foot sank deep.
Astonished, I stood still on the threshold.

"'_Mon Dieu_, Edwin, have you fallen among the Turks?'

"'It is my furnishing from Stamboul, that I brought home with me,' he
replied, simply. 'But, alas! I could not charm hither the view. Imagine
that wall gone, Fräulein Rosamond, and in its place slender marble
pillars, forming a covered walk, and then imagine yourself looking out
between them on the blue sea; see the sweet pines, swaying in the fresh
sea-breeze; yonder a cypress-wood, and on the waving billows a hundred
white sails; and imagine a child of that South, slender as a gazelle,
leaning on the balustrade, a pair of sparkling dark eyes shining through
a white veil--then you have what I saw daily in those beautiful days.'

"How did it happen? In the midst of this imaginary picture which he had
just drawn for me I saw Anna Maria standing, in her dark dress, her
basket of keys on her arm, and saw her great clear eyes wander in
astonishment over this splendor. I smiled involuntarily; I could never
imagine Anna Maria resting, in sweet indolence, on those cushions. I had
to laugh at this idea, but it was a bitter laugh, and pained me.

"I followed him through several rooms; everywhere luxury, foreign
furnishings; but at least the chairs were sensible. Everywhere a perfume
of roses, costly rugs, a profusion of foreign draperies. In a
one-windowed room was a little table spread for three persons, shining
with glass and silver. Edwin escorted me to the seat of honor. 'Your
little protégée will appear directly,' he said gayly. And kissing my
hand, he assured me again how happy he was to have me here at last. 'I
really do not know why you have not visited my solitary abode long
before,' he said, jokingly.

"'Why have you never told me, Edwin, that you have so many treasures
from the "Thousand and One Nights" here?' I returned.

"'I do not like to seem boastful,' he said, offering me a mayonnaise,
which I declined, taking some cold fowl. 'My acquaintances have looked
at the things _en passant_, and Klaus has been here often. I really
supposed you were not interested in such things at Bütze.'

"Indeed, Klaus had told us nothing about all this; at the most had
mentioned the costly furnishings and various rare articles from foreign
countries; he had himself no fancy for curiosities of that sort. Just
then Edwin Stürmer rose. I thought I saw a faint smile on his lips,
which vexed me, I know not why. But it vanished again at once, and gave
way to a different expression. He opened the door and let Susanna in; he
had probably heard her step. She sat down opposite him at the richly
appointed table; above her dark head waved the fan-shaped leaf of a
great palm, and white blossoms crowded against the back of her chair;
from a group of southern plants in another corner rose the Venus de Milo
in purest marble.

"And yet this sumptuous little room seemed but to form the frame for
Susanna's own peculiar beauty. She looked sad; she ate nothing, and only
now and then lifted her slender cup to moisten her lips; she did not
speak, either, and when she raised her lashes tears shone in the dark
eyes. Stürmer was also quieter; he spoke of the fire at last, and told
me that work was to be begun on the new buildings to-morrow.

"I delivered Anna Maria's little parcel to him; he grew red for a
moment, but did not thank me with the warmth I had expected.

"'And now,' said I, rising, after the dessert, 'I will relieve you of a
burden; I will drive Isabella and Susanna home. In a bachelor's
establishment such patients must be more than a disturbance. Susanna,
have the kindness to conduct me to Isa.'

"Susanna's eyes sought Stürmer, but he turned away. 'I fear the old
woman is not yet able to be moved,' he said, politely. 'Besides, she is
no burden to me. She cannot, to be sure, find such a nurse as at Bütze;
we have to depend upon hired persons.' He offered me his arm and led me
along the hall to a door which Susanna, running ahead, opened, and then
he withdrew.

"Isabella lay in a beautiful large room, in a fine bed with white
hangings; evidently a guest chamber. It looked out on the garden, and
great linden-trees shaded the windows from the sun's rays. That
Isabella and Susanna both slept here was evident. There was a second
bed, still unmade, the pillows tumbled over each other; and Susanna's
whole stock of knick-knacks and trumpery lay, just as it had been
brought hither from the burning house, with the dress, cooking utensils,
and salve-boxes of the other, tumbled together on the floor. An old
woman in a neat dress and white cap stood among them, trying to restore
order. She was probably the nurse of whom Susanna had spoken.

"I went straight up to Isa's bed. 'Mademoiselle Pfannenschmidt, are you
well enough to drive to Bütze with Susanna and me?' I asked.

"'No!' she replied, looking at me very angrily.

"'Well, then, come after us as soon as you are well enough,' said I,
coldly; 'are you ready, Susanna?'

"'Susanna stays with _me_!' she declared, her voice trembling with
anger.

"'She is going with me,' I replied, quietly; 'spare yourself all further
pains. I shall not leave Susanna in the house of an unmarried man;
according to _our_ views, it is improper.'

"'Under my charge?' shrieked Isabella, sitting up in bed with a jerk;
'under my charge?'

"I shrugged my shoulders in silence, and turned to Susanna; she stood
motionless, and looked at Isa.

"'Will you take away the girl a second time?' cried Isa, wringing her
thin hands. 'You will not even let me have the child on my death-bed?
Susanna, my darling, stay with me!'

"'You are far from dying, my dear,' said I, in a clear voice. 'Have the
kindness to submit quietly to my arrangements; they are for Susanna's
good.' She was silent, and looked on, as I put a shawl over Susanna's
shoulders, pulled out her straw hat from under a heap of clothing, and
put it on her head.

"'I shall ask Baron Stürmer to have you driven to Bütze as soon as you
are at all well enough,' said I, turning to Isa again; 'till then I know
you will be well cared for. Farewell.' Without further ado, I pushed
Susanna toward the door, and heard once more the shrill cry: 'Susanna,
Susanna, stay here!'

"She stopped, and looked at me as if she meant to defy me and run back.

"'_En avant!_ my child,' said I, energetically; 'you have been away from
Bütze too long already; I shall never forgive myself for having let you
go at all.' She was pale, and I saw her clench her little hands; but she
followed me.

"Stürmer was waiting for us at the carriage, which was standing before
the front steps. He was holding the spray of roses which Susanna had
left lying in the garden in the morning, and handed it to her with a bow
which, in my opinion, was lower than was really necessary. I could not
see the look he gave her with it, for his back was turned to me, but I
saw a crimson glow mount to Susanna's cheeks and a bright look flash
over to him from under her long lashes, which alarmed me. I scarcely
heard Stürmer commission me with greetings for Anna Maria, adding that
he would bring his thanks himself for the money. I drew down my veil and
motioned to the coachman to start, and we rattled across the court and
out on the highway. Susanna's head was turned around, and her eyes sped
over the rows of windows of the stately house; two shining drops escaped
from them and fell on the roses.

"How it came about I know not, but all at once I had seized her firmly
by the arm. 'There before you lies Bütze, Susanna Mattoni!' I cried,
sternly. She started, and gave a little cry; her face had grown pale,
but her eyes sparkled in rebellion.

"'You punish me like a naughty child!' she cried, her lips quivering.
'What wrong have I done? I followed you without opposition.'

"'Ask your own heart, Susanna,' I returned, gravely. She blushed, and
then began to cry bitterly, incessantly.

"'Isa! Isa!' she sobbed.

"'Are you really crying about Isa?' I asked, gently now, and took her
hand. 'I do not believe it, Susanna; you have some other grief. Only
place confidence in me. _Could_ I not help you, if you were frank?'

"She pushed away my hand. 'No, never, never!' she burst out, violently.

"'But if I only knew what is the matter with you, Susanna, I might, with
a word----'

"She stopped crying, and a defiant expression came over her face. 'I
really want no sympathy,' she said, with a gesture of inimitable pride.
'There is nothing the matter with me; am I not to be allowed to cry when
the person who watched over my childhood lies ill and alone in a strange
house?'

"I was silent; I thought where I had found her to-day--not indeed at the
sick-bed! And she understood my silence better than my words, for she
dropped her eyes in embarrassment, and remained quiet during the whole
drive. Ah, and it was such a sunny day! I followed a lark with my eyes,
as it joyously and on trembling wings rose high in the blue sky, till it
looked like a mere dot. A herd of deer ran away over the stubble as we
drove quickly past; in the meadows over yonder the peasant's cows were
feeding; far in the distance earth and sky blended in a blue haze; and
now the roofs of Bütze emerged, peaceful and sunny, from the dark
foliage of the oaks and elms--the dear old father-house! To me it seemed
all at once as if I were coming home from a long journey from distant
lands.

"Anna Maria was standing in the door-way, with apron and bunch of keys,
as ever. She had a few beautiful white asters in her hand, and as
Susanna came up the steps she said, drawing the girl to her: 'Thank God,
Susanna, that you have returned unharmed; it was a bad night!' And she
shyly put the flowers in the girl's little hand, beside the bunch of
roses. One could see that she was really pleased. 'How is Isa doing?'
she asked, 'and how is Stürmer's arm?' She turned to me when she saw
that Susanna had been crying, and on my reply that the condition of both
was hopeful, she turned again to Susanna.

"'Do not cry,' and a lovely expression beautified her serious young
face; 'as soon as Isa can drive she is coming, and you will nurse each
other quite well again.'

"Anna Maria seemed transformed; there was a tenderness in her actions,
in her voice, which only the consciousness of a great happiness, an
endless gratitude for something undeserved, can give. This tone cut my
heart like a hundred knives.

"Susanna begged to be excused from the dinner-table, on the plea of a
headache, and she did not come down to the garden-parlor during the
afternoon; she was sulky. Anna Maria had taken up her sewing, and sat
opposite me in the window-recess; it was quiet and cosey in the
comfortable room, so peaceful--and yet the threatening storm was
drawing near with great haste, to drive away our peace for a long time.

"'I would like to know if Klaus would miss me if I--were suddenly no
longer here; if I should die, for instance, aunt?' asked Anna Maria all
at once, quite abruptly. Then she quickly laid her hand on my arm: 'No,
I beg you,' said she, preventing my answer; 'I know of course he would
miss me, miss me very much!'

"After we had sat silent together for a little while the coachman
entered with the mail-bag, which he handed to Anna Maria. She felt in
her pocket for the key, opened the bag, and drew out letters and
newspapers.

"'Ah, from Klaus!' she cried, in joyful surprise; 'and what a thick
letter, aunt; just look!' She held up a large envelope. How strange,'
she remarked then; 'it is for you, aunt.'

"I started as if I had been apprehended of a crime. 'Give it to me!' I
begged, and broke the crested seal with trembling hand, for I suspected
what it was. An enclosure for Anna Maria fell out of the letter
addressed to me, and I stealthily threw my handkerchief over it--Anna
Maria had opened a business letter--and began to read:

     "'DEAREST AUNT: When I went away a few weeks ago, I said to you
     at the last moment I should write to Anna Maria to tell her
     that I love Susanna Mattoni, that she is to be my wife.
     Meanwhile, I had given up the idea, and thought I would speak
     quietly with Anna Maria on my return. But now I am again of the
     opinion that a written confession is best. When I ask you now
     to give the enclosed letter to Anna Maria, it is chiefly for
     this reason, that she may have a support in you. If I were to
     write to her directly, she would keep the matter all to
     herself, she is so reserved; but in this way she must speak,
     and will be more easily reconciled to what cannot be altered.
     That it will be hard for her I cannot conceal from myself,
     after various scenes between us. But my decision stands
     irrevocably firm. I love Susanna, and God will help us over the
     near future, and not separate the hearts of brother and sister,
     who have so long clung to one another in true love. I shall
     come as soon as I have news; the longing takes hold of me more
     than I can tell.'

"I let the sheet drop, the letters danced before my eyes. How should I
begin to make this news known to her?

"As I rose hastily, the letter fell at Anna Maria's feet. She raised her
head and looked searchingly at me, and saw that I was making a great
effort to compose myself.

"'Aunt Rosamond!' she cried, stooping and picking up the letter, 'what
is it? Bad news from Klaus? Please, speak!' She knelt by my chair, and
her anxious eyes tried to read my face.

"'No, no, my child!' I caught hold of the letter which she held in her
hand.

"'It is certainly to me!' she cried, quickly taking it back.

"All at once I became master of my trembling nerves. 'It is to you, Anna
Maria,' I agreed, 'and contains----'

"'I will see for myself, aunt,' she said, and there was a tone of
infinite anxiety in her voice. She rose and sat down in one of the deep
window-niches of the hall. I could not see her face from my seat; I
heard only the rattling of the paper in the stillness, and my heart
thumped as if it would burst. The anxious pause seemed to me an
eternity; then a cry of pain sounded through the room. I sprang toward
Anna Maria; her fair head lay on the window-seat, her face was buried in
her hands, and an almost unearthly groaning was wrung from her breast.

"'For God's sake, Anna Maria!' I cried, embracing her. 'Compose
yourself, be calm; you do him injustice; he is not lying on his bier!'
But she did not stir; she groaned as if suffering from severe physical
pain.

"'Anna Maria, my dear Anna Maria!' I cried, weeping.

"'For that, ah, for that, all that I have suffered!' she cried out, and
raised her pale face, transfixed with pain. She stretched up her arms,
and wrung her clasped hands. 'My only brother!' she whispered, 'my only
brother!' Then, springing up impetuously, she ran out.

"As if stunned, I remained behind; I had not expected this; for such an
expression of pain I was not prepared.

"And the old house was still; my steps creaked on the cement floor of
the corridor before Anna Maria's room, and a long, long time I stood
there and listened for a sound, but it remained quiet behind the closed
door. The autumn evening drew on, night closed in, solemn and clear
shone the stars from the sky upon the earth beneath. 'What art thou,
child of man, with thy small trouble? Look up to us and fold thy hands,'
said they in their dumb language. And I clasped my hands. 'He who
created the stars to give us light by night will also lighten this
spot!' I whispered.

"Eleven o'clock struck as I knocked at Susanna's door. She did not
answer. I went softly into the room; a candle on the mantel, just on the
point of going out, threw its unsteady light on the girl. She was lying
on one side, her face turned toward the room, a smile on the red lips;
beside the bed Stürmer's spray of roses, carefully placed in water.

"It was a dismal morning that followed. Anna Maria remained in her room;
she did not answer our knocks, and there was no movement within.
Brockelmann's eyes were red with weeping; she shook her head, and went
about the house on tip-toe, as if there were a dead person in it. I was
in sheer despair, and limped from Anna Maria's door to my room, and back
again. The bailiffs came and inquired for her, and went away
astonished--she did not appear.

"About eight o'clock I went softly to Susanna's room. She had just
risen, and was arranging her hair. The windows were opened wide; through
the branches of the trees golden sunbeams slipped into the room and
played over the young creature who, trifling and smiling and fresh as a
rose, stood, in her white dressing-sack, before the mirror. She did not
hear me enter, for she went on trilling a little song half aloud; clear
as a bell the tones floated out on the clear morning air. Isa's
death-bed was forgotten; ah! and something else, probably.

"I closed the door again cautiously; I was never so anxious before in my
life.

"'Is Fräulein Anna Maria ill?' asked Susanna, as she found only two
places set at dinner. She had come from the garden, and had a bunch of
white asters at her bosom, and her eyes shone with delight.

"'I think so,' said I, softly, and folded my hands for the grace.
Susanna showed a pitying face for a moment, and then began to chatter;
she was in a most agreeable mood.

"The day wore on. Anna Maria remained invisible. Brockelmann was quite
beside herself. 'She is crying, she is crying as if her heart would
break,' she said, coming into my room before going to bed.

"'She is crying? That is good!' said I, relieved.

"'She has never cried so much in all her life before, whispered the old
woman; 'something must have happened that cuts deep into her heart.'

"'I cannot confide it to you, Brockelmann,' I replied, 'but you will
know it soon.' I was sorry for the old woman; she was trembling in every
limb.

"'Oh, I can guess it already, Fräulein,' she said; 'it would surprise me
above all things if it did not come from that quarter!' She pointed in
the direction of Susanna's room. 'One woman's head can ruin a whole
country!'

"The following day was a Sunday, and a Sunday stillness lay over the
house and court; even more than ordinarily, for the house down-stairs
was stiller than usual, as Anna Maria had not yet left her room.

"Sadly I got ready for church, and then went to Susanna's door to call
for her. As I looked in I saw her still lying in bed, still sleeping,
her limbs stretched out, like a tired kitten. On the whole, I was glad;
I would rather go alone to-day, with my heavy heart.

"The little church was unusually full on this Sunday, especially of
Dambitz people. A danger commonly encountered, a great misfortune,
brought them hither. They wanted, too, to hear what the clergyman had to
say about the calamity of the fire. So it happened that the little nave
was full to the last seat; only the seats of the gentry, above, were
empty.

"'What God does is well!' sang the congregation. I folded my hands over
my book, and tears fell on them. I spoke no words, but more warmly I
surely never prayed, for Klaus, for Anna Maria. God knows all the sad
thoughts that came to me. I had already fought in vain against one of
them the night before: 'What if Anna Maria were not to yield; if she
were, perhaps, to go out from the ancestral home, in defiance, in order
to live no longer with Susanna? Oh! it was possible, with her
temperament, and then what would become of them both?'

"Just then the door of the gallery moved, creaking slightly, and there,
on the threshold, stood--Anna Maria! Was it really she? Her face was
pale, with deep bluish shadows under the eyes; and beside her, even
paler, her great eyes directed toward me, as if seeking help,
stood--Susanna! Anna Maria held her hand and led her to the chair in
which the mistress of Bütze had always sat, and which, of late, had been
Anna Maria's seat.

"The girl sank into it, a crimson glow now on her cheeks, and bent her
head. Anna Maria sat behind her, and folded her hands. It had been done,
then; she had yielded to her brother's will. What she had suffered in
that her face showed plainly.

"Anna Maria raised her head only once during the sermon, when Pastor
Grüne, in speaking of the Dambitz fire, mentioned the man who had
perished, and, in a few moving words, uttered a prayer of thanksgiving
that God had protected him who had risked his own life to save another,
almost lost. Then she cast a long look across at Stürmer's empty seat.
Susanna, too, raised her lashes, but dropped them at once, shyly, as if
she were doing something wrong.

"On the way home Anna Maria walked beside me with her usual firm step,
Susanna's hand in hers. There was something solemn in her manner, and
when we stood in the garden-parlor, the tall, fair girl drew Susanna to
her.

"'Make him happy,' she bade her softly; 'a nobler, a better man does not
exist. God has bestowed a very rich happiness upon you.' She kissed the
girl on the forehead, and went down into the garden. But Susanna
suddenly fell on my neck and broke out in convulsive sobs.

"'Why, Susanna, are you not happy?' I asked. No answer; she only clung
more closely to me.

"'Have you thought that you have now a home and the heart of a noble
man; that you are his bride-elect, loved beyond everything?'

"She gave a shiver, and stopped crying.

"'Come, Susanna,' I begged, kindly; 'you belong to us now; you have now
a family home and I am now your aunt,' I added, jokingly. 'Stop crying.
Come, let us go down to Anna Maria; you have not said a friendly word to
her yet.'

"She threw her head back, and seemed to be deliberating for a moment;
then she ran out. I heard her swiftly retreating steps in the corridor.
'I will seek Anna Maria, at least to learn what has passed,' I murmured,
arid turned at once to the garden. So it had come about. Klaus was
betrothed; how often I had imagined it formerly. And to-day? A sort of
film came over my eyes, and the grayest of gray seemed the world round
about.

"Anna Maria was standing by the little pond, looking into the brown
water; she gave me her hand, quietly and kindly.

"'My dear Anna Maria,' said I, 'God leads human hearts together.'

"She nodded mutely.

"'Shall you write Klaus?' I continued.

"'It is already done. I wrote on that night,' she replied.

"'It has not been easy for you, Anna Maria?'

"She raised her hand, defensively. 'I love Klaus very much,' she said,
gently.

"'When did you speak with Susanna, Anna Maria; may I know?'

"'This morning,' she replied. 'I went to her, as Klaus wished. He wishes
the marriage to be very soon, and will return just a little while
before, so that Susanna may not need to seek another shelter beforehand.
So she will pass her time of being engaged without her lover. He does
not wish that the engagement should be made public, either; he does not
intend to give notice of his marriage until after the ceremony is over.'

"She had spoken very fast, and was silent now, drawing long breaths.

"'And did he write you everything, Anna Maria, in that letter, day
before yesterday?'

"'Everything, aunt.'

"'And Susanna?'

"'I do not know,' she replied; 'I did not look at her, and she did not
speak. Perhaps happiness makes one dumb?' she added, questioningly. It
sounded as if she meant: 'I do not know--I am sure I do not know--what
happiness is.'

"'Tell me just one thing, dear, good child,' I begged, seizing her
hands. 'Did the thought really never come to you that Klaus might have a
feeling of affection for this beautiful young creature?'

"She was silent for awhile, and her breast heaved with suppressed sobs.
'No,' she said, 'I had never thought that he would stoop for a
poison-flower----'

"An infinite bitterness, a deep woe, lay in these few words, and as if
she had said too much, she whispered: 'He is my only brother!' And then,
no longer able to control her emotion, she cried, throwing her hands
over her face: 'And I cannot hold him back, I cannot keep him from a
disappointment; I have no right to!' It sounded like a wild cry of pain.
And a hot stream of tears gushed forth between her fingers.

"I stepped up to her to embrace her consolingly, but she hastily averted
it. 'Let me alone; I did not mean to cry, I thought I was stronger.' And
drawing out her handkerchief, she turned into the nearest shady path.



CHAPTER XIII.


"A few hours later a carriage drove into the court. I recognized
Stürmer's livery, and from my chamber window saw Brockelmann help out
the old actress, hardly with the haste of anticipation.

"'There, we really ought to have just such a sort of mother-in-law in
the house!' I whispered, and smiled bitterly; but tear after tear fell
on my lilac cap-strings. Like misfortune itself, the old woman came up
the steps. Ah! Klaus, Klaus, whither have you gone astray?' Our whole
family seemed to me unspeakably fallen in this moment, and I could do
nothing in the unfortunate affair, but only try to raise Susanna to us,
to keep her away from everything which might remind her of the folly, of
the frivolity of the sphere from which she sprang; again and again to
point out to her what a rich, fair lot had fallen to her; to make her
comprehend that the wife of a Hegewitz must also be a pattern of dignity
and noble womanhood. I should have much preferred to bundle Isabella
Pfannenschmidt into the carriage again, to send her to some place miles
away, and against my will I was going out of my door, when I heard her
slow, shuffling step in the hall.

"'Please, ma'm'selle, come into my room a minute before you go to
Susanna,' I said to her. Frankly confessed, I do not know myself why I
did it; but I felt instinctively that I must speak with her first,
before she learned the latest turn in Susanna's fate from her own lips.

"The small person came slowly over the threshold, looking at me
distrustfully. She seemed to me infinitely wretched in her rumpled
bonnet and threadbare silk cloak, her face yellower than ever, and
sunken, and she was somewhat bent, as if still suffering pain. She sat
down in the nearest chair, and looked at me with her sharp, sullen eyes.
I stood before her and tried to speak, yet no word passed my lips. All
the craft, all the low sentiments which flashed out of those small eyes
toward me reminded me anew of the sort of atmosphere in which Susanna
had grown up. I had been walking up and down the room with these
thoughts; now I took a seat opposite the old woman, who had silently
followed me with her eyes. I wanted to tell her that a great, great
happiness had befallen Susanna, and found no words for it. It seemed as
if I were choked.

"'I would like to inform you,' I began, hesitatingly, but I got no
farther, for Anna Maria came in. 'Dear aunt,' said she, 'I have to speak
with Isabella Pfannenschmidt a moment.' I drew a breath of relief, and
went into the adjoining room.

"Then I heard Anna Maria's sonorous voice. She spoke of a great piece of
good fortune that had come to Susanna, and said that she hoped Susanna
would reward so much love, such infinite trust, with all her powers, in
order to make the man happy who offered her a name, a home, and a heart.

"Tears came into my eyes again; there was something in Anna Maria's
voice that pained me infinitely. I pictured to myself the proud maiden
before the vagabond actress, to whom she was now speaking as to an
equal. That which I had considered impossible now happened, out of love
to her brother. Now I thought the old woman must break out in an ecstasy
of joy; I shuddered already at the thought of the theatrical
glorification in her darling's good fortune. Far from it; she spoke
quietly and coolly. I could not understand her, but it sounded like a
murmur of discontent.

"'I do not comprehend you,' Anna Maria said, now icily; 'if I have
rightly understood my brother's letter, Susanna gave her assent on the
evening when she fled to you. What? Is she, meanwhile, to have changed
her mind?'

"Again a murmur; then I heard disconnected words between the old woman's
sobs: 'Defence--true love--' and so forth. This homeless woman was as
pretentious as a ruling princess making arrangements to give her
daughter in marriage to a man of a lower class.

"Then I heard her leave the room. When I reëntered Anna Maria was
standing at the window, her forehead pressed against the panes, her
clenched hand rested on the window-sill, and her lips were tightly
closed.

"'Anna Maria,' said I, 'this person must leave the house.'

"'Klaus may decide that,' she replied, gently; 'I have no longer any
voice in this matter.'

"'She is an arrogant thing!' I continued, in my wrath.

"Anna Maria turned. 'Ah, aunt,' said she, 'the old woman loves Susanna
like a mother, and such a relative naturally asks, in respect to the
most brilliant match: "Will it be for the child's happiness?" I ought
not to have taken it amiss; it was unjust in me.'

"I pressed her hand softly. Anna Maria's noble sentiments sprang forth
in her pain, like flowers after rain. God grant that she was right in
her excuse!

"Half an hour afterward, Isabella Pfannenschmidt came in with Susanna,
whose eyes were red with weeping, and hair dishevelled. Isabella led her
to Anna Maria, and Susanna made a motion as if to take her hand, but her
own fell to her side again, and so, for a moment, the two girls, so
unlike, stood opposite each other. Anna Maria had turned pale, to her
very lips; then she put her arm about Susanna's delicate shoulders, and
drew her to herself. But Susanna slid to the floor, and, sobbing,
embraced her knees; it seemed as if she wished to ask forgiveness for a
heavy offence, but not a word passed her lips. She only looked up at
Anna Maria, with an expression which I shall never forget my life long,
she seemed so true in those few moments. But before Anna Maria could
stoop to raise the girl, Isabella had already pulled her up with the
sharp, quick words: 'Susanna, be sensible!'

"Did the old woman consider prostration before the sister of the future
husband too much devotion, or did she fear that thereby her darling was
subordinating herself, once for all, to the sister's strict _régime_? I
could not decide at the time; I did not know till later that this moment
was a fearful crisis in Susanna's heart.

"The next three days passed quietly. Anna Maria had given Isabella a
little room next Susanna's, had told her Klaus's plans for his wedding;
and the old woman agreed to all the arrangements without a word of
opposition, but without showing any joy either. The sewing for the
trousseau was to be begun immediately after the harvest festival.
Isabella had arranged a cushion for lace-making, and under her thin,
skilful fingers grew filmy lace of the finest thread--'for the wedding
toilet!' she said softly to me.

"Susanna's manner was quite altered; she unsociably avoided not only our
company, but Isa's as well. Meanwhile the old woman seemed little
concerned that her darling ran about half the day in the wood and
garden, looked pale, and ate little or nothing, and now and then started
up impetuously from her quiet, absorbed state, looking about with
terrified eyes. 'That is the way with people in love,' she would say in
excuse, with a peculiar smile, if I worried about Susanna's pale looks.

"In a few days there came a letter from Klaus for Susanna. I went
up-stairs to give it to her. The first love-letter, a wonder in every
girl's life! With beating heart it is opened, read in the most secret
corner, kissed a thousand times, and kept forever. After long years
there still rises from such a yellow, crumpled paper a faint odor of
roses; a blush flits over the wrinkled cheeks, the dimmest eyes shine
once more in recollection of the hour when they first fell on those
lines. I was in quite a festive mood. What might not be enclosed in that
blue envelope? All the love, all the trust, all the true, noble
sentiment that could come only from such a heart as Klaus's! And all
this fell like a golden rain into the lap of the little vagabond girl.

"I opened her door and looked in. Isabella sat, making lace, at the open
window. Susanna lay on the sofa, her head buried in the cushions,
apparently dreaming. The golden autumn sun streamed in through the
trees, which were already becoming less shady, and played upon the
inlaid floor, and Susanna's little kitten, with a blue ribbon around its
neck, was jumping nimbly about after the bright, moving flecks.

"'Susanna, a letter from Klaus!' I cried, going to the sofa.

"She started up, and stared at me with frightened eyes, but she did not
reach out for the letter in eager haste; her little hand made rather an
averting gesture. Isabella, on the other hand, was standing beside me in
an instant. 'A letter from the lover, Susanna!' she cried, cheerfully.
'Well, well, before I would be so affected! Quick, take and read it!'
The words had a certain harsh sound, and Susanna seized the letter, took
her straw hat from the nearest chair, and slipped out of the door; but
it was not the joyous haste of anticipation, it looked rather like a
speedy escape from Isa's sharp eyes.

"'A strange child, Fräulein Rosamond,' said the old woman, smiling and
shaking her head. 'She is different from others, God bless her!' Then
she began to rummage in Susanna's bureau, and brought out a little
portfolio, from which she took a sheet of gilt-edged paper, with a
bird-of-paradise with outstretched wings, sitting on a rose, on the
upper left-hand corner, and arranged blotter, pen, and ink-stand. 'She
will want to write immediately, when she has read the letter,' she
explained, 'and a first love-letter like that is not easy, for one dips
in the pen a hundred times, and still what one would like to say does
not come.'

"I went away with the thought that Susanna would know well enough what
to write. When the heart speaks, the pen is easily guided. Anna Maria
had a great deal to do on this day; the animals were to be killed for
the harvest festival. In the housekeeping rooms a restless activity
reigned. Marieken was required to help, as on all such occasions, and
Brockelmann had poured the flour to be used in cooking for the festival
into a great tray in the baking-room. Anna Maria was in the storeroom;
I found her sitting on a great sugar-firkin, with a slate in her hands;
at her feet lay the scales with different weights, and Brockelmann was
just bringing great bowls of raisins and sugar to be weighed for the
cakes. Anna Maria wore, as usual, her great white housekeeping apron
over her simple dress; her fair hair lay, smooth as a mirror, in
luxuriant plaits on her beautifully shaped head; her sleeves, being
pushed up a little, exposed her white arms; not a blemish on the whole
appearance, from the lace-trimmed mull kerchief about her shoulders to
the shapely foot in the little laced shoe. Would Susanna ever practise
household duties thus?

"Never! That princess, that will-o'-the-wisp, with the curly hair and
little, childish hands! But would Anna Maria remain here forever? Lost
in thought, I stood for a moment at the door of the cool cellar. Anna
Maria drew a line below her figures, laid the slate aside, and took up a
letter. 'From Klaus,' she said, as she caught sight of me. 'I will read
it by and by in my room.' On the table lay another letter, significantly
smaller than the first, and already opened. Anna Maria noticed that my
eyes rested on it a moment, questioningly.

"'Stürmer announces his coming to the harvest festival,' she explained,
bending forward quickly and putting something on the table. When she
raised her head again a slight flush still lay on her cheeks.

"'You have accepted, Anna Maria?'

"'Yes,' she said, quickly; 'I think it is only right to Klaus.'

"'Klaus has written to Susanna too,' said I; 'did you know it?'

"She quivered, noticeably. 'No,' she replied, 'but that must be.'

"'She has run, the Lord knows where, with her treasure,' I continued,
smiling; 'she will probably answer it to-day, too.'

"Anna Maria nodded. 'We will go up,' she said; 'I would like to read,
too.' We went through the busy kitchen and up the stairs. Anna Maria
went at once to her room, and I to the upper story, to seek my own room.
In the hall I stopped; the sound of Susanna's sobbing came to my ear,
and the indignant voice of the old woman:

"'For shame, Susanna!'

"'No, I cannot, I will not!' sobbed the girl.

"They had forgotten to latch the door; I slipped nearer, but did not
understand Isabella's hissing whisper, nevertheless.

"'No, no!' cried Susanna again, but with little resistance. Fresh
whispering, then a kiss. 'My little hare, my Susy, it may all be yet;
now the thing is, to put a good face on the bad game!' in genuine Berlin
speech. 'Now at it; you are brave!'

"An icy chill crept over me, even to my heart; I could not account for
it to myself. But I was in no mood then to open the door, and went to my
room with the consciousness that something wrong, something mysterious,
was going on over there.

"An hour later Isabella came to me with a letter. 'Here it is,' said she
proudly. 'Susanna is ready with her pen, she gets it from her father,
and all that she says in this is beautiful. It is a shame that you
haven't read it, Fräulein; how pleased Klaus will be.'

"'Herr von Hegewitz!' I corrected, bluntly.

"'Pardon!' returned Isabella, 'the name came so easily to my lips; I
have heard it so often from Susanna that----'

"'Very well!' I interrupted. 'Now, to return to the letter; it almost
sounds as if you knew the contents. I hope Susanna does not conduct her
correspondence under your direction!'

"Isabella Pfannenschmidt grew crimson. 'Heaven forbid!' she said,
casting an angry glance at me. 'Susanna only spoke in a general way of
what she was going to write, to tell him how grateful she is and how
honored and how she loves him.'

"'I do not wish to know anything about it,' I replied, coldly. 'I only
expect of Susanna that she will not allow all that she has to say to-day
to her lover--something which, it seems to me, should be as sacred as a
prayer--to be desecrated by meddling eyes.'

"Isabella smiled in embarrassment; she evidently did not understand me.
'To whom can I give this letter,' she asked, 'to send it to the
post-office?'

"'Leave it here; I will see that it is put into the mail-bag,' I
replied. When I went down later, I found Susanna sitting motionless on a
bench in the garden. She seemed to be buried in a book; but her first
letter was already with a messenger, on the way to the city.

"Anna Maria had grown calmer than I expected; it seemed as if some great
force had carried her half over her sorrow about Klaus. She brought me
his letter at supper time; it contained warm expressions of thanks,
infinite love for his sister, permeated with rapture at the possession
of Susanna. The world seemed to him more beautiful than ever; he
pictured to himself such a wonderful future, with Susanna, with Anna
Maria. Again and again came a fervent, 'But how shall I thank you, Anna
Maria, for this, that you will love my little bride as a sister? I have
always known that we think an infinite deal of each other, and it seems
to me as if my love for you had become even greater! Anna Maria, how I
wish for you such a happiness as mine!' He added that he should be as
pleased as a child at the first lines from Susanna, that he had an
endless longing to come home, but, unfortunately, business made it
impossible; the fatigues of the journey he would think nothing of.

"Anna Maria silently folded the letter which I returned to her, and put
it in her pocket, 'Have you seen Susanna since she received her letter?'
she asked.

"'No, Anna Maria.'

"'How happy she must be, aunt!'

"'I find Susanna very quiet for an engaged girl,' I replied.

"'Yes,' she agreed. 'But I cannot describe to you how infinitely better
she pleases me; it is quieting to me that she does not take the matter
lightly.'"



CHAPTER XIV.


"The harvest festival was celebrated more quietly than usual this year,
at least at the manor-house. Otherwise everything was as usual. Under
the four great oaks in the yard, near the garden wall, the dancing-floor
was laid; gay garlands, tied with bows of ribbon, hung on the old trees,
the whole court-yard seemed to be made as clean as a room, and
everywhere there was an odor of pine-boughs and fresh cake.

"The weather was splendid on this October day, a little hoar-frost, to
be sure, on the roofs, but the sun soon melted that away. Early in the
day everything was under way; the village children, in new red flannel
dresses and dazzling white shirts, appeared first to receive their cakes
from Brockelmann. In the servants' kitchen three maids were cutting a
regular wash-kettle full of potato salad, and the odor of roast beef and
veal rose seductively to the noses of the farm people and day-laborers
just assembling in the court for the festal church-going.

"Anna Maria was standing in the hall waiting for me as I came
down-stairs. 'Are you bringing Susanna with you?' she asked. At the same
time steps were heard behind me; Isa came down, begging excuse for
Susanna, who felt fatigued, and could not make up her mind to go to
church.

"Anna Maria frowned. It was the custom in our family that not a single
member should be absent to-day. 'Is it absolutely impossible?' she
asked.

"'Yes!' declared Isabella, and Anna Maria and I went alone. The bells
were ringing gayly, and the sun shone brightly in at the windows of the
little church, upon the garlands of corn with their red and blue
ribbons, on the altar, and upon the happy faces of the people. With
festal gladness was sung the 'Now thank we all our God.' It had, indeed,
been a blessed harvest year. And in earnest words the clergyman charged
the people with heartfelt gratitude to God, who gave this year of
blessing, gradually passing on to speak of the seed in the heart of man.
'Take care that there may be a blessed harvest here, too, when, by and
by, it will be autumn with you; think of the heavenly Harvest Home; well
for him who brings precious fruits, ripened in humility, planted in
love!' He then counselled the men to labor, the women to gentleness in
the home, and finally remembered in his prayer the absent master of the
manor. Anna Maria's head was bent low; I saw how she joined with her
whole heart in the prayer for her brother, how a great tear fell from
her eye upon the leaves of her hymn-book.

"When the last verse had been sung we had to hurry home; for immediately
after service the people always brought the harvest wreath, and to-day
Anna Maria had to thank them in her brother's place. She cast a glance
across to Stürmer's seat; it was empty. Perhaps he was already waiting
at the manor. We walked through the greeting throng as rapidly as my
lame foot would allow, and Anna Maria quickly laid aside hat and shawl
in the garden-parlor, for we already heard the music in the village
street.

"'I don't know about it, aunt,' she said. 'It is dreadful to me without
Klaus; if only Stürmer, at least, were here!'

"'The baron has been in the garden for an hour,' remarked Marieken, who
had just run in, in dazzlingly clean attire, to inform us that the
people were coming.

"'Then go and look for him, Marieken,' I bade. 'I will call Susanna and
Isa.'

"'There comes the baron, now,' cried Marieken, with a glance at the
window, and opened the door leading to the terrace.

"I could not believe my eyes; yes, there he was coming along the
garden-path, and beside him--Susanna. She did not walk, she floated, as
if carried along by the sound of the march, borne hither on the warm
autumn air. A pink dress fluttered and blew about her delicate figure,
and her lips and cheeks were tinged with the same color. With
outstretched arms she flew up the steps.

"Oh, Anna Maria, oh, Fräulein Rosamond, listen, just listen!' she cried,
in ecstasy.

"Stürmer followed her, smiling, and offered Anna Maria his arm.
Hesitatingly, with a long look at Susanna, she took it. The latter
looked after them in wonder, and walked silently beside me.

"Before the house a crowd of people had assembled, in eager expectation;
then came the children, dancing and skipping, in at the gate; behind
them came the musicians, and over the long procession which followed
hovered the wreath of golden corn, adorned with colored ribbons, waving
gayly in the warm autumn wind.

"Anna Maria stood beside Stürmer, on the front steps, her hand still
resting lightly on his arm; she wore her blue dress and white lace
kerchief. A sad smile lay on her lips as the speaker, followed by two
girls bearing the wreath, now advanced to the steps, and, making a sign
for the music to stop, began the old speech:

    "'God be praised, who gives sun and rain;
    God be praised, who gives his blessing again;
    God be praised, who, in this year,
    Has blessed our fields so richly here.
    May he give further fortune good,
    To man and beast, to field and wood,
    And may his gracious blessing fall
    On man and beast, on people all.
    And on the house we hang to-day
    The wreath, that blessings here may stay.
    A pious wife, and children fair,
    May they ere long be dwelling there!
    That is our wish upon this day;
    God will provide for come what may.
    Take not this speech of ours amiss.
    Full of good-will, indeed, it is!'

"A peal of music accompanied the three hearty cheers of the people; the
two pretty girls laid the wreath at Anna Maria's feet as she kindly
shook hands with the speaker. 'I thank you heartily, people,' she said
in her deep, mature voice. 'I thank you in the name of my brother far
away, who is much grieved not to be able to stand here to-day. I thank
you for the honest diligence and labor of this year, and wish that the
good old harmony may continue between gentry and people as has ever been
the manner at Bütze. And now, in my brother's name, enjoy the present
day, and be happy as befits this feast.'

"'Long may she live, our gracious Fräulein!' cried the people; the lads
tossed their caps in the air, and with music the procession went into
the great barn, where long tables were set for the harvest banquet.

"Anna Maria had dropped Stürmer's arm as she stepped forward to speak.
He appeared strangely moved, and a slight, indefinable smile lay on his
lips. I remembered his once saying that nothing was more dreadful to him
in a woman than to see her, even for a moment, assume the position of a
man, and in that light he evidently regarded the speech.

"During the shouting I looked around for Susanna; she had disappeared.
There was not much time to reflect where she might be. Anna Maria now
made the round of the tables; she had to have her health drunk, and
drink in return. Stürmer accompanied her; it was a pretty sight to see
them walking together across the court.

"On that day not the slightest thing escaped me, but now I cannot tell
exactly what this and that one did; it only came to me upon reflection,
much later; and then one thing after another came into my mind. At the
time I did not wonder at the rose-colored dress which Susanna wore, and
which was so charmingly suited to her transparent complexion; it did not
occur to me at all that she was still in mourning for her father, nor
did I think about her having been too indisposed to go to church in the
morning, and then, soon after, coming running from the garden, with rosy
cheeks. I thought nothing of it, that at the table--to-day there was a
long row of us, the clergyman and his sister, two bailiffs, three
farm-pupils, a forester, and Isabella (by way of exception)--she laughed
through the entire scale every minute, and carried on all manner of
nonsense.

"Anna Maria sat at the head, beside the clergyman, Susanna at her right,
and Stürmer next; I sat next to Pastor Grüne, and we formed the upper
end of the table. I could see that Anna Maria often looked gravely at
Susanna; yet a ray of pleasure broke from her eyes when they rested upon
this embodied rosebud, and saw how roguish were the dimples in her
cheeks, how her eyes shone, and her little teeth flashed behind the red
lips, and how she chattered all manner of pretty, foolish stuff.
Isabella's face shone with pride and she looked at the guests in turn;
almost every eye was fixed on the girl.

"Then Stürmer rose, and proposed the health of the master of the
house--'his best friend,' as he said--and 'the house that was as dear to
him as a paternal home.'

"And Anna Maria's face glowed as she raised her glass to touch with him.
But Susanna trembled, and put her glass down untouched; she grew pale
and quiet, and scarcely spoke again.

"Pastor Grüne raised a full glass to the lady of the house; 'the
mistress of Bütze,' he called Anna Maria. The old man was much moved as
he made mention of her youth and how serious and careful she was;
nevertheless, a Martha, who was never weary in working and doing. Anna
Maria let the current of his remarks pass her by, and quietly thanked
him as she raised her glass. All crowded about her to touch her glass,
last of all, Stürmer; she did not look at him as their glasses touched.
But Susanna fixed her eyes on Anna Maria with an expression of
astonishment; she had probably never reflected that there was anything
great about such activity. I noticed, too, that she shivered suddenly,
as if under a disagreeable impression.

"Then there came sounds of music through the wide-opened windows; the
dancing was beginning under the oaks, and the family must not be wanting
there. Anna Maria rose from the table, and beckoned to Susanna; we old
people sat still longer, and chatted of this and that. My old friend was
enjoying her afternoon coffee, which she declared she never could do
without, too much to leave; the pastor lighted a pipe, and leaned
comfortably back in his great arm-chair. Ah! how long we had known each
other, had borne together joy and sorrow. We had, indeed, no lack of
conversational matter.

"But I did not stay here long, for there is nothing I like so much to
see as happy young people dancing. 'Oh, let us go under the oaks,' I
said; but Mademoiselle Grüne preferred to take a nap up-stairs in my
quiet room, assuring me that she would follow soon; so the pastor
escorted me down. When we arrived at the dancing ground, which was
surrounded by people, I saw Anna Maria with the head-servant, and
Stürmer with the upper housemaid, turning in the floating waltz, for
they had to dance with all in turn. But where was Susanna?

"I went around the living wall of people. Under one of the oaks, chairs
and tables had been set apart for the family, and, the people had
respectfully kept away from this spot. Here stood Susanna, her arm
thrown around the rough trunk of the tree, her great eyes fixed on the
dancing couples; her delicate nostrils quivered, her breast heaved
violently, and tears sparkled in her eyes.

"'I want to dance, too,' she burst forth, passionately; 'I want to
dance, too, just one single time!'

"Already Stürmer was coming through the crowd and hurrying up to her.
There was no ceremonious request, for a dance, he forgot every formal
bow, she was even stretching out her arms toward him, longingly. I think
he carried her through the throng rather than that they walked; then he
put his arm around her. Was it my imagination, or did he really press
her so fast to him that they scarcely touched the ground? As in a dream,
I heard Pastor Grüne say something about a Titania. I only saw the
gracefully swaying figures, the fluttering pink dress, the bright rose
in the dark hair, whirling in the rapid dance, and heard the floating
melody of the waltz. And above them the old oaks swayed their branches,
letting sportive sunbeams through. So distinctly, ah! so distinctly, I
can see all this before me.

"Then she stopped, out of breath, and leaned on his arm, a smile of
rapture on her glowing face. Was it all only my fancy? Anna Maria so
quiet yonder, scarcely breathing after the quick dance; it was surely my
imagination that made me think Susanna ought to have looked a little
less enchanted, that she ought not to have danced, being betrothed to
another. Yes, indeed, I was carrying it too far. And with whom was she
dancing then? With Stürmer, with Klaus's best friend. Could there be any
danger in that now, when everything was plain between them?

"My thoughts went no farther, for just then the clear tone of a
post-horn rang out in the midst of the dance-music, a yellow coach
rattled into the court and stopped before the steps, and a man swung
himself out.

"'Klaus!' I cried out, and at the first moment would have gone to meet
him; then I thought of Susanna--he came on her account, of course; they
could not meet here, in the face of all these witnesses. I turned
hastily to lead Susanna through the park to the house.

"She was lying unconscious in Isa's arms. 'The dance, the fatal dance!'
lamented Isa; 'she cannot bear it!'

"Anna Maria, pale with fear, bent over her. 'Alas! just at this moment!
Aunt,' she whispered, 'go to Klaus, or I--no, you, I beg you.'

"I limped across the court as quickly as I could; he was already coming
toward me in the hall, his whole handsome face glowing with pleasure;
without further ado, he took me in his arms.

"'They are under the oaks, are they not?' he asked. 'I wanted to be here
to dinner, but these post-horses are miserable nags; they went like
snails.' And he took my hand and pressed it to his lips. 'Is she
not--Susanna--she----'

"'No, Klaus, they are no longer there. Wait a minute, come into your
room; Anna Maria will be here at once. The fact is, Susanna is not quite
well to-day; I would rather tell her first that you have come, so
unexpectedly.'

"I pushed him back into the sitting-room; Stürmer was just coming in
through the garden-parlor. A frightened look came over Klaus's face, but
the question died on his lips as Stürmer cordially held out both hands
to him, and then, turning to me, said: 'What is the matter with Fräulein
Mattoni? Can it really be the effect of dancing? Only think, Klaus, a
moment ago she was rosy and happy, and just as you came rattling into
the yard, I saw her turn pale and totter, and before I knew what it
meant, her old duenna had caught her, and was lamenting, "That comes of
dancing!" Is that possible?'

"'Of course!' I declared, quickly; 'Susanna is delicate, and the giddy
round dance--' I broke off, for Klaus looked so anxious I feared he
might betray himself on the spot.

"'Dear Edwin,' I begged, 'will you take my place with the guests outside
for a moment longer? Pastor Grüne is sitting quite alone on the bench;
you know he is sensitive. Klaus, you will excuse me; I will see how
things are going up-stairs, and send Brockelmann to you with something
to eat.'

"I do not know if Edwin Stürmer was enraptured at my request, but like
an ever-courteous man he went down at once.

"Anna Maria met me on the stairs.

"'Where is he?' she asked hastily, without stopping.

"'Susanna is not seriously ill!' she called back; 'she has opened her
eyes again already.' Her blue dress fluttered once more behind the brown
balustrade; then I heard the cry, 'Klaus, dear Klaus!' a sob, and the
door closed.

"Susanna was lying on her bed; her dress had been taken off, and she was
lightly covered with a shawl; she held both hands pressed to her
temples. Isabella was perched before her, holding a flask of
strong-smelling ether. She tenderly stroked the girl's cheeks, and
whispered eagerly to her. When she saw me, she got up.

"'How disagreeable, Fräulein! Just in this joyful hour the foolish child
has to faint; but so it goes, if young people will not listen,' she
began, in a remarkably talkative mood. 'Susanna, my heart, are you
better? I have said a hundred times you mustn't dance; it isn't even a
refined pleasure to whirl about among those common people. Heavens! what
a smell! But, obstinate as ever--wait, I shall tell your _fiancé_ of it,
that he may keep a firm hand over you. Oh, yes, young people----'

"Susanna gave her nurse a look which expressed everything possible
except love and respect.

"'Come, come, be brisk, Susy,' she continued inexorably, 'or do you
think it is pleasant for Herr von Hegewitz to be waiting for you like
this?'

"Susanna raised herself with a jerk. 'Do be still,' she said, folding
her hands, 'I am so dizzy, so ill!'

"'Lie still, Susanna,' I said, to calm her. 'Perhaps you will be better
toward evening. Klaus must have patience. Shall I take any greetings to
him, meanwhile?'

"She lay back on the pillow, her face turned away from me, and nodded
silently. 'Let her sleep,' said I to Isabella; 'she is really
exhausted.'

"The old woman shrugged her shoulders. 'I cannot do anything to help
matters, either,' she whispered. 'It is unpleasant, but she will soon
recover. I know--the nerves, yes, the nerves!' And she sat down on the
girl's bed. She looked strangely grotesque and weird, in her enormous
black cap with bright orange-colored bows.

"Anna Maria and Klaus were just going down the front steps to the
dancing-ground, and he had his arm around her. When they saw me they
turned around. Klaus looked troubled, and in Anna Maria's eyes there
were traces of tears.

"'You will see her to-day, yet,' I said to him, consolingly. He pressed
my hand, and sighed.

"'He is only going to stay till to-morrow, aunt," Anna Maria informed
me; 'he only came on Susanna's account.' She spoke pleasantly, and
looked up at him with a smile.

"'Alas, alas!' said Klaus, 'affairs are so involved there; but I just
wanted to see how such an engagement is good-for-nothing without having
once expressed one's self in words. Anything written sounds so cold,
doesn't it? It seemed so to me! And then I am glad that I have come, for
Susanna's health does not seem to be quite firm yet. I will speak with
the doctor, and after the wedding will go south with her.' A very
anxious expression lay on his countenance.

"'Poor Klaus, such a reception!' bewailed Anna Maria. 'I do not
understand it, either; Susanna was so suddenly seized; she was just
seeming so bright again.'

"'You must not let her dance,' said he in reproof.

"'Oh, the kobold was between them before we could prevent it,' I joked.

"'Stürmer dances so madly,' remarked Klaus.

"Meanwhile we had arrived at the scene of festivities. The dancers were
still floating gayly about there; Stürmer was leaning, with folded arms,
against a tree, and was apparently out of humor. As soon as the people
discovered their master, he was received with a storm of greetings, for
they were all waiting to welcome him. Klaus spoke a few words to them,
and then would have withdrawn, but that was not permitted; he had to
dance with the upper housemaid. With a half-amiable, half-morose
expression, he took a few turns with the girl, who blushed red at the
joy and honor.

"Anna Maria had seated herself in one of the chairs under the trees;
Edwin was standing before her, and a happy smile was on her lips. The
rays of the setting sun glimmered over her fair head and tinged her face
with a warm color.

"She looked wonderfully pretty at this moment; Stürmer looked
meditatively down at her. I thought of everything possible as I looked
at the two. What will one not think under a blue sky, amid sunshine and
gay music?

"It was deep twilight when Isabella came into my room to say that
Susanna was ready to see Klaus, and to ask if the meeting might be here.
I assented joyfully; the old woman went away, and a moment after a
slender white figure entered, and leaned, almost tottering, against the
great oaken wardrobe by the door. Isabella went away, saying she would
inform the master.

"Slowly Susanna came as far as the middle of the room. I made haste to
light a candle, but she begged me not to do it; her voice sounded almost
breathless. When I heard Klaus's rapid step in the hall, I went into the
adjoining room, whereupon Susanna took a few hasty steps after me, as if
she would detain me; but I would not have spoiled this quarter of an
hour for Klaus by my presence for anything in the world. Why should a
third person hear what two people who are to belong to each other
forever have to say? And so I drew the door to, and only heard a voice,
full of emotion, cry: 'Susanna!'

"I stood at the open window, and looked out on the moonlit court; in the
house all was still. Edwin Stürmer had driven away before supper,
rightly supposing that we should have a great deal to talk about during
Klaus's short stay; the guests from the parsonage, too, had gone home
early. Isabella had doubtless called Klaus from Anna Maria's side to
Susanna; the people were dancing on gayly under the oaks, by the light
of lanterns; the sound of music, and now and then of a bold shout, came
over to me, or the beginning of a song from a girl's fresh voice; and
the air was mild as on a spring evening.

"'Anna Maria?--what is she doing now?' thought I. And the minutes ran
away and became quarter-hours; with a clank, the old clock struck seven.
I sprang up; no, the old aunt did not quite forget the requirements of
etiquette. I opened the door and went into my room. I saw the two
standing at the window; he had put his arm around her, and was bending
low over her.

"'And now, say _one_ word, Susanna; say that you love me as I love you!'
I heard him whisper, hotly and beseechingly.

"The moonlight fell all about her bright, delicate figure, and I could
distinctly see her arm begin slowly to slip from his shoulder. The music
out of doors had just ceased; for an instant there was a breathless
silence, then the deep, sad tones of a young man's voice floated in at
the open window:

    "'I thought I held thee wondrous dear,
      Ere I another found;
    Farewell, I know it first to-day
      What 'tis to be love-bound,'

came up the sound. Susanna's arm slipped quite down Once more I heard
him whisper, more softly than before. 'Yes!' said Susanna, quickly and
in a half-stifled tone, and I saw Klaus take her in his arms impetuously
and kiss her.

"The following day fairly flew away, I can scarcely toll how, now. There
were so many things to be talked about, agreed upon, and arranged.

"Klaus had talked with Isabella about the wedding, and they were agreed
that the 22d of November should be the festal day. Isabella came out of
his room with a new silk dress on her arm; she did not look wholly
enraptured, for he had told her that he was going to hire a comfortable
little dwelling in Berlin, and provide for her support; until the
wedding she might stay here. Anna Maria had prevailed upon him to do
this, and he himself did not consider the old woman exactly a desirable
appendix to his wife. She cast an enraged look at Anna Maria as she went
out; she knew to whom she owed this arrangement, so little to her mind.

"On Susanna's hand sparkled a brilliant ring. Klaus was constantly at
her side. I saw them in the morning wandering up and down the
garden-paths, and once, too, heard her charming laugh, but it was
shortly broken off. She was quiet, but nevertheless let herself be
adored like a queen by her attentive lover.

"How happy he looked, the dear old fellow, and how truly concerned he
was about the little maiden to whom he had given his heart! Like an
anxious mother, he bundled her up in shawls and rugs when she sat out on
the terrace in the warm midday sun. Every sentence which he uttered
began: 'Susanna, would you be pleased if it were thus?' and concluded:
'If you are content, of course, my darling!'

"Anna Maria had a great deal to do out of doors. Was it really the case?
Did it pain her to see the two thus? Had a feeling of real jealousy come
over her? She left the tiresome business of a _dame d'honneur_ almost
entirely to me.

"At evening Klaus had to go away again, and the hour drew quickly near;
he grew silent and tender the nearer the moment of separation came.
After supper we sat in the garden-parlor, about the lighted lamp.
Klaus's travelling cloak and rug lay on a chair; Susanna had gone to her
room for a moment, and Anna Maria to the kitchen to prepare a glass of
mulled wine for Klaus, for he had grown icy cold. Klaus held a knot of
ribbon in his hand, which he had taken from Susanna's hair.

"'Aunt Rosamond,' said he, suddenly, looking over at me, 'Stürmer comes
here very often now, doesn't he?'

"'Yes, Klaus, very often.'

"'Does he intend to ride a pair of horses to death to--to play whist
with you?' he asked, smiling.

"'I don't know, Klaus,' I replied.

"He came nearer to me. 'If it only might be, aunt,' he said gently; 'do
you think that this time Anna Maria would, again----'

"'No, Klaus; if I understand Anna Maria aright, she still loves
Stürmer.'

"'Still, aunt? _Now_, you mean to say?'

"I knew not what answer to make.

"'I should be so glad,' he began again, 'if Anna Maria and Edwin----'

"He broke off, for Susanna had entered; she had such a light, floating
gait that we did not notice her till she was already standing in the
middle of the room. Slowly she came nearer; she was doubtless suffering
at the thought of separation, for she looked very pale and scarcely
spoke that evening. When Klaus folded her in his arms on his departure
she looked up into his true, agitated face, and for an instant, raising
herself on tip-toe, she put both arms around his neck, but for his
affectionate words she had no reply.

"She remained standing beside me on the front steps, looking after him,
as, wrapped in his great cloak, he got into the carriage. Anna Maria
went down the steps with him, and put extra rugs and foot-sacks in with
her own hands. The brother and sister held out their hands to each
other, but Klaus's looks sped past Anna Maria up to the delicate figure
standing motionless in the flickering light of the lanterns. Brockelmann
looked, suddenly transfixed, at the girl, who only waved her hand
lightly. The carriage drove rattling away; once more he leaned his head
out; then the carriage rolled through the gateway, out into the night.

"Susanna did not wait till Anna Maria had come up the steps; she ran
back into the house as if pursued, and I heard her light step going
up-stairs.

"Anna Maria and I went back to the garden-parlor. Neither of us spoke; I
laid my knitting-work and glasses in my work-basket, and Anna Maria
stood, reflecting, in the middle of the room. All at once I saw her take
a few steps forward and quickly stoop over; when she stood upright again
she had grown pale. Her hand held a small, shining object--Susanna's
engagement ring!

"She said not a word, but put the ring on the table and sat down. She
waited for Susanna. She _must_ miss the ring, and would hurry down
directly, anxiously hunting for it.

"An hour passed. Anna Maria had taken up one of Scott's novels; she
turned the pages at long intervals. I had taken out my knitting again.
At last she laid aside the book.

"'We will go to bed, Aunt Rosamond,' said she. 'Will you give the ring
to Susanna?'

"I took the little pledge of love, wrought in heavy gold. 'It must be
too large for her,' said I, in excuse.

"'Yes,' replied Anna Maria, harshly, 'it is not suited to her hand.' And
nodding gravely, she left the room before me.



CHAPTER XV.


"It seemed as if the autumn had only delayed commencing its sway in
order not to interfere with the Bütze harvest festival. Now it broke in
all the more violently, with its gusts of rain, its storms, and its
hatred toward everything which reminded one of summer. Each little green
leaf was tinged with yellow or red, and the garden was gay as a paper of
patterns; the purplish-red festoons of the wild grape hung moistly down,
and in the morning a heavy white mist lay over the landscape. The
storks' nest on the barn roof was empty, whole flocks of wild geese flew
away screaming over the village, and inevitably came the thought of the
long, monotonous winter which Anna Maria and I were to pass alone.

"Anna Maria did not give herself up to idle reveries; she took hold of
work, even too much work, as the best defence against worry and against
a growing sadness. Only in the twilight she would sometimes stand idle,
and look away across the court-yard, and listen to the measured sound of
the threshing that came across from the barn. Then she would pass her
hand over her forehead, light a candle, and move up to the table with
her work--and work there was in abundance.

"Anna Maria had taken Susanna's outfit in hand without delay. She led
the young girl to the huge linen-chests, and, with the pride of a
housewife, showed her the piles of snow-white linen, told her which
pieces she had spun herself, and spread before her eyes the choicest
sets of table linen. Susanna stood beside her, and cast a look rather of
astonishment than admiration at these splendors; she did not understand
what one could do with such a monstrous pile; it was more than one could
use in a hundred years, she thought. Isa, too, seemed to have no
appreciation of the important treasures. 'Too coarse, too coarse,
mademoiselle!' was all she said, letting the linen, which three
seamstresses were making up into Susanna's underclothing, slip through
her fingers. 'That will last forever, and will rub the child's tender
skin to pieces.'

"Susanna grew somewhat more interested when dress-patterns arrived from
Berlin, by Klaus's order. The small hands turned over the gay little
pieces with real satisfaction; she ran from Anna Maria to Isa, and from
Isa to me, asking whether we preferred satin or moiré antique, brocade
or _gros de Tours_. And every evening, punctually at seven o'clock, came
Edwin Stürmer, through autumn darkness, rain, and wind.

"I remember how one day he came into the room and inquired after the
health of the ladies; how, when he was preparing to leave, Anna Maria
said her friendly: 'Will you not stay with us, baron?' And how he then
laid aside hat and riding-whip again, ate supper with us, and then sat
down at the whist-table--all as usual, and yet so different.

"Susanna was a careless and not a clever player; she threw her cards
down at random, never knew what had been played, and had no idea of the
real meaning of the game. Anna Maria took this, like every occupation of
life, seriously, and examined it thoroughly.

"'But, Susanna, do pay attention; you are playing into your opponent's
hand!' she would say during the game; or, 'Please, Susanna, do not look
at Aunt Rosamond's cards; you must not do that!" It had a pedantic sound
when one looked at that smiling, rosy creature, who held the cards in
her little hands with such charming awkwardness, forgot every instant
what was the trump, laughed out from pure pleasure when she took a
trick, and would be so truly disheartened when she lost. 'Oh, _est il
possible_?' she would ask, shaking her head; 'not a trick?'

"Stürmer played this whist with the patience of an angel; he picked up
Susanna's fallen cards unweariedly, smiled when she laughed, and when
Anna Maria scolded an almost imperceptible wrinkle came between his
brows. Occasionally, when he was Anna Maria's partner, she would appear
confused and embarrassed, and he distracted; and once or twice they lost
the rubber, just as they had done before. 'Unlucky at cards, lucky in
love!' said Pastor Grüne, who sat behind Anna Maria's chair on such
evenings. She blushed suddenly, and her hand, which still held the last
card, trembled. Edwin Stürmer, with fine tact, seemed not to hear the
allusion, and Susanna was silent and looked at Anna Maria with, all at
once, a strange sparkle in her eyes. Of her relation to Klaus no mention
had ever been made in the presence of a stranger, according to
agreement; she herself had the least thought of betraying herself by a
hasty utterance. Once I had asked if Stürmer might not be initiated. But
Anna Maria declared that Klaus would not wish it, so I kept still.

"Susanna rarely spoke of her absent lover; but Isa put two letters
to him into the mail-bag, regularly, every week, in answer to
his frequent, longing epistles. In her room, meanwhile, all
manner of presents accumulated, which Klaus bought for her in
Breslau--knick-knacks, ornaments, fans, and such useless things, which I
could never think of in connection with Anna Maria. Klaus had never
cared for such things before, either, and therefore did not exactly
understand choosing them, and many an old, unsalable article may have
been put into his hand as the latest novelty for the sake of heavy
money. Susanna had a remarkably well-developed sense of beauty, and the
charming way of women, of wearing a thing out of devotion because a
beloved hand gave it, seemed totally unknown to her. But she exulted
aloud when she discovered a little old lace handkerchief which Anna
Maria had found, in rummaging in a long-unopened chest; and in the
evening, when Stürmer came, she wore it daintily knotted about her neck,
and in the delicate yellowish lace placed the last red asters from the
garden.

"Anna Maria was more serious and chary of words after every visit from
Stürmer; but an unmistakable expression of quiet, inward happiness lay
on her proud face. She reminded me daily, more and more, of that Anna
Maria who once, on a stormy spring day, came into my room, fell on my
neck, and almost--oh, if it had only happened!--confided to me the
secret in her young heart. Unspeakably pleasing she appeared, in her
quiet happiness, beside that young, childish bride-elect, who was never
still, who now laughed more wildly than a kobold, and the next minute
wept enough to move a stone to pity. Yes, Susanna Mattoni could laugh
and cry like scarce another human being.

"Often I saw Anna Maria standing in the twilight under the old linden;
motionless, she looked over yonder, where, in the evening haze, the
dark, gabled roofs of Dambitz emerged from the trees of the park. She
had fallen into a dreamy state, out of which she would suddenly start,
when she was reminded of Klaus by some eccentricity of Susanna's. Then
she would look again in warm anxiety at the mercurial little creature,
and then run into her solitary room, and not appear again for several
hours.

"One day, just three weeks before the appointed wedding-day, I was
returning, toward evening, from a visit to my old friend, Mademoiselle
Grüne, at the parsonage. It was windy and wet and cold, a regular autumn
evening, such as I do not like at all. I drew my veil over my face for
protection, wrapped my cloak more tightly about me, and took the
shortest way across the church-yard and through the garden. The
manor-house looked gloomy behind the tall trees; not a window was
lighted, but from the great chimney the smoke blew away over the roofs,
like long, dark, funeral banners, and wrestled with the wind which
dissipated it in all directions.

"I began to think with pleasure of the comfortable sitting-room, of a
warm beer-soup, and the regular evening whist-table. Just as I was
passing a side-path, I saw a dark figure sitting under the linden. 'Anna
Maria!' I murmured, 'and in this storm!' For an instant I stood still,
with the intention of calling to her, for a fine, drizzling rain was now
falling, and I feared she would take cold on this dreary evening. But I
gave it up, because I thought, on reflection, she would not probably
want to be seen at all, or have an inquisitive look taken at a shyly
guarded secret, and I made haste to walk away down the path as quickly
as possible, to get away unobserved.

"But my foot stopped again; a horseman was coming along by the hedge,
and, in spite of the gray twilight, I recognized Stürmer; he waved his
hat in greeting over toward the arbor, and there some one beckoned--I
very nearly had palpitation of the heart from joyful fear--with a white
cloth, and this little signal waved in the misty evening air till he
disappeared behind the trees on the other side of the bridge.

"'Anna Maria! Is it possible?' said I, half-aloud, as I walked on--that
it sounded like a cry of exultation I could not help. Ah, all must be
well yet, and surely all would be well! I hurried up the steps to write
a few words to Klaus. 'Anna Maria and Edwin were nearer than he had
hoped'--how pleased he would be! But I did not accomplish that to-day.
Brockelmann came to meet me in the entrance-hall, and in spite of my
happy agitation, I had to listen to a long story, for which she even
urged me to come into her neat little room. A married niece of hers,
living in the village, had had a quarrel with her husband yesterday, in
the course of which he had emphatically tried to prove conclusively the
'I am to be your master!' with a heavy stick. The good Brockelmann was
beside herself at the 'wicked fellow,' and would not let me go till I
had solemnly promised to take the tyrant to task. 'Anna Maria
understands it even better, perhaps,' she added, 'but I don't know what
is the matter with her now. I think I might tell her a story ten times
over, and at the end she would look at me and ask: "What are you saying,
Brockelmann?" I wish I could just get at the bottom of it!'

"'Well,' I said, smiling, 'I will see to it; send the rude old fellow up
to me to-morrow.' She followed me into the hall, and clattered
down-stairs in her slippers, scolding away, and in a very bad humor,
because Rieke had not yet lighted the hall-lamps.

"In my room still glimmered the last ray of daylight, and in this
uncertain light I saw a figure rising from the arm-chair by the stove.
'Anna Maria, is it you?' I asked, recognizing her.

"She came slowly over to me. 'Yes, aunt, I have something to deliver to
you. Stürmer has been here; he wanted to speak to you; about what, I
don't know.' She spoke hesitatingly and softly. 'Then he asked me to
hand you this note, which he wrote hastily.'

"She pressed a note into my hand. 'Here, aunt, read.' I sat down in the
low chair by the stove, and held the sheet in the flickering light of
the flames, but the letters danced indistinctly before my eyes. 'We must
have a light,' said I; 'or read it aloud to me, Anna Maria, it takes so
long for Brockelmann to bring a lamp.'

"Anna Maria knelt down beside me, and took the letter. 'Ought I to know,
too, what it contains?' she asked.

"'Oh, of course I allow it, only read!' And Anna Maria began:

     "'MY DEAR, ESTEEMED AUNT ROSAMOND:--Unfortunately I did not
     find you at home. Please expect me to-morrow afternoon at five
     o'clock. I have something to discuss with you, and want your
     advice in a matter upon the issue of which the peace and
     happiness of my heart will depend. Say nothing yet to Anna
     Maria!

     "'In haste and impatience,

     "'Your most devoted

     "'EDWIN STÜRMER.'

"Anna Maria did not read it just as it stands here; it came out in
broken sentences; then the sheet fluttered to the floor, she buried her
fair head in my lap, and threw her arms impetuously about me. 'Aunt,
ah, aunt!' she groaned.

"I took her head between my two hands, and kissed her forehead; tears
flowed from my eyes. 'Anna Maria! ah, at last, at last!' I sobbed; 'now
everything may yet be well.'

"She did not answer; she rose and began to walk up and down the room,
her arms crossed below her breast, her head bent. I could not
distinguish her features in the deep twilight, but I knew that she was
deeply affected. 'Aunt,' she said at last, coming up to me, 'what answer
shall you make to Stürmer?'

"'That I will receive him, Anna Maria.'

"'No'--she hesitated--'I mean to-morrow, to his question--'she said,
slowly.

"'What you will, Anna Maria. Shall I say yes?'

"Slipping to the floor, she threw her arms around my neck. 'Yes!' she
said, softly, and burst into tears. The pain borne quietly for years
gushed with them from her soul; I stroked her smooth head caressingly,
and let her weep. How long we sat thus I know not. Then the girl rose
and kissed my hand. 'I will go down,' she whispered.

"'Yes, Anna Maria,' I bade, 'you ought to rest a little or your head
will burn. Let Brockelmann make you a cup of tea; you have surely caught
cold in your head out in the wet garden.'

"She had her hand already on the door-latch, and now turned about again.
'I have not been in the garden, aunt,' she said; 'I have been waiting
here up-stairs for you, certainly for half an hour, since he went away.'
She nodded to me once more, then she went out, and left me standing in
unutterable bewilderment.

"Anna Maria not in the garden? Who in the world could have stood there
and beckoned to him? An oppressive fear overwhelmed me, and almost
instinctively I went across to Susanna's room; my first look fell upon
her, sitting on the floor before the fire-place; the bright light
illuminated her face with a rosy glow, and made her eyes seem more
radiant than ever. Her hands were clasped about her knees, and she was
looking dreamily at the flickering flames. Isa was bustling about at the
back of the room; she came nearer as she caught sight of me.

"'Susanna,' I asked, 'were you in the garden a little while ago?'

"She started up and looked at me with frightened eyes. 'No!' answered
Isabella in her place. 'Susy has not left the room all the afternoon.
What should she be doing out of doors in this weather?'

"'I do not know--but I surely thought I saw you, Susanna?'

"She turned her head and looked in her lap. 'I was not down there,' she
said, hesitatingly.

"I went away; my old eyes were failing then. Close by the door my foot
caught in something soft. I stooped down; it was the lace veil that
Susanna used to wear over her head, heavy and wet with rain. Without a
word I laid it on the nearest chair. Why did Susanna tell a lie? Why was
she frightened?

"And all at once an ugly, shocking thought darted like lightning through
my brain, that made me almost numb with fear. But no, surely it was not
possible, it was madness; how could one imagine such a thing? I scolded
myself. With trembling hand I lit a candle and went to my writing-desk;
to this day I cannot account for my answer to Stürmer being as it was,
and not different. I wrote under the influence of an inexplicable
anxiety. Strangely enough the letter sounded:

     "'MY DEAR EDWIN:--I shall be glad to see you here to-morrow
     afternoon at five o'clock, and can also tell you an important
     piece of news, which will please you. What do you say to this,
     that Klaus, our old Klaus, is engaged; and that the bride-elect
     is no other than Susanna Mattoni? Very likely you have guessed
     it easily?

     "'They have been engaged for some time, but it has been kept a
     secret for the mean time; but an old chatterbox like me may
     surely make an exception in your case.

     "'Affectionate greetings from your old friend,

     "'ROSAMOND VON HEGEWITZ.'

"In the greatest haste I folded the note, rang, and gave it into the
immediate charge of the coachman. I was seized with a nervous trembling
as I heard him ride out of the yard. I sent down word to Anna Maria that
I should not come to supper; I was rather fatigued.

"About eight o'clock I heard Susanna's light step in the hall; she was
coming from supper, and trilling a love-song. Then the door of her room
closed, and all was still.

"It was long past midnight when I stole out to the hall window to see if
Anna Maria had gone to bed. She was still awake; in the candle-light
which fell from her windows over the flower-beds of the garden a shadow
was moving to and fro, incessantly, restlessly. In the anxiety of my
heart I folded my hands: 'Lord God, send her no storm in this new
spring-time,' I whispered; 'let her be happy, make me ashamed of my care
and anxiety. Let my fear be an error. Ah! give her the happiness she
deserves!'

"The next day broke gray and dark, not at all like a day of good
fortune. Anna Maria stood at the open window in the sitting-room,
breathing in the warm air, which was unusually sultry for a November
day. She had a stunted white rose in her hand. 'See, aunt,' she said,
holding the flower up to me, 'I found it early this morning on the
rose-bush on mother's grave; how could it have bloomed now? We have had
such cold weather lately, it is almost a miracle, like a greeting for
the day.' And she took a glass and carefully put the awkward little rose
in fresh water, and carried it to her room.

"In the mail-bag which came at noon there was, beside a letter for
Susanna from Klaus, also one for Anna Maria from him concerning
arrangements for the longer absence of the master of the house. 'Since I
do not know how long I shall be away with Susanna,' he wrote, 'and since
I probably shall not find time in the short stop at home to talk this
over quietly with you, I have written down for you about how I think
this and that will be best arranged.' Various arrangements of a domestic
nature now followed. 'If any alteration seems necessary to you,' he
continued, 'do as you please; I know it will be right. The furnishing of
Susanna's rooms can be attended to during our absence. I should be very
grateful to you if you would sometimes have an eye upon the work, that
the nest for my little wife may be as comfortable as possible. In her
last letter she told me a great deal about Stürmer's furnishings, and I
have taken care to get something similar, at least, for her, as far as
it in any degree agrees with my own sober taste; the terrace is to be
re-paved, too. Now for the chief matter, my dear Anna Maria: on the
right hand, in the secret drawer of my writing-desk, lie the papers
which are necessary for the banns. Take them out and carry them to
Pastor Grüne; Susanna's baptismal certificate and marriage license,
which I had sent on from Berlin, will already be in his hands, as I am
sending them off with this letter. Remember me to the old man, and say
to him that he must not let us fall too roughly from the pulpit next
Sunday.'

"Anna Maria had given me the letter, and gone with her key-basket into
her brother's room. 'How will it be,' I whispered, looking over the long
columns of these domestic arrangements, 'when he has _her_ no longer? He
has been fearfully spoiled by her.' As I read about the banns, my old
aunt's head began to whirl like a mill-wheel with what had happened
yesterday--what was to come to-day. How would it result?

"I limped over to Anna Maria; she was standing before her brother's open
desk, the papers in her hand. 'Aunt Rosamond,' said she, 'I wish this
day were over, for see, when I think of Klaus I almost lose my courage!'
And she laid the yellow papers on the flat shelf of the wardrobe-shaped
desk, and folded her hands over them. 'It will seem almost wrong to me
that I should think of my own happiness when he--is not going to be
happy. Aunt, ah, aunt!' she sobbed out, 'I cannot help it; I love him
none the less on that account, believe me! But I have not the strength
to thrust from me a second time something which--' She did not finish;
she colored deeply, took up the papers again with trembling hands, and
closed the desk. 'I don't know what I do to-day,' she whispered, 'and I
don't know what I say. I wish it were night, I am so anxious!'

"'You need not speak out, Anna Maria,' said I, seizing her hands. 'I
have long known that you gave Stürmer up at that time only because you
would not forsake Klaus.'

"She took a step back, and gave me a frightened look. 'No, no; it is
not so!' she cried, 'it was my duty; he had lost so much for my sake!'

"'Anna Maria, I do not understand you,' I rejoined.

"'His bride! I know it,' she nodded. 'Because I was in the way, she
forsook my poor, dear Klaus. How he must have suffered!'

"'How you came to know of that affair, my child, is a riddle to me,' I
returned; 'but tell me, was that the reason that you--'

"'Oh, hush, aunt!' she cried, 'I know nothing any longer, it all lies
behind me like a dark, oppressive dream. I could not tell you now what I
thought and felt at the time, for it is not clear even to me. Some time
I will tell you everything, but not now, not to-day. But you must
promise me one thing,' she continued, beseechingly, looking at me
through her tears; 'you must always keep an eye on Klaus; you must read
from his face if he is in trouble, if he is unhappy, and then you must
tell me. Ah! aunt, I cannot really believe that he will be happy with
her! Dear Aunt Rosa, why must it be _she_? Why not some one else who
would be more worthy of him?'

"'Do not worry about it, Anna Maria,' I begged her; 'all is in God's
hands.'

"'You are right, Aunt Rosa,' she replied, a crimson flush spreading over
her face. 'I will not let this trouble me to-day; I will rejoice, will
be happy. Ah! aunt, I do not know, indeed, what that really is; I am
such a stupid, dull being. Listen, last evening I could have opened my
arms and embraced the whole world from happiness. I could not sleep, I
walked about my room restlessly, and read his letter a hundred times; as
long as my eye rested upon it I was calm, and when I had folded it up
doubts came to me, such anxious, evil doubts, such as, "What if you
have made a mistake? What if he has something to say to Aunt Rosamond
which does not concern you at all?" And then it seemed to me as if I
were sinking into a deep, black abyss, and there was nothing that I
could hold on to, aunt. Oh! it was frightful, so empty, so cold, so
dead! Dear Aunt Rosamond, do laugh me out of these foolish thoughts,
scold me for a stupid girl; tell me how faint-hearted I am, that a doubt
of Edwin's love should come to me! He does love me, Aunt Rosamond, does
he not? One can never forget it when one has once loved a person with
his whole heart. I know it; yes, Aunt Rosamond, I am a foolish, childish
creature; do laugh me right out of it, please, please!'

"She had drawn me to the sofa as she spoke, and hidden her face on my
shoulder. Amid laughing and crying the words came out, all
self-consciousness was gone, that unapproachable harshness of her nature
had disappeared, and she was now like any other girl expecting her
lover. She trembled and sobbed, and wound her arms tightly about my
neck--the proud, cold Anna Maria had become a happy child. What a
fulness of love and resignation now gushed from her heart, now that
happiness touched it! 'So do laugh me well out of it, aunt,' she said,
again.

"I stroked her hair caressingly; how gladly would I have laughed her out
of it! But in my soul, too, there were doubts, inexplicable doubts; and
why? There was really no reasonable ground for them, no, no! Susanna
might have denied the walk in the garden because the evening air was
prohibited on account of her health; and just because she stood under
the linden and waved her handkerchief--was that any proof? And I thought
of my letter to Stürmer, and really had to laugh.

"'Anna Maria,' said I, 'I will laugh at you, but you must laugh back at
me. Only think, yesterday I sent an announcement of the engagement to
Stürmer; I could not keep it to myself any longer that Klaus is
engaged.'

"She straightened up with a start.

"'Heavens, the papers! I forget everything. The banns--I must see to
that first, aunt.'

"To-day the hours seemed to pass much more slowly than usual. Toward
four o'clock I sat waiting at the window; my heartbeat as violently as
Anna Maria's, perhaps. She, I knew, was down-stairs in her room,
restless and anxious. Half-past four struck, five, and Stürmer was not
yet here. Instead, Susanna came into my room and sat down opposite me;
she had her kitten in her arms and began to play with it.

"I should have liked to send her away, but no suitable excuse occurred
to me at that moment. It is fearful how slowly the minutes pass when one
is counting them in anxious expectation; heavy as lead, each second
seems to spin itself out to eternity, and one starts at every sound. No,
that was a farm-wagon, now a horseman; ah! it is only the bailiff.

"Susanna felt my silence and restlessness painfully at any rate. 'Oh, it
is fearfully tiresome in the country in winter!' she sighed. 'What can
one do all day long?'

"'Have you written to Klaus yet?' I asked.

"'O dear, no!' she replied, with a suppressed yawn. 'I don't know what
to write him; I have no experience, I hear and see nothing.'

"'Well, an engaged girl is not usually at a loss for something to write
to the future husband,' I remarked.

"'Indeed?' she asked, absently. 'Yes, it may be, but I--I find it so
stupid just to drag out variations of the theme, "I love you."'

"'Klaus has written you, no doubt, Susanna, that you are to be published
from the pulpit on Sunday?'

"She started, and stared at me with wide-open, awestruck eyes. 'I don't
know,' she stammered, 'I----'

"'But you must know what is in his letter,' I said, impatiently.

"'Yes, I--' She put her hand in her pocket and drew out a letter. 'I
haven't read it yet; I was going to this evening--but----'

"'You have not opened the letter yet?' I cried, quite beside myself.
'Well, I must say, this case is unparalleled! You complain of _ennui_,
and yet carry quietly about in your pocket the most interesting thing
that can exist for you! The variations on the familiar theme do, indeed,
seem tiresome to you, Susanna!'

"I had spoken bitterly and loud. Susanna remained silent, and the same
choking feeling of fear came over me as yesterday. I heard the girl sob
gently, and was sorry at once for my vehemence.

"'Susanna,' said I, softly, 'you are standing before a very serious turn
in your life, and you trifle along like a child!'

"She suddenly broke out in loud weeping. 'What can I do, then?' she
cried, wringing her hands. 'Have I not a will of my own? must I be
treated like a child?' And the passionate little creature flung herself
on the floor and embraced my knees. 'Have pity on me, dear, dear
Fräulein Rosamond. Do not let me be unhappy. I----'

"She got no further; the door opened, and the sound of Anna Maria's
voice came in, so constrained, so forbidding, that my heart stopped
beating, and the girl sprang up hastily from the floor.

"'Aunt Rosamond, Susanna--Baron Stürmer wishes to--say farewell to you.'

"I can see them all so plainly as they were at that moment: Anna Maria,
pale to her lips, holding firmly on to the back of a chair for support;
Stürmer beside her, his eyes fixed on Susanna; behind them Brockelmann
with the lamp, and the trembling, sobbing girl, clinging to me, a
troubled expression on her tear-stained face, and her great eyes
unintelligently returning the man's look.

"At the first moment all was not clear to me; I did not understand how
Stürmer had come to Anna Maria, but that a deep wound had been made in a
young human heart, that I saw, and an icy chill crept over me.

"'Anna Maria,' I stammered, and sought to free myself from Susanna's
arms. Then Stürmer came up to me.

"'I am going away to-morrow for a long time, Fräulein Rosamond,' said
he, in a firm, clear voice, 'and want to take my leave of you. It is a
hasty decision of mine, but you know that is my way. I thank you, too,
for the letter, Fräulein Rosamond.' He kissed my hand and turned to
Susanna. There was a tremble on his lips, as with a formal bow, he
expressed a brief congratulation on her engagement.

"She looked fixedly at him, as if she did not understand him, her arms
slipped from my waist, and she made a movement toward him; but he had
already turned away. He bent again over Anna Maria's hand and left the
room. I can still hear the closing of the door and his reëchoing steps
in the hall, and can still see the vacant expression with which Anna
Maria looked after him. She was standing, drawn to her full height, her
proud head slightly bent, yet she seemed inwardly broken, and a ghastly
smile lay on her firmly closed lips.

"'Anna Maria!' I cried, hastening over to her. She did not look at me,
but pointed to Susanna, who had slipped, fainting, to the floor.

"'Her!' she said, lifelessly--' he loves _her_!--both love _her_! And
I?' She passed her hands over her forehead. 'Nothing more, aunt, nothing
more, in the great wide world; nothing more!'

"She bent down to the unconscious girl and raised her in her arms, and
the beautiful head with the dark curls rested on her breast. Anna Maria
looked for an instant at the pale, childish face, and then carried her
over to her room and laid her on the bed.

"'Take care of Susanna,' said she to Isabella, who stood before the bed,
wringing her hands. 'If it is necessary, send for the doctor.' She went
past me out of the room; I hurried after her; what did I care for
Susanna at this moment?

"'Anna Maria,' I begged, 'where are you going? Come into my room, speak
out, have your cry out; do not stay alone, my poor, dear child!'

"She stood still. 'I do not know what I should have to speak about,
aunt--and cry? I cannot cry. Don't worry about me; nothing pains me,
nothing at all. I would like to be alone, I must think about myself. Do
let me.'

"She went away with as firm a step as ever; she even turned down a
smoking lamp in passing, and the sound of her deep, pleasant voice came
up to me from the stairs as she spoke to Brockelmann; then I heard her
steps die away in the hall.

"What sort of storm may have shaken her in her solitary room I know not.
When, late in the evening, I listened at her door there was no sound of
movement within; but that she watched through the saddest hours of her
life in that night, her pale face, her sunken eyes, and the expression
about the corners of her mouth told me the next day.

"Ah, and over it all lay, like a veil, that old coldness, and her fair
head was poised just as obstinately as before, and her words had an
imperious sound. Anna Maria was not desperate, Anna Maria had no
passionate complaints to make. With her maidenly pride she had subdued
the sick heart; no one saw, now, that it was mortally wounded. The pain
within, the struggles, they were _her_ affair. Who would dare even to
touch that closed, strongly guarded door?

"And so the next morning she went up to the bed in Susanna's room, where
the sobbing girl lay. Susanna had begun to cry on regaining
consciousness the day before, and kept on crying, as if she would
dissolve in tears. Isabella sat by the bed, with a red face; she had
doubtless talked herself hoarse with consolatory arguments during the
night; now she was silent and feigned ignorance of all that had passed.
'I don't know, Fräulein Anna Maria,' she whispered, 'what is the matter
with Susanna--these unfortunate nerves; I don't understand it!' She
looked very much cast down, the little yellow woman.

"'Susanna,' said Anna Maria, clearly and severely, 'stop crying, and
tell me the cause of your trouble; perhaps I can help you.'

"'Oh, heavens! no, no!' screamed Isa, vehemently, pressing close up to
Anna Maria. 'She is so excited; don't listen to her words, she doesn't
know what she is saying!'

"But Susanna made no answer; she stopped sobbing, turned her head away
from Anna Maria, and lay still as a mouse; but in the quick rising and
falling of her bosom one could see how excited she was.

"'Be calm, Susanna,' repeated Anna Maria; 'and where you are, I have to
speak with you concerning the explanation of a great mistake.'

"She turned quietly from the invalid, and observing the glasses beside
the bed, asked Isabella if Susanna liked lemonade, and went away. She
had given me only a hasty greeting; now she came back, and we stood
together in the hall, and I held her hand in mine.

"That words of consolation were not to be thought of in dealing with a
nature like Anna Maria's, I knew well; yet I could not help tears coming
into my eyes as I looked at her. She looked at me for a moment, her face
quivered as with a passionate pain, and the sobbing sound came from her
breast. But she composed herself by an effort, and pointing to Susanna's
door, said: 'There is the worst thing--my poor Klaus!' She pressed my
hand, and then went about her household duties as usual. It is not every
one that would have done as she did!

"When I entered Susanna's room again I found her sitting up in bed,
wringing her clasped hands. 'Nobody has asked _me_ about it!' she
repeated, amid streaming tears; 'my wish is of no account; they have
pushed me away where they wanted me to go! And now, now--' She murmured
something to herself, which I did not understand, and stopped weeping,
only to begin anew with the passionate cry: 'No one loves me, no one!'

"'Do not listen to her,' Isabella implored me; 'she really does not know
what she is doing; leave me alone with her! 'The little creature was in
a thousand terrors. She ran from the bed to the window, and then back
to the bed; she called the weeping girl all sorts of pet names, she
besought her by heaven and earth to be quiet--it was in vain. Susanna
wept herself into a state of agitation that made us fear the worst; she
struck at Isa, and then wrung her hands again, like a person in perfect
desperation. I stood by, helpless; as long as the girl was in this state
of excitement I could not step up to her, and say: 'Susanna, what have
you done? You have given your word to a man of honor, and you love
another! You have made mischief in the house which was so hospitably
opened to you; you have made three human hearts miserable! Is that your
gratitude for all this kindness?'

"And then her cry, 'No one asked me; they pushed me away where they
wanted me to be, and I had not the power to defend myself!' sank deeply
into my heart, and my thoughts went back to that evening when she had
run away in the storm and rain, and how Klaus had brought her back, and
called her 'his!' Had he asked if she loved him? No; he had not even
thought of the possibility that such might not be the case; he had gone
away with firm confidence in her love. And then Anna Maria had pressed
her to her heart one day, and called her 'sister,' and Klaus had come,
and had put the engagement ring on her hand. She had not dared to send
him away, and had gone on, in her light manner, trifling with that
engagement ring, while becoming deeper and deeper involved in the
passion for another. Her lover was away, he did not hear her. Now
Stürmer was going into the wide world, a fresh thorn in her heart.
Susanna was shaken out of her dreams, and near despair. And Anna Maria,
and Klaus--what was to become of them?

"Then Brockelmann brought me a letter from Stürmer. I went into my room
and read it; it was written from Dambitz, and ran as follows:

     "'HONORED FRÄULEIN:--I do not like to go away from you without
     a word of explanation, or without thanking you for your letter,
     which kept me from taking a step which would have been
     painfully hard for me in more than one respect. You have, with
     delicate tact indeed, rightly discerned that Susanna Mattoni is
     not an object of indifference to me, and you wanted to save me
     from a disappointment. My dear Fräulein Rosamond, why should I
     deny it? I love Susanna very much, and I intended yesterday to
     beg for your mediation in my suit. I _had_ to suppose that she
     returned my love.

     "'I have no luck in your house--a second time I have been
     bitterly undeceived. Now I have come to consider myself one of
     the most arrogant men the world contains. Anna Maria does not
     love me. I required years to get over that first
     disappointment; it was not easy, for I believed myself
     perfectly sure of her reciprocal love. Well, I succeeded at
     last; I will even assert that Anna Maria was right. We were
     ill-suited to each other; perhaps she would have been unhappy
     with a man of such entirely different inclinations. Then I see
     Susanna and--love the betrothed of my best friend!

     "'What remains to me? Again I turn my back on my home and seek
     to forget.

     "'In Bütze everything will remain as of old, and I--go. But I
     do not like to leave you, who have suspected it, in darkness.
     Pardon me if have caused you anxiety; I did so unconsciously.
     Think of me kindly! When I come home again some day, Susanna
     will be the wife of my friend, and I--a calm man, who will have
     forgotten all the dreams of youth. I kiss your dear hands, and
     beg you to let what I have said here remain our secret. Susanna
     will be most likely of all to suspect why I went--she will
     secretly mourn for me, but only soon to forget me in her young
     happiness.

     "'Farewell, with most heartfelt respect,

     "'Your most devoted

     "'EDWIN VON STÜRMER.'

"The sheet trembled in my hands, and every instant tears hindered my
reading.

"About half-past three in the afternoon Pastor Grüne came with his
sister to offer congratulations on the engagement. Ah, me! yes,
yesterday the appointment for publishing the banns was made. Anna Maria
and I sat in painful embarrassment, receiving the hearty congratulations
of the two old friends. They inquired for the young bride-elect, and the
pastor praised her beauty and her happy, child-like nature. When he saw
Anna Maria's pale face, he took her hand:

"'My dear child,' said he, kindly and earnestly, 'marriages are made in
Heaven. God leads the hearts together, and when they have found each
other no human being may disturb them. So few marriages are made to-day
out of true, unselfish love that it ought to be a real joy for every one
who experiences it, to see a couple go before the altar who are
restrained by no earthly consideration from belonging to each other in
true love. God's blessing be upon Klaus von Hegewitz and his bride!' He
was much moved, the old man who had held Klaus and Anna Maria over the
font, but in surprise he let the girl's hand drop, with a look of
disapprobation at the cold, unsympathetic face. She did not answer a
syllable.

"My old friend had, a little while before, drawn a sheet of paper from
her knitting-bag and put it in my hand. I first glanced at it now; it
was the printed notice of the engagement of Klaus and Susanna. 'We
received it this morning,' she nodded, 'but I saw it yesterday at Frau
von R----'s at Oesfeld; I was there to coffee. You ought to have been
there, Rosamond, to see how the ladies contended for that little sheet.'

"I looked in alarm at Anna Maria, who blushed suddenly and then grew
pale again. Now the engagement was in everybody's mouth, and up-stairs
lay the bride-elect, wringing her hands and weeping for another! Of what
importance was Anna Maria's own sorrow in the face of that which
threatened Klaus? She seized the sheet, and after the first glance
pushed it from her in abhorrence. It was a most painful quarter of an
hour, and many, many such followed that day.

"The news of Klaus's engagement had spread with lightning speed. Visitor
after visitor came; it seemed as if the whole neighborhood wished to
make our house a rendezvous. Carriage after carriage drove into the
court; people whom we had not seen for years came to offer
congratulations on the happy event. Anna Maria sat like a statue among
the questioning, chattering people, and with trembling hands and ashen
face Brockelmann offered refreshments. The faithful old soul felt with
us the pain that every question gave; only by an effort could she
suppress her tears, and as she passed me she said, in a hasty whisper:
'I truly believe the end of the world is coming!'

"Anna Maria had, nevertheless, forced a smile. She said that she was
sorry not to be able to present Susanna, but the young girl had been
suddenly taken ill; it was to be hoped it was nothing serious.

"'But now do tell us how it came about. When did he become acquainted
with her? From what sort of a family does she come?' asked the elder
ladies.

"'Is she pretty, Fräulein Rosamond? Ah, do describe Klaus von Hegewitz's
_fiancée_ to us; she must be something remarkable!' the young girls
teased me.

"And beneath all these curious, interested questions there lurked
something which could not be defined and which seemed like a very slight
sort of surprise, and I heard Frau von B---- whisper to the wife of
Counsellor S----: 'The sister doesn't seem exactly enchanted?' and she
was answered: 'No, her rule is at an end now; until now she has just had
the good Klaus under her thumb.'

"Poor Anna Maria! she answered all the questions so mechanically. She
told them that Susanna was very beautiful; she said that the girl's
father had been a most fatherly friend to her brother--but the way she
did it was strangely stiff and uncomfortable. They looked at her in
surprise and interchanged glances.

"Meanwhile the brisk housemaid brought the lamps and lighted the candles
on the old chandelier of antlers, and the outside blinds were closed
with a creak. Some of the guests rose; the ladies looked about for their
fur cloaks, the gentlemen took up their hats. I thanked God, for Anna
Maria's appearance frightened me. Then something unexpected happened,
something which caused me to drop back into my chair, quite
disconcerted. Brockelmann had suddenly opened the door, and there stood
one whom I had certainly not expected to see at that moment--Susanna!
Isabella's small figure was seen for an instant in the background, then
the door closed again.

"A pause ensued, all eyes being directed toward the young girl. She was
really embarrassed for a moment, and this gave her beauty an additional
bewitching charm. Like a shy, confused child she stood there, in the
little black lace-trimmed dress, which so peculiarly suited her, her
head somewhat bent, and the blush of embarrassment on her cheeks.

"It was an infinitely painful moment, for Anna Maria did not take a step
toward her. I saw how Susanna's beseeching eyes turned away at her fixed
look, which seemed to ask: 'What right have you to be here?' and here
her lips were firmly closed. It was only one moment; the next I was
standing by Susanna and introducing her as Fräulein Mattoni, and
therewith the ice was broken. They crowded about her, shook hands with
her, and devoured her with admiring eyes. Her cheeks grew crimson, her
eyes shone, and not a trace of the morning's tears remained; the mouth
which had poured forth such fearful laments now smiled like a child's,
and Anna Maria stood alone yonder. God knows what pain she must have
felt!

"The guests sat down for another minute, out of respect to Susanna, and
after the storm of customary formalities had subsided, they spoke of
country life, wondering if a city girl could accustom herself to it.
They asked Susanna how the Mark pleased her, and at last the old wife of
General S----, whose estate touched Dambitz on the south, remarked:
'Tell me, Fräulein von Hegewitz, is it true that Stürmer is going away
on a journey again?'

"She had turned to Anna Maria, who was sitting bolt upright beside her,
and whose color now suddenly changed. 'He is on his way to Paris, your
excellency,' she replied.

"'The butterfly!' joked the amiable old lady. 'I did hope that he would
settle down here with us, but he seems to prefer the unfettered life of
a bachelor. To Paris, then?'

"'Well, Paris is not a bad place for a man of Stürmer's stamp,' said
Captain von T----, smiling, who was known as a pleasure-loving man. 'Any
one who can avoid it would be a fool to bury himself in this old
sand-box and the _ennui_ of the Mark.'

"Anna Maria looked into space again. Susanna's eyes sparkled at these
words; she seemed to be considering something, and then she laughed. Was
this the same Susanna whom I had seen afflicted to death this morning,
who was now sitting, in all the bliss of a happy bride, among these
people, and turning red with pleasure at each admiring look? Oh, never
in my life was there so long a half-hour as this!

"And now, at last, the guests rose and took their departure. Susanna was
commissioned on all sides with greetings and congratulations for Klaus,
and she thanked them with her most charming smile and a beaming look
from her great eyes.

"'By Heaven, Fräulein,' said the captain to me, twirling his mustache,
'your future niece is the prettiest girl I ever saw, a pearl in any
society. I hope the young ladies will not disdain our winter balls?' He
turned to Susanna with this request: 'The place is not very comfortable,
but the society--' He kissed the tips of his fingers, murmuring
something about the crown of all ladies, and Susanna laughed and
promised to come, 'because she was so fond of dancing.'

"And by the time the last of the guests were in their carriage Susanna
had made at least a dozen promises which all had reference to a
pleasant, lively intercourse. We accompanied the guests to the steps; in
the confusion of parting words Susanna must have taken herself off, for
when the last carriage rolled away I was standing alone beside Anna
Maria in the dimly lighted hall.

"'Come, my child,' said I, taking her cold hands and drawing her into
the room. And then she sat in Klaus's chair for perhaps a quarter of an
hour, without speaking a word, her hands folded on the table, her eyes
cast down. The clock ticked lightly, the wind rustled through the tall
trees out-of-doors, and now and then a candle sputtered; it began to
seem almost uncanny to me, sitting there opposite the silent girl.

"'Anna Maria!' I cried at last.

"She started up. 'Yes, come,' she said, 'We will ask her! Rather the
shrugs of those people than a misery here in the house. I would rather
see Klaus unhappy for a time than deceived all his life long. Come,
aunt.' And with firm step she went out of the room, along the corridor,
and up the stairs.

"I followed her as quickly as I could; my heart beat fast with anxiety
and grief. 'Anna Maria,' I begged, 'not to-day, not now. Come into my
room, you are too excited.' But she walked on. Up-stairs, in front of
Susanna's door, I perceived by the light of the hall lamp a great flat
chest; white tissue-paper showed under the lid, which had not been
tightly closed.

"'What is that?' Anna Maria asked Brockelmann, who was just coming out
of the room.

"'The chest came from Berlin to-day,' the old woman replied; 'I suppose
from the master.'

"Anna Maria nodded and opened the door quickly. A flood of light
streamed out toward us, and surrounded the slender white figure before
the large mirror; soft creamy satin fell in heavy folds about her, and
lay in a long train on the floor; a gauzy veil lay, like a mist, over
the nearest arm-chair, and a pair of small white shoes peeped out from
their wrapper on the table. She turned around at our entrance, and stood
there with a shamefaced smile--Susanna Mattoni was trying on her
wedding-dress.

"Anna Maria let go of the door-handle and stepped over the threshold,
looking fixedly at Susanna, her face crimson.

"'Take off that dress!' she commanded, in a voice scarcely audible from
excitement.

"Susanna drew back in alarm, and turning pale looked up at Anna Maria.

"'Take off that dress!' she repeated, in increasing agitation; 'you are
not worthy to wear it. So help me God, this wretched comedy shall come
to an end!'

"'Anna Maria,' I begged, full of fear, catching hold of the folds of her
dress, 'keep calm! For God's sake, stop!' But she paid no attention to
me; the girl, usually so cool and collected, was beside herself with
pain and anger. Her _own_ suffering she had borne in silence; but the
thought of Klaus, the conviction that he was deceived where he had
completely surrendered his kind, honest heart, robbed her of all
consideration and self-control.

"Susanna stood speechless opposite her, an expression of penitence on
her childish face. She was incapable of a defence, of an apology. Then,
as ill-luck would have it, the old woman stepped between them, with a
theatrical gesture placing herself in front of Susanna.

"'Do not forget that you are standing before your brother's betrothed,'
she said, with a tone and a gesture which would have been ludicrous at
any other time.

"Anna Maria contemptuously pushed the small figure aside like an
inanimate object, and laid her hand heavily on the girl's shoulder.
'Speak,' she said, with a wearily forced composure; 'do you not feel
what you are on the point of doing? Are you then still so young, still
so spoiled, that you have entirely lost the sense of honor and duty? Is
this wretched comedy your gratitude for all that this house has given
you?'

"Susanna tried to shake off her hand.

"'I do not know what you mean!' she cried, in anxious defiance; 'I have
done nothing wrong!'

"Anna Maria stared at her as if she could not grasp the words. There was
a pause of breathless silence in the room; then the storm broke loose,
and the proud girl's wrath carried her away like a whirlwind.

"'You have done nothing wrong?' she blazed forth. 'You have done nothing
wrong, and you are on the point of deceiving the best of men; you are
ready to perjure yourself? Your eyes have looked after another, and wept
for another. I tell you, so long as I have power to move my tongue, I
will not cease to accuse you before my brother! He shall not fall a
victim to you!' And she shook the girl violently for a moment; then,
recollecting herself, she pushed back the delicate form. The girl fell
staggering to the floor, and struck her head heavily against a carved
chair-back.

"It was a fearful moment; Susanna had cried out in pain as she fell, and
Isa now held her in her arms and wailed. The girl's eyes were closed,
but a narrow red stream was trickling down from her temple, staining the
white lace of the bridal dress. A sort of numbness had come over us;
even Isa grew silent, and with trembling hands dried the blood on
Susanna's cheek.

"Anna Maria looked absently at the swooning girl; then suddenly,
recollecting herself, she threw her hands over her face, and hastily
turning around, left the room. I helped Isabella carry Susanna to the
bed, and take off the unfortunate dress. It is still hanging in the
wardrobe over there, just as we hung it up at that time, with the
blood-stains on the white lace frill. Isa did not speak; she did all in
a tearless rage. Now and then she kissed the girl's small hands, and
dried the tears that were trickling, slowly and quietly, from under the
dark lashes, over the young face.

"I did not speak either; what would there have been to say? I went away
to look for Anna Maria as soon as I saw that Susanna was coming to
herself, and left it to Isa to put the compresses on the wounded temple.

"I found Anna Maria in the sitting-room, in her chair, with her
spinning-wheel before her, as on every evening, but her hands lay
wearily in her lap, and her eyes were cast down. As I came nearer she
started up and began to spin; her foot rested heavily on the frail
treadle, her hands trembled nervously as they drew the threads, and her
face was fearfully white and her lips tightly closed, as if no friendly
word were ever to pass them again in the course of her life.

"'Anna Maria,' said I, stopping in front of her, 'what now?'

"She did not answer.

"'You have let yourself be carried away,' I continued. 'How will it be
now between you and Klaus?'

"Again she made no reply, but the treadle of the spinning-wheel broke in
two with a snap; she sprang up, and pushed back the stretchers. 'Leave
me, leave me,' she begged, putting her hand to her forehead.

"'Write to Klaus; tell him he must come,' I advised. She sat down again,
and leaned her head on her hand. 'I will bring you paper and ink, Anna
Maria, or shall I write?'

"She shook her head. 'Do not torment me,' she wailed; 'I no longer know
if I am in my senses; leave me alone!'

"I still lingered; she looked fearfully. Her face was so pale and
distorted one could scarcely recognize the blooming, girlish
countenance. 'Go,' she begged; it is the only thing that you can do for
me.'

"I went; no doubt she was right. In such an hour it is torment even to
breathe in the sight of others. But why did she not fly to her room? I
turned around once more at the stairs; I wanted to ask her to drink a
glass of lemonade, and go to bed. The sitting-room was dark, but through
the crack of the door which led to Klaus's room came a ray of
candle-light; she was in there.

"Two days had passed since that evening, and Anna Maria continued to go
about without speaking. At dinner she had sat at the table, but had
eaten nothing, and she wandered about for hours through the garden, in
rain and storm. Brockelmann insisted upon it, with tears, that I ought
to send for the doctor, for her young lady was bent upon doing something
which, she thought, pointed to the beginning of a disease of the mind.
Anna Maria was no longer like herself. Did she rue her violence, or did
she fear seeing Klaus again? I knew not. She had not written to him. I
intended to do so in the beginning, but then gave it up; he _must_ come,
and the more time that elapsed, the calmer our hearts would be.

"Susanna sat by the window up-stairs, in her room, a white cloth bound
about her forehead, and her eyes, weary and red with weeping, looked out
upon the leafless garden. I had been to her room several times to speak
with her as forbearingly as possible. I wished to set before her her own
wrong, to tell her that a warm, almost idolatrous love for Klaus, and
the fear that he might not be happy, had driven Anna Maria to an
extreme. But here, too, I met with silent, obstinate resistance--that
is, I received no answer, only that Isabella said to me, with a sparkle
in her black eyes: 'She has been abused, and she has been pushed, my
poor child!' Whether or not Susanna had written to Klaus I did not
learn."



CHAPTER XVI.


"It was almost evening, on the 13th of November, as an extra post drove
quickly into the court. 'Another visit!' was my first thought, so many
people had been turned away in those days. 'You will fare no better,'
thought I; 'you will soon turn around and drive home.' But, no, the
carriage stopped, and a gentleman swung himself out. My heart stood
still from fear--Klaus! How came Klaus to-day?

"Should I hurry out to meet him? Prevent him from meeting Anna Maria?
Prepare him, forbearingly? But how? Could I speak of the conflict
without mortally wounding him? It was too late already; I heard his step
on the stairs; he was going up to Susanna first of all; he had probably
been told that she was up-stairs. I stepped into the hall quite
unconsciously, and at the same time Susanna's door opened, her light
figure appeared on the threshold, then she flew toward the man who was
standing there with outstretched arms. 'Klaus, Klaus! my dear Klaus!'
sounded in my ear, tender and exultant with joy. Oh, Anna Maria, if you
were to speak to him with the tongue of an angel it would avail you
nothing; it is too late!

"I saw Klaus press the slender figure to him, and saw her throw her arms
about his neck, and again and again put up her lips to be kissed; and I
heard her begin to sob, first gently, then more vehemently, and cry:
'Now all is well, all, now that you are here!' And she clung to him
like a hunted deer.

"I stepped back softly; I still saw how Susanna drew him into her room,
caressing him, and heard his deep, passionate voice; then the door was
closed behind them. 'Caught!' said I, softly, 'caught, like Tannhäuser
of old in the Hörfelsberg!' And bitter tears ran from my old eyes as I
went down-stairs to go to Anna Maria.

"Brockelmann came toward me in consternation. 'The master is here,' she
called to me, 'but Anna Maria will not believe it.' I went into her room
without knocking; she was sitting on the little sofa, her New Testament
before her on the table. In the dying daylight her great blue eyes
looked forth almost weirdly from the face worn with grief.

"'Klaus has come, my child,' I said, going up to her.

"She looked at me incredulously.

"'I have seen him, Anna Maria; it is true.'

"'Where is he, then?' she asked. 'Why does he not come to me?'

"'My dear child'--I took her hand--'Klaus is with Susanna.'

"She let her head drop. 'But then he will come,' she said; 'he must
come, of course! He will want something to eat, and he will want to
scold me. I wish he would tell me how bad I am, how unjustly I have
acted, so that I might tell him everything, everything that lies so
heavily on my heart. Perhaps, perhaps my voice may penetrate him once
more, when he thinks of all that we have lived through in common, when
he thinks how I love him!'

"I pressed her hand and sat down silently beside her; that sweet, clear
'Klaus, Klaus! my dear Klaus!' still rang in my ears, and then the
sobbing. And now, if he should hear from her own lips why she wept? If
he should lift the white cloth from her brow? The calmest man would
become a tiger, and he was not calm, any more than Anna Maria--God help
them! I trembled at the thought of those two standing face to face.

"And the darkness fell and concealed the objects in the room; before the
windows the branches of the old elms swayed, ghost-like, in the wind,
ever bending toward us, as if beckoning with their lean arms. And Anna
Maria waited! At every sound in the house she started up--I thought I
heard her heart beat--and each time she was deceived.

"At last, at last! That was his step on the stairs! She rose, all at
once, to her full, proud height. 'Klaus,' she said, 'my brother
Klaus!'--as if she must be encouraged in mentioning the entire,
intimate, sacred relation in which they stand to each other--'my only
brother!' In these few words lay the destiny of her whole life.

"The sound of Klaus's voice came in to us; it sounded as if he were
giving various orders; now it came nearer in the hall, then the steps
retreated, and at last reëchoed the creaking of the front door.

"'He is going!' shrieked Anna Maria, 'he is going, and I have not seen
him, and he has not asked for me!'

"'No, no, my child,' I sought to calm her, 'he is not going away, he
cannot go; whither should he? Only be calm; he wants to speak to the
bailiff, or to see about his baggage. Let me go, I will find out; and
you--come, sit down quietly in your place. I will bring Klaus to you, I
promise you.'

"It was an easy thing for me to lead her back from the door and push her
to the sofa; the tall, strong girl seemed stunned by anxiety and
weariness.

"I kissed her forehead and hurried out; Brockelmann was in the hall,
coming toward me with rapid steps. She looked heated, and her white cap
was all awry on her gray hair. She carried a lighted candle in one hand,
and with the other quickly unfastened her great bunch of keys from her
belt. The housemaid followed her with a basket of fire-wood.

"'Great heavens, gracious Fräulein,' said the old woman, when I asked,
in surprise, the meaning of her haste; 'if I knew myself! The hall is to
be heated and lighted; in an hour everything must be ready, and the
dust-covers haven't been taken off for a whole year in there. I think
the master has lost his head!' And with trembling hands she unlocked the
folding-doors which led to the two rooms which, under the names of the
'Hall' and the 'Red Room,' had been, from my earliest youth, opened only
on particularly important occasions. Here was formerly assembled,
several times a year, a very aristocratic company, who, after a fine,
stiff dinner-party, would close the evening with a dance; here had been
held, for generations, the christening and wedding feasts of the
Hegewitzes; here, too, had many a coffin stood, before it was carried
out to the vault in the garden below.

"What did Klaus mean to do to-day? Involuntarily I followed Brockelmann
into the hall; the candle lighted the great room but faintly; its feeble
light made here and there a prismatic drop among the pendants of the
crystal chandelier sparkle, and the gray-covered pieces of furniture
stood about like ghosts. The old woman began to arrange things in the
greatest haste, and under the hands of the maid the first feeble flame
was soon flickering up in the fire-place. I beheld it as in a dream.

"'What, for God's sake, does this mean?' I asked again, oppressed.

"Brockelmann did not reply at once; she wanted to spread out the rug in
front of the great sofa. 'Go, Sophie, the fire is burning now;
Christopher may come in a quarter of an hour to light the candles.--They
will surely last,' she added, with a glance at the half-burned candles
in the chandelier and sconces.

"The girl went; the old woman stopped taking off the dust-covers. 'One
experiences a great deal when one is old and gray, and nowhere are there
stranger goings on than in this world!' said she, excitedly; 'but that
anything like this should happen! Do you know, Fräulein, where he has
gone, the master, without even having said "Good-day" to his sister? To
Pastor Grüne. And there up-stairs sits the old Isa, and has cut bare the
little myrtle-tree which you gave to the--the strange young lady, so
that it looks like a rod to beat naughty children with. And the young
thing lies on the sofa, playing with her cat, and laughs out of her red
eyes, and she laughs with all her white teeth, because things have gone
so far at last. Gracious Fräulein, they have wept and lamented. If the
master has lost his reason, I can understand it. Not an hour longer will
they stay here in the house, the little one cried, where they were
trodden under foot and scolded. And when the master sent for me he was
holding her in his arms, and looked as pale as the plaster on the walls.
I must put things in order here as well as possible, said he, but
quickly--in an hour, Fräulein; there will be no more disturbance to be
made about it. And though the king himself were to come, in an hour they
will be man and wife.'

"'Is it possible?' I stammered. 'Anna Maria--' My head whirled about
like a mill-wheel. It was decided, then; Susanna was to be his wife!

"Klaus had been stirred up to the utmost extent; that his hasty decision
proved. Of what use would it be if I were to go now to Anna Maria and
say: 'Compose yourself, it is not to be altered now!' In her present
state of mind she would throw herself at his feet and accuse Susanna,
though he were already standing with her before the priest. In his
passion for this girl he would believe nothing of all this; he would
require proofs. And proofs? Who would accuse her of infidelity? How
could _she_ help it that Stürmer loved her? That she had wept and wrung
her hands, was that anything positive? That Stürmer fancied himself
loved by her, could that be made out a crime on her part? It would have
been madness to excite Klaus further, to say to him now: 'Leave her; she
will not make you happy.'

"With fixed gaze I followed the old woman about, and in restless anxiety
saw her begin to light the candles beside the great mirror; their light
was reflected from the polished glass and fell sparkling on the gilt
frames of the family portraits; deep crimson color shone from the
curtains and furniture, and a warm breath now came from the fire through
the chilly air. Was it a reality?

"Then I started up. Anna Maria was still sitting alone and waiting; my
place was with _her_. I found her in the dark, still in the same spot,
and sat down beside her.

"'He has gone away,' she asked, 'has he not?'

"'No,' said I, 'he is coming back directly.'

"'To me?'

"'I do not know, my child.'

"'What is that loud slamming of doors?' she asked after a while. 'And
why do I sit here so cowardly, as if I had something to fear, when I
have done nothing wrong? I need not wait for him to come to me; I can go
to him first.'

"And she stood up again. With firm step she went to the door, but before
she could put her hand on the latch the door opened, and Pastor Grüne,
in full official robes, crossed the threshold.

"Involuntarily the girl drew back at this unexpected appearance. The old
man was plainly embarrassed. After a moment's hesitation, he went up to
Anna Maria and took her hands. 'I come, commissioned by your brother,'
he began. 'He wishes, through me, to put a request most fervently to
your heart. Herr von Hegewitz intends, for reasons which he has not
shared further with me, to consummate his marriage with Fräulein Mattoni
to-day.'

"Anna Maria's pale face turned crimson. 'It is impossible!' she said, in
a lifeless tone; 'it is not true!'

"'But, my dear child,' the old gentleman went on, laying his hands
kindly on the girl's shoulders, 'look at me. I stand all ready in
official robes to perform the solemn act. But first your brother would
have peace made with his sister; he would not take this step until she,
to whom he has been hitherto so closely bound in fraternal love, has
again extended her hand to him in reconciliation.'

"'I am not angry with my brother,' came the denial.

"'Not with him, perhaps, but with her who in a short time will be his
wife. His heart is heavily oppressed by this situation, and he begs you
earnestly to speak a single word to his bride.'

"Anna Maria suddenly shook off his hand. 'I am to beg her pardon?' she
cried, raising herself to her full height, her eyes flaming--'I beg
Susanna Mattoni's pardon? Has Klaus gone mad, to think that I will
humble myself before that girl? Go, Herr Pastor, tell him he must come
himself to speak with me. I will fall at my brother's feet if I have
grieved him, but I will also tell him what drove me to push the girl
from me, and--go bring him before it is too late, or I----'

"'Anna Maria,' the old man broke in, raising his voice, 'cease from this
defiance! Judge not, that ye be not judged, says the Scripture! You have
no right to press yourself between these two; you have been prejudiced
against your brother's bride from the first moment, you have judged her
childish faults too harshly. Do you think by complaint to tear a man's
love from his heart? Foolish child! then you do not know what love is,
which forgives everything, overlooks everything. Stop, control yourself!
Anna Maria, you have an uncommonly strong will, a courageous heart; do
not wholly imbitter the solemn hour for your only brother; it lacks
already the consecration of a festal feeling. Your brother tells me he
means to go away this evening with his young wife. Come, my child,
follow your old teacher and pastor once more; come!'

"She drew back a few steps. 'Never!' said she, gently but firmly.

"'Anna Maria, not so, not so; bitter regrets may follow,' he said,
appeasingly.

"'Never!' she repeated. 'I cannot go against my conscience; I should be
ashamed to stand at the altar and listen to a lie! I had placed my
entire hope on speaking to Klaus, on begging him to leave her. He does
not wish to see me, or he would have come. I cannot do what he wishes;
believe me, I have my reasons. Farewell, Herr Pastor!'

"She turned and went to the window, and pressing her head against the
panes, looked out on the sinking darkness of the November evening. She
was apparently calm, and yet her whole body shook.

"Meanwhile a familiar step was heard outside, pacing up and down. I
stepped out. 'Klaus,' I begged, looking in his pale, excited face, 'why
this terrible haste?'

"'How am I to do it, then?' he cried, impatiently. 'I cannot stay here,
I am still needed in Silesia, so I must take Susanna away; what else can
be done? Do you think I will expose her to this treatment any longer? By
Heaven, aunt, when the girl's desperate letter came, it was fortunate
that I could not come here on wings, that the vexations of the journey,
and in M---- the procuring of the marriage license, detained me, or I
should not have been able to control myself. Anna Maria is a stubborn
thing; she has no heart or feelings, or she would at least be ready now
to hold out her hand to Susanna and me.'

"'Anna Maria loves you more than you think,' said I, grieved, 'and if
she was angry with your bride, she had sufficient cause.'

"He stood still, white as chalk. 'Aunt,' he implored me, with a wearily
maintained composure, 'do not completely spoil this hour for me. Susanna
has told me everything, and Anna Maria, in her views of united prudery
and onesidedness, has regarded as a deadly sin what was an innocent,
perfectly innocent act on Susanna's part.'

"At this moment Pastor Grüne came out of Anna Maria's room--alone. I
shall never forget the sad look with which Klaus met the eyes of the old
man.

"So we three stood there; Klaus was just taking a step toward the door
when in the same instant Isa stood beside him, as if charmed hither.
She already had on her black silk dress, and her withered face shone
with joy and triumph.

"'Susanna is waiting, sir,' she whispered.

"'I am coming,' he replied, and turning around he said to me: 'It is
better for me not to see her. I know _her_, I know myself, and I wish to
remain calm.'

"Indeed it was better! God knows what would have happened if they had
met. I promised to be present at the marriage ceremony, but first I went
again to Anna Maria. She was still standing at the window, and did not
turn on my entrance.

"'Anna Maria,' said I, 'I will come back soon; you shall not remain
alone long.'

"Then she suddenly slipped to the floor, and buried her head in her
mother's old arm-chair. 'Alone!' she cried, 'alone, forever, forever!'

"A few minutes later I was on my way to the hall. Several lamps had been
lighted in the corridor, and the servants, with curious, pleased faces,
were pressing before the open door. The report that the master was to be
married to-day had, with lightning speed, reached even to the village.
Right in front by the door stood Marieken, looking anxiously into the
lighted room, in which Brockelmann was still busy, helping the sacristan
arrange the improvised altar. She put another pair of cushions before
the table, covered with a white damask cloth into which the crest was
woven, and set the heavy silver candlesticks straight.

"Pastor Grüne stood waiting at the back of the room. He came toward me
with an inquiring look.

"I shook my head. 'She is not coming!'

"'It is bad,' said he, 'when a good kernel is covered by such a prickly
shell. Anna Maria lacks humility and gentle love; she has no woman's
heart.'

"'You are mistaken in the girl!' I cried, imbittered, with tears in my
eyes. 'She is better than all the rest of us put together!'

"'And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor,' said he,
impressively, 'and though I give my body to be burned, and have not
charity, it profiteth me nothing.'

"My poor, proud, honest Anna Maria! If they only knew what I know, if
they could only see right into your heart! thought I, and bitterly my
eyes fell on the ravishing, lovely creature, now crossing the threshold
on Klaus's arm. She did not wear the unfortunate white dress; she was in
that little black lace-trimmed dress which she had worn the first time
Klaus saw her, nothing but the myrtle-wreath adorned with white flowers
in her hair to remind one of a bride. But if ever Susanna understood how
to make her external appearance effective, it was now, as she came,
without ornament or parade, to the altar. It was no wonder that Klaus
did not turn his eyes away from her, that he pressed the delicate arm so
closely to him, that he dismissed as groundless chattering what people
might say about this pure, childish brow.

"And then the low whispering stopped; Pastor Grüne was beginning to
speak.

"If I could only tell now how he opened his address! The words went in
at one ear and out at the other; I saw only Klaus, his handsome face, so
proud, so penetrated with kind, honest sentiment, with a glimmer of
tender emotion over it; and I thought of Anna Maria lying over there on
the floor, in pain and fear. Then I saw Klaus make a quick, convulsive
motion, and now every word went to my heart:

"'It was on this spot that you once stood by the coffin of your dead
mother, holding in your arms a dear legacy, promising with hand and
heart to take care of the child and protect her in all the vicissitudes
of life. And the way you did this, it was a joy for God and man to see!
There is no more intimate bond than that which united the orphaned
brother and sister; and let not this bond be broken, let not the knot be
untied by the coming of a third person! The wife'--he turned to
Susanna--'must be a peacemaker; she must strive that unity may dwell
under her husband's roof; that she may be to him a blessing and not a
curse! A love between brother and sister is not less holy than between
married people. There are old, sacred claims which brother and sister
have upon one another, and therefore, young bride, let your first word
in your new life be a word of peace; take your husband's hand and join
it in reconciliation with that other which is not folded here in this
place with us to pray for you. Do not leave this house without a word of
peace, even if you think injustice has been done you in this hour which
gives you, the homeless orphan, a home and a protector. Be gentle and
ready for peace; ask yourself how great a share in the burden you bear.'

"A few shining drops ran down the cheeks of the bridegroom, while
Susanna, like a child, listened with wide-open eyes to the clergyman's
words, evidently painfully affected by the seriousness which he imparted
to the situation.

"Then the affair came quickly to an end; the rings were exchanged, the
solemn decisive 'Yes' died away--Susanna Mattoni was Klaus's wife. The
servants withdrew, the doors of the hall were closed, Pastor Grüne
spoke a few more affecting words to Susanna, and Klaus silently pressed
my hands.

"Brockelmann served a cold lunch and presented a glass of champagne; Isa
brought in furs and cloak; the young couple intended to start in half an
hour. Then the clergyman went away, Brockelmann and Isa had already left
the room, and I was alone with Klaus and Susanna. He had drawn the
smiling young wife to him. 'Susanna,' I heard him whisper, 'let us go to
her, tell her that you forgive her; let us part in peace from Anna
Maria, my sister.'

"The smile vanished, she stood there defiantly looking down to the
floor, a deep blush on her face, and gradually her eyes filled with
shining tears.

"'My first request, Susanna,' he repeated beseechingly. She remained
silent, but rising on tip-toe, flung her arms about his neck; with
infinite grace her head was slightly thrown back, and she looked up to
him with her sweet eyes moist with tears. Impetuously he drew her to him
and kissed the red lips and the little red scar on her forehead again
and again.

"I stole softly out. The word of peace remained unspoken!

"An hour later the candles in the hall were extinguished, the house lay
dark and silent."



CHAPTER XVII.


"Anna Maria did not become ill, as we expected; hers was too firm, too
strong a nature; but she had grown bitter and gloomy. She did not belong
to that class of people whom a great sorrow makes tender.

"Joyless times followed that wedding--days and weeks, empty and cold. At
first I had besought her to write to Klaus, not to let the breach become
wider. She had answered me with a cold smile, and torn in two a letter
from her brother after the first glance. I saved the pieces and found an
effusion of honeymoon bliss, and nothing different could have been
expected. Anna Maria had probably not observed the short business
announcement that he had advantageously sold the estate in Silesia, and
now thought of going to Paris with Susanna.

"Klaus wrote again, several times, to Anna Maria. She would carry a
letter from him about with her all day, unopened, then occasionally tear
it open, and begin to read, only to throw it into the fire before she
had half finished. Later these letters to Anna Maria were discontinued.
The old bailiff appeared now and then in the sitting-room, to tell her
that the master had written him, and wished this and that, thus and so.
Anna Maria would usually nod her head silently, and the man would
stand, embarrassed, at the door a little while, and then go quietly away
again.

"'Things are not as they ought to be any longer,' he declared to me.
'Formerly the Fräulein used to concern herself about every trifle, so
that I often cursed her zeal; to-day anything may happen that will, it
is all the same to her; and even if all the barns and granaries should
burn down in the night, she would not stir.'

"It was true, Anna Maria no longer asked about anything; she seemed to
have sunk into a regular apathy. It was a grief to see this young
creature, from whom everything on which her heart was fixed was taken,
and who now, without check or purpose, in the most tormenting pain of
soul, shut her eyes and ears in dark defiance.

"'Diversion!' said the doctor.

"I looked at him in astonishment. 'I beg you, you have known the girl
since her childhood, have you ever known a time when trifles and
nonsense could give her pleasure, or could divert her at all from a
sorrow?'

"'Nonsense!' replied the old man, 'but she is only a woman. She ought to
marry, then everything would be different! It would be a pity if that
girl should become a dried-up old maid.'

"I shook my head sadly.

"'Why the devil is she so unreasonable, too, as to fret about her
brother's marriage?' he continued, undisturbed. No gray hair need be
made grow over that. Take the young lady, pack her trunk, and go to
Berlin for a few weeks. Go to the theatre every evening for my sake, and
see something classical; but take her away from here!'

"'Ah, doctor, you do not know Anna Maria.'

"I made an attempt, nevertheless. She let me have my say, and then
said: 'I do not understand the outside world at all. I miss nothing
here, I complain of nothing. Do not tease me any more!'

"When the workmen appeared, one after another, to put in order the rooms
for the young couple, when the dear old articles of furniture were taken
out and the wall-papers torn off, she fled to her room. The writing-desk
at which her father had formerly sat and worked was to remain in its
place, at Klaus's express desire; but the old thing looked so
ridiculously awkward beside the _Boule_ furniture that paper-hanger and
cabinet-maker refused to receive it, so Anna Maria had it taken into her
room. She now sat there all day at the window before her mother's
sewing-table, and looked blankly out on the wintry garden, every stroke
of the hammer from the workmen making her start. The bunch of keys no
longer hung at her belt; Brockelmann had taken charge of that.

"No one came to see us in those desolate winter days, except the old
brother and sister from the parsonage, and even from them she fled. I
stood by her faithfully, and beheld the struggles of her proud heart.

"At first Isa had lived on quietly up-stairs by herself, disregarded by
Anna Maria. Then one day toward Christmas she came into my room, beaming
with joy, and announced to me that the young Frau wanted her to come to
her; she was in need of her help at her toilet, and she was to have the
position of lady's maid with her. '_Je vais à Paris ce soir, à Paris_,
and from there to Nice. Oh, I speak French excellently!'

"I wished her a prosperous journey, and commissioned her with messages.
Then I sat down and reflected. Klaus, quiet, easy-going Klaus, who
valued the comfort of his arm-chair in the evening beyond everything,
in Paris, the gay Paris, with a young wife who needed a maid to make
her toilet? I could not make that rhyme without a dissonance.

"In the rooms down-stairs an exquisite elegance was being gradually
revealed, and I learned from the workmen that the pale blue silk
hangings of the boudoir (the little library next to Klaus's study was
converted into a boudoir), and the dainty rosewood furniture, Frau von
Hegewitz had chosen herself in Berlin; that the crimson silk drapery for
the salon cost ten _thaler_ a yard, and that the Smyrna rug in there was
real. Tears came into my eyes. What had become of our dear old,
comfortable sitting-room? What had we ever known of salons and boudoirs
at Bütze?

"As in passing through the garden-parlor one day Anna Maria's feet sank
in a Persian rug, and she perceived the low divans which ran along the
sides of the room, and the gold-embroidered cushions; and as she caught
sight of a gleaming, gay mosaic floor on the terrace instead of the
honest stone flags over which her childish feet had so often tripped, on
which she had stood so many a time beside Klaus; and saw, instead of the
gray stone balustrade, a gilded railing, a slight tremble came upon her
lips, and a few great tear-drops ran down her cheeks, and she slowly
turned her back to the room. She always went to the garden through the
lower entry afterward.

"It was on a stormy evening in March that Anna Maria for the first time
broke her long, habitually sober silence. I had not seen her all day;
her door remained closed to my knocking. And yet I would have so gladly
said a few affectionate words to her--to-day was her birthday.

"In vain had Brockelmann made the huge pound-cake wreathed with the
first snow-drops, and in vain placed a couple of blooming hyacinths on
the breakfast-table. The door of Anna Maria's room had not been opened.
A letter addressed to me had come from Klaus, requesting me to give to
his sister the enclosed open letter. It was affectionately written,
begging that she would soften her heart, and requesting a few lines from
her hand. 'What sort of a home-coming will it be for Susanna and me,' he
wrote, 'if the unhappy misunderstanding is not forgotten? We are ready
to consider all as not having happened, if you will come to meet us in
the old love. Be friendly to Susanna, too. I can honestly confess to you
that I long to be at home, in our dear old house, regularly employed. A
life like this here is nothing to me; I always hated idleness. Susanna's
health, so far as temporary demands are made upon it, is satisfactory;
but for her, too, I wish, especially now, the quiet of the less exciting
life at home. Let me once more add to the heartiest wishes for your
welfare the desire that we may soon meet again in the old fraternal
love.' A dainty visiting-card, 'Susanna, Baroness von Hegewitz,' with a
lightly scribbled wish for happiness, lay with the letter.

"In his letter to me Klaus repeated that he was longing for home, that
he earnestly besought me to induce Anna Maria to be gentle, for he made
his home-coming especially dependent upon her state of mind, as he could
not possibly expose Susanna now to excitement and unfriendly treatment.
But he cherished a strong desire to return at the beginning of spring at
the latest, for this and other reasons.

"The two letters lay before me on the table; how should I make their
contents known to Anna Maria? For she read no letters at all. And how
would she receive the news of his return? A change in her feelings was
not to be hoped for so soon, not even at the announcement of this glad
news.

"Brockelmann had come in and complained, with a shake of her head, that
Anna Maria had not eaten a mouthful to-day, and it was four o'clock
already. 'She is growing old before her time,' added the old woman;
'does she look now as if she were under thirty? Yesterday I brushed her
hair and found two long silvery threads in it. O Lord! and so young!'

"In the depth of twilight Anna Maria came suddenly into the room. She
did not say 'Good evening' at all, but only, 'Please do not allude to my
birthday, aunt!' And after a pause she added: 'Things cannot remain as
they are here; Klaus will want to come home, and then there will be one
too many in Bütze. I have been considering lately how I should manage
not to be in his way, and have at last decided to go at once to the
convent in B----.'

"'You would grieve Klaus to death, Anna Maria,' said I; 'it does not do
to carry a thing too far. You are both defiant, you are both stubborn,
but Klaus has been the first to extend his hand, and he still offers it.
Here, read his letter, read it just this once, and be of a different
mind.'

"I lit a candle, and pressed the letter into her hand; and she really
read it. A slight blush rose to her pale face, then she nodded her head
seriously. 'Believe me,' she said, 'he will really be best pleased if he
does not find me here. Write him that, aunt. In this way no possible
conflict can ensue.'

"'Anna Maria, you would--you could really go away from here?' cried I,
pained. 'How can it be possible? Truly I had expected more feeling, more
attachment in you. You can be heartless sometimes!'

"She was silent. 'Stürmer is coming back next month,' she said at last,
in a strangely trembling voice, 'and I would like to be as far away as
possible.'

"I sprang up, and threw my arms around her. 'My poor, dear child,' I
begged, weeping, 'forgive me!'

"And she went, she really went away! On one of the first days of April,
early in the day, the carriage which was to take her away stopped before
the front steps.

"Anna Maria went down the steps with me, followed by Brockelmann. She
quickly got in, and drew her dark gauze veil over her face. 'Greet Klaus
heartily for me,' she whispered to me again; 'all the happiness in the
world to him and his wife!'

"Then she was gone, and I went quietly up the steps. It seemed
unspeakably strange and lonely here to me all at once. I wandered
through the newly furnished rooms; they had all been heated and the
windows opened. Comfortable, elegant, very pleasant it looked all about
here, as if made expressly for Susanna's beauty; but they were no longer
the old Bütze rooms, with their ancestral comfort, their dear
associations. I stood now in Susanna's little boudoir; I noticed a fold
of the pale blue portière yonder hanging, out of order, over an
indistinguishable object--the upholsterer surely had not intended it so.
I went over and lifted up the heavy silk to lay it again in regular
folds on the carpet, when my eye fell upon a little old wooden cradle,
painted with a crest, and oddly curved, strangely contrasting, in its
rude form, with the elegant appointments of the room; and gently rocking
in it were shining white, fine, lace-trimmed pillows, daintily tied
with little blue bows; a basket pushed half under the couch of the young
wife concealed little clothes of the finest linen, most beautifully
sewed, hem-stitched, and trimmed with lace, made as only a skilled hand
knows how.

"'Anna Maria,' I said, softly, looking with moist eyes upon the old
cradle in which she, in which Klaus had once lain, and which now stood
here, a greeting of reconciliation to the heart of the young wife who
had robbed her of her peace and happiness.

"Two days later there was a lively stir at Bütze. Unfortunately, a bad
headache banished me to a sofa in my dark room, so that I could not
welcome the young couple on the threshold of their home. But I heard up
here the unusual moving about; the bell in the servants' room, which had
been formerly so seldom used, rang a regular alarm, and there was such a
slamming of doors and rushing and running about for the first few hours
that I had to draw the thickest pillow over my aching head in order to
have any quiet.

"Klaus came up to me very soon; he sat down quietly by my bed and
pressed my hand.

"'You are glad to be at home again?' I asked kindly. 'How is your little
wife?'

"'Thank you,' he replied, 'she is asleep now. I do not know; I must
accustom myself to it first; it has been made so different, so strange,
with all these alterations. And then'--he was silent--'one misses Anna
Maria everywhere,' he added.

"'You incorrigible people, you!' I scolded vexatiously, 'Bend or break,
but not yield, and then perish with longing for each other! A silly,
stupid set you are!'

"He made no reply to that. 'After three months in the country,' said
he, 'I will go and get her. Now it is better that Susanna should remain
alone.'

"'You have been living very happily there?' I asked.

"'Oh, Heaven, yes!' he replied. 'The gay life was new to Susanna, and
amused her delightfully. Thank God that we are here! How do you really
like the rooms down-stairs?'

"'Well, they are very beautiful, Klaus, without doubt. But if I am to be
honest, it was more comfortable before.'

"'Susanna is quite enchanted with them,' he continued. 'But I had a
melancholy feeling when I found the sitting-room without the old stove,
the great writing-desk, and Anna Maria's spinning-wheel. I really cannot
sit in these spider-legged easy-chairs without fear of breaking down.'
He laughed, but it had not a hearty sound.

"'Shall you be able to eat supper with us?' he asked.

"I promised to do so if I were well enough. If you will let me sleep a
little longer now, Klaus, I shall be able to come down.' And then he
went away.

"Toward evening I was awakened from a light slumber by the ringing of
bells again; again I heard doors shutting, and footsteps of people
hurrying to and fro. At the first instant I thought of an accident, but
then recollected that it had been just so in the afternoon, and made my
toilet and went down.

"The first person to step up to me was Mademoiselle Isa. She greeted me
very warmly, and with a certain pretentiousness. 'The gracious Frau had
drunk a cup of chocolate and was quite well,' she added, as she opened
the door of the former sitting-room, which was agreeably lighted by two
lamps, and pointed to the drawn-back portière: 'The gracious Frau is in
her boudoir.'

"Indeed, I was curious to see Susanna again as 'gracious Frau,' and
limped quickly across to the little room. The soft carpet had deadened
the sound of my steps, and I entered the snug little room unperceived.
Susanna was resting on the divan; I saw her beautiful black curls
falling over the blue cushions, a tiny lace cap was half-hidden among
them. Her face was turned toward the fire, which, notwithstanding the
warm April evening, was burning brightly in the little fire-place.

"'Susanna!' I called softly. She started up, and with a cry of joy fell
on my neck. 'Aunt Rosamond, dear aunt!' she cried, and kissed and patted
me with the pleasure of a happy child. 'My good Aunt Rosamond!' And she
seized my hands and drew me, without letting go, to the sofa. She
exercised the same old charm upon me; I had never been able to be angry
with her; her grace was irresistible, and took heart and mind prisoner.

"I raised the round chin a little and looked at her. It was the old,
sweet, childish face, only still more attractive by reason of a slight
pallor and a strange, sad look about the mouth; the eyes had lost the
questioning look which sometimes gave them such a peculiar expression,
but I thought they had grown larger and more brilliant. She threw her
arms about my neck again, and kissed me and laughed, and then came a
tear or two, and then she laughed again.

"She chattered about Nice, about Paris, and said she wanted to live here
quietly only a little while, and then fell on my neck again and
whispered a thanks.

"'No, no!' said I, smiling, 'I am not guilty of that; your thanks belong
to Anna Maria.'

"She grew silent and pale. Then she sprang up and drew me into the
salon. I had to gaze at a hundred things which she had brought with
her--worthless toys, knick-knacks, fans, and all manner of folly, of
whose existence I had never dreamed till now, and which struck me as
infinitely useless. 'Klaus has had to give me everything, everything,'
she cried, joyfully, 'except this. Aunt, do you see?' She pointed to a
charming shepherdess of Sevres porcelain. 'That is a present from
Stürmer.'

"I stared at her. 'Have you met him on the way?' She did not return my
look, but her face glowed as rosy red as the ribbons on her white dress.
'Yes,' said she lightly, 'we were with him a day in Nice, but he went
away in haste, and this is a souvenir.' And then she told me about the
sea and the palm-trees, of gondola-sails by moonlight, till her cheeks
grew crimson at the recollection.

"'Ah, life is so beautiful, so beautiful!' she cried, 'and--' She broke
off, for Klaus entered. He wore a short coat and high boots, and his
face was radiant with joy in the long-suspended activity.

"'I have been clattering all over the fields,' said he gayly, 'and am
tired as a dog, little wife, and hungry and thirsty. Do you know what
would particularly please me?' He pushed the curls from her forehead and
kissed her. 'A slice of honest German ham and a good glass of beer! The
French sauces had a miserable after-taste to me, brrr--! Holla! ho!' he
called out at the door, 'will supper be ready soon?'

"He did not seem to notice at all that Susanna made a wry face at his
declaring it was unnecessary for her to make a fresh toilet for supper,
and that she took his arm reluctantly. 'Ah, but we will live here in
comfort,' said he beseechingly, holding her two hands over the table,
'not as in a hotel. When we go to Nice again I promise you always to
appear in dress-coat. Here I should have no time at all for the
continual changing of dress; and as for you, you do not look more
charming in any state costume than in that white thing there.'

"She shook her head, laughing, and showed him a little fist. 'Wait,'
said she, 'what did you promise me?'

"'Well, then, in the future,' he persevered; 'but to-day, and to-morrow
too, let me enjoy the comfort I have so long done without--do.'

"Susanna smiled; and he ate German ham and drank German beer to his
heart's content, while she took a roll spread with something or other,
with her tea, which Klaus prepared for her. I saw, in astonishment, how
carefully he made the tea, how he heeded her every glance; now
attentively passed her pepper and salt, and now cut a fresh sausage and
roll, or carefully removed bones and tail from a sardine, every instant
asking if it tasted good to her, if she were satisfied with her rooms,
if she liked the flowers in the salon. He treated her like a little
spoiled princess.

"After supper I was going to withdraw; I thought they must be tired from
their journey. Susanna had lain down again on her couch; she kissed me
once more, and Klaus accompanied me as I went out. I saw that he held a
book in his hand. 'Good-night, aunt,' he said, 'I am going to read aloud
to Susanna.'

"'For heaven's sake!' I cried, 'you are already yawning privately!'

"'Yes, I am tired to-night,' he replied, 'but Susanna is so accustomed
to it; she does not go to sleep before one o'clock.'

"'Klaus, Klaus!' I warned him, 'if she has accustomed herself to it, let
her become disused to it. Only think, when you want to rise early in the
morning!"

"He heard me not. 'Aunt,' said he, holding me fast by the hand, his
eyes shining so happily, 'is she not a good, charming little wife?'

"I smiled in his face. 'Very charming, Klaus!'

"'And who prophesied to me that I should be unhappy all my life, eh?' he
asked.

"'Oh, Klaus, not I, indeed!' I contradicted earnestly. 'If Anna Maria
had apprehensions, they were certainly not without foundation, and a
housewife Susanna will never be.'

"'No, she is not yet a German housewife,' he broke in, in a somewhat
disheartened manner, 'but she can be, and will be yet.'

"I nodded to him: 'Sleep well, Klaus!'

"'Is it not so?' he asked, holding me back.' You will write to Anna
Maria that we are happy with one another; you will tell her how good and
charming she is?'

"'Yes, my boy, and now, good-night.'

"Anna Maria's letters were brief and meagre; her handwriting very large
and angular, as it is to-day. She wrote me that she was very well there,
occupied a pair of pretty rooms, and was much with the abbess, who had
been a friend of her mother. 'But I miss activity,' she added; 'a life
on the sofa, in the company of stocking-knitting and books, is hateful
to me; that is not resting.' A greeting for Klaus and Susanna was added.

"I answered her, writing that Klaus worshipped his wife and was happy.

"'May God keep him thus!' she answered laconically. She was not to be
reached with that; she had no belief in a happiness with Susanna.

"Stürmer, who, as Anna Maria thought, was to come in April, was not yet
here. He was a migratory bird, only without the regularity of one."



CHAPTER XVIII.


"May came on in the country in all its glory; the trees blossomed and
the seeds sprouted, and Bütze lay as in a snowy sea. The sun laughed in
the sky, as Susanna walked through the trim garden-paths on Klaus's arm.
Now and then I saw her cross the court, with straw hat and parasol, in a
light summer dress, and go a little way into the fields to meet him. The
people stood still as she passed, the women and girls courtesied, the
men made as deep a bow to her as to the rest of us from the house, and
the children ran up to her in troops, and the sound of their 'Good-day,
gracious Frau,' and Susanna's clear, laughing voice came up to me; her
charms fairly bewitched everybody. Then she would return on her
husband's arm, a great bouquet of field flowers in her hands, he leading
his horse by the bridle and carrying her parasol and shawl; and her
chatter and his deep voice, calling her a thousand pet names, reëchoed
from the old walls when they had come into the house.

"If Anna Maria could only have seen them thus, thought I, would she have
been reconciled? Poor, lonely Anna Maria!

"Susanna never inquired for her; her stay here seemed to be entirely
taken up with all manner of little trifles. Occasionally there came a
perfect swarm of guests, and then the sound of laughing and chattering
was heard in the garden-parlor till far into the night, and
Brockelmann, with a very red face, bustled about at the sideboard.

"'I don't feel my feet at all, any more,' the old woman would sometimes
complain; 'I really must have some one else to help me. In old times one
used to know it beforehand when there was to be a great supper; but if
any one came unexpectedly, he took just what there was in the house and
was satisfied. But how should I dare take thinly sliced ham and fresh
eggs and a herring salad to the Frau? I tried it once--how she turned up
her nose and begged her guests to excuse it! And then the master comes
and says: "Good Brockelmann, though it is a little bit late, do get us a
couple of warm dishes, and this and that, and a little fowl, for my wife
does not like a cold supper when there is company; you must have some
asparagus or green peas?" Heavens and earth! And then old Brockelmann is
so stupid, too, as to run her heels off and make the impossible
possible. Oh dear, oh dear, if Anna Maria knew how my storeroom looks,
and my account books!'

"And she put her hands up under her cap and shook her head.

"'You may believe it, Fräulein Rosamond,' she would sometimes add, 'the
Frau is well enough yet, at least she doesn't concern herself about me;
but the old woman--O Lord! She sticks her nose into everything, and more
than a hundred times she has brought her chocolate out to me again--it
wasn't hot enough, or was burned, or the Lord knows what! As if the old
creature understood anything about it, anyway! Oh, yes, and then, if my
patience is utterly exhausted, the master comes into the kitchen. "Good
Brockelmann," he says, in his friendly way, "do keep peace with Isa,
that my little wife may not be vexed." Well, then I keep still; but I
see how he takes to heart everything that concerns his wife. And then I
think how loud and angrily he has often spoken to Anna Maria in spite of
all his love, and here he even spreads out his hands for the little feet
to walk on!'

"Indeed, she had not said too much. He did lay down his hands for the
little feet, and they walked on them without particularly noticing it.
Klaus had a boundless love for his wife, and she received this love as a
tribute due her. She had no conception of what she possessed in him.

"I do not know if he felt this. Occasionally, when Susanna was asleep,
or making her toilet, or gone to a drive, and he had an hour to spare,
he would sit with me up in my room, and would look so weary and
oppressed. We spoke often, too, of Anna Maria; but when Susanna was
present he did not mention her name, for at that a shadow regularly
passed over her face, and her chattering lips grew silent.

"'My old Anna Maria!' he would say; 'she is still angry with me, and yet
she is such a good, reasonable girl.' The last words were unconsciously
accented. 'How pleasant it would be if she and Susanna could live
together like sisters--the unfortunate stubbornness. Do you suppose,
aunt, she will come when the old cradle down-stairs--?' And his eyes
grew moist at this thought.

"'I do not know, Klaus, but I think so,' said I, 'if Susanna can only
forget--'

"'Ah, aunt, I place my entire hope on the cradle about her, too. Anna
Maria shall be godmother; I will not have it otherwise. Please God, it
may not be far off!'

"And was it then so far off? On a dull, sultry August night, I was
still sitting in my easy-chair by the window, and could see distant
flashes of lightning over the barns; the air was uncomfortable and
stifling, or was it only the imagination of my old, restlessly beating
heart, and my thoughts, which were below with Susanna, anxious and
prayerful?

"Ah, what does not pass through one's soul in such an hour--trembling
joy and happy fear, and each minute seems to stretch out endlessly. I
listened to the walking down-stairs, to the sound of the opening and
shutting of doors; would some one never come up with the glad news?

"And my thoughts wandered back to the night when Anna Maria was born,
when I sat up here in the same fear and anxiety. Klaus had gone to sleep
in the arm-chair over there. I had not disturbed him, had let him sleep,
till his father came to call him to his mother's death-bed. The boy's
pale, frightened face stood before me so plainly this evening, as he
knelt before the cradle of his little sister.

"Below, in the court-yard, it was still as death; only old Mandelt, the
watchman, was going slowly along, shaking his rattler; and above the
slumbering world glittered the brilliant stars of the August sky as
through a light mist.

"Then I started up; heavy steps were approaching my door, and now
Brockelmann called into my room: 'A boy, Fräulein Rosamond! Come
down-stairs--such a dear, splendid boy!'

"Never did I hurry down those stairs so quickly as on that night, nor
did Klaus ever take me in his arms so impetuously, so full of thankful
jubilation, as then, when he came toward me to lead me to the cradle of
his child. The strong man was quite overcome, and the first words that
he whispered to me were again: 'How Anna Maria will rejoice!'

"If ever a child was welcomed with joy it was this one. His presence
worked like a deliverance upon us all; even Brockelmann and Isa spoke
pleasantly to each other to-day. Isa's anxiety about her darling had
reached the highest pitch, and she had left her place in the room of the
young mother to the quiet old woman; and Brockelmann--well, she would
not have been the honest old soul that she was not to rejoice with her
master over his son. Whatever grudge against Susanna may have still
lingered in her heart, this day wiped out; with a truly motherly
tenderness she presided at the sick-bed. And did it fare better with me?
I, too, old creature that I was, knelt down between the bed and the
cradle, and kissed the little pale face again and again; in this hour
everything with which she had once troubled us was forgotten.

"And Klaus sat at his writing-desk and wrote to Anna Maria. 'Do you
think she will come?' he asked as he came in again. He had sent a
special messenger to E---- with the letter to his sister. 'Will she
come?'

"'Surely, Klaus!' I replied.

"The messenger was gone three days; then he returned with a letter from
Anna Maria. Heartfelt words it contained, here and there half blotted
out by tears. She would come soon, she wrote, come soon--in a week or
two, perhaps--but would it be right to Susanna?

"I was sitting by the bed of the young wife as Klaus came into the room
with this letter. She was holding the small bundle of lace in her arms.
Isa had had to adorn the young gentleman's toilet to-day with blue
ribbons. Susanna played with him as if he were a doll, and wanted to
know what color would best suit the young prince. She was so merry and
pretty about it, and laughed so heartily when the little thing made a
queer, wry face.

"'Oh, see, just see!' she called to her husband. 'Who does he look like
now? Only look!' Of course we stood in dutiful admiration and looked at
the little creature. But Brockelmann, who was just going through the
room, said: 'Ah, I have seen it from the first moment. He has a real
Hegewitz face; he looks most like his aunt, Anna Maria.'

"Susanna started up as if the greatest injury had been done her. 'It is
not true!' she whispered, and kissed the child. But Klaus had heard it,
nevertheless; he had grown very red, and slowly put the folded letter in
his pocket, and an expression of disappointment passed over his face. He
sat down by Susanna and kissed her hand, but did not mention his
sister's name.

"What Klaus wrote in reply to Anna Maria I never learned; but he said:
'Anna Maria is always right; it was well that she did not come
immediately, as I wished.'

"And three weeks more passed. Susanna already walked up and down on the
gay mosaic pavement of the terrace occasionally, and Isa walked about in
the sunny garden with the blue-veiled child. Then one rainy evening,
about six o'clock, a slender woman's figure walked into my dim room.

"'Anna Maria!' I cried joyfully; 'my dear old child, are you really here
again?'

"She put her arms around my neck and laid her head on my shoulder. 'Yes,
aunt,' she said softly, and I felt her heart beat violently. 'Yes--but
now take care that I may greet Klaus first alone; we have so much to
say to each other!'

"He had entered, meanwhile, before I could answer. 'I saw you coming
through the garden, Anna Maria,' he cried joyfully, holding her two
hands; 'thank God that you are here again!'

"The next instant she fell, weeping, on his neck. They had so much to
say to each other; I would not hear them beg forgiveness of each other,
and went softly out.

"And Susanna? I asked myself. I found the young wife down-stairs in the
salon the sound of her merry laugh came toward me. There were one or two
ladies from the neighborhood there, and Isa had just brought in the
child. There was so much laughing, chattering, and congratulating that I
got no chance at first to inform Susanna that her sister-in-law had
arrived. At last the ladies took their leave, and we two were alone.
Susanna walked up and down the great room, playing with the child.

"'So stupid,' she scolded, 'that I don't know a single cradle-song! But
I can't bear the silly things they sing here, about goslings and black
and white sheep. But it is all the same, he doesn't understand the
words.' And lightly she began the old refrain:

    'Home have I come, and my heart burns with pain.
    Ah, that I only could wander again!'

"'Susanna,' said I, quickly, 'Anna Maria has come back, a little while
ago.'

"She stood still, as if rooted to the spot. I could no longer
distinguish her features in the deep twilight, and she spoke not a word.
'Susanna!' I cried, in a low, reproachful tone.

"Just at that moment Brockelmann brought in a light. 'The master is
coming with Fräulein Anna Maria!' she cried joyfully. 'Oh, Fräulein,
Anna Maria--how pleased she will be with that little doll!'

"Hand in hand Klaus and Anna Maria entered the room. She had been
weeping hot tears, but now a smile was on her lips, and she went up to
Susanna, who had dropped into the nearest chair.

"'Let everything be forgotten, Susanna,' she begged. 'Let us be
sisters!' She knelt beside her and kissed the slumbering child. 'I shall
love him very much!' And now she raised her tear-stained face to Susanna
and offered her lips, but the young wife slowly turned her head to one
side.

"Anna Maria stood up instantly; a reproachful look met Klaus.

"'Susanna!' said he, going up to his wife and taking the child from her
arms, 'give Anna Maria your hand and be at peace with her!'

"Slowly she extended her right hand, coldly and briefly the two hands
touched, then the young wife went quickly out of the room, and directly
after Isa came to take away the child.

"'Why have I come?' said Anna Maria, bitterly.

"Klaus walked up and down with long strides. 'Forgive her, Anna Maria,'
he begged; 'she is still ill, still weak. I will speak quietly with
her.'

"'No, Klaus,' replied the girl; 'wherefore? I will be no disturber of
the peace. She is your wife, you are happy, and I--I will go away
again.'

"'But this is your father-house! This is _your_ home as well as _mine_!'
he cried, irritated. 'By Heaven, I would never have believed that it was
so hard for two women's hearts to agree!'

"Isa called him to Susanna. He went in; we heard him speak loud and
vehemently, and then heard Susanna crying.

"'I shall go away again to-morrow, aunt,' said Anna Maria, and her pale
face with the red eyes had the old stubborn expression. 'I did not come
to make discord.' How I pitied the girl! I knew well how hard it had
been for her to take the first step toward Susanna, what a struggle it
had cost her proud heart, and yet she had done it for Klaus's sake, and
for----

"Klaus returned, leading Susanna on his arm; he took her hand and placed
it in Anna Maria's.

"'There now, be reconciled," he said, with a sigh. 'Give each other a
kiss; there must be no more allusions to old tales. I forbid it
herewith!'

"They did kiss each other, but their lips touched only lightly. We then
sat down, and Klaus and I started a conversation with difficulty. Anna
Maria talked about her convent, but after had to stop; it seemed all the
time as if she were choking down the tears. Susanna spoke still less,
and only answered when Anna Maria asked about the child, and upon a
direct remark of Klaus. Brockelmann, who summoned us to the table, burst
out with the question whether Anna Maria were to assume the direction of
the housekeeping again.

"'I am not going to remain here,' she replied, smiling sadly.

"'We shall see about that,' said Klaus, quickly. 'First of all, the
child is to be baptized, and then I have so much to talk over with
you--everything has been lying over! No, you can't go away again so
quickly.'

"'When is the christening to be, then?' I asked.

"'Oh, we have not talked about that at all yet, have we, Susanna?' said
he, turning to her.

"'No, but it must be soon,' declared the young wife. 'Isa says it is not
proper to wait more than four weeks.'

"'As you like,' he replied, heartily glad to have the way paved for some
sort of an understanding. He hoped, indeed, that these two would become
reconciled, and that Anna Maria would stay in the father-house.

"Yes, she did stay, but it came about in a different way from what he
thought.

"Anna Maria came in search of me the next morning. To-day I first saw
how she had altered; her face had grown thin, and fine lines were drawn
about her mouth. She was sad and sat still by the window.

"'Have you seen the baby to-day?' I asked cheerfully.

"She shook her head. 'Klaus wanted to take me in with him, but Isa said
Susanna was at her toilet. I only heard him try his voice.'

"'And have you talked with Klaus about the christening?'

"She nodded. 'On Monday,' she replied, 'and in the day-time. Susanna
wishes a great festivity.'

"'Well, Brockelmann will be in despair!' I cried; 'and Klaus will not be
exactly enchanted. But what is he to do?'

"'What is he to do?' asked Anna Maria, in astonishment. 'He is to
exercise his authority as her husband, and say "No!" Great heavens! has
she entrapped you all together, that you still do what _she_ wishes?'
She had sprung up. 'Everything, everything here dances as she pipes,
even Brockelmann. She has trained you all like poodles; you do
beautifully, if she only raises a finger!'

"'Anna Maria,' I begged, 'do not be so angry right away; she is still
ill, and she----'

"'No, no,' cried the girl, 'it is dreadful here! What has become of
Bütze, our dear old Bütze? Where now are order and regularity?
Everything goes topsy-turvy, and things run over each other in order
that the gracious Frau need not wait. Whether or not the master of the
house gets his dues, or the servants theirs, is of no consequence, if
only madame smiles and is friendly. I wish I had never come back!'

"'Anna Maria,' said I, 'are these your good resolutions?'

"'Oh, have no fear,' she replied, her lips quivering. 'I have repented
bitterly enough letting myself be carried away _once_; I shall not do so
again. But in my father-house I shall not stay; the torment would be
greater than I should be able to bear.'

"She went to the window and looked out. Klaus was just riding in at the
gate; he had probably been in the fields. His eyes sped to the
ground-floor, and he kissed his hand up there. 'Susanna is standing at
the window with the child,' thought I.

"'Klaus looks fatigued,' remarked Anna Maria. 'Is he well all the time?'

"'I think so,' I replied; 'at least, I do not remember his having
complained.'

"'Complained!' she repeated. 'As if Klaus would ever complain!'

"But he did complain; we met him at the breakfast-table down-stairs.
Anna Maria was right; he looked wretchedly. 'I have a fearful headache,'
he said, as she looked at him with a troubled face.

"Susanna did not hear it. 'Klaus,' she begged, coaxingly, 'we will
illuminate the garden day after to-morrow, shall we not? Will you get me
some more colored paper lanterns?'

"'Yes, Susy, willingly,' he replied; 'but I have no messenger. If you
had only spoken of it earlier; Frederick has already gone to the city
for Brockelmann, and I can spare no one from the harvesting, for I must
make use of the little good weather.'

"'But you did know it, Klaus,' she pouted; 'I thought it would look so
charming when evening comes, with the whole garden hung with lanterns.'

"He passed his hand over his aching head. 'Forgive me, my darling, I had
forgotten it; I had so much on my mind. You shall have the lanterns.'

"'Have you written the invitations, Klaus?' the young wife continued.

"'Yes, yes,' he replied, 'I did it all very early; they are already on
the way, and you shall have the lanterns to-morrow.'

"'To-morrow?' she asked, disappointed.

"'If my headache is better I can ride over this afternoon,' he said.

"Anna Maria sat by silently and looked at her plate. Then Isa brought in
the child; Susanna was still eating. 'Oh, do give it to me,' begged Anna
Maria, her eyes shining. She rose and went to the window, and
scrutinized the little face.

"'He resembles our family, Klaus,' she said; 'he has your nose and your
kind eyes.' And she kissed him tenderly.

"Isa had hurried out again. There was a great din in the usually quiet
house; beating and brushing everywhere, and everything seemed to be
turned upside-down. Klaus rose at length. 'Anna Maria,' he asked, going
up to her, 'would you help me to go over some things in my books which
it is necessary to attend to?'

"She looked up joyfully. 'Gladly,' she said, 'but must it be done
to-day? You look so wretchedly.'

"'Yes,' he replied, 'I would like to put the matters in order; the
headache will surely go away.' I took the child from Anna Maria, and the
brother and sister went out.

"Klaus did not come to dinner; he had gone to lie down. When he appeared
at coffee he looked red and heated. Anna Maria looked at him in concern.
'Only don't be ill, Klaus,' she said anxiously.

"He smiled. 'Perhaps the ride to the city will do me good.'

"'For Heaven's sake!' cried Anna Maria and I in one breath. 'You surely
are not going to take that long ride?'

"'Oh, it will do no harm!' And he looked tenderly at Susanna, who lay on
one of the low divans, playing with the bows of her dress. She made no
reply; she did not say: 'If you have a headache, why stay; it is only a
childish wish of mine.' She did not ask: 'Is it really so bad?' She was
simply silent, and Klaus went to order his horse.

"'Susanna,' begged Anna Maria, very red, 'I think he really has a
violent headache; do not let him go.' She spoke in real anxiety. Susanna
stared at her coolly. 'He is his own master,' she replied, 'he can do as
he pleases.'

"'Yes; but you know that only your wish--if he should be ill you would
reproach yourself.'

"Susanna laughed. 'Klaus ill? How funny! Because he has a little
headache?' And she went humming into the next room. Then we heard her
call out of the window: 'Good-by, Klaus, good-by!'

"'She means no harm,' I said, taking Anna Maria's trembling hands.

"'It is heartless!' she said, and went down into the garden.

"Klaus did not return until nearly dark.

"'Your package will come soon,' he said to Susanna. 'Stürmer has it in
the carriage; I met him in the city; he had just arrived with the
Lüneburg post.'

"'Stürmer?' she asked, in an animated tone. 'Did you invite him to the
christening, Klaus?'

"'No; indeed, I forgot it,' he replied.

"She flung her arms about his neck. 'Oh, do write to him yet,' she
coaxed. 'Yes, please, please! Mercy,' she cried then, 'you are quite
wet!'

"'Well, it has been raining hard for two hours,' he replied. 'But don't
be offended if I do not write to-night, for I feel miserably; to-morrow
will do? I would like to lie down.' He kissed her forehead and went into
his sleeping-room. I saw how he shivered, as if he had a chill. 'Thank
God that Anna Maria did not hear,' I thought; but I went to tell her
that Klaus was not feeling well, while Susanna sprang up to hasten to
her writing-desk, and with a happy smile took up a pen.

"Anna Maria was in her room. I told her that Klaus was lying down on his
bed. She sat quite still. 'Poor Klaus,' she whispered.

"'Stürmer is back again, too, my child,' I added. She made no answer to
that. We sat silent together in the dark room.

"After a while Brockelmann's voice was heard at the door. 'Fräulein,
perhaps it would be better if you were just to look after the master.
The gracious Frau'--she spoke lower--'probably knows no better; she sits
there chattering to him, and he doesn't seem at all well to me.'

"'Anna Maria had sprung up impetuously. Then she slowly sat down again.
'Dear aunt, go,' she begged.

"'Willingly,' I replied; 'I only thought you should be the one to go to
him.'

"'I?' she asked, in a tone that cut me to the heart. 'I? No; it is
better that I should not go; I could not keep calm.'

"I found Klaus's sleeping-room brightly lighted, Susanna sitting by the
bed, her tongue going like a mill-clapper. Over the nearest chair hung a
pale blue silk gown, richly adorned with lace; the candelabra were
burning on the toilet table, and the lamp stood on the little table
beside the bed, throwing its dazzling light right into Klaus's red eyes.
He held a cloth pressed to his fore head and was groaning softly.

"From out-of-doors came the sound of beating carpets and furniture, and
in the hall opposite they were at work with wax and brushes, none too
quietly.

"'Then I may send off the note, Klaus?' Susanna was saying. 'Can
Frederick ride over now, or shall the coachman take it? Do you think
Stürmer is at home by this time? Klaus, do answer, dear Klaus!'

"He made a motion of assent with his hand, and turned his head away.

"'If you are so tiresome, I sha'n't try on the dress again,' she pouted.

"'But, dear child,' I whispered, 'do you not see that your husband is
ill?' I took away the lamp, and laid my hand on his white forehead.

"'Ah, only a little quiet,' he moaned.

"'Come Susanna.' I begged the young wife, gently; 'go over to your
room; I think Klaus is in a high fever, and he must have quiet."

"Susanna looked at me incredulously. 'But it will be better to-morrow?'
she asked quickly. 'You will be well again to-morrow, won't you, Klaus?'

"He nodded. 'Yes, yes, my darling; don't worry.'

"'Well, then, I will go away quickly, so that you can sleep. Good-night,
Klaus!' she said, taking the silk dress on her arm. And she hastily bent
over him and kissed his forehead. Then she disappeared, but her silvery
voice floated over here once again: 'Isa, Isa, here; Christian is to go
to Dambitz directly, to Herr von Stürmer; he must wait for an answer.'

"Suddenly Klaus gave a deep groan. 'My poor boy.' I lamented over him;
'are you feeling very badly?'

"'I think I am going to be very ill,' he whispered. 'I can't control my
thoughts, everything turns round and round. Anna Maria, bring me Anna
Maria.'

"Brockelmann was just outside in the hall. 'Call the Fräulein,' I bade
her, 'and make them be quiet outside.' Anna Maria came, and went up to
the bed. He seized her hand.

"'My old lass,' he said feebly, 'I fear I shall give you a great deal to
do.'

"'Do you feel so ill?' she asked anxiously, and bent down to him. He
groaned and pointed to his head. 'Don't worry Susanna,' he begged.

"Anna Maria did not answer, but she had grown very pale. Then she set
about procuring him some relief. Cold compresses were soon lying on his
forehead, a cool lemonade stood on the table by the bed, and outside the
tired horses were once more taken from the stable, to go for the doctor.
It had become quiet in the house, quiet in the next room also. Susanna
lay in her boudoir, reading; she did not know that the doctor had been
sent for, she did not hear how her husband's talking gradually passed
into delirious ravings, or know how his sister sat by the bed, her fair
head pressed against the back, and her eyes fixed on him in unspeakable
anxiety.

"When the doctor came, Susanna was sleeping sweetly and soundly; and
with noiseless steps Isa carried about the awakened child, that it might
not disturb the mother.

"Klaus was ill, very ill. The dreadful fever had attacked him so
quickly, so insidiously, and had prostrated him with such force, that a
paralyzing fear came over the spirits of us all.

"The servants went about the house whispering, no door was heard to
shut, and the bailiff had straw laid down in the court, so that no sound
might penetrate the curtained sick-room.

"Susanna would not believe at all that Klaus was seriously ill. She had
come merrily into the room, the child in her arms, and had found the
doctor at the bedside, and looked in Anna Maria's red eyes. She resisted
the truth with all her might. 'But he must not be ill,' she cried, 'just
now. Oh, doctor, it is too bad!' But when the confirmation in the
wandering looks of the invalid was not to be rejected, she flew to her
sofa and wept pitifully. It was not possible to reach her with a word of
consolation; she sobbed as I had seen her do but once, and Isa knew not
which she ought to quiet first, the screaming child or the weeping
mother. But Susanna did not for a moment attempt to make her hands
useful at the sick-bed.

"The doctor came again toward evening. The fever was raging with
increased power; Klaus talked about his child, called for Susanna, and
even in his delirium everything centred in his wife. Sometimes he seized
Anna Maria's hand and pressed it to his lips, with a half-intelligible
pet name for Susanna; he called her his darling, his wife. And Anna
Maria stroked his forehead, and tear after tear rolled down her cheeks.

"'Shall I have her called?' I asked the doctor. The old man shrugged his
shoulders. 'Well, since she has not come of her own accord, she spares
me a great deal of trouble,' said he; 'I should have had to carry her
out. She is still weak, and----'

"I went away to look up Susanna. Isa informed me that she was in the
salon.

"'Is she still crying?' I asked.

"The old woman shook her head. 'Baron Stürmer is in there.' I heard
Susanna's voice through the portières. I heard her even laugh. My first
impulse was to hurry in, but it suddenly became impossible to me. I only
looked at the child, and went away, weary and weakened from watching and
anxiety, up to my room.

"A basket of garlands was standing in the corridor, and beside it the
package of the unfortunate lanterns. The baptism was to have been
to-morrow, but the coachman was already on his way to inform the
numerous guests that it was given up, as the master was ill. My God in
heaven, let not the worst come, be pitiful! What would become of
Susanna, of his child--ah! and of Anna Maria?

"Then I sat down in my arm-chair and listened to the pattering of the
rain, and the wind blowing against the windows; after a little while
there came a knock at my door, and Edwin Stürmer entered. He was quite
changed from what he used to be; indeed, the news of Klaus's illness
might well make him so. Conversation would not flow. I could not help
thinking of how I had last seen him, when he took leave of Susanna and
me; how she had wept, and how he had written to me afterward. 'There
have been great changes here!' said I, in a low tone.

"He did not answer immediately. 'How does Anna Maria get on with--with
her sister-in-law?' he asked.

"'Anna Maria?' I was embarrassed. Should I tell him that those two had
not learned to understand each other yet?

"'She is here very little,' I said at last; 'she has been living in the
convent since Klaus's marriage.'

"He started. 'Still the old quarrel?' he murmured. 'Anna Maria never
liked her; I noticed it from the beginning. She is a strange character.
There are moments when one might believe she has a heart; but it is ever
deception, ever delusion!'

"'Edwin,' I cried bitterly, 'you think you have a right to affirm that;
you are mistaken! Perhaps she has more heart than all of us.'

"'It may be,' he remarked coldly, 'but she never shows it.'

"He too, he too! My poor Anna Maria! If I could have taken him down to
the sick-room, if I could have shown him how she knelt beside her
brother's bed and buried her weeping face in the pillows, if I could say
to him: 'See, that is the secret of all her actions; she has too much
heart, too much generosity. She has done everything for the sake of her
only brother, who once lost a happiness on her account.' If I only might
show him this----

"Slowly the tears ran from my eyes.

"'I did not mean to grieve you, Aunt Rosamond,' said he, tenderly. 'I
am in a hateful mood, and ought not to have come over. The empty house
has put me out of humor; an old bachelor ought to have no house at
all--everywhere great empty rooms, everywhere solitude. One wants to
talk to one's self to keep from being afraid. I knew it well, and for
that reason put off my return from day to day.' He gave a shrug. 'I
shall go away again; that will be the best thing.'

"I now first looked at him attentively. He had altered, he had grown
years older. I did not know how to answer, he had spoken so strangely.
After a while he rose. 'I wish for improvement with all my heart. Do not
worry; God cannot wish that he should go now, right from the most
complete happiness.'

"God cannot wish it! So we mortals say when we think it impossible that
some one should leave us on whose life a piece of our own life depends.
God does not wish it--and already the shadow of death is falling deeper
and deeper over the beloved face. Such times lie in the past like heavy,
black, obscure shadows; that they were fearful we still know, but _how_
we felt we are not able to feel again in its full terror.

"Days had passed. Anna Maria had long ceased to weep; she had no tears,
for breathless fear. Without a word she performed her sad duties, and
listened benumbed to the wandering talk of the invalid--Susanna and the
child, and ever again Susanna.

"Then came a day on which the physicians said, 'No hope.' In the morning
Klaus had recovered his senses, and Anna Maria came out of the sick-room
with such a happy, hopeful look that my heart really rose. She beckoned
to me, and I took her place at the sick-bed for a moment.

"He reached out for my hand. 'How is Susanna?' he said softly.

"'Well, dear Klaus; do you wish to see her? Shall she come in?'

"'No, no!' he whispered, 'not come; it may be contagious--but Anna
Maria?'

"'She will be here again directly, Klaus,' said I. And, as if she had
been called, she came in at the door, and, kneeling by his bed, laid her
cheek caressingly on his hand.

"'Anna Maria,' he complained, 'my thoughts are already beginning
again--my child, my poor little child----'

"She started up. 'Klaus, do not speak so, dear Klaus!'

"'It is so strange,' he whispered on; 'I don't see Susanna distinctly
any longer, but I hear her laughing, always laughing. I shut my ears,
and yet I hear her laugh.'

"Anna Maria gave me a sad look. 'I will stay with your child, Klaus,'
said she. He pressed her hand. His eyes were already glowing feverishly,
and all at once he started up, the sound of a silvery laugh came in.
Susanna was actually laughing, perhaps with her child--I know not. The
next moment the door opened a little way. 'How is Klaus to-day?' she
asked.

"Anna Maria did not answer; her eyes were looking at Klaus; he had
already fallen back, and his fingers began to play, unnaturally, over
the silk quilt.

"I hastened to Susanna. 'He is not very well, my child,' I whispered to
her; 'the fever is returning.' Her face grew grave, and she quietly
closed the door. 'Always the same thing!' I heard her say, disappointed.

"Stürmer came toward evening, almost at the same time with the two
physicians. Susanna was sitting in her blue boudoir, reading. With a
sigh of relief she laid her book on the table when Stürmer was
announced. He entered quickly. 'Well,' said he, sympathetically, and
breathing fast, 'I hear he is not so well again to-day?'

"Susanna gave him her hand. 'So-so, baron,' she replied; 'they are not
very wise about the case. The physicians themselves do not know what
they ought to say, and Anna Maria is so fearfully anxious, and Aunt
Rosamond no less so. They think he is going to die right away. People do
not die so easily, do they?' she asked confidently. 'I know from myself;
I have been delirious, I----'

"She got no further, for our old family physician suddenly came into the
room. I knew what he meant as soon as I looked at him--Klaus was worse.

"Susanna gave him her hand, and went to the bell to order wine, she
said. Isa came with the child and presented it to the old gentleman.
'How is my husband?' asked Susanna. 'He is better, is he not, than Aunt
Rosa's and Anna Maria's funeral faces predict?'

"He did not answer, but looked at her, almost benumbed. At last he said
slowly: 'All is in God's hands. He can still help when we mortals see no
longer any way before us.'

"Susanna sprang up out of the chair in which she had just taken her
seat, the color all gone from her face. Her horrified eyes were fixed on
the old man's face as if they would decipher if those words were truth.
And when she saw his unaltered, sad expression, she began to totter, and
would have fallen to the floor if Edwin Stürmer had not caught her.

"'Is it really so bad?' he asked the doctor, reluctantly, as he carried
the young wife to the couch.

"'The end has come,' he replied, looking after Susanna.

"She had lost consciousness only for a moment. She awoke with a loud
cry, and now all the passion that dwelt in the delicate woman broke
forth in its full force. She screamed, she fell at the doctor's feet; he
should not let Klaus die, she could not live without him! She wrung her
hands and began to sob, but not a tear flowed from her great eyes. She
sprang up and threw herself upon the cradle of the child, whose
frightened crying mingled with a terrible sound with her sorrowful
laments: 'I will not live if Klaus dies, I will not!'

"'Calm yourself, gracious Frau,' bade the doctor, much shaken; 'think of
the child, take care of yourself.'

"'I made him ill,' screamed the young wife. 'I sent him to the city in
the rain, in spite of his feeling poorly then; I am guilty of my
husband's death!' The lace on her morning dress tore under her
convulsively trembling hands; she ran up and down the room, accusing
God and demanding death. Silently Isa took the cradle with the child and
carried it into another room. Meanwhile Dr. Reuter had poured a few
drops of a sedative into a spoon and begged the young wife to take it.

"She pushed the medicine out of his hand. 'I will not!' she cried,
sobbing. 'If you knew anything you would have saved Klaus! Oh, if I had
only taken care of him! But you did not let me go to his bed once, and
now he is dying!'

"'Susanna, control yourself,' said I, severely, as the doctor shrugged
his shoulders. 'Is this proper behavior in the hour in which a human
life is making its last hard struggle? Surely there should be peace,' I
added, weeping.

"She grew silent, not at my words, but at the entrance of Anna Maria.

"'Come, Susanna,' said she, in a lifeless tone, 'let us go to Klaus.
Before the last parting, the doctor has told me, there sometimes returns
a clear moment. His last look will seek you, Susanna, he has loved you
so much.'

"The young wife let herself be led away without resistance, but her face
had grown deathly pale. When they reached the door, she tore her hands
impetuously away from Anna Maria's. 'I cannot!' she cried, shuddering,
and turning her terrified eyes toward us; 'I cannot see him die, I
cannot!'

"Anna Maria looked sadly at the young creature, who was now on her knees
before her, beginning afresh her despairing lamentations. Then she
silently turned away and went back to Klaus. We carried the young wife
to the sofa, and Dr. Reuter busied himself with Isa about her.

"I started to go into the death-chamber, and Edwin Stürmer followed me.
In going out he cast a peculiar look at Susanna. In the next room,
through which we had to pass, stood the cradle; alone and unwatched
slumbered the poor little fellow in it, without a suspicion that the
black wings of death were hovering so near to his young existence. 'No
hope!' They are fearful words.

"Stürmer came with me into the chamber of death. I did not wonder at it;
it seemed to me as if it must be so, as if he, the best and oldest
friend of the family, had a right to come to the dying bed of our Klaus.
Anna Maria was on her knees beside the bed, her hands folded; she was
waiting for that last look.

"Then the house grew still, the servants stole about on tip-toe, and
outside, before the front door, stood the day-laborers and the men, with
their wives, looking timidly and with red eyes up to the windows. Edwin
Stürmer sat opposite me, deep in shadow, behind the curtains of the bed;
he leaned his head on his hand, and looked at Anna Maria and at the pale
face there on the pillow. I could not distinguish his features, but I
heard his deep and heavy breathing. I do not know if Klaus looked at
Anna Maria again, I could not see the two from my place. But I heard him
whisper once more: 'My child--Susanna' and 'Anna Maria, my old lass!'
with an expression of warm tenderness.

"It was deathly still in the room; no sound but the swift, low ticking
of the clock. I started up all at once at this stillness. When I came up
to the bed Anna Maria was still on her knees and holding her brother's
hand, her fair head buried in the pillow.

"Seized by a terrible foreboding, I went up to her. She started up. 'My
only brother!' she sobbed out. To my heart penetrated this shrill,
broken cry: 'My only brother!'

"Then I heard the door open softly, and saw Stürmer go out; he held his
hand over his eyes, though it was so dark round about us, so fearfully
dark."



CHAPTER XIX.


"As formerly Anna Maria had been baptized beside the dead body of her
mother, so now was the little boy at his father's coffin. On the same
spot where, scarcely a year before, the clergyman had married the young
couple stood the black, silver-mounted coffin, almost covered over with
wreaths and flowers. The folding-doors of the hall were opened wide; the
last crimson ray of the setting sun fell through the windows and made
the light of the numerous candles appear feeble and yellow, and touched
Anna Maria's face with a rosy shimmer, as she bent over the child in her
arms.

"The long white christening-robe of the child contrasted strangely with
the deep black of the mourning dress which enveloped the tall figure of
the girl. I stood beside her, my hands resting on the child; by my side
was Isa in a profusion of black crape. A throng of mourners filled the
hall, gentlemen and ladies. I do not remember who they all were, but I
can still see Stürmer's pale face.

"A chair had been placed aright for Susanna, and she sat in it as if
petrified in pain and sorrow--a strange sight, this child in widow's
garb. The raging pain had abated, she had wept and sobbed herself weary;
now only great tears rolled down her marble cheeks. Bluish rings lay
about her eyes, and made them shine more ardently than ever. She kept
her slender hands folded and listened to the words of the clergyman, a
picture of the most hopeless and comfortless pain.

"How many eyes then grew moist; how the servants wept outside the door!
The clergyman spoke affectingly; once before he had thus baptized a
child in this house. A quiver went through Anna Maria's tall figure, but
she pressed her lips firmly together. She did not weep, she only pressed
the child closer to her; then she took it to the young mother. I can
still see how Susanna sat there, with the little boy on her lap, as the
clergyman blessed them. She bent her head so that the black veil almost
covered her and the child.

"But now the clergyman passed on to the funeral address, and when he
mentioned the full name of the dead man I saw Isa spring up quickly--the
young wife had fainted. She was carried to her room. A murmur of
sympathy went through the assembly. 'A bruise for her whole life,' I
heard whispered behind me. 'Poor young wife--still half a child! She
will never recover from it!'

"Of Anna Maria, who stood there, no one thought. No one had said a
sympathetic word to her. All the pity belonged to the young widow, still
so young, so charming, and already so unhappy! They knew she was not on
good terms with her sister-in-law. They knew Anna Maria only as proud
and cold.

"Anna Maria, if they could have seen you late that evening, in the dark
garden, at the fresh grave; if they had found you, as I found you, so
undone with grief and pain, kneeling on the damp earth, unwilling to
leave the flower-strewn mound under which your only brother lay--would
they not have granted you, too, a word of sympathy?

"Those were sad, dreadful weeks which now followed, weeks in which we,
first regaining our senses, began to miss him who had left us forever.
Everywhere his kind, fresh nature, his ever-mild disposition, were
wanting. It seemed every moment as if he must open the door and ask in
his soft voice: 'How are you, aunt? Where is Anna Maria?'

"Anna Maria! The whole weight of the extensive household management
rested on her shoulders, the whole wilderness of the inevitable domestic
business which her brother's death had caused. She found no time to
indulge in her grief. She had to drive into the city at fixed times, she
had to look through Klaus's books, letters, and papers, with her
trembling heart. And if then, in her swelling pain, she but threw her
hands over her face, she always regained the mastery over herself, and
could work on.

"Susanna mourned in a different way. She fled to her little boudoir, and
always had some one about her. She was afraid in bright daylight, and in
twilight her heart would palpitate, and she was short of breath, and Isa
had to read aloud to her constantly. The little boy, who had been named
'Klaus' for his father, was not allowed to be called so; she called him
her little Jacky, her treasure, the only thing she had left in the
world, and yet sometimes would start back from the cradle with a cry, he
had looked at her so terribly like Klaus!

"Then came the mourning visits from far and near, and Susanna received
them in the salon. She sat there, so broken down, her charming face
surrounded by the black crape veil, the point of her little widow's cap
on her white forehead, and her black-bordered handkerchief always wet
with bitter tears.

"Anna Maria was never present during such calls. She fled to the garden
and did not return till the last carriage had rolled away from the
court. She was gentle and tender toward Susanna--'he loved her so much!'
she said softly.

"It was November. In Susanna's little boudoir the lamp was lighted, and
the young wife lay, in her deep black woollen dress, on the blue
cushions; she held a book in her hand, and now and then cast a glance at
it. Occasionally she coughed a little, and each time quickly held her
handkerchief to her lips. I had come down, as I did every evening, to
look after her and the child. The little fellow was already
asleep--'thank God,' as Susanna added. The nurse was probably asleep
with him in the next room, it was very still in there. Isa was bustling
busily about the stove, for it was bitterly cold out-of-doors; on the
table beside Susanna lay a quantity of colored wools, as well as a piece
of embroidery begun, and extremely pleasant and comfortable was this
little room. Who in the world could have desired a more comfortable spot
on a snowy, stormy evening?

"'Where is Anna Maria?' I asked pleasantly, after the first greeting.

"Susanna shook her head. 'I don't know,' she said feebly, and let her
book drop.

"'Fräulein Anna Maria is in the master's cabinet,' Isa answered. 'Herr
von Stürmer has just ridden away.'

"Susanna's eyes flamed up for a moment. 'Why did he not come in here?'
she asked. She raised herself a little. 'Ah! aunt,' she whispered, 'I
think I am going to be ill. I have a constant irritation in my throat,
and I feel so wretchedly. Dr. Reuter said last week I ought not to spend
the severe winter here. Ah! and yet I cannot bring myself to decide to
go away.'

"'I can feel with you, my dear child,' I returned. 'I would not go
either, in your place.'

"Her eyes suddenly filled with tears. 'Yes, it is all the same if I die
_here_!' she replied.

"'Oh, don't believe any such thing, Susy,' I said jestingly. 'You must
live for your child; you are exhausted by all this dreadful affair; the
winter will soon be over.'

"At this juncture Anna Maria entered. 'How are you feeling, Susanna?'
she asked kindly.

"'I am ill,' sobbed the young wife; 'very ill! I shall stifle yet in
these overheated rooms; I have not your sound lungs.'

"Anna Maria looked down at her in astonishment. 'I am very sorry for
that,' she said sympathetically.

"Oh, if Klaus were only alive, he would have gone south with me long
ago!' cried Susanna; and Isa shook her head doubtfully.

"That was Anna Maria's weak spot. 'Dear Susanna,' she said tenderly, 'if
it is necessary, then go. I know that you are delicate, that you have a
cough; let us consult with the doctor to-morrow, and decide where. And
then we will pack you both up and----'

"'Both?' asked Susanna. 'That is just it; I cannot take the baby with
me!'

"'And you cannot make up your mind to part from him?' Anna Maria asked
hesitatingly.

"'No, no!' sobbed Susanna.

"'I suppose,' said the maiden softly, the bright blood mounting to her
cheeks, 'you will not intrust him to me'--she hesitated--'even if I
promise to watch over him day and night?'

"Susanna stopped sobbing. 'But why not, then?' she cried. 'He is Klaus's
child, and you are so fond of him!'

"Anna Maria turned and went out of the room, and Susanna sprang up and
followed her. After a while they came back, and for the first time there
was a smile on the lips of each. Susanna would fly away out of the
desolate, snowed-in house of mourning, and Anna Maria had one more care.
She might fondle and care for the child of her only brother to her
heart's content; the child to whom she had only ventured timidly, in
order not to excite Susanna's jealousy, should now belong to her alone
for a long time.

"And Susanna went away with chests and trunks, and with Isa. She was
overcome with pain at the parting from her child; at the last moment she
wanted to tear off hat and cloak again and stay here. However, she got
into the carriage. That she would not be here at Christmas did not
disturb her; it would be no festival this year, she thought, it would
only make her sadder. The doctor had really advised her going south.

"And so we were alone in the solitary house--Anna Maria, the child, and
I. The child's cradle stood in her room; she would lie for hours before
it, and could not look her fill at the round, childish face. She could
still weep, weep bitterly, for Klaus; but her grief had grown gentler,
much gentler.

"On a stormy evening, a few days after Susanna's departure, Stürmer came
to speak with Anna Maria. He had not been here for more than a week.

"Brockelmann showed him at once to Anna Maria's room; we had not heard
him come, and she was right on her knees before the cradle, talking to
the child, so simply and affectionately, so sweetly and naturally, about
the Christ-child and the Christmas-man. All the great, overflowing love
of which the girl was capable, an infinite tenderness and gentleness,
sounded in the tone of her voice. But Anna Maria had no heart--how often
had the man said that, who was now standing still at the door and
looking at her as in a dream.

"She sprang up in confusion as she caught sight of him; the old proud,
impenetrable expression returned to her face at once.

"'It is so lonely over there,' he said apologetically, 'and then I had
to bring you the mortgage from the mill; the old crow has begged so
hard, Fräulein Anna Maria, I think we will leave it to him, or, if you
prefer, I will take it too.'

"She shook her head. 'Oh, never,' she said calmly; 'the money must stay
at the mill; Klaus promised it to the man.'

"He was still holding his hat in his hand. 'May I stay here half an
hour?' he asked.

"'If our sad society is not too tiresome for you, Stürmer,' replied Anna
Maria. 'You give us a pleasure.' Then she suddenly turned and went out
of the room.

"'Now tell me, for Heaven's sake, Aunt Rosamond,' asked Stürmer, 'what
is the matter now? Why do we sit here, and where is Frau von Hegewitz?
Have the two fallen out again, perhaps?'

"'Susanna? Ah! you may not know yet, to be sure,' I replied. 'Susanna
went away to Nice three days ago; she had a cough, and feared the
winter.'

"He sprang up impulsively, and began to walk up and down the room; then
he stood before the cradle, and looked at the slumbering child. 'And
this young Frau has gone _alone_?' he asked at length.

"'No, Edwin, with Isa.'

"'Of course,' he said. He began his walking to and fro again, till Anna
Maria came in, followed by the child's nurse, who carried the little
sleeper into the next room. Then we sat silent about the table. It was
almost as in the old days, with the old furniture from the sitting-room,
and ticking of the clock under the mirror. Anna Maria had brought out
her spinning-wheel, and Edwin Stürmer looked at the floor, and, lost in
thought, played with a tassel of the table-cloth.

"Then all at once he started up; the clear sound of children's voices
came in from the hall:

    "'Martins, martins, pretty things,
    With your little golden wings,'

echoed the old Martinmas ditty.

"'To-day is Martinmas,' said I. Edwin Stürmer looked at me. It was a
strange look; what did he mean? And all at once Anna Maria--the proud,
heartless Anna Maria--threw her hands over her face, and bitterly
weeping, went out.

"'What is that, Edwin?' I asked; and, as he did not answer, I tapped him
on the shoulder with my wooden knitting-needle. And the strong man rose
too, stood at the window, and looked out without replying a word.

    "'Little summer, little summer, rose-leaf,
    Village and city,
    Give us something, O maiden fair!'

died away the old song."



CHAPTER XX.


"The winter passed quietly away, and with the spring, just as the trees
were blossoming, Susanna came back. Anna Maria had sent the best
carriage to meet the home-comer, and put a little white dress on the
child. The table was set in a festal manner in the dining-room, and at
Susanna's place was a bunch of splendid white roses. I went to the front
steps to meet the young wife. Stürmer, who happened to have come over,
remained with Anna Maria in the salon; she had the child in her arms.

"Susanna jumped down from the carriage, fresh and rosy, and fell on my
neck. 'Here I am again, dearest aunt, here I am again!' she cried. 'How
have you been, and how is my dear little boy?' She flew up the steps
like a bird, so that all the lace and flounces of her elegant mourning
dress stood out and blew behind her. Like a child she ran through the
hall; I could scarcely keep up with her; then she stood in the salon.

"The baby had grown; the baby sat there quite sensibly already, on the
arm of his fair aunt; his bright curly hair fell about his lovely baby
face, and he was just grasping after Uncle Stürmer's watch. The young
mother rushed to the child with a cry of delight, pulled it into her
arms, and covered it with kisses. But the young gentleman misunderstood
this; he did not know the strange lady at all who had come in so
suddenly, and with a pitiful cry he stretched out his arms toward Anna
Maria.

"Susanna was confounded, and then began to weep, affectingly and
bitterly: 'She had lost her child's love!' It was a painful scene.
Stürmer went into the next room, and Anna Maria tried to console
Susanna. 'It is only because he is not accustomed to you; he has not
seen you for so long, Susanna. Just hear what he has learned,' she
begged.

"And going up to the weeping woman, she said: 'Ma--ma!'

"'Mamma!' stammered the little fellow, quite consoled.

"Susanna laughed, and promised to change her dress quickly; then she
came to the table. The grief was already overcome; and she showed
herself, in course of time, none too eager to regain the child's love.
Anna Maria silently retained all the cares she had undertaken; but
sometimes the young wife would embrace her child in a sudden outbreak of
tenderness, and not let him out of her arms for hours.

"The summer did not flit away so quietly as it had begun; there were
frequent visitors, and sometimes Susanna's laugh would echo, terribly
clear, through the rooms. Anna Maria was sad; she fled to her room
whenever a carriage full of guests arrived, or a pair of saddle-horses
were led slowly up and down before the house. But Stürmer was now a
daily guest; it really pained me when I saw him ride across the court.

"'Baron Stürmer is with Frau von Hegewitz,' Brockelmann announced one
afternoon, as she came into Anna Maria's room, where I was sitting by
the window. 'The baron inquired for the baby, and the Frau was just
coming out of the salon; she took him in with her, laughing, and said I
was to get the child.'

"Silently Anna Maria lifted him up from the carpet, where he had sat
playing, and with a kiss gave him to the old woman. 'There, now, go to
mamma and be good.'

"She then bent over her housekeeping book.

"'Will you not go down, Anna Maria?' I asked.

"She raised her head. 'Oh, aunt, I have something important to do now,
and--he will not miss me. He will be here again often,' she added. And a
faint, traitorous blush tinged her face. 'I think they still love each
other.'

"I shook my head. 'Ah, Anna Maria, she still wears her widow's cap!'

"'It will come, nevertheless,' whispered the girl, and an expression
full of anguish lay about her mouth; 'and then she will go away with
him, and will take the child with her, and at last the cup of my
unhappiness will be full. Then I shall feel nothing any longer, no
longer call anything in the world _mine_, not even a miserable hope!'

"I was silent and looked at her sadly. How many hundred times I had said
to myself that this would come. I shuddered at the thought of an empty,
icy-cold future--poor Anna Maria!

"And it certainly was as Anna Maria had said. Stürmer came often,
Stürmer came every day. We sat together at coffee in the garden-parlor,
or on the terrace on warm summer evenings. Susanna had quite regained
her old happy disposition. Sometimes, too, a white rose shone out from
her dark curls, and her eyes laughed down over the garden, without a
thought of the grave there below. It seemed sometimes as if something
took hold of me, as if a dear, familiar voice said to me: 'So quickly am
I forgotten?'

"And Anna Maria would sit for hours with the child on her lap, and say
the word 'father' to him countless times, and rejoice like a child over
his first awkward attempts. She guided his first steps; she did not let
him out of her arms, but carried him about everywhere, all over the
house and in the garden. 'Perhaps he will retain a recollection,' said
she, 'and this is all his; he will live here some time, in his home, and
then he will be tall and strong like his father, and dear and good to
his old Aunt Anna Maria.'

"Was Stürmer really drawing nearer to Susanna? I could not bring myself
to perceive it, and then--it could not be announced yet, the year of
mourning had not expired. But perhaps she had her word already; he loved
her, had already loved her as a girl; no other hindrance except the
mourning lay any longer between them.

"The day following the anniversary of Klaus's death some one gave a
quick, excited knock at my door. Stürmer entered; he wore a short coat
and high boots, as if he had come from hunting.

"'Dear Aunt Rosamond,' said he, throwing himself into a chair, as if
exhausted, and drying his moist forehead with his handkerchief--'dear
Aunt Rosamond, we have always been good friends, have known each other
so long. I have a favor to ask of you, a very great favor.'

"'Of me?' I asked, my heart beating hard from a painful fear.

"He looked pale, and quickly threw his gloves on the table. 'Speak for
me!' he begged. 'I am a coward. I cannot tell you what would become of
me if a second time I--' He hesitated.

"'Are you so little sure of your case, Edwin?' I asked, bright tears
running from my eyes. I thought of Klaus, I thought of Anna Maria, my
dear old Anna Maria!

"'I am not at all sure of my case,' he replied, 'or should I be standing
here? Should I not long ago have explained an old, unhappy mistake?'

"'You are in great haste, Edwin,' said I bitterly. 'Yesterday was the
first anniversary of Klaus's death!'

"'It has been very hard for me to wait so long,' he answered, in the
calmest tone. 'Well, if you will not, I must devise some means by
myself,' he declared impetuously. 'Where is Anna Maria?'

"'No, no,' I begged, 'for God's sake! It would grieve her to death. I
will go. I will speak for you, if it must be!' And again burning tears
came into my eyes. 'So tell me what message am I to deliver?'

"He was silent. 'If--if--I beg you, aunt, I do not know,' he stammered
at length; 'it will be best for me to speak to her myself.' And before I
could say a word he had hurried out.

"I do not know how it happened, but I was bitterly angry with him--he,
usually the man of tenderest feeling and greatest tact! 'To think that
love should sometimes drive the best people so mad!' I said angrily,
wiping the tears from my eyes.

"And now there would be a love-affair and an engagement; yesterday deep
widow's weeds, to-morrow red roses! I clinched my fists, not for myself,
but for Anna Maria. I was pained to the depths of my heart. For Anna
Maria it was the death-blow. The love for Stürmer was deeply rooted in
her heart. She would get over this, too; she would rise up from this,
too; but the spirit of her youth was broken forever. She could no longer
call anything in the world hers, for Susanna would take the child away
with her. I did not want to hear or see any longer. I took my shawl and
went into the garden.

"The first yellow leaf lay on the ground, a fine mist hung in the trees,
and the sun was going down crimson. I walked down the path to the little
fish-pond. I saw the decaying boat lying in the clear brown water, and
the reflection of the oaks. Then I suddenly stopped. I had recognized
Edwin Stürmer's voice. They must be standing close by me, behind the
thicket of barberry and snow-berry bushes.

"'No, no, I shall not let you again!' he said, strangely moved. I turned
to go. It seemed to me I must cry out from pain and indignation.

"I walked back quickly. I know not what impelled me to go first to the
child's bed, as if I must look in that little innocent face to still
believe in love and fidelity in the world. The little man was asleep,
the curtains were drawn, and the night-lamp already lighted. The door
leading to Susanna's room was just ajar. All at once I started up, for
the sound of Isa's voice came in to me and made my heart almost stop
beating.

"'It won't do to put off any longer, my lamb; if you have said A, you
must say B too. This is the third letter already, and you can't remain a
widow forever. Oh, don't make faces now; over there--that is nothing. If
I am not very much mistaken, he has turned about now, and--' She
probably made a sign, and then she laughed.

"Now I heard Susanna, too. 'My child!' she sobbed.

"'But, darling, do be reasonable. One can't take little children about
everywhere. What would you do with the rascal? Let him grow up on his
inheritance; few children have so good a one. You can see him at any
time, too, darling,' she continued, as Susanna kept on sobbing. 'You
will only have to come here. Oh, don't be so fearfully unreasonable;
have I ever given you any bad advice? Do you mean to live on here, under
the sceptre of your sister-in-law? I should laugh!' said she, after a
while, playing her last trump.

"Susanna's weeping suddenly ceased. 'I do not know yet,' she said
shortly.

"Then I roused myself from my numbness, and hurried through the
garden-parlor to the terrace. There they stood--yes, in truth, there
they stood--under the linden, Anna Maria and Stürmer, and looked over
toward Dambitz. The last ray of the setting sun tinged the evening sky
with such a red glow that I closed my eyes, dazzled; or were they dimmed
by tears of joy? Now I heard a light rustle behind me, and, looking
around, I saw Susanna. She had laid aside her widow's dress, and had a
white rose in her hair. The tears of a few minutes ago were dried.

"I took her by the hand and pointed mutely to the two under the linden.
She looked over in surprise. 'Anna Maria?' she asked softly.

"'And Edwin Stürmer!' I added. She did not answer. But she had grown
pale, and looked at them fixedly.

"'They have long loved each other, Susanna,' said I, gravely; 'even
before you ever came here. But Anna Maria once refused his
proposal'--Susanna's eyes were fixed on my lips--'_because she would not
forsake her only brother!_'

"The young wife was silent; but, as Anna Maria and Stürmer now turned in
the direction of the house, she turned and went in. Now they came
walking up the middle path. And when they stood before me, I saw a
happy light in Anna Maria's eyes which I had never seen shine before.
She bent over to me and kissed my hand.

"'She has made it very hard for me, has Anna Maria,' said Edwin Stürmer,
drawing the girl to him. 'She tried to put on her icy mask again; she
could not go away from Susanna and the child. But this time I was too
quickly at hand. Was I not, my Anna Maria?'

"Very early the next morning I heard a carriage roll away from the
court. I rang for Brockelmann. 'The gracious Frau has gone away with
Isa; and has left a letter for Anna Maria down-stairs on the table.'

"'Have you delivered it yet?' I asked.

"The old woman nodded. 'There is some secret about it,' she said sadly;
'Isa was altogether too important.'

"Anna Maria came, very much surprised, with the open letter.

"'I don't understand it, aunt. Susanna has a rendezvous in Berlin with
an acquaintance from Nice?'

"I shrugged my shoulders.

"'She is angry with me,' she whispered, with pale lips. 'She did love
him, aunt; it is horrible!'

"'No, no, my child,' I tried to calm her, 'no, do not believe that.' But
she made an averting gesture, and left me with tears in her eyes.
Already a shadow lay over her happiness. Reluctantly I followed her
down-stairs, and then went, almost aimlessly, into Susanna's room. Here
all was topsy-turvy, just as occasionally in former times. In the haste
of departure all sorts of things had been left lying about, on every
chair some article of clothing, fans, ribbons, strips of black crape,
and books, and in the fire-place was still a little heap of burned
paper. The fragments of a letter had fallen beside it, in the hurry
probably. I picked them up--a bold handwriting, English words.

"'I beg for something positive at last,' I read. 'To Berlin--no
hindrance--my love--in a short time--mine forever--Robbin.'

"I sat quite still for a while, with the bits of paper in my hand. Now
it gradually became clear to me--Susanna's restless, distraught manner,
Isa's mysterious conduct, her words of yesterday, and the sudden
departure. Susanna was gone, Susanna would never return; in a short time
she would be the wife of another, of a perfect stranger; she would never
belong to us any more!

"And I took up the pieces of the letter and went to look for Anna Maria.
She was sitting at the window, looking over toward Dambitz. 'Here, Anna
Maria,' said I, 'your fear is groundless.'

"She read, and a painful expression came over her face. 'I pity her,
aunt. She thinks her happiness is floating about without, but it is
slumbering here in this little cradle. She will find it out sooner or
later, and she will return, don't you think so?' she asked, anxiously
confident.

"Then her face lighted up: Stürmer was coming across the garden; he was
leading his horse by the bridle, and sent up a greeting.

"'Your lover, Anna Maria!'

"She grew very red. 'Is it not like a dream?' she asked softly.

"It was in November, the day before Anna Maria's marriage, that a letter
with a strange post-mark lay in the mail-bag for me, the address in a
man's handwriting. I gave a start; I recognized the bold hand, the
peculiar flourish at the last letter of a word. It was the same hand
that had written that letter whose remains I had found in Susanna's
room.

"I broke open the envelope; it contained two letters. The one which
first fell into my hands was a formal announcement of the marriage of
Frau von Hegewitz, _née_ Mattoni, to Mr. Robbin Olliver, London.

"I took up the other letter. 'Dearest aunt,' my astonished eyes read,
'the accomplished fact has just come to your knowledge; forgive me,
forgive me everything! I am not wicked, not light-minded; I have only
sought for myself the freedom which is as necessary to my life as air to
breathing. I shall gladly follow my husband, with whom I became
acquainted in Nice, to Brazil, out of the narrow circle of rusty old
customs, to a more stirring, varied life, in which to-day and to-morrow,
weeks and months, do not follow each other in dull repetition.

"'With longing I think of my child. I have no right to take him with me
over the sea; he belongs to his ancestral home, and I know that Anna
Maria must love him more than I. Forgive me, I beg you once more from my
heart, and send me occasionally--it is the last request I shall make of
the family which chains me with inward bonds--a lock of my child's hair,
and teach him to think without ill-will of his mother.'

"No signature, nothing more. I turned the sheet over--nothing! I gave a
sigh of pain, and yet it seemed as if the weight of a mountain had
rolled from my heart.

"And now I must tell Anna Maria about it. But no, not to-day or
to-morrow. These days ought never to be troubled. I went down-stairs
toward evening. Anna Maria was by the graves in the garden. Brockelmann
informed me; and the old woman showed me with pride what she had
arranged in the hall for her Fräulein's wedding-day--all about,
evergreen, and countless candles in it.

"'It is no great festival,' said she; 'only two or three people are
coming; Anna Maria will have it so, and he too. But just for that reason
it should be right beautiful.'

"I went into the girl's sleeping-room and stepped up to the child's
little bed. He was slumbering sweetly, without a suspicion that his
mother had left him forever. But be quiet, you poor little fellow; you
still have a mother, a true, earnest one--Anna Maria. I stood in the
recess of the window and listened to the breathing of the boy.

"After a while the door opened softly and Anna Maria entered. She did
not see me, but I saw that she had been weeping. She knelt down to the
child and kissed it, and then stood with folded hands before the bed a
long time.

"Then footsteps sounded in the next room. 'Anna Maria!' called Stürmer.
She flew to the door. 'Edwin!' I heard her say jubilantly. They
whispered together a long time, and when I came in they were standing at
the window.

"'Is that a nuptial eve?' I asked, in jest. 'In the dark thus, and
without any ringing of bells and music?'

"They both laughed. But then the church-bell began its evening peal, and
from the next room came in the clear sound of a child's voice: 'Mamma,
mamma, Anna Maria!' Then she threw her arms about my neck and kissed me.
'And do you call that without ringing of bells and music?' she asked
happily. Then she brought in the child, and they sat together on the
sofa, with it between them, and spoke of Klaus, of past days, of the
future, and of their happiness.

"It was Anna Maria who first mentioned Susanna's name. 'It is so long
since she has written,' she said. 'I have received no answer to two
letters. Can she be coming, Edwin? She knows that to-morrow is to be our
wedding-day.'

"'Susanna?' I replied. 'No, Anna Maria, she is _not_ coming!'

"'Have you news?' they asked, both together.

"'She is married, Anna Maria, and is no longer in Europe.'

"Neither of them answered.

"'And she lays the child on your heart.'

"Then she bent over and kissed the baby, who had gone to sleep on her
lap. 'Edwin,' she whispered, in a strangely faltering voice, 'this is
the wedding present from my only brother!'"

       *       *       *       *       *

So ended the manuscript. It was the third evening of the reading. The
young man laid the sheets on the table and looked in the agitated face
of his wife. "My mother died in America," he said. "Mother Anna Maria
tied a strip of crape about my arm one day, and cried, and kissed me so
often; we were living right here in Bütze then; and then we went up to
Aunt Rosamond, and she cried too, and kissed me. They told me that my
mother was dead, but I did not understand them, because I saw Anna Maria
before me, and I did not know or care to know any mother but her."

The young wife took his hand. She was about to speak, but did not, for
just then the door opened and a tall woman's figure crossed the
threshold.

"Mother!" they cried, both springing up, "Mother Anna Maria!" And the
young man tenderly put his arm around her and kissed her hand.

"Good evening, children," she said simply, and her eyes looked gently
over to them, under the white hair.

"Oh, dearest mother, how charming of you!" cried the young wife,
exultingly. "How are father and the sisters?"

"Edwin is well," she replied; "and the sisters are looking forward to
Sunday, when you are coming over."

"And you, mother?"

"Well, I had a longing to see my eldest daughter and my only son," she
said lovingly; "and besides, to-day is Martinmas."

She let bonnet and cloak be taken off, and sat down on the sofa. "What
have you there?" she asked, turning over the papers. Then her eyes
rested upon them; she read, and a delicate blush gradually mounted to
her face.

"Those were the sad years," she whispered; "now come the bright ones.
When I am dead then write underneath:

"'She was the happiest of wives, the most beloved of mothers!'"



Lives of Famous Men


In this series of historical and biographical works the publishers have
included only such books as will interest and instruct the youth of both
sexes. A copy should be in every public, school and private library.

LIFE OF GEORGE WASHINGTON. By George Washington Parke Custis, the
adopted son of our first president.

LIFE OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN. By Hon. Joseph H. Barrett, ex-member of
Congress.

LIFE OF U. S. GRANT. By Hon. B. P. Poore and Rev. O. H. Tiffany, D. D.

LIFE OF WILLIAM McKINLEY. By Murat Halstead, Chauncey M. Depew and John
Sherman.

LIFE OF THEODORE ROOSEVELT. By Thomas W. Handford.

LIFE OF HENRY M. STANLEY. By Prof. A. M. Godbey, A. M.

LIFE OF JOHN PAUL JONES. By Charles Walter Brown.

LIFE OF ETHAN ALLEN. By Charles Walter Brown.

LIFE OF W. T. SHERMAN. By Hon. W. Fletcher Johnson and Gen. O. O.
Howard.

LIFE OF P. T. BARNUM. By Hon. Joel Benton.

LIFE OF T. DEWITT TALMAGE. By Charles Francis Adams.

LIFE OF D. L. MOODY. By Charles Francis Adams.





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